Sunday, March 13, 2011

Writer Math

Some observations I've made lately (never mind about what or who) have me feeling the urge to do some writer math today. Bear with me; this is the stuff they don't teach you in Algebra I.

Serial weather reports ≠ world-building.

To build a world, you need just a tad bit more than an overcast sky and temperatures in the light jacket range. Show me some architecture, some locals, some flora, fauna, anything but current climate conditions, I beg you.

Endless introspective interludes < interesting reading.

I am your reader, not your character's therapist. Reading ten pages of your character's thoughts is like listening to my mother talk nonstop for three hours. I am sympathetic, really I am, but three pages is my absolute limit (Mom gets thirty minutes.) Try interspersing all those issues with some dialogue and action.

Hateful, selfish, shallow, disgruntled, untalented narcissists are not ≥ true storytellers.

They do quite well in Publishing, however, so get used to their unbearably evil presence, 'cause they ain't going anywhere. Don't wait for them to die young, either, because they also live forever. Look, just be glad you aren't married to one of them.

A first-novel bestseller does not → perpetual genius, stardom or even a very long writing career.

It often does = too much con-going, Tiki-bar visiting, online time-wasting, not enough writing and a second novel that tanks so bad they tear up your contract and tell you ta-ta. Your fans are waiting, so get back to work, genius.

Self-doubt spawned urges > rational thought.

Example: you e-mail your freshly-finished manuscript to your best writer friend with this demand: Just read the damn thing and tell me how much it sucks. Even if it sucks like a turbo-charged Dyson, your BWF isn't going to tell you that. At least not while you're acting all read-the-damn-thing crazy.

Soft amorphous fantasy places are not adequate story setting.

Remember during the eighties, when you went to that mall photographer to have them do your author bio photo in that cashmere sweater that you thought was fun but in reality made you look like a great big pink Yeti as viewed by someone after cataract surgery? Same thing. And don't give me that "if it's not a real place it doesn't have to be all that detailed" nonsense. You want me to believe it's real? Make me.

What writer math have you done lately? Add your equations in comments.


  1. The advice is stark and right.

    The emoting thing, for me, can't go on long at all. I have no patience for it at all. Make something happen. Ditto on the scenery.

  2. Emailing, facebooking, tweeting (no matter how completely clever your tweets) does not equal writing.

  3. I love the math approach to writing! Thanks. I also fully agree about characters & psychotherapy... 3 pages is the limit - no ifs ands or buts!

  4. These are great recommendations, thank you! :-)

  5. Making your main character a thinly disguised version of yourself equals bad characterization.

  6. As always, so entertaining! This writer math is much more useful information than anything I'm learning in Calculus I right now in college.

    Also...I agree with Margaret.



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