“A little magic can take you a long way.”
“Don’t gobblefunk around with words.”
“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.”
One of the delights of writing my children’s novel has been the great joy of discovering new authors that I absolutely love. For me, one of these treasured scribes has been Roald Dahl. A prolific author, he penned everything from adult mysteries to children’s classics like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, and Matilda (See Chocolate Lover). Over the years, 100 million copies of his books have flown off the shelves and they’re available in 50 languages. Roald is widely considered one of the greatest storytellers for children of the twentieth century and there’s even a fabulous museum in his hometown devoted to his memory. I’d love one of those!
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, includes a pithy extract called “Lucky Break” in which our boy Roald describes how he became a writer. It also offers seven tips on the qualities that he thought anyone who wanted to make a living writing fiction needed to have. Here they are:
1. “You should have a lively imagination.”
2. “You should be able to write well. By that I mean you should be able to make a scene come alive in the reader’s mind. Not everybody has this ability. It is a gift and you either have it or you don’t.”
3. “You must have stamina. In other words, you must be able to stick to what you are doing and never give up for hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month.”
4. “You must be a perfectionist. That means you must never be satisfied with what you have written until you have rewritten it again and again, making it as good as you possibly can.” Roald took his own advice: He rewrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory six times and dumped months of work on Matilda and started over again because he felt the story wasn’t working.
5. ‘You must have strong self-discipline. You are working alone. No one is employing you. No one is around to give you the sack if you don’t turn up for work, or to tick you off if you start slacking.”
6. “It helps a lot if you have a keen sense of humour. This is not essential when writing for grown-ups, but fore children, it’s vital.”
7. “You must have a degree of humility. The writer who thinks that his work is marvelous is heading for trouble.”
Sage advice from a master storyteller. Let’ embrace it and all write on!