Friday, 7 October 2016

Why do we write?

All writers spend long lonely hours writing. And we don't like being disturbed. We read what we wrote yesterday, edit it a bit, then soldier on with the next 1,000 words or so. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's hard work. Why do we do it?
I am often faced with this question when introduced to someone as a "writer". To many people, being a writer means a) someone who has written a literary masterpiece and b) someone who has written a bestseller which is about to be made into a film and c) someone who has made a lot of money out of a) and b).
Why would you want to spend all that time writing if you don't make money on it? someone asked me the other day. I found it quite hard to explain that writing is a compulsion, that I get enormous fun out of creating characters and worlds and putting it all on paper. It is definitely not about making money. It is about having fun. The day I find it a chore is the day I stop.
I picked up a book at the library the other day entitled "Why We Write".  It has contributions from 20 acclaimed authors - Jane Smiley, Isabel Allende, Jodi Piccoult, Armistead Maupin to name but a few -  on how and why they do what they do. Not surprisingly, their motivation is more or less the same as mine. They love writing.
There is an extract from the first page of one of the authors' novels and this is where that old rule of writing is so clearly demonstrated: in every case the opening paragraph made me want to read the book. I had not heard of one or two of these writers but I will most definitely be looking for their works.
And here's a tip, hoary though it is, to all of us writing our stories: hook the reader from the first paragraph, don't wait to get into the swing of the story. The Germans have an expression mit der Tuer ins Haus fallen which means literally falling into the house with the door. You can imagine it: you simply want to turn the knob on the door and instead both you and the door crash into the hallway.  And that is how we should write our novels. The reader must want to know what happens next.
A word of warning here for us all: there are some novels out there which start with a great hook and can't sustain the story beyond the first chapter.  So the plot has to stand up to sustained suspense and no great beginning lets us off giving our best to the writing of the story.
So now it is time to leave off writing my blog and put some of that dynamism into practice.

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