First thoughts on writing (2001)

The prospect of writing is rather daunting. There is a process for writing (poetry) – it doesn’t occur by growing your hair and walking through a bunch of daffs, and it’s fun. Much of this applies to the story also.

Finding a subject. I don’t have a problem, its usually the other extreme – too many subjects and interests that need a bit more focus. My writer’s notebook needs a bit more effort, but there are some entries which will be useful. I don’t see it as purely cataloguing ideas for poems and stories. I am using it to capture scenes and characters which could form part of bigger things. I have a massive collection of photos and stuff going back for ever. It’s all going on the scanner and will be additional material – using my memory of events and people.

Writing about it – let the words flow, capture background as well as the main events – emotions, voices, sights, events. I wrote initially that I needed to capture backgound more. In the short story I made a special effort to feel the background, sort of closing my eyes and being there. It helps that I’ve been there many times, but it’s done, another skill, harnessing things from my memory and subconscious. After all, even the wildest imaginative pieces must start from the author’s personal experiences. Doubtfire suggests that it’s unwise to write about places and people who we don’t know, whilst anonymising them.

What is the point?  This links to writing for self or others, and whether I am a preparer or I just go for it. My previous writing workshops have concentrated on getting a first draft down and worry about the point later, by revision. So is the first draft is a personal indulgence, a sort of therapy? My short story is a hybrid really. If I wrote longhand or used a typewriter, I might be a go-for-it person, but I correct the language more or less straight away on the word processor. I write in scenes, like the cinema, and so some reordering is still available, whilst the scenes themselves are complete. My story occurs over a six hour period, and contains seven scenes. These weren’t planned in advance, but the time period was the framework – the discipline of the piece.

I found Doubtfire’s little book very helpful – get your main character to have a problem on the first page, and make them both attractive to the reader. This was not done by revision, but was contained in the first draft – but I do wonder, in retrospect, whether there was a first draft in my head somewhere. The theme came in the first draft, once I’d given my main character the problem.

Do I think of the audience in advance?  I am still writing for me, but it  isn’t going to be enough. I would love to publish, but I suspect there is a lot more development and hard work yet. I enjoy the creativity, but embellishing simple notes about life events is maybe what I have really been doing up to now. The short story is crafted, but we shall see how it is received – my wife likes it.

What emotions am I trying to invoke?  I tend to be a reflective person, private for the most part, open enough with a few close friends. I am always learning, curious, puzzled. I wrote elsewhere, my identity is today’s version of my story, the previous drafts being memories, and I think my writing is like this, nostalgic, that’s how it is. So I’d like my readers to chuckle a bit, and think a bit, and not take life too seriously.

When is the bloody thing finished? I don’t know.

I put this down for a week, and two further thoughts arose as I was getting the portfolio together:-

The title.  This is important.  It can convey information that is then not required in the piece, especially and short tight poem. So ‘The Outsider’ and ‘A New Genre’ both got more space in the poem as a result of the title.

Having a rest. Putting something down for a while allows a maturation process, and often a knotty line or problem has sorted itself out. Also, after two weeks or a month, a piece is good or lousy, whatever I felt about it at the time of writing.

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