Writing: Here Comes The Hard Part
You’ll notice this week all the posts are about writing. That’s because I have been chained to my desk (a former Franco voting desk covered in ink stains and hundreds of bits of paper) trying to produce an idea from thin air.
If there’s one element that confounds would-be writers it’s this; the making-things-up-from-nothing bit. Now, you’re expecting me to tell you that there are no quick fixes and you have to put in the hours. But I do have a piece of advice for you that may work for you.
Let’s go back a moment to the pre-internet world. I started writing on a typewriter, then worked my way through Golfball, IBM Selectric, Brother and BBC Wordstar before falling gratefully at the feet of Apple. During that time I completely changed the way I worked. In the earliest stages of transferring thought to type, you had to complete the thought in your mind before transcribing it. Think of writing a postcard – you need to plan what you’ll put because there’s only room for three sentences.
Gradually though, this changed as computing took away the need for editing to be prearranged by the brain. We’ve now reached a point where the transcription part is instinctive – yet many writers have not fully adapted. They think and plan and then transcribe when that order should be rearranged to Plan – Transcribe – Think.
So, you have a vague idea of what you want to write. Get it onto the screen by imagining you’re writing a postcard. Its clumsiness and incompleteness will horrify you. Now start working on it.
You can flesh out your on-screen postcard’s worth of material in length and style, and keep adding and fleshing out. Writing is a craft as well as an art, and one never wholly works without the other. It’s a technique I used yesterday when I had to write a synopsis for a novel. I set it down and bit by bit turned the whole idea over until it made sense. Today I’ll do that again. By tonight it will be twelve pages long.
Ideas don’t come from air – they’re worked out.