Writing Advice

By | May 15, 2009 | 11 Comments

Being a writer who has earned something less than a poverty wage in return for his exciting novelin’ (and yes, I declare “Noveling” to be a new word; TRY AND STOP ME). I sometimes get asked for advice.

Sometimes the advice is practical: “Jeff, how can I feign sobriety during important things like job interviews, wedding ceremonies, and trials?” The answer: monosyllables. Makes you look mysterious and wise.

Sometimes the advice sought is businesslike: “Jeff, how did you get your agent, who is clearly smarter and funnier than you, and has much more interesting clients?” The answer: Trickery. For the first two years of our business relationship, my agent thought my name was John Updike.

Sometimes, however, the advice is for the ethereal artistic side of things, as in, “Jeff, how do create your plots?” or “Jeff, how do you write your dialog?” or “Jeff, how can I get you to stop writing altogether? Tell you what, write a number on this slip of paper and tomorrow that amount will be in your bank accounts, no strings attached, as long as you promise to not write any more.”

So, here’s the best writing advice I can offer:

1. Don’t ask other writers. In fact, I recommend not even associating with other writers at all. We’re arrogant and vainglorious, and if you give us an opening we will pry that sucker open like a swarm of invading termites and we’ll talk your ear off for hours about our “craft”. This is because most of the people in our lives, our intimate friends and relatives, don’t care much that we write, and finding someone who does is like finding a forgotten bottle of whiskey sunk in the toilet tank; we lose track of time. Plus, we will steal your ideas. And probably your wallet. True story.

Since you’re still reading, I assume you’re ignoring #1 and sticking around to see if I’m going to actually dispense any advice. Although since you’re ignoring my advice I wonder why.

2. All righty then: Forget all the pithy little things folks have told you: write what you know, avoid passive voice, you can’t write a novel entirely from the dead dog’s point of view using a complex code involving repetitions of the word “bark”. Screw it: Write a book you’d want to read. Shocking, I know, but a lot of the nuts and bolts of writing can be gleaned just by reading good books. Read a lot, write a lot, and write stuff you’d pay good money for.

3. The best cure for writer’s block that I know of is to write something else for a while. I know someone who has been working on the same novel for 27 years. One book. Nothing else. I suggest the best way to get anything done is to have several projects at once, keep the juices flowing in different directions. A blog is a nice way to drool words if you’re not ready with a second or third novel to work on. Short stories are excellent ways to get ideas on paper and work on scenes that otherwise might wander aimlessly. You know what else works for writer’s block? Liquor. Seriously. Look into it.

So, have a nice weekend, folks. For those of you who write, get crackin’ and good luck. For those of you who don’t, and just want me to get the damn books out already, I’m a goin”, I’m a goin’…

Categories: Bullshit, Writing

11 Comments

  • Craig says:

    The following passage…

    Since you’re still reading, I assume you’re ignoring #1 and sticking around to see if I’m going to actually dispense any advice. Although since you’re ignoring my advice I wonder why.

    …Was worth the price of admission! What’s that? Oh, yeah, it didn’t cost anything. Still, it made me laugh and that should be worth something.

  • Lunch says:

    That’s right, git a goin’, git a goin’…

    “You know what else works for writer’s block? Liquor. Seriously. Look into it.”

    Somehow, I think you may be a bad influence on many young writers.

  • Dan Krokos says:

    Great post! But too short. You forgot:

    1.) What is the title of Avery Cates 4?

    2.) Is it coming out a month after TEP?

    3.) Why not?

    4.) Can you post the query letter that caught the fabulous Janet Reid’s attention? Since I’m already emulating you, I figure I might go all the way. My new work in progress, “The Solar-powered Cathedral,” needs a query.

    I realize these questions have little to do with writing, but you seem to be in a question-answering mood.

  • jsomers says:

    Craig,

    Well, it cost you thirty seconds of your life, so that’s something. Glad you enjoyed it!

    J

  • jsomers says:

    Lunch,

    Somehow, I think you may be a bad influence on many young writers.

    God, let’s hope so!

    J

  • jsomers says:

    Dan,

    1.) What is the title of Avery Cates 4?

    It has a title, but I’m gonna sit on it for a while. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. TEP ain’t even out yet, damn your eyes.

    2.) Is it coming out a month after TEP?

    Wouldn’t that rock? Sadly, no. Doesn’t have a firm date yet, but since I don’t even have to hand in the manuscript until a month after TEP, I think it’ll be some time after that.

    3.) Why not?

    I enjoy torturing people. Actually, 32 Cates books are written. We’re just ladling them out one every 2 years to be mean. MUHAHAHAHA!

    4.) Can you post the query letter that caught the fabulous Janet Reid’s attention? Since I’m already emulating you, I figure I might go all the way. My new work in progress, “The Solar-powered Cathedral,” needs a query.

    Hmmmmn…Maybe. I’d have to dig it out of the archives and think about that. Revealing your secrets-slash-idiocy is never to be done rashly. The key, as I recall, was that I was frickin’ hilarious and that made Janet think I might have something to offer. Although i think she regrets the decision. This may shock you, but I come off much more charming and fun in writing than I am in person. In person I am often drunk, belligerent, and unbathed.

    J

  • Janet Reid says:

    I know the title of the next Cates book.
    I have the query letter Jeff sent.

    I can be bought.

  • Dan Krokos says:

    Bought with money or with liqours?

    I only have some of one, but enough of the other.

  • Craig says:

    Jeff – You think I can read THAT fast?

  • Obviously, Jeff used some of his trademarked and patented Sexy-Scribin’ to sway Janet Reid. If he revealed it and you used it, he could sue your nuts off.

    So, there’s one revenue-generating idea, Jeff.

  • Erik says:

    In the next book Cates is stranded on a desert island with the severed head of a monk suspiciously named Wilson.

    Hey, Jeff gets writers block too.

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