Writing Advice from John Berendt

I found this on The Writer’s Almanac and thought it would be nice to share:

Keep a diary, but don’t just list all the things you did during the day. Pick one incident and write it up as a brief vignette. Give it color, include quotes and dialogue, shape it like a story with a beginning, middle and end — as if it were a short story or an episode in a novel. It’s great practice. Do this while figuring out what you want to write a book about. The book may even emerge from within this running diary.

-John Berendt – author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Berendt’s book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is nonfiction, but it reads like a novel. It’s one of those “truth-is-stranger-than-fiction” kind of books. The advice above is probably exactly what Berendt used to write his book and bring color to a subject that could have been dry and lifeless.

So the next time you’re going around doing your normal things, try to find some oddity that you can expand on and turn into a little story. Life is full of things that are just waiting to be transformed into stories. 🙂

8 thoughts on “Writing Advice from John Berendt

  1. So very true! I myself don’t keep a diary, but I’ve used many things that happen in my life as inspiration for events in my stories.


      1. I used to keep a diary when I was a kid, but when I looked at all the pages that began with “Today I did this…”, I gave up.


        1. Sometimes, it’s hilarious to look back on stuff you did a year or two years ago. I always find some amusement in it.


  2. I kept a journal for years. One day I pondered what would happen if I got hit by a bus and died.

    The idea of having other people reading my inner-most thoughts gave me cause for pause. I made my husband promise that he would not read them piece-meal. If he wanted to read them, he would have to read them straight through, no bouncing around. He agreed.

    But then I thought that I should read them through first.

    I read through them one by one, starting with my college journals, and decided that the person writing bore little resemblance to the person I’d become with the passage of time.

    So I burned them. All of them.

    Now, I write vignettes that are worthy of sharing, rather than whining about the trivia of my daily life. 🙂


    1. Writing to amuse yourself is wonderful.

      When I wrote in college, it was generally because someone had impacted my Ego in a “negative” way and Ego wanted to whine, moan, and complain about it.

      A waste of time back then . . . which would only be compounded by keeping them around for someone to read. 🙂


      1. That was what I would write about in high school. Now I read it and roll my eyes at what a jerk I was then, but it still makes me laugh in a way. Good material for future stories. 🙂


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