Many new authors slog out that first book, editing every word to perfection, revising, reworking, redoing. When I used to be a part of critique groups, it was not at all uncommon to find writers who'd been working on the same book two, five, eight and even ten years. Still see them at conferences, shopping the same book, getting rejected, then rewriting, rewriting.....
My writing group asked: Can you perhaps submit something for next week?
I know I had a short story on my computer that I thought was ready to be read by others. So I said yes. This morning I figured it might be wise to read it again before submitting it. The problem was, however, that I had no clue what name I had given the file. I had written it in a single session, and didn’t looked at it anymore.
After opening my Short Stories file, I had to conclude it wasn’t in there. How odd. Since the title was a mystery to me, I searched on the date it was last modified. I knew I wrote it after hearing some unfortunate news at the end of March. So any file older than March couldn’t be the one I was looking for. An eerie idea was slowly taking hold of me. What if I never saved the story?
Vanessa’s post ‘A Different Perspective‘ got me thinking about my own process when writing the opposite sex. Although I often prefer to stick more to the male characters (I do understand them better), I also have to work with female characters. I’d start off by saying its fun. Lots of fun. And difficult. Capturing the essence of a female character’s emotion in a specific scene due to certain circumstances, and letting that emotion play itself out through action has always been challenging.
One of the things I often do first, is to compare myself (what I think I would feel and do) to that of the female character. Equipped with this basic knowledge, I would conjure up images either from personal observations or characters in other texts (often from the literary spectrum) and then apply the different possible actions the female character can take. The next step is to analyze what fits this particular character’s personality so as to establish credibility and consistency. Despite this somewhat methodical approach, I do get it wrong more often than not.
The first time I made a list of all the things that had to be organised for a wedding, my initial thought was ‘that’s it?’ I knew that this couldn’t be true. And joy, was I proven right. Luckily, I had two very helpful wedding MCs who helped me out. One of the last things I did was thinking about the opening dance. Now I don’t mind dancing, but it isn’t something you’ll find in my top 3 past-time activities.
So here we were sitting opposite the dance teacher. And the first question he asked was about our song. Well we don’t really have a special song. We do have one that we both like, but we’re not going to use it. Meatloaf’s Paradise by the Dashboard Light is just not the most appropriate song for a wedding. (See the lyrics. I kind of liked the idea, but husband-to-be thought otherwise.) It soon became apparent that we were very difficult people music-wise. We like all kinds of music, from classical (he doesn’t) to death metal, but nothing really in particular.
How do you know when a sentence is correct or not? As any native speaker of any language will tell you: it’s correct because it feels right. Of course, if you’ve studied linguistics, you might reply with something a little more high brow. You might refer to the “correct” or “incorrectness” of the grammar/wording/syntax/pronunciation/etc.
Now, assuming that you aren’t a native speaker of English (for example) – but you’ve been speaking it for a long time, long enough to write creatively in it anyway – you might have that feeling of ‘rightness’. Here at Cecile’s Writers, we are for the most part ‘native’ speakers. However, discussion on the rightness or wrongness of a word or sentence construction can get heated. For example, Vanessa asked us if you travel ‘in’ or ‘on’ a plane (you can see the blog post that spurred this particular conversation), to which each of us responded yes, no and maybe. Ask a native speaker and they will probably tell you I travel ‘in’ a train or I will travel ‘on’ a train.
I’ve never written stories where the main character is a male, as I’ve always stuck to female protagonists. So does this matter? And what does it say about my writing?
I began thinking about this after reading a prompt that suggested writing a first person narrative, assuming the voice of someone from the opposite gender. The prompt’s suggestion began by stating the following:
“As a writer of fiction you’re seriously handicapped if you can’t write convincingly about people unlike yourself.”read more »
For almost two years now, I’ve been ignoring a young adult book I’d started writing. The printed out pages of critiqued chapters lay on the corner of my desk, haunting me, reminding me that there’s story which is far from finished.
I’m not really sure why I stopped writing it. I could blame the circumstances in my personal life (ie I had a baby) but that would be lying. It probably had more to do with the fact that I knew I was coming to a point where I didn’t know how to continue. I had the plot of three more chapters planned out in my head. As for the rest, I only know how I want the novel to end. I haven’t got a clue how to get my characters there.