Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Tips On Writing
Recently, the Huffington Post ran a piece about the new rules for writers. After reading the piece, I thought to myself that it was time to get back to basic rules for writing. So, here are my rules for writing.
1. Read. I can’t tell you how important that is. I can’t stress that enough. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and tell me they are writers, yet they don’t have time to read or don’t really like to read but yet they say they are amazing poets or great storytellers. Nothing against Harry Potter, but if you’re going to re-read Harry Potter fifty times, and read nothing else, then that’s not really preparing yourself for being a writer. That being said, J.K. Rowling is amazing at back story and clear poses. She has some great lessons to teach those who want to write. Though, if you love fantasy for example, and Harry Potter introduced you to it, then you should explore further in that genre. Nothing wrong with that genre. You need to either read more then one thing or explore further in a genre you love. Saying you want to be a writer and not reading, is like saying you want to be a musician but don’t listen to music or that you want to be a swimmer but don’t like water. Also, it doesn’t matter what kind of writer you want to be. Sometimes those who want to be TV writers or screenwriters find that they watch a ton of movies or study the sitcom, they think that’s the key to writing. It’s not. At the end of the day, what you write is meant to be read, weather by actors or kids or adults or whatever. To write what is meant to be read, one has to read.
2. Write. You need to write. Maybe you won’t write the greatest thing right off the bat. Very few people sit down and write Harry Potter or Carrie the first time. Those few are the lucky ones. Maybe you will write short stories. With creative writing, be prepared to be disappointed with your first few attempts. You have to learn pacing. As I learn the art of fiction, I can’t tell you how many times I go into my bad habits. I love to get the story moving right off the bat, often. Within five pages, I know if my character is a wizard, vampire, robot curious about its own existence or government project. Or simply, if it’s a more realistic character, I will have it tell you its problem right off the bat. Pacing is tough. We didn’t know that Potter was a wizard or Carrie had powers until we got introduced to the world they inhabited first. You need to leave clues (yet again, another thing both Rowling and King are great at) but it’s so temping to right off the bat get to the exciting part.
3. Practice. I write mostly film and book reviews for this blog. A blog is a great place to get your stuff out there. Though, if you are going to blog, I think you should write out every blog entry onto a regular word document first. Approach every blog entry as if you’re writing a piece for a newspaper. Your Roger Ebert writing a movie review. Not some guy writing a piece for a blog. Write about a topic. Don’t just write a piece about what you ate for lunch. Writing non-fiction is a good way to start. Write about what already exists, while on the side you try to pace your dreams into workable fiction.
4. Stick with it. You might have a couple thousand cracks at that first novel. What should it be? The kid discovers he’s a wizard, angel, robot, knight in training, or an alien? Try out all your ideas and see which one takes off. If the outlandish isn’t working for you, then maybe you should try to write a novel about something you have experienced in life yourself. Or write short stories for all your ideas. Perhaps that’s better. A novel is a daunting task and a commitment. As I said, we all can't be Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Dean Koontz (how does Stephen King, by the way, seem to publish a novel every twenty minutes but can't crank out a column for Entertainment Weekly on a weekly basis?)
5. And finally, good luck. As I said in my column on how to write columns, make me proud.