The creative writing process – why it matters more then any grammar or stylistic rule

Rules can be helpful. But there are really too many of them. So much indeed that, once we have mastered the basic ones, to improve our style we’re better off concentrating on a more concrete creative writing process.

creative writing process

Phantom limbs can be extremely painful. Even if, given that they are not there, they shouldn’t pose any problem to their… owners.

I know this sounds paradoxical. But bear with me, please.

In the 90s the treatment of such type of pain was extremely difficult, and led to no or negligible improvements. But then V. S. Ramachandran came up with a brilliant solution. A solution only requiring a five dollar mirror.

In fact, in his opinion the brain was sort of locked and unable to disengage the phantom limb from an uncomfortable and painful position because, after all, the limb was missing.

But using a mirror, Ramachandran managed to give the brain the illusion of actually moving the blocked phantom limb (when in reality it was just the reflection of the healthy one.)

As a result of this cognitive dissonance, between what its nerves and its eyes told it, the brain was forced to “reset”.  Consequently, in a relatively short number of sessions many patients reported the resolution of their problems.

All this is interesting, but how do phantom limbs relate to creative writing? Continue reading

The writing life – why I love writing

why I love writingIf you write because you think it’s the quickest way to becoming a millionaire, think better.

In particular, you’re making two basic mistakes.

The make-a-living myth

The first is a simple matter of numbers.

To pay the bills and send their kids to school, most writers, even the moderately successful ones, have to balance their precious time between their art and an often mundane day job.

Of course, this doesn’t mean there are no authors able to accumulate a fortune with their books. We have all heard of people like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, James Patterson, and all the others.

However, considering the number of all the authors, those who sell enough to live from their craft really are a minority.

This is so even if we don’t take into account the gazillion aspiring writers out there in the wild who write sporadically, read erratically, and rarely invest time to learn how to improve their style and their sales. Continue reading

Is daydreaming bad or good? What I discovered

daydreaming is badLife is complex and multilayered.

Indeed, any question worth asking rarely has a simple and straightforward answer.

For example, take the question about the actual usefulness of daydreaming and its supposed drawbacks.

Some facts

Daydreaming is a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings. During these events people, while awake, tend to substitute their reality with a fantasy. In general, this is a pleasant fantasy, for example where aspirations and ambitions are fulfilled.

Psychologists say daydreaming is quite common. It happens to pretty much everybody and it happens repeatedly too.

Sex seems to be the only activity we undertake without indulging in daydreaming. It would be interesting to know if it is so because sex is often the subject of daydreaming–and not necessarily only among adolescents. But I’m daydreaming digressing… Continue reading

Reasons for writing – the story behind the story

reasons for writingI write fiction for many different reasons. About some of them, I’m pretty sure. About some others, less so.

But that’s fine. Because writers aren’t books. Writers are made of flesh and blood, and can be fickle creatures.

Indeed, they’re more like a perennial work in progress, a messy first draft, than a flawless published book.

And rightly so, I would say. Otherwise writers would be doomed to write the same book over and over again. Continue reading

Flashbacks in literature – how to make them effective

flashbacks in literatureThere are many examples of flashback in literature.

Some are skillfully pulled off. Some others totter on the brink of disaster, but manage to lead the reader back to the story before all is lost. Finally, some other flashbacks are like a knife in the hands of a butcher: they slaughter the story and leave it agonizing, bleeding to death.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that writing a strong and effective flashback is a herculean feat. In fact, this could merely mean that flashbacks tend to be overlooked by authors. Because they are considered “easy stuff”.

From a purely technical point of view they are right–it’s not at all that difficult to devise an effective flashback. However, to fully exploit the evocative powers of a flashback it is essential to follow some basic principles. Continue reading

How to write badly – when fiction turns into friction

how to write badlyThe road to hell is paved with good intentions.

You don’t need to be a true faithful to have heard this proverb.

Of course, it’s a generalization, and like all generalizations it has its limits.

But I think it’s particularly appropriate when applied to the world of creative writing, where ideas and good intentions seem to be everywhere, but then actual writing ferries into existence only a small sliver of them all.

So, here is this list of one-liners about how to write badly. At the very least they’re all wrong, and in many cases they’re also incredibly counterproductive. Continue reading

Use writing hooks to create terrific opening lines for your novel

child sitting in the middle of a road - writing hooksThe opening lines of your novel are of critical importance.

In fact, it’s by reading them that readers decide whether to give your novel a shot or go instead looking for something else.

Of course, a book shouldn’t be judged solely by its first few lines—and the same can be said about the cover, the title, and so on.

But these days considering the amount of books that readers can choose from, and the hectic times in which we live, it’s normal for people to come up with shortcuts to try and find the brightest diamonds among the deluge–even if this means that sometimes they’re going to miss out on some of such diamonds, especially the most unconventional ones.

Writing hooks: definition

Simply put, a hook is a sentence or a group of sentences that appears at the beginning of your story and, ideally, it should entice perspective readers to keep reading.

In Hooked, his books about beginnings, Les Edgerton says: “Spend an awful lot of time on this sentence. In fact, more effort should be expended on your story’s first sentence than on any other line in your entire story. No kidding. The first sentence is the first thing the readers will see when they open the door of your manuscript or story. Make sure it’s a good ‘un! One that will create a strong impression.” Continue reading