Random thoughts before the holidays

Just getting these in while I can:

Joss Whedon's Top 10 Writing Tips (via Pam Stucky). Both Whedon and Jane Espenson offer surprisingly good advice for writers of all stripes, even though they are specifically talking about screenwriting. Screenwriters have to be very focused on efficiency, so they talk a lot about plot, engaging the viewer/reader, and pacing, which are sometimes (VERY WRONGLY) considered a little beneath literary writers.

I would like to highlight two particular pieces of advice (although I'm also a big fan of #3--HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY):


Actually finishing it is what I’m gonna put in as step one. You may laugh at this, but it’s true. I have so many friends who have written two-thirds of a screenplay, and then re-written it for about three years. Finishing a screenplay is first of all truly difficult, and secondly really liberating. Even if it’s not perfect, even if you know you’re gonna have to go back into it, type to the end. You have to have a little closure....


You have one goal : to connect with your audience. Therefore, you must track what your audience is feeling at all times. One of the biggest problems I face when watching other people’s movies is I’ll say, ‘This part confuses me’, or whatever, and they’ll say, ‘What I’m intending to say is this’, and they’ll go on about their intentions. None of this has anything to do with my experience as an audience member.

Explaining what you meant is a real trap, because if you're in a critique group and someone says, "I don't understand X" and you explain it, then they'll be satisfied. And you may get tricked into thinking that the thing works. It doesn't, unless you plan on standing next to every single person who picks up you book and saying, "What I meant by that was--" every time they hit page 23.

How To Guarantee Failure. OK, this is actually titled "Why I Unpublished My Self-Published Novel," but come on. Removing your book from the market completely--not revising and then republishing it, not changing the name to a pen name, not making it exclusive somewhere, but making it so that nobody can buy it ever--is NOT going to help 1. sales, 2. your career, 3. your finances.

I don't understand the perception that if an e-book isn't performing to expectations, then it should be removed completely. Sure, that works in other businesses, but that's because, say, Chevrolet has only so much room on its sales lots, so if a particular model isn't selling well, it makes sense to stop making it and make room for another model. But that doesn't apply to e-books--the self space is infinite, and there is absolutely no cost in time or money or effort to keeping your book on the shelf. You can decide not to spend any more promoting that book, but it takes more effort to take a book down than to leave it be, and the potential upside to leaving it be (it might catch on eventually) is much greater. Just let the book ride and move on with your life.