The Writing Job Description

It’s been ages since I’ve posted and it feels great to flex these muscles again. But, like any activity, it’s best to go easy at the beginning of a routine. So, I’m going to start off by re-blogging Belinda Williams’ witty and spot-on article on The Writing Job Description.
See if you have what it takes to be a writer.
Please leave all comments on Belinda’s blog. I’m still not 100% back!

Belinda Williams

Whether you’re a writer or not, you’ve probably come across one of these memes:

What writers do

While you chuckle, there is an element of truth to some of these. And that truth is:

Writing is about a hell of a lot more than just writing.

When I started writing, I had a vague idea of what I was getting myself in for. With the release of my latest contemporary romance, The Pitch, later this month, I’ve got a much clearer idea. It’s the third book I’ve released (with two more due for release late this year and next).

A writing job description (Or, if only someone had told me all this earlier . . .)

Here’s all those things I’ve discovered are part of the job description for ‘writing’ but are not actually writing:

  • Editing. That’s writing, you say! Huh. To a writer, editing is not writing. Editing is the…

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The First Ten Percent Of Your Novel

In my last post I wrote about an article written by Jane Smiley, the acclaimed American novelist, on the Purpose and Practice of Revision This led me to her book 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

Front Cover

This is what Jane Smiley said about her book in We Wanted To Be Writers. com :

13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, (which) is a book about the anatomy and the history of the novel. And there are two chapters in there called “A Novel of Your Own Part I” and “A Novel of Your Own Part II.” Half of the book is about analyzing the form of the novel and half of the book is a sort of lengthy bibliography of about 105 or 6 novels that I read in order to write the book. (Jane Smiley on teaching writing)

Smiley, has a distinguished teaching record in the department of Creative Writing at the University of California so it’s no surprise that in reading her book I fell into the student role with Smiley as my teacher.

With clarity and generous spirit Smiley shares her insights on what makes a good writer. 

Because I am in the middle of editing a draft of my own, I was most interested in how she approaches “bettering” her rough drafts, specifically the first ten percent.

You, as the author, have about 10 percent of your novel to show the reader “who”, “what”, “where”, and “when.” “How” is for the rising action… You have only a certain number of pages to get the reader used to you as a writer. The more you pack into those pages, the more likely the reader will trust you and be willing to go on to the rising action.

So, what about this first 10 percent? What exactly does Jane Smiley suggest one pack into these pages?

PLACE: Where is everyone? When is the action taking place?

TIME: How is time going to be organized? Straight, continuous chronology? Chronological but in forward jumps? Some sort of looping structure?  Backward?

What makes your protagonist worth writing about?

These are the kind of interesting questions which Smiley throws at you, the writer, to help you go deeper. Another question which made me sit up had to do with the last 10 or 15 percent of the novel:

THE CLIMAX.

So the first thing you are going to do is turn to whatever page comes 90 percent of the way in your rough draft…That one page of the climax of your novel can tell you a lot about both what you have done and what you want to do, if you let it. Reading it, and a couple of pages around it, is your first diagnostic. (p.233)

There is so much that I got out of reading studying 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel.

If you are in the process of editing a novel, I highly recommend that you have a look at this book, particularly parts I and II of the chapters titled A Novel of Your Own.