Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Writing Bullshit

Is this what your outline looks like?

NOT where I write...
by Tom Schreck

There's a lot of bullshit communicated about successfully writing a novel. If you heed much of it you'll get paralyzed and never be able to finish your own work of fiction.

The truth is that writing a book isn't joining the Marines, it isn't Transcendental Meditation nor is it discovering cold fusion. It has more to do with cleaning your basement, building a bird house or creating a garden in your backyard.

In other words it involves some planning, some trial and error and quite a bit of time on task.

It doesn't require any of this crap:

* Large amounts of uninterrupted time in a beautiful oak paneled office.

I write before my day job in between hound bays and getting up every 7 minutes to act as the uniformed doorman for my three four legged VIPs.

* You must have a completely formed idea, outlined neatly with Roman numerals, bullet points and color coded categories.

Actually, you need an idea. Then another idea of where to go. Do that for 300 pages and you get a book.

* You can't start your book until you go on police ride-a-longs, volunteer on the local SWAT team or travel to Rome to interview the custodian at the Vatican for your story background.

This is fiction. You make this shit up. Read an article, go to Wikipedia and then start writing.

* You must write only when the muse comes to visit you.

Good luck with that. It's plain crap.

* You can't finish because you're blocked.

You're not a colon and you don't get blocked. You stop working. If what comes next to you isn't obvious then you have to problem solve, do some trial and error and rewrite.

It's work.

Tom Schreck writes the Duffy Dombrowski Series and the stand alone thriller GETTING DUNN. TKO is the #1 boxing book on Amazon Kindle.


  1. I love it! So well said. At some point, writers need to become very selective about the advice they spend time listening to. I'm always trying to improve my craft, but I do it best by writing... and focusing on areas of weakness. And by taking notes when I hear something brilliant.

  2. Absolutely terrific post. I'm a million-copy NYT bestseller and have been a professional writer for decades. A lot of the "writing advice" I see on the net is bullbleep. Amateurs futz around; pros go to work and get the job done.

  3. Love it, Tom. I'm so not a planner. I only ever start with an idea or two...and my muse is akin to a reluctant nephew dragging his heels over a visit to an elderly aunt!

  4. Geesh Tom, if I knew it was this easy I would turn over the microphone to a chimp and get my own best-seller. Love this blog.

    Best wishes,
    Pam Stack Host
    Authors on the Air

  5. Excellent advice, Tom! And I like the way you lay it out straight! LOL

  6. I'm in agreement, too. I do like my outlines, but they are not neat ideas with proper numbering like my 4th grade teacher taught me. They are messy little scribbles and are guidelines more than rules. Kind of like the speed limit signs, yes?

    And as for waiting for the muse, one author I know told a class, "A surgeon does not wait upon the muse to operate. They just pick up a scalpel and go to work."

    I don't wait upon a muse and I don't get blocked. I just pick up my tools and get to work.

  7. I think we all need to be reminded sometimes that we're telling a story, not discovering the meaning of life. Good post with solid down-to-earth reminders.


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