Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Agony of Writing

Google images
Howdy, fellow bloggers! I’m back after a six-week hiatus. I felt guilty for neglecting my blog for such a long time, but I had to take care of personal matters.

Finding time and inspiration to write my latest blog post proved to be difficult. My break turned into a hobgoblin that stole my creativity along with two articles I started writing.

It was until today that my muse, disguised as an article, remembered my address and paid me a visit. The article was about Khanh Ha, a Vietnamese author and his first novel, Flesh. The blurb says that this book “takes the reader into dark and delightful places in the human condition, places where allies are not always your friends, true love hurts, and your worst enemy may bring you the most comfort.” I was intrigued. If you are, too, check out his book tour at http://tlcbooktours.com/2012/03/khanh-ha-author-of-flesh-on-tour-mayjune-2012/

In this article, Mr. Ha stated what my mentor always told me, “Write what you know”. He also shared his seven rules for writing a novel:
#1—Find discipline in solitude, in aloneness so you can meet your characters. It’s like a rendezvous with ghosts. Then make that meeting every day or every night with no excuses.

#2—Write each scene as if it were the only thing in your universe—it must command all your attention.
#3—Write one scene well and that scene would breed the next scene.

#4—Leave room for readers to participate: don’t overwrite.

#5—Stop where you still have something to say so the next day you won’t face a dry well.
#6—Read each day to keep your mind off your own writing.

#7—Don’t believe in anybody’s rules except yours.
I appreciated that he added this wonderful quotation by Toni Morrison who once said, “I wrote my first novel because I wanted to read it.”

Do you follow any of these rules? If you're writing your first novel, do you find inspiration in Morrison’s quotation?

38 comments:

  1. Fascinating comments. Morrison's quote reminded me of my reason. 'I write books that I would have loved to have been able to read to the children in my class, but I could never find them.' (i.e. historical adventure fiction)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carole Anne,
      Ditto for me! Growing up, there were only a handful of books that really appealed to me. I love Aesop's fables and the Grimm Brother's tales. It was until I reached high school that I truly enjoyed the books my teacher chose for us. :)
      Thank you for stopping by!

      Delete
  2. Hello Claudia!! Welcome back!!! Thanks for sharing Kahnh Ha's writerly tips!! I tend to write one scene over and over again (my inner editor kicks in!) hence my progress is very very slow!!! I think I believe in writerly rules though - basic ones - so I'd not disregard them altogether but I do think of writing stories I'd like to read! Take care
    x

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jennifer,
      Happy to be back, but it was hard to take the reins, to be honest with you. When you're physically tired you don't want to sit in front of the computer. :(
      Khanh's tips are great and I am SO guilty of #1, especially these days.
      Thank you for your loyal readership ;)

      Delete
  3. Hi Claudia, an inspiring post as always! I love that quote you shared. Gave me a completely different way of viewing my own novel which I have stalled out on at the present moment.

    Great article! Thanks for sharing! Glad to hear your muse revisited you with some amazing inspiration!

    :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cathy,
      It feels like forever! It's easy to take a break and difficult to get back in the game. Glad to hear you liked the post.
      Thank you for dropping by.

      Delete
  4. As you know, there's a part of me who is very Asian. I believe that the Asian way is very much related to strict discipline, solitude, concentration, circularity, precision, and method. I found this in all the rules your Vietnamese friend laid out.
    Yes, this is the way I believe everything I do has to be done.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Toni Morrison's quote reminds me of Umberto Eco's: "I wrote "The Name of the Rose" because I wanted a priest to be killed".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Jay,
      Yes, Asians are very disciplined. Tiny correction, Khanh is not my friend, he's an author I read about in an article. BTW, I laughed so hard at Eco's quotation. OMG! He was funny and wise.

      Delete
  6. I totally understand taking a break from blogging...Yes, Morrison's quote is one I've heard of before and for me it's true. After I wrote my first novel, I sometimes re-read certain chapters when I felt nostalgic for Italy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Laura,
      Oh, you're so right! Your first novel was born out of nostalgia, I think. I remember when you told me you had just had your baby and while rocking him you were jotting down ideas for your book. How great is that?

      Delete
  7. Yay, you're back! And with a fantastic post, no less! I seriously needed to read this tonight. All these rules are great and so true. #1 is resonating with me right now, because I have a character who is currently too one dimensional-- I just don't know him well enough. I guess I need some alone, quiet time with him so I can figure out his motives... and that Morrison quotation is absolutely true for me... that's exactly why I wrote this manuscript. Welcome back!!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Raquel,
      You know what's ironic? I, too, need these tips at this moment, especially #1. These days I find it very difficult to concentrate. In your case it's probably easier since you're a true artist and you create jewelry, paint, and cook as well. ;)
      Thank you for your continued readership!

      Delete
  8. Great to see you again, Claudia. And yes, a break always leaves me facing that keyboard again with mounting dread. Breaking a rhythm is sometimes necessary but occasionally has consequences - usually shortlived. That Toni Morrison resonated with me because I think most writers are motivated by that self same premise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Mike,
      This is like starting an exercise routine. Oh, how I dread the computer at times. I sometimes like my own space, even if it means doing nothing. Hmmm, I wonder if the summer heat has something to do with it ;)

      Delete
  9. I have been under-motivated lately as I was winding down the school year and had ankle surgery. But the fog is clearing and grades are totally done and I'm ready to hit is hard. Just found your blog - great post. New follower :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi Tasha,
    Welcome! Thank you for joining my blog. I hope you find some motivation in this post to get your writing again. I'll check out your blog (hope you have one!). Drop by any time!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow! Seven simple, 'to-the-point' rules that packed a punch!
    Thanks Claudia!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michelle,
      That's why I wanted to share it with all my readers. I, too, learn from other authors, and this was no exception ;)

      Delete
  12. Thank you so much for supporting me, Claudia.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Welcome back, Claudia - I was beginning to wonder if you'd ever return :)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Mark,
    Thank you! I just needed a good (and long) break to recharge my batteries. ;)
    Blogging is fun, but unfortunately, it doesn't generate any income. :(

    ReplyDelete
  15. Love those rules!

    Glad to see you back, Claudia. Everyone needs a break now and then. It helps you refocus. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sharon,
      Glad you like them. I do, too, especially #1.
      Every now and then I welcome a break ;)

      Delete
  16. Though I am not a fiction writer, but rather nonfiction I loved Rule #1. So intriguing. But writing is absolutely a lonely affair and one must be disciplined, that is for sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Barbara,
      Thank you for dropping by. I think these rules can apply to all writers. And yes, unfortunately, writing is a lonely affair when you're actually writing. However, the editing part can be fun if you share it with your fellow writers (or close friends).
      Say hello to Frankie. She's SO adorable and beautiful as well.

      Delete
  17. #6 is easy. I love to read. But it actually makes me focus MORE on my own writing - either how to improve mistakes I've already made, or how to avoid mistakes I haven't made. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Michelle,
      Yes, my mentors always told me so. They said that in order to be a writer we need to be a good reader. I've learned from reading other authors. However, the focus part for me is tied to my inspiration. ;)

      Delete
  18. My only problem is topics that are not offensive and universally applicable to everyone. Once I finally sit down (too rarely) I don't stop till its done. I often think for months about what I can write about. I could write about technical stuff and related stories, but how few people would enjoy that? I want to relate to everyone not some genre. That is my agony.

    I write different things but all these rules apply to me also.

    I missed you while you were gone.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan is that you? I joined your new blog ;)
      Yes, these rules apply to writers in general no matter the genre :)
      Sorry it took me a while to get back but I needed a break. I'm trying to get back into my blogging rhythm. Thank you for your loyal readership :D

      Delete
    2. Yup. It's me, the old Mudge.

      Delete
  19. Welcome back, Claudia! Great post with wonderful reminders, especially writing what you know! It's empowering to write from a place of knowing, of intuition. Thank you for getting your blogging rhythm back! Cheers, Kelly

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kelly! I'm so happy to see most of my readers have liked this list I shared ;) I applied it to myself as well, especially after the break I took.

      Delete
  20. I liked all of these tips. I especially liked no. 1: to meet your characters every day in a solitary place.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Thanks for the information... I really love your blog posts... specially those on 361Degree Minds

    ReplyDelete
  22. I never follow #5 but always follow #7. :-)

    ReplyDelete