Daily Writing Tip 39 of 100, Be Aware of the Scope and Structure of Your Ignorance

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Be Aware of the Scope and Structure of Your Ignorance

Source – Slow Learner, by Thomas Pynchon

“Everybody gets told to write about what they know. The trouble with many of us is that at the earlier stages of life we think we know everything- or to put it more usefully, we are often unaware of the scope and structure of our ignorance.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Slow Learner: Early Stories

Write about what you know has to be the worst advice ever. You should write about what you need to learn.

Daily Writing Tip 38 of 100, Eat the Mountain

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Eat the Mountain

Source – Thunder and Lightning by Natalie Goldberg

A writer’s path includes concentration, slowing down, commitment, awareness, loneliness, faith, a breakdown of ordinary perceptions – the same qualities attributed to monks or Zen masters. Writers practice for literature and for the illusory victory of publication, while monks prepare for enlightenment, which is nothing less than ego’s great disappointment.

After another exhausted after-work evening staring at the blank page I think about what writing is. At the end, it’s simply pushing the keys. Sometimes, though, they are so hard to push.

I Kept My Tune

“So I went ahead and made me a guitar. I got me a cigar box, I cut me a round hole in the middle of it, take me a little piece of plank, nailed it onto that cigar box, and I got me some screen wire and I made me a bridge back there and raised it up high enough that it would sound inside that little box, and got me a tune out of it. I kept my tune and I played from then on.”
― Lightnin’ Hopkins

Denton, Texas

Denton, Texas

Daily Writing Tip 37 of 100, Start Where You Are

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Start Where You Are

Source – From The 90-Day Novel by Alan Watt

Our job as artists is to build a body of work. When we drop our preconceptions about what good writing is and we give ourselves permission to write poorly, everything changes. Permission to write poorly does not produce poor writing, but its opposite. We become a channel for the story that wants to be told through us. Rather than impressing our reader with our important writing, we can impress with our willingness to be truthful on the page.

Killing off the inner editor while writing a first draft is the second hardest thing in writing fiction.

The hardest thing is bringing him back to life when the editing begins – which is the real place where writing takes place.

Daily Writing Tip 36 of 100, Don’t Warm Up Your Engines

For one hundred days, I’m going to post a writing tip each day. I have a whole bookshelf full of writing books and I want to do some reading and increased studying of this valuable resource. This will help me keep track of anything I’ve learned, and help motivate me to keep going. If anyone has a favorite tip of their own to add, contact me. I’d love to put it up here.

Today’s tip – Don’t Warm Up Your Engines

Source – The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack Bickham

Such static or backward-looking approaches to fiction are probably lethal in a novel, and are certainly fatal in a modern short story. Readers today – and that of course includes editors who will buy or reject your work – are more impatient than ever before. They will not abide a story that begins with the author warming up his engines. If a setting needs to be described, it can be described later, after you have gotten the story started. If background must be given the reader, it can be given later, after you have intrigued him with the present action of the story.

Back in the day, classic literature didn’t have to do that. You remember the tomes you read in school that would spend page after page on backstory and description before anything remotely interesting would happen.

I used to pride myself on getting through this. It was true that the payoff at the end was usually worth the work up front.

But now I’m getting too old. I don’t have enough time left for all this. I used to always finish every book I started. Now, though, if I’m not into it within the first few pages – that’s all she wrote.