The secrets behind the practice of good writing: Shut up and Write

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, The secrets behind the practice of good writing, Tips for Writers

A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with another writer, who said he found it odd that some would-be writers talked indiscriminately about their writing. “Funny,” he said, “because it’s the last thing I want to talk about.”

I agree, and it’s something I feel strongly about. Don’t tell all and sundry about your idea. It’s not that I think they’ll pinch it. It’s that your idea will be defused if you talk about it too much. My first book lived in my head for a couple of years before I gathered the courage to start writing it. It probably wasn’t a bad thing.

It brewed and percolated until it bubbled over when I lay in bed at night. I had to crawl to the bathroom, crouch on the floor and scribble notes on whatever was at hand to avoid losing its detail.

But one thing I never did was tell it to people. Firstly, the most brilliant idea can sound remarkably fatuous if you try to explain it to someone, particularly if that person doesn’t care either way and is impatient to discuss their love affair / marital problems / new kitchen.

And secondly, the more you tell it, the more it loses its power. If it sits in your head, it gains strength. It builds and grows in drama as you become desperate to release it. If you’re always describing it, you grow used to it and you will write it with less dramatic tension as a result.

So, as a friend of mine said when I mentioned (enigmatically) that I had a story to write … shut up and write the bloody thing.

***

My 2016 blogs will continue to try to uncover the secrets behind the practice of good writing.

Please join the discussion and if you have discovered something that has made a great difference to some aspect of your writing, please send it to me. I’ll share it on the blog and we can discuss it.

Each blog will deal with a secret that may have occurred to me through reading or mentoring other people’s work. Or they may  be lessons hard learnt through five of my own books. Many will be applicable to fiction and non-fiction, while some might refer to one or the other.  When you tackle a piece of writing, you always have a vision of the perfect work it will be. As you write, you become increasingly aware of how it falls short of the perfection you wish for it. Writing (and rewriting) is the process of trying to bring it as close as you possibly can to that vision. Here, I will try to share those little gems which should bring all our writing one step closer to the perfect piece of writing – one blog at a time. Some might tackle the process of writing or how to keep writing, while some will look at language, characterisation or story. Some might be more general, while others will be very specific. But each will be a piece of advice that I believe in and that I hope will help make us all into better writers.

Jo-Anne Richards
Jo-Anne Richards is an internationally published novelist with a PhD in Creative Writing from Wits University. Her first novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken, was originally published by Headline Review in the UK, and has recently been rereleased as one of the prestigious Picador Africa Classics collection. She ran the Honours programme in Journalism & Media Studies at Wits University for fifteen years.
Recommended Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text.