Saturday, August 18, 2007

How To Write

I’ve been thinking about writing. On July 28, I attended a writers’ workshop, Write Now, which is sponsored annually by our local Phoenix Sisters in Crime (SinC) chapter. I heard talks by several authors and others in the publishing and editing fields about what it takes to write a book. Every time I attend one of these writers’ workshops or conferences, I learn something and come away with good ideas, but the major thing they do for me these days is cause me to ponder the art of writing. Now that I do so much of it, and have done it for so long, I have ideas of my own.

At the Write Now conference, the speakers talked at length about dialog, atmosphere, and character development, all of which is extraordinarily important. You just about have to master the basics if you want to write. I hear editors complain continually about receiving manuscripts from people who can neither spell nor construct a sentence. And yet, you point out, Dear Reader, what about some of the really genius writers who wrote earth-shattering literature that played with grammar and language to a fare-thee-well? Shakespeare, for instance, who made up words with wild abandon, or James Joyce, who created a monument of English literature without resort to sentences, punctuation, or a capital letter?

I think of Picasso. He stood the art world on its head by deciding to paint in two dimensions. But he didn’t start out as a Cubist. If you look as his earlier work, you’ll see that he could draw a realistic 3-D picture with the best of them. James Joyce knew one end of a sentence from another, so well, in fact, that he could mold the words like clay and create a masterpiece.

Michaelangelo was asked once (and I paraphrase) "How did you create such a gorgeous piece as David?" He replied, "I just take a block of marble and chip away everything that doesn't look like David." That's a great secret of writing, too. Great writing is in the rewriting, I think. You just have to sit down everyday and get those words on the page, and then go back and edit, edit, edit. You chip away until you have a David, but first you have to have that block of marble.

I expound, Dear Reader, and grow boring. So I’ll atone by giving you an idea for a good book to read - present company excepted, as always. Stella Pope Duarte was one of my fellow speakers at Write Now, and we traded books. She gave me a copy of her Let Their Spirits Dance. I just finished reading it, and it was spectacular.

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