When New York Times bestselling authors are asked for advice from budding writers, invariably they say the same thing: “You can’t just ask walk up to me and ask me questions, not without first contacting my people, who will tell you they never answer those people who don’t have people of their own.”
Sometimes a soft-hearted, heavily armed security orc for a New York Times bestselling author will take pity. They repeat bits of advice they’ve overheard their masters giving to unwashed peeps who trot alongside their limousines and pound on the window as it merges with heavy traffic on the expressway.
Most common among these tidbits are things like “Go suck a wart hog,” or “I said go suck a wart hog.” Another favorite: “Write what you know.” While sound, this is very difficult advice to follow if it turns out you don’t know anything.
For instance, let’s say you want to write a novel set in Paris, but you’ve never been to Paris and aren’t sure if it’s a city or a country or whether the people there really do speak a heavily accented version of English that some call “French fried bathtub rings.” Successful writers will have their people tell your people that this is a fairly good indication you are stupid or, as Parisians say in their heavily accented, and often misspelled English: “stewpide” (rhymes with Stu Peed, who doesn’t mind at all.)
Rebellious young writers rail against such “patronizing” advice, citing their right to write whatever the hell they want about Paris. Take, for example, the first sentence in “Goodbye Paris” by Larry “Lobotomy Larry Lewis” Lewis:
“Buzzy sat in his bathtub, soaking wet from his navel down, when all of a sudden his big toe got tangled up in the chain on the plug. He yanked it, causing all the water, plus Paris, to disappear down the drain causing Buzzy to smile because he never did like Paris or anybody in it.”
Another writing tip from the pros is to avoid “borrowing” sentences or entire paragraphs written by someone else. That is a sin called plagiarism or, in the shrewd judgement of Holy Lawyers “theft by stealing.” By the same bus token, never try to disguise your plagiarism by throwing in a few extra words of your own to make it appear you wrote the whole thing.
In fact, though hard to believe, many would-be writers try to fool other people’s people by copying or altering phrases from the Holy Bible — their work becoming known as “Bibe-zies” or even “Holy Bibleoni, hold the macaroni.”
Consider the very stealable first lines in the Bible, by (Wait for it) (Did you not hear me?) (Well okay, then.) God:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”
This has been stolen thousands of times by pathetic hacks, as in this most recent example referred by God to his lawyers:
“So. In the beginning, God was just about to create the heavens and the earth, okay? His phone rang. He muttered something and looked at the fone and saw the call was from his brother-in-law, the Sheckmeister. God sighed and tried to turn off his phone, but He kept pressing the wrong buttons and it continued to ring – actually it wasn’t a ring but a sound tone called The Shondells. It sounded a lot like the Sheckmeister strangling a canary while pounding on an electronic keyboard. By the way, the earth was without form and void (which hardly ever happens); and darkness was upon the face of the deep and after a minute or so somebody shouted “How do I turn off this goddam fone?”
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013-2021, all rights reserved.