Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Once upon a time

Today somebody asked how writers write. That's an easy answer and almost every writer will tell you a similar answer. One word at a time. Just write.

 He made some comment that, if he wrote a story, it would probably start Once upon a time as if that would be a bad thing. True enough; if i started my novel with Once Upon A Time, you'd probably think you were reading something by a five year old and wouldn't get past the first paragraph. So, what if i started with A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away? It's basically the same sentence and, yes, it's from a sort of fairy tale. But it's also the opening line of something very special. Well, i think so.

If it works for you, start with once upon a time. That doesn't have to stay in the final version. I wrote a piece about a fireman attending an accident on the motorway. I'd probably written 500 words and it just wasn't working. it wasn't a story, it wasn't exciting and i didn't want to know what happened next. i kept going for a while then stopped, highlighted the first paragraph and pressed delete.

No better. The next paragraph went the same way. Once i'd deleted the third, i realised i have the start of the story, but hadn't been able to see it because it was hidden amongst all the rubbish. The start sometimes isn't at the start.

Joseph Grand, one of the characters in The Plague by Albert Camus is a writer. He is trying to write the perfect opening sentence and rewrites and revises it constantly , never actually getting on to the next sentence and never writing the book. Many people who want to write end up in a similar trap. There is a cure, although it's a bit extreme. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) sets the challenge of writing a fifty thousand word story in a month. Starting with a blank sheet on the 1st of November each year thousands of people try to get 1500 words a day down. It's not easy, particularly if you want to create a masterpiece from the start. However, NaNoWriMo's strap line is that it's all about quantity, not quality. Put words on the page and you can come back and polish, revise, edit, change, delete, add later on. Just Write.

Part of the charm (or not) of blogs is that they aren't thought through properly before typing begins - this one certainly isn't. It's a stream of consciousness, clunky and rambling. Unfortunately, when i run out of things to say, i just press the Publish button. So, what you get is the raw version of what i wanted to say. However, as i'm spending more time blogging and twittering and facebooking in the hope of raising awareness of my book (published on Kindle in February) than writing the sequel, i haven't got time to revise and polish etc etc. Sometimes i'm blogging at midnight, and it shows.

Publish and be damned (he said, out of context).

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