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Worlds Apart April 2009

The Work of Writing II


Last month we began to look at some questions you might be asking yourself as you think about writing: Why do I want to write, what do I know about that could be a subject or make a story, and so on.


These questions are very natural and it is helpful to think about them at some point, but don’t get too involved in trying to find answers to all of them. Some can’t be answered fully until you have begun to write: until you’ve started to experiment a little.


From my perspective I can say I began simply by trying to write the sort of fiction I like to read. I love historical fiction; stories set– partially or fully-in past eras. The eras don’t have to be long past or found in exotic locations necessarily, but they should have at least some historical context. Your preferences may well lie elsewhere, but wherever they lie is an excellent place to begin your work as a writer.


If you have a favorite kind of fiction you will almost certainly have some favorite writers whom you particularly enjoy, and rereading them can be a great help. Of course, I’m not suggesting you copy anyone else’s style, but just concentrate on a few writers whose work you particularly like and ask yourself what attracts you to their books. Is it their plots you enjoy? Their characters? The way they describe things and use the language? Whatever it is, try to learn from the way they do things. Really try to dig into their work and take it apart for yourself.


This does not have to be done before you start to write, it’s all part of the process of finding your feet as a writer, so to speak. There aren’t many hard and fast rules about all this, but one thing you can certainly rely on is that you won’t really get far if you try to write about things, people or places that are of no interest to you. You, the writer, have to be excited about what you’re writing. If you aren’t absorbed by your story, your readers won’t be either.


Another very good way to help get you started is to make contact with other writers. Today the Internet makes this very easy; there are writer’s groups galore you can contact, but it is best if you try and find a group that writes the sort of fiction you’re attracted to.


And don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t join a group of writers because you have never published anything. Joining a group, talking to other writers and learning from them is an excellent way to help get you published, and you’ll fund that most writers are open and honest about their craft, and more than willing to share their knowledge and experience.


So, with the foregoing in mind, let’s assume you’re now ready to begin.  But how, exactly, do you begin?


The answer to that one is very personal. Everyone has their own style and way of working. Some writers begin with rough notes, develop and expand them into comprehensive outlines, create profiles for each character with physical descriptions, personal history and behavioral details and build up the story conceptually chapter by chapter. Others just start to write and let the plot and characters develop as the work goes forward. That’s what I do.


I can’t recall ever starting a novel or story with a complete knowledge of how it would end. Sometimes I have a general idea of how things are supposed to work out, but it seldom ends up the way I first thought it would. All this goes to demonstrate that there is no correct way to write a story, no matter what its length may be.


When I began my first novel, Jade Hunter, I simply opened a new file in my Word documents, typed the words Part One, and Chapter One,   and then began the story. I knew the first chapter or two would have to deal with certain things, but I had no real idea of how that needed to be done. The ideas just opened up as I went along, and that experimentation and creative process became as fascinating to me as the actual writing itself.


So, I challenge you. Get started. And if you like, drop me an email and let me know how it’s going.