Yesterday, we covered the first half of 10 Blog Writing Lessons Learned from Authors. Here are the next 5 lessons I have learned from some of my favorite book authors.
6) Not everything is going to be a hit — Joseph Heller. Heller wrote 7 novels, and 6 of them
sucked were not critical or commercial successes His very first one, Catch-22, is considered one of the best books of the 20th century, and is my 3rd favorite book. It was hysterical, absurd, and filled with enough satire to make George Carlin weep with envy. The rest didn’t do so well, but he kept writing. He wrote 3 plays, a series of short stories, and 3 screenplays, all of which had some success, but never reached the pinnacle of Catch-22.
Still, Heller didn’t go all J.D. Salinger on the literary world. He kept trying and plugging away. You’re not going to hit a homer with every post you write, so don’t give up. (But hopefully you’ll have a better success ratio than 14%.)
7) Piss people off — Anthony Bourdain — The Nasty Bits. Anthony Bourdain is great at pissing people off. He will unleash his ideas and his venom on anyone who gets under his skin. I just finished reading The Nasty Bits, and he has a go at everyone from fast food burger joints to fat people on airplanes to pretentious food snobs like Woody Harrelson, who will only ever eat raw fruits and vegetables, no matter where in the world he is who it inconveniences, or which restaurant owner he insults. Bourdain doesn’t pull any punches, and is willing to put even his more acerbic views in writing. You should too. (And don’t be a such a raw food jerk, Woody.)
8) Know the grammar rules. . . so you can ignore them — Elmore Leonard. Someone once told me “you can’t start your sentences with ‘and.'” I pointed out that things had changed since she was in 5th grade English — like the invention of the printing press — and that people have been starting sentences with “and” for a few decades. And since I was the professional writer, I ignored her. I have since found this quote by Elmore Leonard, and keep it in my notebook for future encounters: “(I)f proper usage gets in the way, it may have to go. I can’t allow what we learned in English composition to disrupt the sound and rhythm of the narrative.”
9) You have to go to where the action is — Ernie Pyle. Pyle died doing what he loved: writing. He was a correspondent for the Scripps Howard newspaper from 1935 – 1945, when he died in combat. Pyle actually won the Pulitzer in 1944 for his work, and became the patron saint of newspaper columnists and the National Society for Newspaper Columnists(I was a member for a couple years). But the only way he could have done all this was by being where the action was. You don’t have to put yourself into dangerous combat situations to write your blog, but you do have to get out from behind your computer, and see the things you’re writing about. When you use photos, use your photos. When you write about places around the globe, write about your visits. It’s one thing to write about things you’ve found on the web, but try getting out in the world and see what inspiration you can get out there.
10) Humor makes you memorable — Dave Barry. It’s the humor writers, not the political columnists who are the most remembered by their readers. I know people who still remember Dave Barry’s piece on the Lawn Rangers precision lawn mowing team or the time he played a corpse in the Eugene (Oregon) Opera’s production of Gianni Schicchi. No one remembers the piece David Broder wrote for the Washington Post about the guy who did the thing at the place. They remember things that are funny. So, if you can pull it off, use humor in your posts. If you can’t, avoid it, because otherwise people will remember you, and not in a good way.