For almost as long as I can remember, whenever I have mentioned to people that I write – they always seem to say some derivative of “I don’t know how you do it.” Aside from the pretty facetious answer of lining up words in order to convey meaning, I suppose I don’t really know. To me writing is not something I think about. It’s just something I do.
Of course there is detailed thought on plot, character, novel direction, form and even expression. But I do not actually think about writing itself. One thing I do know is that like anything, it takes a great deal of time and practice to get right and even then, there is always room for improvement. There are those, who think that you’re an author when you publish and before that you are simply an ‘aspiring’ author. Now I’ve thought on this a great deal, and can only conclude that it is utter tosh. The minute you write anything, you become an author and for the simple reason that you wrote it.
For some reason there seem to be hundreds of rules. If you write this, then you must have A, B,C. Well I never gave much thought to rules, of course it is generally logical to follow the rules of the genre if you write in one. For instance, I write high fantasy, and it would be pretty silly not to include at least some of the common elements of High fantasy in my writing. But I certainly don’t allow myself to be bound by them. The rules I follow tend to be concerned with the plot, and the target audience but only loosely. If my writing requires me to break a few generic conventions, then I don’t fuss to much over it. I think, when it comes to creative writing, you have to work with what suits you best. After all there is no point writing if all you’re going to see it as a chore.
The subject of creative writing can be anything, but I always think it must hold your interest. I don’t think you have to experience something in order to write about it… but I do think there is a fine balance to be had. After all, I certainly will not claim what it feels like giving birth, but I might, if necessary quietly ask, a few of my close friends what it is like. Therein lies the balance, it does not bode well to assume, but you can make an educated guess. But ultimately it comes down to what you want to achieve, and were you want to take it. Give yourself the freedom to latch onto the subject you want to write about and if it doesn’t work, consider why? sometimes what you need more is to let it lie in a drawer for a few years that force it out now. When you come back to it, you may just find yourself ready to finally write the story you wanted to, years before.
The form of your writing is the most fundamental thing to get right and its a trial an error thing. Sometimes it just comes naturally, at others it has to be dragged kicking and screaming from some orifice at the back of your mind. But there is a way of making it easy on yourself. Set in your head which form you are going to use and stick to it. There is nothing more daunting than the prospect of re-writing twenty thousand words in third person perspective, because initially you wrote in first, nor more frustrating. It is also important to consider the scope of what you need to tell the story. I don’t think set word counts help, as sometimes you end up with a story that is lacking in detail or ends like a slap in the face. Either way its a damn shame.
Now, as with all creative pursuits. You have to ask yourself whether it really suits you. I can write well. But stick a paintbrush in my hand and you’d get something that a three year old could beat. The same goes for writing, but there is more to consider. Some would say that to be a writer you should be grammatically accurate, punctuate without thought and have perfect spelling. Well if that was the case I’d never be considered a writer. Before my edits, and one could argue, afterwards – my grammar and punctuation is awful. But then, the content I write is engaging. A university lecturer once said to me, “I can teach you how to punctuate and correct grammar usage, but I cannot teach you to be creative.” I would wager that is the sad thing about writing, some people write but their ideas are flat, that should never discourage them, as long as they have fun writing it – who am I to tell them to stop? we all have our tastes, I guess the important thing is to try your hardest and get it out there. People will always criticise, but at least you can say you tried.
Anne Rice gives some great advice…