Detail from "Clockfire" by Jonathan Ball (Coach House Books)
Writers like to imagine anything counts as writing, but only writing is writing. Walking isn't writing. Research isn't writing. Thinking isn't writing. Schedule regular dates with your writing, and write.
—Jonathan Ball, writer
Jonathan Ball has a few writing tricks up his sleeve.
How else did he land a nomination --along with Bob Armstrong and Jennifer Still -- for Most Promising Manitoba Writer, in the 2012 Manitoba Book Awards.
On Saturday April 28, the Manitoba Writers' Guild and the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers will announce the winners of the Manitoba Book Awards.
It's too late to get a nomination, but it's never to late to get into the writing game.
Roll up your sleeves and read on for the inside scoop from Ball.
Writers write. Get to work. A few tips:
1. Organize Yourself
Your workspace, whether an oaken office or a ratty couch, should stand ready to receive you. At any moment, you should be mere seconds away from being able to work. Research near laptop. Pens in notebooks. If it takes you ten minutes to plug things in or clear things off, you'll never feel you have time to work.
2. Manage Your Time
Make the most of your time by dedicating that time. You can write a book in fifteen minutes a day, if you write every day, and you write for the full fifteen minutes. Writers like to imagine anything counts as writing, but only writing is writing. Walking isn't writing. Research isn't writing. Thinking isn't writing. Schedule regular dates with your writing, and write.
3. Avoid Your Style
You'll often hear: find your voice, develop your style. But your style is a deathtrap. When good writers go bad, they impose their styles on ideas their styles don't suit. Then, at best, they refine their styles rather serving their ideas. The world grows sick of hearing their voices, as they grow tired of themselves. Your approach should stem from your material. Find in the idea the voice of the idea.
4. Go to the End
Writers wimp out. You have to be strong. Don't just finish your projects, finish them fully. Would Saleema kill Sarah? Then Saleema kills Sarah. It doesn't matter if you like Sarah. It doesn't matter if you want her death to be clean. Maybe you think violence solves nothing, but for Saleema violence works. What does the idea demand? The philosophical implications of the work must be respected, even when they conflict with your own philosophies.
5. Serve the Work
Writers aren't self-employed, but employed by the work. The book is the boss. If you don't get to the office on time, and stay in the office for hours, it will fire you. If it wants you to come in on weekends, you don't have to like it. You just have to come in on weekends. Complain all you want about the work, but only behind its back. To its face, smile. Listen, and do what it says, if you want to get promoted to bigger projects, brilliant ideas, better books.