Month: June 2012

How Many Words Should You Write in a Day?

“Whoever writes the most words in a day, wins!”

Is this what we’ve come to?

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

How many words should I write in a day? 

—Nathan Burt, Cantonment, Fla.

What? 

This isn’t NaNoWriMo. This isn’t a contest. This is writing. Art. Do or do not. There is no word count goal in life.

So what occasions this question? Oh, I know!

Writers. 

Writers who will toot the rusty trumpet of wordcount boasts by the 500s, 1000s, 1500s, and OMG I WROTE OVER 9000 WORDS TODAY. Writers who have slit throats and slain the “good writing goats” over the profane altars of “Most Words Wins.” Writers who forgot that writing isn’t probs, probes, stats, or maths. This isn’t a numbers game.

You misspelled quality. Looks like you wrote quantity instead. That’s your problem.

Is it OK to eke out some occasional hollow boasts of word count in your Tweets, posts, and braindumps? Can’t fine or arrest you for that. We’re all guilty. But don’t make it a habit.

Don’t be guilty of surfing with the popular crowds of crows, shouting out into the nothing about the numeric dent they’ve made in their #wip. Don’t strut like an ostrich on uppers after you write xxxx number of words in xxxx amount of time. You don’t see stenographers hop up and do the Dougie in the courtroom after they wrote “FIFTEEN THOUSAND WORDS IN A DAY, YEEEAH!” 

Heck, you could write “swag swag swag” over and over again for an hour and light the jorts off of most wordcount poseurs.

Just write. Write something. Make it good. One hundred hard-earned words well-written and kept quiet win out over the thousands who write for nothing more than the inevitable wordcountbrag fodder.

It’s the words that count, not the word count that counts.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

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Writing Without Cheerleaders

“When I write, I like it when other people give me encouragement.”

“I love the social media age. I can write and have people cheer me on at the same time lol!”

“I feel compelled to keep writing, because the writing community helps me when I do.”

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

What’s the best word of encouragement you can give to writers struggling to write? I try to root for those in my writing community just as they have done for me, and I’m looking for ways to give back?

—Jamie Kushner, Ames, Iowa.

If you’re going to write, be a writer first, and a cheerleader last. There’s no proper place for a writing-cheerleader, or an “enthusiastic” participant.

“But I like cheering people on and motivating others so much!” GREAT! Then STOP pretending to be a writer. Stop saying you’re a writer. You are a cheerleader. Put down the pen, pick up the pom-poms, get in line.

“What’s wrong with encouraging others to write while writing?” If you have to ask, then you’re likely doing more of the former, and less of the latter. Your duty is to your craft, your art, your story. Your duty is not to your “writing community,” or else you’re putting writing in the wrong place.

“You’re just a jerk. I, for one, like the encouragement a writing community provides.” Point taken about that “jerk” thing. Thank you kindly. I, too, like most of the human race, need encouragement from time to time. But for that, I go to counseling. They’re often better at this “encouragement” deal.

“But what about struggling writers?” Let them struggle. That’s part of the process. Since when did we institute writer’s welfare? The war’s between the writer and the writing. Leave it be.

“But I NEED the encouragement from other writers! That’s what makes me happy about writing! Don’t you get it?” Oh, I get it. If writing doesn’t make you happy about writing, then there’s nothing more that needs to be said. Who needs deeper writing from the soul anyway?

“But I NEED to cheer on other writers! That’s just what I DO!” Good. You’re a cheerleader. I’m a writer. This is where we go our separate ways, yes?

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Writing the Best Chick Lit Ever

Chick lit. Back in my day, it was candy. Today? Money.

And even still, you’d be surprised how many well-meaning authors screw it all up.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

Dear Writing All Wrong,

What advice do you have on writing good chick lit?

—Caroline Heidl, Germantown, Md.

Well. Uh. Yeah. Right, then. Good to see you’ve asked the expert on chick lit.

From what I’ve gathered, chick lit is like the literary version of Lifetime®, only better, and more intelligent. Of course, the same could be said of Caveman Legal thrillers, armpit slicks, and the occasional YA ghostpunk novel.  Here are some basics to getting these down, and getting them good (I think):

Don’t write about “man” stuff

Your chick lit shouldn’t contain any of the following:

-Chewing tobacco

-Eating pork rinds

-Losing an argument

-Being “OK” with someone pretending to listen

-Farting (or farting around) or burping (or burping around)

-Rounds of “chainsaw-jousting” while riding rocket-powered motorcycles 

Writing about the common traits found only among the man part of the human race will discredit your intent, sad to say. Even if it’s pretty cool when ladyfolk do that kind of stuff.

Write believable women

“Susan Sass is on top of the world, having purged herself of insecurities, trusting in her gift of good looks, and using her perfected charm and wit to win over anything and anyone she wants. But deep down inside—she’s the exact same winner as she is on the outside! And she gets along with everyone in life: ex-boyfriends, jealous co-workers, even her mother-in-law.”

That’s not believable. Flaws make for great stories. Throw a few in the mix. Instability. Calamity. Acne.

Renege on romance

Because exotic, spicy fairytales of farfetched flings are just that: lousy. Prince Charming isn’t a popular guest star in the chick lit kingdom. Neither is Prince Perfect-Abs. The lads of chick lit are more pauper than prince. That’s life.

Don’t keep your distance on the difference

Gender. It’s as much knowing what differentiates what “women want” and what “dudes do” when the circumstances could be the same. To put it lightheartedly:

Crisis: Severance of employment.

Chick: “How could this happen to me? I thought I was doing just fine here. Great, months of job hunting and flailing, here I come. (Cue more introspection)

Dude: “Sh*t, how’m I gonna pay up for my Ford, my beers, and my cigs this month?

Crisis: Relatives moving in.

Chick: “Oh. My. God. This was my house. And now it’s a courtroom where I’m being judged 24/7. Can’t somebody declare a mistrial?”

Dude: “We got an air mattress in the closet right? Ok, we’re good.”

Crisis: Pregnancy.

Chick: “Here begins a new chapter of life, written before I picked up the pen. Breathe. This happens all the time. There’s a book on this, right? Ok. I’m not sick yet. Why am I not sick yet?

Dude: “Wait, WHAT? How did I get pregnant? Man, all my bros are gonna flip.”

Come to think, I’m giving chick lit the win.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).

Why I’m Not Reading Your Book

I dabble with the idea of having a Reading All Right week here, but I can’t quite make the stab. This post gets close.

Speaking of close, that reminds me: I tried reading a book the other day. Couldn’t do it. It was as if the writer beckoned me not to take him seriously, such was his degree of fail. And I’m not the only one. People won’t read what pains them to read right away.

That’s why we’re Writing All Wrong.

I want people to read my book. What should I do?

—Brandt Bassett, Cadillac, Mich. 

Sorry BranBass, the path to self-discovery is not given by one who is not oneself. While I won’t go into what keeps people reading your book, I’ll do you one better.

Here’s what’s going to close the door on people trying to read your book. Do these things in the first few pages, and you’re done. Book closed, back on the shelf.

Clichés

“Avoid clichés like the plague.” Truer words may have been spoken, but the truth of that little cliché doesn’t ring as loud as it should. They stick out of your first pages like cankers, cold sores, and zits. Kill them all.

Pet words and phrases

If you like an uncommon word or phrase, and you brandy it about like it’s a word of common use, your reader will notice. A discerning reader will notice long enough to slam shut the book and whip their wallets and time at the more deserving. Found a great word plaything? Good for you! Stop using it over and over again right up front. Specificity. Vis-a-vis. All but [whatever]. Sinecure. Shut up.

Mirrors

If you describe your character by having him/her/it looking into a mirror, I will not read your book. You can do better than that. If you settle for the gimmick, I will settle for another work besides yours.

Weather

If I wanted a weather report, I would watch the Weather Channel. Unless your novel is about a meteorologist or weather conspiracies, then there’s no use for elaborating on the weather, unless you want to show off your lack of skills in opening a novel.

Waking up

If you begin with your character waking up, he’d better be an insect, and you’d better be Franz Frickin’ Kafka. If “no” to both of the above, please rethink your tactic.

Stage setting

Yes, you must set some sort of stage eventually. But if I’m reading a story, and there’s no story—only a stage—then I’ll read something that is a story instead. Thank you.

Opening the opening

You know it when you see it. “Our story begins with a herped derp…” “This tale begins with some dumb something…” “Our narrative unfolds in a classic fairytale princess castle…” If you’re stating the obvious, I’m shutting the book, turning off the Kindle, or deleting the iBook then and there. Insult your reader’s ability at your own peril.

Please tell me you aren’t making these mistakes. If you’re going to make them, make them later on.

Writing All Wrong can be reached via email (WritingAllWrong@me.com) and followed on Twitter (@WritingAllWrong).