Friday, November 27, 2009

I, Writer

Anonymous' writer's screed (see previous blog) stirred up a swarm of comments, some of which are posted below the entry. Obviously there are a lot of hurtin' scriveners out there; TG once again invites them to use this space to unload any excess baggage they're carrying, vis-a-vis the writing trade.

Commenter Morgan asks the question: In your experience, was writing an avocation before it became a vocation, and if so, does it now mean that 'the thrill is gone'? For a young buck such as myself who enjoys writing but would not enjoy the stresses associated with typing my dollars, is the take away message to court writer's block and other fictitious problems, rather than face the misery of real problems like deadlines and unemployment?

Writing was certainly never an avocation for TG. It was a career move occasioned by the stark fact that his work as a free-lance illustrator/photographer (FLI/P) was never going to bring in much in the way of real money. So, one day whilst sitting in the Washington Post newsroom after turning in a job, he looked around and realized that he was just as smart as most of the rest of the people in the room, so why not take up the writing trade? Flash forward six or eight months and the first draft of Cross, a thriller about a human/chimpanzee baby was born, so to speak. The book never saw publication, but it garnered a ton of terrific rejection letters and led directly to TG's first published novel, Time After Time. If anyone is interested, TG will be glad to relate the tale of the writing of Cross at greater length, as it's somewhat instructive, but the point is, TG approached it as a job, the skills for which were learnable, realizing that as long as one worked hard enough and stuck to it, writing might eventually bear fruit. In short, a vocation, Morgan, to answer your question. TG finds it hard to imagine writing to be fun enough to be an avocation. Luckily, TG turned out to be pretty good at it, or at least as good as most writers, so that's what he does for a living. As far as the last part of your question, there's no need to invent excuses to not write -- just don't do it. If you're the sort of person who enjoys the process and has no need of gratification in terms of money, keep at it. Someday, like love, when you least expect it, success, fame and fortune may descend upon you.

But probably not.

TG's wife (MTG) recently pointed out that these pages were becoming too “inside baseball” and there needed to be more about actual thrillers. So, here are some books that came out this month or are due to come out in December.

And for an interesting assessment of TG's opinion of the Vachss book, read the comment section at the end of the blog.

What Thriller Guy Is Reading.

Andrew Vachss has a new book out and TG wishes he could recommend it, but, alas, he cannot. Haiku. Pantheon, $24.95 (224p) Anyone else out there remember how great the Burke series was when Vachss had a few of them under his belt? Then they slowly started to get weird and just not very good. This one seemed like it was going to work (it's a stand-alone, not a Burke) until Vachss does a very strange thing. He starts off with an intriguing plot about a white Rolls that plunges into the sea off the end of a pier. A group of homeless guys are the heroes, in particular Ho, an elderly martial arts teacher who has rejected worldly goods and taken to the streets. He and the other homeless guys decide to solve the mystery of the white Rolls, then about two-thirds of the way through the book Vachss switches plots to one far less interesting. Why did he do that? I think he couldn't figure out the plot himself and just gave up. This leads to interesting blog topics about such matters as knowing the ending of your book before you begin writing, outlining, etc. Maybe we'll get to them one of these days. There are a few lame excuses as to why the hero suddenly abandons the mystery, but it just doesn't work. Vachss has a deep track record of many published books, so someone, his agent? his publisher? his editor? doesn't seem to have had the balls to tell him the whole plot thing was bogus. If it had been you or TG who tried this stunt, they would have taken back the advance and never published the book.

Mariposa. Greg Bear, Vanguard, $25.95 (352p). Most readers know Bear from his lifelong science fiction work, but he seems to be attempting to break into thrillers with this, the second in a series after Quantico. Set in the near future, the Texas based Talos Corporation helmed by CEO Axel Price is attempting to take control of the US. A few hardy FBI agents are trying to stop him. Chief among Price's weapons is the mind-altering drug, Mariposa. It's all pretty cool and Bear's excellent science fiction chops add plenty of realism to the gadgets and future science.

The Wrecker. Clive Cussler and Justin Scott, Pantheon, $27.95 (480p). TG likes a lot of the recent Cussler, but this series that features trains in the Olde West, not so much. Isaac Bell is an investigator for the legendary Van Dorn Detective Agency and this time out he's chasing a fiend known as The Wrecker, who has been destroying trains and railroad facilities, particularly in the West. The writing takes its style after early Dime Novels, which is a bit off-putting. If you've got a thing for trains, you'll probably love these books.

Here's a particularly good one, coming out at the end of December: I, Sniper. Stephen Hunter, Simon and Schuster, $26.00 (432p) TG likes Hunter's writing in general, even his movie reviews in the Washington Post, now, sadly gone since he took an early retirement deal. This latest is part of the excellent Bob Lee Swagger series. Swagger is a simple, home-spun sort of guy who chases evildoers and kills them dead without any blubbering introspection. Here, an unknown sniper is gunning down folks who were big in the 1960's peace movement. In a puzzling structure move, Hunter bases these characters on real-life people, only changing their names slightly. Think Jane Fonda, Vietnam War sniper Carlos Hathcock (here known as Carl Hitchcock) and others. It's kind of a bold move, and TG isn't sure it really works, but the rest of the book is terrific. In other venues about other books, TG has stated that Hunter writes the best gunfight scenes in the business, an opinion that he stands by in spades after this new novel.

If anyone out there wants any of these books, send a comment to TG and he'll send it to you. Please, just one book per customer. TG makes this offer because he values his readers and because he's drowning in books and will actually pay postage just to get them out of the house. That is if TG can actually find the requested book in the giant pile. TG promises nothing, but he'll make the attempt.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Real Writing Life

When the little folk gather around TG's knees to ask their innocent questions, one of the first out of their mouths is the statement, “Oh, TG, I do so want to be a writer.” TG's response is, usually, “Why on God's green earth would you want to do that?” Really, for the most part, it's a terrible job, a terrible life, though public perception gives it a sort of glamour. It's like the way people now see chefs as heroic, extremely cool figures. I agree, they're heroic, (full disclosure, TG's son is a professional chef) but for the thousands of regular chefs who aren't on TV, it's an incredibly grueling and dangerous job. Ask one of them who's been in the kitchen for 12 hours, eight of them in front of a six burner Viking with the flame on high, hair singed, burn scars on their hands and arms, sweating like a pig, having to down quarts and quarts of liquids to keep from passing out, ask that guy how cool it is to be a chef.

Now find a regular, working writer who's facing a deadline, or worse, has no work at all, who can't come up with a decent idea or paying project, who's spent years working on a book that's perfectly good but no publisher will touch because they've heard that no one is buying books these days, who knows that the only money he's going to make is a product of beating the bushes, pleading, sending out queries and thinking, thinking, thinking. Ask that writer how cool it is to sit alone in a room facing a blank computer screen.
So when a writer comes to me with an essay like the following, I say good for you. Will I put it up? You bet. This is a place for Thriller Guy to bitch and moan about the business. All you other real writers out there, you got a beef? Send it in.
Reader, sit back away from your computer. Anonymous here is about to burn down your screen.

(And click on the comments to hear what other writers have to say.)

The One Phrase About Writing That’s Makes Me Want to Kill

I cheerfully admit that I have a lot of hate. It keeps me going. We all draw our strength and creativity from somewhere. I get mine from anger. (Also from absurdity, but that’s a different story.)

There’s one thing that I hate more than anything else. It’s not a certain country, a person or even how jalapeno peppers are not hot anymore. Before I tell you the collection of words that makes me want to puke, let me offer some back story about me.

I am a working writer. Even having to put the word ‘working’ before the word writer makes me gag, but that’s what separates me from people who think they want the glamour of being a writer and those who actually do it. And before you jump down my throat for being a jerk… when people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them I am a writer, their next question usually is: Really, have you had anything published? Of course, you idiot. How else could I be writing for my job. Would you ask a lawyer if he has any cases or doctor if he has any patients? (Have you guessed the phase that bugs me yet?) It’s related, as you’ll see in a minute.

For the past 30 years I have earned my living as a writer. I have written books, magazine articles, I worked in newspapers, newsletters, speeches – if you can write it, I have written it. Anything that makes a buck. I am one of a handful of people who actually make a living – some years are better than others – by sitting my ass in front of my computer and typing out dollars. Aside: I mainly write non-fiction books but also a mystery novel which paid my admission to the Squatting Toad group. Currently, I am making dough by writing and editing a website about Homeland Security.

I’m what you call a journeyman (probably a politically incorrect word but journeyperson sounds dumb). I get up every morning and go to work. In many respects, I’m like the adults in the Brooklyn neighborhood where I grew up who were plumbers, electricians, mailmen, movie projectionists. They got up and did their jobs. Sometimes they liked it and sometimes not so much. But what held it together was making money to support themselves and their families.

And that brings me to the phrase that doesn’t pay. The one I abhor.
Writer’s Block.”

What the hell is that?

Do plumbers have have plumber’s block? Do electricians have electrician’s block? Do people who work in McDonald’s have hamburger block?

That’s often the second question people ask me. “Do you ever have writer’s block?” My answer always involves plumbers and electricians delivered with a sneer. I hope the listener gets what I’m saying, but usually not.

Yeah, I have days that I don’t feel like working, but who doesn’t? And there are days I’m sick of writing. Do teachers want to face snotty-faced kids everyday? No, but they do it.
Like them, I can’t afford not to work. So when I hear the phrase writer’s block it demeans my life’s work, as if I have a choice of working or not.

If my angry countenance has not chased away the cocktail party questioner who wants to further discuss writing, the third question is often this: “I would love to write if I had the time. I know I can do it when I get my creative juices flowing. You know, when I feel my muse. How do you get your ideas?”


Real writers,” I say, in my best condescending voice, “don’t have muses. They have mortgages.”

This usually drives them away, and under their breath I often hear them mutter: “What an asshole.”

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Those Were the Days

Several commenters have written in asking about Thriller Guy's experiences with the Special Boat Services unit of the Royal Marines. As noted in the entry below, the Military Secrecy Act (MSA) prohibits TG from expanding on this experience, but several questions can be answered without running afoul of this legislation. TG was serving in an American military unit that traded training time with the SBS. This included dressing in full RM formal uniform. In the picture above, TG is the last soldier on the right. (Click to enlarge) Obviously, a much slimmer, younger and fitter man than he is today.

Anyone interested can check out the Royal Marine's official webpage, and for a really cool video about the SBS, go here. Of course in our day we didn't have all the advanced gear that these guys do; picture TG in more traditional frogman gear.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Under the Dome

Before beginning today's entry, just a quick note. Eagle Eyed Marlene comments that TG misspelled the word “judgement” in the entry below. Au contraire, Marlene, you are applying the American spelling (AE) whereas TG has inadvertently slipped into the British spelling (BE). That is because TG spent several years training in England with the Royal Marines in their Special Boat Service (SBS) ((motto” “Not By Strength, By Guile”)) and occasionally applies the BE spelling to certain words. Sorry about that. God, those were the days. TG would really love to talk about that period of his life, but modesty and the Military Secrecy Act (MSA) forbid.

Today, (Sat., Nov. 14th) the Washington Post gave Stephen King's Under the Dome pretty much a rave review. Publishers Weekly did as well. TG wishes King and his book only the best, but a sigh of relief was heard in these environs when it was clear that there would be no review required from TG. A thousand pages? Spare me.

When TG was a young man, he eagerly awaited each year's new King novel. He and his mates in the Marines would hang around the barracks, oops, sorry, can't talk about that. Suffice it so say that each book, Misery, etc. would get passed from hand to hand among the lads until it became tattered beyond repair. But as TG grew older, there seemed to be less and less time for King, and, really, the books just didn't seem as interesting. Then there came a point when TG would find one in the library, attempt to read it and just couldn't get through to the end. The last attempt was with Cell. After that, TG quit.

Can someone out there give TG a good reason to try again? All other books, books for which TG is paid American dollars to read and review, would have to go on hold, so it's going to have to be a pretty good reason. Oh, how he loved, so many years ago, reading The Stand. Will Under the Dome return him to those days of yesteryear?

And finally, a Stephen King story. About a decade ago, TG, who lives in a small hamlet just outside Washington, DC, was getting his hair cut. In the next chair a woman was asked by the stylist how her son was doing. She replied he was doing very well because he had come up with the money to attend the local college. Where did he get the money? It turns out that he's a very distant relative of Stephen King, who has a special fund set up to pay for the college education of even his farest flung relations. Good for the kid. Good for Stephen King. The man deserves his gazillion dollars.

And here's a recent video of the master speaking at a signing for Under the Dome. And how he keeps from going berserk when he's asked, probably for the millionth time, “Where do you get your inspiration?” I'll never know.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Odds and Ends

A Roundup of Random Thoughts and Comments

I'm not sure what's wrong with the font and linespacing on this entry and it is resisting being fixed. TG should have it fixed in the next blog.

"I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split." Kurt Vonnegut
I stole that from this morning's edition of
Every day TG starts his writing day by reading the Almanac, which comes into his e-mail box. There one will find several mini essays on a famous writer, dead or alive, whose birthday occurs on this date. The above came from a Vonnegut entry and seemed particularly apt as TG had recently engaged in a real knock-down, drag-out with his wife, Mrs. Thriller Guy, (MTG) normally an intelligent and perceptive book reader, who had loathed the new Dan Brown book and was taking TG to task for giving it a good review. TG admitted that the book was perhaps not up to high, or even medium high literary standards in the main, but was not intended to be such and that as far as thrillers go it was perfectly fine, offering lots of interesting facts and a few chills and thrills. TG then reiterated his reviewing code, probably stolen from some other far more intelligent reviewer. Said in a slightly haughty voice:
My goal is not to pronounce literary judgement, my goal is to alert writers who like a certain sort of fiction where they can find good examples of the sort of thing they like. If a book is really bad, I'll always say so, but you don't get dinged for not writing Literature.”
She didn't buy it. Comments?
Another feature of the Almanac is there's always a poem. TG feels it's always a good thing for a writer to start the day with a poem. Kind of sets the tone for the writing to come. And those of you who think poetry is too twee for tough guy thriller writers, check out Toby Barlow's Horror/Thriller novel, Sharp Teeth, which features werewolves and is written as a book-length, epic poem. Fast-paced, gut-wrenching and sexy.
On other matters:
Commenter Joel responds to two of TG's questions: Has anyone ever written anything successful at a Starbucks?; and, how can TG make money from his blog?
I wrote a successful piece once. I typed an email that said to my boss that it was crazy to try and rely on Starbucks free wifi to get internet access. The noise and music made it impossible to use the phone too, so can I please get a mobile wireless adapter so I can get the heck out of here and do some real work on these bazillion dollar sales proposals you are expecting from me?
He agreed, so I guess that counts as successfully writing something at Starbucks.”
Make money off the blog? Sure, this is how: Get the Squatting Toad Gang to open their calendar up once in a while to paying newbies such as myself, a Writers Workshop. I'd pay good money to go to that, I'm sure others would too.”
TG admits that getting the boss to agree to the wireless adaptor was the result of a successful piece of writing, though TG will now amend the question as... a successful piece of fiction.
As for the writer's workshop idea, Squatting Toad has indeed kicked this around and if there ever was enough interest we just may do a Beach Week Writer's Workshop. Let us know and we may get serious about it.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Robert's Rules III

Commentor writer-maven Marlene chimes in with a few more writing pet peeves. TG was relieved to have passed muster (to measure up to a particular standard) when correcting his mistake with the passive voice in the original Robert's rules blog, which can be found two down from this one. Let's hear from Marlene.

Ouch, Marlene! But you are quite right, and TG hangs his head in shame. It should have been: “Robert, write in if you feel wronged..., Others, send us your tips..." At least I think that's correct. Marlene?”

Marlene writes:

Yes, you are correct! In the interest of credibility, I should mention that I too am a professional writer, and also teach writing to college journalism students.

They get tired of my constant hammering about the passive voice and other favorite nit-picks, such as:

- don't use ``over'' and ``under'' when you mean ``more than'' or ``less (or ``fewer'') than''

- don't use ``that'' when you mean ``who''

- don't use nouns as verbs (such as ``impact,'' or ``network.'')

I know much of the above is quickly becoming common usage (as my students so often tell me) and eventually may become acceptable. But it still is not acceptable in my classroom - or in my own copy! (if I can help it.)

Having recently completed a graduate degree, I became crazed with the frequent use of passive voice (as well as the use of first person) in academic scholarship. (A decades-long career in newspaper journalism made me sensitive to both.) I vowed to respect syntax in my own dissertation, while striving to make it reader-friendly. It was quite a challenge! I could go on and on about academic writing - but that is for another day, and another (non-thriller topic) blog.

OK, Marlene, rest assured that TG will never agin use the passive voice. Listen up, thrillerwriters, think about it, what place does “passive” have in our work? None, exactly. Oh, and Marlene, lets watch the overuse of the exclamation point!

So let us bid a fond goodbye to writers tips and usage. At least until someone else out there sends in their very own favorite peeve.

Oh, what the hell, TG can't resist one more rule from Robert. This one is about those morons you see in Starbucks, the ones with their laptops, writing away, or whatever the hell they're doing. Here's Robert...

Starbucks is where writers who want to be seen in the act of creation go, who treat writing as if it were some sort of performance art. They want to be admired, they want to be soothed by the ambient noise and the occasional glance from an attractive patron. They want to be asked, “What are you working on?” so they can sit back and talk about it.

When if they really and truly wanted to be undisturbed they'd stay home in the first place, make a cup of Folger's instant (for about a nickel) and concentrate.

I know the problem. I know the temptation. Nobody wants to lock himself up in a room and write. Neither do I. Most days I trudge into my office like a guy on a chain gang. It's lonely in there – even the dog goes downstairs. And it's scary – I know I'll have no one to amuse me but me, and what if I can't think of anything all that good? Sometimes, at a total loss, I just stare out the window at the guy in the apartment across the way, he's got a plasma screen TV the size of a picnic table, but lately, I've noticed, he's taken to lowering his blinds.

Still, it's in my own little office that the actual writing gets done.

In solitude. In silence. With no cappuccino machine in sight.

And no living witnesses to the act of creation.

When I go to Starbucks it's to reward myself for doing a good day's work.

Never mistake Starbucks for your office – and leave your laptop at home.”

We've all seen these people. OK, confession time. Once TG decided to take his laptop to the coffee shop and give it a try. I mean, it looks so cool to be working away while hogging a table. It was ridiculous. Too much noise, too many distractions... well, Robert has already said it better.

If anyone has written anything decent while sitting at a Starbucks, TG would like to hear about it. Chime in. We promise to be open minded. Really.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Robert's Rules II

Several comments have come in concerning the entry directly below (if you haven't read the entry, shame!) concerning Robert Masello's clever little book, Robert's Rules of Writing. TG has found that most folks don't bother to click on the comments button at the end of each piece, so we'll address these issues here.

First of all, Mr. Masello has learned that TG has been talking about him, and sent the following:

"I'd like to express my gratitude to the Thriller Guy for the fantastic, and unexpected, plug of Robert's Rules of Writing. But TG -- you are too kind. While I do meet my deadlines and write everyday, I have refused to take on some work, and I do bitch from time to time. (Ask my wife.) Once or twice, I turned down jobs ghost-writing books for obvious charlatans (one of whom claimed to be the head of an institute, which was, in fact, her empty storage shed) and on another occasion, I passed on writing a roll of toilet paper -- each sheet was to offer its own very brief anecdote. Even then (I think I was twenty-two) I considered myself above such stuff and hoped to preserve my name for later fame.

As for the bitching . . . if there's a writer who doesn't, I haven't met him or her. (Nor, in all probability, would I want to.) If a writer's career has gone that smoothly, and if he or she is above sniping, moaning, quibbling and cursing, then that writer is far too good to know the likes of me."

You misunderstood, Robert, TG meant that you seemed to be a guy who didn't bitch to those who have hired you to do a piece of writing. Those of us who are continually scrabbling around for writing gigs know that the client may not be right, but if he/she is giving notes on a piece that he/she is paying for, a real working writer should smile politely and then do anything he/she can do to either address the client's concerns or trick the client into thinking their concerns have been addressed. In other words, shut up and rewrite the piece. As for regular writer bitching, well, have at it. TG is known for bitching about the writing life and encourages anyone else who has a peeve or gripe to send 'em in and we'll all join in the fray. (Say, Robert, just between you and TG, do you still have the address for that toilet paper gig?)

Another commenter, eagle-eyed Marlene writes:

TG wrote: “Robert is encouraged to write in if he feels wronged or abused in any way. Other writers are encouraged...”

First writing rule for TG and everyone else: Never write in the passive voice!”

Ouch, Marlene! But you are quite right, and TG hangs his head in shame. It should have been: “Robert, write in if you feel wronged..., Others, send us your tips..." At least I think that's correct. Marlene?

A good discussion of passive voice can be found here.

In short, don't use any form of the pesky “to be” (is, was, are, am, were, etc.) followed by a past participle, unless you want Marlene on your ass, pronto.

And this in from Anonymous: “I hate to say this, but regarding rule #2: Pen pals? That's so old school. Isn't that just an old-fashioned reference to what's now referred to as "blogs"? Aren't you just writing to all your "friendly pen pals" out in the ethernet?”

Hmmmm. I think there's something of a disconnect here, and yet Anonymous makes an interesting point. If I can speak for Robert, (Robert, if you're out there, feel free to speak for yourself.) Robert's Rules ( at least it seems to me) are structured so that the tips sort of start from a new writer's beginning efforts and work toward a new writer's finished product. Many times when fledgling writers (they're so cute) gather at TG's knee, they always ask some variation of that eternal question: “Where do you get your ideas, sir?” By which they mean where do you get your ideas so they can go there and get some ideas of their own. Robert is suggesting when he says write a pen pal, that one should write someone they like about something that has happened to them, or something that they are interested in, and by doing so they can find themselves a subject that might be interesting for them to write about in other venues.

So lighten up, Anonymous!

But there is the interesting point Anonymous brings up about bloggers. When blogging, one writes, in a public way, about things that one is interested in. And by extension, doing so would point up themes that the blogger might exploit for more economic outlets. (Anyone out there have any tips how TG could make some money off this blog? Advertisers are welcomed.) We've all read stories about how various bloggers have been able to expand their blogs into published books. Robert Masello, when you write the next edition of your Rules will you include blogging in some way?

And to answer Anonymous's snarky question, “Aren't you just writing to all your “friendly pen pals” out in the ethernet?”

I certainly hope so.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Robert's Rules of Writing

TG was in a bookstore the other day and a small table with four books in stacks caught his eye. They were books on the craft of writing. These self help writing books are of great interest to TG, who owns a large collection of them from the standards in the genre: Practical Tips for Writing Popular Fiction, by Robyn Carr, Writing the Block Buster Novel by Al Zuckerman, to a host of lesser known examples, some of them hauntingly obscure. TG always counsels those youngsters that gather at his knee, asking their inevitabele question, “I want to be a famous writer, sir. How do I write a book?” The answer is always some variable of the following: “Sit down and start, write two pages every day, and obtain by any method all of the how-to-write books you can find . You'll learn at least one thing from each of them. Add up all those one things and you'll have a store of useful knowledge.”

One of the most valuable of these books is Robert Masello's, Robert's Rules of Writing: 101 Unconventional Lessons Every Writer Needs to Know. Masello is the author of many books, articles, screenplays and scripts. He fits TG's definition of a Real Writer: a guy who takes on any kind of write-for-hire work, (well, maybe not every kind) does a professional job, rewrites to specification without bitching, turns everything in on time or before, is always pleasant to clients, never throws hissy fits or acts superior or pretends to be “Literary.” TG can't abide writers who act Literary. He's also the author of the very fine, highly recommended, recent thriller/horror novel, Blood and Ice.

There are a number of reasons why Robert's Rules is a valuable writing aid, among them three stand out: it's short, it's funny, and Masello cuts through a lot of bullshit. Each rule gets a couple of pages, max, which is all you really need. TG contacted Robert and asked for permission to feature a few rules in a semi-irregular series of blogs. He, being a pleasant fellow, agreed. What he probably didn't know, because TG neglected to mention it, was that in discussing the Rules TG will shorten them and chime in with comments, Agreeing, Disagreeing, or some variation therein. Robert is encouraged to write in if he feels wronged or abused in any way. Other writers are encouraged to comment on Robert's Rules, TG's Rules, or offer any of their own Rules.

Since it would take many years to work our way, irregularly, through Masello's 101 Rules, readers are encouraged to click on the title of the book above or buy it here from Amazon. Or any other bookstore. Sit down, read it straight through and get to work on your writing. That's the point, isn't it?

Robert's Rule #1: Burn your journal. “Writing in a journal is just a stall, a waiting game, a way to tell yourself that you're working when you're not, that you're doing something of value when you're just using up paper, that you're a writer when if fact you're just going through the motions of one. Look at me! I have blank paper in front of me –and now I'm filling it with words!

Thriller Guy loves this rule and wholeheartedly Agrees. And would expand it by advising that you throw out books that encourage you to fill out any workbooks that the author has included or is selling as an adjunct. They're just trying to make extra money or pad out a too-short book. Writing time is valuable, don't waste it on pointless exercises.

Robert's Rule #2: Get a Pen Pal. “Instead of writing the stream-of-consciousness twaddle that generally fills those blank pages [of a journal] do this instead – write a letter to a friend.”

Thriller Guy Agrees, with some reservations. Robert goes on to explain that writing to a friend puts you in touch with your ideal audience and at the same time tells you what you're interested in writing about. “Are you ranting about the next-door neighbors? Are you seeking comfort for a broken heart? Are you telling a funny story about the perfectly awful job interview you just went on? Whatever it is, that's what you're thinking about, that's what's on your mind. And if you wanted to, that's what you could be writing about for others too – the broken-heart story might be right for a woman's magazine, the dismal job interview could work as a humor piece for the local paper, the rotten neighbors could be characters in a screenplay.”

TG would add that if you already know what you're interested in writing and have established your “voice,” the style in which you want to write, skip the letter and move straight to the work itself.

How about it Robert? If you're out there: Agree or Disagree?