Blog, Fiction, Personal Opinion, Write-a-day

Writing is hard: and other things your creative writing teacher’s never told you

Writing is difficult. Actually no, good writing is hard. For those of you who write, who are “writers” meaning you actually sit down and create. You will know what this means. For those of you who don’t, well read on.

It was Hemmingway or maybe Fitzgerald who said that only bad writers believe writing to be easy. This is true! Do you know what is worse than bad writing? That bad writers/authors can publish at all, and call it fiction. Well, they call it Romance most of the time. Now not all romance and not all self-published authors of course. There are some absolutely amazing writers of the romance genre out there who tell compelling and relevant stories. But there are some very bad books on Amazon which, fortunately, or not, is where the majority of readers buy their books and downloads now. Their prose clunky and characters equally awkward and are about as deep as my ex-boyfriend and so you just stop caring about what happens to them. But what gets me going is that in talking with some of these authors on various social medial platforms and in person, they somehow turn out about a book a month. Sloppy and quick (again like my ex-boyfriend) coupled with poorly edited manuscripts equal a forgettable book with even more forgettable characters that undoubtedly fade into obscurity. They just don’t stand out.

Characters who just don’t cooperate

Yes, writing really can be gruelling and honestly very painful. I sat down yesterday in fact and was yelling at my characters to just get off their butts! They never listen, by the way. My protagonist just sat in her jeep and refused to get out and my antagonist remains obstinately certain that it isn’t his time yet and he’d instead rather just stay at home. What? My characters talk to me, don’t yours? But the process of creating these characters, real multi-dimensional people that readers can relate to or feel like they know, takes a lot out of us. Sometimes I cry over them because they turn into or remind me of some of the greatest people I have known and loved. Quite the contrary to also crying over characters that I see more of myself in than I would like, parts of me I may not be too proud of. Many even reminding me of people who tormented me when I was young. Isn’t it wonderful just how cathartic writing can be, even more for some of us at least than a therapy session; cheaper too! The pain and self-discovery that’s realised through creating people out of nothing and laughing with them, crying with them and screaming at them make for diverse, interesting and real characters. When you create beautifully flawed people who you and your reader care about you come to see that it’s they who steer the story and not you tug boating them along while they kicking and screaming the entire time through unbelievable and unrealistic plot points and unecessary dialouge.

Don’t be basic

What’s more interesting? The pretty popular basic white girl who has more privilege than she knows what do do with. She drives the great car, has all the designer everything – even her cocaine is Prada! She, of course, is dating the star of the football team. Their love is tested by the new boy in school – all three, of course, are about as engaging with each other and the reader as social distancing is. There’s never anything about their motivations, wants or goals. Or how about the girl who after being removed from her abusive father’s home in Cincinnati moves to her grandparents. There, still suffering the aftermath of abuse becomes a cutter, just shallow enough on the forearm to bleed, to be able to feel something that’s hers, something he didn’t control. Or maybe these two meet- no not the plot for Clueless – something darker. The point is, make them complex and believable even if you write fantasy you have to have believable and motivated characters. This is not an easy feat and you will find that as your story takes shape and form so will your characters. They should never be the same people at the end of the book or short story as they were at the beginning.

Good writer’s keep writing; bad writer’s quit

To be a successful and good writer (sucessful and good having many differnt defenitions to many different writers however) you should start by putting words on the screen to create. Its true that there are bad writers who produce a lot of content, seemingly debunking my “good writer” hypothsis. But, the difference is they don’t focus on the craft and the artistry of the writer’s prose. They focus solely on steamy sex scenes and flat effortless characters that have no substance. They don’t concern themselves with refining and enhancing their words but instead focus only on the next sale. So what I’m talking about here is for those of us that care about beautifully and simply written prose that does as much for the heart and mind of the reader as it does for the soul. We want to create writing that moves and influences our readers to be more curious about the world or more knowledgeable about a certain group of people. We want to shine a light on issues that far too long have been sequestered to the dark corners of complacency or issue that is dear to us. We can’t influence others though without practicing our art daily. I still struggle with writing daily. Some days just siting down to write is the hardest thing I’ll do that day. But not unlike any other muscle or talent, if you don’t use it you could very well lose it. Bad writers give up, good writers keep writing even when their writing is bad.

So keep writing, keep creating and keep inspiring those who want to write to become those who write. Find your stories in every part of your life, spin them on their heads and crack their flaws open like a porcelain doll to expose their beautiful, tragic and fantastical truths.

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