You are the filter for what you see, hear, taste, touch and smell in this world. You must own your experience, every detail of it, to write well. Each experience builds into a bigger picture. When you report where you are, what you see, taste, touch, feel and smell, you also release what is inside of you.
Be sensitive to all experience, no matter how small and you will be more deeply informed, often leading you to discoveries about relationships, places and yourself.
Write about those subjects that are surrounded with strong feelings. For instance, divorce, parenting, fighting a war or visiting a foreign country could be among your topics. Ask yourself “What do I hate or love about … ?” Do not answer with generalities. Be specific. List the smells, sounds, tastes, sights and textures of the event, place or person.
Smell, taste, hear, see and touch what you are writing about as if for the first time. Avoid writing about your attitude towards the subject and instead, let the images and details of the experience speak for themselves.
If your reader puzzles over a word or thought ever so slightly, if she is distracted by just one unnecessary word or phrase, you have lost her concentration.
The best writing has precision, which is, simply put, the exact word in its proper place.
'The limits of my language marks the limits of my world.' Ludwig Wittgenstein
Use words that reflect the strength of your feelings. Words change the world. Words teach. Words unleash their power when they are shared.
In a study carried out by Alexander Penney, it was found that people with high verbal knowledge are better at remembering past events and bringing them back to life through details.
Collect words! Keep a list in the back of your notebook.
Writing is nothing more than a guided dream. Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream by night.
Just write. Don't wait. For if you wait, you may never start. take what is nearest at hand, accept it and then work hard to transform it.
Write as if in a trance. Always say ‘yes’ and write without censoring. Don't block anything. Hold the door open for your self to surprise you.
Only the next sentence matters, not the last. You can always go back and edit, but in this moment, all you need to do is to move forward.
Mix handwriting with typewriting. Go backwards and forwards. Write the first draft on the computer, then write it out by hand. I find that in the gap between the two sometimes magic happens and new ideas are born.
Last thing at night, as you put your head on your pillow, think briefly about what you want to write tomorrow. Then, rise early, drink a glass of water and write.
Writing feels so much easier in the morning. Ideas come more naturally. One sentence spurs the next and the remnants of your dreams may infuse your writing with something special.
You may be angry, you may be sad, you may be livid. It might be about something that happened yesterday, or ten years ago.
Now, this can be tough, but ‘eat the cold’: look that moment in the face and plot it out as a series of events. In other words, instead of telling us how you felt, tell us what happened.
Next, step into character. Be the person who caused the most pain. What motivated him to act this way? Test out different scenarios.
What happens if you handled things differently? What have you learnt? Would you act differently next time?
Digest the emotions just as your body digests food. Get rid of the junk and keep the energy.
This is your characters’ story and if they are well-conceived, they will be consistent and in their own way, predictable. Trust them to act and react according to their own values and beliefs.
The best characters have a sense of humour. Let them have fun at your expense. Forget your carefully planned outline and hold on. It’s time for the helter-skelter. Enjoy the ride.
Conversations must hide instead of explain. Hide when you can reveal. Lie when you can tell the truth.
Allow your characters to misunderstand, to talk at cross purposes, to interrupt, to hesitate.
Direct the dialogue off stage. Call for the waiter to pay a bill, call to the bartender to order another beer. Allow the action to interrupt the flow.
Have your characters answer questions with questions. Like “Did you steal the picture?” with “What do you take me for?”
Allow your characters to talk to themselves. “What am I doing here?”
Just a few ideas to help you make your dialogue endlessly fascinating.
So you have to write a bit of dialogue. Where to start?
With the first draft, dialogue doesn't need to be subtle. Write on the nose. They say what they think regardless of consequences. Enjoy! This part can be fun. Just sit back and watch as the fireworks explode.
So what to do on the second draft? Two things. Watch what they do when they talk. The conversation isn't just about what they say; it is also about that they do. So pay attention. What do they do? Turn their back, sit down, squint?
Next, work out what they are hiding. Characters will always hide their true meaning behind their words. The subtext is important.
Learn from the masters. Watch a politician evading questions. Politicians can never be seen to be losing. Someone else is always to blame. They believe themselves to be the masters of deception. As if!