Showing posts from August, 2009

The Seventh Deadly Sin for Writers

Today we come to the last, and most powerful, of the seven deadly sins for writers: Fear Fear is the most dangerous vice of all. Fear stops nine of ten writers dead in their tracks before the first word is written. Fear will cause a writer to put away her manuscript the first time she runs into a plot problem she can’t solve or a character who seems wooden. Fear will rob a writer of her dream the first time someone confirms– or appears to confirm– what she has always secretly believed to be true: that her book is no good. The problem is that you can’t be a writer without fear. Writers live in a constant state of fear. Those who make friends with fear will win the race. Those who do not will never even leave the start line. Fear of failure keeps you going back to that manuscript until you get it right; fear of rejection keeps you sending it to agent after agent, publisher after publisher in the desperate hope that someone, somewhere will give you a chance; fear of losing– your time,

The Sixth Deadly Sin for Writers

Laziness Or, "It’s good enough." Laziness, believe it or not, is more closely akin to defeat than it is to arrogance, singularity or ignorance. Laziness is usually justified by "Oh, what the hell? No one is ever going to read it anyway." Laziness refuses to tweak that one scene that just doesn’t make sense, to rewrite Chapter Five even though it clearly has nothing to do with the rest of the book as it stands, to do the final read-through, to rewrite the last sentence one more time. Laziness won’t waste time or paper printing out a draft for proof-reading, or run the spell checker more than once. Laziness doesn’t show, but tells, resolves plot dilemmas with thinly-disguised twists from last week’s CSI: Miami , sets his stories in his home town so he doesn’t have to research other locations, writes cartoon sketches of characters because he can’t be bothered to delve into what really makes people interesting . Laziness doesn’t read– his own

Deadly Sin for Writers #5

Envy Otherwise known as "He got a 2 million dollar advance for that?" Make no mistake about it, friends: envy will slap you down, immobilize you, eat you alive. Envy is everywhere. Envy says, "I don’t know why I have to do three different rewrites when everything Famous Writer X publishes reads like it was written by a third grader with a learning disability." Envy says, "I guess the reason Writer Y gets all the great covers is because she’s sleeping with the Art Director." And, "My books are so much better than X’s, Y’s and Z’s, but they get all the attention and I can’t even get paid!" The truth is, publishing is a capricious business and readers are oftentimes a fickle lot. Maybe everything your envious little heart tells you is nothing more or less than the truth. So? And what does that get you? Write better. Write more. Move on.

Deadly Sin for Writers #4

We are on Day Four of my list of the Seven Deadly Sins for Writers, and this is one of my favorites. I could have written volumes on this particular subject, but, you know, brevity is a virtue. Ignorance As hard as it may be to believe, ignorance is a vice that afflicts our industry more often than you might imagine. It may have to do with the proliferation of mass media, particularly the Internet, and the belief that if you can post a comment to a blog, send a Tweet, or set up a Facebook page, you can write a book. What truly amazes me is that with such an abundance of legitimate information out there on the subject of writing and publishing-- the numerous agent, publisher and writer blogs, the hundreds of books written on the subject, not to mention the online writing courses offered-- so few people actually bother to research and/or educate themselves in the profession they want to join. I recently

Seven Deadly Sins For Writers: #3

Today's deadly sin for writers is: Singularity Sometimes known as stubbornness, inflexibility, or self-importance This writer is easy to spot. He has a Vision that he refuses to compromise (never mind that no one else is at all interested in reading about that vision). He has a Style that is all his own (and completely incomprehensible). His words are a pure and unmitigated expression of Himself (which is, unfortunately, painfully obvious). This writer never takes a class because he has nothing to learn. He refuses to hire an outside editor or coach for fear his words will be tampered with. He never bothers to read the query or submission instructions on agents’ or publishers’ web sites because those kinds of mundanities do not apply to him. He will never take a suggestion for revision because of the afore-mentioned Vision. And he will never be published.

The Second Deadly Sin for Writers

Welcome back to my series on The 7 Deadly Sins of Writers. Yesterday we talked about Arrogance. Here is today's topic: Avarice a.k.a. "I deserve more than this!" Well, don’t we all? Avarice, when used in reference to a writer, has a slightly different meaning that it might for the average person. While a greedy person is commonly assumed to be seeking more than his share, a greedy writer usually spends his career just trying to get enough. Enough money, enough attention, enough promotion, enough marketing, enough books printed to actually earn out his advance. The problem with this affliction is that it, too, is self-destructive, and after a time it becomes such a way of life that even the writer doesn’t know how much is enough. Here’s the thing: if you think you deserve more, get better at what you do. And if you still think you deserve more, you’re probably right. And you’re in the wrong business.

The Seven Deadly Sins for Writers

Pages written since last post : 5 This week is Graduation Day for my summer writing class (an extraordinarily talented group of people if I do say so myself) and as always I’ ve been searching for a inspirational speech, some weighty last words with which to send them off into the cold harsh world of publishing. I finally decided that in these uncertain times what is needed is a call to the Straight and Narrow Path, and devised this warning against falling prey to the seven deadly sins for writers (I was going to call it The Seven Deadly Sins of Beginning Writers, but then realized how many of them I’ve been guilty of, myself!). Over the next week I’ll be blogging about a different writer’s vice. Do any of them sound familiar to you writers out there? Here is Deadly Sin Number One: Arrogance Also known as the you-won’t-believe- what- I-can-do or the I’m-the-best-that’s-ever-been syndrome, arrogance is often considered more of a survival tool for writers than it is a sin. Anyo

A Good Book Year

Pages written since last post: Are you freakin' kidding me? I’m not sure if everyone has heard, but this country is experiencing an economic downturn. The publishing industry is experiencing a full-on melt down. Fortunately for readers, the great, cumbersome, archaic beast that is publishing moves exceedingly slowly (think: Ice Age), so the effects of today’s economy may be felt in, oh, 2012 or beyond. Meanwhile, we are having a PAAAAR....TY! I say again, Woooooo! Look at what just arrived on my doorstep: Pat Conroy’s SOUTH OF BROAD . His first book in– can it be??– fourteen years. It had better be good. Richard Russo’s THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC , his first since Pulitzer Prize winning EMPIRE FALLS . Again, no pressure there. Barbara Kingsolver’s ANIMAL VEGETABLE MIRACLE . This is one of the few authors that I collect. She doesn’t publish every year, but I’ve never met a Kingsolver book I didn’t love. Margaret Maron’s SAND SHARK. What can I say? I love the Judge Knott mys

Writing Fever

Pages written since last post : 297 I have just written an entire book (yes!with words and everything!) in 62 days. Do you know that wonderful scene in Romancing the Stone in which Kathleen Turner finishes her latest masterpiece, blubbering like a baby (and searches all over the apartment for tissue, paper towels, toilet paper, anything on which to blow her nose but of course there is nothing because she hasn’t left her desk in weeks, perhaps months)? The average movie-viewer thinks that she’s crying because she’s so caught up in the beauty of her work. The average writer knows she’s crying because she is undergoing a complete meltdown due to a) sleep deprivation b)starvation and/or dehydration c)she knows (or believes) she’ll never have a high like this again. This is what I call Writing Fever. It is a rare degenerative disorder that affects only the most talented, the most brilliant, and the most dedicated of our kind. It happens when the writer gets so caught up in the