Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The kindness of Strangers

There are lots of things I appreciate about being part of the Novel Racers. I’ve found friends here that filled a gap in friends in Bangkok – mostly people who actually write. Friends here are very supportive of my writing and take me seriously (more so than I take myself sometimes) but they aren’t at different stages of the same writing journey, that means I can learn from them.

I don’t need to persuade you all; I know we all appreciate it.

And then, sometimes I’ve had a comment from someone who isn’t part of the Novel Racers – or the ‘regulars’ in this part of cyberspace - and their kindness has touched me.

Last month on this post David McMahon left some advice, which really helped me.

A couple of days ago I had a comment from AK which I appreciated on an old post. I was sorry to miss her at the Bangkok Women’s Writers’ Group (it was my ill week) but I was glad that she stopped and commented at one of my (all too) anxious posts. I went to her profile page and she writes too. She was born in England, lived in Bangkok and now lives in America. Thank you AK.

Last night I had a long comment from Victor on another old post. It was the post where I wondered if I was the only one who didn’t intuitively understand the process of creating a book. (I’m not.)

Victor left this message:

Ask yourself if you are drawing on your own past and experience or your interpretation of the "other" (other here being used as no more than a reference to a 3rd person point of view/reference that is otherwise wholly unfamiliar to your past and daily routine).

The first is often said to be easier for first time writers as it allows them to suffuse their characters with an intimacy and authenticity that might otherwise be lacking unless you intend to devote much research, observation and time into the background "set-up" of this novel.

Follow that up by asking the following questions. Who is your audience; what is the main plot; are there any subplots and for whom are you writing? Is this book intended for those who love good and masterful prose or a clever mystery? Is it a subdued but soulful tale of self-realization or an epic journey set against the backdrop of two battling empires? By answering these basic types of questions you will essentially be answering the question "WHAT IS IT THAT I MEAN TO WRITE".

Even the best of today's modern creative geniuses start with an idea and mould it into a conceptual structure then change it as need be in composing the final body of their work. It provides a framework within which to begin writing an opening vision and sequence for the storyline. It is not written in stone and they can alter it as they please (unless under contract, e.g. to deliver a mystery novel).

Unfortunately, well intentioned as it may seem and as good advice as it may be for A-level pupils, to heed the advice of the one writer to just put pen to paper and write the thing then have it edited, is, at best, a romantic notion.

Best of luck with your project,

Hope you are enjoying Thailand.


Hmmm, he seems to know what he’s talking about. My stats showed that Victor posted from Toronto, Canada and that he found my blog by searching for certain keywords. (Not related to me). ­His Blogger profile showed only one profile view so he’s not a regular Blogger commentator. I wondered, did he create his profile, just in order to comment? Whatever Victor was searching for, he took the time out to comment on my blog, to pass on some of his experience and knowledge. So I’d like to thank him.

So I’m moved, yet again, by the kindness of strangers. I don't think any of them are regulars - they could be lurkers - but they are kind and gave me some time.

An aside:

Today, I am working on my novel. I am not doing any designing of posters, or tickets, or headed notepaper, or compliment slips, or business cards. I am not doing any website stuff - though I will have to write my website report for the meeting tomorrow - I am writing. For me. My writing. My story that won't go away in my head, no matter what other things I am asked to do.


Pacha said...

Wow. Getting comments like that is fantastic! So kind and helpful! Good luck with your writing day! Enjoy and be productive!

AK said...

Thanks for the mention and link. I'm just getting caught up with my travel writing, now. I am in awe of those who rise to the craft of fiction. I can't write fiction to save my life (unless it's porn because the standards are so low and at least I know it's having an affect, hee). I'm intrigued to see that Victor's advice still applies even to non-fiction in the sense that I am the heroine of my journey which is also in a larger context of planetary woes. It is as close as I can get to the narrative of novel writing that seems to put people in a receptive frame of mind. Humans respond to stories. Glad you are getting down to yours.

Debs said...

I've taken note of what Victor said, he really seems to know what he's talking about. Very useful.

wordtryst said...

I too am struck by the kindness of strangers - and everyone who visits my blog started out as a stranger. Yet everyone has been kind, generous and supportive. It's something I'm constantly thankful for.

JJ said...

Thanks Pacha.

Well, AK, I'm failing to write fiction well at the moment. It feels very alien to me and not at all easy. And being British, I'm much too uptight to even think of writing porn! I'm so prudish, I'm shocked at the thought.

Debs, so kind, isn't it? Glad it was useful.

Wordtryst, me too. I'm permanantly staggered by people, which is great given how much horrible news is promoted every day.