It still takes some last effort. Variable according to the aspects of writing that are most important to you (because your writing is important to you, right? You want to write something that remains in the annals. You want your text to be polished to sparkle. You want readers to stop on the street – or fill in your Facebook comment page – and say: “I’ve never read anything so exciting / funny / interesting before”).
I always dedicate a rereading only to the dialogues. Because, even if maybe for you it is a little detail, I want them to be natural. That they are neither too long nor too short, that, hearing the character speak, the reader has the impression of being in front of him: a person in the flesh.
Then, another rereading to correct the plot details, characters and setting that still need to be re-checked.
And another to verify that the Point of View is correct (read a few manuals, especially those from the Americans who care about these details, to understand what I’m talking about. Or, if you prefer, I’ll tell you about it in another article . Let yourself be heard if you want others to write or finish it here.) And another to tame the monstrous beast called Infodump (as above: read the manuals and find out).
And finally, the re-reading of the re-readings, one of the most important, must be dedicated to the style of narration. Here, things get more serious. If you can, print the text: at this stage, I find it better to fill the house with sheets of paper than to squint in front of the computer monitor. Put yourself in a quiet corner, where you are sure that nobody will disturb you. And read aloud. Have fun: interpret your characters, recite their lines with emphasis, but above all pay attention to the rhythm of your words. You have to find your music; and if there isn’t, you must force yourself to correct your text until it becomes melodious. Why, believe me: even the most hurried reader will be impressed by a story well written. Experience bold metaphors and similarities. Forcefully delete every cliché. Hunt for reps (my Achilles heel). There are those who advise us to eliminate with the hat useless adjectives and adverbs that end up in -ly, who to avoid the passive form of verbs like the plague. On this, I do not pronounce myself. Experience; see what you like best. Inevitably, some adverbs in – occasionally can also be there.
After that, rewrite, revise, rectify to your liking.
Don’t worry, we’re almost there! What rereading are we? The seventh, the eighth? I don’t remember anymore; I should re-read the article, while so far I’ve gone freewheeling (but I’ll reread don’t worry. Ten times for sure).
A couple of re-readings are missing. At least two, to pay attention to the most infinitesimal details: typing errors, verbal concordance, grammar and syntax (those must be studied in depth, I’m sorry. And there is little to enjoy). Be very careful at this point. I, who on these things are precise to the limits of the manic, I re-read everything every time I find errors and make changes, because you never know. If you are less stubborn than me, there may be only a few last quick revisions. The world won’t fall if a typo or two should remain (or at least I think so. The world always seems to be at risk of falling; if I were you, I wouldn’t want to contribute with my laziness in reviewing).
Easy, isn’t it?
With these articles, I have sent you more or less all the knowledge on how to write a story or a novel that I have accumulated over time. That could be valuable, or worth anything if you think differently from me, and you are a guy who prefers to have everything already established before you start writing.
For me it doesn’t work like this: I … er … how to say … first I write and then I think. Changing the order of the addends does not change the result.
Premise: publishers complain a lot, sometimes rightly, sometimes wrongly. Most of these complaints are addressed to writers and aspiring writers, it is natural. What I have read and heard most often is probably “the writers think that everything is due to them, they believe that once the manuscript has been presented and the contract signed the only thing left to do is wait for the millionaire royalties, they are willing to lift their ass only for an invitation from Fazio, and even in that case if they pull it ”.
This is obviously an exaggeration, and often it is just a falsehood: in my brief experience as a publisher, our writers have almost always been enthusiastic, full of ideas and willing to lend a hand; maybe a little petulant and insistent, but for a good cause. Maybe she’s out of my ass, because I can hear something else around.
Here, perhaps many aspiring authors have somewhat confused ideas, or rather, a “mythologized” vision of the writer who no longer corresponds to his “2.0” counterpart, or has always been misleading and far from reality.
In my small way, I could dare to say that the myths to dispel are these:
1) The writer makes a lot of money
Here, let’s start immediately on the most beautiful. If you see a guy ride in a Ferrari with a snatch on board, think “Uff, what envy, these writers …”? Yet the myth of “writing to get rich” persists. In a society where, unfortunately, the difference between the “normal” people and the overflowing people increases, many dream of changing sides, and in fact writing a book can be a better lifestyle choice than focusing on scratch cards.
However, how many professional writers are there in Italy? Few, very few. And, often, they earn much more from appearances on TV, from consultations, from “marchette” in the newspapers, from conventions and more than from writers’ royalties.
2) The writer must write and that’s it
Probably, some look at “Discovering Forrester” and already they can’t wait to spend their lives drinking and watching the boys playing basketball locked up in their apartment. Seriously, with very rare exceptions, the successful writer is also a “character”. You are an introvert, you miss the easy joke, don’t you love being around people? Not bad, there is internet. But hardly your book will magically start selling thousands of copies if nobody knows who you are. And so, yes, you have to put your face on it. Or at least the keyboard.
3) Publishing a book makes you famous and esteemed
Ok, you love your book as if it were a child. Your partner and your cousin also think the same way (or, they pretend well). So, as soon as the book is published, everyone will queue for an autograph or a handshake, won’t they?
Here … it’s not really like that. It is easier for the publication of a book to bring you envy and dislikes than adoration and praise. But above all, most people will not care much. Think about it: if you never watch TV, the fact that your neighbor or your trusted baker has ended up in the Sunday In audience upsets your life? Here, indeed. People have mortgages to pay, angry leaders, unbearable mother-in-law, rowdy children, etc. etc … Your book will be the last of their thoughts, guaranteed.
4) The writer is the ultimate and supreme judge of his work
“The book is mine and I manage it!” Many jealous authors could say about every single comma of their masterpiece. But the job of the editor (of a publisher or freelancer, changes little) is not to break your boxes, but to improve your text and make you sell more: they are professionals and know what they do … well, usually . But if the author can reluctantly accept the editor’s advice, never listen to the complaints of a reader! Do you say he didn’t like the ending? It will be an idiot. Did you find it boring? Let him return to reading Totti’s jokes! Did you dare to report the presence of typos? He must be the guy I stole the snack from in second grade, who holds a grudge and wants revenge! Do you listen to those who have spent time and money on my intellectual creation and perhaps want to give me a hand? NEVER!
After having told you everything about my personal non-method (if you missed it, you can find it here), I throw myself headlong into the thorny topic of the search for ideas for writing; but this time, I ask you to participate, to build a sort of collective article with me. Because in the ocean of ideas I still struggle to navigate: sometimes I run away without brakes, driven by the magnificent wind of inspiration, others run into a period of calm, and that ramshackle boat that is my writing runs aground in an area of shallow waters, from which I can’t get rid of.
So comments and points for reflection are welcome. Because in writing, as in life, there is always something to learn.
I tried everything to free myself from the swamp where writers get bogged down with ideas. I spent whole days staring at the ceiling or an immaculate sheet in search of inspiration (no, come on. Let’s say a minute or two. For me, I’m a hurried & frantic little girl, more than enough time). I started ironing, the activity that I hate the most in the world, hoping that it would help me to unlock the mind (in fact, it went like this. Read through and you will understand how I did it). In the most desperate cases, I persisted in repeating inside myself the mantra “I want an idea I want an idea I want an idea” (to no avail. Do not try it: this system, tried and tested for you, does not work).
Then, the turning point came. I tried to understand what was blocking me and I realized that, if I wanted to make the creative process less tiring, I had to roll up my sleeves: in this way, I gave myself a move and I compiled my own handbook to find ideas (which, by the way, looks like close to a handbook for learning to live well, because, in my opinion, one writes to the best of oneself only when one is really happy, so … wonder! With only one article you will have in hand a valid list to solve both problems) . It works, if not always at least often: following from time to time one of the points of the list, in moments of creative emptiness I managed to elaborate so many ideas that I struggle to write them all.
The secret is to learn to be free with method. Distracted but with a goal. Daydreamers, but at a certain point able to pull the strings of their thoughts and get to work. Because it would be nice to think that we have a whole life available, but we budding writers, if we want to go anywhere, we don’t have all this time. We cannot limit ourselves to dreaming: something we must also produce it, sooner or later.
I’m going to start with the list, don’t worry. But first of all, some premises are necessary: three essential rules.
Basic Rule n. 1: always carry a notebook with you. The most beautiful possible: black and without a design if you are rigorous, flowery and covered with doodles if you feel more eccentric. The important thing is that it is yours and yours alone, and that you always have it at hand. Prohibited to show it to mom, sister and aunt: on this note, you are free to write down all the ideas that could come to your mind. If you already know that mom will steal it to give you a sneak peek at your sketches of ideas, you can be sure that you will never feel free.
When an idea appears in your mind, scribble it off right away. If you give in to indolence and wait a minute too long, you risk losing it forever.
Basic Rule n. 2: you have to write every day. I don’t know how you are made (since I am a curious girl by nature, I would like to open a survey on this). If you are like me, you will tend to laziness: even if for just one day you do not turn on the PC, leave pen and notebook to soak in the bag, you sprawl on the sofa in front of the television and turn off your brain, you are fried. So, declare war on inertia and force yourself to come up with something every day, however ugly, sloppy, illegible it may be. As the appetite comes with eating, writing is written.
Basic Rule n. 3: once you start, don’t stop until you feel like you’ve written everything you had to say about the subject, be it a short story or an endless novel. I always keep several stories up and running at the same time: one day I work on one, the next one on another, depending on the inspiration. In this way, I always have a lot of material available to finish or rework when, in moments of exhaustion, the brain falls into a black hole and there is no way to get something out of it.
Well. Once the triad of Basic Rules has been stated, it is time for the decalogue.
So let’s start.
First suggestion (I know, I will surprise you): be sensual.
Focus on the effect of the breeze on your skin, when you walk by the sea in summer. If you enjoy a piece of chocolate (let it be known: not even the time to write the word and I got up to open the pantry. Good Pavlov was right), make sure you do it with due care, paying attention to every nuance of taste. Learn to distinguish one flower from another (roses, carnations, dahlias, tulips, hyacinths, and so on), one flavor from the other (bitter, sour, sweet, salty, etc.), the different shades of color (magenta, periwinkle, slate. Or blue stellar command. It exists, I swear it. And already it makes me want to write a story.
Why all this? First of all because you will be more relaxed and you will learn to enjoy life. And then because you will be a thousand times better off, when you want to write a story or a novel. Your writing will acquire precision and will be more suggestive. Not to mention, then, that you just need to sit at your desk, recall that beautiful walk in the high mountains, when you have stopped a step away from the cliff and you are enchanted to observe that breathtaking view, insert a couple of characters and you will be alright. You will have nothing else to do but to describe what you have heard / smelled / touched at a time when you felt really alive.
Read a lot. But just so much.
I hope there is some pious soul among you who loves to read. If so, I am happy and I feel less alone (although, sorry to tell you, we belong to an endangered species).
It might seem an obvious advice, for those who have the extravagant fixation of becoming a (good) writer, to read everything that has ever been published from the Stone Age onwards. Yet many try to turn into divers even before learning to swim; what can the result be, according to you? Simple: if by accident you do not break your neck in the impact with water, you struggle, you try to swim at the least worst, but certainly you do not flow away with an impeccable style. If you don’t read, writing will be much more difficult for you.
You have to become like the children who exchange figurines: enter the bookstore and say “hide it, hide it” every time you approach a shelf full of books. Above all, you don’t have to settle for a quick read (if you really can’t stand the suspense, and like me you get hives due to frustration every time you are forced to close a novel but die from the desire to continue, I authorize you to give a quick first reading to vent your knowledge anxiety, but then, I’m sorry, you’ll have to start from the beginning).
Pause, if not on every word, at least on every sentence. See within yourself what the author is writing. Ask yourself: “How would I have behaved, if I had been in the same situation as the character X? Would I have been braver? More cowardly? More instinctive? “. Appropriated yourself in some way of history: realize what are the twists and turns that made you tremble with enthusiasm, which descriptions seemed most appropriate to you. Then, transform the plot into something else, something new. Draw a different ending. Drop the protagonist into another environment, emphasize the features you liked best; with this procedure, in addition to having fun, you will train yourself to invent.
Believe me: careful reading will set in motion the gears of your brain. It will open doors within you that you didn’t even believe you had. It will look over panoramas you did not know.
In other words, it will stimulate you like no other activity in the world.