Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Tips On Writing

Several years back  I was  attracted by this two full page ad in the NYT Book Review section highlighting two pages of a new book's opening. It was The Man From Beijing, an international mystery thriller. I had thought of opening the Mahabharata like a mystery story.   Those two provocative and well chosen pages were a powerful hook, although it turned out they weren't  the book's very opening pages. I got the book and it promised to be a powerhouse, as was the premise of the book, and the flashbacks. But after mid way,  the story began to unravel as the author moved away from the basic premise.

Henning Mankell is one of Sweden's great writers, so it was alarming to see such a potentially good story fall flat on it's face. The author tried to take the story where it really didn't have to go. He lost momentum in the process.  If Mankill couldn’t get a handle on his story, how was I going to do it with the vast Mahabharata. Later, I found the reviewers and readers had a mixed response to his book.  A lot of people still seemed to like the book because it was from Mankill. Unfortunately, I did not have a dedicated following like he did.

For me, however, the lesson was  simple. That is, to stick to the premise of your story. Premise means the purpose, the idea, the essential message or meaning of the story. The basic truth of the story.  The premise should be a compass for the author. It may take a while working with the story to begin to fully define and  understand your premise. It's easy to start a story. You might have one definite idea or a jumble of ideas and scenes. But in the excitement, you can't let that jumble carry you away, which it did with The Man From Beijing which got into superfluous passages and scenes.  Once you find it,  keep your eye on  the premise. Don't lose sight of it.  As a writer, that's what you have to serve.

For more tips see  - On Writing
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