Also by this author: The Candidate
Three Magic Words Every Writer Needs to Know
by Lis Wiehl, author of The Candidate: A Newsmaker Novel
Legendary editor Robert Gottlieb has just published a memoir entitled Avid Reader. It’s great fun, not to mention elucidating and instructive. Oh, and gossipy. And what’s better than gossipy? There are anecdotes with everyone from Bob Dylan (can you imagine editing Bob Dylan? Must make herding cats look like child’s play) to Bill Clinton. After all, this is a man who edited Catch-22, The Chosen, and one of my all-time favorite books, True Grit. If you haven’t read True Grit, do your heart and soul a favor and order it today. Gottlieb also edited Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, John Le Carre, Robert Caro, Anne Tyler and Katherine Hepburn. The mind boggles.
Gottlieb doesn’t stint on practical advice. He advocates for careful attention to book covers, titles, author photos and publicity. He’s slightly pre-social media (he’s now 85) but he certainly understands its power and the necessity for authors to use it.
But my favorite thing in the whole book is the three words that Gottlieb used to unblock a struggling writer: “Don’t write, type!” Words of wisdom indeed. I’ve learned a hundred (make that a thousand) times that you can’t wait for inspiration to strike. You have sit down and pound out the words. Even if not a single one of them ends up in the final manuscript, the process itself moves the book forward. I swear by word counts, and so do a lot of my writer friends. Pick a number, starting at 500 (come on, gang, that’s all of two pages) and stick with it come hell or high water. It’s so easy to let the day slip away from us, the precious hours sucked into the swirling vortex of life’s prosaic demands. Believe me, as the mother of two kids (both now out of the house, not that I’m gloating), I’ve been there. But every time I went there, I regretted it. And every time I reach my word count, which fluctuates between 1000 and 1500, I feel a surge of pride and accomplishment.
And guess what? Even on those days when the writing feels rote, dull, like I’m going in circles, there is usually a gem, a nugget, a spark, somethingthat moves my narrative along, or deepens my characters. Which means I’ve earned that bowl of chocolate-mint chip ice cream, that glass of wine, that Real Housewives binge-a-thon (not that I watch Real Housewives. Me? Please!).
In the end of course it’s all about discipline. It’s the one true necessity to getting a book written. So set that word count, sit down and don’t write, type!Kids, husbands, partners, friends, good works, guilty pleasures, retail therapy – it can all wait. Believe me, it will all still be there when you’re done … typing.
Don’t write, type! I just love that magic sentence made up of three magic words, three magic syllables. It’s so terse and actionable and full of piss and vinegar, juice and boogie. Truly it’s a sentence to live – and type – by.
We hope you have enjoyed this post from Lis Wiehl. We appreciate her taking the time to share her thoughts on writing fiction. Please take a moment to check out her most recent book, The Candidate, which released on October 4, 2016. A review of this book will be coming soon on our site.