Saturday, January 22, 2011

Writing Lessons Learned From My Cat

My cat, Schrodinger, has often been patient with my nasty writing habit and how it has deprived him of play and head scratches. He "helps" me by using my keyboard or wrist as a pillow:

I'm helping mama write!

He's doing this right now, mind you. So out of either curiosity, distraction, or boredom (more likely the first two), I started to wonder that if he could speak English, what advice would he offer me for writing my book. Here's a few off the top of my head:

1. Chase the dangling string.
If you are writing along and some detail, subplot, or character comes wandering along and dangles itself in front of you (I'm sorry, I really can't think of a way to not make this sound dirty), don't ignore it! Chase after it! You never know what exciting places it will lead you! Just remember to integrate it into your story, rather than abandon the latter for the excitement of the string.

2. Get the ball rolling.
You can imagine what your story will be from start to finish, you can think up entertaining characters and exotic locations galore. But unless you actually start writing, it never going to what you imagined it to do. The ball will just sit there, being a ball. Get it rolling, bouncing, and flying--it's only fun that way.

3. Go where you're not supposed to go.
Remember those annoying messages your literary minded creative writing professor told you? No science fiction, fantasy, or horror? No character deaths? No cliches? Sneak around them and jump on the proverbial counter! Find a way to use these things in a way that's innovative and never done before and no red pens, shaker cans filled with pennies, or strips of double-sided tape will stop you!

4. If it's crap, then bury it.
Sometimes no matter what we do to a certain story, nothing can breathe life into it. The characters are boring and unsympathetic, the plot refuses to budge from its banal course, and the language causes rolling eyes rather than raised eyebrows. When a thousand rewrites make it even worse than when you started, when you have fallen out of love with your story and it sort of sits there and rots, eating your time and stinking up your inspiration like a deadbeat ex-boyfriend, let it go. Some crap will not become anything more crap and keeping it around will only be toxic to you. Bury it and get working on something fresher that inspires you.

That's all I can think of for today and I will certainly bring the cat back in another post if the mood strikes me. Also I need to get the ball back rolling on my own book.
Happy writing!

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