Re: Creativity--kinda long

Subject: Re: Creativity--kinda long
From: Sella Rush <SellaR -at- APPTECHSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 4 Aug 1997 16:31:40 -0700

Interesting difference of opinion regarding novel writing. A couple of
points before this thread gets designated off-topic:

1. Regarding structure versus thought-dump, we've been talking about it
in two different contexts: a completed novel and a method for writing.
When talking about completed novels, literary novels (or rather,
publishers of) are much more tolerant of non-structured works, but in
genre novels structure is absolutely essential.

When talking about free-writing as a method, all writers--of genre or
literary, novice or expert--have to rely on it sometime. Whether your
personal style is to develop 30-page outlines before writing the first
sentence or to start writing scenes and figure out how they fit later,
all of us have to just pick a point and dive off from there. If you
don't take that plunge, you're prose will be dead.

2. Regarding books and writing classes: as some have mentioned,
quality varies widely. The important thing is to not use them as an
excuse not to do the actual writing. I think I agree with the person
who said that books and classes are not the place for a beginning writer
to *start.* This is hard for me to judge because I've been writing for
as long as I can remember (at nine I used to tear out the blank pages of
my old Nancy Drew's out of some idea that writing my stories on them
would make them more real). But what isn't good is the notion that you
have to learn writing before you can start writing. I'd advise a
beginning writer to just simply start writing a scene--don't necessarily
think in terms of a novel, or don't worry that you have to have the
structure down pat.

3. Having said that, I've found both classes and books extremely useful
to me as an intermediate writer. On a whim I took a creative writing
workshop in college--I was curious (read terrified) to find out how my
writing stood up next to other would-be novelists. I got two absolutely
priceless bits of insight. First, I did get an objective view of my
work, the good and the bad. Second, I got some good training on
critiquing--which helped me to see beyond whether a book is good or bad
to what makes it so (and maybe how to fix it). Both of these insights
helped me objectively critique my own work and gave me the ability to
see my writing in a long-range context--so I'm always striving to

Books I use in a sort of unorthodox way--I use it for spot help.
Example, as I'm going along, I suddenly sense my overal plotting is
weak--it needs another twist. I find it useful to pull out my "Scene
and Structure" book and read a pertinent chapter or two, thinking about
my specific concern at the same time. It's a great brainstorming
tool--I've come up with some of my best ideas this way.

4. Advice to a beginning writer:

-Read read read read read whatever it is you want to write

-Start playing with words--as a professional writer, you know
words aren't precious--fiddle
around and see what you come up with. You may never use them
in anything, and it
doesn't matter!

-You'll be able to see yourself improve. You'll discover what
makes good writing. Like I did,
maybe you'll learn the guts of rules like "show don't tell"
before anyone spouts them off.
BUT--when you find yourself stagnating, that's the time to look
around for a class or a
peer group. Or maybe the time to check a couple of books out
of the library.

-A poet teacher friend of mine suggested this as a way to learn
how to write poetry--and it
holds true for prose: take something you like and copy it.
For poetry he even advocated
writing out the poem a few times as is to pick up on the
cadence and flavor. Then start
changing a few things, and then more. At the sentence level
you'll retain the sound and
rhythm, at the scene level you'll retain the pace, the mixture
of dialog versus description.
It's a great way to analyze and apply theory.

-Don't think of writing in terms of days or months but in years.
Writing might be part talent
but it's mostly skill. Think about how good you want to be in
ten years--and what it'll take
to get there--and that it's ok to be really bad at it for the
first couple of years!

-When you actually begin that first novel, don't agonize over
the first sentence--whatever you
write will be a throwaway until you finish the story.

-Don't forget about that writing you're actually getting paid

Sella Rush
mailto:sellar -at- apptechsys -dot- com
Applied Technical Systems, Inc. (ATS)
Bremerton, Washington USA
Developers of the CCM Database

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