Saturday 22 June 2013

Short Story Saturday: Ten Things Every Writer should Know

Courtesy of Nicola Vincent-Abnett...

1 - Write! Stop for nothing! He who hesitates is lost! You are not an editor, so do not tinker! You are a writer, so write, fast and urgently! If you heed no other piece of information from this list, heed this. In fact, go away, right now, and write. That’s exactly what I’m tempted to do.

2 - Read. This is a fuel-in, fuel-out game. If you do not read, you will not have words in the tank when it comes to writing. Having said that, when you are writing, do not read fiction, and if you read fiction while writing, steer clear of reading fiction in the genre, style or thematic pool that you’re writing in. Contamination by influence is an embuggerance.

3 - Be exuberant! You have a bigger budget than any film maker on the planet, so use it. Of course, if you don’t need the budget, or want it, use that to your advantage, too.

4 - If the spirit moves, move with it. If you become successful as a writer, there will come a time when you simply have to have the discipline to sit in a chair, more-or-less full-time, and write. It can be done. I do it, the husband does it, and lots of our friends and acquaintances do it. We all still have days when the spirit moves us, and we relish them. We also work for a living just like everyone else, and feel nostalgic for the days when writing was our beloved hobby. So, if writing is still your hobby and your first love, write when the spirit moves, because it’s the best feeling in the World, and one that many an aged, jaded writer regularly hankers after.

5 - Never ignore an idea. Never think you’ll remember an idea, because it was so good you couldn’t possibly forget it. You will forget it! Write it down! Do it now! I still don’t have the kind of discipline the husband has for this. He carries a notebook everywhere and uses it diligently. I do my best, but still lose about a third of the ideas I generate. Thank heavens I generate so many!

6 - Listen to the voices in your head. OK, so I have mental health issues, but this shit is still real. When a character starts talking to you, when you start to hear his voice, that’s the good stuff. Some stories write themselves, too. There’s a reason for that. It isn’t because you’re actually going mad (well, OK, for some of you it might be), it’s because you’ve put in the hours, you’ve got the experience, and you’ve relaxed into the job. Your mind and body know what they’re doing, and they’re doing it. Enjoy! It’s the kind of grown-up, real-writer equivalent of the spirit moving, and it’s heavenly.

7 - Find a way to research that doesn’t swallow up half your life. I know people who should be writers who are, in fact, researchers, and it frustrates the hell out of me. I employ rule number one, and write through, leaving blanks or keywords where I need to look something up or do more research. I research only small amounts of necessary source material, nothing anecdotal or supplementary, and I never, ever immerse myself in research. If you can’t concisely answer your question on a post-it note then you’re asking the wrong question.

8 - Write first for yourself. Write the stories that you would like to read. It doesn’t matter whether you write what you know, or whether it all comes straight out of your imagination, it should appeal to your own senses and sensibilities. If you write what you imagine an audience wants, or, worse still, what you imagine will sell by the shed-load, you’re asking for trouble.

9 - While you are writing, every word belongs to you. Once your work is published, not a single word belongs to you. Every reader is paying your mortgage; he can think whatever the hell he likes about the work that he has paid for, and all that remains for you to do is smile.

10 - Remember, always... The point of the writer is the reader!

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