Tips on How to Write Fiction

5 11 2011

 

How to write fiction: Geoff Dyer on freedom

Writing is a natural process – we’re all geared up to do it, says Geoff Dyer
Open thread: how to write fiction

The great thing about this cat – the writing one – is that there are a thousand different ways to skin it. In fact, you don’t have to skin it at all – and it doesn’t even need to be a cat! What I mean, in the first instance, is feel free to dispute or ignore everything in this introduction or in the articles that follow. As Tobias Wolff puts it in his masterly novel Old School: “For a writer there is no such thing as an exemplary life … Certain writers do good work at the bottom of a bottle. The outlaws generally write as well as the bankers, though more briefly. Some writers flourish like opportunistic weeds by hiding among the citizens, others by toughing it out in one sort of desert or another.”

This freedom is the challenging perk of the non-job. If you are a tennis player any weakness – an inability, say, to deal with high-bouncing balls to your backhand – will be just that. And so you must devote long hours of practice to making the vulnerable parts of your game less vulnerable. If you are a writer the equivalent weakness can rarely be made good so you are probably better off letting it atrophy and enhancing some other aspect of your performance.

Writers are defined, in large measure, by what they can’t do. The mass of things that lie beyond their abilities force them to concentrate on the things they can. “I can’t do this,” exclaims the distraught Mother-Writer in People Like That Are the Only People Here, Lorrie Moore’s famous story about a young child dying of cancer. “I can do quasi-amusing phone dialogue. I do the careful ironies of daydreams. I do the marshy ideas upon which intimate life is built …” From the sum total of these apparent trivialities emerges a fiction which succeeds in doing precisely what it claims it can’t.

Read full article @ The Guardian

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