Author Archives: Greg Thomas

About Greg Thomas

Nomad, Traveller, Barman, Writer, Full Time Charmer

The Editing Process

The way I edit has changed. I use to polish off every sentence as I did it, because I believed it would save me time later. And sure, it may save me time, if i want a completed book, but it wouldn’t help me get published.

Now I write just to get the story down. Sure, I fiddle here and there with words if I see they need editing right there and then, but overall, I’m not really worriered about it. Why? because the biggest edits you will make don’t come from grammar or spelling mistakes, or finding that “right” word, but will come from changing your plot, structure, and those other macro views of your story.

So get your foundation down first, which is the basic story line. Get your story down! Once you have it down, then you will need to restructure, rethink everything, because the first image you recieve while writing, (As Orsen Wells says in his book on character) will probaly be cliche because it will come from the already common sense approach to the current circumstance. Also, Michael Chekhov in his book on acting (awesome book on art overall, if you can get a chance to read it, do so) says that the first image is never the best image, and that the confident artist will pass on image after image untill its right for expression. He talks about artists who let an image of a sculpture rest in their mind for years untill they believe the image is right for expression. Now, of course this isn’t feasible for a modern day writer, but it gives you an example of why getting down your story first is so important.

Once the story is done, question every scene and ask yourself “whats more interesting? What’s more exciting? What will challenge my characters more? How can I make this character more interesting?” Keep with these questions. And then once you believe your plot and structure are as good as it can be, THEN, go back and polish the words, grammar, plot and structure. Then you will see a novel that really shines.

I’m just chilling out in Agra, in India right now, and I’ve found the villages that I describe in my book are starting to look more and more like India. I believed it’s good for my writing because instead of writing from my imagination, I’m writing from experience, and it’s getting some really vivid, unique images out in the words, and I’m digging the frame of mind it’s putting me in.

Anyways, thats it for me for now!


The Magic Of Comma’s

This may be a strange post, but to me, this little realisation has pumped out some little gems of literary prose in the previous days, and I just want to share with you (If this can be conceived and expressed) what that is.

There are so many rules in the literary sphere, and in reality, most of them can be broken; if you’re aware enough to break them.

But it’s funny, the more “rules” you read, and the more you learn the fundamentals, the more rigid, lifeless, your writing can become.

But this isn’t to say this is bad. In fact, its a necessary part of the journey. When we learn that its noun, verb, object, and not the other way around, we learn the use of active vs passive langauge. When we learn not to use run on sentences, we begin to put full stops in the places they need to go. When we read “Elements of Style” (awesome book btw) we learn to use basic, direct, to the point language. All these are great tools, and are a must know for writers, but if you put all these rules together, and obey them religously, you can get some really boring texts.

But the more we learn, the more we structure, according to rules, we can actually lose our narrative voice, that spark that is usually alive in the writing you did when you were younger. This to me is the work that is inspired. When I read my original novel, I can see vivid, descriptive prose. I can see complex characters, engaging in situations that move me. But, I read my work after this, and it seems lifeless, structured, formal, that spark is gone, but god dam, its grammically perfect, and theres no over describing, no flowery prose, just basic, to the point langauge! It’s awesome!

I think the next phase, if when you know the rules, and they are so internalised that you can forget about them, and just let it flow out again like you did back in the disay (not a typo, just being real). When I stopped putting fullstops after every “noun, verb, object” and started expanding with passages, and describing with complex language again, then it beemed with life again. Complex language isn’t a bad thing, hell, Michael Chabon is known for his complex language and has won the Pulitzer Prize! (shoudln’t just be for Americans, but whatever)

I started putting comma’s back in, and extending past the “noun, verb, object” and moved into complex descriptions again. Forgetting the rules, and just going for it awoke my voice again!

In fact, I don’t know of “The Magic of Comma’s” will make sense to anyone, but for some reason, it sum’s it up to me and allowed me to get my voice back, but at the same time, do it with style.

Anyways, I’m in Delhi right now. This place is nuts, but I’m loving the food and cheap booze. But god dam these people can annoy me sometimes, but hey, I guess thats poverty for you!

Peace out lovers


My Blogs Focus

I have been working on what I want to focus on for this blog, and I think I know what I want it to be.

I want to focus on the philsophy of writing it self, how the art expresses words, and how one can learn a science of writing that well better their art and their life.

I want to place writing in the context of human life. Then, I want to express my experiences with it, and how I’m “coping” with the writing world. Yeah, let’s do that.


Narrative Voice

My first novel was full of too much telling and not enough showing. The voice was strong, but the lack of active images meant it was less engaging. My second novel was all active, all show, and because of that, my voice lessened and it became lifeless.

These two extremes forced me to find a middle ground, and it’s taken me all this time to find it. A strong narrative voice comes from being in the action as a human being, and then authentically expressing the words that come to your mind onto the paper. Wheather its something about the scenary, about the characters description, about what he/she is thinking. This combination of switches is the expression of the narrative voice, and the more authentic you are with what your mind is trying to say, the stronger the narrative voice will be.

If we are too calcuated in our expression i.e adjection, noun, verb, adjective, noun, verb (although we will have a clear picture of what’s going on visually), there won’t be that hook, that engagement that sucks a reader in and makes them want to read on.

Be real, be authentic, and be in the action. those are the principles.


Plotting

Plotting is the art I’m currently trying to master. I ignored it for so long that I really have 0 knowledge on the subject. I always thought plot came naturally with creative expression, and that if I was inspired, then the plot would naturally come out perfect. I guess its these romantic notions of writing that have caused me to “relax” with my craft, and not get my hands dirty.

Plot from my current understanding is that line of events that moves from beginning – middle – End. This is pretty obvious really, but the art of plotting comes with tieing these ends together in an engaging, logical and concerete whole. The question that I ask myself (Acquired from Janice Hardy at her blog – check out her link) is “What can go wrong?” When you ask yourself this question, a number of scenarios appear. Now, with your list of possible paths, study them and ponder, which ones will challenge your character the most? What ones will force the character to really push themselves to grow? I read that “giving your character hell” is a good approach, and I can see the value in it because it forces a character to dig deep within themsevles, and hopefully engage the reader along with it.

Some authors plan heavily before starting their novel, some just know the major events between the start and finish, and some know nothing before diving in. Personally, my idea for a novel, comes in flashes of important moments, and as those important moments build I feel inspired to write. So its due to my creative process that I just have some major events in mind before writing. I also know the ending, the premise, the theme and what idea I will be exploring. Writing to me is a way of exploring profound ideas about existence, and by exploring it in a reality of my choice, I’m able to bring it down from an abstract concept and place it in a world so that it can be periceved and contemplated by the humam mind (again a romantic notion, but I believe this one can be emperical as a lot of the greatest novels are explorations of universal ideas).

But, as I learn about plot, I can see myself moving more towards planning a lot before I write. Really getting “my hands dirty” and connecting the dots, thinking about how to engage the readers and give my “characeters hell”. This is what I’m trying to do now, and hopefully It pays off in the long term.

Anyways, tommorow is my last post before I head off to India. I hope to post reguarly, but I doubt I will be able to post everyday due to the long travel times and the reliability of the internet.

Speak soon playyaaas


The First Draft Don’t Matter

It use to take me years to write my first novel, but after a few failed attemps at getting published I realised that the hardest part of writing, comes after you’ve finished that novel.

It was freeing to know this piece of information, and I’ll tell you why. It forced me to stop putting so much attention on that first draft. It gave me the permission to be indifferent, and to not think about every single word before I put it down. Now, some of you may think this will just make the writing worse, because it won’t be high quality work. But in fact, the opposite has occurrred. The less I worry about the words I’m putting down, the more likely I am to hit that “flow” state, where the words are coming out naturally and without effort.

The greatest frame of minds, I believe, to have when attempting creative work is freedom of outcome, and intent. With these two frame of minds you have the disicpline to sit down and pump out the amount of words you have decided you need to write, but your also unattached to the outcome, thus, creative flow is easier to obtain.

I have had a really productive week taking on these two mind sets. Writing 5,000 words has never been so easy, and when I go back to edit it, yes, it may be a lot more rusty then my first drafts are usually, but after a few polishes, there just as good, if not better.

Get writing!


Why Being A Good Writer Is Dangerous

Any creative venture is a pardadox. On one hand you have to believe in yourself enough to keep on going (have the confidence to know that the journey is worth it), but you also have to know how to handle criticism and always be in a continuous state of learning.

Being critisized is part of the game. No matter how good you are, there will always be someone who thinks your work sucks. I perviously went through a situation like this. My first few tratings were 5 out 5, and people were praising my work. I was on top of the world, I was thinking, Yeah, people are finally starting to see I’m a good writer. But the next morning, the reviews were suddenly average, and for the same piece of work!

Arrogance, and identifying with the “I’m a good writer” identity, can be the death of creativity. Creativity doesn’t need an identity to express its self, if anything, it needs unconsciousness, a void of self to flow out authentically.

Good works come and go, and if we identify ourselves as good writers then our emotions will be up and down. Some my say that this is good for writing, that the turmoil of emotions are but sparks before the birth of flames of authentic expression. But in reality, we’re just writers here, and if we aren’t happy in our lives then whats the point really?

Just go with the identity, “I’m a writer” “I’m an artist”, and any piece of work that is good, hasn’t happened because of me, its happened “through me”. I was in the right state of mind, and it poured out of me. If it’s bad, its also not me, i was simply not in the right frame of mind.

But that’s not to say you failures and successes aren’t of your own chosing. I believe with constant learning, and practise, these “on” days become more common then those “off” days. Constant learning and practise simply tune our mind into the creativity more often, and the more we tune in, the more likely we are to tune in next time.

So in conclusion, we’re not good writers, we’re simply writers, and all the rest is up for debate.

hope this helps