What right do I have to tell anyone how to write? None. All I can tell is what I do. Two words are vital to those of us not gifted with being able simply to write without hard labour: read, read, read and write, write write!
Writing is rather like learning a sport or taking up a musical instrument at which you wish to excel. No one loves a whinging, badly played violin except the tone deaf person playing it. There’s theory and practise. If you are not prepared to put in the work better not start. Read good writers but don’t try to copy them. You need your own voice. You can go for those big splendiferous words or you can do it simply, up to you. Some experts rattle on about adjectives and adverbs: not needed, not a good thing. I love adjectives and adverbs as long as they are not overused. As a reader, I like descriptive passages and it’s hard to describe something without the touch of colour those players in a sentence can bring, again, your choice. And that’s the nice thing about writing; it’s yours, what you want to make of it. The late Russell Braddon, a wonderful Australian writer, once told me to write, put it away then go back to it with fresh eyes and cut. Don’t be precious about every word you think you have to keep. Value a good editor’s advice.
Writers will tell you the different ways they go about the process. There is no right way. It’s what your way is. Some like to plan and form the whole skeleton beforehand so they know exactly where they are going, and have the answers to all the writer’s questions: who, where, what, why, when and how before they actually sit down to work. That’s fine for them. I can’t work like that. I’m a natural klutz and I often haven’t a clue as to where, how, who etc., as I start. But I am disciplined once I begin. Sometimes ideas arrive on their own like a nice guest you are happy to entertain, (even if only in your head…yes, we writer folk are all living in our heads) and you welcome them. At other times the itch is there but no inspiration is forthcoming – the dreaded Block. I have my own solution for that. I try to come up with a few lines that I think (hope) are interesting and see where they lead me. A story I wrote last January came that way from this.
A JANUARY MORN
The frost was spread over the field like splintered, glittery glass, turning the stalks of grass into jell-styled stiffness. There was silence of the kind that hovers over a neglected graveyard where nothing moves. The trees with their stark silvered branches were still as though listening for some descending tremor that could be felt only by their deep-set roots. The lake was a sheet of platinum beauty. A robin flew off a thorn bush its wings the only sound in the hush of early morn; its rich brown and red startlingly alive against the motionless, white tipped things. It called out but there was no answer. The sun became braver and lifted its watery skirts to sweep away the edges of night that clung to one side of the sky as though wanting darkness to linger, to hide some unworthy thing from the truth of daylight. In the vague uncertain distance a horse whinnied and a cow mooed. Then the silence returned to dominate the fields and the lake. Soon life would shake itself out of its sleep stupor and reluctantly begin to move into the chill of the day. The day would make no impression on A6-22 for she was lifeless.
What evolved from that was the near-future tale of a troubled young man whose robot companion was destroyed. Some saw it as destruction of property; he saw it as murder, to him she was his wife.