Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Lessons from The Green Mile

How much do you guys spend on pricey tomes called variations of how-to-write-a-killer-novel

I've flung a fair few quid in that direction over the years, with varying success. Worth my hard-earned was this:

And more recently, this - which I'm getting on with very well indeed:

(And there's another one - Jerome Stern's Making Shapely Fiction, which I blogged about here.)

But you can get far better advice in other places. Rather than seek out the latest handbook advertising an instant-novel:just-add-water-and-stir, I've taken to scouring introductions and forewords by generous writers who don't mind demystifying the process. 

Stephen King does this brilliantly, to my mind. Recently I picked up a new edition of The Green Mile because of its additional introduction and, wouldn't you know it - there was more in those four pages than I've seen in whole chapters of meandering guff from some less helpful creative writing tutors. 

Grab it, kids. 

Alternatively, clock my filleted version below - for me being the sharing type (my mum often makes reference to my 'nice nature' - awww) I thought I'd share the three that worked best for me.

My advice? Do them. All three, all the time.

1. Plan obsessively (at night). 

SK: "I go through cycles of insomnia...so I try to keep a story handy for those nights when sleep won't come. Each night I start over from the beginning, getting a little further before I drop off."

2. Dismantle, rebuild. Dismantle, rebuild. Abandon, return. Dismantle, rebuild.

SK: "It was a good idea, but the story wouldn't work for me. I tried it a hundred different ways... Then, about a year and a half later, the story recurred to me, only this time with a different slant."

3. Then, as soon as you possibly can, get going.

SK: "...I thought research might kill the fragile sense of wonder I'd found in my story - some part of me knew from the first that what I wanted was not reality but myth." 

It has the virtue of simplicity, I think you'll agree. So save your pennies, people, and rather than reading about learning by doing, just learn by doing. 

10,000 hours, a million words and all that stuff. Off we go!

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