Monday Evening, 62°F and partly cloudy
Listening to Tame Impala—H.F.G.W. (Canyons Drunken Rage)
I’m begging you, dear amateur writer, put your thesaurus down and take several giant steps away from it. I’m not saying you should burn it (well, maybe, but let’s not be too hasty). For now, simply set it aside and take some time to consider how you’re using it, and why.
A thesaurus is a powerful tool when used properly. But abuse it and it will ruin your writing and out you as an insecure rube with a weak vocabulary and possibly an inferiority complex. Never attempt to use a thesaurus to make your writing more interesting or make yourself appear more intelligent and well read. It will do neither. A thesaurus can’t give you anything you don’t already have. Continue reading
Friday Evening, 32°F and cloudy
Listening to The Nice, She Belongs to Me.
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but that idea you have for a novel? It’s worthless. Nobody, and I do mean nobody, is buying up ideas for novels. Go ahead, Google around and see if I’m wrong. I’ll just wait here.
The good news is, if you’ve been wasting energy hoarding your novel ideas, you can relax. The dollar value of your great idea is $0.00. Nobody is angling to swipe it from you. Even if they did, it wouldn’t matter.
Yet I keep seeing comments like these in writers’ groups:
“I avoid social media pitch events like ass herpes because writers are lurking around hoping to steal my ideas.”
“Whatever my current idea is, I guard it like a state secret.”
“I flat out refuse to even tell my editor what the story is about until I’ve got the first draft finished.”
Now, there may be some good reasons to not share your ideas, but “people are going to steal them” isn’t one of them. The value isn’t in the story idea. It’s in the story’s execution. Continue reading
I was hanging out on a writers forum when someone complained about struggling with how to begin their first novel. “I just can’t get it started. Nothing sounds right.”
The experienced writers were quick to weigh in with “just write it,” “don’t worry if it’s crap,” and Hemmingway’s assertion: “all first drafts are shit.” This is 100% correct. But only helpful if you understand why you need to just write it, and what purpose that serves.
The reason we say “just write it” is that if you’re struggling with where to begin, what you really need is to get out of your own way. Quit worrying about whether you’re starting in exactly the right spot, what it sounds like, how it flows or (worst of all) what people are going to think when they read it. If you’re smart, nobody is going to read your first draft. You’re going to revise and polish a second draft before you let another set of eyes on it.
Many if not most authors throw away far more words than they ever publish. This is especially true with the words we write when we’re first starting out as novelists. The best thing I’ve ever done for my writing? Learn to be unflinching about throwing out anything that doesn’t serve the story. This is what people mean when they say “murder your darlings.” I have deleted whole chapters, scenes, descriptions, strings of great dialogue, and even solid characters that I’ve absolutely loved. Just because something is beautifully written, gut-wrenching, unforgettable or hilarious doesn’t mean it serves the story. Continue reading
Tuesday Evening, 33°F and foggy
Listening to The Nice, Rondo
It’s no secret that I have a thing about progressive rock. I tend to go through phases with it, where I will get deep down into a single prog band for days or weeks then I’ll come back out of my prog binge and not listen to another note of prog for weeks.
A few years ago my best friend and I started a really limited Facebook group called Progvember, dedicated to listening to prog during the month of November. For some reason (probably a combination of NaNoWriMo and a disgust hangover from the US presidential election) I neglected Progvember entirely in 2016. I thought I could get away with that. Turns out prog had something to say about that. Uh-uh, Grace. Not so fast. Continue reading
Sometimes I lay awake at night worrying about all of the poor, innocent pixels being inconvenienced by online discussions of what does, or does not, make a Mary Sue character. Many of these conversations revolve around the accused Mary Sue’s looks and talents. I contend that those things alone are not what make up a Mary Sue.
The one and only Greg Lake of ELP.
Despite what you may have heard, the problem with a Mary Sue isn’t that she’s* precocious, ridiculously beautiful, has remarkable hair, is phenomenally talented, sings like an angel, or is lusted after by all. If those factors alone made a Mary Sue, then the biggest-ass Mary Sue who ever lived was 1971 David Gilmour. Or possibly 1971 Greg Lake. And if you call either of them a Mary Sue, we will surely come to blows, my friend. Continue reading