The Special Page

On this month's Special Page:

Best-selling author Joe R. Lansdale gives us more writing tips


Douglas Clegg
Simon Clark
Dale Kaczmarek
Owl Goingback
Paul Tremblay
Joe R. Lansdale
Ramsey Campbell

See part one of this Special HERE

Writing tips from Joe R. Lansdale

I try to write three to five pages a day. That way I'm a hero everyday and those pages are easily polished, as they are few. If I write ten or twenty in a day, I don't try and stop it. I let whatever comes out come out. My only law is I write every morning for about three hours to write three to five pages.

What changed my writing life for me was consistency, expecting small amounts in a reasonable time, and eliminating that multiple draft idea. The draft idea can be helpful to some, but can be misleading to others who feel they are writing better because they have a lot of drafts, or working a tremendous number of hours.

I also like to quit daily when I feel like I still have a bit of story left in me, and then I don't think about the story until I get up the next morning, at least not purposely. By stopping when I think I have a little bit more to tell, my subconscious builds up anticipation.

Sometimes, if I feel really fiery when this happens, I switch to another story. I may have nothing in mind, so I'll write the first thing that comes to mind. It may be nothing, but I've been surprised more than once when it led to another story.

Don't talk out your energy and originality. When the story can be talked about, give it to the screen or paper, not to someone who doesn't want to hear about it anyway. Nothing bores me worse than someone trying to tell me the story or the book they're writing in detail. Put it on the page instead.

Write simply, which doesn't mean the words should be laid out like turds in a row. They need sparkle and they need poetry, and if you need a run-on sentence to give your story the feeling it needs, fuck the grammar police, but know what rules you're breaking, and why, even if you only sense why.

Writing isn't about pretty manners, but it isn't about trying to show you don't have pretty manners either. It's about the characters in the story, the dialogue, and a feeling of a subliminal story existing under the story. That there is more in the forest than the trees.

Write like everyone you know is dead. To hell with everyone else's opinion when you write.

Write clearly and visually, and avoid tags for the word said. Use He said or She said. A rare nod to he whispered or yelled is acceptable, but best avoided. Avoid She replied, She remarked, He responded, He said convincingly. She said with excitement. If you have to explain how they speak, you haven't written the scene right.

Or turn it into a character reveal at the same time. Set the scene and show how they talk, and if you explain it, do it cleverly so that it reveals character. He talked like had just eaten a puppy and had enjoyed every bite. That actually tells how he spoke, but it gives you an idea of how the narrator thinks, and what he or she thinks of who they are talking to. It's more than, and in my view, better than he said with confidence. Which really doesn't have the impact. It just says he was confident, the other shows you he's confident.

Stay away from exclamation marks. The scene should tell you. You are allowed them, of course, but sparingly. Say you do use the word yelled, again a rare choice. Most of the time the scene will explain it.

I got caught up recently in semi-colons, and I like to think they fit the tone of the narrator, a kind of formal speech, but on the other hand, they may just have been semi-colons. I usually rewrite if I start to use a semi-colon, turn it into two sentences, or often a comma will do in place of a semi-colon.

Don't join writers in being members of clubs like Splatterpunk, Noir, Cyberpunk, etc. Be your own club. As soon as those things can be identified, they are pretty much over with, and if you are member of such a club, you begin to write for the title of the club or members of the club, not yourself. Also, it becomes mechanical, then you start to write in a way that bores the reader, and you. Write what you want. Let the badger loose.

A note. You are allowed to say hi and hang out with those who like to be members of clubs. But, as soon as you join a club, you have most likely limited your possibilities as a writer. No matter how much you love something, if you cling to it long enough, you break its bones or smother it. Pet it, move on. You might come back and pet it again, but you don't have to make it your constant companion.

A story stays important for me if I don't talk about it. I try not to tap the volcano too soon. I like to let it build, then let the lava flow on the page, not out of my mouth. For me, I can burn out my story that way. What works for you, works for you, but containing until finished, then letting the pages tell the story is best for me, and probably a lot of others. Besides, most people really don't want to be grabbed by the sleeve and told your ideas. But they may want to read them.

All rules are suggestions, and all are made to be broken. Except these. To be a writer you must read, and read a lot, and read out of your comfort zone. Don't just read, horror, Science Fiction, what have you. And write regularly. Best of luck.













































About Joe R. Lansdale


Champion Mojo Storyteller Joe R. Lansdale has written novels and stories in many genres, including Western, horror, science fiction, mystery, and suspense. He has also written for comics as well as "Batman: The Animated Series." As of 2018, he has written 45 novels and published 30 short-story collections along with many chapbooks and comic-book adaptations. His stories have won ten Bram Stoker Awards. a British Fantasy Award, an Edgar Award, a World Horror Convention Grand Master Award, a Sugarprize, a Grinzane Cavour Prize for Literature, a Spur Award, and a Raymond Chandler Lifetime Achievement Award. He has been inducted into The Texas Literary Hall of Fame, and several of his novels have been adapted to film.

Frequent features of Lansdale's writing are usually deeply ironic, strange or absurd situations or characters, such as Elvis Presley and John F. Kennedy battling a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy in a nursing home (the plot of his Bram Stoker Award-nominated novella, Bubba Ho-Tep, which was made into a movie by Don Coscarelli). He is the winner of the British Fantasy Award, the American Horror Award, the Edgar Award, and ten Bram Stoker Awards.

His current new-release publisher is Mulholland Books. Lansdale also publishes with Dark Regions Press and Tachyon Publications, and with his daughter Kasey he has started a new publishing company called Pandi Press to control the re-issue and publishing of his older works.

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