Thursday, 19 November 2009


Many works are unclear as to the belief of the...Image via Wikipedia

I'm going to start blogging more about writing. I'm sorry about that for some of you, to whom it will possibly be irrelevant bibble, but I guess this blog was always about what interested and amused me and I've actually been missing out on quite a large chunk of what I'm made up of by not doing more about the old nasty book habit.

The hardest thing I find about writing fiction is not the plotlines or characterisation or any of the other technical gumpf that goes into it. And it's not the 100,000 words or so that some people seem to find a challenge. I always reckon if you're counting words, you're missing the point, like the many people I see talking about NaNoWriMo* getting all breathless with comments like "Up to 12,000 words now! If only I could crack off another 2,000 today!"

Believe me, I know how easy it is to churn out words and then find that all you've done is filled pages with words. Filling pages with words is a doddle. The trick is which words.

The hardest thing for me about writing books is getting my head back into reality. There I am in a South London cemetery, the smell of wet leaf-mould in my nostrils and the wet grass soaking the legs of my trousers and someone pops up and wants to talk about the price of cabbages or the weather. Or I'm in a dingy hotel room with a prostitute and someone is beeping me to move over for them.

It's not just a problem that happens when 're typing, either, the whole barrier that separates fantasy and reality gets thinner as you spend more and more of your waking time living the odd lives of your characters, poring over their situations and experiencing the smells, sights and sounds that surround them.

I suppose you'd have to own to the possibility that you might not come back one day. But being dragged back to reality when you're writing, even in your head, is always like being woken in the middle of great dream.

And by the way, no, truth is stranger than fiction... It's always a bump to come back.

* November is Novel Writing Month. The idea is to write a book, if you were ever going to do it, now being the time to do it. I recommend writing books as a leisure activity. It improves the digestion.
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Mita said...

It happens when you're reading too. Sometimes you don't want to come back. Good luck with your writing. I'm an occasional writer (if you count blogging) but a better editor or proof reader.

Looking forward to your books.

Keefieboy said...

I know whereof you speak Alexander: being 'in the zone' with your characters is such an intense experience, and can be quite draining. Quite a buzz, though!

Phillipa said...

I had the same thought last night regarding word count. As I closed my eyes on the day I wondered about how many words I'd written. Then I thought, who cares, and rolled over. Because it, as you point out, is not about volume. I'll have written maybe 250k by the time this book is finished and of those only around 85 will be published. I need to write those extraneous words to see if they work or not, or shed some light on or help me understand my characters better. When it's all working, you just know, you don't need to count the rpm's.

Chris said...

Yes, I know what you mean about the number of words being put in perspective. However, I guess you do need some. I once had an idea about publishing a book with a title but no other words, and inviting the reader to add their own.

I didn't, because anyone I mentioned it to said I was barmy!

So I wonder where the balance lies between no words and 250,000 words - it probably does matter a bit.

Chris Warren
Author and Freelance Writer
Randolph's Challenge Book One - The Pendulum Swings (140,000 words - who said that!!??)

Richard Meyer said...

Good writing is the most important but realistically, without the word count, no publisher will look at you.

Ghost Writer said...

I'm writing a book :D Based on Dubai actually...let me know what u think! x

Phillipa said...

I don't advocate no word count. Every few days I check mine because you do need to keep an eye on your main mss and, for my genre, bring the story in by 85k, but I don't compulsively check at the end of each day and measure my success by the word count. I think it's a bit like cooking, after awhile you get a feel for length and structure, as you do for making a cake or whatever. The more you do it the more you rely on instinct and experience.

Anne Lyken-Garner said...

I've read your writing, A. I know how far you get into that created world of yours.

I see it like you do. If I feel forced to produce words, this is the very thing that may get in the way of my writing.

I suppose some people do need the push. If they *have* to write a 1,000 words, they'll do it.

KJ said...

Thankfully, Alex, I have crossed to the other side and just kept a shoe lace in the real world. It positively sucks often when I am confronted and constantly dragged for a brief moment of time to the real world, though.

Indeed, our brains live a better life than our bodies do. Ironically, things written a century ago, like Huxley's Brave New World, created today's reality.

Perhaps our writing can create the future?

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