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Writers’ Needless Worries

As we all know, writers have a lot of things to work on, to learn, and to maybe worry about. However, there are some topics that are, well, fake. Here are some that we can get rid of right now.

1. Writing in the viewpoint of the opposite gender. Can a man write as a (gasp) woman? Or vice versa? Certainly. The variety of human beings is your real challenge, not their sex. Just do it.

2. Getting to the end of a novel. How is it done? Do you have it in you to write a long piece of fiction? Well, maybe not a wonderful book (for that you need to worry about stuff.) But to simply get to the end, you only need to write a page a day to have 365 pages in a year. Even four pages every weekend gets you in one year to page 200! Voila, a book every two years.

3. On having talent. Do you have any? Well, do you? This is a bad question. I have reviewers who think I’m brilliant, and some who think I ought to be selling cookware at Walmart. Which of them is right? Talent helps, and you may have some, but the better question is, are you willing to work to get better? Because we’re all working at that. Persistence is much more important to your writing work than talent. As is a little humility. Let go of it.

4. The right length. How long should your novel be? As long as it has to be. Novels aren’t cookie dough. You can’t make a long one short or vice versa. So write your novel with all your might, and then tell the editor what you’ve got. If you’ve done your homework on plot, chances are you won’t lack complexity for a nice, long novel. Plot is something to worry about. Forget length.

5. If I use people I know as fictional characters, they’ll be upset when they read my story. No they won’t. Your friends and family will not recognize themselves. Nobody knows themselves very well, sadly, nor are they likely to guess how you see them. (Caveat: change the obvious physical stuff, of course.)

6. Do your fingernails have to be the same exact length in order to type decent prose? Yes.

That’s my list of what not to worry about. These are all things I’ve actually been asked in classes and on tour. No one, not one single person, has ever asked me, “Is fiction the truth or lies?” (Answer: I dunno.)


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