Month: May 2015
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Page seventeen has the specific focus of providing a home for new writers to have something published. Through both general submissions and competitions, the annual collection invites every individual looking to really make something of their own writing, and still feels new to the game, to submit to us and see if their gamble has resulted in a winning formula. Sometimes it does, and it gets published. Sometimes it doesn’t and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad – maybe it just needs a little more trimming of superfluous lines, or the characters could use a little more development, or so on. But we invite everyone to take that chance and have a go at being a writer.
Hm, hang on. Being a writer. That’s a heck of a thing to worry about, isn’t it?
Or maybe it isn’t. Especially if you take a moment to step away from the sensationalism that surrounds ‘being a writer’, especially on social media. Anyone with a writer-esque contact on Facebook will likely get the regular feed of quotes about being a writer, posts about how awesome it is to be a writer and so on. Don’t get me wrong, these are great forms of encouragement. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that the old ‘solitary artist’ babble isn’t necessarily a truth; that there’s a whole community of like-minded artists out there. But a lot of the time it just doesn’t really scratch the surface, does it? They’re not likely to help you feel any different as someone who creates content.
Only you define yourself as a writer. And only you decide how important that quality is to you. You could be an accountant who happens to be a writer. Or you’re a writer who happens to keep a day job as an accountant. You could be a writer as a career path, or as something to do in a hobby.
There’s only one thing that should never change, regardless of how you view yourself as a writer. You may take breaks, you may go months without writing anything of substance for whatever reason, and you may write in different styles or for difference audiences. A thousand different branches with the same beginning point, the same alpha from which everything else is just the omega.
The work means something.
Now, that sounds a hell of a lot heavier than it actually is. Meaning? Oh crap, you mean social commentary? Or strongly-developed themes? Is my writing meaningless unless it’s a thesis on the human condition, or the folly of war, or how it’s important to recycle? No, calm down, put that pedestal away. It can have those things, but they don’t constitute meaning.
What’s important is that it means something to you. That you put something heartfelt in it. That you made it your own. It doesn’t have to have details from your life, and it doesn’t have to be loaded with your thoughts and preoccupations. But it has to have a point of inspiration. Something that defines your reason for choosing that topic, those characters, this setting. Sometimes it’s just purely a what-if situation but it’s never totally random.
Whether you believe it or not, people are looking forward to seeing your work. People are looking forward to finding a fresh new voice – your voice. Make sure it really is your voice. Make sure you’re speaking clearly. That’s all you really need to worry about in the initial act of writing. Speak clearly. The other elements can be refined.
Be a writer later – including submitting your work, whether that be to page seventeen or elsewhere. Make time to enjoy writing now. Make time to create something that feels meaningful to you.
Beau Hillier | Editor, page seventeen
May 13, 2015
I’m often asked what’s the best way of writing a book.
I’m asked, like I must have some secret formula, because I’ve done it several times. Well, I have only one real answer.
Sure, you might require planning. As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, I’ll write out the names of every character I think I’ll use. I’ll map out locations, like restaurants, bars, schools, or whatever’s required. If I need a specific blueprint – e.g. a house that’s important to the story – then I’ll draw that up, so I can know the space my characters occupy. I might bullet-point some plot points (and will definitely do so as I write). But this is my methodology. It mightn’t work for you. You might have a completely different way of working. That’s fine. You need to prepare in whatever way you see fit. Ultimately, there’s only one commonality that we’re all going to share if we want to write a book.
You might think you need a special place to write. You can’t write because kids are running around screaming and the house is a mess. We can long for an ideal space, for a writer’s den, with our trusty laptop set on an antique desk by a window overlooking the idyllic countryside. That’ll do, won’t it? That’s perfect. And will get us in the mood, won’t it? Well, it might, but rarely are circumstances ideal. We need to deal with what is, because, invariably, when it comes to writing a book, whether we’re working in our dream location, or penned up in the toilet because it’s the only room where we can escape and have some privacy, the same duty remains to us.
But what about time? We might work, might have a partner, might have kids, might have housework, might have dialysis, might have a full day. That’s hard. It’s near impossible. Unfortunately, short of inventing technology that can stretch a twenty-four hour day into twenty-eight, we can only work with what we have. So whether we have eight hours a day where we can lounge around and work on our book, or only fifteen minutes a day, we’re still left with the same overriding requirement.
There will always be reasons that you can’t write. Excuses. Life will never be ideal. We’re too tired. Too busy. Not in the right headspace. It’s too noisy. My writing space isn’t set up correctly. My computer is old. My brain has turned to mush. I keep getting disturbed. My friend is having a meltdown. I’m having a meltdown. I don’t know if I can do it. I don’t know if I can write. Who’ll read it? Who’ll want it? What’s the point of it? This. That. Everything. Every single thing. Yet, despite it all, if we really want to do this, guess what we have to do?
There’s no magic formula. Whatever our situation, whatever our circumstances, whatever our methodology, we’re always left with one simple truth.
Writing is a muscle. Sorry for the cliché, but it is. You want to write a book, you do so by sitting down and writing it. By doing that every day, you build up that muscle so, next time you sit down to write, you welcome the prospect, your muscle tells you, ‘I can handle this’; you build it up so that it’s strong enough to endure tough patches and flat patches; so that on those days you don’t feel like it, when you’re exhausted, when you’re not in the mood, when the house is burning down around you, that muscle will pick you up and carry you – kicking and screaming if need be – the rest of the way, because there’s only one way it’s ever going to get done.
And that’s it. That’s all. Finito. No tricks. No tools. Nothing but this one reality.
If you do that, you’ll get there.