Tuesday, 19 February 2008


It can be easy to get overamitious with projects, and particularly with writing. I've been finding this out as I tried to put together an article for next month's estella's revenge. The theme was history, so as a historian, I thought that perhaps I should be writing this great article serving as a guide to the whole of historical writing. It simply wasn't realistic. As it is, I've put together a brief guide to my own little niche of medieval history, hopefully dressing it up enough to be entertaining as well as useful.

The message here seems to be about knowing when something isn't quite achievable. With my novel, I know that one early attempt had to be abandoned when I tried (understandably) to make it the best novel ever written. When I settled for producing a good piece of writing that readers would enjoy, it turned out rather better than I hoped.

So, what am I saying? I'm not trying to suggest that we should all give up on trying to produce good art, or that we shouldn't have ambition, far from it. Instead, I think the important message here is about the dangers of prejudging what something creative is going to be. If I had the inspiration to write a jig, I wouldn't try and make an opera out of it just because it was better 'art', so why should I do something similar with writing? The second point seems to be about the dangers of making writing stressful when it doesn't have to be. It shouldn't be a case of 'I HAVE to do this' but rather 'wouldn't it be great if I...'

I, like most writers, do this because I enjoy it. Biting off more than I can chew seems like a great way of forgetting that.


Lisa Guidarini said...

One very big hang up I personally had with writing a novel was linking scenes. I had this idea I had to sit down and write a novel in a linear fashion, everything linking neatly in the first draft, but a writing teacher clued me in. He said, "Don't write the boring parts."

Then it clicked. The reason those segue sections were so frustrating to me may have been that they were unnecessary. Seems so simple, yet it gave me profound help. Someone just needed to tell me it was okay not to link every single thing. I don't know how long I was hung up on that, but now I AM ALL POWERFUL!

In my own mind.

stu said...

I do tend to write fairly linearly, but that's mostly because I have a very strong plan for the thing before I start. While I'm piecing things together, I've mostly got a few big ideas, which I've worked out in details, and then I link them up afterwards. So far, it seems to be working.