5 Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis

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I am reading through every book by C. S. Lewis that I can find, and recently finished C. S. Lewis’ Letters to Children, edited by Lyle Dorsett and Marjorie Lamp Mead. I wrote a brief review about this book here.

writing tips from CS Lewis

Writing Tips from C. S. Lewis

In one letter, C. S. Lewis offered the following five writing tips to a young aspiring writer. If you want to write like C. S. Lewis, here are some writing tips from a master author:

  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.

So there you go!

Now get writing! (Also check out the writing routine of C. S. Lewis.)

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Comments

  1. says

    This illustrative delineation on how to be a literary tactician is abundantly poignant and well worth the consideration you so meticulously pontificated.

  2. says

    Apparently Lewis and Tolkien sold more books than any other Christian writers in the twentieth century, so perhaps Lewis knows something about writing. His writing ranges from dry-as-dust to some very entertaining stories.

    I’m curious. Have you found any “gems” so far?

    • says

      There was a gem or two in the letters, but nothing substantial. However, he made frequent reference to his book Till We Have Faces as his best book he ever wrote. I have read it before, but I am reading it now. Most people do not agree that it is his best book, but I do. I can hardly put it down. I cannot explain why (yet), but the story calls to me.

  3. jamie says

    i have read most of mr. lewis’ non-fiction books numerous times. when i consider what i have heard from pastors or priests, his ideas of a literal relationship with the One who made us seem to me to be uniquely bold and insightful(“the problem of pain”, & “mere christianity”). i particularly enjoy his metaphors. there is no one who has been more instructive to me regarding spirituality. i thank you dearly mr. lewis for the extraordinary work you exerted in your search for the Truth. it has cleared away some doubts, and a lot of fog. until that day. affectionately yours&etc.

  4. daren says

    i found this page through stumble and was greatly delighted to read the little article and more amused to read the comments. thanks for sharing this.

  5. Lauren says

    Thanks so much for putting this up! Lewis obviously knew what he was talking about and there are def some good points here :)

  6. Pamela Kay Noble Brown says

    Me too. I stumbled upon this article through Blues to Unite FB page. Love this article. :)

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