I’m not a big Tumblr guy. It’s nothing personal, I just feel with Facebook, Twitter and blogging, I spend enough time on social media. I don’t need another platform to distract me from writing. There are a few Tumblr accounts I keep tabs on, however, one of them being Joe Hill’s Thrills .
Joe Hill is the incredibly talented author of 20th Century Ghosts, Heart-Shaped Box, Horns, The Fireman and NOS4R2. Say that last title aloud and if it makes you smile you’ll probably dig his stuff. Joe’s Tumblr page is a cornucopia of geekery – Doctor Who, Star Wars, Victorian book illustrations, and comic books feature heavily. He also uses his Tumblr to answer fan questions and post writing advice.
Recently, Joe was asked Should you spend two years writing a novel that might not potentially sell?
The first thing to do is to stop thinking about writing a novel that’s going to take you two years. That’s too overwhelming. Instead, just focus on what you’re going to do today, which is write another great scene: a scene that does something unexpected and fun and is going to make people want to read on. Something that explores the characters in a way that’s real but surprising. Don’t write about someone waking up, unless they’re waking up to find a dead body next to them. Don’t write about someone making breakfast unless there’s a head in the fridge… or his wife is going to call halfway through his eggs to tell him she’s leaving his drunk and lazy ass for an alligator wrestler and part-time evangelical preacher. That would be a great scene to write and that’s all the job comes down to. Your job is to write one great scene… and then write another great scene. When you have a whole stack of them, it’s a short story or a novel.
Writing great scenes might seem obvious as far as advice goes but it hit me with the force of an epiphany. I’ve never approached my writing like this. Instead, I focused on writing a great story. The individual scenes were less important than the whole overarching narrative.
How many times have you been reading a perfectly fine novel only to come to a boring bit? A bridging scene that exists only to push the story along. Pretty prose devoid of compelling content. I’ve written them myself – rushed through scenes I felt were necessary, knowing full well they weren’t particularly engaging. Trusted that the reader cared enough about my characters that they’d bear with me till we got to the next exciting bit. This was the wrong approach. A novel should be nothing but exciting bits. That doesn’t mean non-stop action – scenes can be exciting in different ways. They can stimulate the mind as well as the loins, provoke, challenge, terrify, surprise, amuse, upset. Scenes should never be perfunctory, should never be boring.
Start with the goal of writing great scenes, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll end up writing a great book.