Five things you don’t want to say when asking someone to read your script/manuscript

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If this is what people look like when proofreading your manuscript, you need another rewrite. © sxc

Over the last year I have received a lot of requests from aspiring writers/screenwriters to read their stuff. Especially interns at the newspaper I work for, tend to target me. I will not go into the question whether this is a case of asking the blind to lead the blind, since answering that one won’t make me happy.

I don’t mind proofreading stuff, I like it actually. On the condition that it’s a serious attempt at writing.

Here is a top five of the most annoying things I’ve heard from people who want me to read their manuscript: Continue reading

Stop the fucking swearing

I confess. I swear. And secretly, I like to. One time, when I bumped my toe, I even swore so vigourously, my grandma chased me with holy water. And simple observation proves I’m not the only one. Actually a lot of people swear a lot.

For that reason sometimes I let a bit (or a lot) of cursing and swearing slip into my writing. And every time I throw all that foul-mouthing out again in the rewrites. Not because I fear the wrath of heaven. Not because I fear to alienate a part of my potential audience. I cut it because it makes the writing weaker. Continue reading

The work-writing combination

625469_10200765814763420_644865026_nFriday I’m in love. Because tomorrow it will be weekend and weekend means time to write.

I try to work on my manuscript a little bit every day, but in the weekend I get to write for hours on end. By Sunday evening I should even be able to see a noticeable difference in my word count. When I have been writing on a new chapter, it should have went up (fun fun fun!), if I have been rewriting, it should have gone down quite a bit (less fun, but necessary).

Yet every Sunday evening, when I look at what I’ve really achieved… well, it kinda makes me feel like sticking my pants down and moon the hell out of everybody who spent the whole weekend chilling by a poolside sipping beer. Especially my boss, who expects me back on the job the following morning. Continue reading

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs”

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs”, wrote Stephen King in ‘On Writing’. As a rule, I agree. Totally. They tend to weaken a sentence. As do most adjectives, for that matter.

Adverbs, to my opinion, are especially dreadful in dialogues:

“Well, you tell me”, she said perkily.

If a character is perky, then make her say perky things. Or better still: make her say things in a perky way. Simply calling her actions or lines perky, isn’t going to cut it. A character’s voice should be made clear through dialogue and actions, not adverbs. Continue reading

Blast in with a hammer – about writing a great opening line

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Why start like this…

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… or this…

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… when you can start like this? © sxc

“You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning.”

Unfortunately I did not write this brilliant opening line, Jay McInerney did. It’s the first line of “Bright Lights, Big City”. It makes you want to read on, doesn’t it? Not only does this line set the tone, it raises quite a few questions.

Try rereading the line. You cannot help but wonder: 1. Who, me? 2. What guy is he then? But especially: 3. Where is he? 4. And what time of the morning is it? You just know it’s not going to be a tearoom at nine thirty, right? So how bad is the damage?

The value of a good opening line can hardly be overestimated, I personally think. When you meet a person, the first seconds will determine whether you like this person or not. A book is not that different.

Raising questions is an important key, I think. Questions will impell the reader to keep reading in search of answers to these questions.

Simple entertainment is a second key. A guy in a place like that, at that time of the morning, who should not be there… That ‘s a pretty good promise you won’t get bored.

Right now I’m working on the manuscript for my second novel. So I’m trying to write a punching opening line myself. At the moment, this is what I’ve got (well, a translation of it):

“Do you see that guy? Over there, in the dark between those trees. I’ll be damned if that’s not our guy.”
“Shit, you’re right, there’s someone standing there.”

The two policemen start to walk in my direction.

After a lot of thinking and trying, I decided to start ‘in medias res’, in the middle of the action. The questions I hope this raises, are: 1. Who is this guy? 2. Why is the police after him? What has he done? 2. Will they catch him?

At this point I’m quite happy with this opener. But I’ve still got a few months of pondering and rewriting ahead of me, so nothing has been carved in stone so far.

I hope you like it to! So, if you’ve got an opinion on this and a spare minute, please let me know what you think!

Do you share your ideas?

Every writer’s second worst nightmare is to spend years pondering, writing and rewriting an idea that, as it turns about, (frankly, my dear) nobody gives a damn about. The easiest way to avoid wasting years on a stinker, is probably to ask people for their opinion on your ideas, before you withdraw into your aloof cabin in the woods or your lonely tower room for a few years of writing.

But then again, every writer’s worst nightmare, is having an awesome idea, and then seeing it break all sales or box office records, with some backstabbing writer buddy’s name on it.

So, do you share your best ideas, or do you keep them quiet until you have an unbridgeable head start? Both have their pros and cons:

Pro telling:

  • People can tell you if your idea stinks.
  • Talking about something clears your head, even regardless of feedback.
  • It reduces the loneliness of writing.
  • A miracle might occur and the guy in a bar you’re tipsily yapping your idea to, might happen be a bigshot agent/publisher/producer, who likes your idea so much he shoves you a big contract under your nose.

Against telling:

  • Your idea might get stolen.
  • A lot of people really don’t care about your writing ideas. You will bore them to oblivion if you talk too much about your latest projects. By the way, the same usually goes for your children, travels, home improvement projects and patchworking.
  • People might influence you, and make you deviate you from your clear goal or themes.
  • In the end, it all comes down to how you develop your characters and ideas. Oblomov barely left his couch, but he made an amusing protagonist. You might also be better at writing than at randomly explaining all the elements of your plot. Premature negative reactions could discourage you from a good idea and the world might just be denied of a master piece.

Three paragraphs and a list, and I’m still not sure what’s the best approach. So, please tell me what you think? Do you talk about your ideas or don’t you?

I want a writing lair too

Gay Talese works in his cellar, strictly devoid of every distraction.
Picture: The New Yorker

The New Yorker posted this video about the legendary writer Gay Talese’s underground writing bunker.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2012/10/notes-from-underground-gay-taleses-office.html

No windows, no phone, no distraction. I have to admit, I’m jazzed!

I actually own a home office. Of maybe I should say: owned. I picked soothing colours of paint for the walls, dragged in a giant retro desk. I taped a giant map of the world to one wall, I put up a big picture depicting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on another. Inspiration guaranteed.
Continue reading