MY THOUGHTS ON WRITING
….The first thing I’m going to tell you is what every other writer will tell you:
Write what you know about!
If you don’t know about it, look it up on the Internet.
If you look it up on the Internet, Be Picky!
The Internet contains a bucketload of information for just about everything.
Choose what best fits the ideas of the story you are writing.
If you are writing about diamonds, what about diamonds do you need to know? Carats? Cuts? Facets? Inclusions? Clarity? Or just that they can be big and shiny? Is the setting simple or ornate? Are there smaller diamonds surrounding the big one? What kind of setting?
You get the picture. Choose what you need to know.
What kind of characters do you have and how do they interact? With whom or what? Are you writing about a human, an alien from Planet FX-Zr3? An animal?
Think about the personality of the character and KEEP the character IN character!
If you are writing about an actor, does he put pieces of himself into his acting or does he use a particular style of acting? Make sure the individual is the same throughout the story unless he has a good reason to be or become different.
Let that reason be a part of the story. Don’t just throw something in because you think it will suit the scene, time, or place.
If you can, let the story write itself. That always works best. If you can’t do that, be sure that you are keeping the story parts together so you don’t, for example, introduce a character and then we never see or hear from that character again unless it’s just someone on the bus who strikes up a brief conversation.
If that happens, is the conversation relevant to the story? If so, how does it affect the character in the conversation? Does the topic come up in the story later? How?
Be yourself when you write.
It’s fine to admire and emulate a known author, but if you are a very serious person, an author who writes light, airy stories may not fit your style.
Do mysteries capture and hold your attention to the exclusion of everyone and everything else?
Does Agatha Christie or Raymond Chandler fit your writing style best? Look at both and see what, if anything about the way they write, fits how you write. Experiment with many different authors’ styles to see how YOU can make them sound.
For example, when I was a teenager, I loved P.G. Wodehouse. a British author who could get an idea across simply with punctuation. K.M. Stein was another writer I thought was great. This person combined the English and German languages into ingenious combinations of language hilarity. I have written things in the style of this person. But they’re still mine. I put ME into them.
It took me a long time to develop my style, and it changes sometimes in the stories. This is very evident in my book “Medley”. “Night Train to Chicago” is probably one of the most serious stories I’ve written, if not the most serious. Its drama is followed by “King Lun’s Challenge”, a totally tongue-in-cheek tale. Sometimes the style changes in the same story, as in “Morgue”. All the characters have their own manner of speaking, so the style changes a bit to reflect that. The main character holds it all together, so it works.
If you put your SELF into your writing, people will like it.
PET PEEVE: Using a plural pronoun or verb for a singular person.
THIS CAME ABOUT MANY YEARS AGO DURING THE DECADE OF BEING POLITICALLY CORRECT AND HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH REALITY.
I keep getting confused when a character speaks of another first in the singular mode and then refers to “them” in the next sentence.
For example: Mary bent over the kettle to see how the cooking was coming along. They told her husband, “Supper is almost ready.”
Where in the world did “they” come from? It seems like she’s got a kitchen full of other people who speak for Mary.
THIS IS GRAMATICALLY WRONG. IT NEEDS TO STOP.
It’s also COMMON SENSE.
There is nothing wrong with referring to an individual as a “he” or a “she”. Most of us are either male or female. In the case of transgender individuals, I would use the pronoun of the gender that individual identifies with.
There is a spiritual reason that people identify with the opposite gender.
I am not getting into that. I speak strictly from a writer’s point of view regarding correct grammar. There was an article on the Internet several days ago in which the author also bemoaned the use of “they” as singular and made the comment that it was grammatically incorrect, but she kept to the topic and didn’t get into it.
That comment made me glad; there are other people who agree with me on this.
This may engender flak, but I strongly believe that singular should stay singular and plural stay plural. Never have I been one to be politically correct if it served no purpose, and in my opinion, this does not.
If you have only initials, as in the case of K. M. Stein, then when speaking about this writer, you will have to indicate a she or a he. If you don’t know, then do what I did in grad school - I said “he/she” which later became “s/he”. The author in question is deceased, so I don’t think he/she cares one way or another which combination of pronouns I use.
There are also ways to work around this problem so that gender nouns or pronouns never even have to be used. Think a little bit about how you can do that in what you are writing.
Write when you are fresh. This is brain power you are using, and it is as strenuous a workout as any vigorous physical exercise that you do. When you get tired, stop. Take a break. Go for a walk; exercise; play a computer or cell phone game that is not word related; play with the dog. If you don’t get back to your missive that day, there’s tomorrow. The Great American Novel cannot be written if the brain doesn’t want to cooperate.
Do what it takes to keep yourself mentally sharp. If you notice that a food or combination of foods make you sleepy, don’t eat before writing. Have a snack later in the evening so you fall asleep easier.
Sleep can be elusive when you have characters or plots running around inside your brain instead of sheep jumping over a fence.
Unless you are writing a story about sheep. Then you may have to count cows jumping over the moon or something.
I write about anything that strikes my fancy. So I may have a cantankerous old woman learning to be friends with her neighbors, a talking car that takes over its controls so the driver has nothing more to do than sit back and watch the scenery go by, a seagull that chooses to live at the firehouse with its Dalmatian friend, a baby dragon that befriends the fireman, an octopus that lives on a farm, just whatever. One of the stories in “Medley” came about because I saw a duffel bag on the side of the highway and began wondering about it and the reaction of its owner when he/she discovers the bag is missing.
Have fun writing. If it’s not fun, you’re working too hard at it. Relax. As said earlier, if you can let the story write itself, it’s a lot easier. You can write a very serious, very scary, very tense story and still have fun, because the fun is seeing how the plot develops and how the characters react to what’s happening. This is happening in the novel I am writing. I didn’t intend to write a novel. It developed. I never know where it’s going to go, so I just go with it and find out. It’s amazing how the story line holds itself together this way.
If you can, join a writer’s club. If you can’t, start one. Even if there’s only two of you, just picking a topic or finding a writer’s prompt on the Internet can lead to two very different stories. A teacher friend of mine who also was president for a year of the writer’s club I joined in Arizona did that a couple of years ago. She found a prompt, and I ended up with a science fiction short story while hers was about a child. It doesn’t matter what you write – as long as you stick to what the prompt says about itself to you, you’ll have a story.
Don’t compare yourself to other writers. You can admire them, emulate them, read every thing they’ve ever written, whatever, but you do not have their particular view of life. You can write about the exact same topic, but your story will have your point of view and the other author has his/hers. Unless you have lived exactly the same lives with exactly the same emotions and perceptions, you cannot write exactly as the other person does because you have not had those experiences that writer has had. You might both have been in a rear end collision with a Ford F-150 in a big city’s downtown intersection and suffer whiplash, but the physical facts are all you are going to have in common. Your reactions and how you deal with those reactions will be different, even if you both happen to have the same auto insurance company. You can have similar, but not exactly the same, consequences.
So there you have it: some of my knowledge, born of my talent and my life experiences. I am me, you are you. We may click together if we meet or we may not. Doesn’t matter. You are unique, and so am I.
Enjoy your uniqueness and write accordingly!