Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Theory on Thursday with Dianne Blacklock

Today on Theory on Thursday I have Aussie Women's Fiction author Dianne Blacklock. Dianne isn't talking about a specific book or writing tool but rather those elusive RULES we all hear from time to time...

Golden Rules

What writer doesn't love a good rule? Tips, mantras, affirmations, motivations … personally, I devour them. I have read many excellent books on the craft of writing, and will click a link to anything with even the vaguest suggestion of a writing tip.

Which is what I did early last year, when the Guardian published a lengthy 2-part article on the Rules for Writing Fiction.

Inspired by the publication of Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, they asked a host of amazing writers for their own top 10 tips. I was in heaven. But then a funny thing happened as I made my way through the list - I began to see an interesting pattern. I delved into my own stores of favourite writers’ tips and the pattern continued. Take a look for yourself.

‘Read Becoming a Writer, by Dorothea Brande. Then do what it says, including the tasks you think are impossible. You will particularly hate the advice to write first thing in the morning, but if you can manage it, it might well be the best thing you ever do for yourself.’ (Hilary Mantel)

Work in the morning, a short break for lunch, work in the afternoon and then watch the six o'clock news and then go back to work until bed-time. (Colm Toibin)

‘Find your best time of the day for writing and write. Don't let anything else interfere. Afterwards it won't matter to you that the kitchen is a mess.’ (Esther Freud)

I write very small so I don't have to turn the page and face the next empty one. (Michael Morpurgo)

Fill pages as quickly as possible; double space, or write on every second line. Regard every new page as a small triumph. (Roddy Doyle)

You most likely need a thesaurus. (Margaret Atwood)

Do keep a thesaurus, but in the shed at the back of the garden or behind the fridge. (Roddy Doyle)

The greater your vocabulary the more effective your writing. (PD James)

A deliberately limited vocabulary can produce an astonishing emotional punch. (Sarah Waters)

Know the market. (Ian Rankin)

Never worry about the commercial possibilities of a project. (Geoff Dyer)

Don’t look back until you’ve written an entire draft, just begin each day from the last sentence you wrote the previous day. (Will Self)

Reread, rewrite, reread, rewrite. (Helen Dunmore)

In the planning stage of a book, don't plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it. (Rose Tremain)

To begin a novel without an ending fixed in your mind’s eye, you must be very clever, and so full of confidence in the voice that tells the story that the story itself hardly matters. (John Irving)

Never stop when you are stuck. You may not be able to solve the problem, but turn aside and write something else. Do not stop altogether. (Jeanette Winterson)

If you get stuck, get away from your desk. Take a walk, take a bath, go to sleep, make a pie, draw, listen to music, meditate, exercise. (Hilary Mantel)

Stop reading fiction. (Will Self)

Read like mad. (Sarah Waters)

Don't panic. (Sarah Waters)

Do feel anxiety – it’s the job. (Roddy Doyle)

Work hard. (Andrew Motion)

Have fun. (Anne Enright)

Are you getting the idea? It appears that for every golden rule there is an equal and opposite rebuttal of that rule.

So does that mean you can’t trust these pesky writers with their contradictory advice? It’s like when you have your first baby and everyone tells you something different and you nearly lose your mind, and certainly a fair whack of your confidence.

But you soon learn, don’t you? You learn to take on what works for you, what feels right for your situation. You learn who to listen to, and who to just nod at politely.

This is why I think Stephen King’s On Writing is really one of the best books around on writing, because he tells you how he does it, he doesn’t tell you how you should do it. He encourages you to find your own way.

So, write in the morning, or late at night, use a thesaurus, or don’t, whatever works for you. And good luck!

HUGE thanks to Dianne for sharing those contradictory rules with us :) Dianne has a new book, THE SECRET INGREDIENT, out this month (details below) and it looks fabulous. Dianne also runs writing workshops throughout the year. Her first workshop in 2012 will be on Saturday the 10th of March at the NSW Writers' Centre at Rozelle in Sydney. It will be a full-day workshop entitled "Where Is The Love?" How to put the romance into your writing. The phone number of the centre is 02 9555 9757.

Taste was such an evocative sense; Andie had closed her eyes, with the scone melting in her mouth, and been transported back to her grandmother's kitchen...

Nourishment is nurture. That's what Andie learned from her grandmother and what she's always believed about cooking. But somehow, since marrying Ross, she's allowed her love of food to take a back seat and given up her dream of becoming a chef.

Lately she's been craving more. And when her marriage falls apart, she's determined to find herself again and take back control of her destiny.

The first step is taking a job in the kitchen of renowned chef Dominic Gerou. The brooding Englishman is more than Andie bargains for, but the new Andie is ready for anything, even a bad-tempered chef who makes it clear he won't tolerate mistakes.

In this beautiful new novel, Dianne Blacklock takes us on a sumptuous journey of the heart as Andie uncovers the secret ingredient for her new life, and shows that no matter how many false starts you may have, if you hold on to your passion and your dreams, anything is possible.


Fiona Lowe said...

LOve it! It's hard but we all have to learn to trust our process.

Helene Young said...

Oh what a delicious post, Dianne!

Just like any good apprenticeship we need to understand the basics then it's up to us to learn what works best for our writing. Much like a chef balancing a dish or a landscaper positioning plants, there are rules that suit and rules that should be ignored at all costs. I've always loved the saying 'rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men.' It applies equally to my day job and to writing!!

Another lovely craft post, Rach :)

Anonymous said...

This was fabulous! I think I'm going to adopt Michael Morpurgo's words of wisdom. I'm going to write very small so I don't have to turn the page and face the next empty one :-)

Anonymous said...

There you go, Aimee - I'm the opposite. I watch page numbers and word counts. When I've decided to delete a substantial passage, I usually bracket it, or even cross out the text and leave it there until I've caught up - can't bear to see that word count go backwards!

Love that saying, Helene, and we do just have to work out what works for us - but you're right, Fiona, it can be hard to trust our own process.

Catherine said...

What a lovely post Dianne (and Rach!). I've always hated rules, so I love seeing them all contradicted - perfect!! Thanks for summarising them.


Elizabeth Lhuede said...

No wonder new writers get confused. Great to see the contradictions put together like this.

Thanks, Dianne & Rachael.

Kez said...

Great post!

Really looking forward to your next book Dianne!

Rachael Johns said...

Thanks again for coming Diane!! I think we should print out these contradictory rules and make posters!!

Love that quote too Helene!