On Writing

Are writers all “liars and thieves”?

3 Comments 18 March 2011

Are we? Well, according to Nicholas Hardiment, the serial philanderer and highly successful author in the film Tamara Drewe, we are. After watching the film on Saturday night, I immediately dismissed the incendiary statement. What self-respecting writer wouldn’t? But alas, the words seem to have stuck with me and after five days I have made a U-turn.

In fact, not only am I a liar, I hope that I’m a great liar. I’ve always made stuff up, ever since I was very young. In hindsight, I think I was rather good at lying back then; if I wasn’t convincing my granny that I was colour blind I would be trying to persuade my Mum that I had chickenpox. Essentially, I created stories and told them to anyone who would listen, and now it’s clear to me that storytelling is the foundation of all great writing. For me, the more fanciful the tale, the better the story.

As for being a thief, I’m guilty as charged. Take my writing idol Michael Crichton, who managed to achieve the most delicate balance between hard fact and (science) fiction. He was  a genius at it, particularly in Jurassic Park and Prey, so much so that the reader was hard put to spot where fact started and fiction stopped. His books were believable and in my opinion, even now represent storytelling at its best. They certainly provided part of the inspiration for The Human Race.

Does that make me a thief?

I hope so. In fact, it would be impossible for any writer not to be a thief if they are doing their job properly: reading everything in sight, observing people, talking to them and absorbing ideas. Okay, no one is plagiarising, but the sentiment is definitely correct (if a little harshly delivered).

The idea that writers are liars and thieves got me thinking. What other traits do authors share? Here are my starters for ten:

  • We are most definitely obsessive compulsives. Being one is the only way anyone can sit down at a blank screen, day in day out, week after week, month after month and commit a story to paper. And then, when it’s all done and you never want to write another word again, you start all over on your next novel.
  • We hear voices. All the time. These can be the voices of our characters or simply the voices in our head whispering about a new plot line or a whole new story.
  • We’re really process driven. We need to be. Without process, writers are dead in the water, adrift in a sea of half-baked characters and storylines that lead to nowhere. To see what I mean read Mark Charan Newton’s post about his Personal Writing Checklist.  Mark’s process is different to mine, but works well for him.
  • We’re also incredibly difficult to please. We’re never happier than when we are writing, but also never more miserable, particularly if it’s not going well. When we’re not writing we’re miserable too. Unless of course we’ve just finished a novel and then we are definitely happy not to be writing! Eventually that little voice starts up in our heads again (if it ever left!) and we can’t ignore it, and the next story comes tumbling out onto the screen.
  • We are solitary creatures. Come on, we spend most of our time alone and writing. Even when we are in company we are lost in our heads with our voices, our stories, our plotlines and our characters.
  • Lastly and perhaps most importantly, we are extremely self-disciplined. We have to be. We probably don’t even think that we are, but to make it as a writer, this is definitely one personality trait that is required in abundance.

What traits do you think categorise an author?

(BTW, don’t bother with Tamara Drew. It was largely forgettable, which is a pity is because I love Stephen Frears. I particularly enjoy his earlier stuff like My Beautiful Laundrette, Dangerous Liaisons and The Grifters.)

This post was selected for The Mad Editor’s Round-Up #28, hosted by Diary of a Mad Editor, the March 21st 2011 edition of Writing Tips Blog Carnival, hosted by Inspired to Write, Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies Issue #6, hosted by The Book Designer, Lovely Words Vol. 32, hosted by Writing as a Sacred Art, Carnival of Storytelling – June 9, 2011, hosted by Be the Story and the June 2011 edition of The Writer Tank Carnival, hosted by Writer Tank.

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3 Comments so far

  1. andrea says:

    Great blog post. I can completely relate and I’m glad I am not alone. The only other trait I can contribute is perfectionism. I’m in the editing stage of my memoir and I’ve practically re-written an entire chapter.
    andrea recently posted..Brace yourself!

  2. OC Heaton says:

    Ah yes that old chestnut! One of our worst. Knowing when to leave what we’ve written and move on. Good luck with your memoirs. I’m not sure I have done enough to fill a chapter let alone a book!


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Reviews of The Human Race

Unputdownable. Yes, I know it's not a word, but it definitely applies here, anyway. That's the word I'm going with, to describe The Human Race by O.C. Heaton. - Hira N. Hasnain

An outstanding first novel from O.C. Heaton that catapults him into the Best Seller league… - Justine Bond

"This is an exciting, fast-paced read. The Human Race is a book that is very easy to forget to put down. Bring on part two!" - L. H. Bowers

"If you are looking for a well-plotted and well-written thriller to while away the hours of a long flight, this offering might suit you very well." - David Bryson, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

For further reviews of The Human Race by O.C. Heaton click here.

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Charles Heaton British thriller writer O.C. Heaton, author of The Human Race, is fascinated by the past, present and future of human evolution. (Image credit: Ross Parry Agency) Read More>>

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