Climb the Mountain, write the book
Setting out on the road to a writing career is a challenge. It’s like standing at the bottom of Mount Everest. You have a choice, you can stand and get a crick in your neck just looking at the peak, or you can start walking, keeping your eyes on the mountain under your feet. One way starts taking you to the top of the mountain, the other takes you to the chiropractor with unfulfilled dreams. Start writing.
Film, TV, Books or Stage?
Then ask yourself, what is the medium you enjoy most? Do you love watching films, going to the theatre or getting stuck into a great book? If it’s films, try getting hold of a few scripts. Read the scripts and watch the film at the same time using that pause button. It’s amazing what you can learn from seeing that transition from page to screen. If you love good books start analysing one of your favourites. I know you’re going to be reluctant to do this with any books or films that you love, because you enjoy the journey it takes you on. You don’t need to look under the hood of the car that’s carried you. But if you’re going to be an author, like the mechanic, you’re going to need to understand how it all works under the hood.
Pulling apart the work of art
As a reader you just want to be carried along by the words, let them fire your imagination. Done well and you hardly know you’re reading. As a writer, we need to switch to the analytical brain. Read once, enjoy the experience, then read again and see how the author achieved it. Look at the length of chapters, what’s the style? Look at the nature of the prose, is it full of description or is it spartan, just the minimum required to tell the story? What is the voice? Is it first person, third person? (see this link for POV’s). Observe the structure in relation to the genre. Get your post-its out and create your own board that describes the characters and plot of the book. If you do this with a few books you’re soon going to have a very good insight into the architecture of a novel.
Perfect writing, flawed writing
Don’t always imagine it will be perfect however. There is some brilliant writing in an episode of the Big Bang Theory, in which, Amy has to watch Raiders of the Lost Ark. Super nerd and boyfriend, Sheldon, loves this film. They watch the film and Sheldon excitedly asks what she thinks. Amy enjoyed the film apart from the “glaring story problem”. Sheldon is shocked. The film is perfect. Made by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, two of the greatest film makers in history, what possible story problem could there be? Amy says that if Indiana Jones hadn’t been in the film, the outcome would still have been the same. The Nazis would still have found the ark, they would still have taken it to the island, opened it and melted just like they did. Sheldon is devastated.
Even hugely popular and successful stories can have glaring errors, but if we buy into that world enough, we’ll forgive them anything. If we love that central character enough, we’ll follow her anywhere. The key is to get one aspect of your writing beautifully right, and you’ll be forgiven if other aspects are not so good. Don’t let perfectionism stop you from writing. Keep walking up that path and suddenly, you’ll find yourself at the top of the mountain.