Great Rules of Writing


Writing (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do not put statements in the negative form.
And don’t start sentences with a conjunction.
If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a
great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
Unqualified superlatives are the worst of all.
De-accession euphemisms.
If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
Last, but not least, avoid cliches like the plague.

~William Safire, “Great Rules of Writing”


Where I’m writing from…

A Personal View of Creativity.


 What’s your take on creativity? Some people consider themselves ‘arty’, in effect born with it; many believe it can be taught.  Creativity, for me, evolves through divergent thinking; the sparking, at tangents, of new ideas.  I believe that creativity is starting with the germ of an idea, something I’ve seen, read or heard and thought ‘I can use this!’ and to watch the piece come alive as I’m writing it.  Often moving in an entirely unexpected direction, but fleshing its bones as it runs.

Much as I’d like to sit, pen poised waiting for inspiration to strike, I’ve discovered my reality is that I needed to approach writing as a ‘job’.  My days are intensely busy, but luckily, through trial and error, I have concluded that the time I ‘flow’ best is early evening, when I’m relaxed, and my ‘bread and butter hours’ are behind me.  A glass of wine and music are now an essential part of my preparation ritual.  Most importantly, because I’m  tired, I’m slightly detached and not so hung up on feasibility.  (Or do I mean reality?)  I can go with my ‘flow’, often losing myself entirely in my work.  Sometimes, when the work is going well, I am surprised the next day by the inventiveness of what I have written; it is difficult to explain coherently, but I refer to this procedure as ‘ghost writing’.

A slight draw back to working in the evenings, is that sleep can be difficult.  Having found the circumstances in which I write best, my mind is then crammed with ideas.  Like a jam jar full of squirming tadpoles, all clamouring for the attention necessary for their further development.  Unlike nature, I haven’t yet decided on how to ensure only the fittest survive!

During my working day, I have the opportunity to think about characters, investigate story lines, plot and more importantly reflect on what I’ve written on any piece so far.  This means that when I next have the opportunity to write I can look at my work afresh and with a critical eye.

We all meet people all day long and for me it’s the little things that people do and say that can be built on.  The few loving words clinging to the breeze after an elderly couple passes by.  The muted dissent between the lovers sitting uncomfortably close to you, in the pub.  The indecisive decision of a young couple prior to making an expensive purchase.  Is it the cost of the piece or the long term commitment to each other that the purchase may entail that makes them hesitate?  I have spent a lot of time working on trying to see things ‘outside the box’.  Probably every possible thing has already been written, but we can use the same themes and, using a different perspective and words, our work will still be fresh and original.

A few months ago, I overheard a customer remark to her friend, ‘I’d rather leave my husband than leave my house.’

I had just finished reading a biography by Madeline Masson on Christine Granville (George Medal, Croix de Guerre and OBE) The final words uttered by her lover, Dennis Muldowney, after he killed her in a jealous rage and was sentenced to hang, were ‘To kill is the final possession.’

Bearing the customer’s and Muldowney’s remarks in mind, the idea for a story took shape. I was intrigued that objects could mean more to my customer than people and then thought what if the house doesn’t hold you in the same esteem?  I started thinking of houses (to which people already attribute sentiments, for example ‘it’s a really friendly house.’) as having real feelings. What if a house wanted the current occupiers to leave?  Or not to?  I was fascinated by the idea that a house could love its occupant so much that it wouldn’t, at any cost, let her go. I imagined the house feeling that if it couldn’t have her, no other house would, echoing Muldownings last sentiment and loosely based its machinations on the behaviour of several males I’ve met in the past. It was the impetus I needed to start writing!

I have also realised that I need to pare my writing down, what I had previously regarded as necessary use of language now appears to be over indulgent. Possibly, I have been influenced by attempting poetry where I gain huge satisfaction in finding a single word that precisely conveys all I want to say. For me, writing poetry is an exploratory process of personal experience. Yeats wrote of Wilfred Owen that ‘strong feelings are no substitute for poetry’ however, one can argue that poetry only truly comes alive when there is an emotional connection, albeit pared down and controlled. Writing poetry, for me, requires painstaking honesty and the poetry I admire most gives me a ‘snap shot’, but also leaves me with questions. They lead me in and then enable me to look ‘behind’ the words, to ‘feel’ my way. This has taught me that often unnecessary clarification is merely a way of control and if a poem resonates and is technically competent, it works.

One thing I have realised. I need to write. Like everybody else I have a lot of false starts, but my own internal editor is improving and – perhaps sadly -I’ll never stop.

That’s pretty much where I’m writing from.

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