Tuesday, April 19, 2005

7 Rules for Writers

1. I know they say "write what you know." That's fine, as long as you know something other than "being a writer." Here's the thing, nobody gives a shit about the trials and tribulations of a writer. Do not write a story about a writer. It is not fucking interesting. It will be filled with action-packed scenes of TYPING and REVISING and DOUBTING and SELF-LOATHING. That is not interesting to anyone except you and whatever relative put you through college. Also, when you write a story about an actor, a painter, or any other artist, you are fooling no one. We all know it's still about you and your stupid life. Write about real people or amazing people; just don't write about writers.

2. You are less clever than you think. Someone already thought of it. I'm sorry. Your idea isn't new. It's hardly even a twist. That doesn't mean you give up. That means you work on your goddam craft and you make it the best damn derivation of that particular theme or idea you can. Personalize it (as long as you don't make it about writers) as much as you can and run with it. Don't worry about being new. Worry about being you.

3. I like Hunter Thompson/Richard Brautigan/Terrence Malick/Grant Morrison, too. But you are not him/them. You are you. Write in your voice, from your life. Sure, Raymond Chandler's going to sneak into your verbiage from time to time. That's fine. And imitation is an interesting and sometimes productive exercise. But write naturally most of the time. You may think that it has no voice, but you also probably think you have no accent. You have an accent, and your writing has a voice. Trust it and don't focus on it.

4. If you're going to play with chronology, have a reason (other than "I liked Pulp Fiction"). If you're going to say "screw the three/five act structure" have a reason. Hell, any writing rule from any source is completely breakable, but you'd damn well better have a good, organic reason for it. (Unless you're just experimenting in a workshop or whatever. In that case, don't force it on the public. Scientists don't show their work until the experiment is over and works, neither should you.

5. Don't talk about writing in public. It's self-absorbed and counter-productive. Have meetings, have discussions, but don't make writing your party topic. Sure, sometimes girls/guys seem interested, but if they're interested in you talking about your writing, they're even more interested in you not talking about your writing. It's a personal process, an almost sacred one, but it's not one you need to be throwing around like a sexbait.

6. Don't worry about what's sellable . . .but don't worry if you sell it, either. Write what's in you and know that it may never make you a cent. Tough shit, that's writing. If you're a real writer you're writing because you have to. To quote Mr. Andy Offett, "I eat; I excrete. I live; I write." If you're going to worry about selling it, then worry if it's sellable. But that leads to more crap than bad burritos. (On the other hand, crap gets made, so . . .)

7. Shut the fuck up and write.

5 Love Letters:

Blogger alex said...

You sound like one of my lame college professors.

Someone could follow all of your rules and still write GREEN LANTERN REBIRTH.

I call bullshit on you, Joe Rice!

You and your so-called RULES!


7:27 PM

Blogger Joe Rice said...

These rules aren't the only rules. There's always rules like "Don't write shitty comic books."

7:31 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are other rules, like "don't write shitty comic books?" Then for God's sake, let's have a look at these other rules, Joe!

I must say that I think Rule #1 could be helpful to the very young. Who knows, maybe if followed stringently enough it could even prevent things like Rebirth from occurring later in life. You know, teach the kid not to be a boring asshole, maybe he won't be one. Also, Rule #7 seems cruel without also including the rider "For Christ's sake find something to say, you lazy snot."

And all respect to Andy Offett, but my formula is a little different: "I'm a hopeless idiot without a prayer; I write."

But seriously, bring on the other rules!

1:31 AM

Blogger Goody said...

I like it.

7:35 AM

Blogger TCSmith said...

Jeez, Joe, that was more boring than church!

4:10 PM


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