A whole industry seems to have sprung up about creative writing in the last year or two. Words of wisdom abound on the internet, books pour out of the presses, universities are advertising horrendously expensive Creative Fiction courses and lastly there are often programmes on tv and radio devoted to the subject. The latest of these is The Sins of Literature on BBC Radio 4. Part 1 was broadcast on 5th August and is available on iplayer for those in the UK.
I listened last night, and discovered nothing new, but it was interesting to hear the authors using phrases most of us need a dictionary and a couple of minutes to translate into everyday sense. Setting the tone is important for the work in progress, they say, for both author and reader. One author described the incentive to write the story as a buzz, music in the head. Another described it as a frisson, another an image that would not leave her. All agreed that the first sentence can launch the book, sets the tone and the author simply carries on working out the rest of the book. Sometimes it is easier to work through the whole story and then write the first chapter, because then the author knows the important aspects of the work.
What happens next? Well, then comes plot, landscape and characters and the most important of these is character. One author spends days "being that character." Will Self is more interested in relationships, in how characters re-act to each other, than character itself.
Some authors begin with a bang and lose their way in the middle - this fault is common in hundreds of books.
The authors excelled, all of them, at quoting famous authors. Mickey Spillane: "Nobody reads a book to get to the middle." Or Philip Larkin's comment on a book: "A beginning, a muddle and an end."
Stephen King has good advice i.f things get difficult: walk away from the problem: you should simply "Let the boys in the basement sort out the problems overnight." By which he means let the sub conscious fix things while you sleep.