Friday, January 15, 2010

Writing Pros agree....or not.



Writing is not so hard now is it? One goes tappity tappity on the keys and after a while, it all adds up to a brilliant novel. Uh huh, and I’m in contention for a gold medal in Olympic ice skating. Fortunately, in the Writer’s Digest anniversary issue, there is a collection of some sage advice from the biggest names in writing, but alas, they don’t seem to agree on all the finer points. Let’s take a look.
Outlining anyone?
“I make a very tight outline of everything I write before I write it…” This comes from writer Tom Wolfe. So the outline is critical…unless you’re Robert Ludlum.
“Sometimes one can overanalyze, and I try not to do that. To a great degree, much of the structure has got to come naturally out of the writing,” Ludlum says. Hmmm.
Let’s take a look at inspiration.
From author Frank McCourt, “Sit and quiet yourself. Luxuriate in a certain memory and the details will come. Let the images flow.”
Andy Rooney is more pragmatic. “My advice is not to wait to be struck by an idea. If you’re a writer, you sit down and d*** well decide to have an idea. That’s the way to get an idea.”
Okey dokey. Let’s try another topic. No matter what the project, great writers no doubt share that sense of confidence, of knowing they are masters of the written word. Don’t they?
“Every idea is my last. I feel sure of it. So, I try to do the best with each as it comes and that’s where my responsibility ends. But I just don’t wait for ideas. I look for them. Constantly. And if I don’t use the ideas that I find, they’re going to quit showing up.” – Peg Bracken
And from the supremely confident John Toland, “I’ve always had complete confidence in myself. When I was nothing, I had complete confidence. There were 10 guys in my writing class at Williams College who could write better than I. They didn’t have what I have which is guts. I was dedicated to writing and nothing could stop me.”
So the bottom line? People are different. Writers are different. Life stories, motivations, world views are as different as fingerprints. We need to find our own way. I will close with a quote that applies well to all of us, no matter what the circumstance.
“Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first 10 years. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t writer, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” – Andre Dubus
So what works for you? What keeps you sitting in that chair writing away? Add your two cents about what keeps you writing.

6 comments:

Ramona Richards said...

Right now, I've had a lot of problems writing, and I've had to analyze why. But usually it's the other way around...so many ideas I have to control them. And I hate outlining. Even when I do it, I vary from it so much as the book grows that it was a pretty useless exercise.

Lisa Mondello said...

A deadline (not my own) always works for me. Nothing gets the muse in high gear faster than knowing the clock it ticking.

I can't do heavy plotting. Although because I'm such a puzzle writer, I think I have an easier time that people who are pantsers. I can see pretty much the whole arc of the story with the pieces of the story I have. That is a good a road map as I can have.

Also, music and sorting socks helps me a lot. Not while I'm writing. I put on music while I'm doing something in the house or when I'm driving and it brings me into my story. I always have a small sound track put together for every book. I don't do it ahead of time. It usually comes natuarally. Also I can rewind and rework while I'm doing mindless things like sorting socks or washing dishes. You don't need to use up a lot of brain cells while doing simple chores and I think that frees up the rest of my brain to devote to creative thinking.

Dana Mentink said...

I'm going to have to try that sorting socks thing!

PamelaTracy said...

Great post, Dana. I really related to what John Toland said. In a way, that's me. I'm not the best writer, but no matter what, I write and write and write. And, I always believed.

Lee Smith said...

That's so true! I approached learning how to write the same way I did everything else ~ but a bunch of books on it and research it on the internet. The problem is that books contradict each other and you can spend so much time researching opinions that you end up not writing.

I'm still new enough that I feel I can learn from those books (and I hope I never stop learning) but I've slowed down my reading and am spending more time dedicated to a few things and especially my WIP.

When I'm stuck I go back to the characters and look at them more in depth to see why I'm having trouble telling their story. If that doesn't work, I read something else, work on the computer... Usually the ideas will come to me when I'm not trying so hard.

Dana Mentink said...

So many writers, so many methods. One thing in common---great story! Doesn't matter how you get there, it all comes down to that. Write a great story, any way you can.