The Shape-Shifting First Draft

Let the first draft go wherever it goes. Plan as little as possible. When you go back to your desk to write, pick up where you left off. Don’t use the day to plan the “perfect” story. Think about it like this. If your story is unpredictable to you, imagine how riveted the reader’s gonna be. So let the first draft do its thing. The novel I’m working on now has changed a lot since I first started it almost a month ago. It began as the first-person journal entries of the main character, and it’s shifted to a much …

How to Write Your Novel in a Month

It’s National Novel Writing Month! (or NaNoWriMo, the worst abbreviation ever). Every year, fiction writers across the country take a pledge to write 50,000 words of a novel by the end of November. That’s about 150pgs. I encourage everyone who’s thinking about writing fiction to join today! I joined on November 1st. I’ve written every day since then. Here are my tips to get in on the action. 1. Say out loud that you don’t have to write 50,000 words. Just get started. It’s okay to join and see what happens from there. 2. Don’t wait until you have the …

Can I Use the N-Word?

I don’t use the N-word. But in Mad City (set in Miami), I have black characters and I want to use words black people use, which include the N-word. However, I feel weird being a white guy and using the N-word in my fiction. It feels a little bit like I shouldn’t be able to say it. I spoke with a black history professor and he told me its fine as long as I use it in a realistic context. I’m curious to hear what you all think. Is anything fair game as long as it’s realistic or is there a …

Grief and Growth

There’s a line in Tuesdays with Morrie (which I have not read) that says, “Death ends a life, not a relationship.” It’s very true. I lost my father in May to cancer and it’s hard to deal with sometimes. You’ll probably experience it in your lifetime if you haven’t already, but it’s not something to be afraid of. It can be a huge opportunity for growth and self-discovery. It mirrors lots of other experiences in life. Whenever you’re deeply hurt, you feel the need to withdraw and close up. Grief has taught me that the best response in those situations …

How I Write

I improvise. I try to plan as little as possible. I plan for A to happen, then B to happen, then C to show up and kill D. When I did that, it seemed forced. I love not knowing what’s gonna happen to a character. It’s in the back of my mind all day. I write every day. I do this to keep the story fresh and to keep myself accountable. If I said to myself, “I’m gonna write when I have free time,” I’d never do it. It’s like working out. You have to make time. I sit down …