Wednesday, October 13, 2010

How to Write

At dinner the other night with my fiancé, he asked me how I write.  He's a very talented man: a writer, an artist, a cartoonist, he just has the gift of being good at everything he does.  And yes, that is a biased opinion, but it also has a lot of truth to it.  But my fiancé has not finished a book, and I have.  His work is very good, and when he does write even his first drafts are very well crafted, in fact, he may be a better writer than I am, in terms of talent, and story, and that natural quality that gives a story that additional 'oomph'.  But he gets discouraged and quits before he has anything really done.  And that's what makes me a novelist, and him a writer.  So how do I do it?  I talked a little yesterday about 'turning it on', not taking no for an answer, how easy it is to just do something instead of doing nothing.  But to tell you the truth, it isn't that easy.  It's easy to write, it's hard to get into the right mindset.
The internet and blogs and forums have given us opportunities to share our work at every stage of the life of your story, but should you?  Musicians can create music together, artists can create art together, but when you write, you write alone.  I firmly believe that writing should only be shared when it is as good as you can get it without help.  There are people who share rough drafts with everyone they know who they know will praise their work, tell them they're amazing.  There are writers who really believe that they're a wonderful writer, and they have all these grand plans about series they'll write, and characters that they think are the next best thing to Hamlet, and they have dozens of files on their computer that are false starts, thirty or fifty pages of a novel that they got bored of as soon as they got another idea.  I don't think you can write a novel like this.  I don't think you can write an entire book without being dedicated to one idea or another.  Maybe your motivation is the feeling you think you'll feel when you become a published author, maybe it's the money - although I wouldn't count on that - maybe it's the recognition you'll get from your peers.  But it requires dedication, and I personally think that the more you share your work when it's new and faulty the less likely you'll be to continue working on it, having gotten whatever reaction you were looking for.  

Not everyone can do this.  I think it takes a very special kind of crazy to be a writer, a kind of crazy that my fiancé just doesn't have.  He's perfectly capable of finishing a novel, or a story, or anything else he puts his mind to - he just doesn't have the dedication, the drive, the idea of purpose.  And I'm not saying that I do, all the time.  Just often enough to make it worth it, to drive me that special kind of crazy just long enough to get the job done, and there's that easy part I was talking about yesterday.  It's easy, once you know where you're going.  Getting there requires something a little extra.  Maybe it's the IDEA, the one that you know you were born to write.  Maybe it's an incentive.  Or maybe your eyes have been opened to writing for years, and you just didn't think you had the talent, or the time.  You do.  If you can finish a book, then you have so much more going for you than talent.  You have drive.

So how do I write?  In increments, mostly.  

And sorry - again - for the rambling post.  I'm trying to turn this into a cohesive idea from its precious incarnation of a writing diary of sorts, with mixed success.  I appreciate everyone who has found this from one place or another on the internet, I wish more of you would leave comments (hint hint) but I'm satisfied with page views for now.  For now, I tell you.  I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully with a more condensed idea of where I was going with this tonight.  Thank you all.     


  1. Don't stop your ramblings Lee - I like them.

    You are right, everyone wants to write a book, many try and only some finish.
    It takes dedication and discipline to get to the end of a novel and then it takes dedication and discipline to fine-tune it into something that just might be publishable.
    And there's only one way to do that - get our backsides in a chair and do it!
    I actually told my friends not to contact or call on me between the hours of 10am and 4pm (my writing time). Without distractions it's surprising how quickly you progress.

  2. "Nobody but a writer can write. People who hang around writers for years. . . who are much smarter and have much better taste, never learn to write."

    Ben Hecht, Screenwriter
    Esquire Magazine, Feb 1959


    "Writing is very easy, all you do is sit in front of a typewriter keyboard until little drops of blood appear on your forehead."

    Red Smith, Sportswriter

    I guess what I'm trying to say is writers (like runners)must be willing to bleed, if you are not willing to suffer, you can write, but you'll never be a writer. Just like running to catch a bus does not make you a runner. Writing a memo for work, or even a snappy line of dialogue does not make you a writer. Only the willingness to suffer can do that.