With thanks (and apologies) to Baz Lurhmann for the original. Wear Sunscreen re-imagined by yours truly for writers everywhere…
This originally appeared in a comment thread on my Facebook wall, 12/12/2010… About 30 minutes ago, as a matter of fact. All because I was bored and felt like entertaining myself.
USE FLASH DRIVES
Writers and wordslingers of the class of 2010…
Use Flash Drives.
If I could offer you only one tip for the future, Flash Drives would be it. The non-volatile redundancy benefits of Flash Drives have been proved by cataclysmic hard drive crashes, whereas the rest of my writing advice is really just a bunch of meandering, tongue-in-cheek humor…
I will dispense that advice, now:
Enjoy the power and beauty of the adverb. Oh, never mind, you will not understand the power and beauty of the adverb until you grasp adjectives.
But trust me, in 120,000 words you’ll look back at adjectives you didn’t use and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much descriptiveness lay before you and how great the verb really could have looked… Adding LY is easier than you imagine.
Don’t worry about the optional comma; or em-dash, but know that an ellipsis is as effective for indicating a pause as a semicolon. The real punctuation in your work is apt to be removed and then restored by an editor; the kind that blindsides you with revisions at 4pm on some Saturday when you planned a family outing.
Write one thing every day that makes absolutely no sense.
Don’t be reckless with apostrophes, and don’t put up with people who are reckless with colons.
Don’t waste your time on head popping POVs. Sometimes you’re in one characters head, sometimes you’re in another… the story is what’s important, and in the end you’ll only confuse your readers.
Remember the good reviews you receive, forget the bad; if you succeed in doing this, tell me how. Keep your old notes, throw away your old rejection slips.
Don’t feel guilty if you surf porn for a few hours when you have writer’s block… Some of the most interesting writers I know were kinky at 22. Some of the most interesting 40+ year old writers I know are still kinky.
Do plenty of research. Be kind to your editors, you’ll need them when you’re late on a deadline.
Maybe you’ll get a multi-book deal, maybe you won’t. Maybe your book will get optioned for a movie, maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll be a mid-lister, maybe you’ll hit the NYT best seller list… whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much or berate yourself either – it’s all a matter of luck, for you and everybody else as well.
Enjoy your first novel, and admire it every way you can… Be proud of it, and ignore what other people think of it, it’s the only first novel you’ll ever write.
Read. Even if you have no time to do it but on your lunch break in the bathroom.
Learn the rules of grammar, even if you don’t follow them. Do NOT read “How To Write” books, they will only make you feel inadequate.
Get to know bookstore owners. You never know when you’ll need to book a signing venue. Be nice to other writers; they are your best shot for a cover blurb and the people most likely to chat you up to acquisitions editors.
Understand that readers come and go, but there are those who will stay loyal no matter what the critics say. Work hard to fix your plot holes and make suspension of disbelief as seamless as possible, because the deeper you get into a story, the more you need your readers to follow along.
Write a chase scene once, but don’t let it overwhelm the story.
Write a sex scene once, but don’t let it become the entire focus of the plot.
Accept certain inalienable truths: commas generally go before conjunctions, periods end sentences, and interjections don’t always denote excitement, but when they do you should follow them with an exclamation point, not a period or a comma, unless followed by another interjection.
Don’t quit your day job. Maybe you’ll get an advance, maybe you’ll retain your electronic rights, but you never know when or if a book will earn out and pay royalties.
Don’t mess too much with your arc, or by the time it develops people will be bored. Be careful with your characters, but, be patient with their back stories. Character development is a form of mental masturbation, and nurturing it is a way of creating a personality, giving it legs, breathing life into it, and making readers believe the fictional construct is real.
But trust me on the Flash Drives…
More to come…