Writing lessons by James Macdonald

James Macdonald is an author of science-fiction and fantasy whom I never read, but he appears to have written well-liked books and stories.

He started a thread titled Learn Writing with Uncle Jim, with this stipulation:

…everything that’s said should be true, and everything should be helpful.

An example from the thread:

Back before I went full time, I used to hear from people "I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I never had the time."

In those days I used to set my alarm clock for two hours early, to make the time. I’d get up at four in the morning to write. If you’re a writer, writing is what you do.

So, here’s the next bit of advice. This is what my friend Rosemary Edghill calls the "KISS method." (Others call it the "BIC method," for Butt In Chair.)

Pick two hours a day. It doesn’t matter which two hours, but make them two hours that you can do every day.

For that two hours, you will sit in front of your typewriter or computer. You will have no distractions. You will write, or you will stare at the blank screen. There will be no other options.

Writing letters does not count. Reading does not count. Doing research does not count. Revising does not count. You will write new stuff, or you will stare at the screen.
No TV in the room. No radio going. No internet. Fill the page or go mad.
Two hours. Every day.

Your body will rebel. You’ll get headaches. You’ll get colds. You aren’t allowed a choice. You will sit in front of that screen even if your head is throbbing.

Some days you will begin writing in a white-hot passion. You’ll look up at the clock and discover that three hours have gone by.

You don’t get to only do one hour the next day. You still have to do two hours.

Your mind will rebel. You’ll want to clean the toilet, change the cat box, mow the lawn. But you won’t, because there are no excuses. No, you don’t get to reschedule for "later." Two hours, on schedule.

(via Boing Boing)

One down, a lot more to go

I finished Slightly Chipped: Footnotes in Booklore by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone today. It wasn’t as good as their first one, Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World; their first one seemed to have more enthusiasm. I found myself skimming pages of this new one, where they describe a Sotheby’s auction or what Bloomsbury is all about; I just didn’t care. Many sections seemed to consist of advertisements for stores they frequent or restaurants they’ve been to. Their freedom to buy almost anything they wanted was annoying, too; they seem to have no budget problems, with their complaints about how expensive a book was coming across as superficial. It’s their insights into book collecting that was interesting: how dealers frequent library sales and every book fair in driving distance; how dealers’ prices vary greatly, but there are a lot of honest sellers out there; that you should collect what you like, not thinking books as an investment; about particular valuable books to keep an eye out for, such as those by published by Hogarth Press. There was a section about mystery-related books and how they’re collectable among dedicated readers, but they went on too long about an award banquet that few people cared about.

I recommend their first book if you’re a bibliophile, and their second only if you like their writing style and tendency to go on about subjects that isn’t directly related to books.

I’m going to read Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal next.

I don’t buy EVERY book I see

When I go to Costco I’m always tempted to buy books I haven’t read about but look interesting, when I see them there at their cheap price. For example, I saw 1421: the Year China Discovered the World there for less than 10 bucks. I don’t read much history books, but I seemed interesting as I started reading there. Then I thought my dad might like it. Then I thought I could sell them used on amazon.ca, probably making a profit. I didn’t buy it. Yet.