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?

No comments:

Post a Comment