“Show up, show up, show up,” Isabel Allende advised, “and after a while the muse shows up, too.” “Inspiration is for amateurs,” Chuck Close famously proclaimed, “the rest of us just show up and get to work.” “When you work regularly,” Gretchen Rubin asserted, “inspiration strikes regularly.”But as prescriptive as we may get about the pursuit and attainment of inspiration, its very nature remains ever-elusive.
That’s precisely what Vladimir Nabokov addresses in an essay titled “Inspiration,” a fine addition to famous writers’ collected wisdom on writing, originally published in the Saturday Review on November 20, 1972, and found in Strong Opinions (public library) — the same fantastic volume that gave us the author’s rare BBC interview on literature and life.
In a nutshell: "Don’t make stuff because you want to make money — it will never make you enough money. And don’t make stuff because you want to get famous — because you will never feel famous enough. Make gifts for people — and work hard on making those gifts in the hope that those people will notice and like the gifts." -- John Green
Recently I attended a workshop called “American Author” inspired by American Idol. People anonymously submitted the first pages of their novels, which were read aloud to a panel of editors and agents. The panel then provided their immediate, brutally honest feedback for all to hear.
Given my past post on how to write the perfect first page, I thought it was important to add to it by sharing what I learned from hearing the perspective of people who have read hundreds, if not thousands, of first pages.
A character in a fantasy novel goes through some magical portal into another world, where he learns he is the deliverer foretold to save this hidden kingdom. He’s your average guy and knows nothing about this world. Without hesitation, he not only accepts the truth of this prophecy/claim/appointment (fill in the blank), he immediately is willing to risk everything to assume the mantle of authority and responsibility.
But why the heck does he do that? I don’t know, and neither does the writer. Will the reader really believe someone, anyone, would do that? No. Sorry.
"Both Pantsing and Plotting, by definition, bypass the key element around which a story is built. Readers don’t come to story for what happens on the surface (think: the plot), they come to get insight into what goes on beneath the surface."
This piece is steeped in significance. I've been itching to put pen to paper on a new project but I now realize I can save quite a lot of time and pain in revision by taking a step back. Highly recommended!
If you like to plan your stories ahead, you’ve almost certainly sketched out your plot. But have you planned your character arcs? Every story needs a character arc for its protagonist, even if it’s simple or subtly conveyed. And while supporting characters don’t always need an arc, stories are better off when they’re included.
Luckily, characters arcs work very much like any other plot strand you might be working on. The difference is that they focus on inner events rather than external ones, which can make them harder to wrap your head around. If you have a character that needs an arc and you’re not sure how to add one, these steps will get you started.
Most of us think of supporting characters in terms of the role they need to play. This article suggests you step back and think of the constellation of characters as a whole, then as individuals. A worthwhile read!
In 1979, William S Burroughs delivered a series of lectures on creative writing (though he insisted that he was teaching creative reading -- that is, analyzing the writing process by reading, because everyone can be taught to read, but only some will be able to write) at Naropa University.
Lecture 1 covers William S. Burroughs' take on Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim and Heart of Darkness, F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and A Short Trip Home, and Stephen King's The Shining. Burroughs also discusses exercises for increasing awareness, books as mental film, codes of conduct, heroes, and the film of Burroughs's novel Naked Lunch.
In lecture 2, Burroughs addresses subjects such as art heroes, hemispheres of the brain, and the training of assasins.
William S. Burroughs' third lecture on creative reading mentions a wide variety of authors including Aleister Crowley, Paul Bowles, and many others. The class also discusses science fiction, non-fiction, general semantics, scriptwriting, cloning, rotten ectoplasm, and judgement in cut-ups, as well as Burroughs's novel The Soft Machine.
If you take a business orientated view of the publishing and marketing side of things, you’ll find your chances to sell and make an impact will be greater.
In today's world of publishing, if you're an author, you're an entrepreneur. This article by @NinaAmir tells you how to be a steely eyed winner in a competitive field. Pragmatism and project management are key, so those "in my other life" skills can prove valuable.
In one of my favorite Stephen King interviews, for The Atlantic, he talks at length about the vital importance of a good opening line. “There are all sorts of theories,” he says, “it’s a tricky thing.” “But there’s one thing” he’s sure about: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story.
If you don't own "On Writing," you should. This piece contains some juicy tidbits.