Saturday, August 18, 2007

Stuff about Writers and Tuna Salad Sandwiches

1. The goal in longform fiction is change. Something happens and someone (ones) change.

2. The goal in shortform fiction is some kind of awareness. Something happens and the narrator realizes a choice must be made, and may, indeed, make the choice. But be careful: since 2000, more or less, take care not to make the choice acted upon seem too mechanical.

3. Writers have multiple personalities. There are probably as many archetypes living inside the writer as there are verb tenses in the English language.

4. The difference between a writer and a lunatic is that the writer knows he has these archetypes living within.

5. A writer at work on a story is like the leader of an Italian parliament.

6. A modern novel is a negotiated settlement.

7. Persons who embark on a writing career because friends or family tell them they ought to put their stories down on paper are buying the literary equivalent of the Minneapolis Bridge.

8. A first draft is like throwing dirt clods at the side of a building.

9. Nothing bad ever happens to a writer.

10. It is all right not to like famous writers.

11. Many of today's most successful writers have not read Middlemarch.

Most writers in the early period of their career begin their stories too soon and end them too late.

13. It is not wrong not to have read Jim Harrison, but it is too bad.

14. Ditto Annie Proulx.

15. Readers become quickly bored with mysteries associated with significant things and conversely fascinated with mysteries associated with funny-sounding places. The mysteries of New York does not hold a candle to the Mysteries of Pismo Beach or Pasadena.

16. A peanut butter sandwich is not funny. A tuna salad sandwich is.

17. A writer who has writers' block is not funny. A surgeon who has surgery block is.


Lori Witzel said...

Re: Number 16.

Well, I must counterpoint.

A peanut butter sandwich, in relation to an Elvis impersonator, may be funny, especially if the Elvis impersonator is Shimoni and the PB is glatt kosher:

Kelli Anne said...

#8 and #17 are my personal favorites...

Anonymous said...

Great reminders told with honesty and wit.
With regards to #s 3 and 4 - I hope then, that my multiple personalities do not imply lunacy.
I agree with lori about the peanutbutter sandwich but for Sesame Street reasons ("Ala peanutbutter sandwiches!").

John Eaton said...

Great notes.

Elvis liked fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches, and he started early and ended too soon.


Anonymous said...

Shelly - now that I've finally figured out I can leave a comment (only, apparently, if I do it as 'anonymous'), I might as well go for it and say various ill-considered things....

- #6 is great. it's made my day, and has given me the perspective to go ahead and re-negotiate -- forever re-negotiate. Right now I'm looking at an older novel I wrote and seeing that the older novel can be opened up for total re-negotiation. the characters can renegotiate with one another, and so on. The only question involves my stamina.

-#3 - Archtypes and writers - a therapist once suggested I see things only for what they are. She used a lamp as an example: "It's just a lamp. Not a beacon of light etc." I thought it was very good advice but knew it was pretty much impossible. And not good for my work.

Later, Karen.