I Don’t Want To Listen!


It’s given to us whether we want it or not. We often ignore it even if we know it’s for our own good. It typically distills concepts that are floating around in our brain into a few easy sentences. We are grateful for it, we resent it. However you may feel about this topic, advice is always all around us.

I’m going to take some advice of my own.

We are now two weeks away from the Lone Star Writing Conference (www.nwhrwa.com) and I have a lot on my plate. This conference is my baby. I’m responsible for the thousands of small details that go into the making of an event like this. It will be an awesome conference, but I’m also trying to continue being a writer. This led me to looking up advice by writers to other writers.

Here’s what I found:


Stephen King– “Mostly when I think of pacing, I go back to Elmore Leonard, who explained it so perfectly by saying he just left out the boring parts. This suggests cutting to speed the pace, and that’s what most of us end up having to do (kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings)…I got a scribbled comment that changed the way I rewrote my fiction once and forever. Jotted below the machine-generated signature of the editor was this mot: “Not bad, but PUFFY. You need to revise for length. Formula: 2nd Draft = 1st Draft – 10%. Good luck.”







Ernest Hemingway– (Also known as Papa) He agreed to a very rare interview with George Plimpton, editor of “The Paris Review” in 1958.

Interviewer: How much rewriting do you do?

Hemingway: It depends, I re-wrote the ending to “Farewell to Arms”, the last page of it, thirty-nine times before I was satisfied.

Interviewer: Was there some technical problem there? What was it that had stumped you?

Hemingway: Getting the words right.


Kurt Vonnegut– 8 Rules For Writing A Short Story

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things-reveal character or advance the action.

5. Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.





Anne Lamott– “For me and most of the other writers I know, writing is not rapturous. In fact, the only way I can get anything written at all is to write really, really shitty first drafts.

The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later. You just let this childlike part of you channel whatever voices and visions come through and onto the page. If one of the characters wants to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants?,” you let her. No one is going to see it. If the kid wants to get into really sentimental, weepy, emotional territory, you let him. Just get it all down on paper, because there may be something great in those six crazy pages that you would never have gotten to by more rational, grown-up means. There may be something in the very last line of the very last paragraph on page six that you just love, that is so beautiful or wild that you now know what you’re supposed to be writing about, more or less, or in what direction you might go – but there was no way to get to this without first getting through the first five and a half pages.”


James Patterson– “I’m always pretending that I’m sitting across from somebody. I’m telling them a story, and I don’t want them to get up until it’s finished.”






Elmore Leonard


So which bit of advice am I going to take? Personally, I like Anne Lamott’s bit of wisdom. I think my character needs to say, “Well, so what, Mr. Poopy Pants.”

It’s perfect.

10 Responses to I Don’t Want To Listen!

  1. I often think of King quoting “Kill Your Darlings”. Took me a while to actually do it though. I also like Vonnegut’s #7. I don’t want my book to get pneumonia. 😀


    • Ahhhhhhhh Choo! I think Chapter 8 just got a cold.
      A friend of mine said that when it’s not working, bring in a man with a gun…maybe that’s the antibiotic for my sickly chapter. “Begone pneumonia, I have a man with a gun and I’m not afraid to tell him to shoot those I love.” Turns to look at her lover. “Good-bye darling.”


  2. jbrayweber says:

    I will listen to anything Stephen King has to say any day. But of these quotes, I do like Vonnegut’s approach. I think much of the advice can transcend to any length book.
    Great post, Stacey.


  3. Thanks Jenn! These are really good tid bits of advice. I just had to share with all of you.


  4. Suzan Harden says:

    Lamott is right. Letting your Id cut loose can bring you the most incredible ideas. I’ve done a few “poopy pants” versions that ended up staying in the book, and those are usually the ones I get the most nice comments on from readers.


    • You’re going to laugh, but I really did make my character say that line when she couldn’t think of anything else to say to someone she was really mad at. I laughed all afternoon thinking about it…will it stay in the manuscript? Only time will tell!


  5. Everyone has a “Mr. P-P” pants in their manuscripts…:)


  6. Really?? Do tell us about your poopy pants moment!! It’s a wonderful piece of advice and put in such a non-threatening manner, I can’t help but follow it.


  7. Robin says:

    Oh geeps, Mr. Poopy Pants has been to visit me and he made a mess of my manuscript. Colored index cards are scattered across the dining room and sticky notes with the few good sentences or ideas are stuck to the windows. The cats see them as interesting toys that get their mom all excited when they play with the parts that curl up. The sky looks like rain. Good. Time to hunker down and write, but first the spinach vine that grows like kudzu must go. Hopefully baby the time I dig it up Mr. Pants will be all warm and cuddly and ready for some adventure. I mean work.


  8. Hope you got rid of the vine and the cats are settled down for a nap. Time to write!


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