One week to go until I must flee Turkey or face imprisonment for outstaying my welcome. (Might be worth it for the material for a bestseller it could give me: Midnight Express 2). As the clock ticks down on my Turkey time and my writing sabbatical I’m taking stock of a few things. Today I feel the urge to make an entry in my CWAP diary for posterity.
The Internet is littered with pithy gobbets of writing advice attributed to famous authors. Erudite phrases that are like word-windows opening onto fields of literary possibilities. I might not be a famous author but I have a bit of writing advice to impart to would-be novelists – my two-penny-worth: don’t be dull.
It might seem obvious to strive not to be dull as a writer but I have read – make that started and discarded – a number of books this year that have proven to be ‘dull’ reads. (Yeah, I know dullness is a subjective thing.)
Technology is allowing increasing numbers of people to realise that dream of writing and ‘publishing’ the book inside them that we are all supposed to have. Good luck to them all, I say. But a word of caution: it’s not enough to be able to write coherant sentences, organise paragraphs, keep a narrative arc going from start to finish. Not if it makes for dull reading. Writing doesn’t have to be gripping but it does need to be engaging. Pace, humour, horror, suspense, twisting plots, colourful characters, startlingly original figurative and/or descriptive language, snappy dialogue – there are many ways one can engage readers. The more strings you have to your bow the better. Obviously. Just dont be dull.
As a writer one must be a reader. More than that. You’ve got to read masters of the craft and learn from them. Understand what it is about their writing that hooks you the reader and learn from it.
Now might be an opportune time to recommend a read. (Don’t worry, it’s not one of mine.) The best book I have read in a long, long time. Certainly my of my top five reads. It’s got everything. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. An easy ten out of five from me. And I’m nearly finished with the follow-up Hannibal. This guy is simply brilliant. He has many strings to his bow.
(In response to the suggestion that everyone has a book inside them, the publisher Michael Joseph is reputed to have once said that most of them should stay there.)
Don’t make yours one of them. Don’t be dull.