Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to Write

My sister who is a published novelist left this tidbit on her most recent book's facebook page.

"Use your imagination. Trust me, your lives are not interesting. Don't write them down." - W. P. Kinsella (Author of “Shoeless Joe” – adapted into the movie “Field of Dreams”)


Image: Media Canada

Personally, I had more or less subscribed to the "Write what you know" dictum, which has been variously ascribed to Mark Twain, William Faulkner, James Thurber, and Anonymous who predated them all.

Image: biography.com

Well, perhaps this explains why my sister is a published author and I am an unknown scribbler in flyover country.

Compulsion.

11 comments:

Jim said...

I've never agreed that our lives aren't that interesting.

Certainly, what we had for dinner tonight and other triviata that make up most Facebook postings (that aren't shares of whatever George Takei most recently posted) aren't all that interesting.

But you've told stories from your life, and I mine, that have gripped the audience. The small audience, to be sure, but an audience nevertheless.

Having worked (briefly) in publishing 20 years ago, I recall that the difference between the published authors and the non-published authors was whether whatever the author wrote could deliver a big enough audience to sell through the entire first print run, which started at 10,000 copies. The publisher cared not a whit what lay between the covers if the book would sell through.

Vee said...

The key is that writing needs to capture the interest of readers. Many who use their own experiences are poor writers. What they write interests - well - them.

Love reading Twain. His writings capture the imagination. (As do yours.)

vanilla said...

Jim, Kinsella is wrong, at least in part, for even with a vivid imagination, all stories worth telling come from someone's life. As I am fond of saying, There is truth in fact; and there is truth in fiction. I can understand the publishers' lack of interest in content, so long as the bottom line is well in the black.

Vee, true, the successful writer tells stories that interest an audience greater than one. Guess what I had for lunch? Oh, never mind.

Sharkbytes said...

It's also said that good writing consists of knowing what to leave out. That is why I don't like most trail journals. They should leave a lot of the junk out.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, that is so very true. Wish I could master it. I often go over drafts numerous times over several days, almost always deleting something. Still leave in too much, I fear. Was it Twain who said, "When tempted to put in 'very' put in 'damn' instead. The editor will omit it, and your copy will be right."?

Lin said...

I dunno..I think some people have interesting lives....

I'm not sure we should all write books about our lives, but I like blogging because I like to read little bits and pieces of what others are doing...but then if I'm tired or I don't feel like reading, I can just go look at a photo of their cat. :)

It all depends on what you are writing, I think. A book is much different than a short story or a blog post.

vanilla said...

Lin, I think that those who find their own lives interesting find that other people are interesting. To him whose life is dull or unsatisfactory, no one leads an interesting life. Or so I think...
I said that. Write too much. And of course you are right. Different styles and different subjects for differing milieus.

Da Poppins said...

You know when you see a sign that reads, "Secret of Life HERE...!" That is kinda how I felt when I saw your post tittle, and then I wanted to slap someone. Okay, that's an exaggeration. Also, an example of how I keep it real and use my imagination at the same time. Because honestly, I wouldn't slap you, or anyone really, and it sounds rather ridiculous to say it, but I said it ..and that caught your attention, didn't it?

vanilla said...

Da Poppins, what really caught my attention was seeing your name in my comment box! I used to read your blog faithfully, but lost out somewhere along the line. Just visited your site and see that you are still there, though infrequently. "God wants Me, (and you too)"is a timely reminder for me that God is greater than any circumstances. Got you bookmarked.
Oh, and sorry about the carnival shilling that drew you here today. *grin*

Grace said...

"To him whose life is dull or unsatisfactory, no one leads an interesting life. " I disagree. I live a dull uninteresting life and take great pleasure in reading about other folks far more interesting lives. It's why I read blogs - snippets of life from "ordinary" people who are doing stuff I never would, or could, or sometimes would even want to. But I love that they do. Vicarious pleasures and excitement.

vanilla said...

Grace, here is my disagreement back to you. You do not live a dull and uninteresting life. Your life is interesting, in part at least, precisely because you take an interest in others. And yeah, I participate vicariously in the exploits of others. Not a bad thing.