This is Madyson Rush’s blog. Occasionally, she has something to say. Most of the time she doesn’t.
How to Suck at Writing
(The Best 11 Worst Tips You’ll Ever Get)
By Madyson Rush
June 8, 2013
Someone once told me, “Madyson, you should write an advice column about how to be a writer.” And I said, “Okay.” Then, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I was the last person in the world capable of doling out advice. I excel at nothing. In fact, when people hear that I’ve been a professional writer for nearly 12 years without ever publishing anything, I am surprised that they’re surprised. “Wow, you’ve been writing for that long and you still haven’t published anything yet?” That’s usually when I begin weeping, and then they end the conversation and never return my phone calls.
To make matters worse, in the 1990’s my mother found this card at Hallmark that said, “CONGRATULATIONS! You published your novel!” She hid it in an L.A. Gear shoe box and anticipated the time when she’d get to give it to me. That never happened. And now she’s dead. And our house burned down. And a tornado took what ashen mess remained, tore that into smithereens, and peppered the countryside with microscopic remains. Okay, maybe those last few things didn’t happen, but with my luck, I would not be surprised.
After losing my job last month and being denied unemployment, I decided that failure is just a matter of perspective. A writer must make lemonade out of life lemons—especially if the said writer is a pirate (scurvy can be the pits). If the half-emptiness of life’s cup-o-failures can be seen as half-full, then maybe things aren’t that bad. Maybe I can give advice. Maybe I can teach someone something. Maybe I can provide ordinary writers with tidbits that can secure mediocrity.
So, without further ado, eleven tips that will assure you never, ever, ever get published:
1. Write at Least Once Every Other Weekend…. For About 4 Minutes… Or 3 ½ Minutes Depending on How Long it Takes to Make Microwave Popcorn in Your Microwave
I call it speed writing, but if you average 5.22 words per minute like me, then that’s a bit of a misnomer– BING! Ooh, my popcorn is ready. See you in two weeks.
2. Overstated? I Think Not!
When your paycheck is based on word count, why say something in 3 words when you can say it in 100?
Susan ate oatmeal.
Susan Penelope Louise Sandwich, the three-times-removed, great-great-great-granddaughter of Ulysses S. Grant, albeit a phantom whisper of the stalwart leader and 18th President of the United States, born of the same precocious bloodline as the Appalachian Ohio tanner and therefore a passive-aggressive lover of all things wine and cheese, sat back on her haunches, wrinkled her bulbous nose, stretched her sweaty fingers into a shallow, wooden basin, and then consumed the gray, wretched mush her overenthusiastic sacrosanct mother insisted would cleanse her of all ungodliness, all desire for fornication, and lead to a lifetime of abstemious morality.
3. Brevity is the Soul of Etcetera
When not paid by word count, don’t waste time describing things. In fact, use the word “etc.” to depict characters, emotions, and scenes in all your writing. For example:
The white, tan, etc. dog leaped high in the air to catch his round, red, etc. ball after chasing the mean, hairy, etc. cat.
Publishers love etcetera, as do most agents, editors, etc.
>>Kanye West is interrupting this blog to let you know that Beyonce’s blog is better.<<
4. Adverbs Are Your Friends
Regularly, as in annually, semiannually, or daily, we must bravely, deliberately, boastfully, defiantly, and repeatedly use adverbs in our writing.
>>Kanye West would like to apologize because he really only wants to help people.<<
5. When in Doubt, Be Cliché
Although deemed the kiss of death by most writers, clichés are the whole enchilada. You don’t need to be bright as a button when you’re stuck in a rut. I mean, why reinvent the wheel on the spur of the moment to tickle someone else’s fancy? Hear me now and believe me later, although it’s easier said than done, this creativity thing cramps your style. When you’re on a roll, over the hill, or have hell to pay, be armed to the teeth and quick on the draw with clichés. Play it hard and fast. And, in the nick of time, you and your pencil thin eyebrows will dodge the bullet that is your editor’s kiss of death because the truth is out there and the truth is cliché.
6. Make Up Words
There are only 988,968 words in the English language. Clearly not enough.
For starters, clapter should be a word.
Clapter: [klăp-ter] the noisy clapping and joyful laughter emitted by your fans when they hear you sold your first novel to a majpub.
Majpub: [măj-pūb] big time publisher also known as HarperCollins, Random House, etc. who decides to publish your novel much to your critics’ shakrizzle.
Shakrizzle: [shăk-rîz-hæl] the burning sizzle of your critics’ shakras as they writhe in jealousy at your success.
There you go. Now there are 988,971 words.
7. He Said, She Said
The national reading level is Grade 3, so always tag who is talking and who they are talking to in dialogue. Example:
“Hi, Charles,” said Buddy to Charles.
“Hi, Buddy,” said Charles to Buddy.
“Charles, are you really in charge?” asked Buddy.
“Yes, Buddy,” answered Charles. “Buddy, I am in charge of your day and your night, of your wrongs and your rights.”
“I see, Charles,” said Buddy. “Well, I want Charles in charge of me.”
8. “What?” I sighed. “Really?” you crowed. “But why?” I gulped.
Go ahead. You know you want to. Replace boring ‘said’ sentence tags with sighed, burped, sniffed, gulped, or crowed because people can and should speak entire sentences using other bodily functions than the boring larynxial ‘said.
9. Every Story Should Resemble Your Fruit Body Shape
Pear-shaped people should have a really tiny beginning, absolutely no middle, and a gigantic end. Banana-shaped people should have a long, drawn out beginning, middle, and end that can be peeled away and placed on the floor of a high trafficked area for comedic effect. (Note: They can also be easily bruised.) Pomegranate people should write stories with clusters of sweet and sour characters, each with seeds of wisdom that get stuck in your teeth.
10. Conflict is Overrated
No, it isn’t!
Yes, it is!
See, wasn’t that lame? I rest my case.
11. Always Finish with ‘The End’