And it is a war. And we do cry “Havoc!”
Ian McEwan, it turns out, has a triumvirate of friends whom he entrusts with his novels before anyone else, with the poet Craig Raine scolding him whenever his writing becomes too formulaic (the pair will mark FLF, “flickering log fire”, in the margins of each other’s work whenever it falls into cliche). McEwan won’t even let his friend and fellow novelist Martin Amis near his books before completion, preferring to trust it to Raine, Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash and philosopher Galen Strawson.
I don’t feel established or skilled enough to give advice on the craft of writing itself (beyond the usual of punctuation, and so on). But I do think good writers go through several stages when they’re starting out.
- Stage One: Writing in cliché.
- Stage Two: Learning to identify cliché, but unable to stop it.
- Stage Three: Bestriding the literary world like a colossus.
No, I haven’t reached this stage yet.