If You Can Dodge a Wrench…
Don’t worry, I’m not going to throw anything. This, instead, is my belief that anybody who wants to write can learn how to do so. It might require some hard work and even some time spent in awkward or uncomfortable places though. And no, I’m not talking about the back seat of a Volkswagen.
People write for different reasons. Some of us think it’s a patch to money and fame (and boy are they wrong!). Others do it because they’re trying to change the world. Still others do it because they love doing it. There are as many reasons as there are writers, but what’s the most important is figuring out why you want to write. I recommend this to every person who wants to get into the business: take some time and write up a short essay on why you want to write. This can and should be a personal document, and by personal I mean something you write about yourself, for yourself. Start with that, you’d be amazed at the understanding you gain just from putting it down on paper.
The next part is all about the mechanics of writing. You have to learn how to write. Not the secrets to technique or story flow, rather the ability to string words together into proper sentences. This can be taught in classes, by practicing, or by reading. It will probably be the worst part of the process, but it’s a necessary part and one that all writers are constantly doing.
Once you’ve learned the correct rules of grammar, the advanced class is in learning when to violate them. Don’t think you can skip step 1 to go to step 2 though. Blatant disregard for proper grammar on a repeat basis is also unacceptable. Think of a PG13 movie – they are allowed to drop the F-bomb twice in a movie like that. The trick is to find the scenes with the most impact and deliver it then and there. The same thing applies with breaking proper syntax structure.
Once you know how to write a sentence the trick becomes learning how to string those sentences together. This is called maintaining a proper flow through the manuscript. The best way to figure this out is once again through practice and through reading. Write something up then find a masochistic friend. Have them read what you wrote and listen to what they think of it. And by listen I mean bend over and grab your ankles – it’s going to hurt the first few times because you think you’ve written the best thing ever, when in fact it probably reads like a fingernail on a blackboard.
You’re ready for the big time now. You can write sentences and paragraphs, but what about scenes? These can be all or part of a chapter, what’s important is that they have a purpose and a tone. Every part of a story should advance that story in some way, whether it’s by exploring the character or actively promoting the plot. Figure out what you want your scene to be and move through it. Don’t be bothered if it changes before your very eyes – that’s typically how my stories work out. Some times I feel like I’m just taking dictation from the voices in my head.
String those scenes together, maintaining a proper flow and explaining to the read what’s taking place every time you switch scenes, and before you know it you’ll have a book. It may not be a good book, but it’s a starting point. From there you just have to keep doing it. Perseverance is the secret, not only in writing but in life.
I skipped over an important part, the book’s concept. I did that on purpose because there are probably as many ways of conceiving and writing a book as their are writers. My idea is as unique to me as every other writers is to them. I may share common themes, but ultimately each one is our own. I know I’ve got something really good when the character(s) take over the story and tell me what to write. It’s awkward, being used by fictional voices in my head, but it also gives me plausible deniability in case they ever find the red stiletto heel boots in my closet.
I’m kidding about the boots, by the way.
To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.