Thursday, August 13, 2009

He Wasn't A Math Guy

Every writer is always looking for the thing that will make them a good writer. We all want the thing to come to us in a moment of inspiration and then, with the triumphant ending of a story/myth/fairytale, write happily and brilliantly ever after. But, alas, real writer life isn’t so wonderfully simple. There is no one thing that will suddenly make us infallible writers, that will make writing easy and without the inevitable difficulties every writer faces in almost every manuscript.

I was reading Nathan Bransford’s blog, an agent whose blog is full of good information, and I saw in the archives an interview with SE Hinton, the ground-breaking YA writer and also adult writer, whose first novel, The Outsider, was published when she was in her teens. It sold something like eight million copies. Surely, writing is easy for her. Au contraire. In the interview she talks about all the different methods she’s tried.

“I think I've tried every writing process there is, trying to find an easy way to write a novel. If I do find it, I'll publish it and retire. Sometimes I revise as I go. Once I used an outline. One time I thought in terms of movies and wrote scenes out of order, as they occurred to me, and stitched them together later. I wrote That Was Then, This Is Now, two pages a day and did almost no revision. I originally wrote Rumble Fish as a short story, did the novel, and threw that one away because it was too easy, and wrote it again with Rusty James as the narrator, which was not easy at all. The Outsiders was forty pages long, single-spaced, typed, in its first draft. The third draft was the one Marilyn (her agent) saw. The only thing I am sure of in my "process" is that it involves a lot of staring out the window.”

There is no one thing that will make a person write well. There is no secret, no easy way, no hidden path that you take once and know ever after. Hard work. Dedication. Imagination. Sometimes inspiration. The slow and studied acquisition of skills. Luck. Determination. Perspiration. Faulkner’s recipe for writing success was “99% perspiration, 99% inspiration, and 99% determination.” Okay, so he wasn’t a math guy, but as a writer he usually got it right. Determination and perspiration are easily two-thirds of the battle.

Writing is a journey. Every time you begin a book is a journey; therefore, every book is different and presents different challenges. Like most journeys you’re bound to get lost in places. One of the great frustrations and also one of the great satisfactions of writing is that it’s different every time.


Anonymous said...

And while battling with all this perspiration etc, don't forget to breathe occasionally. :D

Brian Yansky said...

Absolutely. Breathing and bathing always good in such situations. I'll have to check out the movie Stardust. Read the book. Read most of Mr. Gaiman's books. I'm a big fan.