Thursday, January 12, 2006

Writing tips from Westerfeld and Chandler

Scott Westerfeld has some good advice at this blog posting:
The letter below reminds me of something Kingsley Amis said: “Sometimes the hardest part of writing is getting the characters out of the pub and into the cab.” Writers don’t just get stuck at the earth-shattering, life-changing decisions that our characters make; the little details of reality management are actually quite tricky and frustrating. Never assume you’re a crap writer just because you can’t get someone across a room—it happens to all of us.

This is exactly what I was saying the other day. You get characters into a place and time, and it's not yet to the action, but you just can't seem to move them out of there. It's very nice to hear that I'm not alone in this obnoxious problem.

The rest of Westerfeld's post is well worth reading. He's quoting the letters of Raymond Chandler on writing. All of them are interesting. One of them is the four-hour rule for writing. You set aside four hours every day. During those four hours, you can do nothing except write. If you don't feel like writing, you don't have to, but you can't do anything else either.

This seems like a perfect rule, something that would really make me work. But of course, I come up with excuses. "I don't have four hours a day to do this." Bullshit. I waste four hours every morning just looking at blogs. (For the record, I don't actually consider it a waste, but in comparison to my own writing growth, it certainly is.)

The second excuse is, "well does blog writing and e-mail writing count?" It does if I want to waste my time. I love blogging, and enjoy e-mailing, but they're not going to move me forward on writing and I know it.

Well, I did try this today, but only for an hour. Still, it was effective. I wrote more than 800 words and moved the story right along. I need to get more serious about it and use the full four hours. Although, on a daily basis maybe I'll only use 2 hours a day, and four on Friday (my day off). Either way, I think it's good advice.

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