Writing Crap


It’s November, and all over the world writers have chained themselves to their desks, dining tables, library kiosks, Moleskine notebooks and whatever else with one common goal: to write crap. A lot of crap.

Every writer worth a shit syas the same thing: first drafts are awful. You need to push through them, get whatever it is onto the page. You mention Papa Hemingway’s rosy recollection of banging out The Sun Also Rises  in six weeks?  Well, he may have done that, but rest assured that the revision left very little of what he wrote during that time intact. But what of Kerouac and On the Road, you say? Didn’t he write it all in one amphetamine-fueled spell, using a huge scroll of butcher paper? Maybe. But somebody edited the damned thing. Or maybe it’s not as good as you remember.

Just accept that it’s going to be crap and get on with it. That’s the whole point of November, as far as I am concerned.

Elmore Leonard has a few rules to keep in mind that might make the crap less crappy. It won’t help with plot holes or inaccuracy, but it might make for less frustration:

Never open a book with weather.
Avoid prologues.
Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said”…he admonished gravely.
Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

About revision, he is more succinct:

Read it closely and take out the boring shit.

So write away, writers. Write crap every day. Know that’s it’s crap and write it anyway.

But dear God, please don’t show it to anybody.

Don't just stand there.