A to Z Challenge: Examine Your Motives

Well this is annoying. Yesterday I was stuck without Internet yet again. The problem this time being that I now don’t have an open day in which to catch up. I guess I could just be a day behind on Sunday, but suddenly, I just don’t trust my Internet to be there on the weekend.

So instead, I’ll be doing (or trying to) two posts today. One now, and one later. (And the same on my other blog. Yeah no. I’m nothing if not determined.)

For this post’s thing writers should know about being writers:

Why do you write?

This might sound like a silly enough question, but really it’s incredibly important. As you might have gathered from my previous posts, writing is almost never just smooth sailing.

In fact, it might probably be the most challenging thing you’ve ever tried in your life. I think that quite a few people who’ve been reading my more recent posts will have wondered why I even put myself through the process of writing.

It’s a good question. A fair one, I suppose. And one I need to return to every now and then like a touch-stone that keeps me on course.

Like when my publishing house and I split ways. (Not going there, but let’s just say it wasn’t a nice break-up.) Like when I queried over two hundred agents and got way more nos than I got eh… maybes. Or like when my book gets published and it simply doesn’t seem to reach its readers. Or it does, and the readers don’t like it like you’d thought they would (which actually implies they weren’t your readers after all.)

When these sorts of things happen, the question actually pops up all on its own. Why am I putting myself through all this crap?

And if you’re doing it to become rich or famous or infamous, or to show everyone around you how good you are at writing… You better hope you get it right the first time around, because if not, being a writer will make you a miserable person. In fact, if you’ve reached this stage and you’re still writing, I applaud your determination.

Simply put: I wouldn’t be able to go through all this if I didn’t love writing. Not the moment I get a “yes” from an agent or publisher. Not the moment when someone lets me know that the read and loved my book. Not the moment when the first monies start rolling in. Not the moment Oprah (or whoever it is these days that makes a book “matter”) lets the whole world know she likes my book.

Don’t get me wrong. Those other things are awesome.

They’re just not the reason I write. And that’s a good thing, because I can’t count on any of those things to actually happen to me when I’m busy with a story.

My love for my story, for losing myself in worlds of my own creation. For actually creating a story that’s my own instead of experiencing someone else’s creation…

That’s constant. 

Maybe your reasons will differ a bit from mine. Many people use writing as a catharsis. Many people just love to escape. But all of us enjoy at least most of the process of creating our stories.

The rest of it, is (and should be) secondary.

So why do you write? 

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Credo

I was going to write a nice little thing on editing, but something’s bothering me.

I’ve been hanging out (mostly lurking, sometimes commenting) in some google plus communities. And… Well…

Seems as if the writing community collecting there has one hell of a dark side.

About a week ago, some writers were putting stuff up on the internet saying that writers aren’t writers unless you’ve a firm grip on plot and characters, on grammar etc. Which I think goes above and beyond trying to discourage new writers. So I wrote this.

Then, a few days ago, someone asked whether or not one should actively put messages into the stories you write. I said that I don’t, since I think that telling people what they should think is a bit presumptuous. Sorry, people who do actively put messages into your writing. I know some of you who read this blog do it. And that’s okay.

That’s not really why I’m writing this post, though.

No. It’s the response someone left to my comment.

To quote:

Well, you most certainly can write with that pointlessness +Misha Gericke. That’s your prerogative. I’m in the camp that those who have a message have a story. Whether or not someone believes it or likes it is irrelevant. There’s an audience for every message, even the message of relativistic nothingness.
If you don’t have anything specific to say then you have no right to expect people to read what you write or listen to what you say.

Personally, I know I’m right in what I write as far as my message is concerned. Some may call that arrogant. Some call it confident. I don’t know much but the stuff that I know, I know. Therefore, it’s not presumptuous for me to convey what I know. It’s loving because there are many people who don’t know who, after reading my material, will know. That may enrich their lives a little more. That’s a good thing. And even if they don’t agree, I’ve still enriched their knowledge by giving them the other side of the coin.

Time is life. Therefore, I believe as a writer you should make sure you have something to say before you waste people’s time.

Like the wise sage Monk on his television program used to say, I could be wrong…but I’m not.

What’s annoying the crap out of that message is this: 
“If you don’t have anything specific to say then you have no right to expect people to read what you write or listen to what you say.” 
and
“write with that pointlessness” 
It’s really hard for me not to go off on a rant about this, but instead, I’m going to catagorically state some hard truths. 
This is my writer’s credo:

1) My writing’s purpose is to entertain people. The way writers of stories are supposed to entertain. This is a writer’s first duty. 

2) The writer’s second duty is to fulfill a purpose in society. This purpose is to show society the effects of our beliefs, choices and actions in a way relevant to a given story. It does not give us the right to make judgement calls on what’s right and what’s wrong. 

3) I am a chronicler. A scribe. Not a teacher, preacher, politician or moralist.

4) I have my own code of ethics and morals. But writing is not the medium through which I’d force them on anyone else. 

5) Story and character must always come first. Not the message. Never the message. In fact, the message shouldn’t exist.

6) Creating a message is the readers’ prerogative. Not mine.

7) I have absolutely no right to deem any writer worthy or unworthy of writing. Or in any way lesser than me because they have a different approach to the craft.  

As I said, I know that some of you will disagree with me. Some of you may disagree with every single point of my credo. And that’s okay. 
But what’s not okay is to be disrespectful of someone else for what they believe to be right. This is what all this is about for me. 
Respect. Respect your readers. Respect your writing colleagues. Respect humanity as a whole. Because we’re all part of all three groups. We all display characteristics of those groups. So if you can’t respect them, you can’t respect yourself either.

Others have said: Writing takes passion.


Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. 

Rainer Maria Rilke

There are few things that I consider to be rules in writing. As far as I can see, any method goes, as long as one gets the work written. And that’s why I consider this to be a rule, because without it, I don’t think someone can finish a project.

My rule: One must have passion for writing.

I’m sure that a lot of non-writers will look at the rule and think that I’m stupid. After all, anyone can write anything down. At any moment. That’s probably why so few people understand the challenges involved in writing a story. So many people write (correspondence, statements, reports etc.) that they think that all writing is as easy. It isn’t.

On the contrary, it’s damnably hard more often than not. And NOTHING prepares you for the challenges of writing a novel, except for writing a novel. Because, while most people write more than 50k words in e-mails etc. in (say) a few months, it isn’t meant to be read as a single understandable story. There’s no need to develop a thrilling plot, there’s no need to create and get to know characters. There’s no need to stick with the exact same story for as long as it takes to finish it.

Writing is full of challenges, rejections and other obstacles. It takes sacrifice. Especially of time. Writing isn’t something to do in a few weeks without noticing. It’s something that needs to be prioritized.

So many people say that they want to write but don’t have time… Well, I can safely say that none of us writers have time. We make it. We put writing way up there on our lists of priorities, with family, God and breathing.

If it wasn’t for that commitment, no story would ever be finished.

Anyone disagree with me? Why or why not? How high is writing on your list of priorities? Do you find that a shift or writing up or down your priority list influences your writing?

A to Z Challenge: Ulterior Motives

Hi all! Welcome to the final week of the A to Z challenge! Just a quick shout to all my new bloggy friends. In particular, hi and thanks to Catherine Denton, the 500th person to click follow. ^_^


So today, I want to do a quick post about motives, ulterior and otherwise. Yes, technically this is cheating, but I had to do the map on M-day.


Motives can actually be a tricky thing to deal with, even if we’re not dealing with mysteries. After all, I’ve met/read about very few people who do things for absolutely no reason. There is ALWAYS a reason for doing something. Even when it comes to serial killers. Someone might decide to kill women wearing polka dots because he hates women wearing polka dots.


Because his polka-dot-adoring mother abused him as a child.


Or… because his pet tapeworm told him to do it. (True story, incidentally. HF Verwoerd’s assassin said that his tapeworm told him to kill the politician. He proceeded to follow the worm’s edict with some ingenious planning…)


The motive might not make much sense to us, because the character is so foreign to us and our way of thinking. But it’s there must be a reason.


That reason must make sense to the character, were he to consider why he does things.


Now, ulterior motives add another dimension to the mix. Now we have to deal with at least two motives: The real motive (known mainly by the character taking the action) and the motive(s) everyone else attributes to the character. Sometimes, the reader knows the real motive because it comes through in the characters thoughts. Other times (and I like this one) it sort of phases into the reader’s mind as the story progresses that the motive everyone assumed to be valid is, in fact (and often-times catastrophically), not.


Do you have a character who harbors ulterior motives? How do you deal with the motives? Do the other characters accept him/her on good faith, or does someone not trust him/her?