Well, that’s not true . . . I have read his memoir, On Writing. Hard to believe that was fifteen years ago. I mean, he probably published a couple of thousand books since then. I, on the other hand, am still stuck at zero. I guess the advice did not stick . . . or did it?
I was recently e-mailed THIS article. Wow . . . twenty-two lessons to becoming a great writer. On a lark, I figure I would see just how great a writer I’ve become since originally reading his advice.
1. Stop watching television. Instead, read as much as possible.
I give myself a full point on that. I don’t watch much television. I do read a lot, although a good portion of it is my own writing. For instance, I’m in the middle of reading john Scalzi’s The End of All Things. It’s kind of boring and twice now I switched to reading my two novels (both NaNoWriMo efforts). I tore right through them, generally finishing each in less than two days. I could finish them in one day, but I read other stuff of mine as well. Plus, you know . . . gym, chores, blogging, surfing, and all the other stuff of life.
2. Prepare for more failure and criticism than you think you can deal with.
Not sure how to score this. I can deal with a lot of criticism, but failure is a weird word. His explanation refers to self-doubt born both from one’s lack of confidence and negative feedback from others. That’s just not me, Bob, so I’m giving myself a full point on this as well.
3. Don’t waste time trying to please people.
This seems like a bonus point as it’s basically a different version of Item 2. Regardless, I’m taking another point here because if someone doesn’t like what I do, anything I do, I tend not to worry about it. Pleasing them is the furthest thing from my mind.
Wow; I’m doing really good so far. Three for three on my path to greatness.
4. Write primarily for yourself.
Duh! another point for me!
5. Tackle the things that are hardest to write.
Not sure what he means here. If he means genres, I’m right there with him. I tried all sorts of things, often mixing them up. If he means situations, I have a problem with the advice. For instance, I don’t write horror, porn, drama (by that I mean drama for drama’s sake), tragedies, bad endings, and so on. For one, this advice directly contradicts Item 4. If I’m writing for myself, I’m not writing any of those things. I’m pretty sure I could, but then I would not be writing for myself. Not knowing exactly what he means, I’m giving myself half a point.
6. When writing, disconnect from the rest of the world.
Eh, I write while I listen to music, I check e-mail while I write, I read the news while I write, I get up to get snacks, make coffee, make tea, check to see what Melisa is doing, look outside to see if anything interesting is going on. I guess I’ll have to give myself a zero for this one.
7. Don’t be pretentious.
Yes! Another point. I tend to write rather plainly, eschewing obnubilating exposition. I simply cannot countenance illusionary forays into the pertinacious constancy of supercilious chirography.
8. Avoid adverbs and long paragraphs.
Again, yes! I am really and happily adherent to this most wonderful advice and gladly accept yet another precious point as I follow this most beautiful path to the wonderful affirmation of the most cherished part of my amazing but sadly undiscovered writing abilities. Another happily accepted point for me.
9. Don’t get overly caught up in grammar.
Dude! I be there in spades! Point for me. Again.
10. Master the art of description.
Oh, I agree, and I get another point for it, too! Description is as important as . . . you know, that stuff we take into our chest sacks . . . them thingamajigs that load our blood cells with oxygen.
11. Don’t give too much background information.
I am so there with this. I remember when I was young, still living in Italy . . . ah, Italy! We took a trip there in 1995, and then again in . . . I don’t remember the year of our second trip, but I think it might have been 2001. I remember we got an upgrade to our rental car. Ah, good times. Now where was I? That’s the problem with writing, I sometimes lose my way and have to retrace the steps to get back on track. Let’s see . . . I was born in what used to be Yugoslavia but is now Slovenia. Or is it Serbia? I should look that up. Say, you know what the best reference source is? Hold on, I need to go get a snack. Meanwhile, I get a point for this.
12. Tell stories about what people actually do.
Wow! I’m not sure I can take a point for this. My fiction is all made up. I don’t write about anything that actually happens. A big fat zero for me on this item. Drat!
13. Take risks; don’t play it safe.
I should get two points for this, but I’ll take the single allotment. If he means in life, I think I’m doing pretty good. If he means in writing, I write just about anything that comes to my mind. Now, I’m not sure if that qualifies as taking risks the way he means it. King is probably referring to writing without worry about commercial success . . . come to think of it, I do qualify in that regard as well.
14. Realize that you don’t need drugs to be a good writer.
Uh . . . actually, you don’t need drugs to be good at anything. Quite the opposite, often drugs get in the way of being good at anything. Yes, yes, I know the success enjoyed by many tortured souls. Not just in writing, but all sorts of artistic endeavors. My thinking is people feel sorry for the wretched beings and follow a long tradition of lucid people ascribing mystical attributes to people who were either insane or really wasted. Regardless, no drugs here, so a point for me. Wait; I drink coffee and tea and caffeine is a drug . . . BUT! I don’t really need it for writing. Hmm . . . I’ll call this a half a point.
15. Don’t try to steal someone else’s voice.
I wish the Foxtrot King would explain what voice is. I’ve wondered about it before (HERE and HERE) but there are conflicting explanations of ‘voice’. King seems to equate it with style, and that makes matters iffy. Item 1 tells us to read a lot, and I contend one but cannot help pick up stylistic influences. For instance, live someplace where people speak with an accent and you’re going to pick that up. Not full-on, but some. Besides, I’m not even sure how someone would go about copying someone else’s style. Now, I’ve been occasionally told I remind them of this or that author (usually people I’ve never heard of) and that tells me that having a style (voice) uniquely yours is a near impossibility. I’m still taking a point for this one.
16. Understand that writing is a form of telepathy.
Considering telepathy is not a real thing, I’m not sure how writing can be a form of it. Wait . . . oh, I just got this; he means inducing in the reader particular emotions, stimulate the visualization of the described scene, and most important, getting them to pay you for writing. I don’t have a wide enough readership to know how successful I am in this regard. I’ve been told by a few readers that I elicit motion-picture-like scenes in their minds and since I write by imagining similar scenes in my own mind, I feel justified in taking a full point for this one.
17. Take your writing seriously.
Uh-oh . . . I think I’m in trouble. I am not serious at all unless writing opinion pieces. Writing fiction, for me, is something to enjoy and have fun with. That section also has a quote from “writer Susan Sontag says, ‘The story must strike a nerve — in me. My heart should start pounding when I hear the first line in my head. I start trembling at the risk.’” Zero point for me on this one. I mean, I don’t know how other writers do it, and maybe this means I’m not a “real writer”, but I get ideas and start writing. The moment I start, I’m having fun, fingers flying over the keyboard, my mind turning the crank to compress jumbled soup into prose. The fact I’m a discovery writer might have something to do with this; it’s the double pleasure of reading something new AND having it be something that comes from me.
18. Write every single day.
Uh . . . no point on this one. I can go weeks without writing and seldom miss it. Now, if he means pound out words on the keyboard, well then, yes; I write a lot. Grammarly tells me I write anywhere from 15,000 to 25,000 words a week (this post is about 2,000 words). If I take an average of 20,000 words per week, and if I put all that effort into fiction writing, that would mean . . . let’s see . . . carry the one . . . That would be a 40,000 words novella plus ten 100,000 words novels per year. Still, no point for me because I think he does mean fiction.
19. Finish your first draft in three months.
Three months? I know I can write a first draft in a lot less than that. Do I give myself two points for this one? Well, considering I only occasionally do it, I’ll just take one point.
20. When you’re finished writing, take a long step back.
Zero points for me on this one; I don’t have the patience for it.
21. Have the guts to cut.
Crap! Zero points for me on this one as well. I don’t like to cut. But wait; I know I can do it, and have done it. I cut a lot in the first five chapters of my NaNoWriMo novel when I sent them in to Viable Paradise, but I was not happy about it. I guess I don’t know how to score this; I have the guts to cut, but I hate doing it. I’ll give myself 0.647 points for this one.
22. Stay married, be healthy, and live a good life.
This is kind of a cheat as the advice has nothing to do with writing. By that I mean it’s great advice regardless if you are writing or not. Still, a point for me.
Okely Dokely . . . let me tally this up . . . 14.647 out of 22. That means I’m exactly 66.6% of a great writer. Well, look at that! I’m two-thirds of the way there without even trying!
Here’s a photo from my phone, and then . . .
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. . . my FP ward . . . chieken shit.