For the past thirty years, I have dedicated my life to everything fiction, from attaining my BA degree in English Lit to reading every novel and How-To guidebook I could get my hands on. Writing about writing is cathartic, a great way to disseminate my thoughts, which collide in my brain like atoms after the Big Bang. But it also allows me to share my hard-earned experiences with hopefuls like myself, so that, with some luck, others might avoid the heartbreaking pitfalls I’ve fallen into.
Nick’s Writing Advice*
I loathe writing advice, particularly because good writing, as I see it, is everything but formulaic. So if I had to have one rule, it would be this: break all the rules. That being said, I have found these five suggestions to be helpful. I list them here in the hope you find them helpful too.
1. Love what you write.
While it is important to consider reader tastes, too often we forget the most important demographic of all: ourselves. If you don’t love what you write, nobody else will. If you don’t honestly love an idea, if it doesn’t come from inside, you won’t make it work. Only J.K. Rowling could have written Harry Potter. Only you can write your masterpiece.
2. Live life.
Whether your novel is about romance between zombies or the adventures of squirrels in space, all fiction is about life. Life dictates your writing, which is a good thing. Instead of trying to fit some successful mold, embrace your existence. Don’t just write. Ride a bike, make love, hike naked through the woods. Ideas are hidden everywhere, and the ones that come from life are the most genuine.
3. Talk to real live human beings.
If fiction is about life, characters are about people, real people. Even if you write about thousand-year-old vampires, they must possess an element of humanity. In Flatland, Edwin Abbot’s main character is literally a square, but you believe in the story because of the square’s human attributes. An idea can be anything, from a MacGuffin to a plot device to a new kind of character.
4. Read books.
Lots of them. Reading is good for learning technique, but more importantly, it gives you perspective. You will find there are no absolutes in fiction, no right or wrong way. This will give you the courage to find your own voice and to trust in your own crazy ideas.
5. Don’t just do something, sit there!
Remember when you were a child, how on-fire your imagination was? Ideas seemed limitless then. Children are more creative because they have time to be bored. Too often in our rush-rush lives, we forget the importance of doing nothing. Find time to stare into the abyss. Quietly sip tea and contemplate your exact location in space and time. Great ideas sit at the cusp of madness.