There are just so many to choose from…
We hear quite often that no matter what it is we do, we should find our niche and stick to it. I don’t see why writing would be considered any differently and have for that matter seen a couple of writers saying they only ever write within one genre. To this I ask: Where’s the fun in that?
I can of course see the argument for staying faithful to what you are good at and if your passion happens to sit firmly within one genre and one genre only then by all means immerse yourself in that world and write away – It’s just not something I could bring myself to do.
One of the first and most important things you will hear if you say you want to be a writer is that you should write the stories you want to read and that’s just it; there are so many things I love to read. One day I crave a dark and chilling thriller; the next a fantastical adventure, the next a murder mystery and the next a rib-splitting comedy. It is not necessarily that I will write in all of these specific areas but I wouldn’t only listen to one genre of music, nor would I only watch one genre of film, so why should I limit the spectrum of my possible writing opportunities?
There will definitely always be common threads that link my work, like conflict and human emotion, but due to the vast scale of genres that appeal to me as a reader, I could never restrict my own imagination to just one overarching subject area. The lure of other worlds would simply forever taunt me to visit them until I had no choice but to relent. Better yet, I believe that pushing ourselves beyond the realms of our previous ventures and trying new things not only breaks monotony and keeps the writing process fresh and exciting but it also flexes our creative muscles and increases the depth of our abilities. This is why I hope that throughout my life and career, I can be bold enough to push myself into taking paths that may not seem the easiest or most obvious.
What kind of reader/writer are you? Do you stick to one genre or do you like to dip your toe into unknown areas every now and then?
More cunning than the stealthy fox
that evades the prying eyes
and deadlier than a dripping fang
in the wicked mouths of snakes.
More selfish than the opportune vulture
that steals a mother’s kill
and hardier than the snowy leopard
that survives the harshest nights.
Ruling over all this land
with murder in its heart.
The hunter with ten cold fingers
reaching for his gun.
Epic tales of wondrous fantasy may not be as removed from our everyday lives as we think
Fantasy is just one genre of many that I enjoy reading (or watching in the case of movies). There is no denying the huge popularity it has gained, particularly in recent years, with many of the world’s most well-known and renowned stories both in the form of literature and film being within the realms of fantasy. The wonder, the intrigue, the striking visual splendour and the ability to denounce the rules and restrictions of real life are undoubtedly reasons as to the increasingly powerful grip the genre has on us as an audience but I believe there is another important yet often overlooked reason, which I feel is best summed up in a quote by Lloyd Alexander:
“Fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it.”
I challenge you to find any fantasy story, be it one that is brought to us on the page or the big screen, which fails to take inspiration from or attempt to teach us something about matters that are far closer to our real lives than we would perhaps first think. Be it a detailed analysis of a specific human characteristic or as broad a moral concept as good vs evil; our own culture and emotions are the common threads that link our world with those we could otherwise only dream of.
There are so many bad things in this world that however painful, need to be addressed and fantasy is an embracing and comforting crutch we have created in order to cushion the blow and help ourselves cope and learn. For that, I am truly grateful.
Rise dear phoenix from the ashes,
spread your wings and fly.
Wouldn’t they just love it
if you simply lay and die.
Little one, I’ll dry your tears
and bruises they shall heal.
For though they see the scars they make
they know not what we feel.
Be the light among the dark
and guide the lost ones home,
to show we fight for what is right
and our hearts are ours to own.
So stand upon the rubble proud,
for you are still alive.
It is not about the wounds we bear
but that we do still strive.
Notebooks are a writer’s best friend
It seems like in every corner of my house there is another notebook to uncover. Some are new, some are years old and others I haven’t even gotten round to using yet but simply couldn’t resist the lure of a crisp, fresh booklet just waiting to be graced with untold creativity.
Each one I use inevitably ends up being filled to the brim with lists, thoughts, plot ideas, character information, concepts for the likes of poems, short stories, blog posts and who knows what other frankly nonsensical ramblings that seemed perfectly important to me at the time I wrote them. I love them however and the whole idea of feeling organised that they play into – even if in reality I am perhaps a little more scatty at times than I would like to think.
Filtering through a selection of them and rediscovering ideas I had forgotten all about, it got me thinking about the process of planning as a whole. Most writers will preach of the importance in always outlining your stories and detailing your protagonists long before you ever put pen to paper but there are certainly those who are much more comfortable with the idea of allowing the plot to drive their imagination as and when they actually write, with plotting feeling more a hindrance than a help in the long run.
I find myself being a strange hybrid of the two types. I certainly do like to outline major plot points and briefly think through my main characters before I dive fully into a project of any kind but the small details and nuances of personality that flesh out a story and make it feel real I much prefer to allow the chance to develop naturally, so as not to make me feel too heavily restricted when I write. As a lover of writing down my thoughts and ideas, I can completely understand the appeal in having every detail already planned out so you always know exactly where your story is heading but for me, I worry this would make the writing process itself feel too much like joining the dots and the stories not free to grow arms and legs and take on a life and voice of their own.
What kind of writer are you? Do you plan your work rigidly, only enough to guide you in the right direction or do you simply trust your instincts?
His cold hands they grip my lungs,
tight and imposing.
In a crowd yet all alone,
this fear my only confidant.
In a mirror I see a reflection,
mine yet not my own.
Wrestling with this demon inside me,
I fear he is here to stay.
How do you choose a name for your work?
The name of anything – be it a book, a movie or a song – can and often will have an important influence on its eventual success or lack thereof. Given this, I struggled for a long time to find the name that best suited my debut novella before its publication and the working title was not even close to what it eventually ended up being called. In fact, I was only able to definitively choose the name, The Vessel, after I had finished writing the final chapter and the phrase stood out to me as being exactly what I had been looking for all along. After that, I couldn’t even consider anything else; I just knew it was right.
This time however, as I start out on the very early stages of the first draft of my next book, I am already almost certain of what the finished work will be entitled and I found it rather odd that with each experience, the title came to me in completely different ways, despite its equally huge importance for both.
So I wondered, to anyone who has or is currently working on novels, novellas, short stories, poems or anything else of the ilk; How and at what stage of the process were you able to finally say to yourself, “Yes. This is what my work will be called.”?