Thursday, February 28, 2013



Avoid sensational novels. The habit of reading trashy novels will prove fatal to taste and grace in writing.” --Wakefield, Priscilla. THE DELINEATOR. Vol. LXVI, August, 1905

  Researching for another project, I ran across this wonderful article in one of my husband’s grandmother’s magazines.  Funny how guidance for young writers, written in their great, great grandmother’s day, is still relevant!  As the year 2013 puts us well past 1905 copyright restrictions, I’m able to share:

 . . . I have tried to point out to . . . girls that talent is God’s gift.  It is not to be “crushed down.**  It is a duty to use and develop it, but nothing can be done without hard work and perseverance. Talent is long patience. The way to prove any talent is by effort, struggle, practice—sometimes by discouragement, disappointment and willingness to try again. 

. . .See your characters in your mind’s eye; live with them; learn their points of view.  Write your story and put it away. Read it over (later) as though it were written by someone else, and judge of it accordingly.  If you are fair and just to yourself you will see where it needs cutting or changing.

. . .Facility and style in writing are to be won only by hard work. Even Robert Louis Stevenson, the master of style, plodded, struggled and sometimes threw aside pen and paper and went out in his garden to dig when he felt discouraged. He was very exact about choosing expressive words. After a turn in his garden he went back refreshed to his literary labors. But there were weeks and months of ill-health for him when going out of doors was impossible. One of the most pathetic as well as inspiring pictures in one’s mind of Stevenson is of when, in spite of illness and suffering, he sat up in bed, writing bravely and never giving up. Stevenson has told us how he trained himself in grace and skill in writing. In his youth he was pointed out as an idler, yet he carried two books—one to read, one to write in.  As he walked, his mind was busy fitting what he saw with appropriate words. When he sat by the roadside he would read or note down the features of the scene. Thus he lived with words. 

** (In 1905 society was still eager to “crush” anything that led young women away from hearth and home. In this same issue, another article rejoices, “with the ballot in the hands of the women of Idaho, great results are looked for . . .”)

  I love Priscilla’s words. Although I suspect most of us have already read too many sensational novels, living with words, struggling, practicing and persevering are about the best advice anyone can pass along to young girls who long to write.   

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