Writing Advice E-mail to Dan

I don’t have much reason to believe I know what I’m talking about when it comes to writing. However, almost a year ago now a friend of mine (Dan Van Dellen .. not to name drop or anything) asked me for some advice on writing a novel. I sent him this e-mail. Today, while cleaning out my email inbox (yes, I still have emails older than a year in my inbox. I’ve got one in there that’s going on six years old,… do something!) I found this e-mail exchange.

Since people don’t exchange letters anymore, this writerly advice would just disappear into electrons… and actually probably still will, but posting it here will keep it alive for a little longer anyway.

Oh, and the Ira Glass video I mention IS brilliant, and inspiring… you should watch it too. Here.

Anyway, here it goes:


Good to hear from you. Yes, the answer is as simple as you think, just do it. However, there are some bonus tips within that simple statement.
1. While it’s great that you’ve got an outline and notes, don’t feel tied to them. As the story progresses it may change. When you’re doing your first draft don’t worry at all if you stray from your outline… unless you’re OCD, then I have no idea why you’d be asking me for any kind of advice.
2. The first draft is the fun part, so let it be fun. I worked for 2 years on my first draft and it was a lot of fun (some days weren’t, but 90% of the time it was.) Currently I’m at the 2 year mark of the rewrite and it looks like it’s going to be another 3 – 6 months. In other words… the editing and rewriting are the hard part and the actual “work.”
3. Momentum is an amazing thing. I wouldn’t suggest a daily word goal (once again, unless you’re into that sort of thing.) I personally found that when I used a goal of a number of words a day I would tend to ad filler stuff that ended up getting eliminated from the final draft. Be that as it may, it did get me writing. Some sort of goal and rewards system to get the momentum going. That’s the most important part; Momentum. If you get enough of it, you’ll be writing for an hour and won’t even notice the time going by.
4. Definitely write for the first draft for one audience person… you. First draft, fuck everyone else’s opinions. Don’t even bother asking if it’s a good idea. Just do it for yourself. You’ll have plenty of time to try to please everyone else (impossible) in the rewrites.
5. Even if whatever you write absolutely sucks, remember that before you wrote it down it didn’t EXIST IN THE UNIVERSE AT ALL… that’s a fairly amazing idea that often keeps me moving.
If you haven’t seen this Ira Glass thing before, check it out. It’s like 1 1/2 minutes of brilliant help for beginning any art project.
I was going to make a video today discussing this topic, but had some technical problems. Hoping to do one tomorrow. If/when I do, I have you to thank… so, in advance, Thank you.
Let me know how it goes. The other thing I found that helped to no end was to have a fellow adventurer.
Oh, and one huge thing you could do for me, is to share/promote my web-site to anyone and everyone. My marketing is all just word of mouth right now. You’ve got a large mouth… use it.  www.eserkaln.com
Talk to you soon.

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