Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Dumpster Diving Sliced Bread Theory of Writing


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The Dumpster Diving Sliced Bread Theory of Writing 



Often a writer is asked what word or words of advice to give a new writer? I think I'd give "Scramble" or my personal fave "Dogtrot" both good useful words. Of course there's the cult classic, "Swank". Those are the words I'd give a new writer.

            Please don't send me any thanks, well, just a like on facebook would be okay.
            Nor any chocolate, my wife breaks out in hives, then we get bees everywhere and the cats get stuck to the patio from all the honey.
            Okay serious now, the best thing for beginning writers to get into is flow and a set writing pattern. Some get up at 2AM, chuck lots of garlic about, to ward off the vampires and write until the sun comes up. Whatever works, I myself make tea and feed the cats. Number one rule in our house; don't forget to feed the cats or you'll need more than garlic to keep you safe. PS. Silver bullets don't work on hungry cats, I tried and they just whacked me upside the head with the pistol and traded the silver for lots of canned tuna.
            Oh, I forgot, the serious part. Remember this, five percent of writing a story or novel is the actual writing. So you ask naively, what's the rest?
            Editing, more editing and more darn editing. Then set the manuscript down for a month or two reread it and (no secret here) more editing.
            The best thing to do with all of your writing is to read it out loud. Preferably in a room on your own, with no one around otherwise someone will think you're absolutely bananas.  You can catch a lot of awkward sentences, poor flow and grammatically incorrect phrases this way.
            The biggest gift a writer can have is humility. As much as your mom said, "Your book is the greatest thing since sliced bread," IT AIN'T. There are very few writers who word for word, paragraph by paragraph are word perfect. If you check the garbage cans of even great writers, you'll find a lot of worn to the stub erasers.
            Also join a writers group, or two. Could join a knitting class. I'm told knitters are a humble lot.
            A group where you edit (see earlier paragraph), and read each other's works. Out loud, of course. If several people point out a paragraph or page that doesn't work, analyze it, break it down and rewrite it or, this is the major humbling part, chuck it out. Guess what, even Gandhi made mistakes.
            If several writers (they have a more critical eye than Joe public or your mom) say a sentence or paragraph is brilliant, that's the Muses calling your number, so get up, do a dance and pat yourself on the back. Unless you have some kind of degenerative disc back disease, then just mentally shake your hand and say "Thank you, thank you very much," and back at it. Okay, even the humblest are allowed to crow sometimes.
            Know this, there's a lot of schlock out there that should reside in a large sealed dumpster. War and Peace went through one hundred and one publishers before being accepted. What if Tolstoy threw it into a dumpster after one hundred?
            Stephen King did. He dumped his novel "Carrie" into the trash and said, "I give up. I'm going to stick to being a teacher."
            Thank God his wife had the guts to say, "You tell me you're a writer. Dust off that blown, crumpled and withered ego and put it out there. AGAIN."
            The next publisher accepted the book and the rest is well, "Salem's Lot."
            I went through 398 rejections before my first novel got accepted. I know, I've logged every one in a book. A word here to the smarmy git who brags about being accepted on the first submission. I politely smile and say to myself "Lucky Bastaddose." I shake your hand in humble subjection. Sometimes it can be as simple as the right article at the right time to the right editor. Or, and I'm going to choke a lot here, you could just be damn good.
            There's a picture that's hangs over my writing desk given to me by someone so long ago I don't remember. I dust it off every time I get another rejection and go at it again. The picture is of a man sitting alone at a piano in a huge empty room. There's stacks of papers strewn about, empty coffee cups and worn pencils all around him. The caption above him reads, PERSEVERANCE. The quote below is from Samuel Johnson: "Great works are performed not by strength, but by perseverance."
            That's one thing that makes a true writer humble. Want to know another? Ask yourself this question. How many literary American Classics worthy of a Noble Award lie in dumpsters?
            This goes back to my theory. Only dumpster divers will ever know, and after six bottles of aftershave I doubt they'd sit up and spout, "Wow, best thing since sliced bread." Before they'd probably use the papers to keep themselves warm at night around a fire or worse humiliation, wipe themselves after a number two.
            Remember that when you give up. That's humbling.
           

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