12 Writing Tips From Flannery O’Connor

12 Writing Tips From Flannery O’Connor


Writers Write shares writing tips and writing resources. In this post, we share 12 writing tips from Flannery O’Connor.

Flannery O’Connor was an American author who was born 25 March 1925, and died 3 August 1964. She wrote two novels and 32 short stories, as well as essays, reviews, and commentaries.

She wrote in a Southern Gothic style and used regional settings and grotesque characters in her stories. O’Connor’s writing also reflected her own Roman Catholic faith and examined questions of morality and ethics.

Her darkly comic works feature startling acts of violence and unsympathetic characters. She explained the brutality in her stories by noting that violence ‘is strangely capable of returning my characters to reality and preparing them to accept their moment of grace’.

Her novels are Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. Her Complete Stories, published posthumously in 1972, won the National Book Award that year.

12 Writing Tips From Flannery O’Connor

  1. I’m a full-time believer in writing habits…You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away…Of course you have to make your habits in this conform to what you can do. I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have, but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place.
  2. The writer operates at a peculiar crossroads where time and place and eternity somehow meet. His problem is to find that location.
  3. Try arranging [your novel] backwards and see what you see. I thought this stunt up from my art classes, where we always turn the picture upside down, on its two sides, to see what lines need to be added. A lot of excess stuff will drop off this way.
  4. I certainly believe a story has to have meaning, but the meaning in a story can’t be paraphrased and if it’s there it’s there, almost more as a physical than an intellectual fact.
  5. I think that anything that makes you overly conscious of the language is bad for the story usually.
  6. It might be dangerous for you to have too much time to write. I mean if you took off a year and had nothing else to do but write and weren’t used to doing it all the time then you might get discouraged.
  7. People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them.
  8. Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.
  9. This may seem a small matter but the omniscient narrator never speaks colloquially. This is something it has taken me a long time to learn myself. Every time you do it you lower the tone.
  10. The writer can choose what he writes about but he cannot choose what he is able to make live.
  11. Manners are of such great consequence to the novelist that any kind will do. Bad manners are better than no manners at all, and because we are losing our customary manners, we are probably overly conscious of them; this seems to be a condition that produces writers.
  12. Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you.

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 by Amanda Patterson

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