You know in your heart you have a book in you. All that is stopping you writing your opus is that you don’t have the craft knowledge at your fingertips for writing fiction.
That’s where I hope the notes I’ve compiled will assist you to kick-start your life as a writer of successful and popular commercial fiction. If you have a BIG IDEA and follow the essential elements of creative writing, you’re on your way. All that’s left is for you to find the time, and the determination. And to call yourself a writer.
A zillion years ago I majored in English Literature at Macquarie University and since then, I’ve graduated from umpteen creative writing seminars, devoured a gazillion books and blogs on the art and craft of writing, and along the way, a couple of my books were published by Harlequin (MIRA) and sold well. The memoir, Sheer Madness; sex, lies and politics(2010) made it onto the SMH's Top Ten list. The novel, Goodbye Lullaby(2012), and the memoir are available on Amazon, Harlequin and Tablo. I have new writing in the works to keep me busy.
And, believe me, I wouldn’t have done any of the above had it not been fun.
That’s my message here; let your writing be a joy. By all means, push through the inevitable writer’s blocks with shoulder to the grindstone and strong coffee by your side, but then bliss to the thrill once the dam bursts and the ideas, and the words to express them, start gushing like a burst main from your cranium and you know you’ve found heaven in a sentence, a paragraph, or a chapter.
You are an author.
So, all I’ve done in presenting this booklet, THE WRITER IS YOU, is raid my old notebooks and files to pull together the random jottings I’ve taken down during my reading and attendance at various seminars and writers’ workshops. And to that point, I would like to give a special shout-out to Macquarie University's School of English; NSW Writers Centre; Robert McKee’s New York seminars; and the Faber Writing Academy in Crows Nest.
In compiling this booklet, I apologies in advance for having (possibly) purloined bits and pieces from the internet. It's hard at this late stage to give correct attributions. I'm grateful for the collective wisdom of my fellow writers and educators so freely offered in cyber world.
And let me plug E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, Steven King’s On Writing, and Robert McKee (yes, him, again!) Story, as well as a couple of on-line masterclasses worth the spend: Margaret Atwood's and Aaron Sorkin's. And I recommend these sites:
Feel free to pick and choose what I offer in the following pages, or swallow whole.
Let the fun begin!
Pour wine for me men, we ride at dawn!
Definition of NOVEL: "... new and not resembling something formerly known or used; original or striking especially in conception or style."
"The author must see that the reader is cut off from his real horizon and imprisoned in a small hermetically sealed universe – the inner realm of the novel. He must make a "villager" of him, and interest him in the inhabitants of this realm. To turn the reader into this "villager" is the great secret of the novelist."
The first English novel:
The English novel began with John Bunyan's The Pilgrim’s Progress(1678), then Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe(1791) and Moll Flanders(1722).
What makes a novel:
- "The transformation of the actual into an imagined reality."Katherine Lever in The Novel and the Reader
- "The novel tells a story. That is the fundamental aspect without which it could not exist."E.M. Foster in Aspects of the Novel
- "[It is about] …catching the strange irregular rhythm of life.” Henry James in Notes on the Novel
- "A novel is not a picture of the author’s life, it is a picture of his vision of life, his interpretation of experience." Lord David Cecil
"How to" tips from the experts:
- "The artist, like the god of creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his/her handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, pairing his/her nails." James Joyce, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Manadvising authors to let their characters tell the story.
- "With me, a story usually begins with a single idea or memory or mental picture. The writing of the story is simply a matter of working into that moment, to explain how it happened or what it caused to follow." William Faulkner, Writers at Work
- "Things take place instantly but there’s a long process to go through first." Henry Miller
"Imagination is more important than knowledge."Albert Einstein
"With knowledge comes doubt." Goethe
If the sages tell us that imagination is everything, then why worry you with information about craft?
Because creative writing is a right-brain/left-brain occupation. It’s a matter of letting your right-brain (creative side) run riot across the page, then when you’ve exhausted it, bring in your left-brain (logical side) to edit and structure your manuscript according to established literary principles.
Creative writing is about CONTENT and FORM, or CREATIVITY and CRAFT. It is about the intertwining of the two to create the whole.
Intuition + Skill = The Novel
Scribble in the midnight hour – Edit in office hours.
Put more dramatically, one great author advised that we should write in mania, and edit in depression, another, that best to write drunk, edit sober ... which could be going a little too far but you get the idea. For me, for the first draft, I like to write like I’m on a fast-flowing river and know there are rapids up ahead. Pile on the complications.
Dare to ask a few crazy "what ifs?" Make the character’s mission almost impossible. Make the contest fierce. Make the stakes high. And most importantly, make your characters feel REAL.
You must believe that nothing is too crazy, too dark, too sentimental, too comical, too surreal, too revealing, or just too ridiculous to commit to the page. So long as nothing goes out until you’ve knocked it in to writerly, readerly shape.
To sum up; I believe that no number of tutorials, writers festivals, workshops, books or blogs can give you anything other than a knowledge of the CRAFT, important of course, but craft is not the magic ingredient that will make your story take wings.
For that, you will require a rampant, out-of-control life of the mind.
Otherwise known as a fertile imagination,
that which fuels your CREATIVITY
Begin reading fiction with the eye of an author