Wednesday, December 9, 2009

9. Jacinta McDevitt let me down

The two tips on Creative Writing I identify with the most, are:

1) cut down on the adjectives
2) reject clichés.

Most of my writing starts with those two advices in mind. Then, when in doubt, I always find reassurance on Mary Mackie's advice: "Is it relevant?"

My writing is going OK, though still somewhat slow. I'm writing around 700 words a day and discovered I'm constantly editing and rethinking everything. I don't want to have a boring story or a style full of clichés. So I write and then I make sure it's an easy reading and the action keeps on going. I think I edit a lot because all the things that make a good writing don't come on the first draft and I loved to discover that I'm not the only one believing writing is NOT like that romantic idea that says 'a complete new novel came to the author in a dream' and 'he cannot stop writing because everything that comes out of him is beautiful'.

Take Stephenie Meyer, for example. The first idea for her first novel (Twilight) came to her in a dream - correct. But as she says, the dream was only a dialogue between a girl and a vampire in a meadow. Yes, that dream was amazing, that dialogue was inspiring. But there was a lot of work to put that into a 500 pages novel (and a 4 book saga). In her website, in "The Story Behind Twilight", interviews and public appearances, she confides about all the hours she spent on trying to convey that dream and all the ideas around it, into paper. How she then edited, and edited, and edited some more, until it made sense and was at her best writing. By the way, I admire Stephenie Meyer since the beginning. (After John Grogan's "Marley & Me", the first book I read in English until the end, in the beginning of 2008, which will always be dearest to me) it was Stephenie's saga that got me into reading full books in English non-stop and since then I can't read a full book in my first language anymore without getting bored... I love English!

All this to say, that i hate the books on Creative Writing that try to convince us we are all writers, try to arrange schemes to makes us write this-amount-of-words a day, but then are shallow about teaching us everything that actually makes a good writing. Of course I believe in-the-dream - I'm crazy enough to write in a language I didn't even read in, on a daily basis, 2 years ago! Crazy girl, I know. But, that is to say that Jacinta McDevitt's "Write a Book in a Year" has been a disappointment. Though, to be fair to her, she does say the book is just what it says in the title, write-a-book-in-a-year. She does try to motivate us to write, that part is true. However, without any rule on good writing, after a year we would end up with a poor novel, that no one wants to read.

A good writing, in my opinion, must be easy to read and for that we must know about the language of fiction. That is not just good written English.That is believable written English, and for that there are rules, discovered by good writers, that create that illusion of reality within a fictional story.(Or even a non-fictional one, that poorly written will not feel real at all).

I believe that writing is hard work. Of course the author has a great idea in his head, but not one that covers all action of a complete novel. The original idea doesn't already come with 90.000 words combined to perfection. That is as much of a myth, as saying "everyone is a writer". It's not true. To transform a good idea into a book that someone wants to read until the end it's actually an elaborate work and a very well planned one. That's why the more they write, the better authors say they become.

Stephenie Meyer admits that her new book "The Host" is better written than all her previous, especially compared to "Twilight" which she said on Oprah (backstage interview) she would change a lot of things now, if she was to re-write it. If it was all just a 'thing' that is born with the author, and magically appears in the paper, they wouldn't have to edit it all. I'm reading "The Host" at the moment (along with several books on Creative Writing - see sidebar) and I can understand the differences. It's a more mature writing, not so much I-did-this and then I-went-there, and ops! this-happened. And I admire all writers that admit they could do better and have grew with practice. That's being honest and realistic.

To enphasise this, there's Dr. Johnson's line, in "The Writer's Handbook 2008," that says:

"What is written without effort 
is in general read without pleasure."

Vanessa Condez, Note to self: Humanize.
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