Sunday, April 29, 2012

Never Look at a Reference Book While Doing a First Draft

Never look at a reference book while doing a first draft. You want to write a story? Fine. Put away your dictionary, your encyclopedias, your World Almanac, and your thesaurus. Better yet, throw your thesaurus into the wastebasket. The only things creepier than a thesaurus are those little paperbacks college students too lazy to read the assigned novels buy around exam time. Any word you have to hunt for in a thesaurus is the wrong word. There are no exceptions to this rule. You think you might have misspelled a word? O.K., so here is your choice: either look it up in the dictionary, thereby making sure you have it right - and breaking your train of thought and the writer's trance in the bargain - or just spell it phonetically and correct it later. Why not? Did you think it was going to go somewhere? And if you need to know the largest city in Brazil and you find you don't have it in your head, why not write in Miami, or Cleveland? You can check it ... but later. When you sit down to write, write. Don't do anything else except go to the bathroom, and only do that if it absolutely cannot be put off.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Find Your Optimum Hours for Writing

My most important discovery has been that I have optimum hours for writing. These are between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. For a lifetime I’ve told myself that I was a nighttime writer—it seemed romantic. But actually I’m tired at night, and that’s when I prefer to read and research. Whatever your optimum hours are, don’t cheat yourself of them. This is a daily battle. If you spend them answering the phone, attending to correspondence, etc., you’ll find yourself empty-handed and out of sorts during your low tide.

Monday, April 9, 2012

You Can’t Wait Until You’re in the Mood

You can’t wait to write until you’re in the mood. My God, if you waited until you were in the mood, it would take forever. You have to sit down. The name of the game is to put it in the chair.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Put Your Notes Away

Put your notes away before you begin a draft. What you remember is probably what should be remembered; what you forget is probably what should be forgotten. No matter; you’ll have a chance to go back to your notes after the draft is completed. What is important is to achieve a draft which allows the writing to flow.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Prescription for Writer's Block

My prescription for writer’s block is to face the fact that there is no such thing. It’s an invented condition, a literary version of the judicial “abuse excuse.” Writing well is difficult, but one can always write something. And then, with a lot of work, make it better. It’s a question of having enough will and ambition, not of hoping to evade this mysterious hysteria people are always talking about.