Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Hi, Writing Elitists, I'm a Sellout

Just look at that provocative title. Tell me I'm cool. 

So, I'm part of a teen writers group on Facebook, and it seems like every day that someone says their "charries" are speaking to them, directing the story, popping up unwanted with snappy bits of dialogue. Some have said their characters are their best friends. Their stories are their babies, they say, and they're just creative types, nothing can be done.

That's rubbish. Break the bubble.

The majority of writers have at least done away with searching for their muse. Big writing blogs say "Real writers don't wait for the muse. Real writers sit down and write." And that is true. Of course, there will always be the people who say "Oh, I'd love to write a novel if only I had the time" "I'm just waiting for the muse to come to me" "I am an artist". But I think we're all so over them. 

And yet writing is still seen as this magical, abstract thing that you have to be born with. 

You know what I do when I write?

I start with an idea, which comes from a connection between two or more things. Two people. A character and an event. If it's a particularly interesting event, even one might do. Then I develop a plot by thinking of possibilities and mapping them through to their logical conclusion. The creativity lies in choosing between possibilities. Once I have my outline, I write.

During first drafts, I write 1000 words a day. It keeps me going so I don't stagnate, and it reminds me that I have to keep getting words down. They are the currency of the work. Creativity comes when I sit down and write, and if it doesn't I plod along until it does. Eventually an idea will sense my desperation and come, but only if I don't give up.

But you have to remember that these ideas are simply thoughts. Everyone has them, it's only a matter of training yourself to notice them and record them. I do believe one can be a talented writer; there's your aptitude with words, of course (that's the easiest to measure), but then there's also your ability to carry plot lines, to pace stories, to build vibrant characters, to help readers suspend disbelief. 

That doesn't include some direct line to the font of all magic. I think I'll puke if I hear another person say their writing is an expression of their faith, or that it comes from god. 

Stop glamourising your job. Writing is a fun job, because you get to do it in your pyjamas in bed without fear of anyone rejecting or condemning you (that comes later, when the book is on submission). Your books are projects that take a lot of dedication to create, but they are not babies.

Characters cannot write their own plot. It's not as fun, but you can literally build characters by ticking off boxes (headstrong, curious, tall, lanky, warm-hearted). We usually prefer to develop them more than that, obviously, but there's no essential essence.

I've learned lessons about this from my freelancing (though I haven't sold much lately because Young Scientist and laziness). What I care about with my freelance articles is the money. I get $100 per 2000-word article from one site and $50 from another. Those go into my CTYI fund. It's not exactly artistic, but it's using my skills as a job. In the meantime, I toil away on novels, waiting until one is good enough. 

You can spend your writing time in the clouds if you wish, but please, come back down to earth at some point. 

1 comment:

  1. I really liked this post and think you made several interesting points. I'm a part of the same group and have noticed the same things. I write the same way you do; I come up with an idea, with varying amounts of detail in the plot and characters, and I work with what I've got. Although I would also like to point out that sometimes, my characters have 'written my plot' so to speak because my original idea won't fit in with the way my character(s) react to that situation. But this is a great post!