Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Everyone is writing a book, has written a book, is planning to write a book, or has written a book that they are now trying to get someone/anyone to read.

It’s true. Even our bug man, who sprays vast amounts of poison on my house, attempting to control the mushrooming population of black and brown widows that live in every crack and gap of the exterior, is writing a book. Good grief, the spiders are probably writing books.

My bug man writes poetry.

Disclaimer: Please don’t misunderstand; I think everyone does have a story and should tell it, sing it, or write it. I do. I really do. A poetry writing bug man has a story. You can bet on it.

However, I am a little concerned over what I like to call craft and the practice of craft.

I was raised on great southern literature: “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” “The Yearling,” “Where the Red Fern Grows”, “As I Lay Dying,”” To Kill a Mockingbird” . . . I grew up wanting to write great southern literature or a wildly best selling porn novel, you know, whatever, and so I went to college to hone and grow and mold my craft at the feet of great writers of wordage and professors of word mongering.


I knew I was in trouble when one professor expressed wild enthusiasm and encouragement to a young man whose crazed character was having a discussion with himself over which animal he was most likely to have sex with, should he have sex with an animal. 

“You shocked me. You surprised me. You’ve written something shocking and surprising. I’m shocked and surprised.”

Ahhhh! I raised my hand. Secretly, I had thought the piece poorly written and hard to follow. But I can secretly think that kind of stuff. I’m old and crabby. I asked, “I’m struggling a bit with deep point of view. Could we talk about that, please? I mean when this character has sex with a panda, should the panda have an accent?”

Absently, the teacher nodded and flipped his hand dismissively, possibly at me. We never did talk about deep point of view.

I sighed, and bought a helpful little book off of the Internet for six bucks called “Rivet Your Readers With Deep Point of View” by Jill Nelson. My college writing class cost one thousand, six hundred dollars, plus parking.

After eighteen years, here’s what I know about the craft and art of writing.

1. Do it. Put pen to paper. Keys to screen. Charcoal to cave wall. Do it.

2. Don’t rely on the tired rubric of ‘shocking or cutting edge equates to value,’ unless you’re just looking to make enough money to buy a private jet full of money . . . then shock away . . . and hope you beat out all those other writers trying to shock their way to the top. Note: Bestiality has been done; see the Bible. 

3. Be your own teacher. No one wants you to get better the way you do. No one. Not even if you pay them.

4. Find your own way. In college you hear a lot of “panster” talk: write until it’s done, outlines are for panda lovers, you’ll know when it’s done, dream your way to the end. Bull. Note: Pansters are people who sit down and write by the seat of their pants or without any pants. I’m not quite sure. But they don’t plan much. 

5. Truth: Pick up a book you love; look at the last page; note the number of pages; multiply by 250 words per page. That equals the number of total words. The middle is somewhere at the center when you crack the book in half. The beginning had better have someone hunting a panda through the Everglades with a laser and the end needs to have a panda/people wedding or aliens repelled by bullets made of human teeth. There is a formula. Figure it out. Larry Brooks has some excellent resources on the subject. Google him.

6. Get tough and prepare to have everyone you know roll their eyes when you say that you’ve written a book because they’re afraid 1) you’ll insist they read it or 2) they’ll read it and it will be better than their book.

Either way, write your book and let the bug man write his and the fan fiction chick and the guy from Jamaica who painted the house and the teachers who really helped and the fellow students with something dazzling to say and the mail lady who wishes she was a spy and the panda man and . . .

Linda (Pass the Keyboard) Zern 

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