Saturday, October 19, 2013

How to write

How to write
a guest post by Richard Welwyn

I am reminded of the wonderful 1960’s film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines where the pilot for the German team goes missing and the brass have to take over, despite having no skill in this particular direction.  With typical Teutonic thoroughness they find a book called How To Fly and the senior officer gets into the cockpit and reads – Number Vun.  Sit down.
What that implies is that, if you wish to be a writer, start with the obvious.  And that means, always have a pen nearby.  Or a pencil, or a mobile phone or a chisel and a rock.  Anything with which you can write, carve or indict ideas.  And the reason for that is very simple.  One simply never knows when you are going to be struck by an idea – and you do not record it at your peril.  Having a memory like Swiss cheese, I bitterly regret all the ideas which have struck me and I simply could not be bothered to write down.  Yes, I know there is a paradox there.  How do I know that I have forgotten things?  By definition, forget means, etc, etc, etc.
The way that I know I have definitely forgotten is that is that I have on occasions done the ‘right thing’ and made sure I had a notebook to hand and wrote down a squiggly note the moment a thought entered my mind (I was at the time in regular correspondence with a friend when I was in Arabia and so many thing were very new to me).  I would get back home, sit down at the computer and look at the scrawls I had created.  Inevitably, I would be struck by how much there was – and how many ideas had flitted fleetingly through my tired, battered and much abused brain – and I would not have been able to recall without the aide memoire.  I was then able to compose long, detailed and (I was reliably informed) entertaining emails.  This was the days of dial-up internet.  If you are too young to remember that, think of a crank-handle winding up an early car.  No, it’s not really like that, but the analogy is apposite. 
OK.  That took a long time to make one point, but it is an important one.  You never know when an idea is going to strike you.  Be prepared for it and record it.  Sadly, the story becomes a bit less clear from then on.  I suppose one can compare it to searching for diamonds.  Not every idea is a diamond.  Many of them are simply gravel.  Do not discard them though!  Gravel can be useful.  Have a drawer with all your ideas in them (I actually have a directory on my computer and I go back to them occasionally).  It is strange how often an idea will take on a different cast at a later date – and can be used in a different way, or ties in with a later idea.
Before I reveal the big one (literally, the million dollar question) let us quickly touch on some practical matters.  Of course you have to have structure to your writing – thesis statement, topic sentences, main idea, second idea, etc, transition words, and so on.  There are many places you can find out about structure.  It is a pretty straightforward issue and there are a number of rules.  They can all be summed up with three words, though, namely:- Don’t be boring.  Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter how you do it.  Break every rule in the book if needs be.  As long as people find you interesting.
We all know what it feels like to lose a wallet – that horrible empty feeling, the sense of loss.  Even worse is to lose what you have written.  Computers (wonderful as they are) can be fickle.  I write longhand before I type it up, so things tend not to be lost forever, but retyping pages and pages can be a pretty dismal pastime.  The way round it, though, is simple.  As soon as I get to the stage where I feel I really would not like to have to retype this, I email it to myself.  Now, whatever happens, it can be retrieved – from another computer if needs be.  And boy, has than saved my bacon on many an occasion!  A USB stick performs the same function.  Those of you with a more advanced knowledge of the internet will also appreciate the advantages of Dropbox.  An excellent invention.
And so we come limping to the end – and the promised million dollar question.  They are the two most important words in the writer’s arsenal.  Remember that our aim is to create an entertainment – it does not necessarily have to be true.  Life is full of wonderfully funny, interesting, sad, encouraging, disappointing events, all of which could be used in a story.  Sadly, real life rarely throws up genuine finished articles.  They need work.  They need to be twisted into shape so that they meet all the criteria (opening, development, dilemma, rising action, crisis, resolution) so one has got, as the lawyers would say, to apply one’s mind.  How do you do that so that something interesting comes out of it?  Simple.  Taraa (blast of trumpets).  You go beyond the original idea.  You simply ask yourself the golden words.  What if?  What if x, y or z happened?  My first novel was based purely on the premise of an amusing story I once heard about a deceased person’s ashes ending up in a vicar’s garage – on the day of the church fete.  All I did was to say, What if the ashes did go to the fete and were sold?
The answer can be found in the excellent book Angels and Tea by Richard Welwyn.  My wife was editing it recently and it was very rewarding to hear her chuckling as she went along.  If you would like to read more by Richard Welwyn, you could do worse that to start with To Be Decided – a book of short stories; some serious, some funny, some whimsical. 
So there you have it.  If you can meet the above requirements, you are sure to be able to write.  That is the easy bit.  The hard part is shifting your stuff – building up a readership.  But that is another story!

Richard Welwyn currently has one book available on Amazon, namely To Be Decided, a collection of short stories.  At the moment, his life seems to be dominated by the number four.  He has written four collections of short stories, four novels and after four days of being on Amazon he has sold four books!  Sadly, as yet, he has not earned a fortune!  

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