Posts Tagged ‘inspiration’


Here’s a little post for aspiring writers—just a few tips that I hope will speed you on your way:

You should treat your writing project as though it’s so much clay, there to be shaped and molded at your whim. That is to say that in order to achieve the desired final result, you sometimes have to add things, embellish a bit here and there, and you sometimes have to lop things off wholesale; those things that don’t contribute to the overall project in a meaningful way, must be scrapped. The most direct way of stating this is that you must be perfectly willing to waste words. Words are your stock-in-trade. No book is ever written except that it’s done One Word At A Time. After the first draft stage, you may have a few dozen, possibly hundreds, and even thousands of words that don’t add anything to the story you’re trying to tell. Waste those words. Kill them. And add more if need be. I believe that writers who suffer from this truly non-existent malady they call Writer’s Block, actually suffer from one very simple thing only: a dearth of words. The remedy for any lack of a thing is to supply that thing. Therefore, you have to Sling Words At The Page. You have to sling far many more words at the page than you would care to think. The trick is to sling more than enough, and be willing to waste what’s not needed. Poof, no more writer’s block.

In keeping with the whole “clay” theme, there is no rule that says you have to write linearly. It’s true, books are written one word at a time, just as I said. But! There’s no reason you have to write them in straight order, from beginning to end. Those who say that a thing “must be done this way” are typically people who can’t break out of the box. They tend to write the same story, over and over again. And, well, that’s just yucky. But you don’t have to do that. You can write the first chapter, then write the last chapter, the write the next to last chapter, then write the second chapter, then the third from the last chapter, then the middle, then the Prologue (before the beginning), then the Epilogue (after it’s all over but the shouting), etc. There ARE no musts. None. Period. So don’t get trapped in downtown Linearville. It’s boring. It’s nothing but a one-way street through the same old town. Jump around a bit. See the sites, and along the way, write whatever the hell you want to write. Make it fun. Surprise yourself. The only person you have to please—at least at this stage—is you. And guess what? You’ll be way tougher on yourself than your future fans will ever be, by lightyears. So don’t sweat it. Just have fun with it. Splurge!

Another thing about rules is that I have found that they are made to be broken. Not just one of them, but very damn nearly ALL of them. Somebody says to you that you must must must begin a book with action, well by Jiminy, prove they’re wrong. Start with how boring everything is here in Dumpville, and that nothing ever happens. What? Nothing? Yep. That’s what I said. Nothing. You will be amazed at how riveting nothing can be. I mean, the reader is on the edge of his damn seat! Because guess what? Something ALWAYS happens! But guess what? Not here. Not in this first chapter. And pow! It just sucks them right on in. So, find a rule, break that damn rule. And that’s my only rule. I remember an editor told me once that you should never use words ending in ‘ly’. Words like “suddenly” and “freely” and “likely.” I mean, crap, there goes about five percent of the language, just because some wet-behind-the-ears junior editor with a brain filled with all the claptrap he learned in college latches onto something a professor—who probably couldn’t write his way out of a paper bag—blurted out because he was having a bad day and his wife was riding him about something stupid that morning. These are the same people who will tell you that you must sneeze thus. No. Not even. Forget about it. But they won’t listen to your protests because they are incapable of thinking for themselves, so whatever you do, don’t argue with them. Just smile at them, thank them, nod sagely, and then run like hell. And while you’re running, flush everything they just told you, because it’s a load of garbage.

For me, writing is a freeing experience. It’s best when it’s not loaded down with semesters (and even lifetimes) of preconceptions, bad advice, and a host of other baggage. Write to be free. You command the language. It’s your language! I mean, you’ve been speaking it well, bad and indifferent since you were kneehigh to a busted knee. Well, why the hell don’t you write it?

Shoot, I could go on. I could teach whole writing classes on this and get the weirdest looks from the attendees (who have each and every one attended other writing classes where they’ve been told the exact opposite of everything I’ve said thus far) but it’s all pretty well summated in the above few paragraphs.

It’s my contention that if you can speak the language passably well, if you can tell a story around a campfire and have everybody’s attention and have them leaning forward so as to catch every word, then by God you can be a writer. You can be the best writer who ever lived!

I guess that’s all. Go do it, now.

This is a little note on writing. Bear with me. I may ramble and meander a bit like a drunken Scotsman, but I know the general direction of home, and I’ll get there.

Austin Rain

It’s been raining of late. Also, it’s been cold, but for one or two days of sunshine out of about the last forty. That is to say, the weather has been approaching Biblical proportions. Like everyone, I’ve been out in it, driving around, looking for the limits of visibility in the close quarters the world seems to have become, and, as happens, I got to wondering. Writers do that, they wonder. Also, they wander, both physically and mentally. During my wanderings recently—and my wonderings during my wanderings—I got to thinking about the kind of person who could live in such weather. I mean, someone who could flourish and prosper in it and not bat an eye. The kind of person who would listen to everyone else bitching and moaning about the weather and about life and just nod in all the right places, but still, inside, he’s thinking to himself, “What the hell are you talking about, Cuz? This is paradise!” That kind of fellow. So I was driving along, looking at the slate gray sky and the steady, relentless downpour—what my daddy used to call the drizzlin’ sh**s—and I knew…I knew down in my bones that these forty-odd days of sturm and drang and high utility bills were here so I could write a book about them and about this guy. This guy, I decided, I knew his frickin’ name. I knew his occupation. And also, I knew the title of the book.

Now hold on. Ya’ll know I’ve got way too many books in the hopper and I seriously cannot afford to go off the rails chasing will ‘o wisps—I mean, this railroad has to have an on-the-job engineer. It’s gotta have a brakeman. Someone’s gotta pull that chain and split the night with that damned three thousand decibel horn whenever this line of cars approaches a busy intersection. That’s me, ‘cause, let me tell you, nobody else is gonna do it! No sir. But…here’s the thing. I’m not so sure I can get this rainy-day character and his world out of my head. I mean, he’s now renting space back there in the cob-webby loft I call my head, and there are anti-eviction laws on the books. You just can’t ignore those, you know, unless you’ve got a great lawyer and enough money laid by to keep him in beer and skittles—of which I’ve got loads of neither.

So here’s the deal. I’ll lay my cards on the table and let you look ‘em over. This guy’s name is Jim Rain. He’s a bounty hunter working and living in Austin, Texas. His first book is called Cold Rain. Now doesn’t that give you goosebumps? I mean, you’ve seen this guy on the street! And hell no, you didn’t for a moment consider talking to him. But let me tell you, if you had considered it, and if you had—perish the thought—actually spoken with him and then listened to him, I believe that you’d find out there’s a whole other world existing alongside your own of which you’ve never had an inkling. A complete other viewpoint, I tell ya.

I think I’m going to write about him, about good ol’ Jim Rain, or at least give him a start; sort of let him out of the gate. I’ll let him tell you his story the way only he can. Because, let me tell you, he’s got a whopper of a story to tell.

Okay, I suppose I’m to the house now. Sallie left the light on for me and I may as well kick the mud off of my shoes and go inside where it’s nice and warm.

I thought I’d share this with you folks, seeing as how I tell ya’ll everything.

Okay, that’s it. All the best to you and yours.