#1 I shall not go through years and years of creating the DNA aka, the building blocks of my story, submerging myself in its amoebic gestation, creating cells, arteries, blood, flesh, hair, teeth and body, creating voices, creating the spirit of my characters, years of selecting from the greys anatomy of emotional and psychological flaws that sit and fit in with my characters- albeit not snugly; I’ll say about as snugly as the ugly sister’s shoehorning antics into Cinderella’s slipper- that’s until character has an epiphany, goes through some kind of personal growth and finds some kind of peace. I shall not go through all of this, only to tear up the manuscript and blody start again. I’ll blody not.
I am mixed with admiration and horror at those who go through years of angst writing a novel, then rip it up. I can just about accept placing the draft in a drawer or even locking it away and giving someone else the key. But feeling brave and assured enough that I have somehow distilled the essence of my story and bottled it in the apothecary of my mind? Nah.
#2 I shall not write purple prose. I hope everything I write is within a context and I hope I never try to sound cryptic and inaccessible; if I do, it’ll be to make a point. And if I use the word discombobulate, in any of my work, particularly in a poem, feel free to call the Purple Prose or Poetry Police and I’ll come quietly. Without fuss.
#3 I shall not stop people watching, THIS IS A NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL SPORT. On the continent, we sit and take in our surroundings, dipping baguettes into hot chocolate and commenting on the rain. In the tropics, we lay back and admire the scenery and sip cocktails and comment on the heat. And then there’s life in between. But what are we really doing? Come on? We’re people watching. Writers just do something with the information gathered. To writers, people clocking, sound bite gathering, life studies in body language and behaviour appreciation is our equivalent of receiving a much-needed blood transfusion. We need all that fresh blood to work with. It informs our writing. It’s just that, instead of an intravenous drip, we take it via caffeine or alcohol or chocolate. Sometimes, it has to be taken all together. And, of course, it’s not just the obvious people-watching places we source from, such as cafes, parks and other communal meeting places . The late Robin William’s character in One Hour Photo, Sy Parrish, (one of his finest performances), I am convinced, is now working as my optometrist. Nice.
#4 I shall not squirrel away my quirkiness. As writers, our writing styles are unique and should be our selling point.
#5 I shall not stop playing with words. https://youtu.be/pMUv6UWkuWw Erin McKean, Go ahead, make up new words! Language is fluid and constantly moving, like people. The word I have made up today is, ghostclamation. I am trying to fuse these two words together to describe both the qualities of a ghost (ethereal, lingering, haunting) and the intent of an exclamation (loud cry, an emphasis, a complaint, forceful protest), to create something of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, but in words. Minor chords played on a piano with the sustain pedal engaged, would create a ghostclamation effect for me. Now I have to create the perfect sentence that reflects this.
#6 I shall not leave humour out of my writing, whether the subject is pointing towards serious or not. Humour has a thermostat that can be adjusted for the most delicate of situations. Humour, for me, helps a reader to readily digest information.
#7 I shall not be put off by the stark reality that the process of writing a book is similar to baking or cooking a fine meal from scratch including consumption. Of course, the time frames differ hugely. How’s that for an understatement? I hear you gasp. Let me explain. For example, in camp one, I could spend a whole afternoon or a day baking. I’ll assemble all the ingredients, factoring in the time and cost of getting provisions. In the other camp, we writers may spend years assembling researched information; gathering what we need to fine-tune our writing. Back to camp one, I’ll use the ingredients in the order that they work best, but most importantly, I’ll add my own flair to the dish. In the other camp, we writers get the storyline right (there are some rules) and set down to write it, entirely in our own flair; tweaking and adjusting, rewriting and eventually, editing. In camp one, I place it in the oven and hope it will rise. In the other camp, the writers oven consists of putting it out there; friends professionals, publishers, agents, online. And then there’s the eating. In camp one, how many times have we batch cooked, only to have the entire days efforts eaten in the space of an hour, possibly two when your family come screaming back? In the other camp, how many years has it taken to write that deeply precious manuscript, only for it to be devoured in a week or even a day? It’s a beautiful frustration and a flattering frustration. The glowing feeling is the same too, for both camps -I hope- when the consumers are left simply wanting more. Of course, a book can be revisited again and again, but can you see the similarities?
#8 I shall not stop being in awe of the fact that, basically, 26 letters of the alphabet, reassembled, help to make us human. That’s it.
#9 I shall not rush this book I am editing. I need to take my time and get it right. Sometimes my ideas bubble up, and I can act like a demented, excitable child, wanting to go full steam ahead, letting it loose on the world now. I have been on a constant ‘high’ with my novel and idea, wanting to get it out there well before yesterday, and I’ve had to tether myself with constant reminders that slow and steady is best.
#10. I shall not stop the editing -as-I-go as a process. I cannot move on until the piece I am working on is ‘right’, so that when it comes to the final edit, (hah!), I only have to go over it ten times instead of twenty! My only worry is that I am still in the ‘loving every minute of it’ stage and I know in my heart of hearts that, when your ‘sick to the back teeth’ with your book, then, you probably have really wrung out your manuscript, of unnecessary words, corrected everything possible etc and you’re looking at something that truly is good to go. I’m not sick of it yet. That’s my litmus paper. Perversely, when I write, ‘I am sick’, I would like you all to be pleased, popping corks and congratulating me.
So those are my ten. What would you add or remove? They should have been bullet points but I got carried away. What is the writing experience like for you?