“A lot of people think that, if you’re writing about something, it’s because you’re an expert on the topic and want to impart your expertise. But sometimes you’re writing about it as part of your attempt to immerse yourself in it and understand it.”
As I get back into “book writing” mode, it’s funny to find notes like this that I left for myself:
TODO: Edit this text ruthlessly when you’re feeling better.
I was so sick during the last few months, I have no memory of writing that.
~ a note from september, 2016
I went to a local coffee shop and a talkative man behind the counter asked what I do for work. I told him I’m currently writing three books on computer programming, one young adult novel, and a mindfulness app for iOS and Android, in addition to running this website. When you say it out loud it sounds a little crazy, but in the midst of it it’s not a problem, I like bouncing between the projects.
I recently had a discussion with two people I’m working on a book with, where they are essentially very active reviewers. I like to write with enthusiasm, so I made a particular statement in the book. One person said they thought it was motivating — which was my intent — but the other person said it made them wary. I thought it was fascinating to get such different perspectives.
“One thing Scottoline is very good at, is something that many authors are not, and it is a pet peeve of mine. There is a rule in writing – if you put a gun on the mantelpiece in a scene, sometime later that gun needs to be fired. Red herrings are ok, but you can’t have irrelevant details or facts. Scottoline fires every single one of her guns, and that makes me happy.”
I didn’t like parts of Lisa Scottoline’s earlier books because she actually violated this “rule” quite a bit, but in her book, Killer Smile, she keeps the action moving and eliminates at least 90% of the “irrelevant details or facts” that I didn’t like in her earlier books. (Killer Smile is really good.)
When I edit my own text, I make comments like those shown in the images. A few of my own:
- Doesn’t feel like you know what you’re talking about
- Nice start — dig deeper
- Just say what you mean
- You lost me
- Feels fake — write from the heart (or, write to your muse)
When I write books I try to complete a chapter, then get away from it for at least a month, then come back and edit it like this.
The images here are from the excellent movie, Finding Forrester.
This is a fun response from this Ask Polly Q&A:
“Your in-laws are next-level, off-the-charts batshit.
Every now and then, a group of people assumes the traits and behaviors of sociopaths. Maybe one person in the group completely and permanently lost their doughnuts several decades prior, and slowly, each member of the group learns that playing along with this singular menace is the only way to survive. Eventually, the members of the group are so utterly confused and gaslit by each other that they enforce the will of the group and nod along with bizarre opinions until they can’t even remember what it means to think logically or have free will or behave like other regular human beings on the face of the planet.
Because these people are confused and weak and angry — and because they’re rendered increasingly more confused, weak, and angry by their exposure to each other — they tend to have less and less contact with those outside the group. And when they do encounter someone who’s not in the fold, they recoil and attack. Anyone who questions the group is attacked with words and actions. Anyone who questions the group is bad, and the group is good.”
“I’m that one.” I suspect that anyone who has ever wanted to write a book knows this scene and movie.
I just spent 45 minutes reading a new book about a programming language I was excited to learn, then slammed it shut and said, “Poorly organized, too many words, not enough code.”
That’s always such a disappointing feeling when you have that initial excitement about a programming language (or technology), and then a book is such a letdown. (I really hope people don’t view my books that way.)
Over time I’ve discovered a number of things that I have no memory of from the years 2014 to 2016, when I was at my sickest with the mast cell disease. Apparently I created this image and wrote these words on August 24, 2015. (Here’s a link to the original post, if you’re into that sort of thing.)