So, what qualifies me to write a few tips on how to write creatively?
Well, my own stuff has been known to sell a bit, so I suppose I must be doing something right. Humble scribbler I may be, but I reckon I’m entitled to have an idea or two on how to write a novel.
Having said this, the best creative writing tutor of all is a book, and plenty of ’em.
There’s no harm of course, in receiving some pointers, suggestions etc from those who have written books, but I fail to see why any aspiring writer should have to pay thousands of pounds for the privilege of being told ‘how to write’.
In my view, you either can or you can’t and that’s that.
There are of course some successful writers who began their careers in a lecture theatre, but I would argue that the talent was already there in the first place. It just needed a bit of fine tuning. A great tenor has to have a fine voice to begin with. Not all the training in the world is going to make it great, if it isn’t already there. You get my point.
The above notwithstanding, the only way you are going to learn your craft is by actually doing it.
Like everything else in life, experience is everything.
So, save a few bob and read the following:-
1 Read as much as you can – I went through the classics and can’t say I really enjoyed them. They were simply a means to an end,in my case a legal end, if you can work that one out! On the other hand, I enjoyed Dickens and Hardy, who were both out-and-out story tellers, so there’s a lesson in there somewhere. I’ve also read a great deal of commercial fiction. Pulp, crap, popular, literary. Who cares, it’s the story that counts – that’s if you want an audience. If you’re writing for yourself, good luck to you.
Tell a story. A beginning, middle and end.
2 Live a bit. A novel is supposed to be a commentary on life. How can one write about it if you haven’t lived it?
3 Don’t try and show how clever you are with words. You might understand what you’re on about but the reader won’t. Most of the classics wouldn’t last five minutes in the modern reading world. Pages and pages of smart arse description and esoteric self-analysis will simply bore your average reader to death.
The literary is all very well, but it doesn’t sell. I wonder why?
4 Listen to the experiences of published writers. How do they work? How do they do it?
5 Dump all the technical nonsense. Many writers, including me, haven’t a clue about characterisation, structure blah de blah.Write for the reader if you want to get published, not for yourself. There’s nothing worse than self-piteous reams of woe is me or ‘literary excellence’ that is unreadable – I am reminded here of D H Lawrence’s constant bleatings about sunrises and sunsets.
And by the way, since when has writing ever operated by a rule book??
6 Get your hands dirty. Offend, insult and throw your story in people’s faces. Remember, we wouldn’t have a democracy if it wasn’t for outspoken truth alchemists.
7 Forget inspiration. Mine starts at 8am and finishes at 4pm, four days a week.
8 Make sure your narrative moves, don’t hang about and if you can, lead the reader down a merry old garden path then hit ’em with an ending that they just haven’t seen coming. Works wonders!
9 Don’t take your writing too seriously. Life really is too short, and for God’s sake don’t be precious and self-important about it – there’s enough of that deluded and self-serving garbage around as it is. Like me, you’re nothing to write home about, so if you write a duff ‘un, get over it and start again.
Well, there’s some hints, it’s up to you. Just write and keep on writing until you achieve your goals is my advice. Practise is the name of the game. Frankly, I reckon it takes two or three novels in order to hone one’s craft and find a style that one is confident with. But that’s just me. Thank God, every writer is different!
And here’s a funny thing, I haven’t read any fiction myself for years, commercial or otherwise (and yes I know, it probably shows!). Non-fiction books line my study walls – with a smattering of the classics just to show visitors how clever and learned I am.
So, hope you have enjoyed the above and just think, it hasn’t cost you a penny!
To conclude, disce ut vivas (my old school motto and I can’t say it did me any harm either!), with plenty of books to help you along the way.
NB In my view, all these creative writing courses do, is exploit the vulnerable and the naive aspirations of the uninitiated and ever hopeful. A book, whether it be print or electronic, can serve the aspiring writer just as well, and libraries serve up shelves upon shelves of these at no cost to the reader!
Further and perhaps more to the point, a great many ‘Creative Writing’ tutors, have little if any experience of the harsh realities of the publishing game, so God knows what qualifies them to teach the subject? And as for the cosy tax-payer subsidised lot, well words fail me………….once again, money for old rope if you ask me.
PS You have to laugh. On Monday night, the extremely successful Ken Follett was on the box as one of Wales’ ‘Greats’. And quite right too, he tells a damn good yarn. An unapologetic commercial fiction writer and proud of it (and no, he’s not a Welsh language speaker!), he’s never been on a creative writing course in his life, has never nobbled the tax-payer and doesn’t live in Wales.
And yet our Lleucu Shenkin, the Chief Executive of Literature Wales no less, recently hailed Follett as a salutary example of the flourishing Welsh publishing industry?
The man has never been anywhere near a Welsh publisher either!