I am supposed to be in the shower as I write this, getting ready for work, but am very much in the mood for writing instead.
I was having a conversation last night, trying to convince someone that they shouldn’t give up on their fiction writing simply because of their initial difficulties. Especially as the person in question is quite a talented writer and really should keep at it.
One of the techniques I suggested, and it is one I have used myself, is that of world building. In my instance, with regard to the non-nano novel I have been writing/percolating over the years, I had fleshed out a basic premise of the world in question (it doesn’t matter if the world is historical, fantasy or contemporary, you need to understand what makes the world of yours unique, no matter how subtle that may be).
One of the exercises I then, and still occasionally do, undertook was to write small snatches of profiles, characters, conversations and miscellaneous observations of people going about their lives within the context of the world. These could be brief, no more than a few sentences, or even stretch out to the status of a short story. And they do not have to linked to the main story in question, but they do in some way have to shed light on to it or the world it inhabits.
There are multiple benefits (for me) to this approach:
- I begin to build the flavour and tone of the world I will be writing in
- these brief description of everydayness can lead to quite interesting and complex insights and developments of the world; cultural, environmental, etcetera etc.
- they allow the opportunity to play with writing without pressure, playing often gives the best opportunity for creativity
- they can contribute to your main story both directly and indirectly
- they allow you to develop a sense of reality, that the world exists in the background as a fully functioning entity and not merely as a setting for your plot
- it familiarises you with the act of writing about and in that context, making the writing for the main story easier
- it gives you a ready built platform to develop your story within, whilst allowing you the freedom to change and develop the themes of your world as you write
- you need only write to the timescales and availability that you have; if you have ten minutes, write something small and inconsequential, etc. It all adds up.
- it is simply good fun and good exercise for both your creative and writing ‘muscles’
Another element of this is research, and this much more true for those writing contemporary, near-contemporary or historical novels. This activity builds your world/world-view and grounds it in a sense of reality.
Many authors seem to world-build, JK Rowling and Steven Erikson are but two I can name off the top of my head, both developing a massive amount of source material from which they draw from. William Gibson displays a huge passion for pop culture (amongst a bewildering array of other interests), much of what he absorbs having influence on both the content and style of his writing.
Another sugegstion I would make is to be widely read. The more you understand and know about this world, the more real/fantastical you can make your world. The vast complex beast of interdependency, knowledge, social, cultural and environmental context, physcial and chemical laws, religious frameworks, etc provide a set of ‘rules’ and ‘behaviours’ as to how a world works, and you can manipulate that to make yours as strong and in-depth as you wish (and need) it to be.
Another alternative is to simply write. As many an author/writer will attest to, there are no truly right ways in this game, whatever suits your temperament and style is what is best for you.
I am now going to get in the shower, and will no doubt spend the day wishing I was here at home (or in the cafe) writing.