The best writing comes when you are yourself, when you don’t have any expectations. That’s why it’s so difficult to write, not because you have high expectations to go big, if that’s the case then you do it for the wrong reason, or you’ve come so far into your career that that’s a whole other struggle, to not let the fame go to your head, but I digress. What is difficult to write is to stay true to yourself, especially when you’ve had a good writing session. What is your true self? you start to wonder, how do I write like this everyday? You try to find the secret formula, but there is none, it’s all in your head.
And honestly, it might not be as good as you think. I’ve had many times when I wrote a piece that I loved get torn apart by others and they were right to do so, because I didn’t convey my ideas well enough. The story is crystal clear to me, but not to others. That’s why I find it difficult to know when a story is ripe and ready to be shown…
I want it to be good, I want it to be finished but there a big gap between my mind and my fingers. It’s such a huge difference writing for yourself and for others and the dream is that they become the same thing.
How can you write truefully if you write for others anyway?
There’s one quote that always comes to mind after a long writing session . Granted, I don’t often remember it word for word but I get the meaning:
“Never Empty the Well of Your Writing. I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.” – Ernest Hemingway
I’ve emptied this well a couple of times, and the feeling is awful. You are in the middle of a sentence and then suddenly nothing good comes out. It’s like the tap has dried and no matter how hard you try, you can’t coax your brain to continue. The feeling of frustration is unlike any other and you just want to scream – unfortunately I can’t because I don’t wanna bother my neighbours.
Sometimes this feeling is paralyzing, but most of the time, I actually end up being very productive in other things when I botch a writing session like that. The dishes gets done, I clean the house and do other chores, although, I need to be careful because I do it very violently.
Stories, I can find them everywhere. In nature, in books, in people, in movies, in shows, in patterns in the sand, in sound, everything is a reminder of a story. Stories aren’t manufactured, I firmly believe, they are out there to be found and some part of me even believe they have existed at one point – in another time, on another dimension, perhaps? That’s the only explanation I have for them existing. Where do these words come from otherwise? Are they mere result of our brains conjuring them up from the impressions we’ve had over our lives? It doesn’t sound as sexy, that’s for sure and I am a romantic ❤
It has become bothersome, really, because I do want to explore all the discoveries that I’ve made but I fear I never will because they’re too many. I do write them down though, for safekeeping. After every finished story comes the impossible decision to choose which of the tales deserves to exist, in our presence anyway, because they do exist already, somewhere else.
It’s probably not smart, but I tend to pick those stories that are the least developed, those that are just mere ideas and concepts. One example is a story about a man being trapped on an island with a witch. That was all. Who is the witch? Who is the man? How did he end up there? What kind of world do they live in? Those are the questions I love to find out.
I’m not good enough to make this sort of work painless, however, but I will someday. The story that felt right from the start.
I’ve talked about this before, but I really need to beat it into my brain so I don’t make the same mistakes again: I cannot separate plot from character, character is plot and they decide what happens. Granted, it’s good to have a general idea what’s going on, but I imagine that is just you pointing down a road that leads to where you want your characters to go. They are the ones deciding, however, if they’ll take a short cut, go back, take a rest; or move in a different direction entirely.
You are forbidden to help them and show the way.
So how do you make this happen in practise? Well, in my latest draft, I did it all wrong. I wrote very sparsely on purpose, meaning I left out a lot of things to add later because I was afraid I’d have to change things later anyway. But ironically, it’s only when I neglect to add things as they come that I end up having to change. No writer knows their characters from the get go. You learn about them as you write, which means you’ll have to put them in situations that force them to act and not have a predetermined result for them because then the characters are blank.
I suppose one could do a character sheet beforehand but who wants to do that? It’s boring and your characters will end up bland anyway.
To keep yourself entrained is a good rule of thumb. If the story becomes dull it’s you that have made the choices for them, you already know what will happen. And if you are bored, the readers are bored.
I’m a very, in the now, kind of guy.
I hate to think about the plot, on what has happened and what will happen.
I much rather let the story take me on a ride.
The characters do what they want anyway.
They have no obligation to follow your command.
If you try to force them, they’ll just rebel and ruin the story.
You never know your characters until the end
There’s no point trying.
I feel like I’m not putting enough effort into my writing because I have so much free time doing other things… I don’t have much going on in my life. I live alone in a small apartment in a small town working as a personal assistant for mentally handicapped people. I should be able to read and write a lot more than I do.
People say that you have to put your heart and soul into the things you do to get anywhere, that you must have a specific goal in mind and try to get there no matter what. But when can you step back and enjoy what you do? The goal of dancing is to dance, not to finish it, you know what I mean?
Sometimes I wonder if my goal is even to become a famous author. I certainly want to be able to support myself with what I do, but… I dunno. I’d say, go for a goal, but don’t break yourself getting there. Enjoy yourself along the way, that’s how I wanna do it. Although, there certainly are frustrating moments that make you wonder why you keep going, but then you write an awesome chapter and you remember why. It is for the thrill and the experience to create something for yourself, and hopefully, others will want to read it too.
I read this book called, Deeplight. It’s about two orphan boys who just try to survive in a fantasy world where there once existed deep sea monsters, or Gods. The gods are dead and the people collect the parts of the monsters and they are highly valuable. The boys try to steal some of it but one gets caught and they are seperated. One of the boys, Hark, is conflicted, on the one hand he’s loyal to his friend but to the other he likes his new life and he realise the other boy hadn’t been very nice to him. He hopes, secretly that he never sees him. But Harks friend does show up and threatens to expose him if Hark doesn’t help him.
So far so good. I love slice of life stories like this, very grounded and relatable. Nothing too major is happening, it happened! Harks friend is infected with one of the monsters and he grows more and more powerful until he’d become a new sea god if he isn’t stopped. From here, the main character Hark becomes a dull character. It’s almost as if his choices aren’t his own anymore and he’s just pushed along by the author to hit those plot points.
Before, Hark did things because that was his character, later, he did things because that’s what he was supposed to do. That in itself could be interesting to explore but they don’t. I skimmed through the last half of the book and I knew exactly what would happen all along.
I don’t know if I felt this way because I’m a writer, that I think about these things everyday or that regular readers catch on too and that they are just unable to articulate the problem? Or maybe it’s just me. I feel like the characters in our stories have more agency than we realise. I have certainly tried to control their actions before and that is too much trouble than it’s worth.
It’s also not very fun.
(If you find this topic familiar it’s because I redacted the original post. It was embarrassingly bad)
Stephen King on Writing… I’ve read it a few times now and I just want to share my favorite quotes from the book along with some of my own revelations!
(1) When you write the story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your job is taking out all the things that are not the story.
(2) Write with the door closed, rewrite with the door open.
(3) Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on even when you don’t feel like it.
(4) Construct your own toolbox and then build up the strength so that you can carry it. Then, instead of looking at a hard job, and getting discourage, you’ll seize the correct tool and get back to work.
(5) Filter out distractions, listen to music. It surrounds me, keeping the mundane world out. Shut the door.
(6) Write what you like, then imbue it with life and make it unique by blending in your own personal knowledge of life, friendship, relationship, sex and work. Especially work. People love reading about work for some reason.
Some some examples on how to stop using cliche phrases:
“It was darker than a carload of assholes.”
“I lit a cigarette that tasted like a plumbers handkerchief.”
(7) The key to good description begins with clear seeing ends with clear writing, the kind of writing that employs fresh images and simple vocabulary.
(8) I think the best stories always end up being about people rather than the event, which is to say, character driven.
(9) If you write a novel, you owe it to yourself to step back and ask yourself why you bothered? What’s it about?
(10) When you write a book, you spend days and weeks scanning and identifying the trees. When it’s done, you have to step back and look at the forest.
Number 10 especially hit home because I do the opposite. I try to be very broad when I write the first draft and hit those plot points first and then go down to a personal level, which is bad because plot change on the decisions of the characters. it’s very arrogant of me to assume that I know the story before I even wrote it.
(11) After you’ve finished your first draft (or whenever), you step back and let it rest and work on something else. You are not ready to go back to your old project until you’ve gotten so involved in the new one that you’ve forgotten how hard you worked
(12) The most import things about backstory are that everyone has a history and most of it isn’t interesting. Stick to the parts that are and don’t get carried away by the rest.
The backstory… Such an elusive term. What is it? I mean really, when do I use it? I’m not saying this to be cute, by the way, because I have many instances where I’m writing something and the backstory is more interesting than the story itself and I ask myself, was I wrong? Have I been influenced by others to such a degree that I don’t know when my stories begin anymore?
Writing has rules, I try not to learn them, though some are pretty useful, others are more restrictive than helpful.
Some stories doesn’t need a backstory at all! At least not a very comprehensive one while others need more before you can tackle the story itself in a truthful manner; like character motivation and such. It’s all about finding the truth and be honest with yourself when writing.
Sometimes characters do things that makes you confused, you have to find out why he does this rather than have him act unnaturally, because characters sometimes have lives of their own, regardless what you want them to do.
If your backstory is deep, the problem then arise how much you want to show. Generally, you wanna sprinkle it out throughout the story but sometimes you just want to make an entire book about it, like the Silmarillion.
So, again, when does the story start? In my experience, you’re right the first time. The story has a core, the thing that made you want to write the story to begin with. That’s where the interesting part of the story begin so you should probably follow that intuition and go with it. I once wrote a story with three different plots because I didn’t know what I was doing. I knew the main character would end up on a haunted island at some point, but I didn’t have any ideas who he was and how he ended up there. I started the story when he sets foot on the island and the rest should work out from there.