We have come a long way in our lockdown creative writing challenge for budding writers.
I think we have covered a lot of skills that budding writers can employ in enriching their stories while still starting, and that said, this is going to be the last installment of this workshop at this basic level which has been our main focus.
What I have been sharing has been my personal approach at story writing, which I hinged on universal skills, and the takeaway herein is that you might not understand some of the things I have been saying, while also understanding others, and it is up to the individual writer to decide what to use, and what not to.
Some writers share the knowledge they have acquired from experience, while others keep it as a closely guarded secret, for after all knowledge of these skills can also be considered as weapons to use in the sometimes highly competitive world of creative writing.
I belong to the former group, I believe that knowledge should be shared, and that was the reason for this column.
Knowledge sharing ensures that a skill is further developed for future generations – we also learned from our predecessors, and sharing makes sure that others can also use that as a leaping board for their own still maturing ideas.
It is thus important that the writer does not operate in complete isolation, joining a writing club, either a physical or online one, is highly recommended, as that is where one can learn from other writers, or even pick up important tips like where to submit a manuscript, how to submit it, where a writing competition can be found, or acquiring knowledge of current writing trends.
To recap, in previous instalments we talked about how to start, finding an ideal writing space, drafting, revision, story conflict, layering, characterisation amongst many other things, and we hope that all those tips were able to assist you to better visualise the craft that you are teaching yourself to wield.
But a story is never complete until it has been polished. One cannot write a first draft, second draft, and upon reaching what they roughly think is their resolution, then hurry on to hit the submit button to a publisher, and end of the story.
In arriving at the resolution of the several first drafts, which also would have undergone a lot of revisions, the writer is now ready to begin on the final one, and this one requires a lot of painstaking work, as what you are about to call your novel, is just about to emerge from all the previous slush.
Even though you are writing fiction, facts have to be re-checked, and this might require long periods of research where you leave your story alone and going about fact checking that the claims you make are not too far south of the truth.
For example, you have a city in your story, and your characters operate on its streets.
If you want to make your story sound real, you now have to go about researching on street and building names, and to further increase your knowledge of them, go on to study their history — how did the streets or the buildings get their names, and is there anything extra-ordinary you should know about this?
Do you know the correct order of those streets, or the type of architecture of the buildings?
What kind of bars, shops, markets are found around the city? What kind of food do restaurants serve, and what kind of characters frequent them?
You might not use all of this information in your story, but knowledge of it is crucial in understanding your story environment, and might also provide other little stories for your bigger story that can also provide wow moments for the reader.
Readers like stories that exhibit a good knowledge of their environment, as they are also fact checkers as they read along – they also want to learn about new worlds, or even if they know those worlds, they also want to explore things in them that they have never noticed before – and it is the duty of the writer to accurately provide that.
And lastly, I have found that most writers who are beginning to write are always in a rush to find somebody to read their manuscript before it is published.
“Ngicela ungibalele i-story sami fo.” And when they get a no, they become angry.
Take this from a seasoned writer. What is more important is not for you to go round asking people to read your half-baked story, but for you to just write and eventually finish it.
Hopefully we will be seeing your story published somewhere one day, and in the meantime, stay safe, stay writing, and always wear a face mask in the street!
Some writers share the knowledge they have acquired from experience, while others keep it as a closely guarded secret, for after all knowledge of these skills can also be considered as weapons to use in the sometimes highly competitive world of creative writing