Category: writing

10 Stages of Writing

That time again.

I glance up at the top right-hand corner of my screen. There, waiting patiently to be pressed, is the button marked Publish…

I say patiently, but that button is very purple. Puce, even, the shade a teacher’s face might turn as you wheel out excuses – each one less credible than the last – as to why you didn’t do your homework.

I won’t bore you with feeble alibis. Instead, below is something I read the other day that offers a little consolation. It helps, after all, to realise that nobody finds it easy. And to produce anything worthwhile, it seems, always takes the writer on ‘an emotional rollercoaster’.

 

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Stage 1: Excitement

“You must not come lightly to the blank page.” ― Stephen King

Stage 2: Uncertainty

“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” ― Jodi Picoult

Stage 3: Persistence

“You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.” ― Octavia E. Butler

Stage 4:  Distraction (AKA: Procrastination)

“If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all.” ―Anne Tyler

Stage 5: Doubt

“The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” ― Sylvia Plath

Stage 6: Shame

“The first draft of anything is shit.” ―Ernest Hemingway

Stage 7: Fear

“If I wanted perfection, I wouldn’t write a word.” ―Margaret Atwood

Stage 8: Courage

“Creativity takes courage. ” ― Henri Matisse

Stage 9: Relief (AKA: Euphoria)

“Writing the last page of the first draft is the most enjoyable moment in writing. It’s one of the most enjoyable moments in life, period.” ― Nicholas Sparks

Stage 10: Pride

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” ―Frank Herbert

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A Word to the Wise

I’ve never been one for New Year Resolutions. There’s a natural rebel inside me who kicks against rules of any kind – especially those I try to impose on myself. I mean, really, who wants to be told what (and what not) to do by a finger-wagging fool who can’t even follow his own instructions?
And yet … come the turn of the year I always feel in need of a little gentle encouragement. I’m looking for inspiration from someone who’s been there, done it and bought the T-shirt. And who better than Anton Chekhov, a physician who was also a playwright often compared to Shakespeare and perhaps the most influential short-story writer of all time?
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First, a few random quotes …
Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.
Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.
Love, friendship and respect do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.
Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.
We shall find peace. We shall hear the angels, we shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds.
People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
Perhaps the feelings that we experience when we are in love represent a normal state. Being in love shows a person who he should be.
Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.
In a May 10, 1886 letter to his brother Alexander, also a writer, Chekhov noted six principles of a good story.
  • Absence of lengthy verbiage of a political-social-economic nature.
  • Total objectivity.
  • Truthful descriptions of persons and objects.
  • Extreme brevity.
  • Audacity and originality: flee the stereotype.
  • Compassion.

 

Finally, here are a few pieces of encouragement and advice Chekhov wrote in letters to Russian writer Maxim Gorky in the late 1800s.

 

“You ask what is my opinion of your stories. My opinion? The talent is unmistakable and it is a real, great talent. For instance, in the story ‘In the Steppe,’ it is expressed with extraordinary vigour, and I actually felt a pang of envy that it was not I who had written it. You are an artist, a clever man, you feel superbly, you are plastic—that is, when you describe a thing, you see it and you touch it with your hands. That is real art.

There is my opinion for you, and I am very glad I can express it to you. I am, I repeat, very glad, and if we could meet and talk for an hour or two you would be convinced of my high appreciation of you and of the hopes I am building on your gifts.

Shall I speak now of defects? But that is not so easy. To speak of the defects of a talent is like speaking of the defects of a great tree growing in the garden; what is chiefly in question, you see, is not the tree itself but the tastes of the man who is looking at it. Is not that so?

I will begin by saying that to my mind you have not enough restraint. You are like a spectator at the theatre who expresses his transports with so little restraint that he prevents himself and other people from listening. This lack of restraint is particularly felt in the descriptions of nature with which you interrupt your dialogues; when one reads those descriptions one wishes they were more compact, shorter, put into two or three lines.”

 

Like all good teachers he begins by praising achievement before offering a single word of criticism – and even then he is constructive, offering his student a positive way forward.

Don’t know about you but I can’t think of a better way to start 2019!

Let’s hope it’s a good year for us all …

To Boldly Go …

Speaking as a compulsive ditherer, I find it helps to reduce multiple motivations to a primary purpose. At the end of the day when push comes to shove and all is said and done, there is really only one reason for doing anything.

When it comes to writing, there are always a host of voices telling me why I shouldn’t bother. Refreshing, then, to stumble across a piece of advice that has the potential to guide me through the hubbub. So it’s out with all my How To Write books and in with this simple slogan!

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him!”
– Ray Bradbury

I’ll let you know how I get on …

 

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Image: iChurch OKA

The Write Way

Just read something which is too good to keep to myself. If I could only recommend one article about writing fiction, this would be it. Click on the link, let me know what you think …

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/04/what-writers-really-do-when-they-write

And I bet it helps him sell copies of his own novel!

 

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Image: Oxford Dictionaries Blog

Voyage in Time

A sentimental – even slushy! – poem about early childhood when my greatest joy each morning was lying in bed with my mum and swapping sense and nonsense with her …

    a secret key to everywhere

head to head           whisper soft
just us two            i just laughed
snuggle down           why does the sun
warm as toast          who life begun
nice and cosy          how high the sky
safe and sound         what where why
special secrets        only we
never to be told       riddle-me-ree
what say what          when is the moon
now and always	       late and soon
where our words        lost in dark
bibble-babble          gobbledy-gook 
che ma pasa            shan ti kapo
bazi baza              yabos yabo
little birds calling   let them sing
airy nothings          float in the wind
waves on the seashore  play in the sand
castles tumble         sweep of my hand
word in your shell-liketickles my ears   
shush now shush        sounds of the seas



This is the intended opening to a long poem about childhood that will explore the relationship between nature and culture which makes us what we are. I’ve made lists of childhood memories – the easy bit – and now all I need to do is write them up!

I may post the occasional extract to gauge public reaction …

What I must remember is that being creative is not an exact science. Things could get messy. A little bird tells me you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. And so, the cc-rack of eggshells and rrr-rip of  tearing rule-books in my ears, I set sail …

Baffle Bursts Banks

                                  On-The-Spot Flood Special From Our Helicopter Team

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Much of Bafflesby is underwater today after weather conditions described by an official source as “exceptional and unprecedented” caused the River Baffle to overflow in what locals say is now an annual event. When asked why the department of forecasting science had been axed in the austerity cuts, an Environment spokesperson said: “Nobody could have predicted this.”

Mobile-phone footage sold to the media by distraught residents has brought the rising floodwater into millions of homes nationwide. One dramatic clip captured the moment a newspaper reporter asked for a house-owner’s reaction:

… (sound of rushing water) … “So how does it feel to watch the river swirling up your garden, pouring through your back door, streaming through your lovely home and ruining all your gorgeous furnishings and precious family keepsakes?” … (sound of lachrymose sobbing) …

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. One enterprising organisation has managed to turn tragedy into triumph. Shard & Froyd Travel Tours Inc. has taken the plunge where others shiver on the side, bringing a cascade of visitors to the most severely flooded areas where they can experience all the torment and misery at second-hand. “There’s always somebody worse off than you,” said Hugo Smirke of hilltop village Upper Crustleigh, “and this is a welcome break from campaigning against wind farms.” The tour company said the catastrophe had come in the nick of time. “To be honest,” said their spokesperson, “it’s a case of sink or swim. Luxury travel has been in the doldrums since the recession. After this deluge, we’re home and dry.”

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The firm who built many of the swamped estates was Floodplain Fabrications Limited Liability Company. They declined to comment and told us to contact Bafflesby and District Council who had put the land out to building tender. No council spokespersons were available but an automated message referred us to the national government agency that originally approved planning permission. The only person actually authorised to comment was the head of the agency but he was still on holiday in the Seychelles and pending his return we were advised to check back with Floodplain Fabrications that they had adhered to official guidelines.

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Back in Bafflesby, confused residents awaited the arrival of a swat-team of junior government ministers on an urgent fact-finding mission.  A rain-soaked crowd perched on duckboards in the town square, all eyes peeled for the ministerial convoy. The cry went up but cheers turned to jeers as fingers were pointed across the still-swollen River Baffle at the politicians and their frantically-phoning aides – 20 minutes later than promised – gazing down with apparent surprise at the impassable wreckage of the town bridge.

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Their reset SatNav route took a further 20 minutes, by which time most residents had wearily resumed their property reclamation leaving a few stragglers to heckle the motorcade. The ministers leaped from their cars, donned brightly-coloured protective-wear and began to point in all directions with expressions of decisive intent and looks of pained empathy. Another mobile-phone recording captures the responses of one minister to inquiries from disgruntled bystanders:

” … and so at the end of the day, madam, when push came to shove it boiled down to hard choices and I have it on unimpeachable authority that allowing Bafflesby to flood in order to save Nobsford made perfect economic sense under the circum … (muffled interruption) … well, yes, Bafflesby does have more homes than Nobsford but when you consider market value it’s crystal clear that … (muffled interruption) … ah, yes, I see where you’re coming from but … (muffled interruption) … no, madam, what I meant was that I understand your point of view but we have to consider the British taxpayer in every … (muffled interruption) … oh well, sir, as a Nobsford taxpayer you will certainly appreciate your brand-new state-of-the-art high-water flow-containment spill-proof flood-barriers … (muffled interruption) … dear me, flooded too, you say … well, let’s not forget we’ve had exceptional and unprecedented weather conditions and I’m sure your flood defences performed brilliantly right up until the point where they failed … “

Here water penetration appears to bring the recording to an abrupt end.

Coming Soon

We seek answers to the key questions – why, what, where, when and who?

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