Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Authorly Advice

To Aspiring Writers, whether fiction or non---
I often cringe when reading some of the trite & rote advice writers tend to give aspiring writers. Because it often contradicts not only logic, but my own experience as a writer. So in thirteen points, I’ll tell you what advice you should accept, and what you should reject.
I shall dispense this advice… now:
1. Wear… sunscreen.
No, wait. That’s not right.

1. Read. A lot. As much and as often as possible, and a wide variation of styles/ genres. That is actually good advice for a writer, whether novice or seasoned. But especially read most the genre in which you want to write, and the authors you enjoy reading. Read widely, but with great discrimination & discernment.
Do not attempt to study or dissect favorite authors; merely immerse yourself in their work and absorb through habitual osmosis. Do not try to copy their style or literary voice—you should construct your own. The more you are exposed to written words, the more familiar you will become with their composition, and the more comfortable & educated you will be in arranging them.

Prioritize & make time for what matters to you. Practice… but contrary to the conventional wisdom thoughtlessly quoted by many authors, do not try to write every day. Do not force yourself to write, merely for the sake of writing.
Otherwise, you’ll not only fatigue yourself, but you’ll waste already limited available time.
Plus, you’re more likely to produce crap. And you want to practice writing good material, not crap. Therefore, seek to write only when you have something to say, when you have time to focus & relax, when you are in the right (write) mindset/mood, and when you are in a comfortable/ isolated area undisturbed. Forced writing very rarely and then very coincidentally produces good material.
Make time & effort to write as often as possible. Make excuses to write instead excuses to not write. As a writer, you should naturally be compelled to write, with a nagging urgency. Writing (and practice) ought not be something you have to force yourself to do. When inspiration and mood comes, they must be followed by self-discipline.

3. Don’t be afraid to mess up or fail. Don’t let yourself be distracted by feelings/ impressions that you are not good enough, or that what you are currently writing isn’t good enough. Keep writing… you can edit & revise later or as you go along.

4. Passively edit while you write. Save the active editing for when you’ve finished a draft. If a new/better idea or different approach comes to mind … do not put it off until later. Deal with it now, while it is fresh in your mind. Make written notes as ideas occur to you, if you are unable to clarify or elaborate them in the moment, so that you can contemplate & develop them later.

5. Self edit. Please! Don’t create stuff just to create stuff. You would only clutter up the place. Do not put into the public sphere anything you are not proud of and pleased with. Make things that matter to you.
Also, boredom is never a good reason to make something. Have a purpose and a passion for your creativity. Most importantly on this point, don’t subject the world to your flotsam.

6. If you think/feel you’ve hit a dead end, if you don’t know anymore what you’re saying or trying to say… that what you are writing is going nowhere or stalled--- if what you are writing bores you, then you’re doing it wrong. Stop writing and step away. Don’t walk away; at least not yet. Pause and do something else for a while, but do not procrastinate.
Take a break… time away to re-evaluate what you’ve done & what you intend to do, compose your thoughts, let ideas ruminate/ percolate in the back of your mind, wait for new perspective or inspiration about your approach/intent to form. If you don’t know exactly or completely where the writing is going, it is ok to make it up & figure it out along the way. Writing is a process and an exploration… it doesn’t ever come out fully formed at inception.

7. Never write for an audience, a publisher or a market. Story/ content is paramount. Just tell your story--- your way, IN your own way. You don’t know everyone who will read what you write, and taste is subjective. Write for yourself.
Remember that any commercial possibilities are irrelevant to the writing process.
Writing has nothing to do with publishing/selling. If the main or only reason you want to be a writer (i.e. published writer) is vanity… to see your name printed or to “hear yourself talk”, then do us all a favor and cease writing.

8. Do your due diligence of researching and fact checking. Don’t be afraid to research what you don’t know. It will make what you write better, more authentic, and you may learn something in the process.
You may even get material or ideas for other writing.

9. Adopt a minimalist approach to writing: be frugal and brief whenever possible. Avoid gratuitous, rambling or excessive detail & descriptions.
Writers often endorse the concept of “murder your darlings”— cutting out or trimming beloved content that is superfluous, extraneous, self-indulgent or slows the momentum/ impact of the material. Ignore that. Simply tell the story.
No, I’ll rephrase that. LET the story happen; don’t get in its way with ego, or preconceived assumptions & rules about proper structure or format.
Don’t be afraid to include extra indirectly related information, or detour on parenthetical tangents… if it elaborates on and is pertinent to your “story” or the world/platform you are building, keep it in.

10. Never use clichés except to make a point, or to compose a character/ setting/ plot archetype. Defy & resist cliché, expectations and the formulaic.

11. Authenticity is vital! Take the writing & content seriously.
If you don’t, then how can you expect the audience to? Being inauthentic creates an inconsistency that is detracting because it is distracting, and distracting because it is detracting.
(NEVER be funny just to be funny--- you will invariably fail).
NEVER ignore reality or realism for the sake of expediency or laziness. Your writing should always be related to or framed in a sense of believability in all facets.
Always write up to your potential audience, not down. Respect them as you would respect yourself being a reader.
Also, do not insult their intelligence by over-explaining or over-simplifying; engage readers through participation of letting them figure/ find some things out on their own, for themselves.

12. DO use creative verbs to describe actions and dialogue, at every opportunity. Don’t be afraid to use adverbs to modify verbs—- this makes the content more interesting and developed. Feel free to employ adjectives to enhance the character and ambience of content. Alliteration can be your ally.

13. Don’t underestimate or neglect the importance and power of a meaningful and imaginative title.
I tend to judge a book by its title more than its cover. If your title isn’t very creative, then I suspect maybe the content that follows isn’t either. The title is the first contact a reader has with a story: make it interesting.
Similarly, a title can also help set the tone/ theme of your writing, and summarily remind you what your writing is intended to be about.

No comments:

Post a Comment