Monday, January 28, 2013

Write a Book, Lazy Ass!

I'd be willing to bet a fistful of Franklins that most people out there, at one time or another, have thought to themselves "I'd like to write a book someday."  I know the feeling better than anyone. Been saying it myself my entire life. Strange thing is... I'm still saying it.

Why strange? Because I've actually written a few. It's just that they aren't exactly the type of books that get a guy laid or win any prestigious awards. Don't get me wrong. They're killer books. I'm happy to be published. Fly fishing books are an intriguing sector of publishing and I'm happy to do more if the pay and perks are there.

However, what I really want to write is a fiction book that makes people think, feel, change. I want to write a novel that isn't simply read over a weekend, but compared to other pieces of amazing literature over a lifetime. You too, huh? Yeah, I thought so.


Let's face it. For whatever reason, not many of us ever get around to writing that book, do we? Why do you think that is? I've thought about this a lot. Let's pontificate upon the obstacles to writing a book for a moment. These are just coming to me right off the cuff.

1. NO TOPIC (What most people claim they really want to write is a book about their life -- a memoir. Honestly people? Most of our lives are some really boring shit we think is unique and special. With 6,973,738,433 people living on Earth as of 2011 (Source: World Bank), how can   that many of us have the audacity to think our lives are so interesting that we can justify writing a book about it? FACT: It isn't. It seems unique to you because you're in the middle of it, so it may appear to you that it could be interesting to others. But really it's just the spinning out of days of egocentric monotony.

Unless you've truly done something, or been something, or been through something and come out on the other side and overcome some hella-wicked obstacle(s),  i.e. Jennifer Lauck, Rosa Parks, Aron Ralston, Abraham Lincoln, please spare us and have a real effin TOPIC. Plus, it's sorta self-serving to write an autobiography, don't you think? It's sorta all about...YOU.

Let's move on.

EXCUSE # 2.  NO TIME (in a little whining-ass voice as though you lost your Rainbow Brite doll on the subway). Last I checked, all clocks have twelve numbers, 1 through 12. All clocks have two hands too, a minute and a second hand. If ever there was a true, level playing field created in nature, it is timeWe are all blessed with the same amount of sunlight per day. So hear me clearly, TIME will bitch slap you one of these days if you don't get off your lazy ass and do something worth doing. Write a book worth writing. Better yet, write a book worth READING! Working hard for what you want is the only way. There is no other way. Write, or wither.

3. Hmmm, obstacle #3. What other excuses are there? No time, and not topic? That's pretty much it. If you have any sort of medium at all to write words upon, then it's pretty simple to see. If you want to be a writer, all you need are TWO THINGS -- TIME, and A TOPIC.

Based upon these two notions, seems the shelves at Barnes & Noble ought to be bursting with books written by prisoners, eh? All prisoners have is shit to say, and time to say it. But usually prisoners are in prison for a reason -- one of those reasons being they are not good at accomplishing good things, only good at accomplishing bad things. So, yeah, there are a few bad books out there written by prisoners. (And maybe a handful of good ones.) But really, no. All those books ought to be written by you, and me.

So, what's the deal? Why don't more people like you and me write books?

I have a theory. But first, let's hit on something quickly.

A list of things you DO NOT need to be a writer.

1. A DEGREE (You do not need to be formally educated to write a book, dumb ass. Plenty of kids write books, i.e. Mattie Stepanek. Homeless people write books, i.e. Harry Edmund Martinson. Housewives write books. (Hey numb nuts, I'm not talking about that type of housewife.  Apparently plenty of idiots and dummies write books also,  i.e. every "Idiot's Guide" and "____ for Dummies Guide" has to be written by someone.

2. AN AGENT (Skip all that agent nonsense and start punching the keys. Once you have your book done, and you've let a few people read it and drop and honest critique to it, and you still have a soul left, then maybe then you'll have a little juice left to go find an agent. Until you have a book, just write.)

3. Hmmmm. Excuse #3...  Can't think of any. Get off your keister and write.

So, pretty much that's my new mantra. "Get off your lazy ass write." You can quit making excuses and write your book. (This is not dogma. I'm trying to motivate myself here as well.) Chances are, it'll be better than what's on the bookshelves now anyways. My opinion is this. Since appox 2000 A.D., Hollywood and New York have been on sabbatical. A leave of absence if you will. Gotten sloppy. Been unimaginative. Playing it safe. In other words, pretty much sucked.


New York: Are you kidding me with The Perks of Being a Wallflower? I learned absolutely nothing from reading that book except that I'm glad I don't teach little assholes anymore. And I can see how A Walk to Remember would interpret into a decent chick flick/screenplay/movie. But jeez it's a shitty read for an intelligent person. And Twilight -- the entire series is voted the worst books of the decade(How does that happen?) Wicked (and every counterfeit book it spawned) just sucks. Get your own story already. And BTW, any book about zombies except for the very first one (not sure which one it is, but I am damn sure the author does) is literary junk. Everything else "zombie" is/was riding the coat tails of the first Zombie book. Zombies were dumb in the 80's, and still are dumb. (How can something dead be alive, duh?)  The Time Traveler's Wife. Wait a minute...a time-traveling gene? WTH? Just because the author doesn't understand what a gene is does not give her the literary liberty to invent a genetic disorder that causes involuntary time travel does it?  The Secret? Not a secret anymore that it's not a book and never was one,  but only a $20 hardbound transcript (complete with screenshots for every page) from the documentary film titled the same thing on the topic of unproven metaphysics. Don't buy the book when you can rent the verbatim documentary for 1/10th the price.

Anyway, on to Hollywood (which is also writer-driven, just not novelists).

Hollywood: There have been more abominable remakes/sequels of movies since around 9/11 than ever in the history of filmmaking, IMO.  Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights. Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha' Hood. The Fog. The Stepford Wives. Arthur. Around the World in 80 Days. The Omen. Dukes of Hazard? The A-Team. Hawaii 5-0. (Haven't seen Red Dawn yet but don't expect much....) On and on and on it goes... Where are the original screenplays/scripts/stories that made Hollywood what it is? Casablanca. China Town. Groundhog Day. Fargo. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Memento, The Godfather, Brokeback Mountain, Terms of Endearment, Being John Malkovich, Pulp Fiction, Dances with Wolves, Dead Poets Society, The Pianist, Rear Window, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Cool Hand Luke, Star Wars, E.T., Gosford Park, Crash, The Shawshank Redemption, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...   ( s i g h )  I want those days back dammit. If you're going to make a re-make, ask America what it wants to see remade!

Okay. Rant over.


So, why write at all? Well, because you have to.

But I'll tell ya, getting a book published isn't easy. The easiest part about writing a book is writing the book. That's my quote. And if you ever read it anywhere else, please know that I invented it. Some other lazy ass writer stole it from here if you read it somewhere else. The hardest part about writing a book is all the other bullshit that goes along with writing a book:
  • having a significant other who can allow you to be a writer
  • writing an author bio that is simultaneously glowing, and God's honest truth
  • creating a blog people follow
  • keeping your bio/blog fresh 
  • marketing yourself as a package deal (not just marketing a single work/book)
  • writing taglines/footnotes/sources/index and all that shit
  • making copies of everything
  • taxes 
  • converting photos/images to the proper file type RAW PNG TIFF JPG JFIF JPEG WTF
  • making copies of everything
  • taking good photos (for non-fiction)
  • sourcing quotes properly
  • sending files properly (ftp, email, snail mail a disc, snail mail a thumb drive, flux capacitor)
  • meeting deadlines (you MUST meet them all)
  • corresponding with editors, designers, publicists... 
  • understanding your contract's fine print 
  • finding an agent who reads fine print 
  • getting the royalties you rightfully earned but assholes don't want to pay due to fine print BS
  • making copies of everything 
  • media spots (print responsibilities, radio shows, book signings, television...)
  • other stuff most writers don't remember right now because they're on their 3rd scotch too

Anyways, writing the text of any book should be a cake walk. Set a writing goal, and that should be around 2000 words a day. Yeah, it seems a lot a first. But, 2000 words buzzing around in your head should haunt you. Thoughts should beg to be exorcised from your soul. Ideas should insist upon spilling out of your mind and onto the paper/screen. When a writer isn't typing/writing, they should either be plagued with guilt, or bursting with spunk to get thoughts down on something. It should bother a writer deeply when they aren't writing.

Writers should ponder when they pen a pithy line, "I wonder if someone else has ever thought/written that?" Happens to me all the time. (Sometimes I Google entire sentences just to see if it comes back used. When it doesn't, I feel comfortable knowing it's mine!

When a writer puts something down for the record, they should worry like Hell, "That better pan out to be true, or I ought not print that."

So, if the easiest part is writing the text, seriously, you want to know the hardest part about the easiest part is? The hardest part about the easiest part is keeping going once you've started. Once you begin, the whole ball of wax is in your head all at once and sparks catch fires and it's easy because ideas are like bees and you can't stop the buzz even if you wanted to.

But if you stop for just a few days, the buzz becomes only a dull hum. Don't write for a week and you forget tiny parts of the plot you were gonna add in the rising action. If you stop for two weeks you forget how you were going to transition chapter ten into chapter eleven and that was important. You lay off for a month and you forget your protagonist's name and what you were writing for in the first place and that's bad because your protagonists name was your Mom's. Keep the flow in your head at all times.

1969!!! (Hell Yeah!)

And one last thing. Don't feel you always must have a finishing point. Just keep your goal. Mine is 2000 words. I was keeping track this whole time. That's what the random numbers were all about. And now that I'm up to 2015 words, you can kiss my no good lazy ass  ___________. . .

About Mac

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I am W. Chad McPhail. I'm an outdoor/travel writer, book author, former English teacher, and Amarillo native. 

I spend my spare time traipsing around the mountains and streams of the southwest in search of wild trout with my family, friends, various freeloaders, and other flotsam and jetsan. I used to teach English & Creative Writing. These days I am a Right of Way field agent with Coates Field Service, representing Sharyland Utilities during the construction of a 345 megawatt transmission line from Hereford to Panhandle, Texas. I love exploring the outdoors, fly fishing, backpacking, camping, hiking, kayaking, and yes, writing outdoor and travel books and pieces. I am a field writer of flyfishing, backpacking, camping, and kayaking articles for I have written many articles for magazines such as Southwest Fly Fishing, Texas Fish & Game, Rocky Mountain Game & Fish,, and more. I have co-penned three books with fishing buddy Mark D. Williams; Colorado Flyfishing: Where to Eat Sleep Fish, 49 Trout Streams of Southern Colorado, and An Introduction to Fly Fishing for Trout.