LB: Classic Writing Advice Dept. Rule #1

Yep, this is an iPhone case? Need one?

You’ve heard/read this before and will hear/read it again, but did you know that this, the single most important thing you can keep in mind while writing anything, came from a guy who called himself “Q?”

His full name was Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, editor of, as Wikipedia puts it, “the monumental Oxford Book of English Verse…” among many other things, and if anyone ever knew a thing or two about brevity, Q was the one.

Or, as he put it so famously (and perfectly):

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it — whole-heartedly — and delete it before sending your manuscript to press: Murder your darlings.

I’ve followed Rule #1 from Day #1 of my career, and the only time I’ve ever regretted anything I wrote was when I read a passage of my own work and realize I could’ve killed still more. (Whilch is why I’m not letting myself re-read this post.)

From one murderer to another:

LYMI,

LB

Deconstructing Sacred Writing Cows

A big TVWriter™ “Yess!” to iconoclasts:

by Charlotte Rains Dixon

I’m tired of people telling me what to do.

I’m tired of people telling me how to eat.  (Don’t eat dairy! No grains! No eggs! And puh-leeze, no sugar!)

I’m tired of people telling me to exercise.  (Walk.  No, walking isn’t enough.  Run.  No, running is bad for your knees, interval training.  No, you have to do cross-fit.)

I’m tired of people telling me how to think.  (Case in point: the recent election.  Or every day on the Internet.)

And so the thought occurs that you, my dear readers, may be tired of me telling you what to do, or more precisely, how to write.  And that maybe it might be time to reconsider some of the tenets by which we live.

In my forthcoming novel, Emma Jean’s Bad Behavior, our heroine discusses her three sacred cows: her fans (what she calls her readers), her students, and her husband, Peter.  “They were the three things in life, besides writing, that Emma Jean cared about most—the holy triumvirate, her sacred cows.”

And so, herewith, let’s consider some common sacred writing cows and decide if they should be upheld or not.

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Top TVWriter™ Posts for the Week Ending 11/23/12

Surf’s up, thumbs up…hey, they’re both the same to us!

Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts for the week ending Friday, November 23rd:

4 Sitcoms for Those Who Love to F–K

Remember the Writer Who Submitted the CASABLANCA Script As His Own…

LB: “Why is Television So Bad?”

How Many Shows Have You Seen That Were Cancelled Before They Ever Appeared?

LB: Remember the WKRP Turkey Drop Episode?

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline

THE BASICS OF TV WRITING: Overview

THE PEOPLE’S PILOT

Student Central

THE SPEC SCRIPTACULAR

Thanks for another great week, and don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

5 Writing Tips from Chelsea Cain

by Chelsea Cain (um, who else?)

Writing tips are like mini skirts.Sometimes they fit perfectly, sometimes they make you cry, and sometimes you can reuse the material and sew yourself a pillow or something. Maybe a few of these will work for you.I hope so. Personally I think you’d look very nice in a mini-skirt.

1. You won’t make a living writing until you learn to write when you don’t want to. A lot of writers wait for the muse to seize them. These writers don’t get much done. Here’s a secret: writing is not always fun. If it is, you’re doing it wrong. I love to write just about more than anything, but there are times I have to force myself to sit down and work. I want to play with my daughter, or watch a movie with my husband, or go outside on the nicest day of the year. But if writing is going to be your job, you have to treat it like a job.  And that means that you don’t get to take the day off just because you’re “not feeling it.” This is what separates the writers who make it from the writers who don’t. Get your butt in your chair, and make yourself write. Do it every day.

2. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Don’t be afraid of clichés. Write the book you want to write. If you want to write about an alcoholic cop with an ex-wife and an insubordination problem, do it. If you want to write about a haunted hotel, or a woman who finds herself through a journey, or a teenage amateur sleuth – well, awesome. Your book will be different because you’re the one writing it.

3. Always remember that you are the boss. Don’t let your characters tell you what to do. They can be pushy. Some writers say that they create characters and then just sort of follow them around through the narrative. I think that these writers are out of their minds.I tried this for years. I would create characters based loosely on people that I knew, and before long that character would be talking back to me. “I’m not sure Stacey would do that,” Stacey would say, when I tried to convince her to go into the scary basement alone. And she’d be right. Stacey wouldn’t do that. No one would, really. I didn’t bloom as a fiction writer until I figured out how to make up characters out of whole cloth (not based on anyone), and I stopped worrying about what they’d do in real life. My characters have to do what I tell them. And if I need Stacey to go into that scary basement, then that’s what she’s going to do.

4. Write the stuff that makes you feel nervous. Sometimes, when you’re writing, you will get to a scene that makes you feel profoundly uncomfortable. You will think you’ve gone too far. You will imagine your relatives reading this scene and your face will get hot and you will clear your throat a few times and you will be very, very tempted to delete that scene.Don’t do it. Finish writing it. Leave it in. Tell yourself that you can always cut it out later. Because I promise you – that scene — it will be the best scene in the book. When writing feels dangerous, that’s when you know that you’re doing something right.

5. Details are not created equally.Writing teachers go on and on about the importance of using details to flesh out a scene. But not all details are created equally. When you write thrillers like I do, and suddenly your main character is running for his life from a serial killer who is chasing him through the woods, slowing down the action with a bunch of descriptions seems counterintuitive. Why would the main character be noticing the pine needles on the ground when he has a killer on his heels? But I’ll tell you a secret, the more detail that I unpack about that woods, the night air, the sky, the sounds of his footsteps, the more tense that scene becomes. I read a study recently. Some professor wanted to look into the experience that time slows in life or death situations and he tied some graduate students to Bungee cords and pushed them off a ledge, and studied the results. His conclusion? In normal circumstances our brain culls details. In tense situations our mind stops culling – it notices everything – because you don’t know what detail is going to save your life. This is what creates the experience of time slowing—lots of details.

The next time you’re writing a tension filled scene – maybe there’s a serial killer in it, maybe your character is asking someone out to prom – remember to stop culling. Notice everything.The acne on her forehead.The buttons on her shirt. It all becomes important.It’s the ordinary moments that fly by. With those, the brain does cull details, so the details that your character does notice become all the more important and revealing. An object accrues more significance every time it’s mentioned. Notice the vase on the table once in a scene, and it’s a detail in the room. Notice the vase on the table three times and it means something to your character. It becomes a prop you can use. It starts to tell a story.

This is some good advice, but what’s with Publisher’s Weekly? It took us forever to edit this article because for some reason they started every sentence immediately after the previous period. No space. Do you guys know how %$#@ing difficult that is to read?

Conquering Your Fears So You Can Write

…because writing’s all that counts in this life anyway…um, if you’re a writer.

Now this is a hell of a pic

Fear and Focus – by Charlotte Rains Dixon

We don’t always think of fear and focus at the same time, but there’s very good reason to pair them.

Focus.  It’s what we all desire, what gets the writing done.  Because the words don’t go on the page without it.

Fear.  It’s often what keeps us from focusing.

The kinds of fears we writers and creative types deal with are the insidious ones.  They may very well be so insidious that we don’t even recognize them as fears.  Instead, fears can masquerade as a lack of focus. Have you ever told yourself any of the following when it came time to write?

I don’t need to work on the book today

–The kitchen floor needs washing.  I better do it now, instead of writing.

–I need to check my email.

–Writing is too hard, I’ll look at Facebook instead

Perhaps some of the following fears are hiding behind this sudden desire to do something, anything, other than write:

Not knowing what to write

–Not knowing how to write

–Going deep

–Not being good enough

–Being too good

–Putting yourself and your words out in the world.

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