Just read an interesting interview with Chinese Canberran author Hailong Has, author of “The Young boy A Cheng” and translator of an edition of Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, on the blog of my favourite writing app, Ulysses. I like Ulysses because it is so clean, and completely without extraneous parts. Their blog is good too.
I have a theory about writing, that I have tested enough times to know works for me. It is summarised by a simple phrase:
Start anywhere and just get on with it.
While this approach always works for me in tackling writing projects in a general sense and knocks blocks on the head, in the specifics of writing fiction I have come up against something of a brick wall using this approach. Something interesting always falls out when I ‘start anywhere’ but the overall fabric of the text lacks structure, and it doesn’t allow me to zero in with focus on a target. Quite the opposite, in fact.
There is a time for structure, and a time for free-form responses: I think my fiction efforts need a little more structure.
As such, I am going to start working through a new approach, one based on my background in design. Before I design anything, I write a brief. This can be a few dot points or an elaborate document, but essentially it is the statement of the problem that needs to be solved. It contains qualitative and quantitative information - the building blocks and constraints that need to be managed in order for the work to take form. When I design I am always responding to a brief. The response can be premature, or overcooked and burdened - getting the timing of the response inception right is a challenge, but that’s ok, it’s a challenge I understand.
I am not sure where this is all leading, but my brief may in fact be a synopsis: the statement of the problem that need solving by my characters. This weekend I will give it a go.
I read an article recently espousing the refreshing wisdom of reading a children’s book on a given topic as a strategy for understanding new things and concepts. Ralph Fletcher’s books on writer’s notebooks fulfil this brief, particularly those written for primary school age children. I knocked off A Writer’s Notebook in an hour or so, and it was quite illuminating, laying out the somewhat ephemeral concept of the use and method of the writer’s notebook practice in practical and easy to digest ways. I can recommend it.
Find it on the monstrous Amazon beast here.