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About Writing Right: The Blog


When a writer wants some tips on starting a new book without having any idea of where it's going and what it will be about, you have to wonder: Is this guy serious? Here's how I responded to just such a query.

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I've read the responses to your question from two other people so far and found them, uhh, really interesting. Also, really wrong and patently ridiculous. Why do so many people insist on answering question to which they have no logical response and obviously no knowledge? Beats me. So, let's get down to brass tacks with a question right back at you.


Question: What are some ways to fail at life?


Answer: 1.) Don't plan ahead. 2.) Don't anticipate anything but instead play everything "by ear." 3.) Don't learn anything more than you pick up in your daily activities. 4.) Don't, by any means, put yourself out or stress over anything.


Those are the only ways to proceed if you want to guarantee you're going to fail at life. On the other hand, if you want to succeed either at life or at starting a new book without knowing what the hell you're getting into, I suggest you turn out the lights, crawl into bed, and go to sleep.


You can't start writing a new book without having any idea of where it's going or what it will be about. You can't start writing a new book without understanding what it is you want to get across to your reader at the story's conclusion--not, at least, if you want it to be a good piece of literature. Writing isn't a "throw all the parts in a bag and shake them up" experience. Even Stream-of-Consciousness novels require outlines, planning, and story lines. Ask Dostoevsky. I mean, if you could. Stories aren't haphazard any more than lives are. They exist for a purpose. They follow a plan or a path (depends upon your religious indoctrination). They proceed chronologically (look it up), starting at birth and ending at death.

When you begin a book without any idea of what you hope to accomplish, you destine yourself to failure.


Oh, has it been done? Sure. Take a look at Jack Kerouac's On the Road. But remember, it's a Beat book (short for the philosophical movement of the fifties and sixties, the Beatitude). And Beat prose was meant to be free-flowing. See how many similar books have succeeded in the marketplace since then. And ask yourself, did Kerouac succeed because he was the the best? Or did he succeed because he was the first, and that was a novelty? And answer yourself with this: Because he was a novelty.


So, if you want to proceed with such a book, go ahead. You have that right,. If you want the book to be a literary success, though, you'd better think again because starting a novel without any ideas at all is a little like taking a stroll through hell on a lazy Sunday afternoon. And that's about as close as you're going to come to writing a successful novel.


Of course, these are only my opinions. But, as a disclaimer to my disclaimer, I have to admit that after writing 250 conventionally published books, in most genres, I have a pretty good take on what writing is all about. Still, I understand I may have missed a couple of salient points in your question. In which, case, please feel free to contact me at my Website, and I'll be sure to respond to any additional questions ASAP.





Until then ...


Smoke if you've got 'em.

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D. J. Herda is author of the new e-Book series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. His blogs appear on his Website at www.djherda.org. You can also check out his columns, "The Author-Ethicist" and "Fury and the Beast," at Substack. They're free; they're entertaining; they're informative, and they run weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, he does his best!) 

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