Quoting Myself

July 31st, 2010

Jean Henry Mead, who under the name S. Jean Mead is responsible for the wonderful Maverick Writers,  is running an interview with me right now at her very good site, Mysterious People.  It’s actually a re-posting of an earlier interview, with some new introductory material about THE QUEEN OF PATPONG, but further down, in the older material, I found something I’d forgotten I wrote.

Jean asked me for my advice to beginning writers, and for once I boiled it down into something shorter than the U.S. Constitution.  I’ll quote it here:

Write the book you’d most like to read.  Some writers waste years trying to create a Great Novel they wouldn’t read if it appeared one morning under their pillow.

Honor your writing by giving it an immovable place in your daily schedule and sticking to it.

If you can’t get it right, get it wrong, but don’t stop — the enemy, as someone once said, isn’t the bad page, it’s the empty page.  You can always go back and make it better.

Give your characters their freedom and remember that plot is what characters do, not a box to put them in.

Finish your first novel even if it goes completely, spectacularly wrong; you’ll learn more from the first one than from the next three combined, and you can’t very well start your second novel until you’ve finished your first.

When you’re not writing, read.

I know, I know, everyone writes differently, but I think there’s worse advice for most writers who are still struggling to get to “The End” for the first time.

9 Responses to “Quoting Myself”

  1. fairyhedgehog Says:

    I always find your advice immensely helpful, and this is no exception.

  2. Jeff B Says:

    Nice interview even if some of it is a repost. Forgive my thick-headedness, but what are you saying when you mention the girl’s back is curved as a C. That she is timid or beaten-down or unattractive?

    Anyway, I eagerly look forward to reading the book.

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    I wish I could show you the picture, although that’s not much of a substitute for good writing. Timid and beat-down will both do. The sense I got from the photo is that the weight on her shoulders as she hears that she’s about to be sold is too great to allow her to straighten up. So in that sense, “beat-down” is pretty precise.

    And thanks, FHH.

  4. John R. Lindermuth Says:

    Just read, and enjoyed, Jean’s interview with you. I’m also currently reading an advance copy of The Queen of Patpong and enjoying it immensely.
    I lived in Korea for several years back in the ’60s and–though the cultures are vastly different–there are elements which bring back memories of that time.

  5. Glenn w. Says:

    I was successful in tracking down a copy of MAVERICK WRITERS. Good stuff. Thanks, once again, for steering your following in a helpful direction. I was raised on westerns and the book is altogether so much fun.
    Your interview, once again, keeps me on track and hopeful and less self-critical. Your counsel is priceless.

  6. Philip Coggan Says:

    Another good way to help finish your first novel: tell all your family and friends that you’re doing it. That way it’s too embarrassing to back out.

  7. Philip Coggan Says:

    Oh, another one: disconnect the Internet.

  8. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi all — This is an insanely busy month and I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you all.

    John — Glad you’re liking QUEEN — please drop back by and tell us how you feel when you’ve finished it. I’ve spent some time in Korea, too, although much more recently, and I really like it.

    Glenn — Thanks for the kind words, and MAVERICK WRITERS is an amazing book. I’m going to do something more with it in the next few months but don’t know what yet. And I’m glad you liked the interview, too.

    Philip — Whatever works, works. Disconnecting the Internet is a great idea although it’s puzzling how left this response if . . . ummm . . . if . . .

    Anyway, just keep writing. There’s no way to write the 2nd until you’ve finished the first and no way to write the 3rd until etc.

  9. Usman Says:

    Comment got lost. So, great post as always.

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