As Your Laugh Line we are at your service, delivering you the best in humorous books from humorous writers and doing it all with a grin and a giggle. By now you should be getting our weekly list of funny reads (and if not, pause while reading this and sign up!). But we’re here not just for readers of humorous books, we’re here for the writers as well. To that end, we thought we’d cull some of the most excellent writing from some of the best humorous authors out there and present it to you periodically. And you’re in luck! Today is the first day that we’re doing it. So, without further ado, here we go.
Wait! Actually, we’re not getting started yet. First, let’s discuss methods of writing. There’s a prevailing belief out there that suggests there are two kinds of writers: Plotters and Pantsters (plotters plot out—or outline if doing non-fiction—what they are going to write before writing; Pantsters wing it and write “by the seat of their pants.”) We think there’s probably a third kind, which is a mixture of the two; believing that some writers pants their plot, and others outline a plot and pants the filler.
Now, begin at the beginning…
Of course, whether you’re a plotter or a panster, you need to be able to begin writing. Which is sometimes the hardest part. For those staunchly in the pants camp, you simply rely on inspiration. Britain’s beloved Terry Pratchett, creator of the Discworld series, writes that way.
Pratchett doesn’t believe in planning his plot first. In a Writers Online (UK) interview, the perennial punster says he relies on instinct to write. And he goes so far as to say that he believes “in the goddess Narrativia.” She guides him as he sits down and lets his stories flow. His approach is to let “…it run, because you can always rewrite, check things, find the right way to say things. If you sit and plan, you get stuck in the planning.”
If that sounds a bit too scary or difficult for you, you could try PG Wodehouse’s technique.
He, too, wrote by the seat of his pants (though he also used pen and paper and even a typewriter at times), but only to a certain degree. Eventually, he’d plot. Having never entered a temple to the goddess Narrativia, he spent more time pre-thinking than perhaps Pratchett did. In a Paris Review Interview, Wodehouse said that his writing routine went thus: every day he’d go through his morning routine of exercise and breakfast, then he’d sit in his study and think. As he’d think, he’d take notes, and by about the 400th page (yes, 400, that’s not a typo), he’d feel he’d have a book in there somewhere and that’s when the planning and strategizing (i.e., plotting) would begin. “There’s always a moment when you feel you’ve got a novel started,” he said. “You can more or less see how it’s going to work out. After that, it’s just a question of detail…For a humorous novel you’ve got to have a scenario, and you’ve got to test it so that you know where the comedy comes in, where the situations come in…splitting it up into scenes (you can make a scene of almost anything) and have as little stuff in between as possible.”
Perhaps somewhere in between Pratchett and Wodehouses’ style, can be found essayist and social commentator Fran Lebowitz’s technique, which might be a little more helpful for those of us who, when sitting, tend to find we’re “just checking” our mail or social media on our cell phones, which we all secretly know is a portal to a time-warp making us run out of time to write.
Lebowitz doesn’t sit and think. Instead, she “wanders,” roaming around New York City absorbing everything she can absorb, not even sure of what she’s looking for. She hits up map stores, book stores, libraries, etc., and says: “After a month, I couldn’t find anything. But I decided that was all right, that I had absorbed all this information, and what I needed would just come to me, pop into my mind. And it did.” So in a sense you could say her mind was taking notes as it absorbed its surroundings, and when it had had enough, it could flow out what she wanted to write.
Fellow essayist, David Sedaris, is another firm believer in notes, notes and diaries to be exact.
He suggests you use your diary not just for a catalog of the day’s events, but for “an honest and unafraid look at your thoughts,” from which he says, “every so often there’ll be something I can use later: a joke, a description, a quote.” Similarly, he carries a notebook to record his observations of what’s going on around him to help him recall things. Sedaris also has some very useful advice for writers: read your work out loud. He reads his essays out loud to ensure the pacing and tone of the words are just right and to help him become more aware of his audience’s point of view. One final tidbit from Sedaris is this: Abandon all hope. Yep, you read that right. Abandon hope. Sedaris thinks hope can actually be stressful. “If I sit at my computer, determined to write a New Yorker story I won’t get beyond the first sentence,” so it’s better to not have that pressure.”
Hopefully, you found some help and inspiration from one of these great writers. Stay tuned for more in the future and…even more important…
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