HOW TO "WRITE TO WIN" - WHAT ARE THE "SECRETS" OF WRITING SUCCESS?
"If a man has talent and cannot use it, he has failed. If
he has a talent and uses only half of it, he has partly failed.
If he has a talent and learns somehow to use the whole of
it, he has gloriously succeeded and has a satisfaction and
a triumph few men ever know."
- Thomas Wolfe
"Everyone has a talent. What is rare is the courage to
follow the talent to the dark place where it leads."
- Erica Jong
Funnily enough, I don't believe there are any magic 'secrets'
to writing success. If so, I'm still trying to discover them.
So I'll cover this subject very briefly, because I don't know
the answers. It's really all common sense, following your
basic instincts and having a bit of fun at the same time.
Just BE YOU and write what your heart, your imagination
tells you to write. The writer or author is a puppeteer,
moulding the clay through the words that you choose.
You weave the strands of the article or story together,
through use of your creative imagination.
You start your article, short story or novel with an idea.
You decide HOW you will start: "Once upon a time". (This
could be the little child emerging from the depths of your
soul). Sounds very "airy-fairy" that, like many "arty farty
You perhaps got the plot from a television programme
or a newspaper article. The plots of some of my novels
came from newspaper articles.
Then you make choices as you go along: to base your
story upon fact or fiction, or faction (a mixture of fact and
fiction - I like that genre (impressive word that - must use
it more often!). You choose the track. You are the director,
producer and actor: YOU set the scene, decide whether it
is to be local or foreign. It's up to you HOW you describe
the landscape or surrounding environment.
You decide on the characters and how you will describe
them. To let them live or die? What immense power you
have to determine destinies! Whether to have a happy or
"And they all lived happily ever after...."
A few short words of advice to end off this lesson...
Make your writing FUN and get readers (and the editor)
"hooked" with a good opening paragraph and an even
better opening line.
What do you think of this example by Charles Dickens from
"A Tale of Two Cities"?
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was
the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the
epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the
season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the
spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had
everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were
all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other
way - in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being
received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of
I find it excellent and powerful writing; but quite "heavy
reading". What did you think of that style of writing?
How's this for an opening line for a novel?
"James walked into the hotel and it was as if he was struck
by a bolt of lightning. He instantly went into a state of shock,
as the past ten years of his life flashed through his mind, as
in an instant replay. It was too much to all take in in a
second. His legs began to tremble, as if they had turned
into instant jelly. They could barely hold his slight frame,
as he struggled with all his might to hold his body upright.
Out of his numbness he could see seated at the end of the
bar the face of the man that was indelibly printed on the
deepest recesses of his subconscious mind, the striking
features that had haunted him all those years. It was
the same mysterious man, who in an instant had turned
his entire world upside down and consumed James's
every waking thought for the past decade."
Was that "a bit over-the-top" writing?
"Did I need to say "mysterious man"? Do you want to read on?
Perhaps that could be the first paragraph of my next book?
Would you be interested in reading a book with a beginning, like that?
Or this one from my novel "Angolan Dawn"
"It was just getting light with that certain freshness in
the air of early morning. Albertina Kangombe saw the
figure of her husband Marcelino receding in the distance
down the sandy track, walking slowly down the gentle hill.
She saw him turn around once to look at her but he could
not see the tears of sadness running down her face. She
wondered when she would see her dear, strong husband
again. He was a tall man but he became smaller and
smaller as she saw him gradually receding into the distance
on that early January morning. And then he was gone...
Time to end off (I've done enough "work" re-writing this
Stimulate your imagination to the fullest. then go with the
flow. Observe life and jot down notes about your thoughts
and feelings.Then "make the words dance to your tune".
"Don't spend your days, stringing your instrument - start
making your own brand of music right NOW. "
See you next week, when we'll talk more about style and
grammar. Oh no, not another boring lesson!
I hope this information may be helpful to you in your creative writing.
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