Severe weather in Oregon has forced the birds in this condo development to fly south. Your correspondent will follow them next Monday. Look for writing advice, news and tips direct from sunny Zihuatanejo, Mexico, coming soon.
Mexico is a great place for writing at ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED, amigos.
The national economy is leaking on the sheets.
Everybody knows that.
The publishing industry is circling the bowl
Everybody knows that.
So why write?
Here’s why. Whatever happens, you’ll be better off with a top-notch book to sell when things get better. Your psyche will be strengthened as your writing skills improve. It will be two years before anything you’re working on now sees the light of publication. Things might well be a lot better. Even if they’re not, you will have gained just by the affirmative act of writing itself.
Your goal for today: Cease whining about the state of the world. Even if you have to use both sides of your yellow pad and sharpen your pencil with your teeth, HIT THOSE KEYS.
The awful state economic affairs is nothing to laugh about, but take your nose out of the Business Weekly and keep polishing that book.
You’ll be a better person for it. To accomplish this mission, of course, you will have to WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.
Writers are terrified of making mistrakes.
See, you got a little twitch there, didn’t you? This fear has killed more novels than have ever been published. It’s number two on my list of “Top Ten Mistakes Fiction Writers Make.” Many writers are controlled by the urge to perfect before pushing on. You know the symptoms: You’re on draft ninety-seven of you first sentence, revision eighty-six of your first paragraph.
The Fix: Recognize this fear is normal and you are not a psychotic moron for feeling it–still, you’ve got to knock it off.
All your life you’ve been brainwashed. “Obey the rules.” “Get it right the first time.” “Anything worth doing is worth doing well.” This advice is great for brain surgeons. For writers on their first draft, not so much.
Ignore that nasty little internal censor’s voice, junk the story through. Get the thing written. It’s awful? It’s supposed to be awful.
All the detail work, the polishing, the proofreading, the perfecting, happens in the revision phase.
If you spend days, weeks, years, working on fine-tuning your first chapter where the lovers meet in Istanbul, you may well find out the book works better set in Grants Pass, Oregon. (I can’t imagine that happening, I’m just saying . . .)
To help break this habit, fling off this phobia, try writing something that doens’ matter much, maybe just a stream-of-consciousness rap about your first ex-husband, a rant about Republicans. Maybe a love scene that doesn’t belong anywhere except in your fantasy bank. Go ahead, let ‘er rip. Make mistakes, keep going–how important could a mistake be in this crapolla?
Do that a few times just to get the feeling of power that comes from abandoning a mistake and pushing on. You’re a pro, you can go back and fix it later. What you need now–the only thing that will get you through this damn book–is word count.
Hit those keys, let the strokes fall where they will. As always, WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.
Thanks to the folks following this blog. I’m particularly interested in first paragraphs. (see new blog person.) You don’t have much time to hook people’s attention. So hit those keys. Who is the story about?
What’s at stake? What’s the inciting incident? Tell me now!
There, I’ve just used up my lifetime supply of exclamation points.
Nothing left but to tell you, WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.
Though this is not a political blog, I have to admit–a couple extra tissues bit the dust during yesterday’s celebration. It struck me how much more important the emotions and feelings are as opposed to the cold, hard facts.
This, like most everything else, is a lesson for writers. People read stories to feel things. Emotions bring us into the heart of the matter. Self-sacrifice is the most powerful motive you can give your character.
As you write today (and you are writing today, no?) see if you can show us how those characters feel.
A new day has dawned in the U.S., definitely time to WRITE AT ABSOULUTE TOP SPEED.
After a writer’s workshop a peaceful feeling comes. Just back from the “Top Ten Mistakes Fiction Writers Make” workshop in Yachats, OR. My thanks to a fine group of talented participants who will go far–now that they are no longer making the Top Ten Mistakes.
As soon as I make a few more mistakes and figure them out, I’ll offer another workshop with the next ten mistakes writers make.
The only mistake that’s terminal, however, is giving up. Keep writing, let me know if I can
help. WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.
Winter. Time to think of warmer climes. If you can swing it, I recommend the San Miguel de Allende writers conference. Details here: http://www.sanmiguelworkshops.com/
If that seems a little exotic for your taste, stick with me here at allwriterswelcome.
We’ll be dealing with a lot of the same subjects I’ll be teaching down in Mexico next year.
But this old blogaroo is free.
Send me a question or a comment that’s been bugging you–or
one that will show the world your superior literary knowlege.
For example, you may ask, “To what do you attribute the Joycean influences in the early works of Charles Bukowski?”
Or, “What’s the deal with those three little period thingies where sentences just trail off . . .
I’ll do my best to answer your questions, or at least make up a plausable-sounding lie.
But seriously, bring me your tired sentences, your weary clauses
your senile, drooling syntax, your wobbley word choices, even your broke-back bromides masquerading as prose. We’ll take a look–learn together.
The answers to our earlier questions: Bukowski allegedly passed out in a portable toilet one night and woke up with a pee-stained copy of Ulysses stuck to his head.
Spent the next three weeks reading it. And if you buy
that story there is some ocean-front property in North Dakota I’d like to
talk with you about. The little period thingies are called elipses and in manuscript the three periods are separated by spaces. I know, in books they look like this: … But in your manscript, do this: . . . claro?
But, enough of this mindless hilarity. Time to log off and go
WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED.
Top of the year, top of the slate. Time to get writing. Is that your New Year’s resolution? Let me ask you a question: Did you resolve to get out of bed? To hit the bathroom? To have breakfast?
Probably not, because you do that already, it’s part of your regular routine.
All the tens of thousands of gifted writers reading this blog are probably way ahead of me. I know what you’re thinking: Professionals make writing a habit, something they do almost without thinking, not some big special deal they get hyped up about on special occasions.
So, mi compadres, I am not interested in your New Year’s resolutions–which you will probably blow off in the next three days anyway–all that counts in word count. Do it right now. Give me your thoughts on this little post.
Some suggested responses:
“Lordy, lordy, John, you’ve changed my writing life forever and I look forward to sharing my generous six-figure advance with you.”
“Ten thousand gifted writers? What are you smoking?”
“Why aren’t you writing instead of blogging?”
Whoa, that last one is really touching home. I’m out of here, with the usual admonition to WRITE AT ABSOLUTE TOP SPEED–this year and every year.