Thursday, October 27, 2011

Nine tips. For real this time

By Jay Stringer

Yesterday Weddle tried to give 9 tips for "getting in the mood." I avoided reading the post for most of the day, because who really wants to read about Steve Weddle listening to Barry White? But then I thought, hey, this is a blog about crime fiction, maybe it's like a writing thing. And it was. 9 tips to get you in the mood for writing. Yes, nine, count 'em. That's right, three.

So I figured I'd help us get to that magic number 9. It;s almost like we collaborate on this collaborative blog, huh?

4. Watch a crappy movie.

Really. This works. It's not just me pretending to write. If you maybe want to write, but can't get going, well, you could cite writers block and go screaming into the night, ooooorrrrrrrrr you could just grease the wheels a little on that machine in your head. It's probably best if you don't watch something that's too close to the plot you're trying to work on. Watch some crappy movie with space aliens, or a T Rex that can creep up on people. If the names "Roger" or "Corman" are on the box, then you're right on the money.

Sit and watch a badly made film and it scrolls it's badly directed away across your screen (badly.) You'll scream or laugh at the decisions, you'll know how things could have been done better, and before you know it, the hamster wheel in your head is going wwwwhhhhrrrrrrrrrrrrrr, and the poor wee man running in it is getting tuckered out. Gold, he's throwing you gold. Now go and write.

5. Talk To Yourself.

You know how Chris McQuarrie started writing The Usual Suspects? He was working in a dull copy room every day, staring at the same four walls and copy machine, copying thousands of legal documents. Then one day, he started having a conversation with himself. It quickly became two people, sat at the desk in the room he was in, having a conversation. But, hey, where's the tension in that? So then one of the guys became a cop, and the other became a suspect, and the conversation became an interrogation. Then the suspect became a gobby fella, who wanted to talk about everything in the world except the one thing that the cop wanted to know. He talked so much that his name became Verbal. And boom, McQuarrie had the ending to a story, and a hunger to write everything that happened before that ending.

So, you sat at a bust stop? In the shower? Driving long distance? Or you sat on your own with a blank page trying to write? Talk to yourself. Have a conversation, figure out how to add some tension to the conversation, and before you know it, you'll have a story.

There we go! Nine, count em, Nine tips

6. Take The Bus.

Along similar lines to number 5. Get on a bus. Doesn't have to be a bus, can be any kind of public transport, a train, a tram, a space rocket. If it's a bicycle, you're doing it wrong. Listen to people. Watch people. Look at their faces, their body language, listen to their voices, watched them as they get off the bus, see which direction they walk in and think, I wonder what their story is? I wonder where they're going? Also, steal. Listen to what they say. They're real people with real voices, and you need that on the page. Lift their anecdotes, listen to how they structure their sentences. In your head, try and think in their accents and voices, try and arrange your thoughts to the rhythm of their speech. Hey presto, you're writing.

7. It's Okay Not To Write.

Writers write. Get yer ass in that chair. Other scary stuff. We hear these things all the time. And they're right. You do become a writer by writing. And the only way to get that done is to sit and do it. Well, I say sit, i imagine it's also possible to write while running on a treadmill, but I wouldn't want to try it. Point is, you're not going to get paid to write if you sit around all your life talking about wanting to write.

But this can lead to pressure. A lot of people pressure themselves, they feel they have to sit and write even if they're not in the right frame of mind. This is, in my opinion, where the biggest baddest form of writers block rears it's imaginary head. You know what? The physical act of writing is simply part of the writing process. It's a vital part, but it's not everything. Thinking is the key. When I get asked, "where do you get your ideas from?" I punch the person who asked me in the face. But after that, I say I get my ideas from thinking. And I quite like Thinking. It's one of my favourite things.

Sometimes you need that space, that time. You need that bus ride when you're spring on others, or that long shower when you're mumbling to yourself. Sometimes you simply need to sit and stare at the crack in the wall for three days. Give yourself permission not to write, and the pressure goes away. Your stomach is designed to tell you when it's full, but we all ignore it and get fat. You have to retrain yourself to listen. And the brain is the same way. Learn to tell when you're brain is full and when it's empty, and if you need to take a couple days to recharge, then take 'em.

There we go! need two more....Ummmm....Russel?

1 comment:

Mike Dennis said...

As a corollary to rule #4, Jay, where you say if the names "Roger" or "Corman" are on the DVD box, watch it immediately, I would add the names "Mamie" and "Van Doren".