I got up early this morning and read what I have so far. Something was off. Was the premise bad? Was it a flaw in the characters? Was this novel a terrible idea to begin with? After the third read-through, the cold truth smacked me in the face. That scene, as brilliantly written as it is, isn't going to work. I mean not at all. Not in this story. That’s what the problem has been the whole time. So something I spent a week on is useless and I still don’t have an Avalanche column.
Sometimes I want to quit. I worked hard all my life and I’m retired, so why am I working so hard now? This morning at 4:30 I was asking myself that question. Do you know how dark and alone it is at 4:30? A writer can get into a lot of trouble at 4:30 in the morning.
Of course I can quit whenever I want to; I know that. I’m not being held captive somewhere with only a laptop for diversion. The problem is I can’t quit. Writing is hard and it makes me crazy. I was going to say “a little crazy,” but why not tell it like it is? The point is that I’m driven. I’ve tried to quit and I can’t. I love to write about make-believe things or true things or almost anything.
Over the last nine years I have read everything I could buy, borrow, or check out on the subject I love. Not only do I crave doing it, I want to be good at it. There are thousands of books about the craft. Among other things, the authors of these volumes say to read everything you can get your hands on from the classics to popular fiction, to poetry—everything—and to keep writing. I can do that. But some advice is confusing.
One famous writer, Stephen King says, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs. When editing, strike every one of them.” Really? He uses them. Mark Twain is quoted as saying something similar to King, but he also uses them. What kind of advice is that? It smacks of “do as I say, not as I do.” Not fair.
Another writer advises to delete adjectives and use stronger nouns. I get that, but how would you say “the blond boy with brown eyes” or the “green house” without using adjectives? “The boy with eyes” and “The house” won’t get it. No wonder I’m crazy.
Hemingway says, “Write drunk. Edit sober.” How not helpful is that? It must have worked for him, but if I got drunk I’d blow off writing and anything else that seemed like work.
The best advice I’ve received by reading what the gurus say about writing is this: Write. Don’t give up. Keep trying. Here are two examples: “My top three pieces of writing advice? Stop whining and write. Stop (fooling) around and write. Stop making excuses and write.” ~Nora Roberts
Dr. Seuss said, “You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room.”
Thank you, but I figured that out for myself.
John Steinbeck was a fantastic writer, so I looked up what he had to say about writing. Typical Steinbeck, he nails it: “If there is magic in story writing, and I’m convinced there is, no one has ever been able to reduce it to a recipe that can be passed from one person to another.”
I do not feel better.