Friday, December 10, 2010

Write 1 Sub 1

For those who are practitioners of creative writing - and especially those with ambitions to professional publication - Ray Bradbury's advice on how to write is priceless. Of course, in books such as Zen in the Art of Writing he talks mainly of his own experiences. But it shouldn't be forgotten that in his early career he was himself following advice and guidance from other industry professionals, and so his methods are founded on solid experience of writing for professional markets.

One of his techniques in the heyday of his magazine short-story selling - we're talking 1940s and 1950s - was to write a story a week and to send them out to magazine editors. And not just send them once, but keep them in circulation around the various publications. By the end of a year he would have 50 pieces of work doing the rounds; some would be accepted and published, others would circulate and finally come home to rest in a box of rejects.

This is not to say that he would just do a first draft and then send the story off. Bradbury frequently talks of his approach as "throw up in the morning, clean up at noon", meaning that you get your first draft on the page without any intellectualising, but then later return to the manuscript for carefully editing and re-writes.

Of course, there aren't nearly so many paying markets for short stories as there once were, but there is no doubt in my mind that Bradbury's idea of write, write, write until you get good at it is very sound advice. I have done some creative writing myself in the past - short stories and radio scripts in the 1980s and 1990s, screenplays in the 2000s - but have never had the time (or courage?) to live up to Bradbury's advice.

Now there is a new web challenge out there, inspired by Ray. Write 1 Sub 1 is a new blog which is essentially challenging writers to write and submit a new story every week for the whole of the year 2011. Its a terrific idea - but like some of the commenters on the blog, I'm afraid I will have to cry off this one and observe from the sidelines.

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