Tuesday, June 30, 2009

writing checklist

Every writer has their own style, their own habits. What works for one may not work for the other. But, having said that, here's what I have learned about writing - perhaps it may be of some use.
1) Imagine you are writing it out longhand. Don't fiddle around, don't get bogged down. Imagine instead that you cannot go back and change anything until you have finished, so that you press ahead and have a first draft of your work. Once you have a first draft, you have a much better foundation to work from and will have learned more about your story and your characters, which you can use to add depth and complexity.
2) Let your characters do the driving. Get them fixed in your head so that they push the action along. Don't make them do things or make choices you realise they wouldn't really make, just because you plotted it in a Chapter Plan three months ago. If you want them to turn right but you just know they would turn left, then turn left and explore where that goes.
3) Rewrite, rewrite and then rewrite some more. Rewrite until you are absolutely sick of it - and then do it again. Would-be writers send their work off to agents waaaay too early (I know, I did!) You need to put your draft away in a drawer for a week, or even a month, then come back and start ironing out the flaws.
4) Find some friends you can trust to point out the flaws. There will be flaws, trust me on this. The trick is finding someone who can tell you - this character isn't working, this plot point isn't up to scratch. Perhaps publish a chapter or two on the HarperVoyager site ... they have a section for writers to post work, where it can get feedback. Having your flaws exposed is painful. Having an agent reject your work at the last moment because you didn't spot those flaws is agony.
5) Explore the concept of external and internal action. Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly) tells this best. Get the two-disc edition of Serenity and watch him talk to a bunch of Aussies at Fox Studios about this. Boiled down, he says that external action is your plot (ie, goblins attack). That, by itself, is fairly ho-hum. What you need is to couple it with internal action (how it affects each character and the characters' relationship with each other). So goblins attack, which makes Fred mad, because he's been warning about this for years. George, who's been boasting about how great a warrior he is, discovers he's terrified. The two, who had been friends, are now arguing - all because of a few goblins. Their relationship has been fundamentally altered and will affect the rest of the book, all because of a simple goblin attack.
6) Finally, just begin writing. Even if you don't hit the jackpot with your first effort, you will have learned something. Every failed attempt I had taught me how to be a better writer and, ultimately, led me to be published.
Good luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment