Somewhere in the human brain there is a list-making gland. Something about making lists is primally satisfying. Like yawning, it is socially contagious. I cannot read these lists of writing tips from authors without constructing one of my own, just like I cannot watch this cartoon without needing to eat fistfuls of fluffy, salty popcorn.
1. Do not use a big word when a smaller one will do.
2. But, sometimes, a smaller one will not do. Do not artificially minimize your vocabulary in a mistaken bid to be more “real.”
3. Do not strive to write dialogue “the way people actually talk.” Dialogue, like narrative, is carefully composed and stylized for a definite purpose. If you don’t believe me, transcribe the next conversation you hear word for word.
4. Do not be overly alarmed if you are so embarrassed reading a first draft that you wish to be obliterated from existence. This feeling is normal, and will fuel your subsequent drafts.
5. Write your story the best way you know how. If it still sucks after all your effort, do not despair. You will write this story again later, maybe years later, and it will suck a bit less.
6. What kind of arbitrary nitpicky bullshit is “don’t write prologues” and “don’t use the word ‘suddenly'”? Seriously, if the story demands a prologue or the word ‘suddenly,’ tell that kind of advice to go fuck itself.
7. I do agree that writing accented or dialect dialogue phonetically is pretty annoying, and very seldom necessary.
8. Resist the impulse to show anyone your work for as long as possible. If you can stand it, do not show a novel to anyone until it is done.
9. Don’t forget that characters have bodies and bodies make demands. Overly cerebral writing will not connect with a reader.
10. Do not “know the market.” Fuck the market until the story has been written. Only when you start submitting it should you consider the market–you do, after all, have to make a pitch. Then try to emphasize what in the story might interest the market, but do not violate the miraculous act of creation with concerns about The Market.
Okay, now I really have to go and make some popcorn.
“Suddenly, you were planting some yellow petunias
outside in the garden,
and suddenly I was in the study
looking up the word oligarchy for the thirty-seventh time.
When suddenly, without warning,
you planted the last petunia in the flat,
and I suddenly closed the dictionary
now that I was reminded of that vile form of governance.”
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