How do you teach an old dog new tricks?
One thing I’ve been more proactive about this year is reading. I’ve read at least a hundred times more this year than I’ve written and it’s changed the way I write, for sure. In the past it has been the other way round… I mean I did write a trilogy while I was nursing and teaching my daughter to walk!
It’s true that we never stop learning and mostly, through other people. It’s like this quote I saw from Neil Gaiman today which was half the reason I thought to write this blog:
When you start out as a writer you are writing mostly for the love of writing but as you progress, you begin to realise how your work can be sharpened. As you write and write, and read and read, you eventually start to do a lot of things without even thinking about it anymore. You evolve into the writer you’re meant to be and you know which of the rules your writing can break. It gets so that the writing is both second nature and craft.
So, how do we go back to basics after writing so many novels where we’ve explored all the tricks and now need to narrow them down to get across that one, simple story that embodies “Life As Art”. I’m talking about an effortless narrative that tells you what is happening while drawing out all the nuances of two people, their two worlds and everything that makes those worlds unique and singular. It’s not a bad thing, but sometimes we forget there is beauty in simplicity and containment, in the ordinary. It’s a craft because you’re telling a story that gives a reader the tools to imagine the rest. This is where being a prolific reader yourself comes into it.
A good book doesn’t betray the effort that has gone into one sentence, one paragraph, one whole chapter even. That’s because you did your research and you wrote that story with faith. It’s a squarely constructed piece that has a theme and you ran with it. You believe in what you’re putting out there because you know you have an audience. At the end of the day, it’s great to write a story and have it out there, but are you writing for an audience? Are you giving people what they want? Yes, there are stories that break all the rules and do that well, for one reason or another. Maybe because at the heart, there is some kind of truth that so many people can still relate to.
Life As Art
Surf beneath the mundane surface and so much more unveils itself. If you’ve studied your characters in depth before you’ve written them, you can put them in any situation and know what they’re going to do—how they may react. Fictional characters are great though… you can stretch them that little bit further. You can also fit twenty years’ worth of history into just one year, maybe even one month. Squeeze time down, and maybe, you can make that book feel much longer and lengthier than just that one lifetime even. The truth is, writing is a unique “occupation” and there is no exact science. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to why we write this, or why we write that.
My point is, you have to keep writing. Writing is learning and expressing and discovering. I’m learning that all the time. I’m still learning and I think I am finally getting close to the holy trinity of a writer’s aspirations… to be my own, individual self and be pretty bloody pleased with that.
Unbind is now available for pre-order, RELEASED OCTOBER 20TH