Tuesday, 14 October 2008

How To Write: Penny Dolan

I am wary about admitting this. Even now I can feel the heads shaking and the fingers wagging, but here goes. I have an addiction to books about writing. I know this is weak and feeble of me, and I should be consuming worthy tomes, and soaking up how the masters (and occasional mistresses) did and do it. But every so often, a “How to Write” book wakes my mood or mind up again.

Yes, I’ve Written Down the Bones with Natalie Goldberg, though found the focus on one’s own life slightly overheated. I’ve scribbled three morning pages with Julia Cameron, and, though the snazzy-pens-and-notebooks treats annoyed me, I often return to that morning exercise when things don't feel right.

I crouched wide-eyed over the mix of horrific incidents and writing hints within Stephen King’s “Being A Writer”. Fretting over my lone cocoa seemed a rather tame life in comparison. I've read them all: mused on Myths, studied Story Structure with Robert Kee, and tried to find my business mind through books by various agents and marketing gurus. There have been some great books, and many less than great. I'm sure you know the titles.

But one day, I came across something that stuck in my mind, something that really, really helps me when I’m imaging a story, writing a story, or revising a story. I was reading “Seeing Things: An Autobiography” by Oliver Postgate, creator of classic animations such as Noggin The Nog, Bagpuss, The Clangers, Ivor the Engine, and so on . Though he goes on to write about filming, frame by frame, he begins a paragraph in this way:

Writing a story is not simply a matter of writing lines of words, but calls on the writer to assemble sentences in such a way that the reader receives them in the right order for stacking in the mind . .”
Just listen to the simplicity and the rightness of those words. For me, that quote says almost everything I need to remember when I’m writing for children. Hope it works for you too.

5 comments:

adele said...

It does, it does, Penny! Thanks for the quote which I am writing down to keep.
I, too, am a real fan of those HOW TO WRITE books....

Diana Evans said...

what a wonderful quote Penny!!! thanks for sharing this...

It is human nature to make everything more complicated than it is....nice to re-train our thinking....

Penny said...

Thanks, Adele & Diane. Glad you liked it. It IS my very favourite and most useful quote.

Jon M said...

Oliver Postgate is brilliant. I have to confess to having a video of 'The Pogles' classic! Simple and right indeed!

FloridaGirl said...

Ironically, that quote best represents the way I need a story or problem presented to me. It drives my family wild when I tell them to give me the story/problem in order instead of jumping around, going sideways, getting off track. I like this way of presentationby Postgate