"Of all the arts in which the mind excel", says one writer, "nature's chief masterpiece is writing well". But before we begin writing our best seller, I will ask you to re-read the beginning of this book. Or do you still remember those negative questions often asked by novices?
Well, I would want to assume you have outlived the "nattering nabobs of negativism (by Spiro Agnew), and are now set to write. Some, however, have asked the following questions, and the answers will help you get started.
What Do I Need to Write?
Simple. Use the traditional materials "- pen and paper. I prefer them. The reason is that it is easier for me to put my thoughts in writing as fast as they come. It makes the work more natural, honest and unpretentious. And you also know that a notebook and a pen, are very portable. You could be doing your thing while seated in a bus, train, or plane (without the terrorists).
But if you can type as fast as you think, a typewriter or even the computer is okay. So, what is sauce for the goose, may not be sauce for the gander. The important thing here is, use a writing means that can get your thought down as fast as it comes. Shorthand and pictographs are excellent.
What is the Best Time and Place to Write?
You know what is best for you. Some write in the morning, others prefer late at night. Some like quiet, lonely places, while others would not mind the radio on! Some have even tried to rouse their imagination through drugs and alcohol! And they say it works fine for them.
Well, I don't require any intoxicants to write. And I wouldn't ask you to take them in order to excel. What you need, however, is a conducive place and time. As for me, I write anywhere, anytime I get the muse.
You would have to know that the muses transcend borders and physical disabilities. Some have written books in prison-- ask Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate. He did one in prison, titled THE MAN DIED.
What About Sources?
"Writing is thinking, and thinking is work, says Robert Bolt who wrote A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Yes, you are going to think-- think a lot. You will go into meditation and see "visions", (I don't mean to make you a prophet.)
Now, do you know how Mary Shelley came to write FRANKENSTEIN? She was holidaying in Switzerland with her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, the poet Lord Byron and another named Polidori. After familiarizing themselves with ghost stories, Lord Byron came up with the proposition: "We will each write a ghost story".
Then each went to dream dreams, and Mary Shelley thought that to excel, she had to dream up the scariest story ever. And she beat them all with FRANKENSTEIN, the weirdest story before HARRY PORTER. Even Joseph, the dreamer, couldn't have dreamt better. And her story became a classic!
So, having chosen the genre you want to write about, think of the best- selling book in that category. And aim to smash its record! Persevere in your dream, and when it has taken form, put it down in writing.
But you cannot dream in abstraction. Your first source of material is reading. Yes, be a voracious reader. You may read for pleasure, or on purpose. Read anything that interests you "- newspapers, magazines, story, and scientific books.
And as you read, ask yourself: What is the writer saying? Why is he saying it? How is he saying it? The answers you get will help you comprehend, interpret and appreciate the book, together with the writer's use of language.
You also have another source "- observation. How do you observe things? Do you look at them closely? Or do you just take a cursory look? You may have missed a great discovery.
Now, come to think of it. Which invention was ever made without a keen observation followed by an inference "- from cause to effect, or from effect to cause.
Remember Isaac Newton observing a falling apple (gravity), Achimedes jumping out of a pool of water and solving the riddle of the king's crown (Eureka!), or Mungo Park following the river course and "discovering the River Niger (I saw with infinite pleasure the great object of my mission".)
So, in your daily activities, make it a habit to observe closely; who knows, right in your garden, you may discover the remains of an extinct dinosaur!
Third, you would have to draw materials from your personal life experiences "- what you have seen or heard of people, places and things. Who was it that said experience is the best teacher?
He was probably right. People have written masterpieces and autobiographies based on their life experiences. Like Charles Darwin. Like Nelson Mandela.
So, what you are as a person, called the "persona", and your life experiences must reflect in your work, whether you call it fiction, or non- fiction. And since books are a combination of facts and fiction, some have invented the coinage--faction, to represent the middle ground.
You have another last source of information "- interview people, ask questions.
No man is a repository of knowledge, and if you do not have an inquisitive mind, you will continue to wallow in ignorance, which itself is a disease.
So, ask questions to get the information you seek, and follow with more questions to clarify the answers. Do not be timid, shy, or proud, to know. Remember that knowledge is power. Remember also that Socrates, the great philosopher, asked to know. And remember the words of Rene Descartes: "Dare to know!"
At this stage, I must mention the importance of the diary. Yes, carry one about, and make a daily entry of materials you like to use as they come. It may be of what you read, see or hear. And you must learn to be patient. Writers are the most disciplined persons on earth. I wrote a book in ten years!
Do not be frightened at that prospect. I wrote one also in six months. So, have a strong desire, and finish what you start!
Also note as you are going to write, that you are going to be a philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, all in one.
You are going to invent characters and interpret their actions. You are going to create, and destroy civilizations. That is the might of the pen.
And as we now begin to write our best-seller in the next chapter, remember these words of Sir Francis Bacon: "Reading maketh a man, conference a ready man, and writing, an exact man".
I totally agree with him. What about you?
Copyright - 2002, all rights reserved
About the Author:
ARTHUR ZULU, is the author of the best selling book, HOW TO WRITE A BEST-SELLER
The above article is excerpted from a book of the same title,and the book is for sale.
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About the Author
ARTHUR ZULU, is the author of the best selling book,
HOW TO WRITE A BEST-SELLER.