My view and tips about the crafting art of writing.
|First, when the goddess kisses you, will you be able to write
Lately, I had a chat with a friend. His strong belief is: an author can only write if he or she has been kissed by the inspirational goddess of writing. Only in that case is one able to type a full chapter in one go at the PC. There is no other way to write but when the goddess has kissed you. That means: don’t try to write everyday because the Goddess of Writing is busy kissing others, and whatever you have written – without the Goddess’ divine hands – is anyway crap. So don’t even bother losing time trying to do or doing something that is not rewarding in the end.
First, when the goddess kisses you, are you able to write – at all. There is no such thing like training skills or any logical, mechanical process to be trained. Writing is a divine inspiration that will come to you like contemplation or a Zen state of mind – all without training or working.
So he says. However my point of view is that writing, although a creative act, is a craft. And like any other crafts, writing needs melting, hurting, hitting, and time. It needs discipline, nerves, routine, and technique. It sounds like a mechanic, but writing is like a machinery. There is a plan, and there are many pieces that need to fit together. However, there are no standards. So you need to sit down and play with the words, the sentences, grammar, vocabulary, and a certain music so everything falls into a great shape and builds the story YOU want to write.
The part I agree with is the passionate feeling: without feeling and story-spinning, there is no story. I imagine things, they develop in my mind. Right. But how to bring them to life on paper? This is the point where technique and discipline want to be trained.
But for my friend, writing has nothing to do with regularity – come on, we are not in the army! And that’s exactly the point where he fails to catch the truth. Writing is indeed hard work, like educating a dog or a child. How can you expect that these beings know what you want? It is the same with writing: how can you expect your ideas to be so precise and explicit so the readers will understand the messages – if you have not trained your skills before? One quote I love is the following: “It is perseverance that distinguishes the strong from the weak”.
If I don’t work on writing every day a bit, if I don’t train my mind to new techniques and structures, I will not be able to write anything good. The trick is: write. How horrible the sentences might be, how wrong the used words might depict the scenes, or how sloppy the style is, no matter, because that’s the job of editing. Even now, when I write this article, I know I will re-edit and find some sentences are good, and some are bad. At least it helpt me see more clearly in the dullness of my mind. But the most important thing is to write because no one will do it for you.
To me writing is like learning a music instrument, or a language. Of course one needs a certain ear for beauty and harmony. But it will make only a tiny percentage out of the whole. The rest is work, work, work. No mind wants to hear that. “What? I have to work? What? Oh no, I prefer to rest on my back and wait for the goddess of inspiration to kiss me. “ But that way you ensure only one thing: that nothing happens.
It takes an awful amount of time to write something. Actually that is not right. The minutes and hours that go by in the writing process are the same as when working out or cooking. The absolute time is the same. However the felt time used to write is twice or three times the real time spent in typing the words into the page. Writing is a highly intellectual activity; therefore it is also very probable one feels hungrier as when working on the construction site, although it is a crafty activity. Brains need a lot of energy. By consuming resources, the body feels a lack. One needs energy again. This means: eating, drinking, moving around (stiff muscles from too long screen staring), going to the toilet (very disturbing indeed, when one is immerged in the stuff), doing something else.
Writing asks a very high concentration rate. You want to use the given time properly, every word should fit the perfect sentences you build. Every step is controlled instead of being free. More, the worst thought you can have while writing is: “Hopefully I don’t write crap.” Or: “Hopefully I am not losing my time.” You put yourself too much pressure on.
Relax, also physically. Think about the scenes and the main lines of the chapter you want to write. First the structure, then the flesh. Every step needs time. Also rearranging ideas takes time. All this takes a lot of time.
In order not to feel that dull pit in my stomach, I just try to stick to that principle: what do I want to say? Does every sentence fit the message? Which sentence is too much? Then, I take the mouse and click all words that are not needed, all paragraphs, cut them out and paste them in my “Sorted out of novel”-document. That way, I ensure nothing of what I wrote is lost, and I still can come back on some ideas, if I need to implement them in my novel later on.
Writing is definitively nothing easy, but like any crafting art, it is much fun when you can contemplate your finished work.
Techniques – my tips
Writing is re-writing. I don’t remember who said that, but that’s true. That means: write draft, save draft, sleep, open draft, edit draft.
There are two phases: writing and correcting. If for example you like to write in the morning, do not make corrections in the morning. Let the goddess inspire you. Then, in the afternoon, when she’s gone kissing others, take the time to ponder over and correct the paragraphs you just wrote. This permanent “two steps further, one step back” can ensure a fluent telling and easy reading of the text.
What I mean is: don’t try to do both at the same time. Write or edit. But do not write first, and then edit. Make a break between both steps, otherwise you will break yourself down. This is frustrating and discouraging. Remember: you are your only motivator. And maybe your fans too, if you have spoken about your plans around. But if you haven’t, then you are alone with yourself.
Drink water! Or eat salty sticks. It helps me to have something to eat, without putting on weight.
Break up and play: PC games or Playstation, or go out with the dog. It helps looking at the script from a different perspective and make a necessary cut in the writing process.
Think about the big picture and return on various scenes, to check if their purpose serve the whole picture. If not, cut and paste in the sorted out-document.
And don’t be too impatient: the story might reveal to you within seconds but it might take many hours of hard work to describe the actions, interactions, and thoughts of your characters.
One thing I do as non-native speaker is to read my paragraphs aloud. That way I can better reflect on the fluency of the words and grammar. It helps me while editing to know what my readers might understand. Hearing the words out of my mouth into my ears let me listen to my story. It is like reading the story aloud into an audio tape or CD-Rom for others like for a radio play.
Be sure who they are and what they want. My best tip is: make a biography, like a character sheet of a role playing game. Describe how he/she looks like, which music he/she listens to, and which positive and negative traits he/she has. I find this very important and helpful.
Another thing I do is interviews. I open a Word document and entitle my page like an article of a celebrities magazine, but instead of telling about the life of the famous, like kings, princesses and actors, I interview my characters. They sit down, and behave. I describe how they behave too. For example, if they drink tea in the living room or a beer at the inn. I also don’t hesitate to show their emotions.
Most of all I find it important to show how they behave because it reveals very much about the inner structure of the being. Even if it’s an animal, how it moves around, looks, lays, feeds, drinks, or just looks up at me, gives me more insight about it than just describing it. For example: “Kitty moved elegantly on the sofa” is a relatively dull sentence. “Kitty delicately placed a paw before the other, looking for an audience to acknowledge every step she took with her green almond eyes” lets me know more about her character.
Don’t compare yourself with other authors. If they can write quickly, fine. I have personally given up that idea because it makes me very sad or frustrates me when I read that bestseller authors – native speakers – write five hundred pages within four months. To me it sounds incredible! Where do they find the time? I suppose they have a strict structure, and write a little bit every day.
Well, it is a good thing and we can only learn from each other. My resolution for next year: write every second day, correct every second day. The seventh day is resting day. I hope to be ready with my English novel soon: my next – in German this time – is already waiting.