Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thoughts on Writing (26 - 30)

26. Learn to be a hermit. Learn to say 'I'm sorry, but I can't come to your party, I booked that night for revisions and I don't have any other time to do it this week.' Learn to tell people no. Learn to treat writing as a job -- one that may well be both unpaid and in addition to whatever job pays the bills for a long, long time. If you make excuses to let yourself skip writing, if you choose a social life over that second job, you're not addicted enough. If you want to get better, you'll learn.

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27. People are going to act like writing is easy, because that's all they know; they're not writers. People are going to say you're being a snob when you say 'I'm sorry, I have to work,' because they can't understand why you'd choose reworking chapter three over going to the roller derby. Try not to take it personally. I'm sure they do shit that seems crazy to you, too.

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28. Kevin Smith said 'this isn't for the critics' when he was talking about Jersey Girl, and the critics savaged it anyway. There's a lesson here. You can't write to some imagined critical ideal, but if all eleven of the people you trust to review your first drafts say 'wow, this makes no sense at all, what the hell is going on here?', you should maybe consider taking another look. Pandering is bad. Being accessible is not.

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29. Outline as much as you need to. I have books where I've written incredibly detailed outlines, including locations and characters involved in every scene. I have books where I pretty much just plunged in blind and started hacking around with my machete, praying that nothing in my new-found jungle was going to give me Ebola. Even those books eventually got 'event chains' written on Post-It notes and stuck to my computer, because I needed to keep track of who was where. Neither style is superior to the other.

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30. If you're writing any sort of series, whether it be a series of short stories or a series of novels, you need a continuity guide. The format is up to you. The level of detail is up to you. But believe me, even if you somehow manage to forget that your hero has green eyes and turn them hazel, your readers won't, and they will eat your soul.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Thoughts on Writing (21 - 25)

21. We are all magpies. We are all going to pick up bits of flotsam and jetsam from the cultural void around us. Part of the value of having people edit you is the outside perspective they provide. If I tried to write a book that was a climactic clash of good versus evil following a slatewiper pandemic, there are people who would point out its similarity to The Stand before I managed to hurt myself, and that's gooooooooooood.

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22. Your writing style will actually change over the course of a single day, not just over the course of your lifetime. I write very crisp, sharp prose in the morning, and very purple, rambling prose at midnight. My sentences start turning into spaghetti around ten o'clock at night. A finished work is going to need to stick to one of these styles of prose, and I need to be aware of that when I'm editing, because otherwise, the transition can be so organic that it isn't visible until someone else gets a look and starts screaming at me for blinding them with adjectives.

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23. For the sweet love of all that is holy, edit, proofread, revise, and practice the art of self-critique. I mean it. There is no one on this planet so good at this game that they can just throw a fistful of words at the page and declare it brilliant. Needing to revise does not make you a failure, and becoming a better writer isn't going to take that need away. Embrace the revision process as a chance to dig down into the heart of your text and make it everything that it deserves to be.

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24. Anyone who tells you that your first draft is brilliant, perfect poetry and deserves to be published just as it is and you shouldn't change a word and oh, you're going to be famous and make enough money to buy a desert island is either a) lying, b) delusional, or c) your mother.

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25. If you're going to be a writer, you'll be a writer, because if you're going to be a writer, you'll write. This is not a glamorous profession. This is not something people do because they want to be rich and famous and sleep with Hollywood stars. This is something people do because, at the end of the day, they can't not do it. People decide to be writers for a lot of reasons. People continue to be writers because they can't figure out how the hell to quit. Writing is bibliophile heroin, and we're all addicts over here.

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