What People Want

This: Let me show you what people want from life.
Not this: Let me show you what a cool writer I am.

—My Pal Zan (aka, R.R. Knudson)

Peace and Joy and welcome once again to Uncle Jerry’s Writer’s Corner. Open your notebook to a blank page, Camper, and take down what my pal Zan says at the top of this blog. My pal Zan was the crabbiest, funniest, most irritatingly candid writer Your Uncle Jerry has ever known. She’s deceased now, thank heavens. One can stand only so much good advice.

Zan wrote more than 40 books of YA fiction and nonfiction. She studied constantly, wrote ferociously, and she spoke like she had no time to waste—certainly none to waste on you.

“Okay, this rewrite isn’t terrible,” Zan once said to Uncle Jerry. “But boy does it have Second Book all over it.” She roughed up her own hair and shook her head. “I’ll be so glad when you’re done with it.”

It was actually Uncle Jerry’s fourth book—a fact that I almost wrote to her later, but the nice doctor that Uncle Jerry sees on alternate Thursdays thought it could be a mistake. Never mind about that.

The problem with your writing, Camper, is that you don’t have enough Zan in it. Surely, you know this. Look at it. Why does it take forever to get where it’s going? Why does it lose focus? Most often, because it’s too busy showing off how clever you are.

I know I know I know. That’s NOT what you’re doing. Those lines are not ornamental; they contribute something vital to characterization, plot, exposition. Whatever. Leave them, in that case.

But here’s the deal. Every time you sit down to write, look again at what Zan says in your notebook.

Now write what people want from life.

In chapter eleven, Molly’s relatives are trying to figure this out, too—what they want from life.

Joy and peace.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Uncle Jerry-

    but what if what people want from life is clever lines?

    Sincerely Yours,
    Camper #8, Bunk 2