First, become a reader…
It seems painfully simple doesn’t it? If you want to become a writer, become a reader first.
Writing is a joy. Armed with a great idea you can’t wait to get in front of your PC/Mac. Piping hot coffee sits in a cup to your left with a small stack of Hob-Nobs spilling onto your desk, the sweet aroma stimulating neurons in your brain which crackle into a creative frenzy as your fingers hover over the keyboard, poised for new birth, a clean white screen in front of you.
A clean white screen.
A blank, clean white screen.
A blank screen.
The brain-freeze which attacks and debilitates all writers at some point decides that your time is now. You know what you want to say but you cannot birth a single, solitary word. A sip of coffee; a nibble of hob-Nob; a walk around the garden; a flight to Rio. Nothing will make the words flow. Yet it seemed so simple when you hatched the idea in the shower/bath/pub.
I have a couple of pieces of advice, one of which is entirely counter-intuitive:
1. Read Something. Anything
The act of reading brings about the disassociation you need to clear your brain. It works in the same way that deleting all of the crap from your computer does. It wipes your brain of all the inhibiting factors that piled themselves in front of you when you were oh-so-ready to write down that dynamic and world-changing piece of prose and failed. It’s your very own control+alt+delete.
Any writer will surprise you by revealing that their main hobby is reading. Apart from the cathartic cleaning mentioned above, reading provides education and inspiration. No writer is truly original, in that their style has been influenced by every writer they’ve ever read. We are sponges, and learn by osmosis, but we have to provide ourselves with the opportunity. Pick up a newspaper or magazine; grab a novel or book of short stories. Anything you can find is grist to the mill.
2. Write anything
Yes, anything. Even if it’s something like this:
1. “Well here I am, sitting at the computer, trying to find a way into the story I have in my mind about Johnny the fairground guy, his affair with Rose and the death of her sister on the big wheel. It had been a sunny day, and the girls were looking forward to a forbidden evening at the carnival…”
Honestly, you’ll find that by not concentrating on technique you’ll find that the story starts to write itself. When you’ve written a fair amount, and the creative juices are flowing, you can start to refine your work:
had been was a sunny bright day, and the searing sun sent the geckos scurrying for shelter among the cool shade of the parched rocks. The girls were looking forward to a forbidden an elicit evening at the carnival, forbidden by mom, who knew exactly what boys got up to in ‘places like that’. Mom knew only too well, and every time she looked at Lori she thought was wrenched back to the day she allowed the carny-boy to go just that little bit farther… But mom was with her sister, and would be unaware of the girls’ whereabouts. All they had to do was be home by ten. What could possibly go wrong?”
Having put the basics down on “paper” you’ll move to the final edit. It pays not to edit as you write, but to plaster your page with text and edit afterwards. This was the most important lesson I learnt, as it keeps the writing flow going without fussy and picky stops and starts, all of which you’ll save until the end.
3. “It was an oppressively bright day, and the searing sun sent geckos scurrying for shelter among the cool shade of the parched rocks. The girls were looking forward to an elicit evening at the carnival. Mom forbade them of course. She knew exactly what boys got up to in ‘places like that’. She knew only too well, and every time she looked at Lori she was wrenched back to the day she allowed the carny-boy to go just that little bit further… But mom was with her sister, and wouldn’t know anything of the girls’ whereabouts. All they had to do was be home by ten.”
This has been a whistle-stop tour with two points to remember: Read anything often; write anything often. As a reassuring word, I had no idea what I was going to say when I started this article. I knew it had to be about writing, but that was all. the first paragraph was drivel and the rest was pretty much the same. I did a single, final edit, and what you have in front of you is the result. I’ll leave it until tomorrow and re-edit the piece. Always leave yourself the option to revisit the piece if you have that luxury; what looks good today will look rubbish in the morning.
Happy writing, and happy reading too.