Writing Advice from CS Lewis

Okay, if you haven’t noticed, I’ve mentioned CS Lewis in my last two posts.  I’ve been a huge fan of his fiction and nonfiction writing.  The Chronicles of Narnia stories are my favorite.  Long ago, my wonderful fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Powell, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to our class.  From that point on, I fell in love with Aslan and the Pevensie kids.  Through the years, my wife and I have shared these wonderful tales with our children.

Lewis’ works have become the model for my own fictional writing.  As the grasshopper, I’m wishing that the master’s talents will, in time, rub off.  And like Lewis’ stories, I hope mine will point the reader to a world beyond the one we see, hear, and touch now.

I’m constantly looking for writing advice and thought I would google to see if Lewis left behind any helpful tips.  Below, I’ve posted an excerpt from a 1956 letter Lewis sent to a young American fan.  Hope you enjoy these writing tips!

1. Always try to use the language so as to make quite clear what you mean and make sure your sentence couldn’t mean anything else.

2. Always prefer the plain direct word to the long, vague one. Don’t implement promises, but keep them.

3. Never use abstract nouns when concrete ones will do. If you mean “More people died” don’t say “Mortality rose.”

4. In writing. Don’t use adjectives which merely tell us how you want us to feel about the thing you are describing. I mean, instead of telling us a thing was “terrible,” describe it so that we’ll be terrified. Don’t say it was “delightful”; make us say “delightful” when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do my job for me.”

5. Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.

Thanks for the photos. You and Aslan both look v. well. I hope you’ll like your new home.

With love 

yours

C.S. Lewis

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8 Responses to Writing Advice from CS Lewis

  1. For some reason, I never read C.S. Lewis as a child. I stumbled across his books as an adult and started reading!

  2. Ed Smith says:

    Sounds like good advice. The title reminds me of his “reading advice” which can be found here:
    http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/history/ath-inc.htm#ch_0
    Basically, to find a partial cure for the blind spots and preconceptions common to our own age, he wants us all to read 3 old books for every modern book. I’m not sure what qualifies as old, but this is from his introduction to a 4th century writing.

    • Thanks, Edwin! Sounds like good advice. It is important to read good quality literature. Seems like so many books today are written to sell more books instead of supplying great writing.

  3. Lee says:

    Thanks for sharing. I will have to remember the advise while I am attempting to tell about my birds.
    Keep up the great blogs.

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