This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers at any stage of their career can talk about seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning. This installment is from humor writer Jane Borden.
Jane is excited to give away a free copy of her memoir to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Elisa won.)
I Totally Meant to Do That (March 2011; Broadway),
a story about a Southern girl who moves to New York.
Amy Poehler called the book “The classic story of country
club mouse meets city mouse.” See Jane’s website here,
or her Twitter here.
1. You don’t know what a story is going to be about an until you start to write it. And I write nonfiction! Even if the plot can’t change, that doesn’t mean the metaphors won’t.
2. Don’t write a book unless you have a lot to say. This sounds obvious, but it was a much bigger undertaking then I had anticipated it would be–and I had anticipated it would be huge. But I didn’t want to reach my page count with filler and fluff. It took a lot of soul-searching, journal mining, and ultimately time to produce as much as a full book requires.
3. If you are keeping your chapters in separate Word documents, combine them all into one well before the due date. I discovered the night before my manuscript was due that it was only two-thirds long enough.
4. If you see a problem, a gap, or a leap in logic, everyone else will too. There are no magic tricks in writing. Stubbornness never wins.
5. Don’t get tendinitis. I had just begun the post-proposal manuscript when I contracted acute tendinitis in my shoulders from my day job. I had to talk the rest of the book via dictation software. “It was a pain … exclamation point.”
6. Don’t write about a topic or incident if you can’t be 100% candid. No one wants to see you hedge, or shy away. Either go in all the way, or don’t go at all.
7. Jokes are worth the time they need. One good joke can take as long to produce as a full page of sincere prose. Part of the reason it took me almost three years to write this book is because I wanted it to be funny. Hopefully it is question mark exclamation point question mark.