Writers, Set Your Pages on Fire!

Set the Page on Fire

Set the Page of Fire: Secrets of Successful Writers by Steve O’Keefe

“Everyone who can read is qualified to write and capable of crafting something in print that is powerful and important.”

I took lots of notes while reading this book. The above quote is one of my favourites. So, if you’ve never written anything before, why not try writing a book? If you are an experienced writer, I think you will get something from this book as well. It is a quick, easy read with tons of inspiring ideas, activities, and tips.

Here are some of the highlights.

Write a Book in 40-Hours

“A native English speaker types . . . forty words a minute. That’s 2,400 words an hour. The average length of an English-language novel is 80,000 words. That means the average typist should be able to keyboard a novel in thirty-four hours.”

Of course, writing a novel isn’t the same as typing. There is a creative process that takes time, thought, and effort, but O’Keefe has a point. You can have the bare bones of an idea in your head, start writing, and discover the story as you go. He believes “you can generate this can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens-next process when you, too aren’t sure of what’s coming next and are working as fast as possible to type it out.”

Start a Fake Book

I have one of these, but I call in my Commonplace Book. Basically, it is a collection of quotations pulled from television, movies, books, and other media I consume. The author of this book suggests that you start one too. He lets us know that he underlines, makes notes, and dog-ears pages of the books he owns. He also copies out complete passages into his fake book.

He writes, “Quotations often contain the distilled essence of an authors idea or style. Just reading a quote from my fake book can sometimes bring an entire book back into view.”

I wholeheartedly agree with this practice, but I absolutely hate dog-eared pages. I will show you my process next week that is much cleaner. Please don’t dog-ear books. Especially library ones. I have seen this way too often with books I borrow.

Reading Expands Vocabulary

I wrote about this last week but here are some stats to back it up.

“The average high school-educated English speaker has a spoken vocabulary of then thousand words, can use forty thousand words when writing, and can recognize fifty thousand words when reading.”

That is one of the reasons O’Keefe tells us not to talk about our work in progress. He believes that “when we talk about our work, we use only a fraction of the vocabulary we use when we write.”

Our heads are “filled with the language of thought, emotions, and sensation” that can come across on the page a lot better than it can in conversation. Plus, he thinks if you talk about it, and it doesn’t sound great, you might shy away from writing that scene and lose something that could have been magical.

Writing Will Help Your Story Grow and Develop

“Many people think writing is a process of capturing thoughts. However, it is a more a technique for growing thoughts than harvesting them. The best writing comes out of the process of discovery at the keyboard. It can rarely be thought out in advance and laid down whole.”

I have written about this several times over the years and it is why I refuse to write first drafts with an outline. I am a proud pantser and love discovering the story as I write.

Don’t Fact Check, Just Write Quickly

“Taking time to check facts as you write will destroy productivity. It’s much better to leave markers for yourself about things you’re not sure of than to stop each time to check them. Flow is everything to both writers and readers. You can feel it when you are in the zone, when writing is enjoyable and the words are coming faster than you can type.”

This is a great tip. Just get the first draft done and fill in the blanks later.

Express Yourself

“If you fail to write, you are denying yourself one of the sublime pleasures of living; to feel something to fix it in your heart by trying to express it, to carry it with you all the days of your life.”

While You Can

“We are all leaving the planet soon. You need to say what you’re going to say in writing before the opportunity passes by.”

My List of 2019 Reads – everything I read this year in one place