Joe R. Lansdale
The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

Best-selling author Joe R. Lansdale gives us brand new tips about writing


Ramsey Campbell
Michaelbrent Collings
Thomas Smith
Bentley Little
W.D. Gagliani
Tim Waggoner

New writing advice from Joe R. Lansdale

A lot of advice can be given to would-be writers, and a lot of it is good, and a lot of it is bad, but mostly it depends on if that advice works for you.

The one piece of advice I believe in the most is that you should have the joy of writing. I know there are plenty who love to tell you how they suffer to do it, and that their choice, but I think it's something you should delight in and not suffer doing. Delighting in it is not the same thing being easy, but it should always be a joyful challenge. That joy should come from you.

I don't believe in outside sources of creation, other than the things that influence you, but what I do mean is you are your own muse, or you create it from things that influence you: things you see, hear, read, so on. It is not a magical spirit moving around out there waiting to inhabit you. The more you sit down to write and keep a schedule, the more the muse shows up, because you are training it (and training yourself) to do what is necessary.

You may have some days when it's hard and the muse seems to have stayed home, buried deep inside the depths of your head, but if you do it regularly, and for me that means five to seven days a week for about three hours a day, you may find the work is pretty much the same. I've even found there were times when I felt 'inspired' that when rereading I didn't do as well as on days I felt uninspired. It can go either way.

Even when I wasn't selling, when I was starting out, piling up rejections, I showed up full of excitement, and did the work as best I could. It doesn't always turnout brilliantly, and all you can do is strive to do the best you can on the day you do it, realizing your best varies from time to time.

When people tell me their writing is going badly, I often find it's because they aren't actually showing up. They are waiting for inspiration. It's a trainable quality.

If you're having trouble finishing your novel, sit down and write one good sentence, and that alone will often lead to two, and then three. And momentum is gained. If nothing else, you get one good sentence.

Take the pressure off of yourself to complete the work, but say you will write every day for a few minutes, maybe up to an hour, and then quit. Do it five to seven days a week. You may surprise yourself.

People have time to write, but they just don't make the time to write. And for those who want to argue the point that they don't have time to write, then fine, you don't. I am not here to debate the matter with you, but I think most people do.

I wrote with two jobs, and I wrote as a house dad. I made time. A number of writers with all kinds of difficulties and disabilities manage to do it, so it's certainly worth a try if you truly want to do it, or just talk about and list your excuses. We can all come up with excuses. People spend time on twitter and facebook and watching TV, and say, well, that's different. If you've got time to argue on twitter, chat on the phone for hours, watch TV, you have time to write, and the quality is up to your own efforts and desires.

These are writing tips that work for me. Maybe not you, but me, and here they are, or at least some of the major ones:

Short hours. I rarely work more than three hours a day, and sometimes less. But I'm focused. Now and again I do a second, or even third shift, but that's rare. This gives me the rest of the day to read, exercise, watch movies, and I'm home with my beloved wife. So, life is good. I became a writer partly because I didn't want to do the nine to five grind. It's still hard work, but not lonely. I don't buy into that.

Polish as you go. You may need to do more polish when it's finished, but if you have this mind set there will be a lot less to do when you finish. Avoid multiple drafts.

Set a reasonable goal. Three to five pages a day is mine. If I get more, yippie.

Don't outline. Let your subconscious work on the novel. I get up in the morning, have my coffee, and I'm ready to go. I start hot and burn down slowly.

Enjoy something besides writing, and reading should be a big part of that. You don't read, you can't write good books. Oh, I know there's an exception, but that's why it's an exception.

Meet new people. Learn to talk to people, and learn to listen when they talk. Learn to work when you travel. I've written several novels out of country and in hotels.

And best of all, have fun. This is cool stuff, writing for a living, making up stories, and getting paid for it.































About Joe R. Lansdale

Joe Lansdale

Joe R. Lansdale is the multi-award winning author of thirty novels and over two hundred short stories, articles and essays. He has written screenplays, teleplays, comic book scripts, and occasionally teaches creative writing and screenplay writing at Stephen F. Austin State University. He has received The Edgar Award, The Grinzani Prize for Literature, seven Bram Stoker Awards, and many others.

His stories Bubba Ho-Tep and Incident On and Off a Mountain Road were both filmed. He is the founder of the martial arts system Shen Chuan, and has been in the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame four times. He lives in East Texas with his wife, Karen.

Learn about the Hap and Leonard TV series on the Sundance Channel HERE

Visit Joe R. Lansdale HERE

See all of Joe R. Lansdale's books HERE

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