Friday, 17 August 2012

Born to Write?

So, as mentioned previously, I'm trying to see if there is a connection between long distance running and writing novels. Both are insane, when you think about them. However, both are very natural: we are made to run, we are equally made to tell stories. Kids know this, they love to run, will run even when you tell them not to. And they love stories. They love hearing them, and they love telling them. Give a kid a toy, and it is suddenly a brave knight on a quest to slay the wicked dragon.

Therefore, my logic works that a book about how to run naturally might have some tips for writing not found in more conventional places, such as books on writing. It seems as good a theory as any, particularly for the type of writing I'm doing: lots of long distances.

The following extract is from 'Born to Run' by Christopher McDougall (which completely coincidentally, I think, is the last name of one of my characters in the book I'm currently working on), from the section where the author is going for his first jog with 'The White Horse' (Caballo Blanco), a man that has been living in the wilds of Mexico and just running.

' “Lesson two” Caballo called. 'Think Easy, Light, Smooth, and Fast. You start with easy, because if that's all you get, that's not so bad. Then work on light. Make it effortless, like you don't give a *&^% how high the hill is or how far you've got to go. When you've practised that so long that you forget you're practising, you work on making it smoooooooth. You won't have to worry about the last one – you get those three, and you'll be fast.'”
(Swear word bleeped out by me, just in case I have any young and/or innocent readers.)

My theory is that the same can be applied to writing. A lot of people have this image that writing should be slow, torturous work. That the writer should agonise over the exact ordering of the words, or choosing the perfect metaphor. And my reply is 'yeah...nah....'. All that can be done in the second draft. It is too soul killing to do in the first. Even if it produces a good work, it will have caused so much pain, the next novel will be entered into with trepidation. But if writing a draft is seen like going for an afternoon jog, how bad can that be? Obviously only if you are sort of fit already, I remember a time when an afternoon jog sounded like freely lining up to have someone pour molten lead into my legs and give my lungs a good brushing over with sandpaper. This likeness of fitness to writing is suggested by Dorothea's exercises which recommend you should practice towards writing for longer and longer periods.

So, I think I have reasonably good general writing fitness. This has largely come from years and years of writing essays of growing length and strangely in reducing amounts of time (yeah, in first year, I was one of the people that would start writing their essays weeks before it was due, by third year of my first degree, I was doing all nighters to get them done start to finish). Given a general level of fitness, I am currently working on thinking of my writing sessions as: easy, light, smooth.

General update on my writing: the fortnight is almost up, I have just tomorrow, and I think that this might be the first draft that I do not finish in the allocated time. Sad, but I'm not going to let it get me down. I have learnt a lot of really useful things from doing this draft (first of a completely unknown book at the very beginning of a series), and have also taken some much needed time off.

I'm currently at just over 50,000 words. Story-wise... I'm not exactly sure where I am. I think I'm ¾ of the way through, but it depends on how the end actually plays out (because I don't know what it is yet). Therefore, I will write what I can tomorrow, though am meeting up with my writing group in the morning, which is fantastic as we only meet once a month and are still pretty new. At the end of the night, I will just plot out where I think the story will go and leave it. I have decided that if I do not finish a draft on time, I just move onto the next story all the same. If I get a chance, if I'm ahead and feeling inspired, I will go back and work on it and hopefully finish it off. If not, I'll see whether the idea catches someone's attention, and finish it off if demanded.

So, that's the plan. Easy, Light, Smooth – Finish and/or Move On. 

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