Ask the Expert: 3 Keys to Failing as a Writer

Question: What are the biggest mistakes you think writers make?

If you’re going to fail as a writer, then you might as well get it over with now.  Then you can focus on your day job and watch television all night.  The following 3 keys are guaranteed to unlock the door to instant failure and free you to flop like a floundering fish on the floor.

1. Just say no

Why didn’t you think of this before?  Stop writing.  It’s as simple as that.  Wait for huge blocks of time to open up, and refuse to write until they do.  Now that’s commitment!  Don’t touch that keyboard until your Muse flies down from Mount Parnassus to reveal the 101 master plots.  Failure comes to those who wait.

And don’t listen to barkers like that Trottier fellow who tells you to make realistic writing goals and make time to achieve them.  “Writing is its own reward,” he says.  What kind of bull crap is that?  Remember, success comes one day at a time, but failure is an all-or-nothing deal.  You can have it right now by not acting right now.  Insist on your story unfolding immediately to you at this instant, or find relief with a TV remote.  With any luck, you’ll be unconscious before those pesky desires to reach your God-given potential begin to bother you.

2. Listen to those voices

You know which ones.  “You’ll never amount to anything,” and “This is the biggest waste of time since Dole ran for president.”  And don’t forget to repeat this next one ten times before you fall asleep each night: “I’ll never be William Goldman.”  And you never will!  Affirm that.  Of course, Goldman will never be you, but that’s beside the point.  Face your fears and back off.

When you are tempted to write, seize this thought: “My work is worthless until it is absolutely perfect, and since it can’t ever be perfect, I am the most wretched creature to ever pick up a pencil.  My writing is an embarrassment to the free world.”  Pay no attention to those who talk about developing your craft or listening to Joseph Conrad’s “inner voice that knows.”  What inner voice?  That’s just the result of a half digested Whopper rotting in your gut.  “Have it your way” and take a nap from the joy of creation.

3. Submit before you’re ready

How can you possibly know when your script or manuscript is ready to be submitted to a potential buyer?  It’s never ready.  Send that unfinished work out now so that it will be rejected, proving that “those voices” mentioned earlier are right on the mark.  Why waste time striving for excellence when you can fail with grace, knowing full well that it wasn’t your best work that was rejected anyway.

And don’t waste time with a marketing plan or research.  Just find some names in a directory or book and mail off some half-baked query letters.  The rejection slips will give you the perfect excuse to end the writing madness once and for all.  Remember, the road to Heaven is paved with a helluva lot of effort.  You don’t need the pain.

Most importantly, clear your mind and medicate.  Here, have a beer…and some donut holes.  Don’t you feel better with writing out of your life?  Now, shuffle up to that remote and sit down.  There, there; everything is going to be just fine.  Nighty night.

17 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: 3 Keys to Failing as a Writer

  1. Patrick

    Dear Sir:

    As a Marine Corps veteran of Marine Corps Avaition. I have served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during WW11. My age is 88-years old, I felt compelled to write a book and a screenplay, beginning with the first Torpedo Squadron Air Groups to land at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal.

    My presentation at the Marine Corps Correspondents dinner, was well received, I am also listed in “The Few, The Proud, The Marines. The title of the book and screenplay is …”Airdales of Guadalcanal.” Many people have been interestedin history stories, This is one story I sincerely recommend reading. I can be contacted at 732-966-7330. I am also available as a guest speaker. Thank You for permting me to promote past history.

  2. Patrick

    Dear Sir:

    As a Mrine Corps veteran of Marine Corps Avaition. I have served in the Pacific Theater of Operations during WW11. My age is 88-years old, I felt compelled to write a book and a screenplay, beginning with the first Torpedo Squadron Air Groups to land at Henderson Field, Guadalcanal.

    My presentation at the Marine Corps Correspondents dinner, was well received, I am also listed in “Then Few, The Proud, The Marines. The title of the book and screenplay is …”Airdales of Guadalcanal.”

  3. Dave TrottierDave Trottier

    Dan, As long as you’re writing, I think you’re good. If, however, you want to write at night, but just can’t get to it, you may have a fear or block of some kind. With a little thought, you can probably figure out what’s going on.

  4. Dan

    I’m soooooo guilty of #2 almost every night as I close my eyes. Then every morning I get up and write. I don’t know what’s going on there.

    I think it’s because, well, what else am I gonna do?

  5. Pingback: How to Fail as a Screenwriter | LA Screenwriter

  6. Ian

    Thanks Dave. For a short script I’ve been working on, I did another major rewrite and felt I did what I could do with it and have moved on. Meanwhile, I showed it to some people. Some liked it, some didn’t so we’ll see.

  7. Dave TrottierDave Trottier

    Ian,

    Item #3 is focused on when it’s clearly not ready. I have seen dozens of writers start selling their scripts fully knowing that their script was not ready to be shown yet. That’s really the problem I am aiming at with #3. It’s the sure way to failure because it’s a work in progress.

    You have to decide when your work is ready. Usually, if you are just changing a word here and a word there, then you’re done writing the script. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s ready; it just means you have taken it as far as you can take it. So now you either get outside opinions or make your own judgment that it is ready to market or not ready to market. Good luck!

    And keep writing,
    Dave Trottier

  8. Christian Valenza

    Thank you, as a former Marine, we often need Drill Instructor sarcasm to get off our ass, face the odds and charge “into the Breach once more” to the slaughter. Hopefully someone will make it out alive, but if we don’t go forward, it will eat away at our integrity as a human being and in general make our lives simply miserable everytime we see a movie on the screen that is ten times worse than anything we have written.

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