2 thoughts on “Putting The Fun Back Into Writing”

  1. This is a good essay — as someone who has seen their second nov­el rejec­ted by a dozen agents and a fist­ful of pub­lish­ers, I have more or less for­got­ten that the whole gig is sup­posed to be about hav­ing fun. A year on from fin­ish­ing the nov­el, I have come to this con­clu­sion: writ­ing with the ogre of pro­spect­ive pub­lic­a­tion over your shoulder isn’t a good idea. Let me cla­ri­fy this: if you’re writ­ing with the notion in the back of your mind that your work is going to be assessed by an agent and read­ers, its hip­ness quo­tient or lack of it chewed over and dis­cussed, then you’re effect­ively para­lys­ing your­self, cre­at­ively speak­ing. You are writ­ing for oth­ers, not for your­self, and part of this is that you end up more or less imper­son­at­ing an authori­al voice that seems to prom­ise suc­cess, rather than find­ing your­self. The whole wretched pre­oc­cu­pa­tion suc­cess makes a writer (in my opin­ion) less will­ing to take risks, to be play­ful and per­haps dis­cov­er some­thing about them­selves. An ana­logy would be the dif­fer­ence between dood­ling in the mar­gins of a note­book and being faced with an expanse of blank white can­vas. Often, your best draw­ing comes out when you’re not faced with per­form­ance anxi­ety, and when you can enjoy relaxed con­cen­tra­tion: I believe writ­ing is much the same.

  2. Thanks for your com­ment. This reminds me of a thought that I wanted to include in the above art­icle. It’s a dis­tinc­tion between extern­al and intern­al ques­tions. External ques­tions are those you put to the audience/agent/publisher, and come from a par­tic­u­lar dir­ec­tion (taste, mar­ket­ing, whatever). Internal ques­tions are those you ask of the fic­tion itself; these ques­tions are answers that address weak­nesses in the art itself. I’m not sure if I’ve made that entirely clear.

    Here’s an example. At begin­ning my book Flashback, I’ve got an affair bew­teen two women. If I asked the ‘read­er over my shoulder’ wheth­er or not this ele­ment should be included, I’d prob­ably get an answer like ‘A typ­ic­al thrill­er demo­graph­ic won’t like it’ — these answers tend to drag the fic­tion towards the centre of the bell curve. But if I ask the same ques­tion of the fic­tion itself, the story’s answer is: ‘Of course you need. If Jem and Saskia aren’t in love, why would Jem go to the lengths she does to help Saskia’? In essence, it works for the story, and, read­er demo­graph­ics be damned, I know that it makes the fic­tion bet­ter. I think that ask­ing these ‘extern­al’ ques­tions immol­ates your fic­tion, and ask­ing ‘intern­al’ ones elev­ates it…

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