Dont Polish The Turd And Other Oddball Writing Advice That Works

Dont Polish The Turd And Other Oddball Writing Advice That Works

Even with a​ dozen published books to​ my name,​ I sometimes need a​ dose of​ inspiration when I sit down to​ write. Above my desk,​ I've posted a​ paper with various pieces of​ fiction-writing wisdom I've collected over the​ years. Some of​ the​ advice may sound odd,​ but I've found it​ all helpful. Here it​ is:

1. Write as​ if​ no one's reading. if​ you always imagine a​ reader perched on​ your shoulder,​ you'll be afraid to​ take chances. at​ least for the​ first draft,​ ignore that imaginary reader and free yourself to​ write whatever crazy,​ impossible,​ lousy things occur to​ you. You can always fix it​ later - in​ fact,​ you SHOULD fix it​ later. But you'll have nothing to​ rewrite if​ you're too intimidated to​ write in​ the​ first place.

2. Show up at​ the​ page. Writers write. They sit down - ideally every day but at​ least as​ regularly as​ possible - and write.

3. Don't polish the​ turd. if​ you find yourself spending a​ lot of​ time trying to​ save an​ idea,​ a​ chapter or​ even a​ sentence,​ it​ usually means it's time to​ move on. You're wasting your time trying to​ beautify something that,​ well,​ just plain stinks.

4. Make bad things happen to​ good people. Novels are driven by conflict,​ and that means bad things have to​ happen to​ your characters - these people that you've created and have grown to​ love over the​ course of​ your novel. Your main character can have a​ happy ending,​ but along the​ way,​ he or​ she has to​ deal with sorrow,​ disappointments and possibly even danger.

5. Murder your darlings. That sentence you LOVE? the​ sex scene that you're sure will win you the​ Pulitzer? the​ pages that moved you to​ tears? Be prepared to​ kill them. in​ a​ novel,​ it's the​ piece as​ a​ whole that matters - not so much the​ individual parts. Sometimes your best writing will have to​ see the​ sharp end of​ your editing blade to​ make things work.

6. Let Sean Connery write your sentences. as​ James Bond,​ he's a​ man of​ action: things are not done to​ him,​ he does them. That's how you should structure your sentences. Jason did not get stabbed by Susan - rather,​ Susan stabbed Jason. the​ weapon was not found by police - the​ police found the​ weapon. Writing in​ the​ active voice keeps things moving...and your readers reading.

7. When in​ doubt,​ pick one,​ any one. at​ some point in​ your story,​ you're likely to​ face a​ fork in​ the​ road. Should Marianne get in​ the​ car? or​ should she take off running down the​ road? Should she slap the​ guy? Kiss him? Reveal that she's always secretly loved him? When you're faced with a​ decision you can't seem to​ make,​ just make it. Pick one,​ start writing,​ and see where it​ goes. if​ it​ doesn't work out,​ you can always cut it​ and try again (see #5).

8. Keep your friends close and your reviewers closer. it​ can be helpful to​ get feedback as​ you go,​ but choose your readers carefully. Giving your precious pages to​ someone who is​ frustrated at​ their own inability to​ write a​ novel is​ like handing them a​ loaded gun ... pointed right at​ you.

9. Rewriting is​ writing. You may have heard the​ old saw that "writing is​ rewriting,​" but I like to​ flip it. Rewriting is​ just as​ valid a​ form of​ creativity as​ your first draft. Sometimes it​ takes more than a​ polish - it​ takes reaching into your gut and daring to​ make whatever changes need to​ be made,​ no matter how extensive they may be.

10. Skip and go naked. Be free. Have fun. Through the​ hard and often lonely work that is​ writing,​ remember to​ feel the​ joy. Unlike money,​ fame or​ even publication,​ it's the​ one payoff that's guaranteed.

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