Monday, February 06, 2012

Five things writers should not do.

I saw this article 25 things writers should not do. The language was foul (though sometimes, kind of funny) but most of the ideas were sound. So I thought I'd come up with a cleaner version of the don'ts I've learned in my life.  However, I'm going to take them five at a time, and do not promise to come up with twenty five.  (Check out his article but brace yourself for the profanity.)

1. Don't make excuses. If you want to write, write. I know people with dyslexia and other learning problems who can't handle grammar, but they write, and get someone to edit.  Terry Pratchett has Alzheimer's; he has someone type in his stories.  I've read of famous authors who wrote their novels in the bathroom, the only place they could get a few minutes of privacy and peace.  Several famous novels were written on library computers.  Holly Lisle wrote her first breakout novel to prove to her demeaning ex that yes, she could write something someone would read.  So quit making excuses, and do it if it gives you joy.

3.  Don't put it off until you can (concentrate for an hour/write 1500 words/get into the story).  A sentence a day or 5000 words--who cares? The important thing is to do it. Incidentally, my book, Mind Over Mind was written in a year with the promise of just a sentence a day, though I wrote more when I was inspired.  Make some time, even for a sentence.  You'll also feel a lot better about yourself knowing you accomplished even just that much, and it will lead to writing more.

3.  Don't think your idea is stupid.  Let's face it, any idea can sound stupid--or remarkable.  And any idea can sell.  "Guy goes fishing and a marlin drags him to sea.  (The Old Man and the Sea).  "Two teens fake their deaths so they can run away together, but accidentally kill themselves instead." (Romeo and Juliet)  even "New girl in school falls in love with a vampire."  (Twilight--and regardless of your opinion, it's a huge success)  How you treat the idea in the story, how you sell it, and how you combine it is what makes a stupid idea a great story.

4.  Don't procrastinate.  Your book will not write itself while you scroll through Facebook, do e-mail, make a snack, etc.  For pity's sake, if you want to write a story, sit down and write it.  Here's a song for inspiration:

5.  Don't let your internal editor stall your creative flow.  Personally, I tend to fix things while I'm writing.  For example, this week, while writing The Old Man in the Void, I realized I'd contradicted something I'd written earlier.  I stopped where I was, and went back and rewrote the older scene before continuing with the new one.  That's not what I mean when I say not to stall in your creative flow.  If you are in the middle of a heavy scene and can't remember (or think up) a new character's name, just write some generic (ARGUINGGUY) (REDSHIRT1) and keep going.  Later, you can search for that tag and replace it.  Can't think of the right descriptive word?  Just write WORD and keep going.  and DO NOT let doubts stall you.  I've known writers who never get past the first chapter because they are so full of doubt about a particular metaphor or description or...  Sometimes, that first chapter will jsut get axed anyway; it's warm up; so keep moving forward.  You'll warm up to your characters, learn their ways of thinking and acting, and when you are done, you'll have the knowledge you didn't have in the first chapter to help you go back and revise that first chapter.


Jennifer Gladen said...

FANTASTIC article. Thanks for the reminders. I'm guilty of too many of them...(blush) My idea for Teresa's Shadow seemed stupid to me at first - but something magical happens when you write. The story takes shape and changes.

Arley Cole said...

You are so right and so good to put this out there for us! Great post!!!

Zakgirl said...

Thanks for sharing, Fabian.

Terri Bruce said...

Really good advice - the last one is especially important. I've gotten at place holders like [something happens here] and then moving on. I know I need *something* but I'm not sure what. The times I do that, it always comes to me not too long after and I've gotten so much farther than if I'd just sat there struggling to fill in the blank at that exact moment. I just have to remind myself of that really often!

Rhea Rhodan said...

Great post, thanks!

Karina Fabian said...

Thanks for the comments, folks. I've come up with 10 more, so I'll keep it going as a series for a while.