Log in

Sean Williams
the a-z of writing 
08.21 am 11.03.09
Ever since Clarion, I've had an A-Z of Writing wafting around the back of my mind.

There are some out there already, but I reckon we can do better.

Below the cut is my rough draft.  What do you think?  I'm open to suggestions!


A is for Audacity and Ambition (doesn't hurt to have a little of both)
B is for Books (so obvious it's blinding)
C is for Crisis, Choice and Consequence (thanks, tallaudrey!)
D is for Dreams (where I get my best ideas)
E is for Effective and Entertaining (stories that are both get away with anything); also for Editing
F is for FINISH
G is for GRAMMAR; also for Goals
H is for HARD WORK (and Haiku!)
I is for Ideas
J is for Just Do It
is for Kudos (not what we do it for, but hell, it doesn't hurt either)
L is for Listen and Learn
M is for Market
N is for Novelty (not always the same thing as Originality)
O is for Originality (not always the same thing as Novelty)
P is for Professional; also for Punctuation ETA and Proofread
Q is for Quality (settling for "good enough" is never good enough)
R is for READ ETA and also for  Revise, then Resubmit, Resubmit, Resubmit, etc) (thanks, punktortoise!)
S is for START ETA and Story and knowing when to Stop (thanks, battblush!)
T is for Talent, Technique and Tenacity (thanks, Kate!); also for the 10.5 Commandments
U is for Ubiquitous (people who say they want to write but never do), Unexceptional (most people's first efforts, including mine) and Utterly Usual (receiving rejections, lots of them); also Utopian (a world in which none of these three things are true)
V is for Verisimilitude
is for WRITE
X is for Xenophon (not the senator; the writer who once said "The sweetest sound of all is praise") (thanks again, tallaudrey!)
Y is that proverbial crooked letter (if you have to ask why you're writing, maybe you shouldn't be writing at all)
Z is for Zeal ("fervour or tireless devotion...and determination in its furtherance; diligent enthusiasm; powerful interest "--you get the picture) and for the Zeroth Commandment (commitment)

Is there anything major I've missed?

ETA See the comments for some excellent suggestions that haven't quite made the list!
10.09 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
R is also for revising, and resubmitting. And resubmitting. And resubmitting...
10.28 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
It is indeed! I'll revise the list immediately.

Edited at 2009-03-10 10:28 pm (UTC)
10.33 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
S for submit?

Many people write, not many submit
10.37 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
See the edit to "R". Does that cover it?

Edited at 2009-03-10 10:37 pm (UTC)
10.36 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
P for Proofread

I'm a teacher of senior English, (Sounds like a mexican bandit, Senor English) and you'd be surprised how much word processed stuff comes in that hasn't been proofread and spellchecked.
10.42 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
10.45 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
G for Gary Numan? Never hurts to include a lyric or two.

11.19 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Ha ha! Can't believe I didn't think of that one. :-)

Edited at 2009-03-10 11:19 pm (UTC)
11.25 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
I think P would be for passion as well -- you can't endure all the time and rejections and hard work if you don't have some passion for writing itself.
11.40 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Would that be covered by Zeal?

Otherwise I agree: passion is absolutely critical.
11.38 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
P is also for Perserverance.
11.41 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Would that be covered by Tenacity?

Otherwise I agree: perseverance (like passion) is absolutely critical.
11.48 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Oh well, if you're going to get all Thesaurusy on me while I'm stlll half asleep ... *g*

Great list, btw.
11.51 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Thanks, Karen. Just trying to avoid overloading the list with synonyms! ^_^

Have a hot chocolate. That always perks me up.
06.39 am 12.03.09 (UTC)
Tragically milk and I are no longer on speaking terms. But it's a nice thought!
06.45 am 12.03.09 (UTC)
Soy hot chocolates are delicious! I'll buy you one at Cocolat when you're in town for the natcon.
06.53 am 12.03.09 (UTC)
Thank you kindly! *g*
10.20 am 12.03.09 (UTC)
Soy hot chocolates work??? *stunned look* Colour me gobsmacked. Since I've had to avoid milks that has been a lost treat...any tricks to doing them right?

Oh yeah & the list - like that too *LOL* (but....hot chocolate!!!!)
11.14 am 12.03.09 (UTC)
Soy hot chocolate is brilliant. I dislike cow's milk and haven't drunk it for years, so if someone slips me one of those it tastes very wrong to me. Give it a try! (Haighs makes the best. Yum.)

Oh, and chocolate trumps everything. I thought that was understood around here. :-)
02.34 am 13.03.09 (UTC)
Well clearly chocolate trumps all.....my allegiance to chocolate is clear (though nowhere near the heights of the one I live with) since my comments lay with chocolate.

(Total random Friday trivia is I chose chocolate as my Primary Grade-something project & I remember I decided I HAD to take in a sample for everyone in the room as part of the presentation. Went down real well too LMAO)
04.40 am 13.03.09 (UTC)
You know I'm always happy to be a guinea pig, right? :-)
02.51 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
And Patience.
06.39 am 12.03.09 (UTC)
04.42 am 13.03.09 (UTC)
But a certain degree of impatience is important too. If you're not keen to get somewhere, maybe you'll get nowhere at all.

As with so many things to do with writing, there are two complete opposites to keep in your head at the same time.
04.52 am 13.03.09 (UTC)
You're evil. I'm supposed to be concentrating on a new chapter one. *g*

I get your meaning, but I'm not sure impatience is the right word, semantically. Impatience often leads to hasty action, and in this context can be counterproductive. Raise your hand if you've ever sent a ms out too soon because you were impatient and wanted results now? (me me me me me)

I think you need an implacable desire to achieve your goal, a desire that can withstand disappointment and setbacks, that's harnessed to a willingness to be patient and recognise this isn't a quick fix game. Especially if you're looking at pursuing the novelist's path, which is an absolute life lesson in acceptance of the long term process.
05.08 am 13.03.09 (UTC)
You're right, as always. I guess I've just met too many wannabe writers who don't have that fire in the belly--you know, the one that drives the whole engine. Without that, without a measure of dissatisfaction with any kind of world that doesn't include me as a writer, I think it's pretty hard to get anywhere. There's an extreme kind of patience that speaks of fossilisation or sedimentation, and that won't help at all.

Different strokes for different folks, though. And we all operate on individual definitions of "anywhere", too. So I shouldn't be too quick to judge.

the novelist's path, which is an absolute life lesson in acceptance of the long term process

You said it. The long term process composed of writing and writing and waiting and waiting, followed by insane periods of squeezing whole edits into 24 hour periods. That kind of thing.

Why do we do this again? :-)
05.18 am 13.03.09 (UTC)
Why do we do it? Because we can't not. And also we're insane.

You are absolutely right about the fire in the belly. It's that rabid determination to keep going, no matter what, that usually separates those who aspire from those who ultimately achieve, for any given value of achieve. But I'd liken that kind of fire to the slow-banked furnace, that just keeps burning, as opposed to the flash in the pan whoosh of yeah, I wanna do this, but which burns out because it lacks the sustained fuel of patience and persistence and tenacity and bloody-minded focus of you can knock me down but you can't keep me down.
11.41 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
S is for soul, all writing needs it. I've seen stories edited to the point where they've lost their soul. Know when to STOP (which also begins with S)
S is also for story. The plot must contain an actual story, not just an idea.

C is for commitment. You can't succeed without it.
11.42 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Oh, and L is for Love. Love what you do.
11.42 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
Commitment is the Zeroth Commandment. Maybe I should make that clearer.

Stop and Story are excellent! I'm not sure how to define Soul, though, so the skeptic in me recoils. :-)
11.56 pm 10.03.09 (UTC)
X for Xerxes! According to Herodotus, he was so determined to get across the Hellespont that when his first bridge collapsed, he killed the engineers and whipped and branded the sea for defying his command and then the second bridge worked.

If it doesn't work the first time, whip it, then try, try again!
01.43 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
F for Filter.

McCartny's biggest problem since 1970 is that he didn't have a filter. He thought everything he wrote was brilliant. Until then Lennon was his filter who was able to tell him what was sub-standard. Most of us have an internal filter and know what isn't up to par. Either rewrite, or file it.

01.56 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
I kinda file that process under Edit, but maybe it does need its own letter. (Frank Zappa had the same problem.) Hmmmm.
01.58 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
Some suggestions from Facebook:

"P = Pace, for me at least, one of the most important mechanisms in literature. :)" (Malachai Aird)

"Y is for Why not?" (Patrick Lundrigan)

"Y is 'yes, please, we'd love to buy your work'" (Lyn Battersby)

Edited at 2009-03-11 01:58 am (UTC)
03.31 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
Malachai adds:

"C = Characters - Cover Art
L = Lexicon
D = Dust cover
J = Jacket
T = Tome
V = Vocabulary
P = Plot
L = Languages :-)"
03.33 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
More Facebook suggestions:

"Aardvark, but rewarding." (Alicia Smith) *groan*

"W- 'Writers write, Owen.' :-)" (Lisa Hannett)

Great to see the Clarion South brainwashing kicking in, Lisa!
03.41 am 11.03.09 (UTC)
Well, someone had to! :-)
10.13 pm 12.03.09 (UTC)
r for risktaking (pushing the envelope)
08.37 pm 14.03.09 (UTC) - R
02.58 am 15.03.09 (UTC) - Re: R
The more the merrier!
This page was loaded Feb 24th 2017, 3:39 am GMT.