A writer of fiction is simply a person who makes up stories. He or she is just a perfectly normal human being who has found out that they can put stories down on paper that make other people really interested, excited and amused. Who becomes a writer? In the 20th and 21st centuries, practically everybody who has finally become a successful writer of fiction has started out in a different job, for example as a schoolteacher, a doctor or whatever. The reason is clear. You cannot “get a job” as a writer.
Let’s think about my genre, young adult stories – or some might call them “children’s stories.” Actually there is no such thing as a “children’s story”. Alice in Wonderland, David Copperfield, Oliver Twist (by Charles Dickens), Treasure Island (by Robert Louis Stevenson), Kim (by Kipling) and many, many more are for people between 5 and 122 years old. So what I am writing about is not about how to write a book for children, or young adults, or whatever, but just about the nature of writing, as far as I understand it. My own books are intended as entertainment for people of all ages, at least for all people who have not forgotten what it is to be a child and to live in a world of adventure and excitement.
There is no recipe for writing of course. But here are some of my ideas and suggestions:
Suggestion 1. You need a lively imagination. Almost everyone has.
Suggestion 2. A scene must come alive in the reader’s mind. It either does or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t, strike it out until it does and be very critical on this point.
Suggestion 3. You need stamina. You’ve got to stick at it hour after hour, week after week, month after month. Like most things, it is 5% inspiration and 95% perspiration. Actually I don’t quite believe the 95% perspiration. Writers want other people to think that they are suffering! I think that it’s fun really, great fun for me anyway. I would not do it otherwise. But you do need self-discipline. There’s no boss standing over you and you won’t get the sack if the work isn’t done that day.
Suggestion 4. You must be a perfectionist. You must go over again and again what you have written, read it many times, change it and change it once more and never be quite satisfied. There are 430,000 words in the English language and you may not always have chosen quite the right one in every case.
Suggestion 5. You need a keen sense of humour and irony, like Roald Dahl for example. Anyway, to appeal to the child in the adult, as well as to all young people, it is essential to make people laugh or at least giggle or gurgle.
Suggestion 6. You must be your own keenest critic. If a writer thinks that he or she has written a passage that is wonderful, then that writer is headed for trouble. Don’t rely on your nearest and dearest for their verdict: when you read your stuff to them, they are going to love it, because it’s by you, just like you love your children’s works of art from school. Certain wives or husbands may be exceptions (like my wife) but most probably don’t care to risk it.
(Originally published at GoArticles and reprinted with permission from the author, David Field).
David Field is a professor of Astrophysics at the University of Aarhus, Denmark. He has published numerous articles in many Astronomy and Physics journals. His most recent novel, The Fairest Star, the third installment of his Friends and Enemies Trilogy, has just been published. For more information, please visit: David Field.
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