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Everything We Know About Writin’ We Learned From Captain Jack Sparrow
Monday, October 1st, 2007
The crew members have pointed out perhaps we should give a bit of a brief statement about us and our ship. We are writing pirates on the ship, Romance Writer’s Revenge, which we all credit the naming of to Terrio, whom you’ll meet in a minute. Keep your britches on.
Our mission is to…well, be pirates. Okay, not like that. We’re different. We like to bathe. Not together. Get your minds out of the gutter.
We’ve banded together, rebels, who write because there is no greater freedom than that which can be found between the pages of… *tomato thrown at her by Boatswain Terrio* Hey! *glowering* We’re eating that later. Once we acquire a cook. Now mind yourself, or I’ll turn the Captain’s Daughter on you.
Please let me introduce Quartermaster Sin. *pointing to a leggy brunette who looks like she’d as soon kick your ass as look at you, dressed in black, all black* Nearly six-feet tall and enough to give the rest of us inferiority complexes if we thought about it too much. She writes like a hurricane, and this is without the bionic hand she wishes she could have.
*pointing to a shorter (who isn’t shorter than QM Sin?) auburn-haired pirate in blues and silvers, black knee boots looking particularly fetish-like* This is Boatswain Terrio, our chief petty officer (emphasis on petty) and here to boost our morale. *Terrio swishes cat-o-nine tails* Despite the accessories and pirate attire, Terrio writes contemporary romance without a single whip to be featured in it.
If you want whips, I suggest reading Sin’s stuff. I’d tell you what she writes, but on any given day, I doubt Sin could tell me. *grins*
Over here, *pointing to a young woman straddling a cannon, looking quite at home* is Powder Monkey Lisa. We’ve just acquired her to load the cannons–I hear she’s wonderful with big guns. She also writes contemporary romance, but I believe she prefers to call it “smut.” Poor gel, the only thing worth writing, really.
And I am Captain Hellion. I doubt any introductions are necessary.
Don your eye patch and brandish your sword, you’re about to learn to be a writer the pirate way.
1.)Establish your reputation. “But you have heard of me,” Jack says smugly, when Norrington comments that Jack’s the worst pirate he’s ever heard of. Network, network, network. The more people who know you in the business, the better chance you’ll have to show you mean to make writing your career. Jack established he was a pirate—and we all know he’s the best pirate there is. He said so. That being said….
2.)Believe in yourself. There isn’t anyone who believes more in Jack’s credentials as the world’s best pirate than Jack himself; and frankly, you, as a writer, need to do the same. Writing is a lonely business; and being left alone with your inner critic day in and day out can have you questioning your career path. Even when Jack is feeling a bit down, he knows deep down he is a great pirate—and you must do the same. Like Jack, perhaps a bit of rum will help. It’s certainly done a lot for my manuscript.
3.)Stop being a pirate…er…writer? Never! Jack didn’t have a ship, a crew, or even a bottle of rum; however, he was still a pirate. Think of yourself in similar terms: you’re a writer first. It’s not just a hobby; it’s not something to hide or do only when you’ve made everyone else happy. If you consider yourself as a writer first, people will also start to think of you that way—and it will be easier to carve out more time for writing because people will expect it.
4.)Have fun. Do you think Jack likes being a pirate? No, Jack loves being a pirate; he embraces it. He says, “Pirate.” So if people are staring at you oddly when you’re jotting down brilliant tidbits on napkins, laughing manically to yourself, and correcting the grammar on restaurant menus, just give them the Captain Jack look and say, ‘Writer.’”
5.)Be on the lookout for new treasure. Jack never failed to find bits of treasure lying about—usually unwatched—which he could immediately pocket. Pay attention to your surroundings. Life is absurd and full of characters. You’ll never know when you find the perfect real life person to portray your quirky Lord Herrington. (Disclaimer: while Captain Jack does abscond, most roguishly, with unprotected treasure, he does not steal copyrighted treasure—and neither should you.)
6.)Speak and deliver. Jack is an Ace at one-liners (“Savvy?”), and he’s memorable in practically everything he says. Memorable writing keeps readers running to the store for your next book—so be loud, be proud, and be your own voice, not anyone else’s…and you’ll be as memorable and beloved as Jack.
7.)Get into character. There would not have been a Pirates of the Caribbean without Captain Jack Sparrow. He made that movie; no doubt about it. Plot is great; plot tells the story, but characters sell books and keep readers wanting more. Create great characters and you’ll have a great book, even if your virgin secretary is having a secret baby.
8.)Get into trouble. If there’s anything Jack does well, it’s get into trouble. Then he spends an inordinate amount of time trying to get out of it, only making it worse. And we love him for it. Do the same to your characters. Where there’s trouble, there’s conflict; where there’s conflict, there’s story. Give your characters a ship, then blow holes in it.
9.)Seize the “Opportune Moment.” Jack knows how to create his own luck and seize opportunity. He doesn’t wait for people to bring him treasure; he takes it. Therefore, don’t keep your finished manuscripts lurking under the bed because you don’t think they’re polished enough for an editor’s eagle eye. Query, query, query. Rejection is a part of the business, even pirate business. Jack might get slapped now and again, but he still thinks he’s quite the catch.
10.)Find a dependable crew. Did Jack face nasty Barbossa alone? No. He took some equally rum-soaked pirates with him. You should do the same. Find like-minded, rum-soaked writers and sail the treacherous waters of the Slush Pile and Critic’s Hell. Every once in a while you’ll hit upon treasure—and in the meantime, you’ll have a lot of fun doing it!
11.)Be daft (like Jack). People are going to think you’re daft for wanting to write a book, and even dafter for going through the crap shoot of getting it published. There will be plot twists that will even have you thinking, “They’ll think I’m a lunatic. I can’t have an alien abduction at a Regency tea party!” But as Jack says, when his madness is brought into question, “Well thank goodness for that, ’cause if I wasn’t this would probably never work.” If you over think your ideas and don’t allow your “madness” room to romp in your manuscript, you’ll end up with a book that is overdone, trite, and not at all in your original voice.
12.)Savvy that “they’re more like guidelines anyway.” Learn the rules of writing–then break them. Put a twist on them and make them your own. Except for that rule about spelling and grammar–that’s one you shouldn’t break. Nothing more annoying to the Grammar from Hell Editor than a misspelled manuscript. But most everything else is fair game, Jack says.
Whatever your writing genre, find your strengths, strengthen your weaknesses and walk that plank of being a writer. If you take the chance and follow Captain Jack’s advice, you might end up Captain yourself.
What has the fair and witty Jack taught you about writing (or living)?
Wow, we hadn't even kidnapped Marnee yet. Hells was just as cheeky then as she is now. Wench.