It’s been a long standing ambition of mine to write a novel, or a story of some kind, put it in a book and have it published. I actually started writing a book in 2010 or 2011. After a few hundred words were written I began to wonder what it was I was really doing.
Many questions came up. Was it an autobiography? I decided it would be best to start with that, as actual events would be easier to describe than to make them up. If it was an autobiography then what format was I going to use? Was I going to fictionalize it? Or just hand it out, plain and simple? How was I going to deal with unpleasant events, facts? How would I deal with family members, friends and and possibilities of upsetting them? Who would read an account of a decidedly mundane life? I toyed with Titles for it. The Diary Of A Boring Man was one of the titles, I came up with. Finally, I decided to give it a working title of “One Bluish Egg”.
That early experience convinced me of one thing. I did not know HOW to write.
Meanwhile, I had a couple of desultory blogs. There was this other idea that I would write a few essays and be hired promptly by some well-known magazine to write a regular column. Yes, we all dream, don’t we. And I’m a compulsive dreamer. A few essays in, I realized, I still didn’t know how to write at all, let alone write a column. I just didn’t have a method, a style, a voice.
I then took to reading. After the merger of all those desultory blogs in to this one, I started off by reading other blogs. I followed a few, read some more. Learned to comment on other’s blogs. They retaliated, no, wait, reciprocated, yes, that’s the word I was looking for. Now, I have a pool of regulars who read my blog and a pool of bloggers that I read. I see different views, from Spain, Germany, Gibraltar, India, Canada, The United Kingdom and the Unites States. I’ve seen Spain through German eyes, Gibraltar through British eyes, Germany and Latvia through smiling Irish eyes and India through Canadian eyes. I’ve seen Canada through Indian eyes, not just mine, but through another Indian born’s eyes. Of course, he’s seeing mostly Quebec, not Canada, but it’s close enough, eh?
Along the way, I’ve seen wonderful photoessays, a mother and grandmother express her deep sense of attachment and love for her child and grandchild. I’ve met hikers and keep-fitters, teachers, writers, professors, editors and I’ve become richer for it. Most of all I’ve met humans with stories to tell, stories that have touched me in ways I didn’t think was possible. Strangers in real life, not strangers at all in their stories, stories that teach, demonstrate, entertain and make you think. It’s time to say thank you to all of them. And to the others who I will find in the future. May their tribe increase.
On the other hand, last year, as I ramped up my writing efforts, I met up with many writers, authors and poets. Apart from a very few of them, these people sucked the joy out of writing for me.
Some wanted me to dumb my writing down. I’m not sure what I’m expected to do. Make deliberate grammar mistakes? Mess up my spellings? Confused by that, I went to read their writing. I found out that they possess a vocabulary ( or a dictionary and a thesaurus ) far larger than anything I own. I found it very hard to read the words and make out what they wanted to say. Poetic and flowery prose sprouted everywhere. If anything, my writing is already pretty dumb in comparison. I checked my writing against readability tests. I scored high on the readability tests.
This post, for instance, gave me the following scores:
This page has an average grade level of about 7. It should be easily understood by 12 to 13 year olds.
|Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease||76.2|
|Flesch Kincaid Grade Level||5.4|
|Gunning Fog Score||7.6|
|Coleman Liau Index||9.3|
|Automated Readability Index||4.3|
|No. of sentences||104|
|No. of words||1169|
|No. of complex words||108|
|Percent of complex words||9.24%|
|Average words per sentence||11.24|
|Average syllables per word||1.41|
Still, I’m told that I’m too “pure”, “difficult to read”. The possible conclusions I can draw from this is that these people are either
- non-English speakers,
- maliciously trying to discourage me,
- too caught up in their own superiority
- or just plain morons.
The real reason, I think, is that my sentences have too many commas and these poor dears simply don’t understand commas. Also, there is some malicious intent, I believe. Actually, all of the above. Why stint!
There are others who talked about technical terms and structure. How my story should have some of this and some of that. A wave of emotional high points and low points, based on a formula. Now, I’m totally untrained. I have read a LOT of books. I don’t believe that a formula exists as far as plot line goes. I have never been to a creative writing class. From my experience of listening to the people sprout such artificial setups, I do believe I never want to attend one. Ever.
There is the question of genre. I’ve read that step one of the process of writing is to pick a genre and sub-genre. People have then tried to explain elements of these genres and sub-genres. Needless to say, clear cut demarcation is hard. What I really mean is, “impossible”. I’ve seen debates about which genre a book / story falls into. With no clear answer. Why then do these people waste their time?
Then there is the “target audience / market”. Once again there is this classification thing. Writers are expected to define their market. Geographic area, type of person, age groups all are to be considered. This does make sense to me. Maybe my experience in marketing and product management influences me here.
Here is what I believe.
Ignore all that talk about genres, sub genres, dumbing down and artificial setting of tension points, conflicts, resolutions, and all that technical mumbo-jumbo when you’re telling a story. I believe that none of this should be influencing your story. Your story is your story. Write the story first. Write it in the best possible way, the better to tell it. Remember, it’s your story. Tell it. Tell it powerfully. To leave an impact. Use whatever tools you have. Give it the best you can.
Once you have the story down, then you can give it a critical read, maybe get someone else to read it for you. Then, and only then, should you worry about the marketing aspects of it. Read your story and then figure out what type of person is most likely to read it and enjoy it. What your target audience is. All those marketing considerations should NOT influence the story and how you tell it.
In that sense, writing, art, creative pursuits are different from traditional product management where you define a market, identify the problem first and then develop a solution / product. If you’re writing fiction, telling a story comes first. Once you have the story, you figure out the market. Of course, if your objective is to write popular fiction to appeal to a specific market then this does not apply. For example, if you are deliberately inserting vampires into your tale because it is trending now, then you’re following the traditional marketing method. Note, however, you still need to make it a compelling read to make it stand out from the others.
- I wasted a lot of my time engaging people trying to figure out all that ^^^^^ up there. Don’t do that. Write your story. Make it stick, powerful, go big.
- If you’re going to ask someone to read your work to critique it, find the “right person”. Someone who may have read a similar type of work. Or someone who has read a lot of different stuff. I made that mistake. I sent some stuff to people who had limited breadth of reading experience and no depth at all in the field ( theater ).
Go write! And read! Read this blog! The gurus tell me that any 12-year old should be read this.
Prove that you’re smarter than a 7th Grader!