The NY Tyrant Guide to not being a Horrible writer in the Year 2010

To close out the fiction issue, NY Tyrant's GianCarlo DiTrapano got together with Ken Baumann from No Colony and Blake Butler from HTML Giant...

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14 January 2010, 2:23pm


Photo, urine by Nicholas Gazin

To close out the fiction issue, NY Tyrant's GianCarlo DiTrapano got together with Ken Baumann from No Colony and Blake Butler from HTML Giant (and here a couple days ago) to compile a list of current literary dealbreaks. Somewhere along the way it morphed from "things that dickheads do in their books" into something more akin to Brian Eno's Oblique Strategies where it's a mix of that with general writing advice. Neverbuhless, this one goes out to anyone who's ever told anyone else "I'm a writer." Read 'em and weep.

If you're going to write about drugs, please stop.

If you're going to write about a wedding, please stop.

Stop writing about how weird it is to be gay. It's not weird anymore.

Please do not write in hip-hop language.

Don't write about porn. We already have enough of that in our lives and we all beat off a much as you do, so it's no biggie.

Don't try to "write what you know." You don't know anything. Me either.

If you have to write about drugs, don't write about pot. Candy is more interesting than pot is. Knives are almost always cool.

Accidents are good, but not car ones, unless everybody in the book is dead or dies at once.

If there is lace of any kind in your writing, you are doomed.

Don't write about Europe. You were there with a backpack for a week and barely scratched the surface. This does not permit you to have a character called Giuseppe.

Do not open up your story with Bob Seger or John Mellencamp lyrics. Stephen King did that shit to me once when I was small and I'm still recovering.

Mental institutions are a dealbreaker. You can have an institution on your street or near your school but you can't be in one anymore. It sucks, I know.

If you write by hand, write with the hand you don't favor.

If you write by computer, and the room has a window, sit by that, and don't look out it.

Ignore or be rude to the people you love.

Then try to make up for it.

Don't try to surprise me unless you surprised yourself.

Write a book that will make me want to keep reading it rather than getting head. I can think of 10.

Font is important, both while you are typing the words, and when it is printed in the book.

When you think you are about to write something really good, go to the grocery.

Chekov's idea that "if a gun is on the mantle in the first act it should go off in the last" has done more damage than any other single sentence in writing. Objects are not road signs. Action in a book should not occur as if Keanu Reeves was in charge.

I'm still waiting to read a really good scene about somebody getting their ears pierced. It can be done.

Never have children.

Study story. Realize you cannot win. Repeat.

If you've ever thought about Star Wars or mentioned Star Wars in conversation, or own anything related to Star Wars, or have seen Star Wars, don't write.

Oh sweet, you went to that museum alone one day and had a tuna sandwich in the cafe? You're killing me, please.

The subway, huh?

If you listen to the Beatles or Radiohead, or Jay-Z, don't write.

If you ever put up devil's horns with your hand at shows, don't write.

You're probably in bad shape if you mention whiskey or a beach.

Don't say "story" or "poem."

Mothers are better for characters to have than girlfriends. Ditto fathers/boyfriends. If the mother is the girlfriend or the boyfriend, I hope your story isn't minimalist or narrative.

Abstractions and dreams are good.*

*Unless your dream is about building a tree-house out of honey and glue with your brother who isn't really your brother but that Brad Renfro guy who died in Hollywood but nobody noticed and the tree-house turns into a bar then a candle then a city. We've all had that dream or something equally as underwhelming.

Write less dialogue, unless you are really good at it, which I guarantee you aren't.

You're probably in pretty bad shape if you mention any website whatsoever or even a computer for that matter.

When was the last time you ate at an Arbys? If it was more than a year you probably can't say anything I need to know.

The cute fat Mexican at the bodega and his family who you think you're such good friends with probably live a much different life than you expect. Maybe don't start messing around in there.

Are you writing about someone taking a drag off of a cigarette? You might as well be saying, "He breathed."

Don't write about skin unless it's going bad. Acne is always a choice subject. The shame and embarrassment that comes with terrible skin can be a goldmine. I'm talking Acne Vulgaris too, not a goddamn blackhead on your chin.

Don't conceive of your "central" characters by defining them with a mental or physical "condition."

If you're going to tell me about your Mom, do it from your dad's point of view. I want to know what she's like in the sack.

Don't connect with me. Don't try to pretend I'm not there.

Don't try to be funny. You are or you aren't. Or the sentence is or isn't.

You are neither David Lynch nor Captain Beefheart. You might be Cher.

Cry more, but don't tell anybody either. This is the way crying is like rap.

I used to say you can't write about serial killers, but they work sometimes, if they are described in the way one would a washcloth or a doll.

Remember your asshole is a tunnel.

If you've ever read Bukowski, please stop.

Please, God, no characters who are musicians. There is nothing worse than trying to describe music, or how someone plays it. Leave music to douchebags.

Stop writing about rich literary boys in college. I hated you people when I was in college and I still hate you. Your frat took a shit on my porch.

Drink some water.

Do not write about writing. Have you ever seen a painting of a person painting? No? Well, it sucks.

If you've ever told someone they are "misreading" a philosopher, eat a cock.

You are not Andy Warhol.

You probably don't really listen to black metal.

Can I reiterate the one about not writing about musicians?

If you are more aware of your own dick or vagina than you are of what your breath sounds like when you are asleep, please go get a job in marketing instead.

The guy who lives upstairs from you is probably really cool. You should introduce yourself instead of imagining him doing weird shit with hooks and rope all the time and then writing it down. Get a hold of yourself, the guy's probably just playing Wii.

Oooh, prostitutes. So you're into that. Awesome. I'd rather hear from them about you.

If there's never been a book that made you not want to leave the house again, don't try to make your own.

Stop being in bars all the time. Man in Bar = Man in Life. We know.

If you're angry, go outside. Please do not put words into things. Not to keep the anger away, but to keep the Rage Against The Machine out of my ears.

Own your advice in the same way you once tried to suck your own dick. By that I mean: everything is true.

If my cousins on my dad's side of the family know who you are, or feel interested in reading your book when told what it's about, you might be dying.

Any critique of the social or emotional will go unnoticed. Pity.

If you can separate the words and the story: trash.

The word "lovers" always fails on some level.

Don't just kill your idols; leave them in history.

Avoid L.A. and New York altogether. If you lived in either of those cities, you would have given up writing by now anyway. I don't believe you.

Have you ever printed out your manuscript and bathed in it?

Right answers are for those who hope.

Tone belongs to music while deafness is holy.

If you or the people in your writing have bought new clothes in the past two years, it's over.

If you can point out "Action" in a book, why isn't it a movie?

Don't write about America or Bush or Arabs.

Don't write about the future.

Don't write about endings.

Probably don't write anything at all.

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