When you feel like you’ve reached the end of your rope (or chain) with your latest manuscript—before your shred it into tiny little pulp flakes—take a moment to read the following writing advice.
Who knows? It might just be enough to rev up your genius motor and get you back to saying: “Type magic fingers, type!”
1. Have your characters avoid asking questions. Instead have them speak in declarative statements. Instead of saying, “What happened to your face?” Have a character make a statement, “Your face looks horrible. I knew going to the bar was a bad idea.”
2. Have characters agree. It’s an easy trap (and a realistic one) to have characters disagree. We tend to think that causes drama. But actually it stalls a plot. Have characters agree and suddenly your plot goes to unexpected territory.
With permission from Patrick Wensink, author of “Fake Fruit Factory.”
It’s 5:45 a.m. and the bedroom window is open. I think I hear a freight train in the distance. A constant low rumble. I do mean constant.
I think to myself, “Damn, that is one extremely long train!” Then it dawns on me (get it? dawns?), it’s not a train.
The streets around our house are being drilled and dug up, and ditches are being backfilled and flattened with huge pieces of orange equipment. Our sewer lines are being replaced, and the rumbling, scraping, rat-a-tat-tat is endless!
Now, don’t get me wrong—I’m all for replacing hundred-year-old sewer pipes. And repairing bridges and highways and all that other stuff that needs fixing. That’s the sort of thing our tax money should be used for.
Summer, when everyone has their windows closed because of air conditioning, is the season for this sort of activity.
But it’s autumn for cryin’ out loud, and the air snaps like a spiced wafer and is filled with the aroma of apple cider. I NEED my windows open at this time of year.
I’m an October baby and this is MY month— not Caterpillar’s!
You know how when you are reaching the end of a fantastic book—and you don’t want to finish it—because then what will you do with the rest of your life?
You’ve been living in this fantasy world for hours and hours, perhaps days and days. You don’t want to say goodbye to the people (or creatures) who inhabited that world with you. What will become of them? Where will they go next? You want them to live and grow old with you. But they can’t and they don’t.
That’s where I am in my writing. I’m this close to finishing my first book, and I’m a little depressed because I will have to say goodbye to the familiar occupants of my pages. What will become of me? Where will I go next?
If my son were here, he would place one hand on each of my shoulders, look me in the eye, and say, “Calm down.” For some reason, that always worked. Amazing. Writing that helped.
So, “buck up,” me—“get back to work and finish that thing!”
Please visit the “comments” section. I’d love to hear how you, dear reader, push through when you’re nearing completion of a writing project, and make the decision to say, “Th-th-that’s All Folks!”
The editor spent about three weeks doing the first run-through of my book, Bosses and Blackjacks. She has an incredible ability to pick up on a missed comma or end quote or verb tense consistency, among a myriad of other things.
So, of course, I thought to myself: If it took her three weeks to plod through my manuscript—writing she had never seen before—certainly, I will only need two to review her edits.
Ha! As Eliza Doolittle sang in My Fair Lady:
“What a fool I was, what an addlepated fool!”
Week two is ending as I type this. Am I finished? No way. I have already sent the requisite email message begging her indulgence for an additional week.
Wish me luck. Please.
Now, if you’ll excuse me—I’ve got some revising to do.
Do you set time limits for yourself when you begin a task—be it writing, a household chore, or a life-altering activity? And, what do you do when you smack face-first into that deadline wall?
Please share your experiences, or advice, or both, in the Comment section below.
I believe the actual quote is: “If Wishes Were Horses, Beggars Would Ride.”
But, when I was a child, my mother used to tell me: “If wishes were horses, you’d have a stable full!”
She was right. I was always wishing for something or other. The interesting thing is, nothing has changed. I’m still adding horses to my stable.
My current wish is to get my act together and finish editing my book, Bosses and Blackjacks. I don’t seem to be able to do any serious work on it until after three o’clock in the afternoon. That takes me crashing headlong into dinner time. I know I should be cooking, but I’d much rather keep on working and have someone else spoon-feed me until I want to quit for the day.
Am I being unreasonable? Wishful thinking?
Does anyone else out there have this sort of “particular-time-of-day-when-you-want-to-just-keep-at-it-until-you-exhaust-yourself” issue?
Let me know in the comment section below.
In the meantime, I’ve got to go put some fresh water in the troughs.
Why have we stopped admiring the brightest among us, in favor of those who are only capable of “bumper-sticker” jargon? I know there are always two or three or twenty sides to every story–but they can’t all be accurate. When, as a nation, have we stopped caring about facts?
This is a dangerous path we are on. I would use the tired term “slippery slope,” if I weren’t so sick of hearing it. We’ve fallen into the trap of trendy terminology and, if we are to advance, we have got to stop.
Every political scandal does not have something to do with a “gate.” Every problem we need to solve does not have to have a “war” waged against it.
The media has gotten caught up in the Manhattan advertising practice of the clever logo or jingle. Dumbing down the population makes the population easier to control.
I’m curious about the words or phrases that you, dear reader, are completely and utterly sick of hearing. Maybe, together, we can create a dictionary of words and phrases from hell. I look forward to your suggestions.
Bosses and Blackjacksis currently with the editor and I hope to make it available to readers before the end of the year. In the meantime, I thought I would whet your appetite by giving you a small bite to chew on…slowly, very slowly:
Politics in Philadelphia is a rough game…has been since the time of Ben Franklin. But, when murder takes place in the Fifth Ward on primary election day in 1917, it sparks outrage – not just in Philadelphia, but throughout the nation.
WWI now shares headlines with the conspiracy trial in the “City of Brotherly Love.” Police Lieutenant David Bennett, in charge of the “Bloody Fifth,” is arrested along with the Mayor and other members of the political machine run by the powerful Vare brothers. Interfering with a free and fair election, it would seem, is as contemptible as actually pulling the trigger.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…no wait, that’s not right.
Some time in the past (not necessarily yours), there was a world of generalities.
There were televisions (with three channels, that you had to stand up and walk however many miles to manually turn a knob to change); telephones (with heavy black receivers that had little holes that you listened through and spoke into, and rotary dials that wore your fingernails down if you had to dial a long-distance number); maps (that had so many folding parts it took an engineer to get it back into the original paper rectangle which was stored in your car’s glove compartment); ovens (that could cook a whole turkey in seven hours); tablets (made of paper, with lines on it so you would know where to write the words with your pencil or pen); and books (made from trees, that required the heavy lift of turning pages with your hand, over and over and over again, until you reached the end).
Now there is a world of bits and bytes.
We have HDTVs, smart phones, GPS, microwaves, electronics of all shapes and sizes in which to manipulate and store our data, and digitized devices that can hold up to twenty-eleven-gazillion different kinds of reading matter.
I have written a book – Bosses and Blackjacks.
When it becomes available – hopefully, by the end of this year – feel free to read it in any way you feel most comfortable – except under water…neither paper nor electronics fair well when wet.