Trusting your story-making instinct
At the Children's Winchester Writing conference last November, Tim Bowler talked about the physical investment that goes into writing. He told us how some days he has to force himself to put one word after another and it is like chipping the words off the breastbone. Yet, he still advised us to not stop until we had nailed it.
Writing is a very difficult art form. Many people are seduced by the apparent ease of writing because we use words in our everyday life. But, they soon come to realise that words are difficult because we use them in our everyday life.
There is a duel aspect of the writer. You have to be able to have the creative skill and also the critical skill to look at your own work with detachment. Don’t be so in love with what you have written you can not bare to lose any of the words. You have to have a healthy disrespect for your words. The best writing is where you never lose the structure of what is going on. Be bold take a risk.
Tim does not have an idea about his plot or characters until he starts to write about them. He said if you plot and plan - stay loose. It’s only words. Make a pile of chips. A writer’s chips are there words. Stories come from the secret trap hidden bi-ways of the soul.
Writing is not a skill it is a symptom. If you don’t know the trees you can lose your way in the forest if you don’t know the stories you will lose your way in life. Just because you’ve written if doesn’t mean you have to keep it. Ideas and feeling don’t have a shape. When Tim writes he leaves a mass of work to do at the end of the first draft. He recommends going over and over the text as lovingly as possible. Enjoy the freedom of the free flow. It is exciting for the reader if the writer does not know where they are going because every page is a page-turner. Be prepared to be surprised and be OK about that.
The great thing about writing is not being in control. Writing is about empathy. Temporarily empathise with the book and the story. This makes you feel physically vulnerable. An idea has no gumption if there is no character. Have to have a story, character and a strong problem in a visible location. If you write characters who aren’t interesting you won’t care about them and you won’t love them. The books that stay in your heart are the ones that emotionally move you.
Tim is not a commercially minded person. He leaves that to his editor.
Stories enter our emotional bloodstream by experiencing life through other stories as we grow. But, once the fruit has fallen from the tree it belongs to other people. Be proud of it and remember everyone is entitled to their own opinion. The toughest thing we face as writers is self-doubt. So we all need to remember we all have our own special magic inside of us.
(Previously published the the British SCBWI magazine Words and Pictures)