Writing lessons from Venice

Venice is a ‘wow’ kind of place. There’s eye candy everywhere you look, something intriguing around every corner, and even the most mundane things (travelling by taxi, for example) are interesting and exciting (speed boat, baby). Don’t you want your book to be like Venice? I know I do…

So, here are the lessons on writing I gleaned from the Venetians.

One: More is more. By rights, Venice should be ugly. It has an excess of marble and mosaic, of gold, gilt, and glass. It should be too much, but instead it’s perfectly, brilliantly right.

Don’t hold back in your writing. Don’t hold back that cool plot idea, fabulous character, sparkling description or witty dialogue for a later project because you think you’ll run out of the good stuff and you’d best spread it out. Your best writing is not seasoning; use it liberally, use it all. Trust that your supplies will be replenished. Go forth and gild that gondola.Two: Steal. Not from just one place, but widely and bravely.

Venice is a city of stolen treasure, saints and holy relics, and the Venetian’s are perfectly okay with that. They have taken shiny stuff and made a city built on mud into a must-visit destination. They didn’t just nick stuff, though, they made it their own; mixing and matching to create something new and unique. And they’re touchingly unapologetic of this magpie tendency, as this mosaic from the front of the basilica shows.

Three: Don’t be afraid to chuck out the old in favour of something better.

Yes, it can be hard to let go of those precious words and it feels like a slog to re-write, but you’ll end up with something truly special. Be like the pioneering Venetians. They had (nicked) a perfectly good patron saint – St Theodore – but when the opportunity to ‘acquire’ Saint Mark came up, they grabbed him with both hands. And look, a winged lion; way cooler. (Sorry, Theo).

2 thoughts on “Writing lessons from Venice

  • 25th April 2011 at 1:23 pm
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    What an excellent post.

    Life teaches us good lessons, but only when we’re smart enough learn them. Or notice them.

    Venice is one of those places that makes you think about human nature. I loved it. The whole place is riddled with politics, power, love, lust, depravity and high art. And you’re right; it knows no shame.

    Holidays, especially if they happen to be somewhere new and full of little moments of culture shock, always make it easier to “wake up and smell the coffee” and take a fresh look at what we do and who we are, but Venice is the world capital of these foreign-holiday-epiphanies in my opinion!

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  • 25th April 2011 at 1:30 pm
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    Thanks, Matthew! Now, I just need to put my lessons into practice. Ho hum. x

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