Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Bruce on Writing Lessons from Holmes

Robert Bruce of Copyblogger discusses what Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation can teach us about writing. Excerpt:
Sherlock Holmes was the greatest Consulting Detective in the world.

Though merely a fiction, written over a century ago by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, his methods of logical deduction are without equal.

Holmes' mastery of his craft brought him to the fog-cloaked London doorsteps of the most powerful people of his time.

Correction: those clients came to him.

They ran, desperate, to his Baker Street rooms, begging for his help, willing to pay any amount he requested in return for his services.

What can Sherlock Holmes teach us about mastery?


I'll let you find the wealth of anecdote, advice, and adventure in Conan Doyle's stories yourself, but here's a short beginning list on Holmesian mastery to get you started …
Read the whole thing. Honestly, I'm not much of a fan of the Holmes stories unless they feature inhuman monsters from beyond the stars. But Bruce offers some good counsel, particularly on the need for novice writers to cultivate a laser-like focus on the craft. Sure, he may go a little overboard in claiming that well-rounded folks won't master the art of writing. (The experience of meeting a person who can only do one thing well is generally enough to convince about the very practical limitations of specialization.) Still, he has a point in saying that excellence requires opportunity costs: "If you want to master writing, you are probably giving up running the 800 meters in the Olympic Games. If you want to master the cello, you are probably giving up the ability to talk about what's good on television these days."

(Picture: CC 2004 by Mr Wabu; Hat Tip: Brandywine Books)

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