I love Stephen King. He’s the Steven Speilberg of novels. He has a knack for creating dynamic character relationships stuffed with subtext and backstory. He paints realistic settings so vivid it’s like looking out your own window.
And yet…his stories fall apart towards the end. Here’s how to diagram a typical King story.
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Creative people have different daily routines. Some writers wake up early to write; some can only work late into the night. We all have our quirks. Because I’m fascinated with the routines of other writers, I felt I should share my own daily routine. Maybe this will work for you. It works for me!
I wake up every day at 9 a.m. and quickly count my toes. I have not seen my toes in many hours and I need to reassure myself that the toes are A)still there and B)facing the right way. After that, I check the bed for any dream artifacts — items from a dream that can come through the dream world and end up in your bed (e.g. ukuleles, frying pan, ducks, a scrap of the serial killer’s shirt, etc.).
Then I come up with an idea for a novel.
Then I slowly get out of bed and check my phone for messages and spiders. Spiders can crawl into your phone and lay eggs. This is where the saying, “Ya got spider babies in that phone, son!” comes from.
If no spiders are present, I reward my phone with a sticker. If there are spiders, the phone is placed in the punishment shed.
I put on my socks and pants and shirt and tie and apron and goggles.
Then I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth to remove all the food ghosts haunting my mouth. This takes an hour or so. Continue reading My Daily Writing Routine
A global media company is seeking an experienced writer to generate content for multiple channels. We value our creative talent and offer competitive benefits and salary.
The qualified applicant will write and publish daily content as well as take and edit all photographs for the entire company…and they better be good. In fact, don’t worry so much about making words. If you could just put together some amazing photos and logos…and videos! You’re good with video, too right? Most writers are. Isn’t there a Mark Twain award for video production? Should be. When not making videos and short films and shareable gifs, you will also be required to organize all of our data into measurable, easy-to-digest info nuggets. For instance, how many readers of your video actually engaged with the content? Just imagine how much better Moby Dick would have been had the author also published detailed analytical data regarding reader engagement and “likes”? Is a writer who doesn’t spend 94% of their workday navigating Google Analytics really a writer at all? And you will also do your own marketing during your personal time, so plan to spend nights and weekends bragging about your content and our company to friends and family. (We have a marketing department, but really, can’t you just do it?) As a writer, you’ll also need to do a substantial amount of baking. Get started at 3 a.m. so the bread is fresh and warm when we need it. And how are you with kites? Pretty good, we hope. The role of the writer also includes mild carpentry and you should be able to lift 60-lbs. over your head…and then onto a truck. Oh, and we don’t have a desk for you, so set yourself up in your car in the parking lot — but not too close to the building. The writer is also responsible for single-handedly saving this company from bankruptcy and failure to show provable results within two hours of hiring will result in public humiliation at company-wide meeting as the CEO will look at you and simply say, “Well?” in a very angry manner. And you have to generate the electricity which runs the building and you’ll be in charge of public relations and computer coding and if we get sick, you have to make us better.
8 years experience in fast-moving environment
Bachelor’s Degree in related field
Ringing endorsement from town big-wig
Master’s Degree in Business/Accounting or Engineering
Art Degree from Real School We’ve Heard Of
Photos published in National Geographic (maps don’t count!)
Certificate proving you ran the mile in elementary school
Thumbs up from our doctor
Ability to withstand cold
Eye for fashion and investment opportunities
Coal mining or related experience
Ducks come to you when you call them
Gold or Silver Olympic Medal
$4 an hour plus a T-shirt (if you sign up for softball), but if you save the entire company, we can revisit your salary.
Please send resume, two writing samples, and a letter of recommendation from our current boss to the address provided in a secret website only accessible to current employees.
Continued from yesterday.
24. Try writing longhand. And then you’ll realize what a crap-show that is when your hand cramps up and everything is slow and AGH! Go back to electric wording. It’s better.
23. Writing about gadgets and tech is harder than you think.
22. Don’t brag about seeing a movie early. That doesn’t suddenly make you King of Entertainment.
21. How much have your written today? If the answer is less than 1,000 words, you’re not trying. Writing is work. Take it seriously. Get to it!
20. Try your best to never begin a headline with “Here.”
19. Even terrible websites and magazines are staffed by smart, creative people. They know how crappy their product is and are doing the best they can. Continue reading Daily Transmission #13: Dan’s 100 Writing Rules (24-1)
49. Before you begin writing for the day, clap your hands together and say, “Let’s make some magic!” Then knock over a lamp.
48. The less you use parentheticals, the more effective they are. (This is a waste of them, and now when I use them later, it won’t reach maximum wonderfulness.)
47. Cormac McCarthy was given a free pass to omit standard punctuation in his novels. There was a secret ceremony and he got a special sash. You are not Cormac McCarthy. You should use standard punctuation.
46. To combat writer’s block, be a big baby about it and tell your Twitter followers, “Ugh. Terrible day. I don’t even want to talk about it. Please RT.”
45. You are trying to connect with readers. Never forget this. If you simply want to express your thoughts, write them in a diary. The goal of a professional writer is to share their work with the reader. Look at your work from he reader’s perspective. What do they want? Compare that to what you are offering them. This isn’t about you! Continue reading Daily Transmission #12: Dan’s 100 Writing Rules (49-25)
Continued from yesteday.
74. When asked what you do, say, “I am a writer.” Never, ever say, “I am a content creator.” It’s bad enough you tell people you’re a writer. Don’t make it worse.
73. Typos are not the worst thing. Clutch your pearls, but it’s true. Ideas are more valuable than correct spelling and grammar. As an editor, I accepted a story with great ideas and poor grammar long before I accepted a story with mediocre ideas and correct grammar. Don’t get hung up on grammar and spelling.
72. Don’t correct a person’s spelling and grammar unless you are that person’s editor. Otherwise it’s rude. You don’t tell a stranger, “That hat is ugly. That is the wrong hat. Change your hat or else your face does not matter to the world.”
71. Sometimes people use the word “literally” literally to make a point. It’s an exaggeration. It’s okay to do that.
“After the kiss, Gretchen literally died.”
I am using the word to suggest that the reaction is so extreme it transcends figurative expression. I know what I’m doing. It’s called art, piss hole! Back off!
70. Use “piss hole” as a derogatory term. It’s gross and mean yet does not carry with it the social weight of gender modifiers or sexual preferences. It’s just a yucky, funny thing to call someone. Continue reading Daily Transmission #11: Dan’s 100 Writing Rules (74-50)
I’m a writer. Here are my rules for writing. (All of which can be bent or broken.)
100. Never use, “I feel.” This should be obvious. If you’re writing an opinion, then of course it’s how you feel. Stop being so precious about it. This applies to professional writing, but also everyday conversation and social media. Your thoughts are stronger without the feels.
I feel we should stop launching dogs into space.
We should stop launching dogs into space.
99. Use your third idea. Throw out your first idea because it’s probably an idea everyone has had. Your second idea will be a desperate attempt at originality, and will suffer from your desperation. But the third idea? That’s gold! [This applies to all manner of creativity, from writing headlines to painting murals.]
98. “In conclusion…” is for B- high school presentations. If you use it in your adult, big-boy wording you are not getting a TED Talk.
97. Don’t make friends read your work. My best friends in real life have never read anything I’ve written. I like it that way.
96. Don’t worry about what your family thinks.
95. Make a website. This is a great way to share your work, but it will also teach you about online formatting and presentation, required skills for digital writers.
94. Never, ever steal. Do not steal words, images or even headlines. Make your own. You’re a creative person — do the work! I have no sympathy for plagiarizers or image thieves. Continue reading Daily Transmission #10: Dan’s 100 Writing Rules (100 – 75)
Celebrity interviews are rarely good. This is not the fault of the writer, or the interview subject. The very concept is flawed. There are only so many ways you can ask, “Tell me about your latest project,” and only so many ways a celebrity can answer.
It’s like asking, “What’s the capital of Pennsylvania?” The answer will be Harrisburg, or, if the interview subject is quite clever, “Not Miami.” You can’t ask for the capital of Pennsylvania and expect the interview subject to explain their thoughts on the human condition. There’s just not much meat in the question, or the format.
Ask a celebrity about their latest project and they will spit out the one sentence, well-rehearsed answer which will lead to a stale anecdote about something mildly funny that happened on the set of the new movie.
And the interview ends.
It’s the nature of the beast. That’s how quick, celebrity interviews are handled. (Spoiler Alert: It’s all marketing, and if you needed me to tell you that, deduct 100 points from your final score.)
I’ve interviewed between 50 and 1,000,000 people for stories during my career. I can’t keep track of them all. They happen fast and are forgotten seconds after the story is published. Continue reading Daily Transmission #4: Interviewing David Lynch
No matter how many times you pitch your editor the story, “Opossums Are Probably Dogs That A Witch Cursed,” the editor won’t assign it until you get an actual quote, and quoting yourself, even if you use an Irish accent, apparently does not count as a primary source…even if you totally know the truth about opossums.
Writing is a lonely, lonely job. Unless you’re fortunate enough to have a staff position at a media company, a writer will spend their working hours in a bubble of solitude. It’s possible and likely that a writer will spend days or decades without conversing with other human beings unless saying, “Number one, with cheese,” counts as conversation.
One possible solution to the loneliness is to join a writer’s group, where like-minded word artists can meet and discuss the work and passion of writing. Such groups will help inspire, motivate, and blow away the cobwebs of a lonely writer’s mind! Or so I thought.
Continue reading The Time I Joined a Writing Group