A Few Writing Thoughts


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Thread: A Few Writing Thoughts

  1. #1

    A Few Writing Thoughts

    I often come on threads where writers lament their writing and criticise everything about their latest project. "When I re-read it, I think it's crap". Or, "I have the ideas in my head but I can't put them onto paper".

    I think the biggest problem you (generic) are facing is not 'writer's block' or inability to convey ideas into words. It's expectation. You expect to produce quality from the get-go. It doesn't work like that. Sometimes there'll come along a prodigy who can write something brilliant the first time s/he puts fingers to keyboard. These are rare, and the reality is that it takes time and practice before your writing begins to reflect the quality of your ideas.

    Let me give you an analogy. Consider writing to be an apprenticeship. You wouldn't expect an apprentice bricklayer to build a house on his/her first week, would you? They would first learn how to mix mortar, how to bed it, and how to keep each course level. Then they'd learn different bonds and how to tie them in. And finally, they'd learn to read drawings so they knew where windows and doors were positioned.

    Writing is the same. You learn how to construct sentences. Where to put commas. When to use periods. Some of this you'll pick up fairly quickly, but the ability to convey ideas into strong, engaging prose is something you achieve through practice.

    For that reason I think you ought to cut yourself a little slack. Don't go into a project thinking: "Oh my God, this has to be perfect! I need to write a killer novel and become the next big thing!". Slow down. If your sole reason for writing is to become a multi-millionaire, you're doing yourself a disservice. The reality is, it's hard enough to make a living out of writing, never mind become a millionaire.

    First and foremost, you should have fun. I've been writing for over a decade now, with ten novels behind me, and I still have fond memories of the first three. Why? Because I had an absolute blast writing them. It was only with each subsequent novel that I started putting pressure on myself to make it better than its predecessor. Then it became a job, more than a hobby.

    Write the first novel. Don't think about publication or anything else. Just write it. Get it down on paper, print it out, and put it in your drawer. Then start number two. Enjoy it. Have fun. Don't get bogged down with negative thoughts. Most people here still have the advantage of youth. Do you not want your writing to be the best it can be before you approach a publisher? Truth is, writing one novel may not cut it. Of all the published authors today, I guarantee you 90% of them, if asked, will tell you their first novel was not the one they eventually got published. They will have two or three (possibly more) which were consigned to the rubbish folder on their desktop.

    None of this is meant to put you off. You could be the one whose first published novel was indeed the first one they ever wrote. It has happened; it will happen again. What I'm saying is to stop expecting so much of yourself so early. To use a horrible cliche: Rome wasn't built in a day. Very few can produce quality on the first go. To quote an author whose name eludes me right now: "You have to write a million words of crap before you get to the good stuff".

    That's a lot. Maybe it will be only 500,000 for you, or even less for another person. The point is, great things don't happen all at once. How many works did Da Vinci paint before the Mona Lisa? Wait, the argument can be made that he never finished a damn thing. Okay, maybe that's not the greatest comparison but you get the point.

    Relax. Enjoy. Experiment. Express yourself. Have fun. But, for goodness sake, quit putting pressure on yourself to achieve greatness when you haven't even learned to walk yet. It will not happen overnight, and it arguably won't happen at all until you accept that.
    Last edited by Sam; January 26th, 2011 at 08:39 PM.
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  2. #2
    Member terrib's Avatar
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    I think this is good advice, Sammy...but if the bricklayer can't raise a wall in four years...don't you think he should find another job?
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  3. #3
    Wonderful thoughts and I do agree with what you have said.

    @Terrib: For some people its a little harder. I'm on the spectrum and sometimes I don't catch my own words. Now I'm not saying everyone is on the spectrum. But ya know what, writing is my life. And I'm not going to let whatever I have get in my way. Without writing I couldn't live. I live to write and need to write. Just cause my house can be kind of funny looking with some misplaced bricks, doesn't mean I should change profression. It just means some people make mistakes, but I always learn. Just cause you're an "Expert" in something you always have the room to improve. I don't want to be like the rest of the writer's who hit their plateu and don't get any further then that. I always always want to learn. Should I change profression then?

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    Member terrib's Avatar
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    Depends...are you building your funny looking house to live in or to sell? In other words...if you are writing for yourself with no intention of getting published then I'd say go for it! Write your sweet beehind off. But if you are trying to publish and after four years you are still stuck in La La Land... then I think it's hopeless. Does that make sense?
    Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us-


    Nails did not keep our Savior on the cross, love did.
    Can I get an amen...

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post
    Depends...are you building your funny looking house to live in or to sell? In other words...if you are writing for yourself with no intention of getting published then I'd say go for it! Write your sweet beehind off. But if you are trying to publish and after four years you are still stuck in La La Land... then I think it's hopeless. Does that make sense?
    I understand, but disagree.

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    Member terrib's Avatar
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    I am smiling....I guess you can tell I'm frustrated with my writing....
    Salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us-


    Nails did not keep our Savior on the cross, love did.
    Can I get an amen...

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by terrib View Post
    I think this is good advice, Sammy...but if the bricklayer can't raise a wall in four years...don't you think he should find another job?
    Thomas Harris, the legendary author who created the unforgettable character 'Hannibal Lecter', has written five novels in thirty-six years, Terri. He compares writing to "rolling around on the floor in agonies of frustration". He does not suffer from writer's block, instead a crippling fear that what he writes must be perfect. His novels follow a pattern of being seven or eight years apart, but there can be no denying that he is arguably the finest psychological thriller writer today. If he had given up we would never have known Hannibal Lecter or anything to do with him, and the world would have been worse off for it.

    I choose to look at it that way.

    Some things are worth waiting for.
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    "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got into my pyjamas I'll never know." ~ Groucho Marx.

    "It is better to be feared than loved, if one cannot be both". ~ Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince.

    "A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer". ~ Bruce Lee.

    "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few". ~ Shunryu Suzuki.

    "Give a man a mask and he will show you his true face". ~ Oscar Wilde.

    "He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in great danger". ~ Confucius.

  8. #8
    I'm not sure if I'm a good writer, or if I can be, but I do know that when I read over my work, I get caught up in the story and keep reading past the point where I've checked on the detail I needed. I think this is a good sign. I also think it's a good sign that I don't feel the need to change much as I re-read the work. It comes through nice and clear.. but I am gifted with prior knowledge of the work, which leaves me being biased.

    At the end of the day, I'm hoping that spending a year on my first novel will be enough to produce a quality work; enough to get it published. I feel/hope that I can write a good story, and maybe some years down the track, a great one. They don't need to be perfect, only interesting and engaging. I want a story that people talk about later because they really connect with the characters, not because the sentence structure was just right (who recognises that anyhow..?).

    The only time I 'beat myself up' is when I worry that I'm not putting enough in the story to interest the reader... It's of interest to me, but it's hard catering to people you don't know yet.
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    From The Critic | A Weekly Review of Literature and the Arts, Volume XV, 1891:
    A popular English 'authoress' has thrown a bomb into the quiet life of the average English girl, by advising her to become a writer rather than a reader of fiction. She tells the young women of England that there is a great demand for fiction, and that one only has to please the public to 'live with all the magnificence of a prince.' The Publishers' Circular, in commenting upon this bad advice, says that a literary statistician has estimated that 'in London alone there are twenty thousand persons trying to earn a living with the pen'; and asks of these 'how many are sure even of a daily dinner?' It seems to me little less than a crime to urge those who have no special fitness for the profession to write novels or other books. There are already many hundreds—thousands, I may say—more books written than will ever be printed, and thousands more printed than find readers. The number that succeeds is very small compared with the host that fails, and it is cruel to lead people on to waste their time in writing stories and shedding their heart's blood in the disappointment that surely awaits them. 'A man who has mastered a trade,' says The Publishers' Circular, 'can generally make a fair living, but the unsuccessful writer, unless he have other means, is sure of nothing but starvation.'

    With that stated, I agree with J.P. Clyde in the sense of always pushing myself forward, learning new things, and conquering new challenges. And that's why these writing forums are good, to get feedback on our work and choose which is beneficial and which is hurtful to our writing styles. However, and I realize the quote is a bit old, if you can't live off of it and you're going to stubbornly pursue something without heeding anyone's advice, yes, I think you should change careers. But you won't. Because you're too stubborn.
    And in that case, I agree with terrib. If the American Idol judges told everyone they were great, they would be doing the ones that aren't a disservice.
    For the writers that want to grow in their work, I wish them all the best, and believe they truly will get what they want out of life, whether successful or not. But for the egotistical &/or stubborn individual, it won't matter whether they write or build houses. They'll always be miserable their entire life because they'll never be receptive to the opinions of others.

    May we always strive to learn more and better ourselves.

    Tripp Dakota
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  10. #10
    WF Veteran Bilston Blue's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KrisMunro View Post
    I want a story that people talk about later because they really connect with the characters, not because the sentence structure was just right (who recognises that anyway?)
    I understand your point, though disagree. We might think we don't notice sentence structure when reading novels, short stories etc, but not because it is unimportant, more the structure is correct, or appropriate for the piece; in other words it is what we expect when reading published / publishable material. And structure is vital, it must be, because from structure comes pacing and tension and other things that make us want to keep turning the pages.
    "I think a life is a plot. It's probably the elementary plot. I came across a quotation of Patrick White, the Australian writer, just about the time I needed it. He said he never bothers with plot. He just writes about life 'limping along toward death.' That made me feel much better, to keep this in my mind."

    Carol Shields.

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