Hello, everybody! If you’re here, you must be wondering who the hell I am.
But if you’re not, you might be interested in some writing wisdom that I’ve picked up over the years. Some of it may be as useful to you as it was to me, before I was committed.
“If you want to be a writer,” says Stephen King, “you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” This is absolutely true. Read. Read everything, good or bad. Read the good stuff to learn techniques that work, to see how an effective, realistic character is created, and to see what well-written dialogue looks like. Read the bad stuff to know what not to do, to cultivate a sense of what bad writing feels like, and to motivate yourself with the thought, “I can do better than this shit, and it got published.”
Keep a notebook on you at all times to write down those world-changing ideas the instant you have them, because if you rely on your short-term memory, you’re going to lose all those brilliant plot twists and book premises.
If you think you are losing control of the story, shout out what you want to happen next very loudly. The power of suggestion can be very useful.
Smells can also affect your work. If someone is cooking bacon early in the morning, you may write about bacon. Try to fill your room with smells that remind you of what you want to write about.
If you want to get any writing done, get rid of the internet. This is a must. Get offline.
Show, don’t tell. This means: don’t tell me Charlie got in the car and went to the grocery store--show me Charlie’s shoes crunching across the driveway, the zip of his seatbelt, the glare of the midday sun in his face, the cold and slightly spoiled air of the corner grocery store.
Clearly delineate for yourself what times of the day you are going to write, and when it is time to stop, stop. Even if you are mid-sentence. Soon you will begin to anticipate what you get to write the next time Writing Time starts, and you will find yourself chomping at the bit to get back to the story.
Drink fluids. The amount of words that are released while writing are related to the volume of fluids that are ingested. That's because narrative is water-based, and narrative is the fluid that helps lubricate the way for your story. The body needs two to three liters of water a day to function properly. Drinking more fluids should therefore increase your word count.
Dry grass, leaves, pine needles, manuscripts, wood shavings, and small sticks are great for starting fires.
There is a time and a place for telling, but you have to understand where it’s useful. Think of your book as a movie--where would a montage go? Where would a time-lapse go? Use telling to push the narrative through long blocks of time where nothing much happens--training sequences, long drives, late-night hours where your character is waiting for something, just milling around the house watching TV and staring out the window.
Try holding your breath for short periods of time as you write.
You can actually buy bugs, have them shipped to you, and release them into your office to do the dirty work for you.
Dress in clothes that match the colors of the area around you.
Relax and be positive. Writer’s block is as much a physical issue as a mental one. Try not to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by labeling yourself as incompetent in any way. Approaching your manuscript with confidence, self-respect, and a positive attitude rather than fear and self-doubt can make all the difference.
Trust your beta-readers--those folks that get the first look at your material--but learn the difference between a legitimate issue and subjective taste. Often it’s the most commonly mentioned issues that need to be addressed; things you only hear once or twice can probably be chalked up to personal preference or something that’s been misread. Weigh every answer, but think “big picture.”
Develop ways to check that you are writing. Stories can sometimes be very close to real life. Therefore, it can be difficult to realize you are writing. Develop ways to recognize a manuscript from reality. Every few hours during the day, ask yourself or someone around you, “Am I writing?”
Prepare your body. Do three sets of ten jumping jacks. Jog around the block (about half a mile).
Watch for bacteria everywhere.
To make writing feel like less of a chore, take a bubble bath, or wear a little slip that makes you feel hot.
You will probably always feel like a fraud. It’s part and parcel of being a writer. Embrace it, because it will keep your head from swelling when your readers start gushing praise at you at three in the morning. Besides, working from a position of inferiority can improve your craft--the new recruit that’s never handled a rifle will work to shoot straighter than the one that boasts of years of hunting and thinks he has nothing to learn.
If you feel too good about yourself, make a post at Reddit.com. That’ll nip that shit in the bud real quick.
Before you officially start writing, get a checkup. Ask your doctor about vitamins that have folic acid, which helps protect against some grammar errors, such as passive voice. Folic acid works during the early stages of a manuscript, so that's why it's important to make sure you're getting enough folic acid even before you get started.
Safes often contain money or ammo.
“Write what you know” isn’t “write about what you know.” It doesn’t mean ‘write stories only about technical things in which you are a subject matter expert.’ A lot, and I mean a lot of people misunderstand this. WWYK means that you should infuse your writing with life experience and invest your characters with emotions you’ve felt yourself. If your hero just lost the love of his life, think back to your very painful divorce and use that heartbreak to make your reader feel every inch of your hero’s pain. If your heroine is about to have a car accident, think back to the sensation you experienced during your own car accident--the heady, sinus-throbbing slam and buckle of steel, the cymbal-crash of breaking glass, the way your forehead bounced off the steering wheel.
Don't flail around or start breathing quickly if you can't write; simply lie back as flat as you can.
Unless you're truly desperate, never drink unpurified water. Water is icky.
Query rejections are not failure. You don’t fail until you stop trying. Rejections are just signposts on the road to success, stepping-stones, experience points. You wouldn’t quit halfway through a ball game just because you’re not winning, would you? Then why would you give up on your dream of writing just because a couple of agents wouldn’t accept you? Keep on playing.
Never write alone. Always go writing with one other person who is a strong writer, if not several other people.
If you just can’t write in your normal place, pick up and move somewhere else. Sometimes a change of scenery or an uncomfortable perch can jog your creativity. For me, it’s a barstool at the chopping block in the kitchen, or a picnic table at the park.
Tighten the muscles around your anus for a few seconds, then release. Do this exercise in ten repetitions three or four times a day to improve your word count. Try to build up to ten-second holds.
Don’t be afraid to hurt your characters. No threat = no tension. No tension = bored reader.
Margaret Atwood says, “If I waited for perfection, I would never write a word.” Don’t be afraid to write crap--no first draft is perfect, and you can fix its problems in the edit. Photographers take hundreds of photographs just to get maybe twenty good pictures. Famous paintings are layer upon layer of mistakes and second-guessing. Music and films go through stage after stage of post-processing. Your novel is no different.
Kick your soda habit. Not only is soda rich in high fructose corn syrup that's bad for your liver, but it's also bad for your writing. Compared to writers who drink no soda, those who drink more than a quart a day had 30% lower word counts.
The reader should have at least one character to identify with and cheer for. If everyone in the story is a despicable asshole or sad sack, who cares if anything good happens to them?
Never sneak into people's homes, especially at night. Even if they are your friend. The cops won’t take “research for writing” as a legitimate excuse. Remember that you can't put your hands over your eyes and think you are hidden.
Most of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style is outdated, disingenuous bullshit. You can learn much of what you need of grammar by reading widely and often. Anything you miss will, I guarantee you, be thumped into you by whoever reads your shrieking tempest of a manuscript.
Look at yourself. Notice your hands, feet, legs, etc. Remember that you are doing this for them.
Speaking of your bodily extremities, if you’ve been sitting for too long, try this stretching exercise. There's good evidence to suggest that regular physical exercise is beneficial in increasing word count.
Simply stuff newspaper, dry grass, and leaves under your clothes and you'll be retaining significant amounts of body heat when you need it the most. You can do this to almost all of your clothing, from head to toe.
Write about your environments or settings as if you are describing the most beautiful sunset you’ve ever seen to a blind man that has a plane to catch. By that I mean, speak lyrically but be concise. If your protagonist is eating an orange, the reader should turn the page with the smell of citrus still in her nostrils.
Consult a doctor if you think you have writer’s block. This is not something you can treat yourself. As well as treating the infection and inflammation, the doctor will want to run tests to establish the underlying cause of the problem.
Writer’s block is a combination of fear and entertainment. It usually happens because you are not bored enough and you aren’t trusting the words. You are distracted because you’re busy trying to entertain yourself with something other than your writing. Turn off the internet, point yourself away from a window so you cannot look out of it, and entertain yourself with your work. Try to visualize the scene. Look for the most prominent aspect of the scene--the first thing that pops into your head when you picture it--and describe that. Trust the words! Grab the most applicable one and slap it into the page without fear! Once you’ve got that first sentence down, the rest gets a lot easier.
Mark Twain says, “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be,” but if you just leave it out altogether, you’ll save the both of you a hell of a lot of work. Mark Twain was kind of a dick.
Do not tell anyone where you will be; you do not want to be disturbed. Even if you are writing in a shack in the mountains. If you get hurt, just remember that adversity breeds character, and character makes for great writing!
Cultivate a strong mental constitution. Do not let assholes discourage you from doing what you need to do, whether they are internet trolls, nasty Amazon reviewers, or your uncle Brad that thinks you should be doing something worthwhile with your time, like whatever it is he does for a living.
Take a piece of cloth like a bandana and soak it in urine. Wrap it around your head.
If writing was easy and made a lot of money, everybody would be doing it. If writing was impossible and you couldn’t make any money at it, nobody would be doing it.
Many people enjoy becoming something that will allow you to experience the universe differently, like an alien, bird, or fish. If you want to shape-shift into a dog, go down onto your hands and knees. Start barking, and wag your tail. Pretty soon you'll feel your hands turn into paws and your face will change. Rub your hands together. This can distract you from the sensations of your actual body. Stare at yourself and will your skin to change and form into the shape you desire. Whatever you think of, make sure that it's something that doesn't turn you on sexually in any way.
Your story must make sense, unlike real life, or this article.
Hemingway says, “Write drunk, edit sober.” This means that you should write without inhibition--push all the words out of you like shit through a goose. Once they’re out, that’s when you break out the pooper-scooper and sort them out.
For those of you that have decided to give up, remember that crystal meth can be quite lucrative.
Well, I hope these suggestions were able to help. Some of these prescriptions may not apply to everyone, as any great glob of guidelines are apt to do, but they certainly worked for me. Most advice, especially in this industry, is highly subjective and even the most authoritative literary luminary can be halfway full of it. It is up to you to try anything and everything, and find what works for you!
Be brave! Be confident! And don’t forget, if it doesn’t work out, you can always run away and join the circus.