I’ve learned a few things over the course of my writing career. Here’s a list of things I know now that I didn’t know when I started.
- My mind has an infinite number of words in it; my body has a finite life. Getting the words out of the mind and onto the page is a race against mortality.
- I tried writing what I know, but it didn’t take long for that well to dry up. Now I use everything I know to write what I don’t know. Now I know more.
- Since writing is about expressing what I think about the world, the act of writing is necessarily the act of thinking about the world. When I force myself to write, I force myself to think—whether I want to or not.
- I have a list of more than 150 different ways to say “he said.”
- Getting inside the head of my characters is an illusion. The characters get inside my head; in fact, they’ve been hiding in there all along.
- A writer friend told me he has to “wait for inspiration” before he can write, so I tried it. I waited a long time, and nothing got written. Now, when my muse fails to show up for work, I put out an APB for the lazy shrew and start typing.
- The process of editing is like the story of the farmer who went into the barn one morning to find his son digging furiously in a giant pile of horse manure.
“Son, what’s got into you?” the man asked.
“Pa,” the young’n replied, breathing heavily, “I just know there’s a pony in here somewhere!”
The first draft is the pile. The finished work is the pony. Editing is the digging—not fun, and it stinks sometimes, but in the end, there’s a pony.
- Readers are the smartest people in the world. If I try to put something over on my readers, they will call me on it every time.
- There are gardeners, and there are architects. Architects start with a concept, draw up plans, and methodically construct a narrative. Gardeners plant stuff and see what comes up. I’m an architect, but by the time I’m done, I’m always up to my butt in weeds.
- If you’re writing something—anything—you’re a writer.
Copyright © 2019 by Charles O’Donnell, All Rights Reserved