Studies: Writing

20Jan

You’re Not Mad?

This is a difficult one. You’ve lived life for some time and you’ve decided you know enough to write down your thoughts and become a writer. And what does your family say: ‘What? You must be mad.’ And guess what. You are.
Writing, you see, is a form of therapy; a way to extinguish your demons; to decimate fictional lives in order to make you feel good. Writing is egoistic, the writer the creator of his own worlds to be transformed or destroyed.
The writer will soon become a bit of a loner, skulking into that private piece of the house where others go at their peril. In the little hideaway, mind creations flow, and words refuse to express and you curse, and it sounds like you’re talking to yourself.
Communicating with the family will become tiresome. They think you’re just sat in the chair doing nothing, so they want to talk. But … you’re thinking! You’re plotting the next tale. You’ve descended to lonerdom, but you have a real world to live in.
How do you tell your family you’re not mad? How do you convince them that you are the same person you were before you began to write? How do you explain in words what you so easily put on paper? You can’t. Because you are.

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20Jan

Love the Word?

Aspiring writers are often kept at bay by the insistence on the perfection of the word. Of course good, inspired English is required, but the literati have got it wrong when they say the word is all important.
Maybe there were too many unemployed writers; maybe they put pressure on universities, etc, to bring out the dreaded academic writing course. But the reality is, somewhere along the way, the word became more important than the story.
The perfect prose style was the result. From stream of consciousness to gobbledegook, the only writers worth acclaim were those who buried the story beneath literary balderdash and piffle.
I repeat, good English is important, but not at the expense of the story. The beauty of the word should be restricted to poetry, allowing the novelist to do what they do best – write a story, with a beginning, middle and an end.
Of course, the literati will now be calling me a philistine, but hear this, ye purveyors of good words. The purpose of writing is, above all else, to communicate. Using perfect prose to impress a snobbish elite is not communication, but indulgence.

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20Jan

Tech v Literature

I’ve only been using a computer for a short time, but I’ve noticed something about my writing. In one way, I feel it has got worse. In another, I guess it has just changed. How can this be?
It reminds me of an argument I heard many years ago – can’t remember where, but it was a good one. Basically, the argument goes, the quicker the means of writing, the less eloquent your words become.
The most obvious reason why is that the faster you can write, the less time you have for thinking about what you’re writing. In the past, they had plenty of time, and had the space to think up beautiful words. Now, we can write faster than we can think, so words become more basic.
This is borne out by history. In Shakespeare we have pure poetry. By the 19th century, prose is beautiful, but at long last it IS prose. With the introduction of the typewriter, we see prose becoming more compact, with less descriptiveness. And with the computer, much description has disappeared completely.
Today’s prose tends to be functional, whereas in the past it was a true craft. Mindst you, I can’t say this is a bad thing – all too often prose was overwritten in the past. But I still ask, was my writing better before the computer? Or maybe you’ll decide it’s academic – I’m rubbish, anway.

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20Jan

How To Do Proper Research

Writing non-fiction, whether article, essay or book, can be a nightmare. This is principally because they contain facts; and believe me, there is no such thing as an absolute fact, no matter what Gradgrind said.
With every ‘fact’ there is an army of differing opinions. And if a particular opinion is held strongly, all other treatments of the fact will be rubbished. It is a situation you cannot win, so make sure you have broad shoulders. And it gets worse.
This will often become clear when your work is published. If you’ve made a major blunder, someone will tell you. If you haven’t, some smart arse will find something obscure to quibble with. Ignore him or he’ll drive you mad.
Sometimes, though, he will prove what a fool you are. This is usually due to a ‘fact’ you have used because you know absolutely that it is right. Indeed, so sure are you that you didn’t even bother to look it up. This is a big mistake. We’re all delusional at times.
When deciding what a ‘fact’ is, the best place to begin is with the two most opposite views. From there, go to sources taking you ever closer to the centre. You still won’t please everyone, but at least you can convince yourself you’ve covered the subject.
This said, sometimes you can research too deeply. Spending hours on dozens of books and websites for an article is ridiculous. Similarly, it is too few for a book. If you know the subject well, you can form a balance. If you don’t, welcome to hell.
In the final analysis, if you want to write non-fiction you have to have discipline above the mere story writer, for the critics are even more severe if they think themselves an expert on the subject. Believe me, that’s a fact – or maybe not.

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20Jan

Writer’s Block

Writers’ block. I’ve heard of that. It’s some strange affliction where a writer suddenly finds he has no ideas and no ability to write. It can, it seems, be quite apocalyptic. Hemingway blew his brains out when it afflicted him. Or so some say.
Personally, I’ve never had it. Yes, there are days when I don’t feel like writing. There are even days when I can’t think of a thing to write. In the former, I give myself a kick; in the latter, I take out my copious notes and get over it.
Maybe that’s the secret to writer’s block – plenty of note writing every time you get an idea, and simple willpower to say, ‘I am a writer; that’s what I do.’ And then get on with it.
Of course, if this is so, then we can argue that writer’s block is no such thing. It is simply the mood you’ve gotten yourself into. It is a reaction and a rebellion against who you are. Either that, or you’re not a real writer – at least, not a writer with passion.
You see, writing is so much a part of my life that my life wouldn’t be whole without it. It is my way of coping with life and understanding that life, and all the little bits that go with it.
With such an attitude writer’s block cannot enter the writer’s world. So if you seem to be suffering writer’s block, then you’re not passionately a writer, or you’re just being self-indulgent. And you could end up like Hemingway. A quitter.

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20Jan

Write What You Know

Write what you know. That’s what we’re told. If we don’t know about it, how can we write about it? Actually, quite easily. Life is full of experience, and we have a mind to relate those experiences into many areas of our lives.
Vital to this mental process is common sense. This is a faculty of mind we can all rely upon. It’s like a little piece of intelligence up there in the brain, constantly telling us how to relate to this or deal with that. It is one of the writer’s best friends.
No matter what the subject, we are bound to have experience of it. And from that glimmer of understanding, thoughts can so easily come, ready to be noted and finally written down. But of course, there will be breaks in your knowledge of this subject you don’t know about. That’s where research comes in.
Contrary to belief, in many areas of writing, research is not the central tool of the craft. Experience is. Research is the thing you do to fill in the blanks and allow the final piece to be co-ordinated and whole.
Write what you know. What a load of rubbish. It is the one piece of advice that stops many writers reaching their full potential. Yes, the finished piece may be rubbish, but it’s up to publishers and readers to decide that. Not you.
Write what you know. Never has such a terrible piece of advice been given. Writing what you DON’T know may be the secret to unlocking the area of writing you’re best at. So ignore the advice. It is only used to keep you out of other writer’s genres.

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20Jan

Let Me Give You Some Advice

Oh dear, don’t you just love them. You tell them you’re a writer and they’re only too eager to offer advice. You can decide they don’t know what they’re talking about, but sometimes they are writers themselves. You’ve got to listen, haven’t you?
No – not necessarily. Writing is different for everyone. Some do it one way, some another. There are many styles, many habits, many reasons for writing in the first place. Just because someone is a writer, it does not make them an expert for you.
Yes, it goes without saying that some writers can offer invaluable advice. Take me, for instance. Or maybe not. But some are simply bores, and you can get very confused indeed if you don’t know how to balance what makes sense and what does not.
The dreaded situation, though, is the writer who decides you have merit and takes it upon himself to nurture you. This is the worst offender, for this type of writer is usually a dysfunctional loner who doesn’t know much about it. Except me, of course.

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20Jan

The Best In the World

They say that writers have big egos. In one sense this is quite true. But I suppose you have to be arrogant in order to separate yourself from the masses. After all, if you think you’re just ordinary, then you may as well sell the computer and take up stamp collecting.
That’s why I consider myself the best writer in the world. Yes, I know, this appears to be arrogance above the norm. But hold on a minute. If you don’t aim for the top, you’ll never get half way.
Ego, you see, is not what it appears to be. Indeed, I have a mantra when it comes to psychology – show me a confident man and I’ll out the wreck. For it seems to me that confidence is so often a façade to hide inner insecurities.
Hence, when I say ‘I’m the best in the world,’ it is really an aspiration based on a psychological need to succeed. And that, good reader, is the opposite of true arrogance.
Unless, of course, I am.

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20Jan

History of Detective Fiction

The detective story began with the creation of Poe’s Dupin in a trilogy of stories in the 1840s. Revolving around the solving of a puzzling crime, such fiction soon found favour with the reader. Dupin was a lonely, rational figure, a theme soon to be taken up by Conan Doyle in his Sherlock Holmes, from 1887.
Variations of the personality of the detective came with Chesterton’s Father Brown, still analytical, but an amiable priest. By this time, the main ingredients of the detective story were firmly in place. First of all you have a crime to grip the reader. But there is much more, for the personality of the detective must also feature large to be successful. As to that personality, the best detectives are those who reflect the times. Holmes and Father Brown may be different characters but they share an understanding of late Victorian eccentricity.
This point is clear with the arrival of American detective fiction. Typical is Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, a wise-cracking, tough, but lonely man who seems to stumble through events to a solution. He perfectly symbolised the chaotic, almost paranoid American mind-set of the 1940s.
By this point, the detective story has moved from the short story to the novel, best seen in Christie. Her central characters, Poirot and Miss Marple, are again different, but similarly analytical and eccentric. Again we find success through apeing the times. Christie offers her crimes in a seemingly perfect middleclass, genteel world. It is the shock of the undercurrents of crime in this idealic setting that capture the imagination.
The detective story has advanced by this time away from merely solving a puzzle. Now, the Whodunnit has been created, the principal angle being the misdirection of the reader. This detective form survives to this day, constantly challenging the reader to solve it before the detective does.
The detective himself remains stereotypical. Dexter’s Morse is a flashback to Holmes, but he only works in a definte Oxford, reflecting back to him values that appear ancient. Variations come in Hill’s Dalziel and Pascoe, one a modern cop, the other a dinosaur, bouncing personalities off each other. Whilst in Wingfield’s Frost, we have a fool who, nonetheless, stumbles to a conclusion, similar to the earlier American model.
This invasion of the American again shows detective fiction reflecting the times back to us. Rankin’s Rebus could walk the streets of New York. And as society changes, detective fiction also moves on. Today, successful detectives must be TV friendly, and are just as likely to be a psychologist or pathologist. The best detectives may no longer be policemen, but the tradition marches on.

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I, CRIME WRITER
by Anthony North
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Flash Fiction in crime genre
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20Jan

Every Psycho Should Write

I sit down to write, and so often I think, who shall I kill today? Who has really angered me – who deserves to die. Of course, I’m not thinking of real people, but characters I’ve devised. But isn’t there something of the real in all fiction?
Don’t worry, I’m not a psycho. I’m quite an easy going fellow – not so quiet that I build up and explode, but quiet enough. Rarely does a violent feeling rise inside me – except, so often, when I write.
I used to be short tempered, but that all seemed to change when I began to write. It was as if any aggression was channeled into the craft. And it seems to be a general rule. Writers, artists, musicians rarely kill, it seems. Yes, they can be erratic, but Caravaggio aside, I cannot think of one famous murdering creative type.
Writing, I think, should become a therapy all its own. It curbs your aggressions, and is perfect therapy for the mind. Now, how do I feel? A short story I think. All those characters. Do I feel God-like? I’ll kill them all.

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I, CRIME WRITER
by Anthony North
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Flash Fiction in crime genre
Download FREE to most apps & devices
If you like, tell your friends

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