Stop Reading Books About How To Write A Book!

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by J. Scott Bugher

I am a writer and have the standard bookshelf dedicated to instructional books, most of which would be more useful as fire kindling or maybe origami practice, depending on the weight of the paper. Most instructional books are titled like outrageous promises found in Cosmopolitan or Men’s Health magazines: “Guaranteed Multiple Orgasms” or “Get Ripped Abs in Seven Days.”

Here’s the skinny. If you want to be edified in the craft of fiction, read Janet Burroway. If memoir is your thing, check out Natalie Goldberg. Like poetry? Then read work by other poets and write your own. Poetry instructional books will just make you hate poetry and life in general.

Now, if you want to be the most fantastical badass of a novelist, be super careful about today’s instructional books. Go old school first and read John Gardner’s book, On Becoming a Novelist, and maybe Henry Miller’s On Writing. In my opinion, I’d cut it out with the novel tutorial books after those guys. If you insist on getting that How to Write and Publish Your First Novel in Two Weeks book written by some guy who published a recalled romance novel in 1987, then practice some discernment.

I’m not going to identify the book I recently read about writing novels, but I’ll call it You Just Wasted Twenty Dollars by Stephen McBlowChunks.

The book begins with character development and advises to make them larger-than-life since, as the author generalizes, larger-than-life characters powerfully attract us. Okay, so this book might offer good advice to a writer planning on developing yet another asshole character with super-powers. Fair enough. But I have to ask: what’s so wrong with characters we can identify with, characters who are lonely and hang out in record shops or characters who think about tying shoes while riding an escalator? I’m lonely, I like record stores, I have random thoughts often (most recently, a thought of my cat inventing new batteries for Proctor and Gamble). So why should I give a shit about a larger-than-life character who can travel through time, shoot fire from their eyes and lick their own elbow?

We then move on to the “Personal Stakes” chapter, and stakes can make a story interesting, but goddammit–– This book advises everything to result in nuclear war. How would Nick Hornby make things worse for the record shop guys in High Fidelity? Give them each a terminal illness? Make them all heroin addicts? Have the mafia chase after them? Feed them a diet of badger shit and vinegar? And Nicholson Baker’s guy on the escalator in The Mezzanine? Would the book be better if the lead character was sodomized by Mr. T on his way up the escalator?

God, and the whole antagonist thing: the villain, the bad guy, the boogieman. The word “villain” makes me want to Google how to tie a noose. Every book on writing tells the practicing writer to include a villain. Hornby. Where’s your Lex Luthor at? Baker. You forgot to include a man-eating zombie-attacker-thingy. Okay, I’ll cap it on the villain rant.

You know what? I’ll cap it on everything. Long blog posts bore me to death, and if you’re still reading, you’re probably over it. I think I am, too. I was about to discuss plot and all the terrible things you can do to it according to this Write a Best-Seller in a Weekend book, but I think I’m done.

From the Desk of the New Editor-in-Chief: Some Notes On Editing and Lip Splitting

Confession #1: I have never had a split lip 1) because I’ve never been in a real physical fight and 2) because I am near religious about my lip balm application in all seasons.

Confession #2: Even though I am the newest editor of Split Lip magazine, a publication known for its edge and grit, I’m actually quite tenderhearted. But fiercely so. As in:  if I love you, I am ready and willing to kick someone’s ass if they hurt you, and I’m incredibly loyal once you’ve won me.

Confession #3: I am easily won by things like: kindness. humor. well-chosen gifts. well-chosen words.

At the heart of my editing is my…heart.  I want to be moved by your work. The direction doesn’t matter. Break it or make it swell.

And I’m still looking for the things Split Lip has always been looking for: sting. torque. bite.

A favorite line from a song by Father John Misty (video NSFW) that I often end up singing to myself in my head (okay, sometimes out loud if I’m all alone) when I have a a rough day goes: Oh, pour me another drink/and punch me in the face/You can call me Nancy. 

When it comes to writing: Sometimes I want a slow burn like liquor. Sometimes I want the chance to be somebody else. And sometimes, I just really want to be punched in the face.

So, come on over here and split my lip. (You’ll have to get through my team of stellar editors first).

x
Amanda

 

IMAGE: FLICKR

Split Lip Magazine: New Editor-in-Chief

amanda_miska

After searching for a significant period of time, and as we waited patiently for the perfect person for the job, Amanda Miska was recruited to serve as Split Lip Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief in December, 2014. She joined with her fists up throwing brass knuckle punches with all sorts of plans to push Split Lip to its next level. She is the former fiction curator at Luna Luna Magazine, one of the most visited online magazines out there, and one that also features media outside of literature like music, fine art and film. Split Lip’s perfect fit.

Amanda received her MFA in Creative Writing from American University. Her work is all over the place in fine journals like Whiskey Paper, CHEAP POP, jmww, The Collapsar, Storychord, Five Quarterly, Cactus Heart, Lockjaw Magazine, Pea River Journal, Hippocampus Magazine, Cartridge Lit, Atticus Review and elsewhere. She lives and writes in the Northern part of Virginia, but you can find her procrastinating on Twitter: @akmiska.

 Check out a few of her stories below:

Sorry Not Sorry @ Five Quarterly

Strangers @ CHEAP POP

ISO @ Whiskey Paper