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Imagine you’re a writer. Go ahead, millions of other people do it, and most of them are busy dispensing advice to each other on the subject. Of course, by now we’re all beginning to suspect that for some of them it’s the only writing they do. Now imagine you’re a successful writer. Imagine someone asks you for your top writing tips. Why the hell would you give away the secrets that have made you rich and successful? You might offer some platitudes like ‘You can’t write the final draft first’ or ‘Try not to drink spirits before noon’. But if you really knew the magic formula you’d keep it to yourself. So, given that writing tips are bullshit, I offer the following UNwriting tips, which are guaranteed to work, but not necessarily in a good way.
When in doubt, begin with a sex scene. Then do some writing.
Try to find a large, quiet space with plenty of natural light and a nice view. Sell it immediately. Forget writing, go into property and make some real money.
If your friends say you should be a comedy writer, forget it. Comedy writers don’t have friends.
Motivate yourself with the ‘Carrot and Stick’ approach. You can stick the carrot wherever you want.
Don't waste time on being jealous of more successful writers. Focus on your task of sticking pins in little dolls of them.
If you’re writing a book, adopt a personal tone, as if addressing a single reader. Then track them down and make them buy it.
MOVING RIGHT ALONG
Never use two words when one word will do instead of the two words you were going to use.
Always think about what you can leave out. For example, when sending work to agents, don't include a photograph of your genitals.
Write about what you know. But as if it had happened to someone who knows much more than you, and is a better writer.
If you’re adapting your own work, ignore the original author. If you have to collaborate, work in different rooms.
Always take a break if you've spent more than six hours at a stretch in online arguments about punctuation.
If you can consistently write five thousand words a day you should probably drink less coffee.
Remember, writing is rewriting. No, wait. GOOD writing is rewriting. Or maybe, "The BEST writing..." No, the first version was OK.
Take regular breaks. Gradually make them longer. Eventually you'll have a different life.
UNWRITING FOR THE SCREEN
The key to writing an effective screenplay is tension and pacing. If you get too tense, get up and pace around for a while.
Write the film YOU'D watch if you were the kind of person who'd watch the type of film that someone like you would write.
Get to know your characters. Ask them questions. If they won't talk, lock them in a room with a rotting seal carcass.
Always know what your characters are doing when they're off screen. Make sure they're nor sneaking off to appear in someone else's screenplay.
It’s said that if Shakespeare were alive today he’d be selling scripts to Hollywood. But it’s more likely he’d be selling whatever's kept him alive all this time.
GENERAL UNWRITING TIPS
Always be concerned about plagiarism. If it's not happening to you, you're clearly not writing anything worth stealing.
Write your first draft quickly without revising. Then read it. Then drink a bottle of vodka. Then look for a proper job.
Every day cut most of yesterday's stuff and write slightly less new stuff until there's nothing left, but it's perfect.
If your agent is wearing a sombrero and you're not in Mexico, that could explain why you found it so easy to get an agent.
Always carry a notebook and jot down interesting things you see and hear. Except when you're in North Korea.
If your keyboard is sprinkled with flaky white powder and it's not drugs, it's probably time to wash your hair.
Never give up on your dreams. Except that one about the giraffe and the mayonnaise. That’s just sick.
Always believe in yourself. Unless you’re a ghost. What kind of idiot believes in ghosts? Get over yourself.
Give your novel an exciting postmodernist vibe by writing about a character who strongly objects to being based on you.
Don't give way to despair and self-loathing in the morning. You'll have nothing to do in the afternoon.
Always think of yourself as a professional. Then all you have to do is find a profession.