In the nearly two centuries that have passed since Jane Austen’s death, many have followed in her footsteps, but few have matched her. She remains a star – an icon that most writers can only aspire to emulate, although we’re always looking for ways to try. Since there is nothing easy to write, we’re fortunate that there are countless tips for writers craving for advice, including ones based on Austen’s life and work herself.
Author Rebecca Smith – who happens to be a descendant of Austen – highlights the lessons to be learned from the literary legend by The Jane Austen Writers’ Club: Inspiration and Advice from the World’s Most Beloved Novelist. Smith gives Janeites the perfect excuse to revisit Austen’s work and analyze everything that makes it great. She dabbles in everything from time management to children’s writing, inserting some of Austen’s best scenes along the way.
Smith’s book is extremely comprehensive. Not only does she give advice, but she delves into the author’s past, bringing to light lesser-known but still intriguing information. There is a lot to learn, both about Austen and about writing.
Below are 10 lessons every writer can learn from the life and work of the incomparable Jane Austen.
1. Read often to write well
Austen spent a lot of time writing to improve her art, but that’s not all she did. Reading was one of her big hobbies, and as Smith points out, she critically reflected on what worked and didn’t work for other writers. This means you don’t have to feel guilty the next time you walk away from your last project and get lost in a book.
2. Make sure your world is working
Whether you are writing about your hometown or a place that was born of your imagination, everything in your world has to make sense. It is crucial that there is a logic behind aspects ranging from the motivations of your characters to the rules of their society. Smith writes: “If a reader notices something and thinks, “It wouldn’t be like that!” “ you lost them. Nobody wants that.
3. Create human characters
Austen is responsible for creating some of the most memorable characters in literature, and she has done so by giving them the complexity of real people. Even if you don’t really write about humans, remember that your characters need to be multi-faceted. Smith highlights Austen’s warning against writing flawless heroes and pure evil villains.
4. Use subplots and use them well
You may have worked out your plot, but it’s also important to consider deepening your story with subplots. Austen did it masterfully, using supporting characters as a way to explore various themes.
“Readers are delighted with the way Jane Austen works with the various themes of her novels,” writes Smith. “We see characters facing similar dilemmas and dilemmas and reacting in contrasting ways. “
To consider Pride and Prejudice It’s Charlotte Lucas, for example. She provided a clear and interesting contrast to Elizabeth Bennet on the issue of marriage. Unlike Lizzy, she didn’t need the butterflies – just security.
5. Accelerate conflict and tension
Austen’s recipe for a great novel always included conflict and tension. In fact, Smith calls it “very good at making terrible things happen or almost get to his characters. The stakes are always high, whether the characters risk losing their heritage, their position in society, or their true love.
6. Advance your plot anytime
You have a story to tell and every page of your book should be used to advance your plot. Austen was extremely smart to do this. Returning to the example of Pride and PrejudiceNot only did Charlotte Lucas come up with a different way of looking at the wedding, but she also provided a reason for Elizabeth to reunite with Mr. Darcy after she left Longbourn.
7. Details matter
Small details can play a key role in a story when used well. Unsurprisingly, this is another skill of Austen. Smith gives several examples, one being the two chains that Fanny Price received for her amber cross in Mansfield Park . One was from his sweetheart, Edmund Bertram, and the other from his unwanted suitor, Henry Crawford (via his sister, Mary). Appropriately, only Edmund’s matched the cross. It’s love.
8. Make sure your dialogue is crisp
Good dialogue should seem natural. Granted, Austen’s dialogue sounds a little different from 21st century ears, but it works for its time. Yours should too, so Smith recommends reading your characters’ lines aloud.
9. Sprinkle with humor
Humor is rarely a bad thing; Austen was definitely a fan. In letters offering help to his niece Anna, Smith shares, Austen praised the light moments. Any Janeite can also vouch for having put such moments into her own work.
10. Savor the process
No matter how much you love to write, we all know it isn’t enjoyable 100% of the time. Smith reminds readers to have fun with the process and not to put too much pressure on yourself to become successful overnight. As she points out, Austen continued to work there for over 20 years. Fortunately, it was worth the wait.
Images: Miramax Films; Giphy