Wednesday, November 18, 2009


You finished a chapter.

Now go back and fine-tune it — add, delete — what needs to go in, be taken out. Repair the characters. Do it when your mind is still fresh with the scenes and the characters of that chapter. However, you must be unbiased (which is hard toward what you’ve just written), detached (which is harder from what you’ve just built), so you can see your own creative flaws.

Or it will be hellish after the novel has been written to go back to fix the flaws either on your own courage, or at an editor’s request.

On characterization
Unlike an actor who plays just his role, an author plays all his characters’ roles, like a man who plays chess against himself.

You can imagine characters. Yet until you write them out, you haven’t known them. Put them in motion. Let them interact with one another. Let them live in some environment. It’s then that you begin to explore your characters’ depths. If you ask me what’s the hardest part in writing a novel, I’ll tell you: characterization. That’s what separates a literary novel from a potboiler. Characters shape a story line, not the other way around. You can’t think up a plot and shoehorn your characters into it. If you do, you are writing a potboiler. In fact, well-developed characters create a more convincing story line, even shaping it or altering it against your original vision. Think about that!

On Hard Scenes
Writing is just like any normal part of our daily life. It ebbs and flows. The worst thing to a writer isn't writer's block but illness, prolonged, unbearable illness that can really affect his writing. Other than that, as Hemingway once said, there will be days when you have to drill rock and then blast it out with charges. When that happens, just take a break, do something else and let your battery be recharged.

There are no hard scenes to write. Really. Those so-called difficult scenes are what writers make them out to be with their paranoia. So before they can write such scenes, their anxiety has already killed their creativity to write them.


  1. As always, very timely. I've been neglecting Elephant Girl but she's been pestering me at night to come and fix her story. At least I can say my characters have lives of their own. But I'm worried I won't be able to do right by them.

    What is the biggest obstacle you've had in writing?

  2. My biggest obstacle? Being sick while working on a WIP. If I can eat and write at the same time! Other than that, nothing keeps me from doing it.

  3. I think some people are just natural-born writers that didn't know they were writers to begin with. Thanks for the tips!

  4. I think you're right. It's much better to write every day. Illness or other reasons means going back to the WIP is so much harder.