Monday, March 19, 2007

Ass Glue

75,000 words (grinding along)

I can't remember where I came across this Bryce Courtenay anecdote, and I heartily apoligize for any details I get wrong. I will stay faithful to the spirit of the story, though.

It seems he's a bit of long-distance runner, marathoner, something like that. Running like that is a mental game as much as physical, and it takes a particular kind of toughness.

He was in a race and, not feeling it was competitive enough, decided to pick on the guy next to him. He started asking questions, trying to throw the guy off his stride, and it turned out the guy next to Bryce was a writer too.

Bryce knew he had him. He asked the one question sure to do the poor bloke's head in.

"What's the secret to writing a good story?"

The guy never dropped a step.

"Ass glue," he said.

Bryce knew he wasn't going to beat this guy. He shared the only real secret to writing.

They helped each other finish the race.

Of course, that anecdote was longer when Bryce told it (as are his books), but the moral's there all the same.



Call it what you want, but put words on the page. Then some more. Feel like they're no good? Put a few more on there. You won't get better without practice. Write something bad. Then write something better.

You weren't born knowing how to walk. Imagine what your life would be like if you looked at your first unsuccessful attempts, decided you obviously had no walking-talent and gave up.

One of my cartoonist heroes/mentors once said, "You've got a thousand bad pages in you, but you've got to draw them before you get to the good ones." John D. MacDonald had a similar thought, but put it at one million words.

My writing pace is a compromise. I don't have the time to do more, but if I take much longer than three or four months on the first draft it starts to go stale on me. After that come several months of revisions before it's ready to step out into the world, but hell, it took me seventeen years to leave the house.

As Michelle said in her blog today, talent comes out of hard work. Glue your ass to the chair and practice, practice, practice.


Wayne Allen Sallee said...

steve, there is a legendary texas writer named joe lansdale, a good friend of mine. when he is asked the best way to set a routine he replies: two things. put ass in chair. write. i first heard him say that twenty years ago. best advice anyone can give.

Charles Gramlich said...

Nuff said.