What Do You Want To Write?

December 28, 2009

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What do you really want to write? That is the first question that any author has to address. Are you into short stories, poems, novels, essays? All of the various forms of written expression have deferent demands. The poet seems to be the most unique of all authors. Poetry within itself can tell a story, paint a picture and fulfill a structure, but that is the same for all writing. The work you choose does not define you, you define the work. Anything you put to pen (or these days to keyboard) is your creation, your will causes it to exist.

I have always concentrated on novels. The longer story allows me the freedom to paint pictures of the world that my characters live in. For me, it is describing a dream, and in fact I have dreamt many of the images that I write. The topic you choose may drive the type of writing you attempt. Again for me, grand sweeping vistas drive me toward novels. I don’t have the concise and artistic imagery that is required for poetry. I do not have the energy to analyze like the essayist. Some would call these ramblings essays, but they are more opinion pieces that I spew forth in single sittings when the urge hits me. I have attempted short stories, but always return to add more detail, fill in holes, take the story to that next scene.

When someone claims that one form or topic is easier than others, this can only be true for them. Techniques can be shared and are almost always helpful, but seldom in the way intended or expected. For example, I like to write in a continuous narrative, going back over the ‘completed’ sections to verify continuity and right wrongs. I like to read in the same fashion, front to back referencing earlier parts to check up on the author. Others can skip about, writing sections that they later weave into the whole, or reading chapters as they see fit, to keep themselves entertained.

I have recently embarked on my second novel this year. My first was an entry into the National Novel Writing Month (ref NaNoWriMo.org). This new one is just to fulfill the joy that writing has given me. I have been traveling a lot recently, and writing on those lonely evenings in hotels has kept my spirits up and kept my home sickness at bay. My first effort was a romance. I don’t know why, but I got a story in my head about a young man who lost his memory and had to find out who he was. I guess I really wanted to explore how you could learn about someone who knew and loved you when you did not know what was going on. In addition to the romance part, I included a lot about simple farming, which I admit is a fantasy that I will never get to live out.

This second story is also something that has been haunting my dreams. It is a science fiction detective story with a lot of space exploration. Now I am a trained Aerospace Engineer and have worked directly for NASA and for private companies contracted to perform work for NASA. I have worked on both the Space Station and the Space Shuttle. I would even consider several current and former astronauts to be my friends. Every spring I perform a community service by talking to middle school students about the space race of the 1950s, 60s and 70s.

I will admit that at least a kernel of this story was started back when I was in middle school. I found some of my old musings while cleaning out some storage containers. My writing (I believe) is much better now than back then, but the creative ideas are similar.

My suggestion to everyone is, if you get an idea, write it down. It may come to nothing, it may have to be modified so often it looks nothing like the original. But then again, it could be the start you are looking for. You can only write if you start. That first sentence will lead to another. That first paragraph will eventually make sense. That first page will get filled. Don’t throw anything away, in this computer age, just save it away for later. There will be days that you are on fire; 500, 1000, 5000 words. There will be days of nothing. Don’t just sit stewing over it if nothing seems to be brewing. Get up, do something. Clear you mind of writing by concentrating on something else. In this world there is always something to do.

In my latest effort, I have violated the method that I described just a couple of paragraphs ago. I have written two scenes that I will have to weave in. Why did I do this? Because the scenes played out in my mind, I had to write them down. Will they work? I don’t know. I may have to cut them into some special file for use in another effort.

I wrote in an earlier column that the one of the most important things and author needs is a good editor. I stand by that claim. We, each of us, can be the most flattering supporter and cruelest critic of our own work. Most of us underestimate our own worth and the worth of our work. A good editor will polish our writing without claiming it as their own. If you are ever graced with the opportunity to edit for someone else, remember that it is their work, not yours.

This has turned into quite a pep talk. In the end there is only one really good piece of advice for perspective authors. –KEEP WRITING–

One Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kosmo
    Dec 28, 2009 @ 14:25:35

    “When someone claims that one form or topic is easier than others, this can only be true for them.”

    How very true. I can sometimes write a short story in 15 minutes (with extremely optimal conditions) but would struggle with poetry.


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