Welcome to the new era! If you have recently followed my website after my withdrawal from social media, then hello!
I will share at the end of this post my latest news – something exciting happened yesterday – but want to kick off the year with a magazine style post. From time to time I will do things like this. Discussing aspects of me, aspects of writing. Articles as opposed to updates. One I want to look at soon is my perspectives as an expat who visited his birth country (England) last summer for the first time in a while, and what that showed me and the differences since I lived there (which will soon be 15 years ago!).
In this post, I want to open a conversation about creativity. More specifically, the needless shortcuts so many writers feel they need to take that add nothing to their work.
No f in Creativity…
As a writer, I don't swear. That's because as a person, I don't either.
Now, I know examples of authors where it goes both ways. Writers who swear in books but not in real life, and vice versa. There are no doubt plenty who do both. That's their choice.
But I don't.
I don't need to. People know when I'm angry!
However, it does (in theory, at least) mean I have to be more creative in how I write conflict scenes. After all, my books are full of them. Across my many titles, and thinking off the top of my head, I've had a full array of characters, both good ones and not so nice. Rapists, murderers, dictators, spies, terrorists, a paedophile, torturers, mafia thugs, assassins…
The shortcut, sadly, for the bad guy in so many scripts (and books) is to make every second word start with an f.
You know the word… fatuous. (Psst, okay, it's not that, but it's a fun one which fits… look it up).
Simply put, over used, this word in particular (and all swearing) has no meaning. No meaning. Period.
Therefore, it is pointless. Redundant.
Words that are redundant get removed from my drafts before I even send them to my editor (they remove plenty more, I assure you).
Does It Matter?
You might ask me this and it would be a valid question if you did. For me, it does. Here's why it should matter to you, too.
By not having my characters swear every sentence (therefore taking that shortcut), I have to be more creative in how I show conflict. In how I show the baddies.
Did you get that. More creative. Not less. More.
I argue that authors (screenwriters, too) who don't swear are better writers for it. We have to be more creative. No shortcuts, no cheap (and pointless) coarse language.
More creative. It is therefore our readers who benefit.
But Isn't That What Writers Do?
Well, no. The author I aspire most to be like one day is John Grisham. I love his books! He's an excellent author. (Need I add, highly successful, too). I'm on my third book of his since Christmas!
And he doesn't swear.
I would like to say he's why I don't either, but in truth, I didn't grow up swearing. I knew it was wrong.
I think we share the same background, though I've never had the chance to meet John. One day, that would be great… if you are reading this John, I'm free next Tuesday…
In these recent books of his, there have been gangsters, murderers, bombers. Death row material!
So no, not all writers do that. I want to write like John (perhaps others will want to write like me, someday).
But Swearing Makes It Authentic!
I would argue that thought. Grisham's characters lack no inauthenticity.
Even if this was a valid argument, it doesn't mean it needs to be in a book. People read to escape reality. Books can be whatever you want them to be.
But if you want to talk authentic, we eat three meals a day, sleep between a third and a quarter of every day, and visit the toilet at least fives times.
Do we include all that in our stories? Of course we don't.
But don't we want it authentic…?
It seems we can be selective then, after all. I would choose something creatively written over cheap swearing any day.
I've checked every letter. It's a beautiful word. When it flows seamlessly on the page, it is magic. The chapters flow into one, the story glides. You don't want it to finish, yet can't wait to discover how the story wraps up.
Books should be all about creativity. Writing is a craft. It's creative.
As authors, we literally make worlds exists with the movement of our fingers, the thoughts of our mind. So next time you think about taking a shortcut, why not go the way of creativity instead?
Creativity is, after all, a ten letter word. And, having made a careful search, there is definitely no letter f in it, which is what I meant by the title.
Why, how did you read it?
This Month's News
Yesterday, Cherry Picking went to my publisher, ahead of the book's re-release in April. I have spent the last two weeks going through it thoroughly. I've added something early on (perhaps to help with the perceived slow start) and cut out the redundant words (none of which were f-bombs, I will add). Around 5,000 words have been cut and the book has grown to 60 chapters. It'll still be my longest book.
I can't wait to see what cover they come up with. It's over a decade since the book first released. For many it is still one of their favourite books of mine. I can't wait to see it given a new lease of life. I will be sure to let you know (via my mailing list) when the book releases.
Last week, The Black Dolphin re-released, and the series will be completely back online early next month, with the release of The Lost Tsar. I've had the cover for this sent through today, and will share it with you next time. Paperbacks are also in the offing, the first three to be ready soon, I believe.
Finally, on Tuesday next week, I'm due to hear back from a London screenplay competition about my script Salva. Wish me luck!