Ray Bradbury

I may be among the few sci-fi/fantasy writers who was never influenced by Ray Bradbury’s stories. Oh I respected his work, like most writers do, but his real influence on me came from his writer-to-writer advice.

It was advice that finally helped me put a leash on my internal editor.

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. I spent my childhood and high-school years writing knock-offs of my favorite books and movies — basically the same stories with alternate endings. But I was always stymied when trying to create something original. My internal editor over-analyzed every idea, or tried squeezing perfection out of each sentence to make it sound like the authors I admired. All before I wrote down a single word.

Then in 1991 I read How to Write Tales of Horror, Fantasy, and Science Fiction, a compilation of essays from successful genre authors, with Ray Bradbury being one. He mostly advised creating word lists of things that scare you, and thus from those lists would emerge story ideas. That was a cool trick — and one I use today — but it was the following passage that opened my eyes:

In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for style, instead of leaping on truth, which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.

“Really?” I thought after reading that. “I don’t have to obsess over the first draft or make it perfect?” I glared at my internal editor. He gave a nervous chuckle, and then fled the room.

Bradbury’s advice to essentially “write fast without thinking” liberated my writing. Cliché, I know, but that’s how it felt. Many authors have offered the same advice over the years, and I would’ve figured it out eventually, but Ray was the first person who articulated it to me in a way that clicked.

With that one simple concept in mind, I can now write a thousand words per hour on most days. My stories may not be brilliant examples of high literature, but at least I can finish them.

And then unleash my internal editor on the second draft.

Thanks for the career-changing advice, Ray.

Cross-posted at New Podler Review of Books.