Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lightbulb moment


Had one of those illuminating moments while reading this article by Robert Harris on the Guardian website. (I don't spend all day reading that pesky website by the way. Honest.) Over the years he's been given advice that's really helped him, and I must say there were a few tips there that helped me see my WIP in a different way.

The first tip he was given is that you should always know how your novel is going to end. A novel "recounts something that has already happened; therefore you cannot just make it up as you go along." The advice helped him finish his first novel, Fatherland.

Sounds blummin' obvious when you think about it, but it really helped clarify something for me.

The second tip was that "the shape and style of a novel is determined by the thought you give it beforehand: that the way you approach your material is at least as important, maybe more important, than the material itself and that this process of settling on an angle of attack may take months, even years of frustration and false starts, during which many writers - and certainly most writers' families and friends - believe the author may be going slightly mad."

Well that certainly rings true. Especially the months and years bit. Oh, and the slightly mad part.

Thirdly, "you develop a tolerance for your own crudeness. And patience with your own crap. Belief in your crap, which is just 'stay with your crap and it will get better. Come back every day and keep going'."

Or, it might just stay crap...

Sound advice methinks. Although much better advice would be "stay away from the Guardian website Clarkey, and get on with it."

12 comments:

Pat Posner said...

Aah, that explains while I feel like I'm going - make that I've GONE - slightly mad.
I have no idea which of three possible endings I've thought of for my WIP is going to be the one.

HelenMH said...

Oh dear - so that's where I've been going wrong then. Sigh, I thought the whole point was to make it up as you went along.

liz fenwick said...

Good stuff! Thanks for the link!

Annie Bright said...

Thanks for the link, Karen. It backs-up why, after planning my latest novel, it seems to be working much better than all the half finished ones saved to my harddrive. x

Lane said...

Ah - an ending. That's where I'm going wrong. Will decide on one right now:-)

JJ said...

Ah, am chuckling at the last paragraph.

TOM FOOLERY said...

Clarkey, There be nothing wrong with crap it's the stuff that makes the world go around. Keep going m'dear your'e not a "flush in the pan" (God, what a crap joke :) Tommox

Debs said...

Great article, thanks.

I think I shall have to pay more attention to how my writing will end after all.

Anna said...

you make me chuckle...

an ending in sight is a good thing. better than killing everyone you created.

well, that I created. let's just be honest... :)))

Ernest de Cugnac said...

Can that ending thing be challenged? I can cite names ('cos I've forgotten) but I'm sure I've read that some authors don't know how the story will turn out. Having said that, I wouldn't make it a recommendation!

Yvonne said...

That is excellent advice! I've been writing and editing for a number of years now and I've learned the hard way to plan my writing beforehand. Sometimes it does veer off the path when I start writing but I always have to know how it ends, otherwise my writing isn't focused enough - everything that happens needs to be moving the story towards it's conclusion if you know what I mean. Thanks for posting that.

KAREN said...

patp - Well, I think it's good to keep your options open :o)

helenmh - Lol! You KNOW what I mean!

liz fenwick - I soak up tips like a sponge :o)

annie bright - I think it's good to HAVE a plan, even if it veers off from time to time!

lane - Looks to me like you're nearly there :o)

jj - I spend far too much time reading these sort of things!

anna - The ending still seems a long way off with mine :o(

ernest - I s'pose it's good to have a rough idea at least, but I've heard authors say the same thing...maybe they're making it up (see what I did there?)

yvonne - It does make complete sense, yet I've often thought of a great beginning and set off without giving much thought to where I'm going - and where I'm going is usually WRONG!!