Andrew David MacDonald

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Andrew David MacDonald

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Member Since
October 2008


Popular Answered Questions

Andrew David MacDonald The sound of a spoiled, geriatric tuxedo cat, howling at 3am, and realizing you ran out of the Trout Lovers Supreme pate wetfood cans required for sle…moreThe sound of a spoiled, geriatric tuxedo cat, howling at 3am, and realizing you ran out of the Trout Lovers Supreme pate wetfood cans required for sleep. No second sentence necessary.(less)
Andrew David MacDonald I love this question, because I asked it a lot - and still do, whenever I get a chance to chat with other writers. I remember being kind of frustrated…moreI love this question, because I asked it a lot - and still do, whenever I get a chance to chat with other writers. I remember being kind of frustrated whenever I got answers that were vague, or overly philosophical; I'm pretty pragmatic, and am myself interested in practical advice. Maybe you're the same? In that spirit, here are the steps I would take - and really DID take - to improve and eventually write a book, etc.

1. Read a lot, and read widely.

This is kind of a no-brainer. You want to figure out what kinds of books you like, don't like, what genres appeal to you, and sponge up the rules of writing. A lot of guides talk about grammar, style, formatting, etc. If you read a lot, you'll have internalized much of this stuff. Plus writers write books for people to read because they like to read.

The widely part is important because you never know what kind of cross-pollination happens between what lives in your brain and what you're putting in.

2. Write for Words, Not For Time

This is a trick I used by necessity, back when I had a full-time job. I found that if I wrote for time, I got less done, and really didn't give myself the chance to write in small chunks during the day. You want to build up your writing muscle and challenge yourself to write more; writing for time doesn't do that.

On that subject...

3. Build Up Word Count and Write Every Day

Start with something managable, like 250 words a day, and scale it back by fifty words. So start with 200 words a day. I think anyone can do that. You can do 100 words in the morning, AFTER COFFEE OF COURSE, and then do 50 words on your lunch break, and 50 before bed. Add more if you have more energy.

Once you've done that word count for a couple weeks, add 50. If that's too easy, add 100. Build up to the Gold Standard(tm) of 1000 words a day. Write daily, preferably at the same time, and preferably in the morning.

Why the morning? Because you aren't tired from the wash of life then, and you'll be starting the day with a win. For added bonus points, you can do the Pomodoro Method to break your writing up.

4. Study Story Structure

You probably intuitively know when a story is broken, just from having been exposed to movies and TV shows and books. Think about movies with crappy endings, or that feel like a drag, or that take a long time to get into. There are structural reasons for that, and so I encourage you to look at screenplay structure, Joseph Campbell, Vonnegut's diagram for stories (a great video is on Youtube, if you just punch in "Vonnegut Story"), the five point plot structure, etc. Look at your favorite books and break them down.

If that sounds fun, then you and I have a lot in common :D

If it doesn't sound fun, that's okay too. I encourage you to think of yourself as a craftsperson who is learning how to build a book you can be proud of, vs. as an artist who dips into the muse-bucket. See The War of Art by Pressfield for more!

When I used to teach writing, the story I would use to break down plot is "Brownies" by ZZ Packer. Give it a read (it's excellent) and see if you can isolate all the elements of the five point plot structure, and how smartly Packer employs them.

4b. Fulfill Your Promise

Any story you tell starts with a promise. Will Frodo destroy the ring and save the world? Will Luke Skywalker overcome his archrivals on the Dark Side? Will Harry Potter defeat the noseless one?

Your promise will appear in the first fifty pages of your novel, and will give you a clue about how your story should end (hint: your ending has to address that promise in some way or another).

5. Finish your story

Don't stop to edit. Get your first draft done as fast as possible. You might want to get practice doing this with NaNoWriMo. Shut off the inner editor. Let your first draft be play.

To this end, I can't recommend Lamott's Bird by Bird, particulary the chapter, "Shitty First Drafts" (available in PDF all over place on the internet), enough.

6. Write Throught Sass

Your brain is going to do whatever it takes to dissuade you from finishing your book. Don't listen to negative self talk. Every word you write is getting you closer to mastering your craft, finishing your book. Take pleasure in the process, or at least try to.

--

I didn't expect this answer to be this long, but what the hell. I hope you find this useful.

Happy writing!(less)
Average rating: 3.87 · 9,584 ratings · 1,874 reviews · 1 distinct workSimilar authors
When We Were Vikings

3.87 avg rating — 9,584 ratings — published 2020 — 24 editions
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Happy New Year!

Hi friends and fellow readers!

I wanted to wish everyone a happy and book-filled 2021. May you be inspired to read, and by what you read, and may we all turn the corner on this turbulent year!

Thank you to everyone who has read my little book, and rated and commented. You've made this debut author's heart ache with gratitude.

I'm hoping I'll have some exciting news to announce in the coming months, b Read more of this blog post »
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Published on January 01, 2021 07:02

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Three Early Stories
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Oedipus Cadet
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Three Early Stories by J.D. Salinger
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Oedipus Cadet by Willie Smith
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The Complete Uncollected Stories by J.D. Salinger
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The Spirit of Science Fiction by Roberto Bolaño
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Nemesis by Philip Roth
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The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño
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Kiku's Prayer by Shūsaku Endō
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The Romantic Dogs by Roberto Bolaño
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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
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You know, up to the last 50 pages, I thought to myself, this is the best Murakami I've read in a long time. I love Norwegian Wood, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is, for me, quintessential Murakami, in terms of what kind of stories he writers. And th ...more
More of Andrew's books…
“He needs to write his own legend.”
Andrew David MacDonald, When We Were Vikings

“...Sometimes the world thinks something is not possible, but it turns out that they can be wrong.”
Andrew David MacDonald, When We Were Vikings

“sometimes the heroes of legends have to break the rules in order to save the people they care about.”
Andrew David MacDonald, When We Were Vikings

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