Reading books

There’s a general consensus that reading is good for you. That reading is boring is also a common held belief. Very contradicting if you think about it, but I guess books are like vegetables, you gotta eat ’em.

Schools doesn’t help literatures case. Forcing you to read a book you don’t like is never fun. But I can’t really hold this against schools because how else do you make children read when there are more readily available options? Parents have the ultimate responsibility, but I digress.

As an adult, there’s a point of pride having read a certain amount of books each year. That you need to read them whether you find them boring or no. I know I’ve fallen into this trap. It’s a task to be completed rather than something to be enjoyed. But does it have to be?  Lately, I never slug my way through books if it lost my interest. I skim through it, find the keynotes and sometimes the story draws me back again…

Like any writer, I’m easily bored and I have around five books that I read at the same time. Jumping between them whatever flights my fancy. Sometimes I find stories extremely predictable and sometimes still, my predictions are more entertaining than how it turned out! But I guess that’s the sickness of the writer.

I can do better.

In any case; you have no obligation to finish a story properly if it has lost your interest. You don’t get smarter by reading fiction, you really don’t. Some fictions can be very profound, but for those where reading is a chore, they never got anything out of the story anyhow.

Dream Scenario

Confused, is the word I’d use for writing so far. I’m the very definition of ‘winging it’ and I have to say, it haven’t gone that well. I’ve abandoned several stories and now I’m putting all my efforts into learn my craft. Writing isn’t the problem anymore, sticking with it and not being confused while I do it, is. So, with the help of Stephen King I’ve organised a dream scenario in how stories should be handled. Things are never that simple, however, but it might be good to have this in mind and to fall back on when things start to become a tad bit too complex.

The idea is based on a situation. I put characters through a problem which they try to solve. The story will reveal itself has they wriggle themselves out of it.

After the first draft, I put it away and work on something else until I’ve almost forgotten about it. 

Then I reread it, I take notes and then begin the second draft where I make the story more coherent and find out why I wrote it and what’s it really about?

Then I edit and make it nice for the readers, the so called ‘Open Door Phase’ where I take away anything that isn’t the story and the boring bits. 

I’d probably go over it again a last time to make sure the language is right and I haven’t made a lot of mistakes. 

Then it’s of to the publishers!

Instant success!

Writing a Novel is Hard…

I’ve come to realise that working on a novel is hard, I know, right, shocker! Nevertheless, I had this illusion that I could make anything rather smoothly, thus, whenever things got too difficult I jumped to another project. The logic was that I would return to it once I learned how to write. Though it is true you get better with practise, I think my naive outlook (or overconfidence, perhaps) made me never finishing a project once it got hard. There’s merit to finishing something even if it’s not perfect, after all.

I honestly thought that I was inadequate because it got hard, or because there was something fundamentally wrong with the story itself which made it impossible to finish. I hoped that once I got better, I would be able to finish any story without difficulty. Though it is true that you get better, there is absolutely no excuse not to finish a project you started. Which is why I’m sticking with the current story – Fairbanks Island – no matter what. I’m going to finish my other stories too, one after the other, no matter the end result.

With this in mind, I’ll try to be more picky about the stories I choose in the future. There are so many ideas that I want to explore which I’ll never be able to in a lifetime; and sense I’ve accepted that stories will be hard to make, I’ll only choose those stories that really excite me! Something meaningful and worth the readers time beyond simply to entertain.

I hope your writing is doing well and if you are not a writer, hope you enjoy my stories which you can find, here. Consider following if you like what you read!

The Core of the Tale

Perhaps that’s just how some stories are? Some are more demanding than others. They demand rewrites and the plot doesn’t come out as smoothly as you want. Perhaps the process is the mistakes? Finding the story can be difficult but that doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from your mistakes. Letting go of our wishes and desire, our egos and all the other things that make us hurry is the hard part. You must trust your instincts and let the story guide you to where it wants to take you, without ever getting attached to what you’ve already written.

But a story can’t just be anything, the idea sprung from something, the core, if you will. There must be a core where everything else grows from? You can’t change the core because that would mean it’s an entirely different story and there’s nothing to guide you along the way. If you don’t have this ‘core’ in mind, your tale can be anything, and that’s when it starts to get messy and unfocused. Basically, it means you’re writing all stories, and no story, at the same time…

I’m not sure myself if this is the case. I’ve only just come to this realisation and I’m certain that I will find the truth, sooner or later. But take my story, for instance: the core idea is that a boy finds a magical pen, nothing more, nothing less. The story revolves around this. Now, what the boy does with that pen, where the pen comes from and who the boy is, is up to the author to find out. Everything is fair game. But my hopes are that if I keep the core in mind and put my trust in the tale and don’t ignore anything, writing will be so much easier.

I’ll keep you posted how it turns out.

I can’t believe I did this again…

Yep, it’s the beginning that was flawed, I see that now. In my Last Post, I talked about my stories never ending neatly and I figured out that if the beginning isn’t good, the ending won’t be either.

So, how can I be certain that the beginning is flawed? Because I cheated again…

Again, check This Post if you want to know more, but, I have done this before, I skipped essential parts of the story because I wanted to finish quickly; meaning I neglected to explore all the characters. There’s one character, for instance, that’s part of the backstory and is a complete mystery to me. His only purpose is to instigate conflict, and because he was a minor character in the backstory I didn’t think he was essential, turns out, every character is essential… In my vision, he was inconsequential, but considering how hard I’m struggling with the ending, perhaps he has a bigger part to play than I first imagined?

He would turn out to be…

But, I couldn’t face reality… going back and changing parts of the backstory would means I would have to make major changes to the main story as well. In fact, I was so deep in denial that I convinced myself that all I had to do to fix things was to make the story longer… It will fix itself, right?

I even went so far as to make an epilogue or a prologue just to make sense; without having to put any effort into working it in organically into the tale. That’s cheating. The job of an author is to convey the necessary information within the format of the story, if I can’t do that, I should quit writing.

I think a good point of measure if something is missing in your story is when the purpose of the main character is simply to reveal the backstory and be the eyes of the reader. My main character had no stakes in what’s happening, he doesn’t change as the story progress. The plot doesn’t affect him and he doesn’t affect the plot. A pointless story.

I have to seriously review how I come up with my tales…

It shouldn’t be this frustrating

I while back, I promised myself to never work on a short story for more than a month and now I’ve broken this promise and I feel awful. Why did it take longer than the other times? I don’t know, but I feel that I need to figure this out. Writing a story shouldn’t be this hard and I refuse to accept that the story itself was flawed from the beginning. Everything can be made into a story, it’s just the author that messes up along the way. All I have to do is swallow my pride and do it over again… Right?

The way I figure out something is wrong is when I’m about to reach the ending of the tale and I start to struggle. Something doesn’t make sense and thing don’t wrap up as neatly as they should and I don’t know why. I can imagine part of the problem is that I rely heavily on intuition, that one decision leads to another and will eventually guide me towards the true ending.

Which leads me to believe it’s not the ending that’s the problem, but the beginning. If the ending sucks it is the beginning that is flawed. Makes sense, if the foundation is flimsy the entire building will be flimsy. The question is, can I identify what makes the foundation flimsy before I reach the ending? So that I don’t have to deal with the frustration and rewrites? I don’t know, I honestly don’t. At least I have located the problem, hopefully…

One Step Closer

When I write a story, the important thing isn’t in what order I place the scenes or to create a structure, the most important thing is to find the characters and their motivations. This means you’ll write very generally at first, for instance: When John came to his foster parents he was very sad.

This is a general sentence which can be explored more deeply, but right now, this is enough. But at a certain point, when you’ve come far enough into your story, you’ll need to know more about your characters to make sense of their actions later. This means you are forced to explore your characters’ feelings, for instance: It was quite in the car. Trees swooshed past them as he stared out the window, trying to make sense of everything that had happened to him. He wondered if his parents had always hated each other, or if it was just when he was born. His teacher had once told him that children came about from parents’ act of love… Did that apply to him?

(Of course this paragraph can be further refined but that is not our purpose at this point. Editing sentence to sound beautiful you should do last.)

With this, you learn so much more about the character which means his motivations become more apparent later on. This is the stage I often fail to go back to, thinking I don’t need to and just want to carry on with my story. But this is cheating, and the only one you cheat is yourself.

Hopefully, I’ll be better at catching those mistakes early and swallow my pride. My aim is to write as many stories as I can in my lifetime, but not at the cost of quality, or rather, the truthfulness of the tale.

I don’t want to lie.

It is comforting when I come to these realisations because it means I’m improving and is one step closer in becoming the writer I want to be.

I Cheated

I feel the need to be a bit more clear after my last post. All the things I said stands but I wrote it more for me so I’m not sure the point I made was clear.

I tried to cheat. I took a shortcut, and my story suffered because of it.

The reason my story “failed” was because I didn’t want to make the effort, the effort to look deeply enough into the story as was necessary. To work on the backstory is the most important thing a writer does. It creates a foundation where the rest is built upon. It also give reason for the story’s existence. What happened in the past that led up to where they are now? This question is essential and without it, the story is shallow and you can feel that something is wrong.

I always look to streamline my process, but I think this is flawed thinking when it comes to writing, at least for my style where I depend a lot on intuition  in directing my stories. I don’t like planning and I rather write in the moment because that is what I find fun doing.

Sometimes you need to dig deep, find the characters, and do more pre-writing than you hoped to do. You cannot skip this, especially when the characters’ motivations are shallow or unclear. A characters’ actions are like dominos and if one domino is missing, the rest won’t fall and the ending will suffer.

I’m Such an Idiot…

Did I just make a blog post telling you to give up when it gets hard? No! Sometimes stories are hard; some are easier than others but they can all be something. I’m just lazy. Buckle down and make it work, you bum!

Do what’s fun. You have nobody to answer for but yourself. You are not obligated to please anyone. Do whatever you feel like, nobody is stopping you but yourself. Take a break, start a new tale, finish an old, whatever. Total freedom!

Don’t forget that emotions are everything. If you don’t feel, the reader won’t feel. Become the character, live the scene. That is how a great story is made.

Time flows differently for writers. The moment is now. You are always writing in the present even if it’s the future or the past in the eyes of the characters and the readers.

Have fun.