Sunday, September 18, 2016

Thoughts on writing (6 - 10)

6. Kill your darlings. You can save their wordy little corpses in a file where you can look back on them with love -- I do -- but often, the little bits of text that we're the most proud of have no business being in the middle of the narrative. Nothing is sacred once the editing machete comes out.


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7. The phrase 'write what you know' is innately flawed. I don't know what it's like to be a changeling detective working the mean streets of San Francisco, or a hard-boiled journalist with a crazy twin brother, or a teenage lycanthrope with a serial killer problem. Write what you're willing to know. Everything will begin with a kernel of pre-existing knowledge -- I know folklore (Toby), zombies and blogging (Georgia), and coyotes and high school (Clady) -- and expand into a fabulous orgy of learning. Toby taught me San Francisco history and lots of ways to kill people. Georgia taught me virology and plagues. Clady taught me about snack foods. If you're not willing to write anything but what you already know, you're going to be restricted to autobiography, non-fiction, and writing the same plot ten thousand times. And that's just not fun.

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8. You are the author. That makes you, effectively, God. God created the mosquito. Sometimes, God can screw the pooch in a very big way. Being the author doesn't mean that you're incapable of being wrong. Sometimes, you'll write things that are out of character. Sometimes, you'll write things that are out of place. And sometimes, you'll write things that are just flat-out incorrect and inaccurate and insane and wrong. That's not a bad thing. The bad thing is refusing to admit it.

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9. You know those parents with the totally out-of-control kids who run around the restaurant sweeping things off tables and screaming in the faces of all the other diners? And you know how they just sit there looking serene, because their kids are precious little angels and everything they do is wonderful? Don't be one of those parents. If your book spits in somebody's metaphorical soup, the appropriate thing to do is to apologize and discipline your text, not tell the person with the saliva slowly dissolving in their minestrone that they 'just don't appreciate the beauty of spit.' Not everyone is going to like what you do, but you can damn well make sure your kids don't trash the place before you pay the check.

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10. When a book or an idea is new, it's okay to want validation. You're standing at the mouth of a tunnel that's probably thousands of pages long, once you calculate for discarded text and revisions, and that's scary. Ask people 'do you like my idea?'. Tell people you need to hear good things about what you're doing. It's okay to say 'it's my first time, be gentle.'

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