Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Thoughts and Lessons of an Aspiring Writer

As a writer I am always looking for tips and advice to help with both creativity and learning the craft of the storyteller. The workshops I have attended over the past two years have given me a better understanding of applying a more crafted technique when planning structure, dialogue and pacing to my work. One thing I gained from these inspirational people was the ease and confidence they imparted when they talked to us about writing. The passion they shared as they talked about their process for taking an idea they had conjured and applied it to a storyline. The wonderment we shared when they opened a new door for us. Merely by listening to the techniques these artists used to shift focus, and control pace in their writing habits we were enlightened.

Some of these things we as rookie writers had already unwittingly applied to our story telling, but now we had descriptions for these tricks successful writers employ. More than that we could sit back, nod sagely and think I've done that, or wow I didn't understand before but today I do.

The one theme that rolled through all of these educational events was to read and read widely. Now, I am someone who spent most of my time with technical journals and stuffy training manuals, so reading fiction was somewhat foreign to me. Don't get me wrong, I love fiction but have always watched it on the screen rather than pick up a book, I’ve been busy or lazy I guess.

In trying to write fiction, I have learnt that the movie maker's perspective for telling the story is their point of view only. Although enjoyable, it is not be the same point of view I'd have if I'd read the book. A reader sees their own pictures unfold with each line in a well written novel, and they consume the pages. During the reading the reader owns their view of the characters, and they create their own images of place. By reading some great stories, many unpublished yet, I have learnt that good writers always leave enough space for the reader. Space to create their own vision of the tale.
Description sets the scene and draws the characters, but each reader visualises them differently. To illustrate this point, after seeing the movie, The Lorax by Dr Seuss, my daughter said that the voice used for the character of the Lorax was all wrong for her. She was comfortable with the animated pictures as they were taken from the book, but the voice chosen was different, it wasn't mine. It wasn't the same voice she had heard as a toddler when we shared this tale before her bedtime. Dr Seuss left room in his story for the reader and in her case, the listener to interpret their own vision. A movie no matter how great the production, will struggle to do that.

I hope for my writing, I too have learnt to leave room for the reader.

Another common piece of advice shared, was to read work by some of today's icons of the literary world and ponder about their practice of writing. Read writers biographies to learn about their fears and hopes. More important though, our tutors wanted us to discover how these writing gods approached a blank screen when they sat down to create their next blockbuster.

Two books suggested were:

On Writing by Steven King

Write Away by Elizabeth George.

I am not going to give a review of either author other than to say these books were like a beacon in the night for me, and I suggest reading them to anyone wanting to enjoy success as a writer.

If you're struggling when trying to plan, develop characters, or produce realistic dialogue, then you should stop what you are doing right now and read both of these books. We can learn much from the masters, but the one big thing I took from these books is that both authors craft their story. They do their research, they plan their chapters and have a structured idea of the story they want to write before they start typing.

At the begininig of this year I resolved to finish two novels, Toby Farrier and Les Gillespies Gold. I knew it was important to set another goal to read at least two books a month and include a couple of classics too. It has been years since I sat in the Orroroo Town Hall and watched a movie production of the Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemingway. I remember the gist of the yarn and the Cuban coastline but that was all. However I found an online copy and read it yesterday. This may be a short novel, but the words are powerful and convey beautiful imagery. This man knew how to leave space for the reader, no wonder it was a Pulitzer Prize winner.

Take it down from the shelf and read it again, he will amaze you.

Oh, and read some poorly written stuff too. These books may be good stories poorly edited or just a bad story but they do serve to remind us that completing our first draft while a big acheivement is only the beginning. A side benefit to a bad book is as you read it you feel your self esteem grow, because you know you can do better. Reading bad books can build confidence in your own ability.
Links to Workshop Lecturers:
             Kirsty Murray:        http://kirstymurray.com/
             Merlene Fawdrey:  https://www.blogger.com/profile/08318707687125028987
            Archie Fusillo:        http://bookedout.com.au/find-a-speaker/author/archie-fusillo/