Twitter Linkage + Writing Advice + A Gift from James McAvoy

A few weeks ago, I posted a video of Australian comedian Tim Minchin singing a Very Amusing song called, "If I Didn't Have You."

Last night, literary superhunk Neil Gaiman tweeted a link to this Minchin Christmas song:

I was surprised by how . . . beautiful it was.

Quite different from the majority of his work, though it still has a touch of sly humor. Here's another favorite, a poem called "Angry (Feet)," the sort of thing I'd normally expect from Minchin (R-rated language, for those who care). LOVE this one, as it's weird and creepy, and I am fond of weird and creepy:

Also on Twitter last night, editor Cheryl Klein linked to this fantastic post by novelist Jennifer Crusie about plot structure. If you're a writer, check it out! I liked it so much that I printed out a copy.

And to continue the randomness of this post — I am still not quite over the flu, so I'll blame it on that (but it's really just because I'm lazy) — here's a question from my friend Amber Nicole Brooks. Amber and I were in undergrad together, and she's a FABULOUS writer. She's also the first person I trusted to read my "professional" writing. [Which was really, really bad, you guys. So, a round of applause for Amber!]

Amber asked:

How do you stop yourself from re-reading, and re-reading stuff you've already written? (I mean stuff such as the prior chapters you've drafted for the book.) I like to do this, as some sort of punishment or procrastination.

Oh, man.



How to answer . . . how to answer . . .

Okay, the truth is this: I don't know. I honestly don't know. We're stepping into Achilles' heel territory here. I am pretty much one of the worst writers I know when it comes to re-reading work and not moving forward. I am a CHAMPION re-reader. WORLD-CLASS, A++ PROCRASTINATOR AND SELF-PUNISHER.

I loooooathe moving forward. Or, at least, I'm bad at it.

I enjoy tinkering. Tinker tinker tinker! I am an EXCELLENT tinker-er! If I could prettify and rewrite preexisting scenes all night long, I'd be a happy Stephanie. Unfortunately, scenes do not write themselves. And eventually it comes down to this:

Move forward or quit.

The only thing I hate more than moving forward? Quitting. So maybe you should post that above your desk: MOVE FORWARD OR QUIT! Unless you're prone to quitting things. Then it should read: MOVE FORWARD OR QUIT! Just so you know which option to pick.

Other ideas to try:

(A) A quick, ugly draft. Ask a friend to set a deadline for you. One that seems absolutely ridiculous. And then . . . power through it. Remind yourself again and again and again that beautiful writing comes LATER. It always comes later, because you don't know what you're writing about until you reach the end. You may think you know. But you don't. So it's best to let the early drafts be fast and ugly, because chances are high that you'll have to rewrite the entire thing anyway. Sorry.

(B) Bribe yourself. What do you want? Congratulations! Now you can't have it until you move forward. HA.

I find that a combination of (A) and (B) works best for me.

Anyone else have any advice to offer on this subject? My ears and blog comments are wide open!

Also . . . because I love him, and because several of you who read my blog also love him, and 'Tis the Season and all that, here's My Live-In Celebrity Boyfriend Chris Martin singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" with
Conan O'Brien:

Oh, what the heck. I'm in a video-y mood. Here's another silly one, for Coldplay fans only. It was their 2006 Christmas message. The costumes make me so happy!

Oh. And Chris wants me to tell you that he's kicking Wee James McAvoy's butt in Clue right now. They've been very competitive with the board games this year.

And now he wants me to tell you — in case you ever find yourself playing Clue with him in the future — that he is always, always Professor Plum. And Wee James is Miss Scarlet.


Now he wants me to tell you Happy Christmas. So "Happy Christmas" from Chris Martin.

And now, of course, Wee James is shouting at me to tell you Happy Christmas too, but to make it in a LARGER PRINT than Chris's message. So:


He also wants me to include a picture of a pygmy goat. I'm not sure why. Maybe because it's Wee like him?

So there's your pygmy goat from James McAvoy.

And now I'm going to stop typing before Chris makes me post a picture of a juggling hamster or bicycle shaped like a pickle or something.


  1. Hahaha! Too cute. I totally used to be the worst re-reader/re-writer ever--got stuck on chapter 1 for months until my writing professor was like "You WILL finish this book and I will never look at chapter 1 again until I see the words 'The End'" and that worked. And I agree completely, beautiful writing comes later. Sooo excited for your upcoming visit to my blog:-)

  2. you didnt let them know that i kick his wee skinny arse in candyland.

    i am the KING of candyland.

    i'm gonna go find a lead pipe of me own now. miss scarlet doesnt like losing.

    also could you please pick up some more chocolate chips at the store, i fancy some baked goods tonight. cookies or bread, me love?

  3. Last night I was checking my google reader before going to bed and I see a new post from Jane Austen Today I am reading and decide to leave a comment something I don't normally do. So I was suprised to read your comment. I just needed to say I am not internet stalking you I promise. The more I get to know you the more I am sure you are a kindred spirit.
    Also can you tell wee James that now all I want for Christmas is a pygmy goat.

  4. One thing that I find helpful in moving forward is to use Write or Die. I don't even open up the doc file with my ms until after I've written my first thousand words. That way I can't spend the hours and hours I tend to reading and re-reading what I've already written before getting started. It also adds a little excitement because I have to dive into something new without being 100% certain where I left off last. In a way it feels freeing. I should add that this really only works when you're going for that first ugly draft.

    Also, that pygmy goat? Cutest. Thing. Ever!

  5. The last time he visited, all James did was complain about how our board games were too much thought and too little dice rolling skill. But he made such a delicious pumpkin chocolate chip bread that we let him complain all he wanted.

    Also, sorry, just got off the phone with him--he called me to complain that everyone is saying the picture of the pygmy goat is the cutest thing ever, when, to quote James: "Everyone knows the cutest thing ever would be if I were in the picture WITH the goat!"

    He's very disappointed in your readership.

    However, I was not at all disappointed with this post, as it absolutely made my morning : )

  6. (Also, you know that thanks to a traumatic high school experience I've never loved Coldplay that much, but I just watched their Christmas video and ohmygoshhowcutearethey???)

  7. I love Clue! I might have to fight McAvoy for Miss Scarlet. Or maybe I'll let him have her. For, um, a kiss. Yes, I think I could do that.

    Also, that wee pgymy goat is awfully cute.

  8. Aw, how did James know I wanted a pygmy goat for Christmas?

    Re-reading is one of my biggest naughty habits, but I've been very good with my current wip, nice enough that James should hand-deliver me that goat. I'm over here, James, under the mistletoe!

  9. Anonymous2:14 PM GMT-5

    Pickle bicycle!!! PICKLE BICYCLE!!!!!!!!!

    Candyland King James,

    If you ever find the lead pipe (doubtful), I will tell you where to put it!


    HINT: Rhymes with "Pup Door Tut."

  10. Frankie — Wow! What a wonderful professor! You were lucky :)

    James — You're in luck! Jarrod just picked some up. That pumpkin bread chocolate chip bread Kiersten mentioned sounds DIVINE. (Also, do I need to separate you two? This board game business is getting out of control.)

    Connie — Oh, how awesome!! Why do I not visit Phoenix more often? Were you commenting on the Richard Armitage thing? He'd be such a fab Darcy!

    Valerie — Everyone keeps talking about that software! I should try it. Thanks for the advice!

    Kiersten — I'm always sad to hear about your traumatic Coldplay experience (though it's completely understood). YAY for the silly video making you smile! They're all a big bunch of nerds, one of the reasons why I like them so much. Also, next time James calls, you can tell him if he wanted a picture of himself with a goat, he should have provided it! I'd tell him myself, but he's outside playing in the snow. Who knows when he'll come back inside. He'll probably get lost and need to make a phone call. And he'll probably call you. And you'll have to tell him to call me. Oh, what the heck. I'll just call him NOW and get it over with.

    Jessica — Yay! Clue rocks!! Also, I'm fairly confident that James would let you be Miss Scarlet for a kiss.

    Tere — Who knew the pygmy goat would be so popular?? Apparently James knew EXACTLY what he was doing by asking me to post it :)

    Chris — Will you please call James and find out where he is? I'm worried.

  11. While watching North & South for the first time it took me the length of the movie to warm to Richard Armitage. I kept thinking he has such thin lips but then I saw him use his lips and all was forgiven. Yes he would make a good Darcy.
    I am so sad the audio had to be taken down I love this video.

  12. Connie — YES! I've seen that one! (Back when it had sound.) Did you ever see the "Maneater" Austen video? That was my favorite, but it was removed from just about everywhere. I found it a few months ago on some random site, but I can't seem to find it now. Boo.

  13. board games and pygmy goats? THIS is why I adore your blog. I couldn't make the Chris Martin link work but when he interviewed for Dateline he mentioned a Christmas song he was working on that was gonna be huge he thought. I wonder if this is it? He sang the chorus and it was beautiful.


    Merry Merry!!!

  14. Thanks for the videos. Listening to Chris always makes me happy--as does reading your blog.

  15. This is so great! I'm over to check out plot post right now.

    Best advice I've ever seen about rereading (procrastinating) what you've already written. I am soooooo guilty. Guilty.

    I want a pygmy goat. I think he'll fit in my stocking.


  16. Thanks for getting to my question, Steph!

  17. I'm stocking up on articles and advice to help me with my NaNo revision/editing/continuation come January 1st... Jenny's will definitely be one to bookmark! Honestly, there is not much better than a cup of coffee, Coldplay, and James McAvoy. YAY! Now I just need the writers around me to kick my butt about the procrastination thing... Thanks for the advice!

  18. So I didn't have enough time the other day to watch the videos and I just did. OMG Conan and the Christmas sweater! I'm another big Chris Martin/Coldplay fan. Saw them in concert last year and they came out into the audience right next to my seat and performed and I about died.

    Anyhoo, speaking of Clue did you know that there are now a Harry Potter and a The Office Clue games??

    Oh and you should check out write or die, there's an online version that's free to use. I love it! It's the only thing that really forces me to keep going when I would otherwise stop and daydream.

  19. OH MY GOD. I love goats SOOO much. I want one, when I finally move to my acreage. Now, I want THAT goat!!!

  20. i love chris martin - swoon!

  21. Great advice on the writing, or re-writing. : ) I always get stuck in that loop of NEVER MOVING FORWARD. Or, as of late, the dreaded outlining dilemma. Ugh. Outlines. Yuck!

    Happy Holidays to you and love your videos!

  22. I LOVE conan! He's hilarious-too bad my audio is junked up :( Great advise too-I always ssecond-gues (and 3rd guess and 4th guess) what i write...
    i really like your layout btw ;-D

  23. Thanks for the great videos and links, and please tell James thank you for the picture of the pygmy goat. It's adorable.

  24. Katie — I heard about that, too! I don't think it's this one, since it's a cover, but I DO hope we'll hear it someday! :)

    Myrna — You are very, very welcome! Seeing your happy face here always makes ME happy.

    Sarah Frances — Wow, thank you! Now if only I could learn to follow my own advice...

    Amber — You're welcome! I hope it helped, at least a leetle bit.

    Molly — WOO HOO! I'm happy to provide the goodies!

    Valerie — YAAAAAAY! Another Coldplay fan! How amazing that they were so close to you! I saw them on their last tour too, and they weren't RIGHT next to my seat, but they were still pretty darn close. It was heaven. And I have an old version of Harry Potter Clue, but it was more of a rip-off. It's called "Mystery at Hogwarts" and it was released right after the first movie. I'd say I need the new one, but that would probably be excessive (even for me!) ;)

    jckandy — Isn't he the cutest?? I'm glad you like!

    Shelli — Swoon, indeed. *happy sigh*

    Kimberly — Outlining, ACK. I only outline if there is NO OTHER OPTION. So terrible. (Shudder.) Happy holidays to you, too!!

    Amy — Thank you! And I love Conan, too. My husband was a huuuge fan, and he got me hooked!

    Sarah — You're very welcome! And I think James wants to leave his own reply...

  25. sarah,

    youre welcome for the goat. adorable, aye, but not as adorable as you, my duck. happy holidays.

  26. Gotta agree with Chris...pickle bicycle! pickle bicycle!!

    (I did not know that celeb boyfriends could be so....cool. Might have to get me one, even though if violates the rules of castle Thomas....what with the laundry issues and all...)