Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border

Kootenai River in NW Montana, near Canadian Border
photo by Gene Tunick of Eureka, Montana

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Tip O'Day #445 - Ignore the Rules

Guest blogger Franz McLaren on “I write wrong.”

Over the years I have been told by English teachers, grammar teachers and a smattering of writing instructors that I should outline, I should write proper sentences, I should never use contractions, and so on. I listened, I learned, I wrote as I was told, and I produced dozens of stories that bored everyone who read them. Friends and family delicately suggested I should seek another career.

That is when desperation set in. Another career? I already had a day job that writing was supposed to free me from. Was I supposed to change my dreams and find something, anything, which gave me as much pleasure as writing?

However, the truth was, writing had become a chore. I did it because I had to. For as long as I can remember, writing was what I wanted to do.

In frustration I sat and wrote without thinking about rules, word patterns or structure. I let my mind wander and fingers pluck keys as they chose. A few hours later I had the rough draft of a story that I liked. I liked it because it was a story only I knew, one that I told myself as I was writing, one that carried a small part of my soul.

When I started that tale, I had no idea what I would write. I had not tried to outline. I did not know my characters or setting. I just wrote a story I wanted to hear.

Did I dare let others read this stuff? Should I put a bit of me out there and risk ridicule? Not yet.

I wrote a few more stories, each without knowing anything about them before I started and each revealing a little more about me than I felt comfortable with. Eventually, people noticed I was spending time at the keyboard not game related. Tentatively, I presented one of my new stories to a friend.

After a few comments about how it was unusual and they would not have phrased this passage that way, this reader asked whether I had any others. No trumpets blared from heaven, no pompoms were waved by ecstatic cheerleaders but in that instant, I knew I really was a writer.

Years later I sat down to write my first novel. I intended it to be a horror. How did I know that, since I had no idea what it was going to be about? Because, every short story I wrote was horror. Obviously I have a dark soul seeking release through writing.

Only the story did not cooperate. In a few chapters, my characters found themselves in a land of fantasy. My fingers put them there, but the characters were dictating the story. It felt as if I was coming home. I was finally in lands I had never seen, having adventures I could not have conceived.

I have been a fantasy writer since. I have business cards that say so and hundreds of fan letters that tell me I am not the only person who needs visions of other worlds.

When I finished the first book of the Clarion of Destiny series, my sons asked to see the outline. I decided enough time had passed since I gave up trying to write right that maybe I should give structure another try. I managed to produce fifteen lines that roughly represented the first book and wrote, "Leena has adventures on the way to the castle," as line sixteen. Then I was stumped. I had no idea what I should add next. The outline ended there. Seven books and more than 500,000 words later, Leena made it.

Not once during the writing of the series did I fire up the keyboard with an inkling of what I would write. Each day I spent time in Leena's world, learning as she learned and feeling as she felt. Each day she told me a new portion of the story.

I am writing a new serial character now and learning more about him and his exotic worlds daily. I do not know in-depth biographies of my characters. I do not have an outline. I do not choose the rhythms of their words. I should. Hundreds of books and articles tell me these things are necessary. However, when I tried to follow their advice I failed.

I know now that I write best when I write wrong.

You can learn more about fantasy author Franz McLaren at his website or on his Amazon author page.

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