28 October 2014

On improving our craft

Someone asked me lately how one gets better at writing.

For a moment, I was at a loss for words. And for a writer, that's kind of ironic. Hahaha!

I guess there's really no step-by-step process to writing. It's really a process of trial and error.

All my creative writing classes were the usual ones taught in high school. I remember I tried countless times  to get published in our school paper, and only managed to get an article in on my final year. In college writing took a backseat to the drafting board, though you'd sometimes be surprised at how architects employ creative writing when outlining a project proposal. Hahaha! And before getting published on Youngblood, I had numerous rejected articles.

I tried writing my first book after a summer of immersing myself in Nancy Drew. I think I was eleven or twelve at the time. And fortunately for everybody, that story won't ever see the light of day. Hahaha! But I'm reminded of my early efforts whenever I see stories posted by tweens on Wattpad. I sincerely admire the courage of the young authors who post their work on the site (when I was a kid, no one could peer into my notebooks on threat of death) and open themselves up to critiques. It's harsh sometimes, but if they're open to learning, it's bound to be a great learning process.

But I hope they keep writing. For writers and authors, writing is our exercise, it's how we get better.

Another way is to experience life.

In our first year of college, one of our professors told us to go out, go to discos and motels, attend parties, and island-hop. We were all surprised, weren't we at school to learn? He just laughed at our incredulous faces and said, "You want to be architects? How will you design a disco, a hotel, or an airport if you've never been to one? How can you be an effective designer if you've never experienced using those buildings?"

And he was right. I can still remember my guy friends laughing over a drive-in motel I designed in my second year (I just couldn't get why it couldn't have communal parking. Hahaha!).

I think it's the same with writing. How can you write of heartbreak when your heart has never been broken before? How can you write of pain and of loss and of being deprived when you've been pampered your whole life? How can you write about the romance of the cobbled streets of Rome when you've never tread them? How can you write of sunsets on the beach when you've never been outside the concrete jungle of the city?

Don't get me wrong, some people CAN. Some people have wells of imagination so deep you could drown in them.

But for us who weren't blessed with such imagination or a trust fund to enable us to see the world? Well there's always Google ;-) And don't underestimate the things you can learn from talking to people (with an emphasis on listening).

And read.

I think all writers are readers at heart. And this is another good way to learn, not only about places and people, but also about technique. If you like a particular author, try to analyze what that person is doing right and emulate it.

I say emulate, not copy, because every writer has his own unique voice. All artists start out the same, visual and performance artists start by learning the techniques of masters who have gone before them. Only after they've learned and perfected those techniques are they able to develop techniques of their own. I think there's a parallel in learning how to write.

You want to write romance? Read romances. You want to write sci-fi, mystery, or horror? Then read up on those genres. Soak up the techniques of great authors and let your own voice out.

in the end though, the bottom-line is still this: WRITE

Writers write.

They write when they're happy or sad. They try to capture in words the things they see when they travel. They can make you feel hungry or make your heart race by the words they put on paper.

They write because they need to, because they cannot imagine not ever writing.

So flex those muscles and get writing ;-)

How do you write?

Hi everybody!

I wonder if you're like me and story lines and scenes seem to pop out at the most inconvenient of times. Like when you're washing the dishes or changing a dirty diaper or when you've almost fallen asleep after hours of rough housing with the kids?

How do you make sure your ideas don't slip into oblivion?

The hubby handed me one of his portable voice recorders the other week. He's an amateur songwriter, so he uses them to record snippets of the songs he writes. But I don't know ... it just didn't work for me.

I guess I'm more visual than I thought. I like seeing the words appear on screen as I type them out. I just adore the physicality of words, whether typed or written. When I'm in front of a keyboard and screen or have a pen and paper in front of me, words just seem to flow ... characters become more real ... scenes come alive ... well, for me at least ;-)
How do you write?