Today, writing well is more important than ever. Unlike in the past when only few ELITES could write, writing is a daily occupation for all of us — in email, on blogs, and through social media. It is also a primary means for communicating and refining of our ideas. As essayist, programmer, and investor Paul Graham has written “Writing doesn’t just communicate ideas; it generates them. If you’re bad at writing and don’t like to do it, you’ll miss out on most of the ideas writing would have generated.” Also Stephen king said “If you’re just starting out as a writer, you could do worse than strip your television’s electric plug wire, wrap a spike around it, and then stick it back into the wall. See what blows, and how far.”
So what can we do to improve our writing short of hanging ourselves? Well I am not in a very good position to answer this question .Instead I went to seek the answer for this question from young writers.
Nissar ( commonly known as NISSAR MASOOM) is a young Movie critic, horror author and a poet . I have been reading his work since I was in grade 8. A media science major is also Editor in chief of two successful blogs http://boxoffice101.blogspot.ae/ and http://poetics101.blogspot.ae/
Have you ever wished you could peer inside the mind of one of the writer and find out exactly what makes them put on paper something that makes you say WOW ?
Well..here is your chance
Omeir :Did you want to become a writer when you were young?
Nissar :When I was in Pakistan aged 9 we used to visit a village regularly. There, I carried a diary regularly, and wrote about my experiences. Upon returning to Islamabad, I mixed fantasy with those experiences and started writing short stories. So yes, my aspiration to become a writer began at an early age.
Omeir :Your work is very diverse ranging from movie reviews to poetry to parodies… Do you consider focusing on a single genre or continue to work on diverse stuff?
Nissar: A very bright question. I write on a variety of genres. Although, I consider working on a single genre: fiction. This is because my movie reviews cater to the non-fiction class of penmanship. My primary focus is still imagination. As I began by mixing reality with fantasy. My movie blog is just a hobby, whilst my poetry blog can be considered as fine art.
Omeir :How different is writing for communication and writing as a profession? Tell us more:
Nissar: Writing for communication simply caters to getting your work out to readers for publicity. I haven’t begun writing as a profession yet. The difference is that writing for communication has no boundaries. You write what you want without any word limit or censorship. Writing as a profession has a difference that you have to write according to expectations of whom you work for. Even if you work independently you have to concentrate on what your readers wish to want from you. Writing for communication is from the heart. The latter has more to do with the mind, than the passion.
Omeir:You come from a family of writers; your great grandfather SUFI TABASSUM was a notable writer whose poems are part of curriculum in Pakistan. Tell us what did you learn from your family and how has it shaped you as a budding writer?
Nissar: Ha, this does pose as an intriguing query. Yes, my great grandfather was a renowned author in Pakistan. And when people learn that I have descended from him, they are not surprised at my own writing finesse. My great-grandpa specialized in romantic poetry, which I also excel at, but his poems were primarily in Persian, Punjabi and Urdu. Whereas, all my poetry is in English, though I do translate Urdu songs into the latter language on occasion. Also, Sufi Tabassum translated Shakespearian plays into Punjabi, so I can say that translation of works was passed down into my blood. My grandfather Sufi Nisar was a playwright who passed away at an early age, so he did not gain the popularity that his father was blessed with. Another important point is that Sufi Nisar wrote a lot of parodies in the play format, and I pen parodies but in the screen-written way. I do not read Urdu works yet I am endowed with the same craftsmanship that my forefathers possessed.
Omeir : George R. R. Martin writes his books using Word Star on an ancient word processor that runs on DOS. Martin is not the only fiction writer with individual rituals surrounding his work. Neil Gaiman, Stephen King and many notable writers have very stringent and distinct rituals. It is also said that fiction writers are the epitome of deep workers (to make any progress, fiction writing requires your full concentration), and many of them, like Martin, Gaiman, and King, seem to rely on unusual but well-honed habits to get them into this mindset.
Tell us about your daily rituals as a writer and should those of us who work deeply in other fields follow their example?
Nissar : To start with, fiction writing is the most difficult form of authorship in the world. This is because non-fiction can be researched on and gathered into a 300-page book. But a fictional novel needs a majority of imagination over reality.
From the mentioned authors I will exclude the example of Gaiman as I know of his bibliography, but I am not an avid reader of him. Instead, I wish to include his contemporary Clive Barker into the inquiry. Barker is also a British author who specializes in fantasy writing. His agenda is not organized. He writes when he wants, and therefore, is published at his own consent. Yet, many of his novels exceed 400 pages.
Moving on to George R.R. Martin. He is one of the finest fiction writers on the planet. His body of work includes the series A Song of Ice and Fire, which was adapted to television in 2011, as Game of Thrones. Now, Martin has a different program from Barker, although both write prominently in the fantasy realm. His periodic is fixed, writing seven days a week usually. But Martin is criticized for being a slow writer, as the next installment in his series takes up to 5-6 years to publish (in the case of the last two novels in A Song of Ice and Fire). But the books have an 800-900 page length. So he should be regarded as more of a hard-working author, than a lazy writer.
Stephen King dominates the other two in terms of critical acclaim and financial success. King is the King of fiction. I have read many of his crafts. He has also published a manual known as On Writing. This I recommend to aspiring writers of any genre. The tips are bountiful and the start-up pages include King’s autobiography. King is a human typewriter in my opinion. In the beginning of his career he published two novels a year. He predominates in the horror genre, but his works are not limited to drama, fantasy and non-fiction. He has also written poetry and published many short-story collections. King suffered a serious accident in 1999 but still resumed writing in 2000. That is the fire in King’s passion. His routine is fixed, when writing a novel, of sitting on the desk from 9 AM to 5 AM, just like a typical white-collar working day. So where Barker is spontaneous, Martin is organized and King is meticulous, this leads to a cemented conclusion.
By this I mean that there are two types of writers: Disorganized and Organized. The former means that a writer will not work at a fixed timeline. And the latter means that they will remain on a set routine. No matter which one of them you are, it will not differ in the outcome of your work.
I am an organized writer. I will not work without a schedule. When writing an article/poem/short-story I first write in on paper, then on Microsoft Word. So this leaves way for concentrated editing, and lesser mistakes, especially typos, when the final account is released. If I wish to write a film critique, I will do it at my leisure, same with my poetry or short stories. But I personally know bloggers and fiction authors who do work on a routine and still chuck up articles/stories quite better than my own. As I declared before, it does not matter if you are organized or not, everyone has their own set of rules, and they must act on them without influence from society.
Omeir : Which books have inspired or influenced you as a writer?
Nissar : I began writing poetry by 14. But at a visit to a book fair in Al Ain I happened upon a novella by R.L. Stine. It was known as College Weekend and was a part of his Fear Street series for young adults. So at age 16 I started writing thriller short-stories after reading that novella. After just finishing College Weekend I set off at midnight to write a story with a similar theme.
This led to my first tale titled The CouSin. I wrote it manually on a notepad and handed it to my friends who really loved it, although they had never read Fear Street. But when a colleague who had read many FS books stumbled upon it, he claimed that there was much similarity to the series.
Thus, whenever you begin writing short stories, you will unintentionally imitate your favorite author. But when you continue reading stories by other writers, then you will mix styles and create a technique of your own.
Omeir : Were you writing because you were bored?
Nissar : I could say that. But it depends on the situation. I sometimes write when I’m not bored; when I’m listening to music. Yet I do declare that boredom is a conspicuous motivation for creativity. Even Newton was bored sitting against a tree when he discovered gravity.
However, if you love writing you will do it whether you’re bored or not. This depends on the respective writer’s mind. Some will take it up as a hobby; others will implement it into their daily timetable. I write for fun. And as long as you’re having fun, you can never give writing a secondary place in your life.
Omeir : Are you affected by other people’s appraisals of your work?
Nissar : Yes and no. I am open to criticism but I do not take it too seriously. My short-story Red Carpet was rejected 15 times before it was published on a website. If I had taken the exclusion seriously from the onset of negative e-mails, I would have given up after the 4th or 5th submission, yet I stayed on.
Do take positive and negative responses of your work into consideration, but do not let them predominate in your writing life.
Omeir : What tips do you have for inspiring writers?
My advice: Read a lot, and Write a lot. Reading will make way for you to process your own technique. And then writing with originality will follow.
There are thousands of bloggers around the world. Yet, only a minimum of them are good. This is because the availability of publishing is available to everyone, but not all of them take it seriously. As some mega-acclaimed writers have published one hit wonders, and their other 10 works have flopped, this is because they did not take their work seriously.
This is due to not reading a lot. You have to read old novels to know why they became classics, and new ones to realize their success at entering such a competitive market.
Another important tip is that if you wish to become a horror author, read fiction of the respective genre, but also of other types. This is because you want your writing to take up influence from other sources than a single stereotype.
I write mainly horror but I have read fantasy, romance, drama and non-fiction. This gave me insight into what readers like about that type of work. Do not read one category of fiction/non-fiction all your life.
When I am reading a mystery novel, a colleague might suggest a dramatic book. So I do not push that suggestion away, but read the recommendation, and give the person my personal review, or give a rating on GoodReads.
Never criticize any work without reading it yourself. Same when watching a movie. Even if it gets 9.8/10 on IMDb, I will not agree with the rating until I watch it myself. And believe me I have rated 9-star movies a 5 out of 10.
Also, I believe that you should not read a novel only due to its popularity. If you are reading Sherlock Holmes and all of your colleagues are reading The Fault in Our Stars, you should not shun your choice and say to yourself that my selection is irrelevant. If hundreds of people read the latter novel, and you yourself are enjoying the mystery brand, no one is wrong. It is simply their choice and not yours.
If you cannot keep a schedule for writing, try to. Even disorganized writers managed to write quite a handful in a week. So write at least 30 minutes every day of the week, or 1 hour almost every day of the week, and give yourself a one-day holiday. Or else your brain will be drained.
For fiction writing, remember that whatever genre you think of is not irrelevant in any way. You could end up creating a genre of your own. For poetry, remember that it comes from the heart, but that does not mean you should repeat outstanding words in each stanza. In poetry, you have to concentrate on each word you have written. In prose, you have to concentrate on each paragraph you have come up with.
For blogging, remember that whatever the topic, try to keep it unique. If you are blogging tips on studying, give your own directions and do not copy anyone else’s. If you are writing on a controversial topic, do take up much research without letting it being written as the same way as on the material you have read. If you are writing a critique on a movie, music album or book, remember to give your own review and not take much note of major critics. It is your review and is for readers to be judged. The trick is to be honest.
To end with, writing is a journey, and if you are not having fun, then it is not worth doing anymore. I’d like to thank my dearest friend Omeir Riaz for this interview, and also hope that he continues to write such enticing posts on his masterful blog.