10 Things Every Author Can Learn from Watching “Throw Momma From the Train”

Another NaNoWriMo encouragement post!

It has been my happy lot in life to be fairly “well-connected.” Among my most prized connections is that my mother’s former college roommate is a very successful author and happens to be married to another very successful author. I had the privilege of visiting with them over a long weekend in high school and of the many things we did and talked about, one was watch the 1987 blockbuster smash Throw Momma From the Train.

This, I was told, is a must-see movie for every aspiring author. It has fundamental truths presented in both the positive imperative and the exemplary negative. I now pass on to you, from the notes I found from years ago, the top ten things every author should know after watching this film.

  1. A writer writes. Always.
  2. Write about what you know.
  3. If you don’t know, learn.
  4. You have to have a motive.
  5. Never, ever worry about finding “the perfect word.” You can use a thesaurus later. Just write.
  6. Never leave your car lights on if you’re drinking on a beach at night. (Actually, that’s a good rule for just about anyone.)
  7. Even if your (one) book is a bestseller, you’re not going to afford a beach house in Hawai’i and diamond earrings.
  8. The same situation told by different authors often turns into completely different stories.
  9. Never, ever read classic picture books as part of foreplay. Ever.
  10. A writer writes, always. Ergo, if you’re not writing, you’re not a writer. (Yes, I did use that one twice, but it’s the important message of the film.)

2 thoughts on “10 Things Every Author Can Learn from Watching “Throw Momma From the Train”

  1. This list is amazing haha I appreciate very much #7. I feel like a lot of aspiring writers are in denial about this. It just doesn’t happen anymore except in fluke situations.
    However #1 and #10 I think this movie should clarify. If anyone did their job all day, all the time, they would hate their job and quit. But I do agree that just like with any skill like fast multiplication or running track, you have to keep your skills up with practice otherwise you get rusty. So in this way, regular writing exercise of some sort is necessary to be a good writer.
    #5 is really important. I always get caught up on this one. I like everything to be perfect, already thought out and polished when I write it down but it’s way easier to write everything you are thinking and then go back and pare down and refine. One of my professors used to have us do free writes and she did not allow us to edit or cross out anything during the free write. If you couldn’t think of what to write next, you wrote “what next, what next, what next, what next” until you thought of something. Then you took the free write home and combined thoughts, rearranged them, crossed out and edited after you had everything out where you could see it because it’s much harder to see it when it’s in your brain haha

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