A New Baker’s Dozen: Thirteen Traits of a Wannabe Writer (No, this is humor… really.)

Hi Folks,

Well, a little fun this time, at least for me. 🙂

A long while back, I listed The Thirteen Traits of a Professional Writer. I am constantly amazed at all the flak I attract for offering people something that might help them if they’ll only try it.

But really, seriously, I promise, whether or not you choose to try Heinlein’s Rules or anything else I put out there is strictly up to you. I will continue happily unabated on my own journey. So buy-in or don’t buy-in. I wish for you only Good Things, but either way is fine with me.

Here, tongue planted firmly in cheek, are the thirteen traits of a wannabe writer. The first five are a play on Heinlein’s Rules. By the way, the comments in italics are from a couple of my wannabe writer friends. T. Clem Justus hails from a holler a two-ridge jump from Hog Teat, Kentucky, and Jessybob Crapster lives in Lone Skunk, Arkansas where (she says) she was “corralled and stump-broke” by then-Governor Clinton. I appreciate them letting me use their comments:

  1. You Write. Wull, umm, maybe, after all the other thangs in my life are completed, if I’m not too tired… and if the wind ain’t a’blowin’ too hard and the sun ain’t in my eyes and if’n I got time. I have a LIFE you know. Hey, what’re you tryin’a pull here?
  2. You Finish What You Write. Wull, YEAH, of course, duh! Wull, I mean, you know, someday, maybe, or not. But at least I have a big ol’ file of possibles, so there’s that. You ain’t tryin’ t’swipe some’a my idears, are you? ‘Cause you cain’t have ’em, ’cause thur gold, y’hear? Gold!
  3. You Do Not Rewrite. Wull, now just hold on a second there. My English teachers in high school and college and ever’body in my critique group says I’m S’POST to rewrite. And despite the fact that none’a them people are making no kind’a livin’ as a writer, I figger they gotta know what they’re talking about, don’t’cha think? ‘Sides, as long as I’m rewritin’, I don’t gotta publish it and let some stupid editor or reader not like it. ‘Cause if somebody reads it and don’t like it, wull, somethin’ll happen. I ain’t sure what, but it’ll be somethin’ really, really bad.
  4. You Submit Your Work So Publishers Can Buy It. Wull, shur… a’course… you know, after I got it rewrote some times an’ revised some an’ polished some until my own borin’ old original voice is gone and my manuscript looks and sounds exactly like everything else in the slushpile. I mean, I’ve made it absolutely perfect! An’ I just cain’t figger out why the editors keep on rejectin’ it.
  5. You Keep Your Work In The Mail Until A Publisher Buys It (you don’t rewrite, you just send it back out). Whut? Umm, no! That’s just nutso! When I get that rejection slip and my manuscript back, I go through it with a fine-tooth comb, revisin’ an’ polishin’ again. THEN I put it in another envelope and send it out… maybe. You can’t fool ME into believin’ I’m ackshully good enough on my own to get published without rewriting. Just give it up already!

Now, if you agree with the italicized comments, you will remain closely, warmly, comfortably snuggled in with all the others in the Unpublished But Safe Wannabe Writers Club (UBSWWC).

However, if you follow the above religiously WITHOUT the italicized extended remarks, you will check out of that dreary place and begin a career as an actual writer. Good luck.

As before, these other Traits of a Wannabe Writer are in no particular order:

  • You don’t have time to read in the genre for which you want to write. Wull, no… umm besides, like, readin’ other people’s work will, like, totally dilute my “style” anyway, duh.
  • Writing is very low on your list of priorities if it’s a priority at all. Umm wull, YEAH, mostly because it’s SOOO HAAARD. Ugh! It’s pure-dee-ol’ D-R-U-D-G-E-R-Y. Ohmygod I HATE writing!
  • You eschew instruction from successful long-term professional writers. Wait. You mean them guys an’ gals who write really fast and sell lots’a books? C’mon, they MUST be hacks. Good writing is SLOW writing, duh!
  • Instead, you seek the counsel and advice of your peers, who have published no more successfully than you have. Wull, YEAH. They’re my friends. They’re, like, totally supportive.
  • You are a purveyor of the soup sandwich. If by that you mean that I’m, like, absolutely SURE the reader will know what I mean if I write that “the character’s eyes shot across the room,” then yeah. But is that a bad thing?
  • You tell anyone who will listen that you write for yourself, not for money. Yup, I’m totally above writing for publication and money.
  • You live on style manuals, make sure your grammar and syntax are as perfect as possible, and are very careful to be politically correct. Wull yeah, duh! Avoiding offending anyone is absolutely SO much more important than just tellin’ some stupid story.
  • You’d really rather be doing anything other than writing, wouldn’t you? Wull yeah! Duh! Writing is such a drag!

Ahh, what the hey. Here are a few more. With a respectful nod to Jeff Foxworthy, you might be a wannabe writer if…

  • even if you DON’T actually write you DO think a lot about writing and talk a lot about writing… so that’s a writer, right?
  • if you do write, it’s because you are “compelled” (or “driven” or my personal favorite, “called”) to write.
  • often, you begin writing but don’t finish and you’re off on the next shiny new idea
  • you rewrite at least [insert arbitrary number here] times because that’s what it takes to get a “polished” manuscript.
  • a “polished” manuscript is one that looks just like one written by [fill in a famous author’s name here].
  • you don’t realize you enjoyed [famous author]’s work because it was in that author’s ORIGINAL voice.
  • you don’t realize if your work sounds exactly like [famous author]’s work it is NOT in your original voice.
  • you believe your original voice is boring (duh! you’re with your original voice 24/7/365).
  • you offer your work only to nonpaying markets and markets that pay in copies as a way of “paying your dues” as a writer.
  • you believe yourself qualified to pre-judge what a professional editor will buy. (“No possible way is my story good enough so why send it?”)
  • you believe writing is a lofty endeavor.
  • you write less than an hour a day and have no idea how many publishable words per hour you generate.
  • you don’t devote time or money to learn writing from proven professional writers, but you clamber for writing advice from editors, agents, publishers and other non-writing professionals.
  • you believe you are the own worst judge of your work if you think your work is GOOD, but
  • you believe you are RIGHT about your work if you think it sucks canal water from all 50 states.
  • you invest a year or two or three in writing and rewriting and polishing a novel, then
    • refuse to invest in a professional proofreader or copyeditor and/or
    • refuse to invest in a professional cover design, and/or
    • refuse to learn how to write active sales copy, and
    • then you spend hours wondering why in the world the thing isn’t selling and why readers are so picky anyway about stuff like writing “waste” when you meant “waist.” Seriously. What’s so bad about “He slipped his right arm around her waste” or “Even from the stage the feces in the crowd appeared pinched and awestruck”?
  • you believe writing a novel in a year or less is “fast”.
  • you believe any individual who offers to do the eformatting and print layout and cover design of your book for a fee (like $200) is trying to scam you, even though
    • YOU RETAIN OWNERSHIP of all your files, including the files the person created for you and
    • YOU RETAIN ALL RIGHTS to all of your materials and
    • YOU RECEIVE 100% OF NET ROYALTIES. (Seriously, wow.)
  • you believe a subsidy publisher is NOT scamming you when they offer to do the eformatting and print layout and cover design of your book for a fee (like several THOUSAND dollars) even though
    • THEY OWN the cover and all files they create with your manuscript and
    • THEY RECEIVE a cut (like 65%) of the royalties from sales of your book and
    • YOU HAVE TO PAY THEM a hefty fee if you decide you no longer want to be scammed. (Seeing a pattern here?)
  • you ignore everything in The Thirteen Traits of a Professional Writer post and this one because you know you’re right. 🙂

‘Til next time, happy writing. Please?

Harvey

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Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 12/24/2013. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. Besides, it’s kind’a timeless. A little pre-Christmas fun. Enjoy.

Well, here we are.

We’ve made another approximate revolution around the big yellow ball of fiery gas and come full circle to that time of the year when humans are expected to be giddily happy. And true to form, most of them are, bless their hearts. (Those of you who hail from Texas or have visited Texas and paid attention will understand.)

Anywho, according to those who know me well, I should be expecting a visit from three ghosts a little later today/tonight, so I’d better spit this out while I’m thinkin’ about it: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. And I mean it.

Unlike my Uncle Ebby, I don’t think you should ignore or avoid all the merriment if that’s the sort of thing you like.

Anyway, that’s my wish for you (yeah, just as if it’s original to me, eh?), but it’s not automatic and it’s not what’s necessarily gonna come true. So if you care at all, work at it, a’right?

In the meantime, my personal toast to you and yours:

May your days be vibrant, your evenings calm, your heart safe and warm at home.

‘Til next time, happy writing.

Harvey

 

Expressing Tone

Hi Folks,

Note: This post was originally scheduled for 4/6/2014. It didn’t post to MailChimp, so I’m posting it again now. I’ve revised the original post so it’s up to date.

After my original posting of “sigh… present-tense narrative is great. please write in present-tense narrative,” a couple of years ago, several writers emailed to ask why I titled that post the way I did, namely in lower case and repeating the main primary phrase. I thought my response was entertaining enough to warrant updating and posting here.

Actually, as is the case with many techniques I use, I stole that technique from television.

In a couple of episodes of Family Guy, the writers did a take-off of Star Wars.

Of course the take-off was pure satire. The writers took pains to point out major flaws in the Star Wars story. They also pointed out places where dialogue began with a decision, wandered pretty much aimlessly for awhile, then returned with a new decision that would better serve the story.

In the actual story, the dialogue was written and delivered with excitement and pleading and firm resolve, as it should be. In the Family Guy version it was DOA, as evidenced by the flat-lined, deadpan delivery.

In Star Wars, Luke Skywalker flies off to some star system to study under Yoda, the Jedi master of masters. After some playful interaction, at the end of which Yoda finally admits who he is, Luke tells Yoda he has come to learn the ways of the Force.

Yoda, in so many words, says no, he will not train Luke. But after much pleading and wailing and gnashing of teeth (about a half-hour of movie time, if I remember correctly), Yoda finally relents.

In the Family Guy version, it went much quicker than that.

1. Luke flies up and asks Yoda to train him.

2. Yoda says, “No, I will not train you in the ways of the Force.” Wait two beats. “Okay, I will train you in the ways of the force.”

And that’s what I had in mind when I wrote “present-tense narrative is great. please write in present-tense narrative.” I preceded it with <sigh> to flatten it out a little further.

Some probably will notice that my delivery is not the same structure as that in the Family Guy episode. In mimicking the original story, they began with “no” and progressed to “okay.”

But because most who read this blather already know I’m staunchly entrenched against the inane idiocy of writing narrative in present tense, I saw no reason to do the same. Though perhaps it would have been more effective.

So consider this a revision of the title if you need one:

present-tense narrative is evil. no, wait. present-tense narrative is great. please write in present-tense narrative.

Ah, it was also called to my attention that my posts are sometimes too long (and I assume not entertaining or educational enough) to warrant reading them all the way through.

Well, at this late stage in my life I can hardly notch-up the entertainment value of my drivel, so from here on out I’ll do my best to shorten it a bit. 🙂 Maybe I’ll post a little more often too. Maybe.

‘Til next time, happy writing…

Harvey

I am a professional fiction writer as well as a copyeditor. For details, or just to learn what comprises a good copy edit, please visit Copyediting.

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