>Mistake Number 1

Awhile ago at the Green Valley Book Fair I picked up a copy (cheap) of Jack M. Bickham’s thin book The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes (And How To Avoid Them) (Writers Digest Books, 1992). 38? Did he do a study? Was he going for 50 but got stuck? As odd as the title sounded, I’m a sucker for “How To” books when it comes to writing, so I bought it. And I’m finally getting around to reading it. And I will occasionally report back. Today is Mistake Number 1, but stay tuned for more.

1. Don’t Make Excuses.

That’s the first mistake, according to Bickham, although I assume that what is meant is that Making Excuses is the mistake, and not making excuses is how to avoid making excuses. That makes sense, no? “If you are serious about the craft of fiction, you must never make excuses for yourself. . . Consistent, persistent, even dogged work, day in and day out, is the professional’s way.” Good advice, not earth shattering.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Bickham suggests jotting down on a calendar the number of hourse spent writing each day and the number of pages produced that day. For days when there is no work to report, he commands that you type one double-spaced page of excuses, date it, and file it in a special place. The point here is that soon you’ll be so sick of making excuses that you’ll get down to the real business of writing. Okay, I’ll buy that. No excuses.

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