1. One is the loneliest number. It’s you, the author, facing the blank page. There’s no one with whom to share responsibility to write and no one to share the blame for when you get it wrong. You are alone in here until you allow the ghosts to come forward and their voices to speak.
2. Two is you and your reader. You become invisible. The reader disappears. That leaves the story as the bridge, hanging in the air between two indefinite points and reaching through time. If the story is strong, the ethereal is made real and two indefinite points connect in mutual imagination. This is the only magic I know.
3. Three, as in “Rule of”. No one knows why the Rule of Three works. It just does. Lists of two feel insufficient and weak. A list of more than three feels pedantic, overblown, overly long, simply too much and see what I’m doing here? If you do, then you are paying attention, astute and onboard.
4. Four is the number of years you were in university, supposedly learning how to write. If you fell for that, well…I did, too. We would have spent all that money better had we hit the road, read a lot and just wrote. You may want one, but you don’t need an MFA. You need a little recklessness and exposure to the world and curiosity to lead you to what you need to know. I learned more about writing in my first two weeks as a newspaperman than I did in four years of a journalism degree.
5. Five is age five, as in when you start to remember things you can use against your parents in your first novel. Wherever a remembered childhood begins is where you begin collecting fodder, drama and trauma (see? Rule of Three!) that you will cannibalize until the Alzheimer’s gets its hooks in deep.
6. Six times three is the Number of the Beast and it sounds like “sex” and it was my lucky number when I believed in lucky numbers. Six is the number of degrees of separation and Kevin Bacon. Six represents the tentative connections upon which all fiction is built. Less than six is too linear. Six means you’re making fragile neural connections between ideas to construct something new and fresh and interesting. Shore up that spider web against high winds and less imaginative minds with facts and a realistic context that supports the suspension of disbelief.
7. Seven is the number of things scientists say we can do at one time. Don’t do that. Do one thing at one time. Do not multi-task. When you are writing, write. Until you can make the world go away, there’s no chance of building that bridge over the fog to reach readers.
8. Eight is a good number of beta readers and proofers. Chances are you can’t find eight excellent pre-publication readers willing to comb your manuscript. However, try for half that and use the others for specific skill sets. My survival expert and cartographer, for instance, knows where Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! is.
9. Nine is the number of relatives you were sure would buy your book. At the family Christmas party, they will be disappointingly vague, clueless and heartless about your literary endeavours. Or worse, they will have read it and will shrug off the experience in crushing silence. Or worse still, they’ll ask you to ship them a free copy.
10. Ten is the top ten list you pray you’ll get on even if you don’t believe in God. Ten is the number of good reviews you need to get on many promotional lists. Ten is how you remember the date you took to the prom. Ten is a number representing what’s best. Ten is the number of digits on the hand that pulls you up from anonymity with a tweet of endorsement, a clap on the back and a congratulatory handshake. Ten equals Hope.
Today, you are one.
Write often, boldly and well.
Your writing will count.
Your readers will be innumerable.
~ I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I have a large Irish family and a large Japanese family. I wish they liked me enough to buy my books. Fortunately, #5.
- Social Media and Storytelling (ixmaticommunications.com)
- Alice Munro, First Nobel Laureate of the MFA Program (themillions.com)
- Brevity (andrewhutchinson.com.au)
- Here Comes Everybody (hattie.typepad.com)
- The Walking Dead Season Four Episode Three Isolation One is the Loneliest Number (guardianlv.com)
- How to Self-Promote without Alienating Your Audience (piperpunches.com)
- May the power of the beta reader compel you… (weywardthoughts.wordpress.com)