Carl Hiaasen on Writing

Carl HiaasenFind out how the author creates a quiet place to write and what advice he has for those with a story to tell.

I was very young when I became interested in writing, and it was because I loved to read. I don’t know any successful writers who didn’t read like crazy when they were kids. Reading gives you a great appreciation for storytelling, and for language.

I hear from lots of folks, young and old, who have the itch to start writing novels, short stories or poetry. There’s no magic piece of advice — writing is hard work, and good writing is even harder. The only way I know to get better is to write as much as possible and to not give up, even when you’re discouraged. When you’re not writing, read as much as possible and learn from what you read. Great novels and great stories are like textbooks to someone who’s learning the craft.

My own writing schedule is somewhat scattered and hectic, because I write at home and we’ve got two very busy boys. For peace and quiet I wear a set of Ruger shooting ear muffs, keep the door closed, and avoid the phone. I start early in the morning and write until I’m tired, which is usually mid-afternoon, about the time the kids get home from school. In the later stages of a book I’ll write at night, too, especially if the deadline is creeping up.

Some novelists rewrite their books from start to finish, but I polish chapter by chapter. Before I’m done I probably read and tinker with each chapter 15 or 20 times, and even then I’m rarely 100% satisfied. There’s always something I think I can do to improve the writing, but at some point you’ve got to let go of the manuscript and have your editor give it a fresh eye.

Writing is one of the loneliest and most solitary jobs you could have, but it’s also one of the most rewarding. To be able to create from nothing a story that makes people laugh — or even just think — is a talent that nobody should waste. I’ve been very lucky in my career, but luck only takes you so far. In the end, every writer has to get up and start the next day with nothing but a blank page and their imagination.

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