Writing is easy, right? You just pour a bunch of words onto a page, compile enough of them, and voila! You have a book!
Literarily speaking, well, that’s a bit of a different story . . .
I love writers talking about how they work, don’t you? Anyone in this writing biz is hopefully putting pen to paper and fingers to keyboard, while at the same time trying to make sense of the writing life.
Here’re 12 sentiments that tweak me, and hopefully, will you too!
- “If you write one story, it may be bad; if you write a hundred, you have the odds in your favor.” –Edgar Rice Burroughs
Now this one is just pure truth. The only way to learn to write is by writing. I work with so many folks who just keep going over and over and over and over one manuscript or short story, sometimes for years!
And while revision is the name of this game, a point comes at which you need to move on. The next one will be better.
- “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” –Jack London
Often in the beginning, inspiration soars. You chase it, gleefully, through the cosmos as your characters bounce and jump off the pages.
And then . . . ideas slog to a stop. Your people have stopped being witty, quirky, or even any fun at all. Your story line sags. And you are lost.
Now’s the time to take out that baseball bat and chase it.
- “The road to hell is paved with works-in-progress.” —Philip Roth
Oh, yes, it surely is. It’s in the weeds of things where we feel in literal hell.
And, this is a point where so many writers stop. Begin something new. Give up entirely.
Press on. Just press on. Even if what you’re writing is crap, the point is, you’re writing. Finish it.
- “The first draft of anything is shit.” –Ernest Hemingway
Truly, it is. Trust me. I don’t care who you are, the first draft isn’t worth burning. If Hemingway knew this, you should too.
And yep, revision is where the blood, sweat, and tears come in. Because revision isn’t polish—it’s rewriting.
Let it sit for a month after the first draft. In the interim, read, read, read—great authors. Then come back to yours and begin again.
- “The beautiful part of writing is that you don’t have to get it right the first
time, unlike, say, a brain surgeon.” –Robert Cormier
This is it in a nutshell! This one understanding will keep you from the dreaded writer’s block. If you truly know that it doesn’t matter if what you’ve written today is crap, that you can and will always come back and fix it, it frees you up to just write.
So, write! This will keep you from:
- “There is nothing towriting. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” –Ernest Hemingway
Because you know what? You’re going to feel that way. Not in the inspiration part, often not in the initial writing. That usually comes in with the editing/revising portion.
The point is: Sit at that typewriter even if you’re bleeding. Write.
- “Just write every day of your life. Read intensely. Then see what happens.” –Ray Bradbury
This is it—the prescription for writing. Write, read, write some more. Yep, all writers need good editors. But the groundwork has to be laid first.
Learning this craft is exacting. And by finding your voice through writing, reading others’ works, then engaging with a great editor, you’ll get there.
- “There is only one plot—things are not what they seem.” –Jim Thompson
Aristotle said sometime back that there are no new plots. And truly, this is so. Whew, doesn’t that take the pressure off? You don’t have to come up with the most mind-bending series of events ever known to man.
Most importantly, even in the most mundane world, something exists that isn’t as it seems.
Find that thing. And then you’re off and running!
- “The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.”–Vladimir Nabokov
Okay, before some astute reader points out that the author of this quote is in dispute J, I know that. But I love it so much, and it’s something Nabokov would say, so I’m included it anyway.
Better plotting words, I don’t know. This is how you keep your story moving. Conflict, major and minor plot points—these move the story from one act to the next, until the end.
Keep throwing those rocks. See what your characters do when pebbles to boulders come raining in.
- “There is probably no hell for authors in the next world — they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this.” –C. N. Bovee
Know this one? Everyone who’s ever tried to write, who’s stuck with it, who willingly or unwillingly gives of all that blood, sweat, and tears, only to find doors closed with agents and publishers, and if those doors do open, then come the barbs with reviewers, can attest to this.
Nobody said this road was easy.
And developing that thick skin of which we all speak is imperative. Believe in yourself. Believe in your book. Then keep at it.
- 11. “Unless a reviewer has the courage to give you unqualified praise, I say ignore the bastard.” –John Steinbeck
I know of no better advice about reviews! We’re all going to and do get crappy ones. Comes with the territory.
Letting that fall off your shoulders is of course easier said than done.
But just do it. The “those bastards!” mantra always works wonderfully, so use it to your full advantage.
- “Write drunk, edit sober.” –Earnest Hemingway
Yep, we’re heavy on Hemingway here. But I love him and this is one of my fav quotes.
And it dives to the heart of the matter: Create with all the drunken euphoria you possibly can.
Then sober up, and begin the revisions and editing.
Take classes. Join workshops. Engage with a great editor.
Use that analytical part of your mind and go make your book a bestseller.