C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

How to crack writer’s block. No whining. No excuses.

There are many distractions between your bed and your writing desk. Some suggestions to discipline the monkey mind:

1. Well, write in bed then! (Pee bottle or diapers optional.)

2. Work on a computer without Internet access. Unplug the modem or get your pet rat to chew on the wires if necessary.

3. Get your spouse to activate the parental controls (so they have the code). Congratulations! Your distracting porn addiction just vanished. 

4. Commit to scheduling writing time just as you would a doctor’s appointment, the gym or any other important job. You know your writing is important work, too, right?

5. Make your commitments public. Failure yields public humiliation. Success gets you a reward. Make a bet with a writing buddy or do writing sprints in social media. Report your progress, or lack of it, so you’ll do better tomorrow.

6. Defend your writing time. Wield dual ice axes, if necessary. A sign on that door you close marking your designated writing time makes a clear stand. Your writing retreat does not have to be an expensive, remote cabin in the Rockies. It’s as nearby as the word, “No.”

7. Get out of the house and write elsewhere: Starbucks, the library or at your day job. (Write on your lunch hour if the boss keeps close tabs on you.)

8. Wear headphones and use the Brainwave apps that help you focus. Or pump nothing into your headphones. Or be like Stephen King and rock out to Grand Funk Railroad as you compose. Use WriteRoom. Whatever works for you.

9. Unplug and go write the first draft by hand. Some writers feel the words come easier when they’re connecting brain to arm to hand to pen to paper.

10. Work with your biorhythms, but find your sweet spot when your focus is best: late at night or early morning often allows you to work without interruption.

11. Got a writing group? Shape it so you can make it do double duty: make it a day care club. When my kids were little, playdates (and their nap time) were opportunities to get work done. Communal babysitting gets the kids entertaining each other and allows the writing to continue when you organize and rotate the playdates from house to house.

12. Protect your brain. This goes beyond time management. For instance, when you notice you need a nap after eating bread, take the hint. Maybe it’s the gluten making you sleepy. Thanks to a helpful reader, I’m trying a couple of products from Onnit.com and I do feel and think better lately. Exercise doesn’t just get blood to your body’s muscles. Better blood supply revs up brain muscle, too. Since dumping processed foods, losing weight and upping exercise, I’m sharper. The walls are alive, I see into souls and I write harder and longer.

13. Just start. You’re full of resistance and distractions and excuses at first, but once you begin, the words and worlds will begin to flow. Set a timer and tell yourself you’ll write for ten minutes. What? You can’t take ten minutes? Sure you can. Don’t be a weak whiner! Take ten minutes. By the time the timer goes off, you won’t want to stop.

14. Write in short, energetic bursts. Like going to the gym, many people feel they can’t do anything worthwhile unless they have big blocks of time to commit to their projects. For many of us who don’t have that luxury (and hardly anyone has that luxury) we’re actually sabotaging ourselves with that attitude. Consistency works better than bingeing in the long-term.

15. Take a course, go to a conference or read a book to energize yourself and get excited about writing again. We moan too much about writing and forget how fun it is until we’re back to doing it. If you aren’t having fun writing, you must be doing it wrong.

BONUS

Most important, remember why you’re doing this. Hold on to the Why so you’ll overcome obstacles to the How. You are not merely a consumer. You’re a productive writer, pursuing your dreams and telling stories for fun and profit. Don’t put your dreams aside only so others can achieve their goals. You’re important, too.

Filed under: getting it done, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , ,

The writer, depression and getting the word music to play again

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

By the way, Crack the Indie Author Code 2nd Edition is out in paperback at $9.99. Smaller format, with jokes.

A fellow writer meant well when she told me that if you can allow anyone to discourage you from writing, you shouldn’t be a writer. That sounds tough-minded and strong, doesn’t it? It would be good advice to take, but unfortunately, I’m still human. Darn the luck, my skin is no thicker or thinner than it ever was. It will surprise no one, given the sort of dark stuff I often write, that I obsess over the negative. I do not remember sunny days. That’s who I am. Maybe I could fix it with some talk therapy, gene manipulation and a personality transplant.

So, yes, rude email hurt can me and my productivity. A bad review can ruin the morning and robs me of a night’s rest. I’m prone to depression and yes, I’m feeling it now. Due to several factors, I haven’t faced the blank screen bravely in days. I’ve been ill and trying to keep up with the demands of my new day job and, not to whine, but the depletion started with one condescending, presumptuous email. 

I’m letting a terrorist win. The worry treadmill is running. I’ve written ten books, but the negative cyclotron has kicked in. “How can I be a writer? I can’t even type properly.”

When I observe the disparity between Goodreads ratings and Amazon ratings (work is often valued one star less on GR even if the review sounds equally positive), I have an urge to reevaluate my life choices. If I’d gone to that Second City audition or to film school instead…but that way madness lies. At least until I fix the time machine. But enough about me.

Murders+Among+Dead+Trees+1121-1

What to do when you’re feeling down and not writing*:

1. Call a friend. Do not talk about your problem. Talk about what your friend wants to talk about.

To shore up your ego defences, you’ve already read and reread your happy reviews. Your friend isn’t going to tell you anything new and you’ve already got your “Atta-boy!”

The point of this phone call is to break the obsessive cycle of repetitive arguments, cutting retorts and vengeful homicide plots running through your head. This is a time for jokes. Ask about your friend’s life. 

2. Okay, so, being human, naturally you want another “Atta-boy!” Engage a fan who can’t wait for the next book. A little positive pressure may be all you need to get back to writing the next book in the series.

3. Write a blog post to vent, but only if you must and your friends aren’t answering their phones. (Ooh! Meta!)

4. Remind yourself that this is the firstiest of First World Problems and set the oven timer. How much more wallowing do you plan to allow yourself? More than one more pathetic hour and you’ll burn your life.

The three most powerful words are “I love you.”

The two most powerful? “Begin again.”

~ from Crack the Indie Author Code

5. Read the negative reviews of your favorite books. Choose the classics that you think everyone simply must adore. Realize some people will not be pleased.

Now in paperback!

Now in paperback!

Ev-er.

Or they’re trolls feeding an emotional need that has nothing to do with literary criticism. Or they’re too stupid to get you. I used to think that all readers, because they can read, must be smarter than average. Read some one-star reviews, especially the ones that bring down an author’s rating because Amazon didn’t deliver the book fast enough or they don’t like reading on a kindle and would have preferred paper. Clearly, my supposition about all readers being intelligent was not true.

6. Help somebody else with something. Shovel the walk and bring in the wood and be productive. Productiveness is a habit. This tip works better is you don’t do it for yourself. Do it for the old neighbor with the bum ticker and the broken leg.

7. Read something good that inspires you. Remember this feeling of transcending the great, dirty world? This delicious escape is why you are a writer. 

8. Realize that nothing will be perfect and the critics might have a point about something. Correct errors and move on.

9. But if they’re too harsh and stop you from writing at all, you’ve allowed a rude outlier to rob you, and most readers, of joy. It’s too easy for trolls to throw bombs. You write books, not a few, nasty paragraphs. We’re not allowed to critique reviewers so they’re safe from what you’re feeling now. Don’t let bullies win. Not letting bullies win is another reason you’re a writer.

10. Bing! The oven timer went off.

Start writing again. Anything. Just start. Within five minutes, you’ll be sucked into the other world again. Just get through that first five minutes and write. You aren’t facing a whole book. You don’t have to worry about word count or bad reviews or bruised egos or where to find a Luger, thick rope and kerosene at three in the morning. All you have to do is start writing and get through the first five minutes. Maybe less.

You can gut out five minutes. You don’t even have to act tough to start. Just start. An appreciative audience is out in the future, waiting and hoping you’ll get through the next five minutes. Maybe less.You will fall back into the groove and the word music will begin to play. And a one, and a two and a three…

If none of these suggestions work, call a doctor. Maybe it’s exercise, kale shakes and an anti-depressant you need to elude the mean reds.

 

Filed under: book reviews, publishing, web reviews, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#Nanowrimo: You do not have Writer’s Block

This week I found inspiration for a new character. I got it from the Latin word “occubus”, meaning to rest (especially in the grave.) I love my Latin dictionaries and will miss them when I move on to projects beyond This Plague of Days. A blind stab, a finger pointing on a random page and wham! Something new to play with! A new chapter! That’s the joy of discovery in writing. The ideas don’t always flow so easily, but if you’re in a good place, the words always come.

Readers ask us where we get our ideas.

If you’ve made it out of the horrors of high school (or perhaps even more so if you didn’t), you’ve got enough material to start writing. That supply of disappointment, embarrassment and angst will last for your career.

Conflicts, fisticuffs and the world news are all fodder for the mind mill. Family, relationships, lack of relationships? Cannibalize! Books you read will feed books you’ll write. Whether you’re a monk on a mountain or a suburban wage slave, you are surrounded with input for your output.

An afternoon walk can spark an idea, especially if that walk takes you to the local courthouse. Arraignment hearings are best. One long court trial might yield a book. Bearing witness to the parade of arrests from last night will give you all the books you can write and make you wish you had the ability to type faster.

We are all dreamers, putting information together in new ways for new takes on ancient stories. If there is such a thing as writer’s block, it is not because of a lack of ideas to play with.

Writer’s block comes from a loss of enjoyment of play.

That sounds more like depression, doesn’t it? Or laziness that springs from too much sugar and wheat and not enough kale. If you think you’re suffering writer’s block, don’t complain about a muse deficiency. You can’t fight that, but you could fight an amusement deficiency.

A long time ago, I stopped writing for several years.

My “block” was really about rage. A co-worker annoyed me mightily. I went home and began to write a short story that was basically a tantrum on the page. I got about four lines into the revenge fantasy and realized, I don’t want to feel this way and I don’t want to write this. I didn’t write again until I fixed my life (or at least repaired my lifeboat.) I was unhappy with what I was doing and, instead of rage on the page, I resolved to change the underlying problem (i.e. working with twits.)

We often romanticize the miserable writer working in poverty as the creativity bubbles out of all that sadness. Mostly nonsense. You don’t get a book written when you’re so depressed you can’t face picking up a pencil. I mean that literally. I remember lying atop my unmade bed (a grubby futon on the floor, actually) and thinking, I can’t. I just can’t. The pencil stayed on the floor.

Depression sucks energy away and writing demands we put energy out. You can’t give what you don’t have.

Writer’s block is a vague, disempowering notion that, ironically, is a dangerous fiction. Instead, focus on concrete variables you can change: income, time management, who’s sleeping beside you, what goes down your throat, the exercise you do and what you allow into your mind.

Sure, inspiration is everywhere.

But maybe you need a doctor.

 

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, What about you?, writing tips, , , , , , , ,

#NaNoWriMo: Story stuck and stalled? Try this.

You’ll probably get stuck from time to time. Most everyone does, so don’t panic.

If you get stuck often, outline more to save writing time and stay on track. Keep in mind that outlines are merely guidelines. You’re just dating your outline casually. It’s not serious and you don’t have to marry it. With the shadow of commitment gone, you still have your free and fun, bright and shiny creative mojo working for you.

I’m a pantser, but I do have an idea where my stories are headed. We may take a winding trip to get to our destination, but we will get there, hoping we won’t get stuck and be forced to back up thirty pages or so before we can move forward again. I’ve had to do that. It sucks, sucks away forward momentum and saps confidence. So let’s crash through that mental block and get unstuck.

Solutions to get out of the ditch

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z's next and it's coming for you and the Queen's corgis, among others.

Season One of This Plague of Days is the siege. Sutr-X was the pandemic. Sutr-Z’s next and it’s coming for you and the Queen’s corgis, among others.

A random, alluring word, place, fact or event can give spinning wheels traction. For instance, the word “chiroptera” gave me a new direction when I wrote Season 2 of This Plague of Days. Sometimes I choose words, events or facts at random and noodle with them to see how they might fit into the narrative. Or I’ll draw from mythology, philosophy, politics or religion to discover new dimensions in the narrative.

Here’s the surprise: I always find a way to make those intriguing things fit naturally into my story.

I bet you can, too. Don’t load up on $10 words when a nickel word will do, of course…or at least don’t do it for its own sake or to show off. However, if something seemingly random can serve your story, use it (or dump it if it fails.) Readers like learning things as much as you do. They like characters with depth and to discover hidden significance behind meaning.

Get random

Autism, Latin, the Existential Abyss and references to Superman. That's pretty random, but it all fits.

Autism, Latin, the Existential Abyss and references to Superman. That’s pretty random, but it all fits.

This exercise in the writing process is about bouncing new electrical flashes through the writer’s brain, making new connections and getting synapses firing to see nonlinear possibilities. Frequently, you can find something new that influences the story simply by opening a dictionary and pointing. An atlas and a Wikipedia search might give you a random fact that sparks something. I found Gas City, for instance. The name alone captured my imagination and got me thinking about a new track to follow in Season 2. New characters and furious battles evolved from the way that slapped my brain.

If you’ve got an area of interest (baseball, plumbing, woodwork, salmon fishing, animal husbandry, whatever) work it in to give your characters depth. I’ve got a sensitive soldier with expertise in military history who shows up in the zombie apocalypse. I’ve also got an Irish cop from a tiny Irish resort. The place informs the character. These are the sort of factors that make the people on the page real. Jack (Jacqueline) Spencer majored in Elizabethan poetry. That makes her feel pretty useless when society collapses, but her development now has an arc. Up from zero, she gains experience on the road east to a hoped for haven from the apocalypse.

For me? It’s pathology that fascinates.

I studied anatomy first and was awed by our biological complexity. Then I studied Merck’s Manual and I’ve been a hypochondriac ever since. It’s startling how fragile we are, so pathology often finds its way into my books, one way or another. I know a lot about how the body breaks, so I’m sure you can guess how that might play into a crime novel.

I know a lot about migraines (and the many variations of headaches.) His inability to act shows up in one of my WIPs and becomes crucial to the protagonist’s predicament when the cops come calling, asking for an alibi. My protagonist in This Plague of Days is autistic which, naturally, gives him a unique point of view on the end of the world. Another character has Desmoid tumours. This is a rare condition, but it turns out to be very relevant to the story. Her disease saves her from a worse fate than Desmoid tumours (in a way I can’t divulge yet, of course. That’s Season 3 stuff.)

Take a fragment and build your next chapter around it. Make the fragment an element.

These general suggestions are random sparks. If an atlas or a dictionary or a quick Google search can make your story catch fire, and if you can make these new variables seamless, you’ll find their inclusion can get you unstuck.

Therefore:

a summer camp in Columbus, Ohio with too many mosquitoes

the ruins of a castle hidden under heavy snow

a rusted can opener, forgotten in the kitchen’s junk drawer

a tippy chair with one short leg

angina

Captain Cooke’s death

her mother’s wedding ring inscription

Try one of some of those for a start. How might they fit in your narrative? Keep going and don’t worry if you get stuck. The next step will come to you and, if not, go find that next step. Finish your story.

Tips and inspiration for the writer's journey to publication.

Tips and inspiration for the writer’s journey to publication.

~ Hi. I’m Robert Chazz Chute. I wrote a couple of books full of inspiration to get writers to get their books done. I also write about a kid on the autistic spectrum facing the end of the world, zombies who aren’t really zombies and vampires who aren’t really vampires. There are also jokes and Latin proverbs. It’s…oddly engaging and does not suck. See all the books here.

I also host the All That Chazz podcast and the Cool People Podcast. To learn more about This Plague of Days, go to ThisPlagueOfDays.com.

Filed under: NanNoWriMo, Writers, Writing exercise, writing tips, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

TOP 10: Get your writing motivation back & finish your book

Pie chart of Wikipedia content by subject as o...

Image via Wikipedia

Sometimes you lose the thread. You burn through the first 40 or 50 pages and then…now what?  Augusten Burroughs doesn’t believe in writer’s block. He says that if you think you have writer’s block, write about the block and you’ll find your way out. Frankly, that hasn’t worked for me. This is what I do to churn the letter butter and make it thick:

1. Reread the last ten pages before you got stuck. There’s probably something there to riff from.

2. Reread the first ten pages and get back to where you were headed to begin with so you can find the trail you lost.

3. If you’ve got an outline, go write an easy scene. If the book is a ball small enough that you can hold it in one hand–and you make it small by using an outline–you can skip forward to a scene you are sure of.

4. When you’re stuck, go back to the characters. What’s the special need and want of the character (often not the same thing in a layered, complex text)? Find the truth of that character. What does the character do next?

5. Search for the emotional truth between and among your characters. Write that.

6. Search the conflict between and among your characters. Maybe you’re stuck because your characters are too agreeable.

7. Change the setting. Too many characters stand around in living rooms talking at each other instead of engaging the world. It’s not a stage play. A novel has as large a canvas as you can imagine. Get your characters up and out in the world where things happen.

8. Think visually. What would the movie of your book look like? What are people doing? Do they have special skills? Draw on your own experience or do a little research to get you through a scene. (Do as little research as possible on the front end, though. I wrote a story in which a character got pulled into a saw at a lumber mill. First I wrote the scene. Then I consulted an expert who said it shouldn’t be a saw but a machine called an edger.)

9. Still stuck? My trick is to get out a book (usually a dictionary) and choose three words at random. Work those words into your next chapter. (Clicking random in Wikipedia works great for this strategy, too.) This will take you places you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

10. Take a break. Change your setting. Trying to tough it out so you produce typing but no worthwhile writing is not working smart. Do something totally different. Go get chased by a bear, move, run, go watch people, have an espresso or nap. Refresh your writing mind by demanding nothing of it. The world will have to wait until you’re back where you need to be.

Filed under: Writers, Writing exercise, writing tips, , , , ,

(Top 10 Things) Writers Fear:

1. the blank page. And yet, ideas for stories are all around us. Look in newspapers, magazines, real life, fantasy, the net, your dreams and in the back of your sock drawer. Everywhere. Augusten Burroughs says if you experience writer’s block, then write about that. That will prime your pump.

2. that someone, somehow, will steal their ideas. You can’t copyright an idea, and that’s a good thing. Ideas are cheap because (see #1) ideas are everywhere. Execution and completion is what counts. Lots of people have book ideas but never type long enough to even get to the starting line. You’re the best one to take your idea through to fruition. Also, come up with an idea and pitch it to 100 people. One hundred different stories will shoot out from pulling that one trigger. (Note: I won’t steal your ideas. I’ve got plenty of ideas! I’ve got more ideas than I have life left to execute them all! …gulp.)

3. failure. Yeah? Who doesn’t? Failure is in not even trying. Nobody likes a whiner. Shut up and type.

4. success. Just kidding. Nobody really fears success. Change, sometimes, but never success. Fear of success is something somebody made up in  80s to sell self-help books. Who still believes that now?

5. criticism. You won’t join a critique group so you won’t learn (or will learn very slowly.) That’s how I learned very slowly. The truth is, not everybody is going to like you or what you write. That won’t change, so accept that and look for people who give you caring yet constructive criticism. Flush all others. As Walt Disney said, “I’m not gay.” No, no. He said, “Always move forward.”

6. rejection. People very rarely get a book deal from the first agent they approach. (See #5) Not everybody is going to like what you write. If it’s any good, eventually someone will. Then you can crow all you want about all the publishers, editors and agents who said no before you found the one genius who agrees with you. Your definition of a genius is anyone who loves your manuscript and is in a position to market it to the world.

CHAZZ DEFINITION OF GENIUS:

Anyone who agrees with Chazz.

7. revision. But your best writing is your rewriting. You know that. So go do it. Yeah, it really is that simple. That’s the same way everybody else who hates revision bulled their way through.

8. that our best friends will achieve astonishing literary success and we won’t. I guess you should start typing faster if you want to even have a horse in that race then, huh?

9. poverty. So make sure you get paid for what you write. Send out more queries. Suffer the day job until you achieve escape velocity. Keep the day job and enjoy both with a little less sleep. Be so adorable someone else will support you while you write (I am!). Launch a successful business you can escape to write. Make writing your successful business. Reality check: if you choose writing over riches, are you really going to end up in the street? Would the people who care for you really let that happen? (If so, you’re a right and proper bastard, aren’t you? You deserve homelessness. Maybe you should work on your social skills and bathe, hm?) Poverty isn’t so bad. Not writing would be worse. (If you don’t understand that equation, you aren’t a writer.)

10. anonymity. This is the worst. You fear anonymity because if no one reads your words, there goes your only shot at immortality. If you don’t achieve some success with your writing, soon it will be as if you never existed. You might as well have never existed if you can’t leave some kind of stamp of your personality, your brain and your thoughts on the careless, fickle future you’ll never see. The abyss is yawning beneath you. We are only a brief crack of light between two black infinities. If you don’t write, you can’t be published and if you aren’t published, you are forgotten. You are a helpless speck disappearing down the raging current of time. There is no return. Death waits for us all.

ANONYMITY = DEATH

Feel that fear? It’s not just real. It’s good.

You need some fear in your life to keep you motivated.

Back to the keyboard, friends!

Filed under: getting it done, Rant, writing tips, , , , ,

Chuck Palahniuk on Writer’s Constipation

Filed under: Writers, writing tips, , ,

Smash Writer’s Block: Write Hardboiled Fiction

You aren’t going to feel like writing all the time. Set an egg timer and tell yourself you’ll just write for ten minutes. That’s one very hardboiled egg. You can manage ten minutes. Write as fast as you can and don’t pause to think. Don’t pause to look back and edit. Just go!

How this helps:

1. It gets you writing. You don’t need big blocks of time. Lots of writers knock out entire books in short segments. Little bits of stolen time are how stay-at-home moms and dads live. Do it consistently and you’ll build your book.

2. This technique forces you to move forward and not dither over split infinitives. Revise later. Write right now.

3. Once you get started, you will often find you’ll want to keep going. You may not have started off in the zone, but by promising yourself just ten minutes, you will often end up there and decide you want to stay, persevere and write more.

BONUS:

Some will say, “I don’t have even ten minutes.”

(I have heard this.)

Answer:

Sorry to say, these people are whiners. You don’t have ten minutes? Really? 

Reality check:

You aren’t that crucial. You aren’t that important. You’re experiencing resistance. Go work on yourself and find out why you’re manufacturing drama. And ask yourself, do you really want to be a writer?

You don’t always have to be “in the mood” to write. You do have to take responsibility for not writing.

Filed under: getting it done, writing tips, ,

WRITER’S BLOCK. EXPLODED.

Augusten Burroughs advises that when you’re stuck, write about the block itself and you’ll uncork. Or…

Maybe you need to take a break and recharge.

Maybe you need to go out drinking and start a fight and wake up on the floor of a bathroom covered in piss and puke and blood. It was good enough for Henry Miller.

Maybe you need to reevaluate if writing is really for you and if you gave it up, maybe you could, finally, be really happy.

Maybe you need to move to the desert for forty days and forty nights. Go naked but take extra socks and some weed. For more material, get there walking, from your front doorstep. At noon.

Maybe you need to walk down the road, Bill Bixby/Incredible Hulk-style with nothing but a backpack and dangerous gamma ray poisoning.

Maybe you should write something else. Anything. But not fan fiction. You toad.

Maybe you should write something short to build your confidence.

Shorter than that.

Maybe you need to stop being such a perfectionist. I mean, with your level of skill, perfect isn’t really achievable is it?

Maybe you need to channel an ancient God since the more current ones are so silent as you writhe in pain.

Maybe you should learn how to spell first. Or become a grammar fetishist so real working writers can come to your house at two in the morning and bludgeon you with ice axes. Then you shall be free. Dead. Whatever.

Maybe you should write like you don’t care who reads it. (Like I’m writing now. Just as an example.)

Maybe you should take a chance for once in your miserable life. You might finally write something fresh and unexpected.

Maybe you should write love poetry on bathroom stalls and make new friends in those stalls. Standing up and not getting caught add an exciting degree of difficulty and urgency to bad sex.

Maybe you should realize The New Yorker does not and will not give a shit about you until you don’t need them anymore. They publish people by soliciting their agents. Stop crying, strap on a pair and grow up.

Maybe you should realize you are not Stephen King. Sadly, you might be the next Dean Koontz, however.

Maybe you should get over yourself, College! Stop bagging on what’s popular. Your stuff is sensitive Oulipo MFA surreal writing exercise bullshit. Sure, your incestuous bunch of toadies loved it, but it’s only a writing exercise that’s so “inside” that, as for reading, it’s more than an exercise. It’s exhausting.

If you’re non-MFA –just one of the regular kinds–maybe you should go look up Oulipo. It’s fun, but please don’t send it anywhere. Please!

Maybe you should take up painting. When it sucks, call it abstract. Even if it’s good, call your representational art “ironic” to stave off batshit critics.

Maybe you should get an agent. Just stop saying you should get one.

Maybe you should garrote the agent you have.

Maybe you should give up for the good of society. At least give up on the great American novel and write something they’ll read. (Porn. Affidavits. Moronic websites about testicular torsion–for medical purposes or for fun and profit.)

Maybe you should get outside. You’re pasty and have forgotten the smell of roses.

Maybe you should stop breaking your parents’ hearts and get a real job.

Maybe if you worked on an oil rig you’d have something to write about.

Maybe if you had a brain in your head or were eight years older you’d have something to say.

Maybe if you were ten years younger–and prettier–you’d have a shot instead of a shit.

Maybe you should care less and write more. Maybe you should care about Swine Flu pandemics and write far less.

Maybe you should make a schedule and finally stick to it you whiny wannabe.

Maybe you should shoot up. A vein. A mall. Whatever. (You’d be much more marketable either way.)

Maybe you need to get the pipes cleared. Go have sex with somebody who you find vaguely detestable and then write about that. (Best if they’re a celebrity or a homeless person. In between? Less marketable.)

Maybe you should start a blog. Or a magazine. Or sleep with someone who does and then blackmail them so you can appear on same for far less money than you’d charge if you were a self-respecting whore.

Maybe you should have a baby and then complain it ruined your life and killed your ambition. Everybody will feel better when you’re on your deathbed. Next week.

Maybe you should have a baby and then live through them so they can do all the hard work of becoming a bestselling author someday and you’ll have a small smarmy piece of that, won’t you?

Maybe you should start a publishing house and give ’em what for.

Maybe you should look at your writing again, fall out of love with it and ask yourself honestly, what for?

Maybe you should procrastinate some more.

Maybe you should look again at character. There’s lots of action happening, but it’s clear you care about the characters about as much as you care about what happens to Mario on your Nintendo game.

Maybe you should get a plot. I’ve seen glaciers jump around with more frenetic energy.

Maybe you should read more of your genre. Don’t get me wrong! Steamships in different dimensions could sell…if you were much more talented.

Maybe you should call your mother and tell her how hard it is. If she’s a good mom who cares, she’ll tell you to shut the fuck up and get back to work cuz Mama’s ciggies don’t buy themselves. (On the other hand, a bad Mama will be so sympathetic, leaving you feeling better about yourself, simple and even more pathetic.)

Maybe you should call your Dad and tell him how hard writing really is. He can tell you (again!) how his leg was shot off in the war and today he was up on some prick’s roof, tarring it while the sun beat him senseless, getting skin cancer for minimum wage. You’re at Starbucks plotting out a really tough short story and he’s enjoying his golden years in so-called retirement plotting to kill your mom for the insurance money because she won’t shut the fuck up about what a genius you are despite the fact you dropped out of college and didn’t tell them for two years while you found yourself. (By the way, your great realization in the end? You’re half a smart as you thought you were, you’re a coward and weed sure helps you get really deep in the creative process. If only you could write it down. Also, you’re short.)

Maybe you should hang out with a friend. He’ll have lots of good ideas about the hilarious antics and paperwork snafus down at the Quantity Surveying Office that would make a great book. Sure.

Maybe you should compare yourself to JK Rowling again, except you still don’t even have a book to send out to be rejected. You are a single mom, so you have that in common…actually, any similarities pretty much stop right there. Yes, you both breath in oxygen, but she’s produced an industry worth billions and you’re still sitting there stupefied reading this shit and producing carbon dioxide.

Maybe you should feel sorry for yourself some more. That’s been very helpful so far.

Maybe you should join a writing group so you can get shredded by losers who aren’t published either.

Maybe you should trust the instincts of your acquaintance in publishing who’s very clear she hates everything and won’t tell you what on earth she might ever approve of. (And if she goes on for five more minutes about how you’ve captured “a sense of place” pull out your nickel-plated .38 with rubber-handled grips and the mercury-pointed bullets. Shoot her first, then you. Five bullets for her, one for you.)

Maybe you should reread something you wrote. Anything! Please! Do not put it in the envelope without doing this several times. Please! Please!

Maybe you should cut the five-page preamble and open the chapter in the middle of the action.

Maybe you should finish a chapter with a cliffhanger instead of boring us with your bullshit about “cheap tricks” and–God help us–your “integrity.”

Maybe you should whore yourself out to the greeting card industry. You’d have a better shot and, given the length, you could get a feeling of accomplishment every day! Imagine! (Agh, get over yourself. We’re all whores to somebody.)

Maybe you were meant to be a shoe salesperson. Admit to yourself that you’re really 90% foot fetishist and only 10% writer, not the other way around.

Maybe you should succumb to the lure of a regular paycheck. Your next high school reunion will come up fast. Saying you’re a writer is cool. Praying for an asteroid strike when your asshole high school buddy (who became a plastic surgeon) asks what you’ve published is distinctly uncool. Worse, he knows you haven’t published a thing and still live with your parents. Meanwhile he’s spending his days elbow-deep in tits, crotch-deep in sexy nurses and knee-deep in cash. You’ll be taking the bus home. He’ll be flying first class. “Poor Margaret/Josh/whatever. He/She is such a dreamer but never got it together. More tequila to lick off my nipples? Birgit? Heidi? Russel?”

Maybe you should finally get it that being a dreamer is great. In fact, before you’re expected to pay taxes, it’s fantastic.

Maybe you should stop thinking this list is too harsh. You’re too old for summer camp, too. Get serious and write your goddamn opus or stop pretending to try.

Maybe you should cut the last hundred pages. You know, the denouement. That part after all the action ends and the reader starts wishing you had left him wanting more.

Maybe you should become an editor. You’re already a frustrated writer so you’re halfway there.

Maybe you should forget about college and go to a library. Unless you want to major in being a conversationalist. That’s what a liberal arts degree and that expensive tuition is for, you know. After graduation you won’t be building bridges into publishing with your pissant thesis in Elizabethan poetry. You could build lattes, though.

Maybe you should go to a studio and get your author photos done now. You’re getting older and uglier and fatter by the week. If lightning strikes, you do want to be ready.

Maybe you should use that inheritance to splurge on a real author website. Your meteoric prose that could change the face of literature is useless since you don’t already have a platform. (Your child’s burst appendix can probably wait. Tell your adorable six-year-old to suck it up and walk it off. Daddy has to pay a web designer, not another doctor for every little boo-boo.)

Maybe you should do us all a favor and quit.

Maybe you need to begin again.

Maybe I should stop before I kill again.

You should definitely pick up a tangent from the above list of maybes, pick up a pen, and explode your writer’s block.

Oh, and gentle reader, leave a comment, please. I’d like your vote on your favorite of the Maybes…

Filed under: Rant, rules of writing, Writers, Writing exercise, , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

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