Rule of writing fiction: go for a walk

Roads less traveled - in winter

By now The Guardian’s Ten rules of writing fiction has been well distributed virally – I stumbled across it over at City of Tongues, in which James Bradley also confesses to having neglected his blog lately. Well James, not as much as I have neglected mine …

So as of ten days ago I’m back in self-imposed isolation in my second home, Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, working on my manuscript. The proximity of the snow-covered Prospect Park (pictured) to my Brooklyn ‘closet’ is one of the most attractive parts of this neighborhood for me (btw my spelling changes depending on which country I’m in).

I was happy to see that many of the writers included going for a walk as one of their ‘rules’ to write by. I used to be a walking snob, refusing the possibility that moving more quickly would be any better for me than my fast-paced walking style. (Some friends call me ‘the greyhound’). My opinion has changed completely since beginning to run regularly, and boy have I toned up. As a late starter to running, I don’t run quickly or terribly far, but I do know that it clears my head like little else. Running in zero degrees in Prospect Park is quite wonderful, compared to the sickly stickiness of a Sydney summer run, spectacular waterside views notwithstanding. Dressing for the occasion takes me almost as much time as the run itself, although after my fourth run I’m getting quicker at preparing, and I’m now taking a longer route to see if I can increase my stamina. Reading that Malcolm Gladwell is a lifelong distance runner, and learning about Haruki Murakami’s late-starter status as both a runner and a novelist, has been very encouraging.

Still, running is not writing, and a lot of writing I must do. The other snippets from the Guardian list that spoke loudest to me were these from Rose Tremain:

In the planning stage of a book, don’t plan the ending. It has to be earned by all that will go before it.

Respect the way characters may change once they’ve got 50 pages of life in them. Revisit your plan at this stage and see whether certain things have to be altered to take account of these changes.

Damn, that’s exactly what’s happened to me on the weekend. My plan? Well, my plan is now to create a new plan. The old plan bears only a tangential relationship to what’s evolved. I have decided not to panic about that. Happily I decided long ago not to worry about the ending. There are too many other things to decide and worry about before I approach the end.

And from the remarkable Jeannette Winterson:

Turn up for work. Discipline allows creative freedom. No discipline equals no freedom.

Discipline generates freedom – I love that. I love it because it’s true. It’s so much easier to talk about writing, to blog about it (!) and to complain about how hard it is, when the simple but difficult thing to do is to write. Which is what I will do now I’m about to finish this post.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Hi Virginia
    I also read those rules (shoring info up for a future writing life?!) and was reminded of a Q&A section with Geraldine Brooks that’s in her book ‘Year of Wonders’. She also says that, after all is said and done, after all the research and talking and netsurfing and procrastination, you have nothing until you start writing. She forces herself to write every day when she’s working on a book, even if much will be scrapped. It also reminded me of Tim Winton describing in an interview how he had about three desks in his writing corner, each with a different ‘project’ on the go and when he reaches an impasse on one he swivels his chair over to the next one. I was impressed by the workman (or workwoman)-like nature of their approaches. There is no genius without sheer bloody hard work, it seems.
    Good luck………

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