HOW TO….

How to? You want to know how to? How to write? So, do you think I’ve written enough  ‘how to’s’ yet? The reason for this, dear reader is, I did a search on Keywords and found that 338 million people in the USA are using ‘how to’ in their searches every month. And, apparently, for a blogger, it’s important to use keywords! So, now that I’ve used up my quota of ‘how to’s’ (hah just got another one in), I can start…

Sorry to disappoint though, because I am of the opinion that there is no formula for teaching you how to write. I think you can learn all the verbs and adjectives, syntax and sentences, prose and paragraphs in the world, but – unless writing really rocks your boat – it’s going to be a fruitless exercise.

There are a plethora of quotes on the subject of writing from published writers, and to lighten this up a bit and inject some humour into my blog, I would like to offer a few of my favourites:

Don’t quit. It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years.–Andre Dubus

You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ~Ray Bradbury

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia. ~E.L. Doctorow

The wastebasket is a writer’s best friend. ~Isaac Bashevis Singer

Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. ~Gene Fowler

It took me fifteen years to discover I had no talent for writing, but I couldn’t give it up because by that time I was too famous. ~Robert Benchley

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by. – Douglas Adams

There is probably no hell for authors in the next world — they suffer so much from critics and publishers in this. – C. N. Bovee

And probably my favourite:

Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was killed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman’s name out of a satire then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to a writer–and if so, why? – Bennett Cerf

And finally, if you think that you’re going to make a gazillion through writing, this one might make you rethink:

Whenever I am asked what kind of writing is the most lucrative – I have to say, a ransom note. H.N. Swanson

However, nothing, but nothing will prevent a writer from writing. If it’s in your blood – whoooahh, someone try and stop you!

In fact 81% of Americans say they want to write a book – one day. But few actually sit down and start. It takes discipline and a writer becomes a pretty anti-social person when absorbed in the world of his/her characters – or even worse if they are writing a memoir, God forbid! Then they become absorbed in themselves, and even if they are willing to be social – no-one wants to be near them! (I write this from experience…)

However, if you are still here and still reading, I gather that you want to write and after all I’ve said about the difficulties, let me tell you this. I love writing! It is deep within, flowing through the ‘notorious exaggerators’ blood. When I write, I am happy, absorbed, fulfilled and transported to another place. In one word – addicted! (Have I mentioned that I have an addictive, type A personality?)

So, my advice to anyone wanting to know how to write (just got it in again) is… Nike – just do it! Here’s a few simple ways to stimulate your writing juices:

>Cut out photos of interesting characters from magazines. Scatter them on the floor face up until one of the characters draws you in. Tell that characters story in two or three pages. Just let it flow – you will be amazed at what you come up with!

>In ten adjectives, write down the things you dislike in people, for example, greed, violence, lust, selfishness. Or it could be little things like, big bums, snub noses, finicky eaters…you get the picture. But you have to really dislike that trait in a person. Feel the irritation building up! When you have your list of ten, add a name, a gender, a race, a personality, a career, a family life/relationship and a character to the list and start writing the story of this character.

The character I first wrote about when I did this exercise stunned me. I had absolutely no idea that I had it in me to write about Alvin, a single, lonely, tortured soul who lived in a dilapidated tenement with his stifling mother and worked as a mortuary assistant where he satisfied his necrophilia’s tendencies. Nor did I particularly like where Alvin took me (and I definitely had no desire to know where he came from!) However, Alvin consumed my days for a while and I have about 50 pages of writing on Alvin and I’ve even developed a bit of a soft spot for my first character!

And finally:

> Spend a few hours on your own – no kids, friends or significant others. Take a walk, go to a park, the beach, a shopping centre. Just allow yourself the pleasure of going where you want. See where you end up. Imagine you are taking your ‘young self’ out for a few hours. For a treat. Where would you take a ten-year-old you, and what would you say to him/her? Write it all down as the thoughts start flowing. Ask your younger self how he/she is feeling, what they want you to know.

>At the end of the outing, go for a coffee and listen in on conversations and write them down.

I did this exercise in Byron Bay. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Byron Bay (Far North Coast of NSW, Australia) it is known for attracting ‘alternative’ people. And many of those alternative people have ‘issues’ – and they want to talk about them – ad nauseum! The cafe I went to was called The Byronian but I liked to call it Issues on the run. The conversation I hooked into has stayed with me to this day and I’m sure my character, Charlotte, in my latest novel, ‘Best Friends and Bastards’ has a sprinkling of the woman leading the conversation. It went something like this:

‘God I loved India! Everyone there is so giving and loving and not caught up in themselves like they are here. They have no need of all the material things in life. No need for dishwashers and fridges and things that do all the work for you. They are just happy living life.’ (This was followed by a series of deep soulful sighs)

Desperate to interrupt the conversation and interject with something akin to: ‘Did you ever offer to buy them any appliances to make their lives easier? I’m sure a few refrigerators would have been very welcomed.’ But no! My objective was to write – not to talk or opine.

However, now it is my turn. I blog! Sweet payback.

So, I hope you are itching to start. Happy Writing!

Till my next post – Jaci Byrne

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