Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bathroom Monologue: "You write a lot. What's your secret?" -Anonymous, OR, Rules For Writing

-Buy a book on the rules of writing. Strunk & White's Elements of Style is cheap and common. Now whenever you aren't sure of a rule, look it up. Not knowing is not an excuse.

-Read more. You'll pick up the rules (and where to break them) that way. You’ll also pick up ideas. But you’re not allowed to read while you're writing. Writing is the only thing you get to do.

-A set time helps. Maybe always during lunch hour, maybe an hour after you get home from work, maybe as soon as your favorite show ends. Humans use rituals. Times for things are good.

-Phones off and/or unplugged.

-No internet, including e-mail and Twitter. There is a special place in Hell for people who pause in the middle of trying to write to e-mail someone that they can't write.

-No one else allowed in the room, provided you have the authority to kick them out.

-Word minimums are good. Maybe you start at 500 words per day. These are better than page limits because fonts deceive. Now you’ve got a time you know you’ll write and a goal when that time comes. In a month of 500-words days, you’ll have 15,000 words.

-No getting up from the chair until the word minimum is reached, unless it's been an hour and you still have to pee.

-No postponing. Diets, marriages and novels fail because people say they’ll work on them later.

-You will eventually postpone anyway, because the car is on fire, the World Trade Center was attacked or your in-laws came over unannounced. Fine. But you do not go to bed until the word minimum is reached. That's the limit of your postponement.

-Exceed your word minimum as often as possible.

-Eventually, increase your word minimum. If you can bench 1,000 words, bench 1,000. At 1,000 words a day, you’ll have 365,000 words in a year. I haven’t seen a novel published this year that was that long.

-Never decrease your word minimum.

-No days off from the schedule. If it's every weekend, it's every weekend. If it's every day, it's every day. If you take one day off, you will take others off.

-Writing anything is good. If you can do dialogue today, do dialogue. If you can write a scene that’s three chapters ahead of this one, skip ahead. Even notes for world-building count. You can leave blanks and fill them in later, so long as you’re writing something else.

-No changing the musical selection. Whatever CD is in stays in, and your alternative is to write in silence. Picking new music will distract you from the topic you're writing about.

-Similarly, no doing chores while you write. No cleaning, laundry, etc. It's great to think over your topics or plots while you do chores, but unacceptable to get up from the computer and do them when you still owe words.

-Yes, it does suck. You will edit it later. Finish it now.

-You can edit today instead of composing new material. When you edit instead of composing new material, your word minimum triples. If you write 1,000 words a day, then on an editing day you must edit 3,000 words (hopefully there will be fewer words left when you finish than there were when you started). If you don’t have any new material to edit, you can’t edit today.

-When it comes down to it, pick writing over sex. If you don't write today, you have a much greater chance of not writing tomorrow. You will always want more sex.


  1. You are brilliant. I need to print these out and put them on my wall. I'll have to adapt them for drawing, though, since I intend to try to draw every day this year...

  2. Haha! Write on, John. I agree with you 100%. I love the humor you inserted into this. ;)


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