Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Martha Gets Religious (about writing)

Nothing brings out unsolicited advice like the declaration: "I'm working on a novel."

"What about?" strangers/friends/family ask.

It doesn't matter what you say, they will offer friendly advice. You could literally quote Genesis, and you'd get the response, "Wouldn't it be cool if you make the universe is three days instead? Three days seems more urgent."

Pile that advice on top of whatever you get from your critique group, writing friends, writing forums, seminars, and Oprah.

That's a lot of advice. The only way to anchor yourself in your story is to keep a central tenant of writing commandments. Things you know in your heart to be true about the world, about writing, and about yourself. Things you will not compromise on even as your story grows and changes under the care of others. Things that keep your story yours.


Martha's 10 Writing Commandments To Herself. Not To You.

1. Thou shalt have a female main character point of view. No offense to guys. But there's enough from your point of view in this world.

2. Thou shalt try thy bestest not to let any characters bite their lips. At least not until thou makest a friend who actually does bite her lip. Because really, thou doesn't knowest anyone who does this in real life.

3. Thou shalt not have two women fighting over a joint male romantic-interest. If the two woman shall fight, it shalt be over something substantial. And interesting. Not a dude.

4. Thy characters shall not have pets, unless they intend to eat said pet, or do something grotesquely interesting to said pet, because otherwise all they will do is feed and pet said pet, and what do you really have to say that is interesting about pet ownership? Nothing.

5. Thou shalt not write a character having a dream. Thou knowest that listening to someone's dreams is hella annoying, even when they are thine own. So why make someone pay to read them? (I should note - I have written characters waking up from nightmares but not in the process of having them. It's a thin line, but they're my commandments, so I'm cool with it.)

6. Thou shall write characters of ethnic diversity but not dwell on said ethnic diversity creating a "we are all the same at heart" message because thou knowest, as someone of diversity, that thou feels this message is total sentimental crap undervaluing the very point of diversity in that difference is beautiful and not something to be feared. Besides, when was the last time thou wantest to be the same as anyone? Never.

7. Thou shall keep thy word count under 60,000. Nothing thou hasest to say is interesting enough to hit 100,000 words. Ever.

8. Thou shall make thy books as awesome as possible. Thou knowest thy is asking for Publishers to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in personnel, materials and overhead to produce said work so make thou shit worth hundreds of thousand of dollars.

9. Thou shalt write whatever the hellest thy wants. Else, what's the point?

10. Thou shall make holy any day thy wantest to rest. Because again. See above.

22 comments:

jujuwiz said...

I am so bookmarking this. Can I join the church of Martha?

Mysti said...

I'll be smiling all day, Martha. Never realized when someone recalims something (curse word or your own art), we all get a little reclaim-high off it. Thank you!!!!

Sophie Littlefield said...

ha ha ha ha ha "Martha's 10 Writing Commandments To Herself. Not To You." - - one of the best things you ever wrote :) Off to tell everyone.

Martha Flynn said...

Oh yeah, the Church of Martha meets weekly for milkshakes and prime rib at Val's.

<<<>>> When do we get another peek at your manuscript???????????

Jane George said...

Martha made my day! I especially like #3.

Martha Flynn said...

sorry, that last comment was to Mysti, embedded in a hug, but html got wiggy

Paula said...

Great commandments. I like this church.

Juliet Blackwell said...

LOVE this, Martha! Pondering my own writing commandments now...
Oh, and guess what, everybody? I got Martha to agree to drink scotch with me. Oh hell yeah, I did ;-)

Paul Levine said...

I'm about to go out with a 110,000 word novel. Who among you will trim 50,000 words for me?

Martha Flynn said...

It seems, Paul, you have a lot of interesting things to say, so go with it.

And as to the Scotch, may we just have the ambulance standing by?

Rachael Herron said...

Vals! You know that Bethany used to work there, right? I'll worship there...
My fave is #8. As AWESOME as possible. Oh, yeah.

L.G.C. Smith said...

I've been told I compress my lips in a way that could be construed as biting them. So you might have to make a slight revision to the wording in #1. That said, this is a singularly unattractive thing to do, so you should definitely keep the commandment.

Lisa Hughey said...

uh-oh i broke five. however i'm working hard on eight :)

Martha Flynn said...

HAHA Lisa - these are MY commandments. You get to come up with your own.

I will have to watch you carefully next time, Lynn!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yay, Martha! I believe, I believe!

Rushing out to delete lip biting...just one, but nevertheless.

Then I will delete "just."

Alli Sinclair said...

This is brilliant! Thank you for making me smile! Numbers 6, 8 and 9 are my faves.

Rochelle Staab said...

Testify! #9 is my favorite, Martha!!!! I'm a believer.

Adrienne Miller said...

Love it! Oh, but you do know someone who bites her lip...a lot. So much that I have little bite marks all over them.

Martha Flynn said...

You bite your lip ironically. That's different. :)

Gina Pangione said...

Because of this post, I plan to kneel at the altar of this great blog from now on. Love the commandments; can't wait to get caught up on past posts. By the way, I plan to spend my writing day brainstorming pets and various culinary methods of preparation, because #4 is just too damn funny not to think about a little more.

Rochelle Staab said...

Amen and hallelujah, Martha. Hands in the air to testify. My favorite is #9.

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