A fellow blogger I recently came across wrote a piece on the recipe of writing.
I’ve dredged up a 12 year old piece of my own that shows how fascinated we all are, newbies and civilians alike, about how it’s done. 🤭

Page 83 of ‘Stephen King on Writing’ is the beginning of a chapter that is titled ‘Toolbox’.  The third sentence goes: ‘Fazza smoked cigars, though, not Camels.’ Stephen King’s uncle Oren smoked Camels, and Oren inherited Fazza’s toolbox when Fazza died. Both were carpenters,’ skilled craftspeople who work with timber’*, so Fazza’s toolbox becomes a metaphor for the set of tools writers must collect and own in order to effectively craft and shape their words.  Each tool has its function and place.  Of course, unlike the Fazza and Oren analogy no one can inherit another writer’s tools which is why, although I love Stephen King’s autobiographical book, I know I could never be Stephen King.

Once I recognised that, I was able to settle down to doing what I did best, which is not writing novels, nor is it writing horror fiction. I haven’t got the mindset for the latter, but if ever I decide on the former, it will be when I’ve built up both the skills and the courage to do so.

I joke in my ‘about me’ that I have a novel that acts as a doorstop. That’s a metaphor too. The manuscript is there to remind me that I tried and I failed.  But lately I’ve been remembering that I also tried baking a loaf of bread using yeast and I failed. That was four decades ago. I’ve been afraid of yeast ever since that time. But I tried again a year ago. Having cooked and baked my little fingers to the bone for decades I suddenly felt a lot more confident in my abilities. To bake bread. I have to tell you that that loaf of bread wasn’t too bad. Not exactly Baker’s Delight, but definitely delightful to a rank beginner. So maybe stir a little yeast into some lukewarm water to get the confidence rising and I could have another go at it. Maybe I’ll reinstate that old doorstop and see what I did wrong the first time around. I’ve certainly given it enough time and distance. ( I tried after I wrote this, and the manuscript only grew)

I could go demented buying up how-to books written by respected writers. As I said earlier, they’re only going to tell me how they write as themselves; they won’t tell me how to write as me. So now I will occasionally borrow them from the local library and read them for enjoyment rather than try to unlock these people’s secrets.

There was a WordPress Challenge a while ago called Stylish Imitation.  The challengees were asked to imitate a writer that they admired. I chose Danny Katz whose writing style I admire above all others. Mine was a good piece, I worked hard at it and I re-worked it. And when I was done and I’d posted it I was pretty proud.  When I re-read it the next day I knew it was nothing at all like Katz’s style.  I didn’t really mind once I’d thought about it. I’d swap with Danny in a heartbeat but since I can’t and since I’ll never inherit his writing tools, I’ll just have to be satisfied with mine and with getting to where I want to be the hard way.

14 thoughts on “Connecting the dots.

  1. I tried writing short stories recently and in the group I was at the time, they did not seem to understand them. So I keep on and on with my full length manuscript, version . . . oh, whatever! Eight or some-such now.
    Then I reminded myself that I used to write short stories at high school and sell them there (the students usually did not recognise the stories had come from them in the first place). So, maybe, I should allocate some time to return to the short story arc.
    I, like you, also failed with yeast bread making and have never returned. Perhaps I should try that again too!

    • Sorry, Gwen. I’m so behind in my correspondence. A Sydney friend texted me six weeks ago to ask how things were going. Still haven’t got back to him. Real life has got in the way. 😞
      Could I just suggest that if you trust the people in your group, revisit your short stories after a break; read them aloud. Then decide for yourself what / if anything needs to be done. Because in the end it’s your baby. If you think a bit of revision is necessary, do it and then stop agonising. Find a market or a short story competition and send your babies off fast. It doesn’t make sense that you once successfully sold your work and have suddenly lost the knack. Have confidence, Gwen. 💋

      • Thank you Mary. I need a bit of confidence booster every so often. I too have been busy. My editor also gave me a kick up the backside and that resulted in me finally finishing this ms version and getting it off to my agent this morning.
        I think if I do return to short-stories, which is quite possible, I will go down the route of submitting them. I’m not sure that was “as one” with that particular writing group. It’s possibly better to let the judges assess in comparison to other submissions. It’s less demoralising to think that there was simply better offerings on the day, and not that the work is without merit.

      • Thanks for asking Mary! It is a hybrid memoir, fictionalising fact. Set between 1890 and 1946. And based on my family history. When I wrote my first memoir, I Belong to NoOne, I discovered the last legitimate birth on my maternal side was 1854! This ms highlights the terrible consequences for women who stepped outside the confines of marriage, and explores the relationship between illegitimacy and poverty and disadvantage. Hopefully I’ve written it in a way that keeps the reader engaged. My editor is very supportive. And thank you for the feedback on my travel blogs. I’ll have some time now to write more.

      • Thank you for the positive re-inforcement. This is the part where anxiety kicks in as to whether it is good enough to attract a publishing deal. I can’t remember if you read I Belong to No One. The publisher did a great job with the cover and blurb, even though it sent me in to meltdown the first time I saw it.

      • Haven’t read your book, Gwen, but I did come across some of your posts a while ago that I think was on the same theme. There was one that stuck. You found that your mum had given your books away and you knocked on people’s doors and asked for them back. That’s gumption. 🤭 (why did the cover send you into meltdown.)

      • So interesting that stuck with you! My poor Mum, she would have meant well. She has a role to play in the current ms – she was in an orphanage at a young age – but the focus is on her mother.
        And I note you’ve seen the cover of the other book. When I first saw it, it was as if the curtain between my young self and my life now had been lifted. I needed a couple of days to sort myself out.

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