It’s always easy to imagine the stereotypical writer tapping away in an ivory tower, with an endless stream of engaging ideas flowing effortlessly from their fingertips. They need nothing and nobody. They simply write, and what they write is logical, polished and ready to be read by a hungry audience. Right?
I can’t say I haven’t indulged in that writerly dream of holing up in some amazing place and just allowing myself the time and space to write freely, and dreaming that it will be some fabulous novel that the world can’t wait to get its hands on. But the more I write, and the more time I spend trying to get it right, the more I realise that it takes a lot more than just writing.
Again, don’t get me wrong, there’s a huge component of simply putting butt in chair and writing. There’s no substitute for writing, and writing a lot. But when that initial rush of words is done, it’s more often than not barely legible, lacking in character and wit, and requiring large chunks to be cut, or at a minimum, edited heavily. So how is this done? By doing one of the scariest things possible. By putting your baby into the hands of others before its ready.
Critical feedback from other writers, and tutors who have a better understanding of the industry, and what’s involved in creating a consistent, engaging and driven piece is at once necessary and terrifying. It’s one of the better things you can do as a beginning writer. Since joining a writing class that became a writing workshop that then morphed into a community of writers who give feedback and hold each other accountable, my writing has developed from amateur to the point where I can be happy with the final results.
This has been invaluable, and added a tremendous amount to the body of knowledge I had about what makes writing good, and how to go about putting together a big story. I look forward to our monthly meetings, and often can’t wait to see what the group has to say about what I’m writing right now (good or bad!)
In addition to this, I try to read a craft article or book regularly, to try to develop my understanding of what makes a good scene, a good character, and something everybody wants to read. I have a few titles on my bookshelf that I can’t so without, such as Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and ‘Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction’ by Orson Scott Card, Philip Athans and Jay Lake.
I’ll also be trying out a new title from Crystal Lake Publishing called Writers on Writing, featuring articles by authors in the game offering a fresh perspective on setting, plot and being a first time novelist. I can’t wait to see what they have to say!
Here’s the link if you are interested: