On Writers


This post is all over the place in subject matter. Sorry about that. I finished a short yesterday, today I’ve already started rewriting it. And it gets turned in this evening. I have two weeks to finish a book. And a hundred pages to write. In 14 days. That kind of schedule and deadline makes me a little wonky. So, yeah. All over the subject matter map. In fact, this may be the least useful post on writing you’ve read all week. Or it may make you smile, and that’s worth a lot these days!

First, we had a really good discussion yesterday on rules of writing. If you missed it, scroll down and read Carrie’s post and the comments. I think the outcome was what we say so often at MW – there is no one right way to do anything with writing. But there are lots of wrong ways that keep a book or a chapter or a scene from working, and that underscores the one rule that counts – it has to work.

Second, though quite related, I started a book recently that I just knew I was not going to like. Not because I didn’t like the series. I do. Not because I don’t like the character. I do. Not because I don’t like the writer. I do. But because it felt wrong. It was Jim Butcher’s Ghost Story. (Spoiler.) At the end of the last book Harry Dresden is shot and dies. I mean, what else can you do with a character? He’s dead, right? But I started Ghost Story anyway and I am halfway through and all my fears and worries have been blown away – because Jim did what a writer is supposed to do. He created a world where my belief is suspended, where the character is developed and changed according to the multi-book set up, (hard to do with a dead one!) and where I am carried along by the character’s obvious inability to solve the conflict. The world will end if Harry doesn’t (again, spoilers here) solve the problems of … being dead.

How perfect is that! The one thing I was taught by several great writing teachers and not a few great writers, is that the author has to take the character so far into the conflict, so deep into the problems, has to make the solution so impossible that it is the *next thing to death!* And Butcher went further. Or would that be farther? Anyway. Past death. Now that is fantastic rule breaking. Don’t tell me the ending. I’m still reading. But I *bet* Harry Dresden survives (or whatever you do when you are dead) and saves the day, the world, his friends, and his loved ones. Go Jim Butcher. He broke the one most important rule in thriller writing, urban fantasy writing, nearly all genres of writing, and he did it well. With a dead character. See? No rules.

That said, I still try to cut down on my adverbs. J

Another thing I want to chat about today is friendship. I don’t make friends fast or easily. Never have in my real life. But as a writer, I’ve made some fantastic friends, some over a period of years, like my friendship with Misty (which started out a comfortable acquaintanceship and grew and now she’s like the sister I never had), some instantly like the day I met David, most somewhere in between in terms of time and effort. But I make them. Because writers are really cool people. I like writers. We share our time and talent and knowledge and … yeah, I like writers. We may not agree on anything. Not politics, not religion, not sexuality, not rules of writing. But we (usually) allow others to have a differing opinion and still keep the friendship. That is special. That is rare. So, if you are a writer today, remember how special you are. And do something nice for someone else, even it it’s just to smile at the crabby person in the grocery store line.

Last, put your butt in the chair in write.

So what if you had a seizure the last three times you tried to start on your novel. (You know who you are.) You are a writer. Get kicking on that short story. Work up to the novel. Maybe just by looking at the first five pages.

Put your butt in the chair in write.

So what if you don’t have a job and no prospects. (You know who you are.) You can tell a tale and maybe sell a book for a few bucks to tide you over until a job can be found. Or finish a short story. Accomplish that! Then send it off to an anthology or a mag and go look again for job. You’ll be refreshed and feel successful, both traits an employer is looking for.

Put your butt in the chair in write. It’s what we do.
That’s all.
Oh! And if you want to share a friend or a success or something nice you did or soemthing nice someone did for you, comment here. I’m interested.
Now. That’s all.


12 comments to On Writers

  • I don’t remember who first told me (shucks, it was probably you *laughs*), but sometime in my own early writing days, someone told me ‘You have to know the rules before you can break them.’ Sounds like this book is an excellent example of that.

  • That’s a heck of a work load, Faith. But if anyone can nail it down, you’re that person. And I definitely have to second what you said about writers: we may not agree on anything, but we usually allow others their own opinions without tainting the friendship. And speaking of friendships, you’re too easy to like to imagine anyone not liking you right away. I know I did.

  • mudepoz

    Friends, huh? I’m blessed. My best friend is the Tall Dude. Everyone needs a TD in their life.

    That said, I don’t seem to have a problem making friends. I don’t seem to have a problem keeping friends. Many of my friends go back at least 32 years? Not bad for an unsocialized child that lived in 38 states and didn’t have any until high school. I can’t imagine a life without them. I admit, I use my friends, I steal their knowledge and share it. Or is that just a part of friendship? People, in general, are interesting. Even if we don’t share the same religion (I worship the Peanut Butter Powers That Be, and am slowly converting many of my friends via FB.) Ah, social networking…I know my friends. Either the doggy friends or the weird writer or writer fan types who migrate from their pages to mine.

    Let’s see. Something nice some does for me? My doggy friends let me stay at their homes with my dogs all over the US so we can show dogs. The first time I met people I’d only met on the internet, I had a dog with me. I’d flown from WI to CA, with the advice from the TD that if she was carrying an ax, to use his credit card and fly home immediately. I had a wonderful 10 days there, exploring the giant redwoods and competing and taking all the prizes at the trial. *Grin* That was 12 years ago and it hasn’t ended. My foundation bitch was a gift from someone I met via the internet. My closest buds are my colleague and partner in crime who races tobacco hornworms with me and my kayaking and gossip buddy at an off campus work site. Another new friend saved my entire litter of pups. I don’t even know where she came from. I just thank the PBPTB she showed up in life when she did. Not many people have her experience with breeding, as well as having a sheltie bitch who had a singleton and didn’t mind taking on a premie puppy.

    Then there are friends that I’m still cultivating, that I only recently met face to face, and far too briefly, at ConCarolinas. I have NO idea how we ended up in a friendship, but I’m glad we did. Thanks Faith, you just write, I’ll read, and send you plants and bones (and cyber puppy breath). I have way too many skeletons in my closet…

    A couple other authors that I still don’t know how we met. We do seem to appreciate each others humor. Is that a good thing?

    There are the MW people like Laura, who is a fantastic roommate. Daniel, who is funny and I really want him to cook for me. Maybe not true friends yet, but likely will get there as we get to know each other through that social networking thing.

    Me, a writer? So far, tech journals, dog articles here and there (though, man they pay well) oh, and a zombie story. That paid for lunch at McDonald’s. Still. That was written whilst I hung around here. This is a great kick in the pants type of place to visit, whether I can follow or not. Eh, I’ll smile at a zombie student anyway. I have to go set up the anthropod lab. Maybe divide some things. Someday, maybe a friend can catch a nap for me? *Mumbles* Buppies are 4 weeks old. 6 Weeks to go before I get more than 4 hours of sleep.

  • Yeah, Misty. I’m all sorts of bossy, so it might be me. But I was probably asking you a rule so that I could break it. 🙂

    Edmund, I liked you on sight too, but you also scared me to death. You were an (da da da daaaaa) editor. One of those terrifying people at whose feet I prostrate myself. It took a little time for me stop being terrifeid of you. I know. Roll your eyes.

    Mud, you are the easiest person to make friends with that I ever met. Even easier than David. David and I looked each other over and spent some time (maybe an hour?) trying to figure out how we knew each other before we realized that we simply fell in love at first sight. (Yes, our spouses know we adore each other.) Mud, you just started in from the very first *as* a friend. And thanks for that. It meant that I didn’t have to take the first step. Because I am often horribly shy in one-on-one situations. As opposed to being in front of a group when I’m fine. 🙂

    And yes, as you said, I too have met some fantastic people here at MW. Waves to everyone. I am feeling very blessed today.

  • Something nice that someone did for me? Well, yesterday evening my friend Faith took the time to speak with me about a professional problem I was having. She listened, she offered sage advice (something at which she excels), and she made me feel that a) my emotional reaction to the situation was on target, and b) that there were any number of ways I could address the issue and still be within my rights. In other words, she helped. And then she sent me a story to read!!

  • Writing friends help me stay sane (or maybe it’s just that we’re all happily crazy and get one another). My in-person NaNo Other 11 Months writing group has been a weekly source of connection and it may sound crazy, but I get work done at the write-ins. And I always enjoy my local writing conference, SiWC (which is in one week, yay!)

    Then there’s all of the fantastic people I know online. Everyone at MW, obviously. 😀 The Compuserve Forums Books and Writers community. The wonderful people I’ve met on twitter through the hashtags #wipmadness (where we encourage each other with goals), #amwriting (for writing in general), and #fntwp (Friday Night Twitter Writing Party, which is kind of like the write-ins and is a nice mix of productivity and chat).

    But the best part is when the two universes collide. Some of my NaNo Other 11 Months friends comment here on occasion (*waves to Rhonda and Perry*). A lot of the Compuserve folks will be at SiWC. So will some of my buddies from #fntwp. I have concrete social plans for both nights of the conference. And I am so glad that I got up the courage to attend ConCarolinas. Mud was a fantastic roommate, and I had so much fun meeting all of the MW folks there, that I’m going again next year. Getting there is a bit pricy for me, so planning ahead is vital. By pre-paying for the hotel (psst, only $95 a night if bought before December’s up) and buying my plane ticket enough in advance, I’m making it happen. But I want to make it happen, because it’s worth it for the people I get to see.

    Sounds like you’ve got some crazy weeks ahead, Faith. But I agree with Edmund. If anyone can handle it, it’s you. 🙂

  • It was my pleasure, David. All those professional-personal-business relationships can be so sticky. It helps to have another ear and view point. And thanks for reading the story. Writing from a Male POV for the first time in many years made me feel uncertain.

    Laura, that is it exactly! Thanks to teh Internet, our boundries have expanded. We get to interact with like-minded people all the time now. make friends with people from everywhere. It’s great!

    And yes, the crew from MW will be at ConCarolinas this year. Make your res now!

  • Very encouraging words, Faith. Thanks. After spending two days rewriting my first 50 pages from first person into third, I was left wondering whether any real improvement had been achieved. But I finally figured that since it’s a first draft, I should stop dinkin’ around with the beginning and keep writing. Butt in chair until I finish the story. Got to get it written before I get to play with it.

  • Pandora — This is me, cheering you on!

  • MaCrae

    My list of writer friends is rather short. One. But she is the bestest writer friend you could ever have. She is my beta reader so she has to sift the pile of sludge of my first draft and critiques it. She’s no softie, she lets me have it, and I’m glad she does. She often says things and suggests stuff that makes me slap my head and say “DUH! Why didn’t I think of that?” She is an AMAZING artist and has kindly draw my main character for me and words cannot describe the giant squee I get whenever I look at it.

    As for why I have only one writer friend… I was talking to my mother the other day about writer stuff like plot arcs, and you should’ve seen the look she gave me, LOL. Complete befuddlement. My sister, for some reason, has a problem with me writing a story. She often gets angry and callous when I bring it up, so I don’t anymore. And as for my high school, well, let’s just say I live in the middle of nowhere and theres only about five weird people I never talk to who MIGHT write. There is my english teacher who has read some my story, but he’s kind of usesless because all he does is talk about how great it is. (Which it’s not, LOL) So I’m very glad to have my best friend to be my writer buddy and I often pick her brain after my brain has been depleted. But she’s off doing her own thing sometimes (Like illustrating 3 childrens books and a comic. No joke.) and she doesn’t get much time to talk to me. But she’s the greates person ever and my best friend.

    Eek, I rambled.

  • Two weeks?? Oh girl, sending hugs, sympathy and lots of caffeine!

  • McCrae, friends are a great thing to ramble about! I was the only person in my high school who wanted to write too. It can be very lonely. I’m glad you have two friends (your beta and your treacher) who are encouraging.

    Di, yeah. Ratcheting it up! Wild and woolly for the next two weeks.