|this is uncannily tim & me in our glasgow flat|
Write It. Shoot It. Publish It. Crochet It. Saute It. Whatever. Make.
It's no secret that I am a fan of Joss Whedon's work. I've seen a lot of "Buffy," some of "Dollhouse," I love the prematurely truncated show "Firefly" and its summation movie "Serenity;" "The Avengers" was an amazing film, and then the casual, homely, but sparkling production of "Much Ado About Nothing" is on par with the Kenneth Branagh film. He has a knack for telling a story with a fresh perspective, a jarring but pleasant spin - as a storyteller myself, I really appreciate his way of breaking outside the box.
The following is a list of writing tips attributed to Whedon. I've been mulling them over for a while, and thought I might share.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but I think we have all experienced that moment when the first love of the story seems to have died, when it is slugging and not blitzing. It's that moment when you discover whether you are toying with writing, or if you are really a writer. It's that moment when you discover how much grit you have in you, how much patience - and sometimes you don't have enough, but rather than despair, you carve out the grit and the patience as you go. Because you have to keep going. You'll need breaks, and research: no one is asking you to slog through non-stop, because that's stupid. You're going to have fresh ideas for new stories, and you're going to want to hurl yourself into that fresh meat, and no one will blame you, but you can't give up on your novel. Mirriam has two (what seem to me to be) amazing new stories blossoming in her brain-pan, but she has promised herself that she won't seriously dedicate her time to them until she has finished her work in progress. I've had to put Gingerune aside for the time being, but I haven't given up on it. I'll finish it. No matter what, the bottom line is finish it.1. finish it
As much as possible, have an extensive scope for your idea with which to work. When the going gets tough and the flame begins to die, you'll need a backup fuel supply to get through those times. It doesn't matter if you outline everything, or write as things come to you, think seriously about the scope of your story. Have scenes in mind off in the future. And if you can - this is very important - if at all possible, try, try, TRY to get your ending set up. You may not be able to do this right off the bat; that would be very difficult to do before you have discovered your characters and built their lives - but keep that idea revolving in your brain. The tires will catch on something eventually and you'll be off like a shot!2. structure
Also (and thanks to Rachel for bringing this back to my mind) it really helps to have a familiar place to work. She just moved her writing place and mentioned to me in a letter that she is having a lot of trouble writing since the move happened. She's not used to her new place yet. Her brain doesn't associate this new space with comfort and creativity. For some people, this is not nearly as big of an issue; for others, creatures of habit like myself, familiar, structured space is paramount.
I don't mean everyone has to have an agenda. Everyone always has an agenda and there is really no point in beating that horse any deader than it already is. But make sure you care about what you are write, make sure it is true (or, alternately, not true), make it matter - make the reader care. In conversation, it is good manners to not speak until you have something of import to say: the same goes for writing. It doesn't have to original or groundbreaking. Just have something to say.3. have something to say
Everyone has a life. Everyone is a me looking out at the world with a backstory, with a worldview, with a purpose. Don't write a superhero action scene in which the entire city is destroyed and countless lives are lost and we call it a win. They're not numbers, they're people. They matter. Human life, even fictional human life, is precious.4. everyone has a right to live
Reading back over a section of Plenilune the other day, I came across a piece that I had forgotten to edit. I'm going to have to take it out, and there were a few lines in the section that I really liked. But you know what, no one else is going to know that piece was ever there once I take it out, and if I leave it in, it will ultimately drag the story down. I'll use those pretty little lines somewhere else, no doubt. But the rest has to go. I love it, but it has to go. For the sake of the story, always do what is best.5. cut what you love
Personally, I don't mean this in merely a people-watching sense: I mean it on a deeper level than that. Listen to the way things work. Listen to the way people work. Listen to the way their hearts cry out - in agony and ecstasy. Listen to the sound behind sounds. It is like perfume: a burst of scent builds a sensation, often an image of places or colours, channelled through a wash of emotion. Listen for that sound which you hear in your head when you hear things in your ears. And then write that.6. listen
When people are reading a book that you have also read, pay attention to how they react to the way the plot unfolds. Pay attention to your own reactions. There is a kind of circadian rhythm to a good plot, a flow which the human mind finds pleasant to follow, even if it involves a thorough wrenching of emotions. While readers are your playthings, and their hearts are toys with which you can make light, you are at the mercy of their desires, and they will kick back at you if you make the ride unpleasantly rocky. Pay attention to what people like in a story.7. track audience mood
At first I thought this had to do with dialogue, but now I don't think so at all. Dialogue will always be subject to the characters, to the time, and to the setting. A good writer will be very fluid with the type of dialogue he uses. Writing like a movie implies a vividness of impression. Reading a book is a very visual experience, and a movie is one of the most visual mediums of creative communication that we have today. The two can mesh very well. This is one thing I like so much about anime: the people who draw it and put it together literally see things from different angles and perspectives than we here in the West do, and it gives me a fresh way of twisting my writing away from the expected into the unexpected. Problem: I need to say in the text that my character gets to his feet, but that's boring, the kind of text people skim over and don't care about. Simple solution:8. write like a movie
His reflection in the enormous hazel eye gathered itself together and got to its feet.
"I stare at a word and think, 'Why can't you sound like Jenny?' And then I think 'Dash Jenny.' But in a very loving kind of way." She nodded gently upon me from a height of Hibernian gold, as if to will the words to fall as soft and snow-like as possible. I gave back a guttural whicker of amusement and sympathy, silently calculating how to wrap her round my little finger to get back at her for her advantage of height over me. "You may dash me, that's all right.," I demurred. I kinked one hand up at the wrist and gazed with cool criticism on my nails. "I've dashed many other contemporary scribblers when I have that looking-in-the-mirror-of-writing-and-never-feeling-beautiful happenstance." I threw a daring look up at her from under my brows, something masculine staring out of my own eyes: her scarlet lips flashed in defiant amusement. There. I had won.9. don't listen
You're going to hate yourself. You're going to want to be someone else. Someone is going to tell you that you're not doing it right (they are often correct) and they're going to tell you how it's done (they are often wrong). The trick is to remember that, while many people are alike, there is only one you: only you know your creative genius, only you can do your creativity just your way. Don't listen to the others. Don't listen to that absurd negative voice that I fight with (and lose against) every single day. Just don't.
Simon: Captain, why did you come back for us?
Malcolm: You're on my crew.
Simon: Yeah, but...you don't even like me. Why'd you come back?
Malcolm: You're on my crew. Why we still talkin' about this?
You have to work for your dreams, and sometimes it's really not fun. You have to watch the market swing wildly away from your interests, from your genre, from your style, from everything that fires you as a writer. You have to face the fear of never being liked as an author. You have two choices: write what the masses want and cheat yourself of the joy of your own creative spirit, or run the risk of never being popular and of coming to the end of your life having stayed true to your self. And no one ever thought highly of a man who pandered to the crowd. So don't sell out. For your sake. Don't sell out.10. don't sell out
an essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail