What writers can learn from Shakespeare–from Margot Livesey

  1. Don’t be dismayed or surprised if some pieces of work turn out to be rehearsals
  2. Be careful how you repeat yourself, and why.
  3. Begin dramatically.
  4. Don’t keep back the good stuff.
  5. Consider beginning in the present.
  6. Negotiate your own standards of plausibility.
  7. Once you’ve invented your rules, keep them.
  8. Remember the power of appropriate omission. We don’t need to take every journey with the characters, make every cup of coffee.
  9. Don’t overexplain.
  10. Be sure that borrowing a plot, a character, or situation doesn’t seem like theft.
  11. Know which kind of suspense your narrative depends on, and use accordingly.
  12. Be aware that form and tone govern content.
  13. Ask if your plot needs a subplot, or two.
  14. Develop your characters both as individuals and in relation to each other. Let the reader know which characters are major and which minor.
  15. Be ambitious with your language.
  16. Whatever you do, keep making rhymes, lines, puns, clauses, phrases, metaphors, sentences, paragraphs, sonnets, scenes, stories, plays, poems, novels…

–From Margot Livesey’s Essay “Shakespeare for Writers” in The Writer’s Notebook: Craft on Essays from Tin House

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