You think that’s an easy question to answer? Allow me to elaborate.
I began writing about six years ago. Before that, I had no idea I could write, let alone put a few novels together, write short stories, scripts, blogs or win writing competitions. I remember thinking at the time, when I first took out my shiny laptop and pressed a few keys, that it was rather strange. I mean, you don’t suddenly wake up one day and say, 'hey, I think I’ll be a prize winning writer.' For one thing you need to know how, right? You need to be able to spell, know good grammar, know how to dot your 'I's and cross your 't's. You need to know how to put a story together with a beginning, a middle and an end. You need to know how to develop characters, how to write great dialogue, know what a POV means and an M.S and you even have to know how to format the damn thing, double spaced, 12pt Times New Roman, indents etc......
With regards to the skills mentioned above, I have to say it IS possible to learn that stuff. I know this, because I have...learned that stuff. It has taken me six years of much heart ache and I still get things wrong. Recently I found out I couldn’t spell vulture. It came out as vulcher. A mental block? I hope so.
But with all these new found skills, my biggest perplexity was where my imagination came from, for surely that can’t be learned. You could have the best writing skills in the world, but if you can’t drum up a collection of stories, what do you do? You can’t learn to be a master at art. Yes, you can learn the painting techniques in order to create a piece, but would you ever be able to create that masterpiece and become an icon in death? A snooker player can learn the rules of his game, but if he hasn’t got the ‘eye’, he would never compete in world master tournaments. Would he?
So back to my question. What came first, the book or the author?
Take someone like me. From a very early age I used to collect data in my very exploratory brain. I watched people. I stripped their characters down, learned how to trust or not trust. I listened to how they spoke, I watched how they furnished their houses, who they married, how they raised their kids. I watched their facial expressions and their body language so that I almost knew what they were thinking. In summary, I was a little weirdo.
I was just seven when a cousin took me to her neighbour’s house. She was a very old lady (the neighbour, not the cousin) and so fascinated was I by her great age and her old fashioned furniture, that to this day I can remember every little detail of her home, even down to how it smelled. I did that a lot. Weird, huh?
All my life I have wondered why I absorbed all that information. What use was it and how could I harness it? But now I know why. Six years ago I discovered a fascination for writing; for telling stories, creating new worlds, committing crimes, creating ordinary characters in extreme circumstances; instilling detail into them, dressing them, furnishing their houses, making them think....
So the answer to my question, for me, is: The book. The book came first and then the writer, because I already had the imagination, I just didn’t have the skill.
Take a moment to think about the great authors. Bronte: Yes, she knew how to express herself by the use of the written word, but without her wonderful characters, her imagination and her attention to detail, would she have been published? And would she now be known as one of the greats?
And how about you? What came first, the book or the author? Do tell. Comments always welcome.
So, here I am, banging my keyboard as if there is no tomorrow. Of course there is...a tomorrow, as there is a today. And today and tomorrow and for the next two weeks, I intend to keep banging.
The suspense in The Song of the Underground is rising. It’s getting so exciting I often find myself holding my breath when I write my signature cliffhanger at the end of each chapter.
I once got involved in a debate on the internet about chapter lengths. I mentioned that I was once instructed by an industry professional to keep chapters around about the same length. ‘Not so,’ they all screamed at me. Yikes.
I kept my head, and explained that after I was advised by said professional, I began writing my chapters around about the 1,600 mark. And the more I wrote, it became natural to me to curve my chapters towards 1,600 to 1,800 words , allowing them to rise at the latter part of the book as I have in The Song, to around about 2,400.
Other people's argument is that each chapter should have a natural cut off point. I don't disagree. A good chapter with two or three scenes is the most effective and the most common. But my point is, a chapter that is too long can be cumbersome and a chapter too short, unsatisfying. Therefore, a natural chapter length can and should be achieved if a writer maintains consistency and keeps them to around about the same length.
It’s all about consistency.
Here's what I mean....
The reader, (God bless ‘er) gets into bed with the notion of reading a quick chapter before lights out. Reader opens book and there in front of her is a one page chapter.
She is perturbed. She asks herself, what else is there to do in bed with husband of 35 years other than read a book? So she starts another chapter. She keeps reading and turns four pages. Hubby has already finished his chapter in The Song of the Underground and, satisfied, he turns his light out on his side of the bed and snuggles down, pulling the duvet half way over his head.
Our reader keeps turning and turning those pages, willing the chapter to end. She can’t understand it. The first two chapters were an enjoyable and reasonable fifteen minutes read. She feels cheated, hanging between chapters like a bat waiting for nightfall. Her eyes are drooping. She can’t go on. She has no choice but to leave the job undone. And she hates that.
She closes the book, switches off the light, cuddles up to hubby who’s snoring his head off. He breaks wind. She turns over and wonders what time the library opens in the morning so that she can take offending book (with inconsistent chapter lengths) back. Or, should she just lean over and pinch his copy of The Song of the Underground, written by that wonderful new author called Wendy Reakes, who keeps her chapters consistently around about the same length?
Ah, the power of the internet. Have you seen the new facebook timeline layout?
You probably don’t know this, but facebook introduced that format because of me. Really!
Here’s what happened.
Just this week I got really sick of looking at all the mumbo jumbo happening on my facebook page. Things like posts from distant acquaintances saying (and I quote), ‘going to bed now’.
I wanted to advertise my new novel, ‘The Song of the Underground’ (thought I’d put that in, just in case I haven’t plugged it recently), and so I came across a site that provided the means to spruce up my page and include some great visuals.
I spent a few days trying to master it, got it wrong, got it wrong again, and finally after much verbal abuse thrown at the creator of said site, it finally came together. It was at that point, after three days of technical torture, the facebook people introduced the timeline pages.
I couldn’t decide whether they were jealous of my attempts to spruce things up and the fact I had brought in a third party, or that they felt sorry for me and my efforts, and decided on completion that it may be a good idea to follow my lead.
So there you are, folks. When you finally get your stuff up on timeline as I have and many others too it would seem (they must have copied me) then please remember you have me to thank for it all.
No worries. Just get sprucing.
Wendy (New look Facebook mastermind)