Category Archives: Beyond Categorization

7 Excuses for Not Writing

seven-box1It’s still Sunday in my world. What day is it where you are? And what’s the future like? Do we all have jetpacks yet?

While I continue to be consumed by my editing work, I thought I’d give you seven excuses for not writing. Because, as we all know, these excuses play a key role in our efforts to cut our dreams off at the feet. Without them, we’d be writing all the time and getting better at it and paving the way for a successful future as published authors.

And we wouldn’t want that, now, would we?

You might want to bookmark this page so it’s readily available should the urge to write come on suddenly.

  1. I can only write when I have at least four hours of uninterrupted time. I only have three hours and forty-two minutes so I’ll just Twitter instead.
  2. The kids need to be fed. Okay, not right now, but eventually… and that takes a lot of forethought. I mean, do you even have kids? So what would you know about it anyway!?
  3. My laptop keyboard is too sprongy. I can’t write on a sprongy keyboard. I need a new laptop before I can write another word.
  4. I don’t have any ideas left. A Franciscan monk/ninja snuck into my bedroom last night and stole them from me because he’s tired of the monastic/ninja lifestyle and wants to be a famous (though still somewhat reclusive) author whose novels are so well-loved he gets invited to appear on Letterman where he’s asked to read a couple pages (just like David Sedaris does with his creative non-fiction) and before his segment – while he’s still in the green room – he meets Juliette Binoche and they hit it off and eventually run away to live in Sweden where they form a death metal band that becomes (in)famous for writing and performing terribly long and boring songs based on his bestselling books. Okay, fine. I guess he didn’t take every idea. I suppose I could write a novel about a monk/ninja/novelist… damn. Now I only have three hours of uninterrupted time.
  5. My muse left me for another writer.
  6. Tivo.
  7. Someone just published a book using the title I wanted for my novel. Now I feel empty inside.

See you soon. If the apocalypse doesn’t come first. Ooh… wait, that reminds me. Bonus excuse #8: I can’t write because the apocalypse could come any time and so what’s the point, really?

Peace. And enter the contest already, wouldya?

Free Characters for Your Novel!

Is your plot dragging? Is your protagonist starting to annoy you with long, boring speeches that add nothing to the story? Are you contemplating plagiarism to fix the problem of a go-nowhere middle third of your novel? Well, put down that copy of The Pillars of the Earth (did you really think Follett wouldn’t notice you “borrowed” a few words?) and pay close attention to this post. I have the perfect solution for all your novel-writing problems: the introduction of a Brand New Character. That’s right, with addition of a BNC you can kick a dragging plot into overdrive or kick a protagonist in the asterisk so he or she stops blathering on about nothing and starts doing Very Important Things.

Today, and today only, I’ve got five, count’em, five BNCs you can add to your novel. And what’s the cost? Well, you’ve probably seen BNCs advertised for as much as $1000 elsewhere. But for you? They are Ab-So-Lute-Ly Free. You heard that right. Free. And they’re plug-and-play! Just select any one of the characters below, write him or her into your story, and watch the magic happen.

  • Sylvester Thorogood – Sylvester is a 64-year-old widower who recently quit his job as assistant manager of a local Ace Hardware, took the insurance money he got after his wife died in a tractor-pull accident (don’t ask) and bought a KOA campground he plans to turn into the “Disneyland” of KOA campgrounds. He has no hair (except for a gray ponytail which may or may not be glued on) drives a restored brown 1975 AMC Matador wagon, and is allergic to seafood.
  • Laverne DuPrix – Laverne is a seven-year-old girl who loves her first name and spells it out loud whenever anyone asks “what’s your name?” In fact, she loves spelling words so much she pretty much spells everything she says. She doesn’t have curly hair or sparklingly bright eyes, so don’t even try to work that into her description.
  • Skip (just “Skip”) – Skip is 19 and a high schooler (technically, still a junior) who may have actually forgotten his last name due to the drug-addled year his friends refer to as “the year Skip skipped.” He’s a really smart kid, but you wouldn’t know it because he only speaks when the topic of conversation interests him. And the only things that interest him are novels by Stephen King, serial killers, and angel food cake. With strawberries.
  • Pat Blurry – Pat is a forty-something woman who doesn’t know the meaning of the word “subtle.” No, you misunderstand. She really doesn’t know what the word means. Okay, and in addition to that, she wears gaudy, bright colors (think Carmen Miranda’s hat) and talks with a very loud voice that at times seems to have a southern accent and at other times a Canadian accent. She lives with a collection of exotic talking birds, one of which speaks only in profanities.
  • Gary Munson – Gary lost his high-profile job in the financial industry when the recession sent his firm into bankruptcy. He’s not a happy man. He has a gun. And he kills people. That’s all you need to know. (Keep him away from your protagonist. I mean it.)

Use your characters wisely. And have a good day.

[Fake Legal Disclaimer: While each of the BNCs will fit anywhere in a novel, they are officially certified to be effective only when inserted somewhere between the 20,000 and 40,000 word mark and only if The Writer doesn’t change the BNC’s name. Once a BNC is inserted into The Writer’s novel, the BNC becomes the property of The Writer. Use of a BNC does not represent an implicit or explicit or illicit endorsement by the Noveldoctor or any real or imaginary members of the Noveldoctor Collective. Use of characters is at The Writer’s own risk. Remember, never drink and write. Well, actually, that might not be such a bad idea. Especially if your novel is so troubled you’re resorting to using a BNC. This ends the fake legal disclaimer.]

Stuff I Made Up Last Minute

One: In Which I Make a Single Point About Dialogue But Don’t Actually Tell You What the Point Is Because It’s So Obvious Even a Non-Writer Could Figure It Out

“So it’s Friday and that means I can talk about whatever I want,” said Stephen.

“You can talk about whatever you want any day,” interrupted Stephen’s alter-ego, Pedro.

“I know that,” interjected Stephen, “but Friday is my day to be especially random.”

“Pedro?” queried Pedro. “You named me Pedro? What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing’s wrong with me,” countered Stephen. “Pedro is a fine name. What concerns me is this horribly stilted dialogue.”

“Tell me about it,” grumbled Pedro. “Not only am I saddled with a name that calls to mind an outdated Napoleon Dynamite reference, you’ve got me ‘interrupting’ and ‘querying’ and ‘grumbling’ and that’s just not right.”

“Yeah, well, look at me. I’ve ‘interjected’ and ‘countered’ and who knows what’s next,” puzzled Stephen. “Oh great, now I’ve ‘puzzled.'”

“Look, you’re in charge of this stupid conversation,” argued Pedro, “so why don’t you just fix it?”

“I will, eventually,” answered Stephen, “but I like to pound my point into the ground and then keep pounding it until the sound of the mallet against metal and mud gives everyone around me a headache.”

“Mission accomplished,” ached Pedro.

“So I don’t need to actually explain the point?” tribbled Stephen. “Oh c’mon, me. Tribbled? That’s not even a word.”

“Ha!” Exclaimed Pedro loudly. “You really sound stupid…hey…wait a minute. You just burdened me with an adverb!”

“That’s for laughing at me,” gargled Stephen.

“You just gargled!” burped Pedro. “I can’t believe you just gargled that sentence!”

“Yeah, well you just burped your words. Don’t poke fun at me or I’ll have you fart the next ones,” threatened Stephen.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” farted Pedro.

“Told you. Clearly, I rule,” gloated Stephen.

“Fine, you rule,” acquiesced Pedro. “Oh, c’mon, now. You’re making me look like a real loser.”

“I win!” celebrated Stephen.

“I’m afraid there are no winners in this conversation,” Pedro concluded brilliantly.

He was right.

Two: Upcoming Things

  • The second contest starts next Friday. Here’s how it’s going to work. I’m going to give you three “First” sentences to choose from and three “Last” sentences. Your mission? Write a short story or scene that begins with any one of the First sentences and ends with any one of the Last sentences. What possible real-world writing skill am I trying to teach with this? I’ll tell you next Friday.
  • I’m working diligently on a new semi-regular feature. It’s called “Doofus and Talent” and if you’ve spent more than five minutes in a dentist’s waiting room, you’ll know exactly what children’s magazine feature I’m ripping off.
  • Also coming soon, the first in a series called “Things I Learned About Writing From…” or something like that, except there will be some other words where the ellipsis is now. And next week, I’m going to give you, yes give you, seven characters Guaranteed to Spice Up Your Novel. Just plug and play.

Okay. This has been Friday.

See you on Monday.

More Friday Miscellany

Welcome to another weekend edition of Today? Five random things.

Item the First – Tomorrow evening, the Christy Award ceremonies will be held in Denver. The Christy Awards are given to celebrate and promote the best of Christian fiction. A novel I edited, Safe at Home, by Richard Doster, is one of three nominees for best “First Novel.” I won’t be at the ceremony (I don’t have anything to wear and I sincerely mean that because I work out of my home and in my home I don’t maintain a dress code apart from “wear something when you go to Starbucks”), and so I won’t be able to practice my “it doesn’t matter who wins, it’s just an honor to be nominated” expression for the non-existent cameras. Richard’s a great writer, so it really doesn’t matter what happens after people have stuffed themselves with cheesecake or whatever they’re serving. You should read this novel. It’s about the 1950’s and family and minor league baseball and the cultural stirrings that swelled into the civil rights movement (which Richard explores even further in his second novel, Crossing the Lines).

Two – I’m thinking about my next contest. It’s going to be fun. It has a name. The name is “First and Last” There will be lovely prizes, including some Really Cool Stuff From a Box in My Closet. You will want to enter. Look for it in…two weeks. Meanwhile, keep stopping by so I can teach you all kinds of things about writing and editing and not taking yourself too seriously.

Third – Do you write YA or MG? (That’s “young adult” or “middle grade” for the uninitiated.) Middle grade author Adrienne Kress recently wrote a blog post about “The New YA” and if you write either (or think you do), you should read it. Click here to go directly to the blogpost, then add your comments to the thread. Be sure to say something nice to Adrienne, too. She’s not only a writer, she’s also an actress and therefore is doubly in need of the occasional kind word.

For Fore Four – So I’m watching David Letterman as I type this and that young whippersnapper Daniel Radcliffe (you know, the actor who was naked on stage in Equus and also is in movies about a wizard or some such thing) is on and he just used the following phrase while describing a method for improving your microwaved pasta experience: “bookended by condiments.” If you weren’t a fan of Radcliffe before, surely you are now. In totally unrelated news, I have discovered the spell to make myself 30 years younger and will soon be courting Emma Watson.

The Fifth Element – If you missed it earlier, now would be the time to correct your error. Kilt-wearing literary agent Chip MacGregor recently featured a series of posts answering a whole bunch of basic publishing questions. Click here for the first post, here for the second, and here for the third installment. But be warned, if you read all of these posts, you’ll have no excuse for making stupid mistakes as you work toward your goal of publication.

7 Random Distractions to Keep You From Noticing There’s No Real Content In This Post

seven-box1All indications are that it’s Friday. And apparently, it’s a holiday weekend, too, though I didn’t realize this until my fictional next door neighbor started setting off fireworks in his driveway. I think it’s some sort of holiday to celebrate man’s dominion over dogs. I didn’t verify this in the “current holiday we just made up” section at the Hallmark store, but previous experience and the ain’t-that-cute tweets of complete strangers on Twitter give me reason to believe July 4th is known as “Make Your Dog Cower Under Your Desk” Day. I could be wrong about that.

I don’t have a dog.

So, in honor of this fine holiday, I’m going to fill this space with words so you have something to read after you’ve enjoyed six pieces of corn on the cob, five slices of watermelon and four hot dogs (hot dogs, eh? I see what you’re going for here, but don’t you think the sudden loud noises and subsequent cowering are enough to make your point?).

Anyway, the things below are typical Friday fare. In other words, they’re random and potentially meaningless. Enjoy.

  1. A friend just sent me a copy of Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. Yes, this is the Nabokov of Lolita fame. My friend says it’s a surprisingly modern read. This, despite having been published in the year of my birth. Go ahead, look it up. Shed a tear for me if you want, I’m a thirtysomething on the inside and that’s what matters. But back to the book – don’t you love that title? I’ll let you know what I think.
  2. I’m falling in love…with the TV series Mad Men. Yes, I am slow to the party, but thanks to Comcast’s On Demand feature, I’m making my way through the first season four episodes at a time. I can see why it’s an award-winning show. Much thanks to a different anonymous friend (not the unnamed one above) for the recommendation. You were right.
  3. One of the projects I’m wrestling with in my “free time” is a movie screenplay. Well, I’m actually not that far along yet, I’m still arranging the scenes into a detailed treatment. I’ve been working on this for two years now and it has changed dramatically during that time. What began as a dark, edgy story about a mysterious character who brings redemption to a corrupt town has morphed into a lighter, quirky story about a mysterious character who brings meaning to the lives of a few people in a small town. (Reason for most of the changes? Anticipating a low budget to work with.) I’ll keep you posted.
  4. Want a fix of beautifully poetic narrative writing? Go to Amber’s website and read her posts. The My Love Songs thread is particularly amazing. I told her she has to write a book someday. You can tell her that, too.
  5. Thus far, my limited experience with Twitter has granted me a brief conversation with Augusten Burroughs, a re-tweeting by uber-nerd and former Star Trek: TNG whipping boy Wil Wheaton, and a kind three-word response from the American God himself, Neil Gaiman. Oh, and a rather significant number of my tweets are going to appear in the book The World According to Twitter, by NYT columnist and techno-geek David Pogue. Twitter is fun. Especially when used to stalk famous people. You should follow me. Sometimes I actually tweet something witty.
  6. Dark Chocolate Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups = Happiness.
  7. For some strange reason every time I hear the Indiana Jones theme I feel compelled to salute. In a related story, every time I hear the soundtrack to Legends of the Fall I want to marry Julia Ormond.

There. That’s seven things. If you’re still reading the dog has had way too much time to plot his revenge.

Step carefully.