I’m coming up to a new book release pretty soon and while I have published before there are a lot of things I want to do differently this time around. I have grand plans for the launch of my latest … Continue reading
I recently watched a movie called Stranger than Fiction. It’s about a man who can hear a voice narrating his life, as though he’s a character in a book. Seeing this idea in action made me realise how familiar the concept was. I live my life just like that, because I’m a writer, and we narrate on instinct. Our lives are always followed by a mysterious voice-over, because the characters in our stories are shaped by our day to day actions. They live with us, and the things they experience are extracts of our real lives.
That’s not to say every moment of every day is lived as a novel. Inside a writer’s mind, sometimes it is quiet, but the story can begin with the most simple catalyst. It could be lying in bed, shopping for groceries, walking the dog or driving the car. It might seem like a menial task, but somewhere inside the author’s imagination, there is a character doing that exact thing. Only their situation might not be as simple as ours.
A car ride might not be a trip home from work—it’s a killer fleeing the scene of a crime, a frightened girl on the way to an orphanage, or the last vehicle with a low fuel tank in the zombie apocalypse. The narrator kicks in, turning the mundane into something magical. The trees arch over the car, the storm clouds turn black with menace. Wind thrashes rain against the windscreen as the wipers creak. And suddenly this simple life becomes a beautiful book scene.
The narrator lays the groundwork in our minds, and sometimes in the car, middle of peak-hour traffic, you fill in the characters’ dialogue (yes I do this, and pretend I’m on a hands-free phone call). The narrator helps us pull pieces of the real world into our stories so our characters have more dimension. And sometimes it’s hard to break away from that imaginary place to face the real world once more. But this world we live in, is an amazing place for a writer, we’re never alone and the narrator can fill us with wonder at any turn. The whole thing might sound a little nuts, but I know all the writers out there will be nodding their heads. It’s just something we do.
Set your narrator free.
The Hemmingway Challenge
How many words does it take to write a story? Well someone bet Ernest Hemmingway he couldn’t write a complete story in six words, but he did.
‘For sale: baby shoes, never worn.’
It’s short and simple but heartbreaking and effective. Six words is all it took.
One of the most important pieces of advice for any writer, if you can write it with less words—do. It sounds simple but it actually takes a lot of practice. There are words we put into our sentences that often don’t need to be there. It makes for cleaner writing, there is less distraction for the reader and it means they can actually think for themselves.
One of the dangers writing a novel is the lack of restriction, you start off knowing you have all the words in the world, there’s no reason to keep your sentences concise because, let’s face it—the thicker your book the more impressive it is. Caught up in a creative moment it can be hard to write cleanly. I tend to use all the words I want and cut them out during editing, but if I could learn to write with less words, it would save me a lot of time in the long run.
To give you an idea of figures, I’ve just been editing 4 manuscripts with a total word count of 465 000, the story hasn’t changed at all but I managed to take out 39 000 completely useless words. Perhaps that’s the reason writers are encouraged to work on short stories first.
I’ve never been passionate about writing short stories and I haven’t read many either but I firmly believe it’s a great way to practice language. I recently read a book containing 23 short stories, initially I found it hard to get used to the style but towards the end I started to appreciate things the author didn’t say. For the sake of self development I’ve decided to take the Hemmingway Challenge.
Here’s my six word story, it certainly isn’t Hemmingway but I know writers will relate.
— Wrote it, read it, deleted it.
When I began researching for this blog I came across plenty of other authors taking the six word story challenge, here’s the link if you’re interested in reading a few more … and why not take the Hemmingway Challenge yourself?
I think there is a common misconception about extraverts and introverts, some people think extraverts are loud and outgoing while introverts are quiet and reserved. It’s true these are common manifestations of the two personality types but the true meaning … Continue reading