It occurred to me the other day that 99.9 percent of the writing advice on the internet is ‘how to write novels’. There is an assumption that anybody who writes will, by default, be a novellist; that writing is exclusively all about plots, character arcs and so forth.
Certainly that’s where a lot of people who pick up a pen (well, a computer…) for the first time usually start. The dream ‘to be a writer’, for most, translates into ‘to be a novellist’ – or ‘short story writer’. Or both.
In fact there’s a lot more to writing than this. As I always say, writing is writing; it’s a skill of itself, and being able to master the fundamentals sets you up to then master the details of any specific corner–novel-writing. Or poetry. Or non-fiction.
What maybe isn’t obvious is the way these aspects feed into each other. For instance, a biography is closer than you might think to a character-driven novel. Sure, one has to be based in hard fact where the other is a product of imagination. But the stuff that a reader wants out of it – the insights into character, the emotional reward they get from discovering those insights – are much the same.
It’s why some novellists turn to biography – or why some biographies can be written as novels. There’s one released here in New Zealand lately, about aviatrix Jean Batten. Fiction – about a real person.
But it seems to me that the comparisons go deeper. All writing, I think, is grist to the mill. All writing inter-relates. We just have to be able to understand how. The point being that once we have that, we can leverage that skill – and write a novel with the same sure touch that we write an email, or a letter, or a blog post.
What do you figure?
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013
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