M.L. Bushman

Writer

So, You Wanna Write Fiction

Elijah 9 CanofWorms 450x600Just do it.

 

I don’t give out much advice on writing–anything–but especially fiction. There’s a few reasons for that.

 

First of all, there’s enough advice out there in book form to keep you reading (and procrastinating) for the next ten years. Little of it written by any author I respect or even know, most of it designed to separate the clueless from their dollars.

 

Those who can’t do, think they can teach. Remember that. It’s true.

 

Secondly, all those writers’ groups out there each have their own special pond, where their fish circle at the same level. Forever. What these groups don’t tell you, and may not even know, is that none of the successful authors are circling a pond, any pond, but especially a “writer” pond. None of these are, or were, content to stay at the same level forever. These writers are “showing” you versus a herd of unknown morons “telling” you that if you really want to be a writer, you have to head upstream. Alone.

 

If you’re content to circle a pond, any pond, you’re probably as far as you’re going to go. Being a writer is not a destination or even a designation, it’s a long hard journey through a personal Hell that never ends until you die. If this is, indeed, your line of work.

 

Donald Maass, a New York literary agent of some past repute, as well as a fiction author in his own right, said this (and I paraphrase because I’m too damn lazy this morning to search for the exact quote): the lights don’t come on until you’ve written your first million words. Yes, he meant million. And he’s absolutely right. In fact, for some of the more challenged wannabe’s out there, a million won’t be nearly enough. Hell, if all you’ve got is one book in you, you won’t get near a million words and this ain’t your line of work. So write it, and keep circling your pond. Please. You’ll probably be very content.

 

The devil is in the details, especially with fiction. I can’t stress enough the importance of good research. I once studied the clime, flora and fauna of a certain setting for two days (two whole ten hour days) to write one descriptive paragraph, two sentences long. And I’ll do it again, in a heartbeat, whenever the need arises.

 

Then there’s all that advice floating around out there that you MUST get your manuscript edited by a “professional”. If that’s how you want to spend your fortune, go right ahead. On the other hand, you could learn to edit yourself, and write even better as a result. Hell, you could develop your own “voice” out of the deal and amaze all your friends, maybe even pick up a fan. You never know until you try.

 

You could also refuse to be afraid of those folk you’ve never heard of with books of advice, even fancy expensive courses to sell who loudly proclaim, along with every so-called “professional” editor that can’t write a kid’s tale, let alone a full novel, that no writer can edit themselves. That’s pure, unadulterated bullshit. Any writer can do anything he or she wants or needs to do. ANY WRITER. Fear is a great fucking sales tool. Just ask all the politicians–local, state and federal.

 

By learning to edit, you not only save your money, but you get to go over your manuscripts ten or twelve or twenty times until, as Stephen King said in On Writing, you just want the smelly old thing to go away. When you think you’re done editing, leave the damn thing sit for a couple of days and then see how she reads. Work on your next book in the meantime. Rinse and repeat. Rinse and Repeat. Rinse and fucking repeat. When you finally get to the point in the editing process where you’re putting things back into the manuscript that you cut previously, stop. Accept that the time  to let your baby go has arrived. And move on.

 

You will murder your darlings. Because you have to. Once you learn to recognize them. And if you don’t know what this means, you’re not there yet.

 

Your work will never be perfect. Never. NEVER. If you’re destined to be a “writer”, if this is, indeed, your calling.

 

Just do it, dumbass.

 

 

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