Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Day 19

There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately no one knows what they are.

--Somerset Maugham

This is one of my favorite writing quotes. It pretty much says it for me. Writing is an exploratory expedition. If there are three rules--or two or ten--I'm going to have to find them on my own. I can only learn to write by writing.

If you’re going to be a writer, the first essential is just to write. Do not wait for an idea. Start writing something and the ideas will come. You have to turn the faucet on before the water starts to flow.
--Louis L’Amour

What a crazy endeavor writing is. You have to start a sentence (like this one) or a blog entry (ditto) or a chapter or an essay without knowing exactly where you will end up. Even if you make a plan. Even if you think you know the ending.

Heather Sellers, the author of
Chapter by Chapter, compares writing to faith:

When you write, you believe in something no one else can see. You spend lots of time committed to a project for which there are no assurances, no guarantees. Being a writer subjects you to the same doubts, the same unpopularity, the same nagging questions that believers struggle with.

And yet it is amazing how when you do take that leap of faith onto the blank page, things begin to shape up and come together in unexpected ways. Quirky new characters drop in for tea. The plot thickens. You take a walk in the woods and a startled chipmunk gives you a new idea. While you sleep, the answer to a story problem comes in a dream. There seems to be something about courageously setting out that invites the things you need to finish the work.

Watch for these gifts, and accept them gratefully


Peaches said...

I think maybe there's only one rule when it comes to writing--DON'T QUIT!

Donna Alice said...

I'm beginning to wonder if I shouldn't start wearing blinders to keep me from having MORE ideas!!

I agree with Peaches--don't quit or you'll never get anywhere.