Thursday, September 2, 2010

Mafi's Sage Steps

T.H. Mafi offers 100 sage steps on how to write a novel at her blog, Call Me Tahereh. Excerpts:
1. decide you're going to write a book.
2. tell all of your family and friends you'll be writing a 'fiction novel', because it sounds fancier than 'book'.
3. figure it can't be difficult.
4. struggle to remember the few literary terms you picked up in college and/or high school.
5. use the words 'protagonist', 'plot', and 'fiction novel' as often as you can in casual conversation.
6. manage to impress a few people.
7. decide you're pretty impressed with yourself.
8. buy a new outfit in honor of the book signing you'll be attending just as soon as you start finish your fiction novel.
9. someone tells you that 'fiction' and 'novel' are the same thing.
10. you laugh in their face and explain that fiction is a GENRE, and novel is just another word for BOOK.
11. sigh.
12. realize what kind of incompetence you'll have to deal with.
13. practice your acceptance speech for the awards your book will undoubtedly acquire.
14. make humble faces in the mirror.
Read the whole thing. Mafi continues on in increasingly hilarious -- and also sobering -- fashion. Society has a strange way of idolizing artists, of treating their struggles and yearnings and achievements as though they floated on some higher plane. The reality, of course, is a bit different. Not only is writing genre fiction difficult to master, let alone sell, we scribblers have to deal with a populace that seems to believe we've a screw or two (or twenty) loose. I've discovered a personal gift for inadvertently ending conversations with plot summaries; describing my "zombie WalMart love story" makes mouths snap shut with an almost-audible click. But perhaps stripping some of the romanticism away from the act of writing helps us approach it more seriously. Goodness knows the effort involved will sober us up on its own.

(Picture: CC 2010 by
kharied; Hat Tip: Brandywine Books)


Jim Murdoch said...

I would make this one important edit:

12. Realise what kind of incompetence you'll have to deal with. Beginning with yourself.

Unknown said...

Most of the normal people I know think of authors as basically just weirdos. Not much elevation at all.

My geekier and more offbeat friends, who recognize self-destructive obsessions when they see them, tend to treat it more like a terminal illness. "How's the writing going, Nathan?" they ask, their brows steepling, with a moue of concern. I always feel like I should cough delicately into a bloodstained handkerchief and make some vague noise about "hoping for good news."

Loren Eaton said...


Amen and amen. Mafi pokes some much-needed fun at our delusional self-confidence a little later on:

59. realize you have no plot.
60. google plot.
61. contemplate its importance.
62. figure 200 pages is too early for a plot in your 700 page novel.

Loren Eaton said...


I can relate. What throws most of my friends and family for a loop is the incongruity of my ideas and appearance. I am, howdoyousayit, disgustingly preppy, so when I break out a summary that involves carnivorous babies or filovirus-infection professors, it throws them for the proverbial loop.


C. N. Nevets said...

I know what you mean Loren. I'm Captain Nice Guy, gets-along-with-everyone, works-at-a-Christian-University... and writes stories about people asserting their personal identities through vile, murderous acts.

Loren Eaton said...

I'm guessing your co-workers might not be fans of your new drill story ...

C. N. Nevets said...

hahaha There's a reason I write under a pen name. :)

I know that I'm exploring ideas and playing with philosophical questions, but that doesn't always translate very well. lol

Tahereh said...

hey Loren! thanks so much for the kind words -- i'm so happy you could relate :D

nothing is ever as easy as it seems, is it?


best of luck with all you do!
my fingers are crossed for your success!

Loren Eaton said...


I've thought about a pen name, but -- alas! -- I fear I'm far too vain. Social alienation is worth the off chance of seeing my name in print. Yes, I know, it's a disease.

Loren Eaton said...


Thanks for writing it and stopping by! Nothing like a bit of goodhearted satire to jumpstart one's day.