Writing advice

I’ve mentioned that I’m currently working on a horror/suspense novel. I’m about 12,000 words in, and it’s coming along, but I’m realizing that the text I’m producing is going to need some work once the whole thing is completed. You see, as I write, if I find myself stuck searching for a certain word or phrase, I tend to just put down something to get the point across, with the intent of going back later and really finessing things. I’m starting to understand that after I’ve got everything down on the page, I’m going to need to go through the book paragraph by paragraph, or even sentence by sentence, and apply that finishing coat of paint. Thinking about this topic today led to a breakthrough in my understanding of the process of writing a novel.

Before I get into that, let me ask you question. Do you know how sometimes you go out at night and you pick up a prostitute and she angers you by reminding you of your mother, so you kill her and stuff her in a meat locker in your basement? And, every couple weeks or so, you go down there and open the locker, and see that she’s decayed just a bit more, until finally she’s just a bunch of bones? Well, now imagine if you could flip some kind of cosmic switch and cause time to happen in reverse. In this case, you would start out with a pile of dusty bones and slowly you would see flesh appear, followed by skin, and ultimately a perfectly normal dead prostitute. Well, I believe writing a novel is like watching a dead prostitute decay if time went in reverse.

Need me to clarify? Well, when you start our writing a novel, you have a basic concept of the story. I had a 20 page screenplay treatment. That’s the equivalent of the skeleton. Then you get in there and think through the detail that more, adding plot points and descriptive detail. This is like putting meat on the bones of the dead prostitute skeleton in your meat locker. Then you go in and take a pass at actually writing the novel, getting down to the nitty-gritty of sentences and paragraphs. This is comparable to having the body of a dead prostitute without skin. The final step, is of course applying that finishing touch — massaging the text so that the descriptions and metaphors make the point without being too cliché, finding the appropriate word where needed. This is the process of putting the skin back on the body. It seems minor — skin is a very small part of the human body — but it’s important. You can take a very attractive woman like Paris Hilton, but if you remove all her skin, she’s not so attractive anymore, is she?

So that’s my theory. A lot of authors will compare the process of writing a novel to giving birth to a child. That’s a legitimate comparison, but I don’t think it’s fully accurate. I think it’s more correct to say that writing a novel is a lot like watching the body of a dead prostitute reverse-decay after you flip a cosmic switch which causes time to go backwards.

I hope that’s helpful to any budding writers out there.

3 Responses to “Writing advice”

  1. John Saleeby


    Real interesting, Wil.


  2. John

    The reverse-decay-of-a-dead-prostitute description seems quite accurate. I presume the final phases of the novel writing, wherein the proofreading and other copy-editing occurs, would be akin to the makeup reapplying itself to the corpse.

  3. Wil

    What’s proofreading?