How to author

#amwriting

#amwriting

Now that I’m a renowned author in my own imagination, I feel I am in a good position (dangling lotus) to dish out advice to writers, along with anyone else who happens to be around me after three whiskeys. Here, then, is some advice that is exactly like how I described my ex to that detective I hired: cheap and easy to follow.

The Story Cupboard

The hardest thing for a writer to come up with is rent. The next hardest thing to come up with is an idea. There are two reasons for this. One, the writer may not be very bright. Second, the writer is thinking too analytically. This is when the writer should head to the Story Cupboard.

The Story Cupboard is a place where you stash all your ideas, characters, images and breakfast cereal. Don’t kid yourself: breakfast cereal is an important part of this complete and balanced story.

Open the Story Cupboard door. Move the box of Half-Baked Ideas. Reach past the packages of Stale Metaphors. Ignore the Sanctimonious Saltines. Just stick your hand in there and pull something out. What is it? Bread crumbs. That’s okay. You may need these later to pad your story.

Try again. What do you have? Some Prose Pasta! Excellent. How about a novel about a lonely pasta chef who uses noodles to secretly spells out words on his customers’ plates. We’ll call it Desired Tenderness.

See how easy that was? Now all you need out of your cupboard is some Oregano of Originality and the Chocolate Chips of Procrastination.

Chocolate

You need chocolate to write. And by “chocolate,” I mean possibly more whiskey.

Harness Your Ideas

Now that you have freed your ideas and indulged in whatever you excuse yourself for because you’re an “artist” and “sensitive” and “binging,” it’s time to show those ideas who’s boss. Don’t be intimidated by the blank page. Just start writing. I find it helps to start writing by hand, connecting the brain to the fingers and supporting the struggling ballpoint industry. Any old scrap of paper will do. A blank cheque, for instance. An excellent writing prompt is “Pay to the order of: Ross Murray, Famous Writer.” At this point, I would be happy to look over your work.

Start again. Now write. Keep writing. Don’t even think about what you’re writing. Have a nap if you want, trim your toenails, just don’t stop writing. Think of your writing as that film Speed and you are Keanu Reeves, your text is the bus, and your imagination is Sandra Bullock. OMG, your imagination is adorable! Your cat Timothy, meanwhile, is Dennis Hopper. Stop walking on the keyboard, villainous Timothy/Dennis Hopper! We’re writing here!

Let the words flow. You are galloping through your ideas. Don’t worry about quality. There is no such thing as bad writing. Unless you inadvertently write the screenplay for Speed 2.

Keeping it fresh

If you are not writing historical fiction – and Lord knows you shouldn’t be – avoid making cultural references that are more than 20 years old.

How to get published

Write a really good book and find a publisher who will give you lots of money. Repeat.

What about self-publishing?

Self-publishing is easier than ever and an excellent way to make people around you even more uncomfortable. But that’s okay. You are a writer. You embrace alienation. You thrive on co-workers awkwardly pretending you never sent out that mass work email inviting them to that reading no one showed up to. Many great writers have struggled with lack of appreciation. J.K. Rowling once had to wait 11 whole minutes for her trailer of royalties to show up.

The good news about those uncomfortable looks is that you’ll be used to them when you ask retailers if they’ll carry your self-published book in their stores.

Edit this

Some say that writing is easy compared to the gruelling but necessary task of editing – crafting your sentences and making sure there are no typos. What nonsense. Editing is high overrated. Anyone who tells you otherwise is an idiom.

*

Originally appeared in Life in Quebec magazine, December 2016.

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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24 Responses to How to author

  1. pinklightsabre says:

    Editing is high overrated, that’s real good. Or “really” good, I guess. I like this and the Cupboard in particular. I opened my cupboard last night for the first time in a while (and Chapter 10) of your book, and there was dust on my cupboard, really (more than the snow outside), and I thought some of this is good and some of this real isn’t, and I was probably right.

  2. Marc Bolduc says:

    Thanks, Ross. That’s very helpful. You will save us all a lot of work and aggravation: thanks to your wise advice, I can drop my new year’s resolution to finally “write that book”. Whew! 2017 looks better and better! Cheers, and have a great one.

  3. Thanks for the guidance. From now on I’ll keep my story cupboard well-stocked with “chocolate.”

  4. Elyse says:

    OK, just cause you actually WROTE a book (and I actually BOUGHT and READ it) doesn’t mean you have to tell me what to do. I love historical fiction, as a matter of fact. All of my book ideas are in that genre, which may account for why I’ve never written a book. Because I do research all f’in’ day!

  5. calahan says:

    This is all good advice. Moving forward, I am making a promise that all cultural references in my American Revolution-set buddy cop stories will be based on a live CNN feed. I will stay relevant at all costs!

  6. ksbeth says:

    i especially like the prose pasta and how to get published recommendations. thank you, this will certainly help.

  7. Karen says:

    Is this the second in a series (your previous post was “How to do Laundry . . .”)? I look forward to the next installment. This blog, to everyone’s surprise, has become quite educational.

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Half the time, I’m surprised it even exists. I wrote a lot of “how to” blogs in 2016, it turns out. They can be lazy go-tos when I can’t think of anything else to write about. The benefit is that they’re segmented, so no need to think, you know, coherently for 750 words.

  8. Is ‘author’ a verb now? You repurposed that, didn’t you? Clever. You left out the most important step: luck.

  9. kirizar says:

    From one idiom to another, good job! May all your jobs come so easily to hand…or mind. Whichever body part you prefer. (Apparently some of us hit the ‘chocolate’ earlier and harder than others.

  10. Dang! Didn’t realize I’d been missing out on the Story Cupboard. Big mistake! 😉

  11. “after three whiskeys”

    Warming up is integral to any workout regimen but don’t be a quitter: http://theoatmeal.com/comics/writer

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