|Writing comes from the mind, - teaching writing is a complex, subtle
business and if it is to have any real effect, cannot be done in a workshop,
classes, or with print-outs, tools or rules.
You can trawl the internet for tips and tricks made up for corporate
websites by anonymous non-writers, or you can have one-to-one master
classes from a known writer, published by Penguin at the ages of 27, whose
work has an international reputation.
The notion being sold to amateurs of 'the writers craft' is largely a fiction. And a
huge industry has grown around teaching people to get their novel 'accepted by
publishers', just at a time when the chances of it are even lower then ever, largely
because there are so many would-be writers.
Its basically a racket.
A racket to take your mind, and your money, off learning to write properly.
Real writing, if we can call it that, is simply having something you want to say or tell,
and finding the best method to do it. And that method of course varies.
Most of the teaching you can find isn't actually about writing well, but about feeding
the new 'tips for writers' industry built on the whistle-trained amateur desperate to be
accepted - and published. A lot of carrots for them to pay to chew on, and no sticks.
Well forget all that for a start. I won't be teaching you how to get accepted by
publishers, I will help you towards writing something that is worth
Writing techniques that guarantee mediocrity are easy to come by. The internet is full
of some frankly fantastical, technical-sounding, mechanistic stuff that to a good writer
is about as familiar as dentistry. That isn't how its done, and those methods are largely
a replacement for actual writing. But its a good way to get money for new rope.
So, rather than equip you with a load of useless mechanistic rules, I will help you find
the writer within you, and the essence of what it is you want to write, and then to find
the best way to write that particular piece, whatever it is.
And here is the paradox, the good writer within you isn't a writer at all, it's a
person. Good writers, including comedy writers, don't write from a set of rules, they
write from themselves. And that is why good writers tend to have their own
style, because they have chosen the best means for what is particular to them.
In this way the whole business of technique is the opposite of what they tell you – they
teach it as if there are sets of universally widely agreed, by writers, techniques. There
Rules and techniques aren't necessarily always wrong, writers do use them, to create
effects, when they are useful. Just as carpenters use tools, but a carpenter isn't a box
of chisels, especially when the chisels are fake. I will teach techniques insofar they
facilitate what you want to do, but what is being sold to people as technique comes
instead of writing. It's as if they would tell you painters use colour charts.
The chief tool of writing is the mind – whether you are writing a historical romance,
an adventure, a thriller, or a satire or a comedy of manners or high tragedy. And it
isn't easy to teach how to use the mind. So they don't, they teach anything but.
The difficult thing to teach is how to not let the deficiencies of the mind, poor
quality thinking, lead to bad writing. Mechanistic teaching ignores this problem
saying “use these tools and you're well on the way” and the result is that these
deficiencies have complete free rein, and the results are not just rigid and fake, they
are muddled and sometimes lacking in humanity and insight, because the writer
hasn't used his or her mind properly.
This is what we would address in our 20 hours of conversation. Tutorials, such as
these are, work because they respond to the specific needs of the individual. And to
teach good writing isn't simple, its subtle and particular to the individual.
As well as that of course, we try to eradicate the obvious faults. I would say most
people can be made many times better by correcting basic flaws and faults, not just of
grammar, but of style and thinking. Clarity is worth a lot, not only in polemics but in
prose of all kinds, fiction and non-fiction.
Getting rid of the bad habits, weak ideas and mistaken presumptions that
most teaching unfortunately works hard to create, opens the way for real
discovery and progress
The starting line is where people neglect to think properly about what they want to
say, and then of course neglect to find the best way to do it.
Sure, most writing is just entertainment, but as the mind is the tool, you have to
make sure it is sharp and used correctly for the job.
So, in brief, I wont teach you how to get your work accepted by agents and
publishers, thats up to you, and these days it isn't altogether clear that the best writing
is what you see in Waterstones. I will teach you how to write properly so that you
dont care so much what agents or publishers think of it. You will judge competently
for yourself if your work is any good or not. You will then be in the right place, at the
beginning of the road to finding a readership for it. Freedom in other words.