Know thyself… by writing your first novel

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Paul Whybrow

Full Member
Jun 20, 2015
Cornwall, UK
A worthwhile article by Faber Academy tutor Richard Skinner, from today's Observer:

Know thyself… by writing your first novel

I very much agree with what he says about plotting, in his condensed advice at the bottom of the article:

'Twist your plot like a screw, don’t hammer it like a nail. Events have to be spread out evenly along the narrative so that the story is sustained and developed over the whole narrative.'
Huh. So much advice, so little time. There's lots of inflatery in this one.

What's this but a bit of nonsense.

Writing is about claiming ownership of yourself in order to become the person you know you can be.

I can't even imagine why someone would say such a thing. The writer of this article isn't particularly precise is he? I think he means 'writing a novel'.

This one seems somewhat true. As I'm sure the above might be somewhat true for some people some of the time.

No matter how well you plan a novel beforehand, it is in the act of writing itself that the best ideas usually present themselves.

I mean... it's true for me... but aren't there those people who plot and stick to their plot. I heard tell of them. They usually write middle grade.

...and then he starts contradicting himself...

The strange thing is that the more of yourself you put into your book, the more invisible you become.

You can own yourself through writing but you put yourself into the book and all of this on the heels of him telling people to lose themselves in their writing. Cliche anyone?

Later in two adjacent sentences he tells people to go with their gut but to remain neutral. We all know how unbiased and objective our guts are. Nevermind that I'm not entirely sure the heart and the gut aren't closer than one would think.

Mostly horrible stuff this guy is sharing.

Okay. Other stuff to do.
Reading that article brought back memories of a couple pompous professors at the university. Advise that guides one forward, imparts information that aids in learning a trade is valuable. I didn't find much in this article, in fact, I found some advice to be misguided. Maybe I read it too quickly or was turned off by the tone. Maybe this chap can learn how to write an article at the Faber academy that engages the reader. Or maybe I was just tired after a long day.


PS: I read the article a second time, without speed reading, without skimming, with the intent of learning. Outside of a few good cliques, this article instills the fear of failure and reinforces reasons why I would not want to write. The author slams you down, presents his hand to lift you up and draws that hand away when you reach for it. If I was an aspiring writer, hoping to start my first novel, after this article, I would not. Just my opinion.
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Writers Over 40...

26 Calls for Submissions in August 2018 - Paying Markets