THE WRITING PROCESS…SOME TIPS
Here is a bit of light reading about writing. The ‘tips’ could be longer and there could be more of them…but it isn’t that kind of blog. The tips are more like little nudges; maybe things you know already but need to remember you know. Sometimes creative writing is like a process of ‘allowing’. When you forget judgments about ‘good’, ‘bad, and indifferent and go with the flow it is much more fun. It is also crucial to notice what works for you…one size does not necessarily fit all.
Here are some empowering wee tips many people have found helpful.
Maintaining One’s Motivation
Many of us know what it’s like to start off a story with great enthusiasm and excitement only to become discouraged after a few pages. Even established authors sometimes wonder ‘is this rubbish?’, though a few days later they may really like what they’ve written. There are many emotional skills involved in being a writer, and one of them is to realise that you are not alone with your ‘issues’. It’s okay to have doubts, but write anyway!
‘Q What can I do to overcome my self-doubts about being a good artist?’
‘A The point is not to overcome your self doubts about being an artist. The point is to move through your self-doubts. Many of us believe that “real artists” do not experience self doubt. In truth, artists are people who have learned to live with doubt and do the work anyway.’ From ‘The Artist’s’ Way’ by Julia Cameron
‘A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.’ Maya Angelou
The Inner Critic
Being overly critical puts many people off writing. You can tell the critical part of yourself that you would welcome its constructive feedback a bit later on. However it can take a nice break during your first draft! The ‘critic’ can be useful to you later as you refine and edit and hone your work, but during the first draft you need the freedom to explore and experiment. Let your writing flow…don’t be self-conscious. As the saying goes ‘a writer writes many a thought he didn’t know he had’.
Cherish The Details
Small details make a story seem real. The very things that seem too unimportant to mention may be the details that help bring a story to life. For example, the fact that someone makes meticulous shopping lists and then keeps forgetting to bring them with her to the shops is something many of us can relate to!
Getting to know your ‘characters’ is one of fiction’s great pleasures. And a ‘character’ can also introduce you to other key characters in his or her life and provide you with some kind of plot. This intimate information can guide a story. For example when a song really moves someone they are ‘in’ it as they listen. You can be ‘in’ a story too and this can help you to discover what you and your characters truly care about…for example a dilemma…a question…a situation…that resonates for you and yearns to be explored, understood and resolved in some way.
People who are unsure if they are ‘writers’ often seek out ‘top tips’ and believe they have to learn about ‘technique’ before they start to fill those blank pages. Some of the advice is, indeed, useful but it is not set in stone. It is writing that will reveal what sort of writer you are. For example great storytelling can develop naturally as you go deeper into a tale that truly intrigues you. When you really care about a character you will find yourself wanting to know the really important things about them. And they will, hopefully, tell you if you let them! You will discover where they belong in your story or novel, and what they want to share.
A really good writing tip is ‘Show Don’t Tell’ in certain circumstances. For example the fact that a character aimed a kick at a dog while ‘sweet-talking’ to his girlfriend on the phone tells us a great deal about him. We are already worried for her. Does she know this side of him? Also ‘Less Can Be More’. We enjoy sharp, effective editing in movies and we love that quality in stories and novels too. There is no need to labour an important point. Make it as effectively as you can and then leave space for its impact. Readers love reading between the lines. As to dialogue: what people don’t say can be fascinating. And if you’re on a bus and hear someone say something like “I still feel beautiful in dim light” write it down. That one sentence says so much!
Read Books That Inspire You
Reading beautifully written books can teach you a lot about writing.. Enjoy the stories but also notice the craft and the eloquent omissions, the telling and carefully chosen details and impressive vocabulary. Ask yourself how the authors kept you intrigued.
If an interesting idea or observation occurs to you write it down. And sometimes one overhears great ‘dialogue’….for example I heard someone on a bus saying “My mother never made any mistakes with mashed potatoes”. Ordinary conversations can be fascinating! ‘Good material’ can come from many sources. Sometimes a small intriguing detail can open a huge helpful door into an imaginary world.
For, as Joseph O’Connor has written:
‘There is only one trait that writers have in common….They watch for the extraordinary magic that lies in the everyday….Not willing inspiration but just being open to the world. This quiet looking and thinking is the imagination. It’s letting in ideas. It’s trying, I suppose, to make some sense of things.’