The novel is an event in consciousness. Our aim isn’t to copy actuality, but to modify and recreate our sense of it. The novelist is inviting the reader to watch a performance in his own brain.
When I was young, I used to imagine that people going about their daily lives have these thought bubbles that actually float around as they interact with each other. The proper “chat” bubble would show up when they speak audibly and the cloud-like bubble when they are thinking to themselves. Thanks to one of the Filipino’s national past time: comics!
I firmly believe, as others do, that you are a reader first, a writer second. I am not a voracious reader but I have had my share of novels; from the Mills and Boons of my early teenage years to the more mainstream of this generation. My bookshelf is lined with works from James Patterson, Jeffrey Archer, J K Rowling, Dan Brown, Cecelia Ahern, Jodie Picoult among others. And of course, I have my knitting books too!
We read five words on the first page of a really good novel and we begin to forget that we are reading printed words on a page; we begin to see images.
Writing gives you the illusion of control, and then you realize it’s just an illusion, that people are going to bring their own stuff into it.
The eternal debate of whether the book is better than the film adaptation or vice versa is well and alive in our household. My daughter and I love to read, but we also love to watch the films spawned from these books *coughTwilightcough* and we are of the common opinion that the books are way better. Of course, Jacob Black doesn’t look half as good on paper as he does onscreen. Moving on, when I read books I paint the entire world of that work of fiction inside my head. My Harry Potter looked nothing like Daniel Radcliffe! As I read the words, the images move inside my head and I am reading a book and watching a film at the same time. When I finish reading the book, there are no end credits to read. I just go on and pick up the next book.
I like being taken for a ride, esp when I read James Patterson’s novels. It’s fast-paced, you could almost feel the breeze against your cheek when you read his novels. And I like that. The story unfolds quickly, some as if it’s in real time. The urgency it elicits makes it just that much closer to being real. It’s a lot like daydreaming, but with more complex structures and better lighting.
There are many reasons why novelists write – but they all have one thing in common: a need to create an alternative world.
In the same vein, readers read fiction because they need to exist in an alternative world. It’s escapism at its most basic level. You are always the hero or heroine of the story. You flinch when your hero gets punched. You get thrilled when your heroine finally gets her just desserts, and the man to boot! And most of all, you cry when you reach that really sad part of the story and you go to work the following day with puffy, red eyes and you have no idea how to explain to your colleagues that you had been crying because of a damned book.
Forget all the rules. Forget about being published. Write for yourself and celebrate writing.
I started writing in high school. All that teenage angst really worked out well for me. I was a teenager, got no one to listen to me, no one understood what I was going through so I hit the pen and paper. They were my best friends and together we came up with some beautiful things. Well, to me anyway. I had no ambition of being published. I just wanted to write. Then in junior high school, I was suddenly published. In our school paper. But still, it was there, the words which moments before were only in my head were suddenly now on print. Exposed for everyone to see. And my name was tagged on that little piece of work so there was no way of hiding from it or denying it.
Writing is the best way to talk without being interrupted.
Writing is thinking on paper.
Over the years, I’ve heard about writing exercises and techniques which seemed interesting enough to adapt but they never held my attention. There’s the 3-page a day regime that I read from John Taylor, yes he of the long legs and bass licks of Duran Duran, from his Trust The Process blog. he would always write 3 full pages of whatever was on his mind. Doesn’t matter if there was a theme, he’d have to fill 3 pages of paper. There was also a free mind flow, which an LJ friend adhered to with much gusto. Similar to JT’s 3-page regime, you basically just write about anything and everything that’s in your head. No editing.
Me? I write when the words get so crammed in my head that they have to spill out onto a blank page. And I also write when I am upset or have things I want to say but can’t really say it out loud. I used to take actual pen and scratch words out on paper until I cut the words onto 4 sheets of the pad. These days I bash my fingers against the keyboard. My keyboard – I love it. no one else can use my keyboard at work because some of the letters have been wiped off my the constant abuse they receive from my fingers.
There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein.
Rob Thomas said in their VH1 Storytellers appearance (yes, I had to somehow sneakily sneak Rob into this post!) that it is best to go out on the stage and sing when you’re upset. Let it all out on stage, in the songs, in your performance. That way you vent all your anger out and you don’t hurt anyone in the process. That’s the best way to look at writing, in my opinion. I’m upset about a colleague who thinks they are God’s answer to the problems of humanity? I write about it. I’m mad about the red tape I had to go through at a government office? I write about it. I’m mad at myself for not giving a project my 100%? I write about it.
I am what I write. You just have to pull some of the words aside to find me, but trust me I’m there.
All the words I use in my stories can be found in the dictionary – it’s just a matter of arranging them into the right sentences.
I never claimed to be good in English. My high school classmates seemed to think I mastered the language, but I didn’t. I still haven’t. There are people who would say I have a very eclectic way of using verb tenses in my writing. Trust me, it’s all unplanned. I just write as it comes to me, then I edit later. It just so happened that I have a better grasp of the language than my high school classmates that it comes naturally to me. Up until 1993 when I moved to Dubai, I never used English as a medium to communicate, especially verbally. I actually think in English and then express myself in Filipino if I am speaking to Filipinos. The real challenge is when you have this really really funny Filipino joke that you want to tell your English-speaking friends and you can’t find a way of translating it without losing the punchline.
Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet.
The dawning of the internet brought my reading habits to new dimensions. Enter the fanfic. Thanks to Yahoo! Groups and LiveJournal, I was introduced to some of my best friends today who are very talented writers as well. I spent hours, hundreds of them, reading stories about OTPs, OT3s, AUs and everything else. I did avoid as much of slash as I could since I get squicked by some of them. But when some are tastefully done then I’ll give it a chance. Then there’s the inevitable clicking of linked rec’s and other sites and onto more other stories and even more sites. Before you realise what was happening, you’re sucked in so deep that you find so difficult to get back out and back to your own writing. It’s great for getting ideas, but it’s taking time away from your own writing and that is not good.
One of the things that draws writers to writing is that they can get things right that they got wrong in real life by writing about them.
Ain’t that the truth? I think the most important part here is that the writer, by writing about getting things right in fiction that they got wrong in life, had acknowledged and accepted that he had done some things wrong in his life. And that is a big step. It’s a giant leap! Even if you don’t say it out loud and declare it to the world, or to those who were affected by those wrong decision, it is a big friggin’ deal for a someone to admit it in writing. Putting that on paper, so to speak, makes it so. And when a writer changes the way that particular decision is made or handled shows a deep desire to make amends. Writers have a lot of words in them, but they are not necessarily the best communicators.
You can take for granted that people know more or less what a street, a shop, a beach, a sky, an oak tree look like. Tell them what makes this one different.
It’s all about perspectives, isn’t it? You see a tree and other people see the same tree. But some would see the leaves of the tree and say how green it is whereas you would see that there is a nest or two on the branches where the sound of urgent chirps are coming from. It’s never the same for everyone. I can see Mr. Gaiman’s point here. How many times have people written fanfic about The Lord of the Rings? Every time I read one, it is different. The tone is different, the characterization while staying true to the characters of the book and film have been extended to add more layers to the personality, ultimately making the character the writer’s own.
I can understand that this is where everyone’s opinion goes into different directions. I’ve heard of the term “canon” used in fanfic before but until recently did not know what it was about. I now know why a few of the stories I have written about actual, real people where I gave them different professions and personalities did not go down well with followers of the same said people. It’s because I steered too far away from what is canon to the fandom. I made the characters so different that they either couldn’t relate anymore or they hated what I wrote so much that they just ignored it instead of flaming me. Good, because I wouldn’t have known how to deal with a highly inflammatory email or comment even though I deal with a lot worse at work.
The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof shit detector.
If only this was available at the local 7Eleven. But also keep in mind that one man’s shit is another man’s, well, whatever is the opposite. You know what I mean? You still with me here? Writers love their shit so will not take anybody dissing their shit. It might be shit, but it’s their shit. It’s warm, it gives them fuzzy feelings and it fills a lot of gaps in their lives. Let them have their shit, so that they won’t give you any of theirs.
Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.
Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie.
Angst drives a lot of other emotions. It’s good for creativity. Any creative pursuit is a great outlet for all that angst and unfulfilled dreams. Fifteen years, give or take a few, of a saddlebag of emotions is enough to last a writer more than one lifetime of material to draw from. Writers write to create their perfect world, to right wrongs in their lives, to fulfill unrequited love, to be larger than their own mediocre (or not) lives and, most importantly, to tell truths. Truths that they could not say out loud, in words, from their mouths. Their pen or keyboard do the talking and they are mighty strong words! I will be 39 years old soon. I have all of those years of material to draw from and still I find it inadequate.
If the sex scene doesn’t make you want to do it – whatever it is they’re doing – it hasn’t been written right.
Enough said! No wait, I was reading a 2-year old, at least, series written about a Time Lord and his lady companion and well, let’s just say that I now have a craving for quiz nights, a tiny, dark wardrobe and a Time Lord that looks uncanningly like David Tennant!
One thought on “About this writing business”
I had your site page open for 2 – 3 days, and waited till this morning to read it as I wanted to read it when my mind was clear to receive what you’re sharing. Jocelyn, I feel I know more about you and appreciate the way you share your ‘thwords’ (thoughts into words) with honesty. I truly enjoy the structure of this essay: picking quotes from writers and then sharing your personal story around them … such a yaay! way to express in writing. From all the gripping quotes in your essay, this one from you spoke to me the most – ‘Writers have a lot of words in them, but they are not necessarily the best communicators.’ I agree. Words, expressively romantic and lovable as they are, are incomplete beings. Rhetorical question: Is there anything as pure, original as feeling?
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