Joyce Carol Oates’ 7 Rules For Writing


Joyce Carol Oates (born 16 June 1938) is an American writer. She published her first book in 1962 and has since published many novels, plays, novellas, short stories, poetry, and works of nonfiction.

Her awards include the National Book Award for her novel Them, two O. Henry Awards, and the National Humanities Medal. Her novels Black Water, What I Lived For,and Blonde, were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize.

She writes under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly, and she is noted for her vast literary body of work in a variety of styles and genres. She is known for her depictions of violence and evil in modern society.

Joyce Carol Oates taught at Princeton University from 1978 to 2014. She has taught creative writing at UC Berkeley for the past few years.

Joyce Carol Oates – Writing Advice

  1. Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – there may be one, but he/she is reading someone else.
  2. Don’t try to anticipate an “ideal reader” – except for yourself perhaps, sometime in the future.
  3. Be your own editor/critic. Sympathetic but merciless!
  4. Unless you are writing something very avant-garde – all gnarled, snarled and “obscure” – be alert for possibilities of paragraphing.
  5. Unless you are writing something very post-modernist – self-conscious, self-reflexive and “provocative” – be alert for possibilities of using plain familiar words in place of polysyllabic “big” words.
  6. Keep in mind Oscar Wilde: “A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.”
  7. Keep a light, hopeful heart. But ­expect the worst.

This advice first appeared in The Guardian

 by Amanda Patterson

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