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The Penmonkeys Paean
December 7, 2010 1:14 PM   Subscribe

I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.
posted by Artw (64 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm going to swap out "book" and "novel" for "screenplay" and commit this to heart. Thanks, Artw.
posted by brundlefly at 1:19 PM on December 7, 2010


Reminds me of part of Patton Oswalt's Death Bed: The Bed that Eats People routine. Which is a good thing.
posted by COBRA! at 1:22 PM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


Good advice, but that guy apparently thinks the secret to quality prose is MORE WACKY METAPHORS, I DON'T CARE IF THAT LOOKS LIKE ENOUGH, PACK ANOTHER SIX IN THERE
posted by theodolite at 1:24 PM on December 7, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is great advice, I'm going to
posted by eyeballkid at 1:25 PM on December 7, 2010 [9 favorites]


Good advice, but that guy apparently thinks the secret to quality prose is MORE WACKY METAPHORS, I DON'T CARE IF THAT LOOKS LIKE ENOUGH, PACK ANOTHER SIX IN THERE

Alas, yes.
posted by not that girl at 1:26 PM on December 7, 2010


Metaphors are the flailing scoliosis-ridden marmots of writerhood.
posted by blucevalo at 1:26 PM on December 7, 2010 [30 favorites]


As I just said in my comment here I wish that more attention could be paid to the failures of the publishing industry, government support for the arts, and platforms for writers, rather than encouraging more people to enter into a field precious few opportunities for success.
posted by Stagger Lee at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2010


Can we start a world-wide campaign to email, tweet, fax and physically mail copies of this to George R. R. Martin?
posted by hippybear at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2010 [8 favorites]


Hey, he's not your bitch.
posted by Artw at 1:27 PM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I'm a moron. I meant Death Bed: the Bed that Eats People!
posted by COBRA! at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2010


I'll bet my bottom euro that this was written as procrastination from something else.
posted by Kattullus at 1:35 PM on December 7, 2010 [25 favorites]


1. Become writer
2. Try to write
3. Write about writing
4. Write about how others should write
5. Write about how others should write about writing
6. ?
posted by condiments at 1:35 PM on December 7, 2010 [12 favorites]


George R. R. Martin has his own prayer, which goes "I am a writer and... ooooooh! Football!"
posted by Wolfdog at 1:37 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I will sally forth until I have this book by the balls and by the throat.

Sortie
        sortie
                por favor?
posted by mooselini at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2010


GRRM's prayer is actually "I am a merchandiser of a fantasy world and I AM F---ING RICH. Hahahahaha! I could never make this much money on throwaway marketing opportunities if I released actual books!"
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


That was super. I would, too, like to hunt a pterodactyl.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2010


1. Become writer
2. Try to write
3. Write about writing
4. Write about how others should write
5. Write about how others should write about writing
6. ?


The Aristocrats!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:43 PM on December 7, 2010 [10 favorites]


I have often wondered why any site, post, newsprint ad or article that has to do with writing must always show a depiction of a fountain pen. How many writers today do their writing with fountain pens? Name 5.
posted by Postroad at 1:43 PM on December 7, 2010


Postroad,

1. sonic meat machine

What? I like writing on paper better than on the computer, and I like writing with a fountain pen because I don't have to apply any pressure to get ink onto the page.
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:46 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


1. Become writer
2. Try to write
3. Write about writing
4. Write about how others should write
5. Write about how others should write about writing
6. ?


Podcast!
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


2. My wife
3. sonic meat machine is my wife!
posted by shakespeherian at 1:49 PM on December 7, 2010


Your wife is Neal Stephenson?
posted by Artw at 1:49 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am a writer, I .... aww fuck it.
posted by punkfloyd at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2010


I want to mail, like, a billion copies of this to George R.R. Martin. The man has no excuse. None. The next damn book was supposed to have been half finished like five years ago, and where is it? GAH.

(And the upcoming HBO series will probably just give him more excuses not to write more...)
posted by dnash at 1:50 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


My wife is at least Neal Stephenson.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:51 PM on December 7, 2010


Holy crap, I'm Neal Stephenson!
posted by sonic meat machine at 1:54 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I consider all my MeFi comments first drafts.

The ones I really like I write out with fountain pen.
posted by mazola at 1:59 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


a depiction of a fountain pen

'cause they're so darn photogenic. The camera loves them. What I actually write with puts function over form, and I wouldn't have it any other way.
posted by Zed at 2:01 PM on December 7, 2010


I will grab one of my severed arms in my teeth. etc.

Posted by Chuck Norris
posted by yiftach at 2:10 PM on December 7, 2010


Postroad: I have often wondered why any site, post, newsprint ad or article that has to do with writing must always show a depiction of a fountain pen. How many writers today do their writing with fountain pens? Name 5.

Well, I write with a fountain pen. Lots of other writers I know write using pens, and most prefer either fountain pens or gel ink pens because it makes for less effort when writing.

Of better known writers, I can name three off the top of my head who write with fountain pens: Paul Auster, Philip Roth and Neil Gaiman.
posted by Kattullus at 2:10 PM on December 7, 2010




I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.

No, I am an editor, and I will finish the shit that you started:)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 2:21 PM on December 7, 2010 [28 favorites]


I used to write with a fountain pen because it made my spider scrawl look some way acceptable (though mainly it was notes - actual writing writing was done on my pc) Though after my last one bust I've just been using the free biros from my bank (yeah, global capitalism, I'm taking it back!)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:22 PM on December 7, 2010


I am a writer, and I will finish the shit that I started.

Yeah, but sometimes it's good to know when to ditch too (as long as you don't ditch everything)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:23 PM on December 7, 2010


I find the best way to finish a piece of writing is always to go at it when you've got nothing to say.

Saves on paper too.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:24 PM on December 7, 2010


Trust me. The world does not want me to finish everything I ever started writing. The world probably doesn't even want me to finish this co
posted by philip-random at 2:26 PM on December 7, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Writer's Creed

These are my words. There are many like them, but these are mine. They are my life. I must master them as I must master my life. Without me my words are useless. Without my words, I am useless. I must fire my keyboard true. I must shoot straighter than the poor plotting that is trying to kill me. I must shoot it before it shoots me. I will. My words and I know that what counts in writing is not the keys we strike, the noise of our heads hitting the keyboard, or the smoke we make. We know that it is the hits that count. We will hit. My words are human, even as I am human, because they are my life. Thus, I will learn writing as a brother. I will learn its weaknesses, its strengths, its parts, its accessories, its sights and its barrel. I will keep my writing clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. Before God I swear this creed. My writing and I are the defenders of my country. We are the masters of our typos, flawed plots and shallow characters. We are the saviors of my life. So be it, until victory is America's and there is no enemy.
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:43 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I came here to post something snarky about how George RR Martin needs to read this and I see I've already been beaten to the punch multiple times. The man does like his football, to be sure.

Just finish the damn thing already George.
posted by mcstayinskool at 2:46 PM on December 7, 2010 [3 favorites]


I too many problems getting started to worry about finishing.
posted by Eideteker at 2:59 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been blocked on a research paper for nearly a month. At this point, I lack the resolve to even finish reading anything. I liked the bits I made it through before collapsing back into my stress, anxiety and writerly shame though.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:00 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


According to the latest info on the ASOIAF forum, GRRM is pretty much finished. There have been some enormous continuity problems that he has been dealing with: X character has to do Z but not before character Y is in location A.

"11 October 2010 Update:
At the New York Comic-Con, GRRM's American publishers announced that ADWD is five chapters away from completion, with those chapters already existing in draft format. Bantam US have confirmed that they want the book completed by Christmas and to be able to announce a release date in the New Year. George R.R. Martin himself has not commented yet on this news.

Shortly after the above, Shawn Speakman, who works for Bantam, confirmed that ADWD is approaching the 1,500 manuscript page cut-off point, and the publishers are discussing with GRRM the possibility of making ADWD even larger than ASoS or pushing more material to Book 6.
"
posted by Ber at 3:07 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, he certainly finished that shit; I'll give him that.
posted by rocket88 at 3:15 PM on December 7, 2010


The diapers have burned away in the fires of my phoenix-esque rising.

No.

I appreciate the larger sentiment of the piece but that? No. God knows we all overdo it sometimes but this puts you on notice. Do not ever use the... the... construction "phoenix-esque" again or I will personally revoke your writer's card. I may also give you a damned good kicking into the bargain.
posted by Decani at 3:15 PM on December 7, 2010


According to the latest info on the ASOIAF forum, GRRM is pretty much finished.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAHAHAH oh you.
posted by Justinian at 3:36 PM on December 7, 2010 [5 favorites]


I've worked with Chuck. He's a smart guy and a good writer. I wish I had the discipline he has to:

1) Blog every single day.
2) Blog about the trendier stuff that I do, instead of pen and paper games and genre trash flicks months after they're hot stuff.
3) Go for it when necessary.

Say what you will about this bit and that -- hell, we have an inane about whether or not William Gibson is a sexist asshole because of one strange malapropism in a transcribed interview -- but Chuck tries to be inventive with his language every single day, and that's worthwhile as an exercise, and as a source of neat stuff.
posted by mobunited at 4:04 PM on December 7, 2010



The diapers have burned away in the fires of my phoenix-esque rising.

No.

I appreciate the larger sentiment of the piece but that? No. God knows we all overdo it sometimes but this puts you on notice. Do not ever use the... the... construction "phoenix-esque" again or I will personally revoke your writer's card. I may also give you a damned good kicking into the bargain.


It's sharp to pick up on "phoenix-esque" here in the presence of so much low-hanging fruit. Good-o.
posted by grobstein at 4:09 PM on December 7, 2010


Real artists ship.
posted by Devonian at 4:13 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


GRRM is pretty much finished.

I agree, but not in the same way you mean, I think.
posted by smoke at 5:30 PM on December 7, 2010


My confidence is hard and unyielding!!!!!!! Like a kidney stone lodged in the ureter of a stegosaurus!!!!!!!!!
It's better with a little syntactic flair.
posted by hellomina at 6:12 PM on December 7, 2010


or a pilonidal cyst
posted by clavdivs at 6:21 PM on December 7, 2010


I will burn down the forest. As the conflagration rages, all my excuses shall come scurrying forth like syphilitic rats whose backs smolder with the smoky scent of my coming victory. When my excuses bound, shrieking and squealing, toward my feet, I shall use my mighty wordhammer to squash them all, ‘asploding each like a sausage stuffed with self-deception and disillusionment.

The metaphors drip like James Frey's greasy forehead sweat as Frey pumps frantically down the tracks on a broken-down handcar fleeing from an enraged Oprah wielding a pitchfork and a burning torch.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:06 PM on December 7, 2010


That congeries could finish anyone's writing.
posted by mistersquid at 8:12 PM on December 7, 2010


Okay, okay, I'm off to write. Thanks for the guilt trip, Artw.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:57 PM on December 7, 2010


Just kidding.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:57 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


I figure by not starting to write anything, I'm way ahead of the game.
posted by rifflesby at 11:53 PM on December 7, 2010 [1 favorite]


My confidence is hard and unyielding. Like a kidney stone lodged in the ureter of a stegosaurus.
Metaphors don't get better than this.
posted by Memo at 5:14 AM on December 8, 2010


I keep a version of Heinlein's rules pinned up at my desk:

1. Write every day.
2. Finish everything you write.
3. Send out everything you finish.


Unfortunately, I've spent much of the last decade hung up on 3. 1 and 2 are easy, but 3 looms, a threat borne out of a sort of pathological anxiety that I'll only get one good chance to submit work that keeps me editing and editing and editing for fear that I'll be humiliated by sending out a rough piece in which I've not completely culled the buzzing cloud of unnecessary commas and em dashes that infest my first drafts like weevils in the silo.

I've read a lot of books, articles, and blogs of advice for writers over the years, and they all seem to be focused on things like "how to come up with a good idea" or "how to combat writer's block" or "how to build a realistic plot." Is an inability to get started really the problem, or is it that moment when your sails lose the wind and collapse into aimless ruffling canvas? If you're becalmed, is it a crisis of discipline or of motivation?

Some time ago, I read a little op-ed piece in a magazine for musicians that distilled a very cold and telling piece of wisdom down to its most basic chemical essence:

If you can go without making music, and if you don't feel anxious and congested when you're not making music, you're probably not cut out to be a musician.

It's a harsh idea, but it was one that stuck with me and made me realize I wasn't the kind of musician I wanted to be, and that I wasn't likely to become that person, either, because aspiration and enthusiasm aren't the whole game. In that regard, I went on to make the kind of music that's natural for me, and it's essentially unmarketable, but I don't go long without settling down with my little box of gear to make more of it.

I send it out, via the wonderful tool of the podcast, but to what end, I don't know.

In writing, there's this cultural groundswell of mass authorial intention, and everyone feels like they've got a novel to write, or a screenplay, or a wry and much-adored blog, and yet they let it fester in the background as an intention that never goes anywhere because the fuel that's needed to get it moving just isn't there. Sometimes, that stuck feeling is your aesthetic, trying to communicate with you from its own realm.

I wrote a novel, back in 2004-2006. Actually, I wrote a few, in a long, interconnected narrative trilogy. One's a sort of trashy Nancy Drew mystery about an infomercial star who gets drawn into a plot a radical Presbyterian terrorist with potty problems to hit Dollywood with a dirty bomb made from a salvaged Soviet RTG smuggled in by fake antique merchants. There's a wealthy industrialist living in North Carolina in a replica of Fallingwater with an entourage of German boys, a heartbroken potter in the business of producing sexual ceramics for people with a curious fetish, and a wannabe lesbian moped shop owner, all embroiled in a chase. Another's a story about a retired dot com millionaire running an old motel in South Carolina, intercut with a tragic romance between a pair of perfomance artists in New York in 1982 with a joint passion for stalking Grace Jones, tales of laundromats and neon stars, and conversations with a handyman with a secret. There's a third, but it's just weird and a little extreme by comparison.

Blasted through 'em, and they're not entirely bad, but the friction that finally brought the project to a halt was the gravelly realization that I'm really not a novelist, at least for now. It's not my voice, and I'm strongest when I work in essay form, constructing little stories that I can string together into larger narratives. I could keep at it, beating those books into something marketable with enough intervention and pretense, but instead, I've let them sit, half-formed, in the back of my head. Over the last year or so, it's occurred to me that they're all a day-glo backstory to a much simpler tale about my Grace Jones stalkers, and that story has started writing itself again in my head, in the way you write when you're in-between, with your brain set to a high idle. What I started as a lark, a project to write a queer and modern version of Franklin W. Dixon's boyhood boilerplate for postpostpostmodern folks, might actually amount to something one day, but I'm honoring my unconscious intention, allowing the thing to emerge when and if it's ever ready.

Granted, I'm probably not the key audience for this piece, and I'm not much of an inspiration to what happens when you do keep writing and finishing shit. Thousands of pages of well turned-out words all wait for somewhere to go, and I just keep on starting and finishing new things along the way, but my own particular neuroses and obsessions leave me stuck, sometimes. Still, I think when you get hung up, and you aren't moving forward, you need to use that resistance as a moment where you ask yourself a lot of questions.

Why am I not writing?

Answer the question with honesty and precision and you'll be on your way again, or on your way on another path that's more to your inherent voice. Forcing yourself, on the other hand, and dragging it out by way of discipline, guilt, and punishment just seems like it'll change the final result. Your mileage may vary, of course, and I suspect this method works well for Wendig, but I'm not entirely convinced that it's necessarily the way to go.
posted by sonascope at 5:54 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Completely wrong approach. This builds up the work into this huge thing you must summit. WRONG WRONG WRONG. You want to take away power from the thing you're trying to finish, render it conventional, trivial, just a little thing you've got to knock off after a little bit of work. You need to calm down and relax to finish it, otherwise you're going to completely stress yourself out, and procrastinate as a result.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:07 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why am I not writing?

"Answer the question with honesty and precision and you'll be on your way again, or on your way on another path that's more to your inherent voice."

sonascope,
The late newspaper columnist (and novelist) Keith Waterhouse once said genuine writers always knew the honest answer to the "why am I not writing?" question.

"Because I need to whiten my tennis shoes."
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:25 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Jody Tresidder: The late newspaper columnist (and novelist) Keith Waterhouse once said genuine writers always knew the honest answer to the "why am I not writing?" question.

Because I'm writing this other thing!

Current priority order. B.A. Thesis > Novel > Collaborative blog > Blog I guestpost on > Newspaper/magazine articles > Short stories. All is trumped by poetry, when I have an idea for a poem nothing else happens until I finish it. Most writers I know have these kinds of pecking orders.
posted by Kattullus at 7:35 AM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]


GRRM's problem is editing, not writing. He split his past book in half (therefore, technically, he's doing the sequel to a book from 2000) and had 800-1000 pages written since the beginning. That's longer than the time Joyce needed to do Ulysses.

Bantam US have confirmed that they want the book completed by Christmas and to be able to announce a release date in the New Year.

Breaking new year's resolutions before even making them is fun.
posted by ersatz at 2:26 PM on December 8, 2010


Everything You Need to Know to be a Fiction Writer
posted by Artw at 11:56 PM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]


Next to the defeated politician, the writer is the most vocal and inventive griper on earth. He sees hardship and unfairness wherever he looks. His agent doesn’t love him (enough). The blank sheet of paper is an enemy. The publisher is a cheapskate. The critic is a philistine. The public doesn’t understand him. His wife doesn’t understand him. The bartender doesn’t understand him.

PETER MAYLE
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 9:11 AM on December 9, 2010


Alan Moore's 5 Tips for Would-be Comics Writers, none of which is particular to comics (filthy self-link, but the only other versions I saw online either had ugly formatting or didn't cite the source, The Extraordinary Works of Alan Moore.)
posted by Zed at 11:27 AM on December 9, 2010


GRRM's problem is editing, not writing.

I don't think this is supportable if you've followed the situation at all. He's never managed to figure out how to write a chunk of the book he calls the Meereenese Knot. If he never actually writes a chunk of the book, problems with editing don't enter the picture. The idea that he's been 5 chapters from finishing for the last few months is laughable.
posted by Justinian at 3:48 PM on December 9, 2010 [1 favorite]


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