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Wednesday, 22 June 2016


Note:  To read the earlier posts, you will have to scroll down this page.

So, how do you become a writer?
To write you will definitely need the building bricks…grammar, vocabulary, grammar, an awareness of structure…. character, plot, dialogue, adjectives, adverbs, dialogue attribution…I can’t go into any of that here. There is just so much of it. I simply wouldn’t have the time. I’d need a year of classes. All can be learned in writing or even ordinary English language classes…

but for me the building bricks are best learned from the experts...from great writers. So, read everything you can get your hands on…read stuff by established writers, writers with credibility.

Where does the talent to write come from?
My belief is that talent pretty much develops itself. When I was a kid we studied Latin at school. We came across all sorts of saying and idioms. One comes to mind now: Poeta nascitur, non fit. A poet is born, not made. I suppose that applies equally to writers. There has to be a certain built-in instinct there that cannot be manufactured. Am I saying that these skills are already there and inherent and that if they aren’t, forget about writing? No, I’m not. BUT… the skills have to be learned and, to me, there are TWO ways learn them


... from great writers. Read, read, read… Read everything you can get your hands on…read stuff by established writers, writers with credibility. Experience of great writing will influence the way we think and write in later life.
When I was a teenager, a boarding school student with nothing much better to do, I read all the classics I could get my hands on. I loved them, devoured them, I re-read many of them over and over. I read Austen, the Brontes, Dickens, Thackery, Wells, Twain, Defoe, Swift, Stevens, Trollope, Melville, Buchan, Baroness Orkzy, Alexander Dumas…and many more. All of these were the constant companions of my adolescence. I loved reading! But all the time I was reading I never gave any thought to being a writer. I suppose that my history of reading everything great that I could get my hands on made me feel that it would be idiotic of me to even contemplate trying to emulate these great writers. But unknown to me, while I was reading. I was absorbing so much more than just the stories. By some form of literary osmosis rather that by any deliberate intent I was picking up something of the wonder of imagination, an unconscious understanding of plotting, of character development, of structure, of dialogue. I was picking up a sense of writing techniques and styles …just even the way to use words, to make them my servants on paper, as it were.

You will need to write a lot if you want to become a writer. When you get to the state of being enthusiastic about expressing your thoughts, when you have a picture in your mind that you want others to see, when you become concerned about reporting that idea, about painting that vision, about bringing it to some kind of clarity… you will turn to writing. And when you write something, you want you first draft to be good. BUT when you re-read the first words you write, you will suffer disappointment because they’re nowhere nearly as good as you though they would be. Ernest Hemingway once said: ‘The first draft is always shit.’ So, once you have a crappy first draft, you improve on it, keeping in all the good bits and dumping the rubbish. Then you rewrite again. You read it aloud to see how it sounds…how it flows. Elmore Leonard said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.” (It’s a bit like the difference between good acting and obvious acting.)
So you work on it. You leave it. You go back to it and make more changes. And in doing this you begin to learn the craft because writing, like any skill is learned through practice and the best practice…and the best writing… comes in rewriting. You learn to recognise, too, when you are being pedantic or trying to impress. So,   write to be understood, not to impress.

1. write every day;
2. always carry a notebook (short-term memory lasts only three minutes. Without the notebook you will lose loads of good ideas.)
3.  have your own writing space. (You need private uninterrupted time and space in which to write.)

Of course there’s more to writing than style and the vocabulary you use. You’re offering a view life as you see it from your point of view. That’s all you can do. It’s just the way you see the world. And you’ll reveal these views through the eyes and mouths of your characters. Characters speak, feel, act…and they way they speak or act will reveal something about them and something about you and your view of the world. People interact with each other in real life; your characters will also have to interact with exch other in your writing.So, relationships should be at the centre of your stories. They will make you think about your own life, the people that you know, and what each of them might encounter in their day-to-day lives…and your writing will gravitate more and more towards truth. Actually, this had never even entered my head until a little while ago when another writer reviewed one of my books. He said something that had me scratching my head in puzzlement. He said:        "Murder investigations must be like this in real life: the discovery of layers of complications and interwoven situations which tell the reader things worth knowing about the human condition, regardless of the mysteries being unravelled."

I had to go back over the book to see what he was talking about because I had not deliberately set out to include this element in what I had been writing about. Me? Pontificating about the human condition? I wouldn’t dare. Yet, according to this critic, somehow I did.

So, much can be said on the subject of writing style, plotting, etc., but what’s most important is that you keep writing. The more you write, the better you will get.

Ultimately, writing success boils down to hard work, imagination and passion, or, to coin a phrase from something Thomas Edison once said, writing is about ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent perspiration. And the perspiration is in the rewriting as much as in the research, the preparation, the first laborious drafts.

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