The Quest For “Magic”

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An email I received the other day from Pinterest unsurprisingly suggested some, uh, further writing pins. As you see, I collect them:

Yes, they may be entertaining:

[From Pinterest.]

But I’m not a fan of them on the whole. Seeing these new ones brought this to my mind once more. I recalled again what I DON’T like about writing memes and similar suggestions…

[From Pinterest.]
[From Pinterest.]

Writing a novel by β€œtemplate” is NOT how it is done. Nor is it about connecting dots. Nor is it a version of a colo(u)ring book – crayon between the lines and you’ve got it.

Occasionally – as now – I wonder as well: “Who actually compiles these lists? Writers? Oh, for goodness sakes. Really?”

[From Pinterest.]

For example, I aim for short paragraphs; but that is a personal preference, and of course those paragraphs vary too. In any case seeking to write in any general style doesn’t mean it will be decent writing content-wise. Certainly it’s possible to write pages and pages of short sentences and short paragraphs that are rubbish, as well as produce superb ones technically, but which lead nowhere fulfilling over 300 pages.

It is far more the intangibles that make writing special. You cannot summon up “magic” through mechanically checking boxes or demanding a certain type of sentence structure. Consider this – which was based on neither:

[Excerpt from Conventions: The Garden At Paris. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

Beautiful and heartbreaking, isn’t it? It is also historical. It is from an English translation of a 1794 real-life French-language love letter.

Could any fiction better the reality that woman writes to her distant man? Indeed what real woman doesn’t wish she could write such a letter to a man who would appreciate it? And what man doesn’t wish to receive thoughts like those from the woman he adores?

That is my personal target and starting point. Write fiction as if writing reality, not a story. After all, writing reality is hard to top in terms of creating reality, whether of 1794, or the mid-1990s

[Excerpt from Passports. On Kindle for iPad. Click to expand.]

I would never presume to tell anyone else how to form their thoughts into sentences – assuming of course the sentences are reasonably grammatically correct. Nor do I believe I should concoct lists of “dos” and “don’ts” for others. I can’t even honestly explain how and why I write as I do, much less give advice.

I suppose I write based on a multitude of lessons rooted in accumulated experiences and reading stretching back decades. We cannot usually point precisely to more than a few of those that have consciously influenced us. Most are absorbed without our realizing it.

What I feel confident in noting is that writing fiction is not about adhering to someone else’s lists of 10 or 20 or 99 ways to do this or that. In fact, it’s often the opposite. It’s about breaking so-called rules (smashing them even at times), challenging readers, and putting yourself out there creatively in doing so.

A familiar Paris landmark. [Photo by me, 1994.]
A familiar Paris landmark. [Photo by me, 1994.]

That doesn’t mean that “How To Write Well” Kindle book you just bought isn’t worth the money; it may contain some useful suggestions. (Its author is surely pleased you bought it!πŸ˜‰) Ultimately, though, regardless of how many books like those you read, or pins you encounter telling you how you should do it, moving those wonderful ideas filling your head onto pages to reach readers is an intensely personal quest. In the end, writing fiction is chaos art, not ticking off a grocery list.

Have a good weekend, wherever you are in the world. πŸ™‚

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