Well, here we are in the Privy. Not exactly like Herman Hesse’s Magic Theater, but nevertheless, like that theater, this place is NOT FOR EVERYONE. This is the place the rest of the world only visits, a place beyond hype, beyond blog, beyond all logic (which would tell us, if we listened, to get the hell out of here), where we come to try to figure out how to finish – or start – that book that’s been driving us crazy.

First of all, please note the title line here: For Writers Only. If you’re not a writer, you probably won’t want to stay in this dark and smelly place, since all the entries are essays on writing. 

Make that a great first TWO chapters, since that’s about the minimum editors want to see.

Writing fast allows your thoughts to carry you forward. It’s like having a conversation with someone interesting: One idea leads to another, and the more involved with the conversation you get, the faster the ideas come.

I said it before, and I’m saying it again: Perfect is the enemy of good. If you set out to write a good novel, you can achieve your goal.

If you think of your writing as a hobby, an activity, something that you dabble in for fun or indulge in as a stress reliever – in other words, if it’s something you don’t take seriously – then it doesn’t matter when, what, or how long you work.

This is particularly important while you’re crafting the first draft of your book, because you want to maintain your train of thought. Novels are static in a way that thoughts aren’t.

To avoid wasting time, give yourself a goal, either in terms of minutes or pages. If you have all day, make it a set number of pages.

Whenever you decide to schedule your work time, take it seriously. Don’t answer the phone. Don’t do household chores. Don’t use this time for meaningful bonding with your kids.

Every writing class tells you to “write what you know”. This is good advice, but it’s not necessarily meant to be taken literally.

Read in your field. Read what interests you. Read what’s popular. Read first novels. Read classics. Read.

“Hey, I’ve got this great idea for a novel…”
Oy veh, if there’s one sentence fragment I could strike from the lips of the human race, it would be that.

It’s important to know your boundaries. Sometimes what you’re writing isn’t a novel at all, even though you may think it is. 

A list of what I've covered so far....

(And Know What An Outline Is)
I know, it’s a big hit of cold water. It’s like hearing that the most important thing you can do to become a world-class athlete is to do sit ups. Or drink castor oil. Or be celibate for a year.

Heh, heh, we’re still talking about outlines. Another reason (and there are so many that it’s useless to enumerate them) an outline is important is because plotting and writing are two different things.

Novel writing is so complex that it’s really incredible to me that anyone would work without an outline, but two types of writers do. (I can hear those earnest prayers now: “Oh, God, let me be one of them! Yes oh yes oh yes…)

This is just a suggestion. It’s something I do.
It takes me a couple of weeks, generally, to make an outline.

Okay, I’ve said that nobody’s going to see your outline except you, but I’ve made an exception here by printing my own outline.

So What Do You Know?

 Good Gawd, I’m still talking outlines here.
 But let me tell you a story. A story of a story, actually. A couple of years ago, when I was living in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I got an idea for a novel: That a young woman,...