Thursday, June 3, 2010

3 tips I won’t share with writers’ groups

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot of requests to speak to writers’ groups, something I find both flattering and surprising.

I’ve been brainstorming with event organizers to determine what participants might want me to talk about. Writing tips and discussions on craft are popular, while discussions on toenail fungus are not.

It got me thinking about what’s appropriate. If you’re reading this blog, you’re unlikely to be offended by tales of fake car sex and phallic wine stoppers. If you’re offended, you’ll stop reading. Writers’ group attendees won’t have that option (though they will have the option of pelting me with rotten fruit).

In the interest of (a) not offending anyone, and (b) not coming off as a drunken pervert with kleptomaniac tendencies, there are a few tips I’m unlikely to share in my talks.

But it’s a shame for them to go to waste, so allow me to share them with you now:

TIP 1: Drink. I’ve seen a quote attributed to Ernest Hemmingway, and while I’m not sure he really said it, I agree with the concept: “write drunk, edit sober.”

You’d be a pretty crappy writer if you could only perform with a fifth of Jack in your system, but there’s a benefit to occasionally subduing your internal editor. I can spend an entire day producing a handful of polished pages, but my output quintuples that evening if I sit down with a glass of wine. Why? Because I let the words flow. Because I’m not stopping every five seconds to mull whether “licked” or “laved” is the better word.

Even if the sentences you produce are mostly gibberish, it gives you a skeleton to use for the prose you’ll produce when you stop guzzling bourbon.

TIP 2: Steal ruthlessly.
If I find myself hopelessly stuck in a manuscript, I’m not ashamed to pick the brains of loved ones and steal their good ideas. When I hit the middle of my debut novel MAKING WAVES, I was still struggling to figure out what made my heroine tick. I lamented this one evening at a dinner party. “I can’t even decide what she does for a living,” I whined to a friend. He began listing random careers, and something clicked in my brain. “Oh – not one of those things, but all.” And that’s how my quirky, job-hopping heroine started to come together in my mind. (No, not that kind of “come together” – that doesn’t happen until later in the book).

TIP 3: Thou shalt lust. I write romance, so it’s my sworn duty to ogle as many men as I can. It’s research, right? And if I find myself staring at a picture of a scruffy looking Daniel Craig and pondering how beard burn would feel against my stomach, it’s possible those thoughts will find their way into my manuscript. You do what you’ve gotta do to infuse your writing with the right amount of sexual tension (unless what you’ve gotta do is chain Daniel Craig in your basement as your personal sex muse, in which case you might want to check with your spouse first).

So there you have it. The inappropriate writing advice you won’t hear me share with any writers’ group.

Got any tips of your own to share? Leave it in the comments. I have to go check on Daniel refill my tea.

29 comments :

Kris & Kels said...

Allow yourself to get distracted. Stop glaring at me. Some of my best work comes from right after a brain-wander, as I like to call them. I can be sitting at my computer for hours and nothing... and then a preview for a new movie comes on tv, or I hear a good song on the radio, and all of a sudden words are flowing again. Writing is about creativity, not pounding out lines for hours at a time like a machine. Allow yourself to be yourself. Get distracted. I dare you.

<3 Kelsey Leigh

CKHB said...

I think you could share #2 with writers' groups! I had other things to say in support of your methods, but I have to go "refill my tea" as well.

grace said...

Daniel Craig!

Sorry, did something else happen in this post? I got distracted.

LR said...

Great tips! Especially No. 1. My tips for fellow writers are:
-wear mismatched socks while you write
-if the doorbell rings don't answer it, it might be your mom-n'-law

Candyland said...

I day dream a lot about my pool boy. That helps.

Vicki Tremper said...

At a writer's conference, a well-known and highly successful author told us to write for 15 minutes every day. I try to keep that in mind. Some days those 15 minutes expand to hours, and some days I can barely get one sentence down. But it helps to keep me on track and is still flexible enough for the creativity to flow.

Thanks, again, for making me laugh!

Bill Cameron said...

If I can't talk about writing while drunk, stealing unrepentantly, and ogling Daniel Craig, I don't want to talk at all. *hic*

Debra L. Schubert said...

First of all, Hi Bill! (Not surprised you lust after DC like the rest of us girls.)

Secondly, as always, Tawna, you're not only a genius, but my biggest hero. Drinking, lusting, and stealing are misunderstood and underrated. All serious writers should commit themselves to these tenets. That way, even if you never get pubbed, who the hell really cares? *shesaidsmilingwithaglassofredwineinherhand*

Cynthia Reese said...

Wait, wait, if you have to drink to write, then how do I write??

Linda G. said...

Not surprisingly, we are in total agreement. Only we've been over the Daniel Craig thing before. Lay off. He's *cough* busy.

danicaavet said...

If I had any advice to share, it would be to write what YOU like the first time around. Don't stop and re-read to edit because you'll lose the flow. I was stuck in a rut before I tried this method. I'd write, read, rewrite, rinse and repeat. I never finished a story because by the time I'd rewritten it about eight times, I was sick of the characters, the plot, everything. Now I just write and let it go with the first draft.

Oh and I think you should so discuss the fake car sex during the talk. It's valuable information and shows how much you have to research your scenes. It's also funny as hell.

Patty Blount said...

Great post, Tawna. For me, it's chocolate instead of drink, a Gilles Marini instead of Daniel Craig.

Simon C. Larter said...

I like tip 1. I use it frequently. In fact, I'll admit to using all of those tips. Except 3, since I don't write romance, and my wife wouldn't approve. At least, I'd never admit to 3 in a public forum. So perhaps I should've said I'll admit to using both of those. Oh, hell. Where'd I leave my martini?

P.S. Is it a coincidence that my word ver is "drunt," which is only a single consonant change away from being "drunk?" I think not.

Delia said...

Listen to music. The right music helps on many levels. And, if possible, lock the kids out. That's all I've got.

You can all fight over Daniel Craig, I'm going to go jump *eh hem* I mean study the acting talents of Edward Norton. I'm quirky like that.

Expat mum said...

It may be on account of all the "tea", but one piece of advice I have to live by is to write down a brilliant idea as SOON as it comes to me. If you think you'll remember it later, you're wrong. And it often never comes back.

Mother Hen said...

Totally agree with CKHB and Expat mum. Steel and Write quick! And if you can do it with a glass of white, red or jack in your hand, well..... enough said.x

Piedmont Writer said...

Well, I'll tell you what, if I were at a conference and you were speaking, I would definitely want to hear all three of those topics. They're a lot better than 'The Basics of Grammar 101'.

Dawn said...

Every Monday, I pick a new muse avatar. That definitely helps. (Or sometimes I daydream about Candy's pool boy...)

Terry Stonecrop said...

Great tips and so true!

I live in Florida where most of us have no basements or even attics. So I have to lock Jon Hamm and Antonio Banderas in my office closet. I know, two. It's a Gemini rising thing.

Jennifer Swan said...

I was drinking a glass of pino noir when I happened to "stumble" upon Tip #1. I read it with a buzzed haze of gratification. :) *clink glasses*

Jeannie said...

I write romance and my heroes so far have been athletes. I watch sports. And drool.

Patrick Alan said...

Where am I?

Claire Dawn said...

wrt inner editors. I write nanowrimo style- full speed until I'm done. It's the only way I can finish a draft. At the end, the draft is pretty rough, but I think of it as an outline, so I mind that it will take 12 revisions to polish it. Or at least I pretend not to :) The important thing is that I've got a book, which I didn't have before.

Deborah said...

Daniel Craig? Off to google...

Jamie D. said...

Seriously? You should make those into a poster, and hand 'em out or sell 'em after each talk. I'd buy one to hang on my office wall...for sure. LOL

If I'm drinking and expect to write, I have to mix alcohol with something caffeinated, or I'll fall right asleep. Embarrassing but true. *sigh*

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Awesome!

Thankfully, I already do those 3 things, but at least I know I'm on the right track! ;)

Lynne Kelly Hoenig said...

That's it, I'm buying some wine. I'm trying to get a first draft done and I'm thinking way too much.

Marybeth Poppins said...

I just want you to know...that you are so my favorite lately. But SHHHHH don't tell the other bloggers!

Tawna Fenske said...

Thanks so much for all the great comments, guys! I'm reading and loving them all, but I'm on the road at the moment and don't have a chance to respond individually right this moment. I really appreciate everyone participating in the discussion here, and the tips you're sharing are terrific!

Tawna