Wednesday 4 August 2010

Welcome To Real Writing

So, here it is. The blog that I have been threatening to write for an age. Why have I decided to start it today? Well, I've got a deadline haven't I?

Okay, there is a more sensible reason. Maybe even a more noble reason, but that is not for me to say.

You see, it was only recently that I became aware of the online writing community. I discovered it partly through Ian Fenton's rather brilliant annual Story Engine Conference. And also because I started twittering... twatting... tweeting. Oh, whatever you call it.

And I love that this internet thingy is full of other writers. It's like the world wide web is our office and we're all tapping each other on the shoulder to say things like "Hey, did you see that episode last night? Wasn't it great/terrible?" or "How can you say that The Wire is the greatest show ever, what about Buffy?" or even "Look at this funny cat on Youtube!"

Yeah, the cat thing is usually universal procrastination but it's all part of the process.

Ahem, anyway...

Now, from what I have seen, most of the people writing about writing have good intentions. In fact, probably all of them do. And some of 'em, even know what they are talking about. And I intend to link to them for your viewing pleasure at a later date.

However, there is a significant minority who don't know what the fuck they are talking about. Sure, they've been to a McKee seminar (well, a fool and his money are soon parted). They've struggled through the first four chapters of Joseph Campbell and, as a result, think that Star Wars is the greatest film ever made.

More worryingly, they think that they can dictate to other writers on how to write, when to write, where to write... You get the picture. They have graphs and piecharts for characters and plot. Formulas on how to create a scene.

And it's all patronising bullshit - in my opinion.

I'm more of the opinion that writers are born. Not trained in lecture theatres or found amongst the pages of an overpriced book.

Real writers love words, they live their lives in a 3-act structure and they're always on the lookout for a good character. They do all that instinctively because they've been reading and writing stories since they first picked up a pen. As children, they embroidered fabulous fantasies that other people called lies. They extrapolate mundane situations into crazy adventures.

A real writer always makes a drama out of a crisis. Jeez, they make a drama out of a spilt pint of milk.

So, what if your addicted to charts and graphs and your best friend is Robert McKee? Just let it go, baby. Go cold turkey and then... write.

Write what you know. Write what you wish you knew. Write your worst nightmare and your best friends.

Still read the books and go to the odd lecture. Just don't feel bad that you're not writing in the way they say you should. If you're getting words on the page then you're doing something right. And once those words are on the page, then you can structure the hell out of them. You can whip 'em into whatever shape you want.

But real writing starts with passion, love, anger, a burning need to put fingers on keyboard and pen to paper. There are no right or wrong words when you're at that stage - only words.

Now, I'm not saying that writing is easy. That it should flow from you like water from the tap. More like blood from a stone. It should be painful, annoying and frustrating - just never boring, structured and mundane. If that's what you want, go and work for the council.

So, that's my messy idea of a mission statement. I'm not going to be giving you 20 top tips for compelling characters or inventing a new 15 and three quarter act structure. I would like to inspire, cajole and piss off. Let's see how that goes.


  1. Welcome to the blogger's world of procrastination!

  2. Fantastic intro post! :-) Thank heavens for joining us cool kids. Looking fwd to dropping by and seeing words of wisdom or you know, just ranting cos that's good too.

  3. Hello, I'm a writer and i have a blog ( smooth plug there) but luckily i'm not like the writers you mention in your blogs. In fact, I would feel ridiculous offering advice on how to write. But i love reading other writers blog, and i'm sure a few more commisions and I'll grow an ego big enough to throw my advice around.
    Welcome to blogging, look forward to reading.

  4. Very good post, Lisa. True. Hearing all that "Mckee" et al lingo, i.e. 'you can't do this, don't do that,' . "You're inciting incident arrived two pages late," etc. It's all starting to wear me down.
    Fuck Robert McKee. That's right. Say it again...with me...Fuck Robert McKee. I feel a lot better now.

  5. Thyanks folks. So glad that you liked my little blog. I promise to keep it up.

    And yes, FUCK MCKEE! Can I get a witness?

  6. Hooray - internet just got better (and really cool design as well). Perfect remedy to the bollocks on my blog! (although you'll definitely get a 'hell yeah' to being tired of McKee) :)

  7. Yay! Another nice blog to read while avoiding doing the things I should be doing! :)
    It is nice to know that I'm not a freak who thinks pies are for eating and not dictating how I should be structuring my 2.5/3 Act. (Well, I never understood all than bumf anyway!)

    Welcome to Blogland!

  8. Welcome to the blogosphere, Lisa! Delighted you'll be blogging!

    Honoured to be on your blogroll!

    I love the following:

    "Still read the books and go to the odd lecture. Just don't feel bad that you're not writing in the way they say you should. If you're getting words on the page then you're doing something right"

    So many aspiring writers get so caught up in "should" that they forget the "could". So many of them "could" be good writers, if only they just let loose and go for it :)

    I adore this statement:

    "But real writing starts with passion, love, anger, a burning need to put fingers on keyboard and pen to paper. There are no right or wrong words when you're at that stage - only words."

    I think I need to quote that on my blog!

    :) Look forward to your next post! x

  9. Welcome to the scribosphere - we are honoured by your presence ... well, I am.

  10. Looking forward to being inspired, cajoled and pissed off in equal measure.

  11. I've come to this page a bit late!

    I just read back through your blog and I really enjoyed it. I agree with a lot of what you say. (but I don't blog, that way badness lies!) Also, I found reading your blog very engaging and easy. I don't often feel that with blogs.

    I think the McKee stuff (witness!) is more about procrastination. As long as you're learning to write, you don't need to actually write. I did all that for about three months (not paying for!)I downloaded a bunch of advise off of several websites, I even read some of it. But there comes a time when you have to realise, if you try to stick to another persons way of writing, you won't be able to write. Writing is a very personal thing and there's no right or wrong way. (except obviously in terms of grammer and punctuation)
    I used to have a picture of Jane Austens writing table on my laptop as my background with the words "Just fucking write" underneath. I thoroughly agree.

    I remember reading a comment about how all people have a novel inside them, but with most that's exactly where it should stay! I couldn't agree more. I believe, like you do, that a writer is born. It's in the blood, love or loath it and often it's both, there is nothing else you can do. I'm rubbish at everything else. Most of the time I believe I'm a rubbish writer but, I don't have a choice. It's all I want to do.

    I'm following you on twitter and have favourited the blog, and I look forward to reading more.

    I love New Tricks by the way. Do you know if Dennis Waterman is going to sing? :D