Literary criticism. Alex Keegan (Dallas, USA). Beginner – Don"t Write That Novel!

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Literary criticism. Alex Keegan (Dallas, USA). Beginner – Don"t Write That Novel!

Post by Admin on Thu Jan 04, 2018 3:29 pm

My usual advice to beginners is not to strike out for the Great American (or British) novel but instead to concentrate for a considerable time, maybe as much as a year, writing short stories and doing exercises. I'd like to try and carefully outline why I think this is a solid and justifiable ideal.

Beginning Writing -- Short Stories vs. The Novel

Writing short stories allows the writer to experiment and find himself. Beginners very rarely have their natural voice when they begin writing. By learning about themselves, through writing many separate pieces, they find those styles, points-of-view, viewpoints, and language that are more natural to them. Commonly, beginners try to write like those authors they admire or authors who have written books similar to the kind they hope to write. Often this style may not be the one best suited to the particular writer. It is also common to see beginners change styles WITHIN books.

Burn Off the Autobiographical Urge

A common failing with beginning writers is that they write too close to themselves, producing autobiographical or near-autobiographical work. Though some great autobiographical novels have been written, most creative writing teachers are well aware that the autobiographical urge needs to be spent before the beginner learns that good writing needs to be generalisable. The writing of many short stories usually burns off this rarely desirable tendency and should some of the material be noticeably special it is still available as the basis for a longer work.

Variety of Experience

If students are writing a single novel, perhaps two in their first year, though this would be rare, they can, at the most, explore writing in two genres. If, on the other hand, students are writing, say, one short story a week they can try many many genres, styles, viewpoints; they can explore the terse hard-boiled Ford/Hemingway approach, the lyrical styles of Laurie Lee or Dylan Thomas, John Irving, and many points in between. This is not the case if they are writing novels.

Beginners Get Used to Completing Tasks.

One major advantage of writing short stories to begin with is that the one or two thousand word task seems less intimidating than the novel and far more achieveable.


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