Sunday, February 20, 2011

Six Writing Tips on a Tube of Toothpaste





Everything I know about writing a novel, I’ve learned from Crest Extra Whitening Toothpaste. What? You don’t believe me? Ow. That hurts. Okay, okay. I’ll prove it. Give me a sec while I run to the bathroom and grab a tube…


I’m back. Ta-dah! Come closer and see for yourself.



1.) Brush teeth thoroughly after meals at least twice a day or as directed by a dentist. Supervise children’s brushing until good habits are established.

"The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." Mary Heaton Vorse


If I waited for the perfect mood or lightning bolt of inspiration to strike before I sat down and wrote, I would never have finished Before Ever After, or perhaps even started.

A huge part of writing the book was just about showing up, sitting down, and putting one word in front of another. It was important for me to follow a schedule and be as disciplined about it as though I were clocking in at an office. Whether I came up with five words or five hundred, it was still more than what I had the day before.


2.) For best results, squeeze tube from the bottom and flatten as you go up.

"The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense." Tom Clancy


One of the things I like about writing is the freedom to create worlds within the pages of the book – but while these worlds spring from our imagination, it must come alive in someone else’s. Twists and turns in the story are great, but if it leaves readers going back and forth between pages to understand what’s going on, then the writer has failed. Doing the Cha Cha is fun – but not when you are reading.

Writing with the end in mind is essential – each sentence you put down must take you closer to that goal. If it doesn’t, take it out.



3.) Questions? 1-800-699-3974

"Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go." E. L. Doctorow

The common advice is to write what you know. I believe, however, that that shouldn’t stop us from exploring what we don’t. There are treasure troves of information to be found out there and experts who are more than willing to share their knowledge if you just ask them. For me, half the fun of writing is in discovering something new.


4.) Whitens teeth by gently polishing away surface stains. Leaves teeth feeling slick and smooth.

"The great thing about revision is that it's your opportunity to fake being brilliant." Will Shetterly


Polish or die. To fall in love with your first draft is to guarantee doom. The best thing to do with a first draft is to stuff it in a box and forget about it. Dig it up only when the rush of typing “the end” has faded, then don’t forget to lay newspapers on the floor. Adverbs and adjectives tend to bleed a lot when you kill them.


5.) Net wt 8.0z (226g)

It helps to be aware of the word count guidelines for your genre BEFORE you write your book. I didn’t, and wound up with a first draft that was 120,000 words long. The draft I queried with was trimmed to 86,000 words. The final book’s word count is 92,000. I’m all for letting the words flow, but keeping in mind the industry standard will be a big help in making sure that your story is progressing at the right pace.


6.) Do not swallow.

Um, yeah, because that would hurt.

38 comments:

vinobaby said...

Thanks for providing some great tips and a much needed giggle this afternoon. I'll never look at my toothpaste the same way again.

I look forward to reading more.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Haha! Thanks, Vino! :) I'm checking my box of Honey Nut Cheerios next. I'm hoping to find some insight on achieving world peace. Stay tuned...

V. Furnas said...

Ha, haa very cute!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

V. - "Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it." - Oscar Wilde in Lady Windermere's Fan ;-)

Janel said...

Love it! Falling in love with a first draft is indeed doom. :) Now I need to go brush my teeth...

Cathy Kozak said...

Oh Sam you are more than clever!

ocmominmanila.com said...

Just make sure your toothpaste doesn't have Triclosan!

On topic: I like #2. There are some books which make me flip back a few pages to remember what happened. Not cool indeed.

EQ said...

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can't put the toothpaste back into the tube”?

Scrollwork said...

Has anyone tried that toll-free question hotline yet? What did you ask?

mymommyology said...

I love it! Too cute, thanks Sam! =)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Janel - Thanks! Happy brushing! :)
Cathy - Awww...thank you.
OCMom - Haha! True! Triclosan is horrible!
EQ - Yes! And thankfully, that's where the analogy between books and toothpaste end. Writers have the opportunity to stuff our words back in the tube and rewrite until we're happy.

"Books aren't written--they're rewritten. Including your own. It is one of the hardest things to accept, especially after the seventh rewrite hasn't quite done it."
~Michael Crichton

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Mommyology - Haha! Thanks! :)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Scrollwork - Yes - I asked them for writing advice ;-)

Kara said...

Uugh!!! Rewrites! (Sigh)....only other writers appreciate the agony.

(New follower!)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Hi, Kara! Alas, I believe I have found something even worse than rewriting...PROOF READING. ;-) Looking forward to sharing this crazy writing journey with you!

kellyhashway said...

LOL! Great post. I'll never look at a tube of toothpaste the same again. Seriously though, all these tips are essential to writing a quality manuscript. I love your tip about writing whether the ideas are flowing or not. Even when I'm stumped, I can get something down on screen, and like you said, something is better than nothing.

C.M. Villani said...

Okay I have to come clean...as I was reading your blog post I was drinking coffee and the twitter widget came into view. I totally did a spit take when I saw "if this works I'm trying it on jellybeans next." Trust me out of context its hysterical!

Back to the post :) - I officially love that Tom Clancy quote! It is one of my new favorites. :) Namely because it is completely true and yet also ironically funny. God knows this world rarely makes sense.

Anyway, you gave some great advice. Who knew toothpaste could be so multifunctional! Thanks.

Oh and I also have to let you know. Netflix has Dr. Who on the instantly watched list (the first four seasons so far) and I'm in BIIIIIIIIG Trouble. :D

M Kathy Brown said...

I love this post! It's not just the pointers you lay out which I greatly need right now), it's the way you put the words together. If a sentence flows smoothly for reading, yet also goes a little different direction than was (almost unknowingly) expected - Wow! Thank you, Samantha. You practice what you teach, quite well :~)

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Kelly - Absolutely! Characters can be a lazy sometimes so it's important to makes sure that one of us shows up for work ;-)
Christina -LOL!!! I can imagine how weird that jellybean tweet must have sounded like. And as for Dr. Who...I can't wait for your to get to season 3! That's my absolute fave! :D
Kathy - Thank you!! So happy you liked it :-) I have a huge grin plastered on my face right now. :D


Kathy -

Dee said...

Absolutely brilliant!

I love the way you pulled this together. It's going to have me eying the boxes of my items funny.

Let's see...I just got a humidifier...lemme look at the box... there's gotta be a lot I can do with that! LOL

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Aww...thanks, Dee! :) I actually "borrowed" this idea from one of my characters in my second novel. He thinks that the best advice he has ever gotten has come from a packet of potato chips :D

meaganfrank said...

What a great post! Toothpaste could not offer better analogy for writing. Not just the words on the box, but the mess in the tube...carefully distributed for most effect. In the wrong hands, both words AND toothpaste are extremely dangerous!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Haha! Thanks, Meagan! "Carefully distributed for most effect." - Very well said :)

Linda Jackson said...

Great post, Sam.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Thanks, Linda! :-)

Catherine Stine said...

Really cute and creative! Loved the 1 800 number thing best.

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Thanks, Catherine! Actually, I really wish writers had a 1 800 number we could call - or even better, a 911 for writing emergencies ;-)

Fi said...

Great article. I want mints now.

I've only recently come across your blog and have awarded you the 'One Lovely Blog Award' - http://fionajphillips.blogspot.com/2011/02/ive-won-award.html

Julie said...

This is so clever! What a great post, and I couldn't agree more on the 911 for writing emergencies.

I wanted to let you know too, I've awarded your site with the 'One Lovely Blog Award.' I'm so glad to have discovered it through the She Writes Hop!

http://julieflanders.blogspot.com/2011/02/my-first-blog-award.html

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Fi - *hands a pack of mints* :D Thanks for the award! I'm thrilled! *does the Snoopy Dance of Joy*

Julie - Thank you! (I just woke up - I live on the other side of the world and was only able to publish last night's comments now.) Thank you so much for the award! I'm guessing that this is probably what it feels like to be Taylor Swift at the Grammy's. Wooohooo! :)

M Kathy Brown said...

Oh my...Samantha, you are now a triple-recipient of the "One Lovely Blog Award," because that's what I have waiting for you at my blog site. Congratulations! You certainly have a fantastic blog!

M Kathy Brown said...

Here's the location I forgot to add to my last comment - http://ponderdeeply.blogspot.com/2011/02/impact-of-tiny-impression.html

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Haha! Thanks, Kathy! When it rains, it pours! Thanks for thinking of me :D

Leah said...

This is fabulous, I love it!

Samantha Sotto-Yambao said...

Thanks, Leah! :) Nice to meet you!

Callie Holtran said...

Great post, great tips! And great picture--I used it on a post on my blog, http://superherounderpants.com:
http://superherounderpants.com/2012/05/08/stop-thats-not-toothpaste/. I hope you don't mind--if you do, please let me know! Congrats on the novel--I look forward to following your blog.

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