Very soon, I’m going to start posting my Writing Tip of the Month. In the meantime - and especially for the people who came out to my CANSCAIP talk in Toronto – here are the links I promised to post. You’ll find lots of great advice here.
This is not a writing tip per se but more a e-publishing tip from a guy who should know: Arthur Slade, renowned writer of the YA classic Dust, seasoned e-booker and all-round great guy. Here he describes his year long foray into self-publishing online.
Writing Tip of the More-or-Less Month:
As soon as you get a writing assignment, start writing.
Don’t think. Don’t edit. Don’t worry if it’s any good. (That’s for later.) Just write the first thing that comes into your head as fast as you can.
There are two reasons to do this.
One: a blank page – or screen – is a very scary thing. It has been known to turn potentially brilliant writers into large blocks of cheese and/or facebook junkies. That’s why you want to get rid of it as soon as possible. Best way to do that: put some words on it. Stupid words, poorly spelled words, words that you aren’t even 100% sure are words. Doesn’t matter. If there are words on the page, it isn’t blank any more and you can relax. You can stop worrying that “I’ll never be able to come up with anything.” You already did. Better yet, you’ll be surprised how often those words turn out to be nowhere near as stupid as you thought they were.
Second reason to hurry: it’s very important to write before your brain knows what you’re up to. Brains come in pretty handy at the editing stage - but at the writing stage, they can be a real pain in the ass-ignment. They have a bad tendency of saying “No” right off the bat. They’re terrified you’re going to make a mistake or embarrass yourself in some other fashion. Metaphorically speaking, they want you to put on a helmet, observe the speed signs, follow the dress code. Frankly, you’ll never get anything written that way. And even if you do, it’s unlikely you’ll enjoy it.
So write fast, furious and with a total disregard for the rules. Why not? No one’s going to see it. After all, it’s only a first draft.
(Oh, sorry. Didn’t I mention that? You always have to write a first draft. And a second. Maybe a third. Sometimes a fourth…May as well have fun now while you can.)
The truth is when you write a story, you don’t need to make everything up from scratch. You can snitch – or, if you prefer, ‘borrow’ – from reality. Want your story to take place in a beautiful seaside setting? Describe the cottage community you spend your summers in. Want a strong, handsome main character? Base him on a popular movie star, your favourite singer or that cute guy that gets on the Number 4 bus at Quinpool Road. Want an evil psychopathic killer? Take notes next time your great Aunt Muriel drops over for tea. That’s what a lot of authors do.
And no wonder. It’s way easier than starting from nothing. With reality as your guide, you already have a clear image in your head to describe or refer back to.
Better yet, you can – and probably should – change it. (You don’t want to offend anyone.) Keep your best friend’s perfect smile but give her long blond hair and a Bulgarian accent. Use that weird thing your Dad does with his eyebrows when he’s mad but make him one of Lady Gaga’s back-up dancers instead. Set the story in your neighbourhood but set your neighbourhood in the year 2056.
And that slightly maniacal glint Great Aunt Muriel gets when she talks about her adorable Pekingese dog? Use that too – only this time have it shine when she starts planning to poison the ladies in her bridge club. (Just make sure your mother doesn’t know what you’re up to…)
Writing this way is a bit like playing with a Mr. Potato Head doll. All the different parts are there but you get to decide how, when or even if you want to use them.