Sunday, September 16, 2007

Telling Write From Wrong (Part 4)

So You Feel Like You've Hit A Brick Wall?

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON


There is one point I'd like to clarify here. This series of posts is not just for people who are writing novels or other books. It is for writers of any description - essayists, those doing creative writing courses, or any of the many niches for writing, photography or blogging.

When I was a sportswriter in the Eighties, I used to write a regular weekly magazine column in addition to my other reporting. And quite often the hardest thing to find was the first sentence. Doesn't matter how good the idea is; sometimes it's a struggle if you can't find the "perfect" first sentence.

All of which brings me to the next point. Don't fret if you cannot construct the ideal opening for a piece of writing. Now that I'm a "mature" writer (okay, I'm trying to keep a straight face here) I don't let that stop me. First sentence ain't happenin'? No worries, just start with the first thought that comes into your head.

As you write and the thought process begins to fall into place, you will eventually think of the elusive first sentence. The point I'm making is: don't sit there for hours, staring at a blank computer screen. If you simply start writing, you will spare yourself the frustration of a delay. And think how lucky we are. Writers can start anywhere and go back to construct the first sentence, but builders can't do that. They have to start with their foundation and build upwards.
We're lucky. We don't have to build a piece of writing in a linear fashion. We can build "bricks" of sentences and paragraphs in any order and just cut and paste them where they belong. If you feel like you've hit a brick wall, just take a detour and start elsewhere. It's the sort of freedom that few other professions have. Recognise it. And revel in it.

Finally, a quick thank you to Dan, who gave me a terrific idea. He pointed out that people visiting this blog for the first time might like quick links to the previous posts in the series. Good call, Dan. Here are the links to the earlier posts - Don't Drive Yourself Too Hard, Gotta Go With The Flow and Let Me Help You With That Book You're Writing.

28 comments:

Pope Terry said...

Ah yes I hate it when you cant get that first or last sentence to come, a good opening and closing can really make or break anything, I find.

David said...

Yes, me too. I always have difficulty creating an intelligible, readable script for my blog.

Thanks for the tips, I'll be following them as they unfold and trying to apply them to my writing.

Cheers,

David (of davids-pics.blogspot.com)

Nessa / Goldennib said...

I like the photos you include in your posts.

Another good piece of advice. I often have a hard time starting because I want the first draft to be perfect. I've found it helps to just get the idea on paper(screen) not worrying about any of the "rules" and then going back and adjusting. This often works very well.

b. said...

I love this series!
And that brick pic looks like you took it of my front porch!

david mcmahon said...

G'day Your Eminence,

But you, sir, answer to a Higher Authority than us mortals!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi David,

I reckon your blog works fine. It's certainly intelligible to me.

How's that new canera going?

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Nessa,

I'm so glad you enjoy the pictures. I guess it just shows that I've got a sense of humour as well!

Very interested in what you;ve said here. Rules are meant to be ignored - especially if that approach helps in the construction of waht you write!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi B,

I'm so glad the series is working for you. The feedback has been great.

Did you get muddy again this weekend?

Pssssst - that picture REALLY IS your front porch. Don't believe me? Ask Hoss ...

Keep smiling

David

Kimberly said...

Wow, talk about taking my preconceptions and twisting them inside out. That was a fabulous post!

Mushy said...

Well, David, it took a day or two, but I finally got up a post on your behalf. Hope it brings you some happy readers who are looking to improve their writing skills.

RUTH said...

I'll remember this when I'm doing my college assignments :o) I'm sure I'll suffer from plenty of blank page gazing!

Andrea said...

Many times I feel like I have hit a brick wall. I have noticed people are getting more interested in my blog with my vacation pictures. I do not want to write a lot to bore people so I try to stay brief and to the point of my picture.

Thanks for your tips you have shared with us today.

Merisi said...

Oh no, I should have read your post before sitting here and staring at the screen for hours! :-)))
Thank you for the tip (in the not so far future I shall need a tip about how to fetch all my various notes from the various temporary resting places, in order to gather them into a coherent piece of writing - I am serious!). Very thoughtful of you and Dan, to put the links in one place, helps lazy folks like myself to safe some precious time to think about that illusive first sentence ... ahem ... what was it again you were saying ..... ?

lime said...

you know it's interesting. i can remember being driven insane by this sort of thing when i was a student trying to crank out assignments. as a blogger i just don't worry about it and it's rarely a problem. of course there is the question of whether or not i am blogging drivel as a result. hahahahaha

Vic Grace said...

Interesting and informative article. I have no aspirations to write a book but I am seeking to write an interesting blog. A Bloggers Digest of Living in Wilderness Canada, if you will, or at least that is what I would like it to be. So writing tips are good to have.

Now, how about a tip on proof reading. Or do I need to hire an editor! It seems it doesn't matter how many times I go over my post, it is the next day when I notice the glaring mistake.

Jeni said...

Now that's something I do from time to time but never thought of it in the way you explained - about building, etc., foundations and so on. Very sage advice, indeed.

david mcmahon said...

Hi Kimberly,

Thank you. I'm so glad it made sense.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Mushy,

As I said in my comment on your blog, that you from the bottom of my heart.

You are a kind and generous man.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Ruth,

It works with assignments too!

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi merisi,

It's funny comments like that, that make me say you should be writing with your pictures ....

As I said earlier, I would be honoured to help.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Lime.

Drivel? You certainly do not blog drivel. If you did I wouldn;t keep coming back to your site.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Andrea,

Nothing wrong with brevity. But chances are, if a subject interests you it'll probably interest us as well.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Vic,

I'm a big fan of your blog. As for proof reading, I'll do a special post for you.

Keep smiling

David

david mcmahon said...

Hi Jeni,

Thank you for those kind words. I'm glad you thought it was a ``sage'' post.

Always happy to help.

Keep smiling

David

Craver Vii said...

I don't believe you used to be a sportswriter "in your eighties." You cannot possibly be that old. What did you write about, anyway... shuffleboard? ;-P

I gotta tell you, I really appreciate these writing helps. And kudos to Dan for his bright idea.

Papoosue said...

Yup, as ever, you hit the nail right on the head David.

Lee said...

G'day David,

You were right. This is helpful. So was article 3. I used to not have any focus whatsoever. Now I have way too much and writing a blog post can take me away from other things I need to do because I'm a perfectionist. Stopping and going back hasn't exactly worked towards getting more written but it has given me time for thought. At that time, I'll either redesign or scap the thing.

The more I read about writing the more I think that the 10 minute free write or the 100 words thing is an exercise I should probably pick up. Of course to do that I suspect I'll have to get over not completing something. :)

Peace!

Kirti said...

This also applies to titles...I notice that I can never think of a good title right away for my blog posts, but after I write the post, it becomes clear as day...