February 22, 2018

Your state of mind while writing is crucial

Posted in Creativity, Fiction Writing, flow in writing, Literary Commentary, Momentum in writing, Tone tagged , , , , at 9:31 am by Rebecca Hein

What’s driving your state of mind while writing? This element of your work process can make or break your short story, novel, or nonfiction narrative. Both War and Peace and Crime and Punishment are excellent illustrations of this phenomenon.

It’s not too hard to guess what Tolstoy was thinking when he wrote War and Peace: “I want to make people think in a new way about history and the nature of power.” His vehicle, an epic historical novel, might have better fulfilled his mission if he’d kept to one genre throughout the story.

However, periodically he jumps out of the plot to deliver an essay on what power really is versus what we think it is, and how historical events prove his point. Thus, we find we’re reading two books in one: a novel about Napoleon’s invasions of Russia, and a string of nonfiction essays.

The novel is okay, though not the best ever written, despite the scope of the story. The essays are fine too, except they belong in a separate book. Possibly they would have more impact if presented in a collection of philosophical essays.

It’s obvious that Tolstoy had to express his convictions, and that the novel, as a literary form, couldn’t contain them. His failure to separate the two genres diluted them both.

Dostoyevsky also had strong convictions. But why would you want to slog through Crime and Punishment to discover the overriding conviction that clearly powered the book? Because the force of that one idea gives the story irresistible forward motion and absolute credibility.

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May 11, 2013

Keep Going, Part Five

Posted in Momentum in writing, slumps in writing, Stages, Success tagged , , at 1:22 pm by Rebecca Hein

Due to my recent success in finding paid writing work, I now see the full value of action and the corresponding danger of feelings. Writing, writing, writing my way to proficiency has given me ability I can count on. Doubting the worth of that action could have stopped me.

All through the years, it felt like there were two of me. One was writing and the other was thinking that the whole effort was useless. The former turned out to be significant, producing something real and tangible. The latter proved to have no reality at all, creating noise in my soul, yet never actually ruining my work.

Therefore, if you don’t yet know how your writing life will turn out, why listen to feelings that could stop you? Instead write daily or as often as you can, and this will move you forward and could even put you where you most want to be.

April 27, 2013

Keep Going, Part Three

Posted in Momentum in writing, slumps in writing, Stages tagged , , at 3:24 pm by Rebecca Hein

What was so important about my consistent writing habit in the face of chronic discouragement? It was action, and produced a definite result: better writing.

By contrast, discouragement produces nothing but a slowdown. We have to fight our way forward against the conviction that we will never progress.

Discouragement can be powerful, but if we let it become too real, it will produce its own form of action—a halt. Yet the miracle in my writing life is that somehow it never quite stopped me.

March 23, 2013

Keep Going, Part One

Posted in Momentum in writing tagged , at 12:06 pm by Rebecca Hein

All serious writers get discouraged. Trying to get published is one of our most daunting tasks, and publication for decent pay is even harder to achieve.

Even if you’re not actively seeking publication, artistic problems remain, and loom nearly as large. What direction should your short story or novel go? Will your memoir really interest others? How do you make your plots and characters credible?

Faced with all these big jobs and unanswered questions, we wonder if our writing will ever go anywhere. And then, of course, it’s easy to stop.

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