Musings on the Craft of Writing

Posts tagged “artists

►Story Structure or, “What I learned from the Three Little Pigs”

When we love a story, when a book stays with us for days (or decades) we know that it “works.”  What we mean by that is that the story fulfilled specific desires (based on the genre/tone of that novel).  But how does one story work and another fail?

Of course there’s always some subjectivity on the matter, but overall we do seem to share a “communal objectivity” about a tale either soaring or flopping. Tastes vary, but we still recognize the difference (more…)

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►Muses and Monsters

Novel writing is complicated, but not nearly so complicated as novel writers.  Creativity is a strange animal, and it leads authors in strange directions.  Recently I discovered Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, which is primarily about overcoming resistance and truly chasing the artist’s life.  It’s filled with many excellent insights, and I recommend it.  However, he does spend some time discussing his sincere belief in the ancient Muses and Daimons  and their influence over his own writing.  (In case you don’t know, this is tantamount to saying that you really do believe in Zeus, and that Apollo is really guiding you on a journey.)

apollo_muses

And then last week I came across a Ted Talk where Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) makes similar claims of the guiding force of supernatural agents. Weird?  Well, yeah, but really this is no different than people believing that the “Holy Ghost guides them” in their projects, as some Christian artists assert.

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►Without which you will fail

Scores of elements can be listed that are prerequisites for someone soaring high in their craft, from ludicrously overpaid sports icons to the world’s deadliest assassins.  There are many essential skills a writer must have in order to produce great work.  The most important one, however, is not all that mystical.  It’s not “inspiration” (however we want to define that).  It’s not witty, flowing prose or enthralling characters.  It’s not complex (but unconvoluted) plots, and it’s as sure as hell not how strongly the writer feels when he writes it.

This single skill, to the disappointment of all of those who believe that lightning will strike and make you a Shakespeare, is simply iron-clad discipline.

True success as an artist means that you’ve accepted that it’s adult-time; artistry of any realm (even being a world-class assassin) means that you must develop serious discipline in order to perfect those 20-30 other serious skills required to succeed. (Being a superb marksman by itself only accounts for a small fraction of the killing business.)  Of course, by ‘succeed’ I do not mean that you got published by a major publishing house and/or sold millions of copies.  That happens with a lot of people who I’d call mediocre (if I am feeling generous).  Nepotism/cronyism/billion dollar religious cults can get any hack to the NYT top 10 list.

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