Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Take My Advice. I'm Not Using It.

I'm a little late posting this blog because this time of year, I am miserable with allergies. My eyes swell shut (no contact lenses for me this time of year), my sinuses are swollen, and my throat is always raw. I took some allergy meds last night, intending to get this post up before midnight...Yeah, not so much when I didn't wake up until almost 3 in the afternoon.

So, I went back to an old blog post I put up a couple of years ago on writing and here it is:

I found several good quotes from well-known authors that I have decided to share them here and how I’ve tried to (and often failed) follow the advice offered by these authors.

The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
Yes, it certainly is. Sometimes the second and third drafts are just as bad. However, if as a writer, you’re totally hung up on making every word perfect, making every sentence a literary masterpiece, you’re going to do several things at once. You’re going to make yourself insane. You’re going to frustrate the daylights out of yourself. You’re going to become completely discouraged. And, ultimately, I can almost guarantee that you’re going to stop writing. Because if you’re so hung up making that first sentence/paragraph/page perfect, you’re never going to get past the first sentence/paragraph/page. The internal editor won’t let you. Suggestion: SHUT THE DAMN INTERNAL EDITOR OFF!

If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
YES! One of the most difficult assignments I had as a graduate student in one of the creative writing classes I took was to write a short story mimicking another writer’s style and voice. Ask me to analyze that style and voice and I could take a story apart, dissect it, and put it back together. Ask me to change my writing style—damn you, Aaron Morales—and it was as if I’d been asked to give up a kidney. However, by mimicking another author’s voice and style, that lesson became a tool in my arsenal of writing weapons. I had to read a lot of short stories to find one author that I felt I could come close to writing like in a similar voice. I can honestly say I cursed Aaron Morales for this assignment, but when it was over, I had acquired another tool to use. And different writing styles are different tools. As I tell my freshmen composition classes, there are different styles and even voices to be used for different writings.

Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain
And, substitute “damn” also for any word that ends in “ly”. “Very” and those adverbs that I am in love with do NOTHING to strengthen my writing. If anything, they make it weaker. This is a battle I fight all the time, but I hope that I am at last beginning to win this war.

 Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
This one is almost self-explanatory. What works for one person, may not work for the next. I had this bit of sage advice given to me once regarding something like this. “If one person says that something in the scene isn’t working, consider the source. If two people tell you the same thing in a scene isn’t working, might want to think about changing it. If three or more people tell you that thing isn’t working, you have to fix it.” As the author, you’re the only one who knows what will work with your characters. You know them inside and out (or you’d better). You’re the only one who can resolve the problem.

And, last but not least: Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway knew the only way to turn off the internal editor for him was to drown the damn thing in alcohol. For me, shutting off the internal editor means putting in the ear buds, cranking up the volume, putting fingers to the keyboard, and just start writing. When I’m working on a rough draft, I don’t even like to go back and read everything I wrote the day before…or the hour before. I’ll read just a page or two, just enough to get back into the flow of things. Even though Capote said this of Kerouac’s On The Road: “That’s not writing, it’s typing” there is something to be said for just “typing.”

Stay drunk on the idea of writing. Approach the editing process cold, stone sober.

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