Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Nine tips for great writing ...

How do you write stuff that people want to read?

Here are some conclusions I've come to over a life-time of writing and editing fiction and journalism.

First, care about your subject ... Passion is an over-used word, and the advertising industry exhorts us to feel passion about a variety of banal and pointless things ... (electronic gadgets, chain-saws, food mixers). But genuine enthusiasm about a subject is contagious, and if you feel deeply about something, write about it.

Second, focus on your authentic experience of that subject. Don't be afraid to use the 'I' word ... Your individual experience, rendered with integrity, passion and exactitude, has the potential to enthral thousands of others. Write about your concrete experience of that subject ... the sights, sounds, smells ... the visceral reality of the thing. Avoid the lofty abstraction, and accurately render the raw human experience.

'Visitors' was a collection of short stories based on growing up in the Waikato, and on my travels abroad. It was a book about love, death, obsession, and the tenacity of the human spirit. I'm passionately interested in those things, and left a little bit of my heart on every page.

Next, learn the craft. Since the first recorded narrative written several thousand years ago, 'Gilgamesh', writers have been perfecting the technical business of story-telling. Find a way to acquire the insights of accomplished writers who have gone before you.

This includes learning about the Hero's Journey, an ancient template that has great narrative power; how to write a well constructed scene with a beginning, rising action and climax; how to understand the three unities of time, place and action. You also need to know how to make your protagonist's predicament compelling; how to maximise dramatic power; and how to write sizzling dialogue that walks off the page.

Next, accept the reality of re-drafts. Every first draft of a story is flawed. Each time you re-draft a narrative, a mysterious process of improvement takes place. Most pieces of fiction go through multiple re-drafts, improving at each step of the way. Re-drafting isn't optional, it's essential!

Finally, have some fun ... The more you treat your writing as a process of playful enquiry and experimentation, the more likely you are to go back for the repeated visits necessary to produce a polished manuscript. Go for it!

1 comment:

  1. Howdy bro, you forgot to take the gumboots back,hahaha. Interesting to read this on how to start writing, it's cool, I may try sometime........