If you have been following this blog for a while you know I tend to be pretty straightforward. In fact, unless we’re talking golf or fishing, if you ask a question I will give you the most honest answer I can. And since I haven’t played golf in over 15 years (my handicap was every club in the bag), about the only thing I’ll stretch the truth about on a regular basis is fishing.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, I am going to tell you the secret to being a writer. It is actually a scientific equation first revealed to me by author and publisher, Thomas F. Monteleone. Tom is an acclaimed author and the president of Borderlands Press. One of the “old guard,” he is from the early era of Charles L. Grant, Ray Bradbury, and Harlan Ellison. In short, he knows his stuff.

The equation outlines the scientific principle behind being a successful writer and has been proved for centuries. And while the equation is not complicated, it IS true. And over the years I have come to call the equation Monteleone’s Theorem.

Writing = Butt In Chair

That’s pretty much it. Writing is a process that involves sitting down and moving your fingers across a keyboard. A lot. It is not terribly mystical, despite what the literary types would have you believe. Writing is work. Sometimes it is hard work. Some days it comes easy, and some days it is like trying to give birth to a Yugo.


There is a corollary to the theorem as well: Writing is also mostly luck. The harder you work the luckier you get. This is known as Monteleone’s Theorem. And it too has been proved on hundreds of thousands of occasions.

I learned these lessons at the literary knee of Mr. Monteleone and his contemporaries. I was a wet-behind-the-ears writer and the word from mutual friends was that I was green but I wanted to learn. So people like Tom, Craig Shaw Gardner, Charlie Grant, Lisa W. Cantrell, Brian Lumley, and more people than I could name here gave me advice, tips, pointers, that in one way or another pointed me to the topic I’m talking about today.

Writing = Butt in Chair

This fact has opened doors for me I never imagined. When my wife and I moved to South Carolina I got a job as a reporter for the Aiken Standard. In a relatively short time I had the city beat. A pretty plum position, especially for a newbie. When I finally asked the managing editor why he hired me instead of a getting journalism school grad, he said it was simple. He could get editors by the dozen from the journalism school, but I had hundreds of thousands of words under my belt and that’s what he wanted. A writer. He could teach me what I needed to know as a reporter.

Writing = Butt in Chair

And from following that theorem other habits develop. Hitting deadlines. Turning in good copy. Developing the ability to write through the tough spots. Learning that you can’t rely on inspiration. All you have is the idea, the keyboard, and the work. As the Nike folks said, Just Do It. Writing is not some Orphic experience that leads us into some transcendent state and draws energy from our spiritual side. It is simply the work. Granted, there are times when the writing does have a transformative effect on the writer. There are times when the words flow and you realize the subconscious has taken over and you ride the wave.

But it comes from doing the work. Even with today’s modern technology, writing is done the old fashioned way; typing one letter after another. Rinse and repeat. Butt in chair. There are no shortcuts. No cutting corners. If you don’t love language and have a passion for manipulating words until they sing, then you will eventually let the theorem slip and move on to other things. The Yugo days will come, the “fun” will be leached out of the process, and other things will occupy your time.

And that’s OK.

But if you have a passion for writing, even the Yugo days are rewarding. And the theorem will move from the realm of theory to the kingdom of fact.

That’s it for today. Get back to those keyboards, and we’ll meet back here in a few of days.

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