Writing Fiction: Raising the Bar

Forgive the irony, but sometimes you’ve got to grab a cliché with both hands.  In Brain Pickings Weekly recently, they summarised the findings of Daniel Goleman in his book The Hidden Driver of Excellence.  In short, he concludes that, contrary to received wisdom, just practising a new skills for ten thousand hours isn’t enough to become a genius.  It needs to be a deliberate attempt to improve, often concentrating on just one aspect at a time.  (And to keep that open to feedback.)  As Stanley Donen, director of Singing in the Rain has said, ‘Talent is passion for a narrow field.’

I was set to thinking about all this because of a passage in Tash Aw’s book Five Star Billionaire.  One of the female characters is watching the Olympics on the TV.  As the Chinese Athletes are winning all the medals, a ‘lanky blonde girl,’ has failed her first two attempts at the high jump.

Then she suddenly did something that made Phoebe shiver with excitement.  For her third and final jump she asked for the bar to be raised higher than anyone had jumped so far, higher than she had attained in her whole life.  She had failed at lower heights but now she was gunning for something way beyond her capabilities.  She was going to jump all the way to the stars, and even if she failed she could only come down as far as the lowly position she already occupied.

What happens?  Hey, read the book.

In my writing I have found that sometimes it helps to step back and think, what if?


9 thoughts on “Writing Fiction: Raising the Bar

  1. Like this and, even more, it is a piece which is appropriate and encouraging for me since I am on anther re-write of my novel.

    Definitely the final re-write because, if no one wants to read it this time round, I have no other ideas how to use the words telling this story. I will move on to my next novel, already started but in ‘resting’ mode at the moment.

    Persistence of a kind.

    Follow me, now and then, at evenmorewords.wordpress.com

  2. It sounds like a very inspiring read and I like this post too. My experience of concentrating on one aspect at a time has at times led to improvement in the aspect in hand to the detriment of all other aspects. Still handy now I can see that raised bar and keep on.

  3. Reblogged this on Suzanne Conboy-Hill – finding fiction and commented:
    What is interesting about this is that the ‘lanky blonde girl’ did something more men than women are inclined to do – take a risk. But then if you look again, she had nothing to lose, which is a different thing altogether. Whatever happened, she would come out a winner. To raise the bar in whatever we do may mean risking losing all that is important to us – credibility, status, respect, resources – and it has certainly happened in the past to innovators disparaged in their lifetimes and lauded after a glimpse through the lens of history. I’d like to think I’d have the courage (and the talent) to risk failing my MA but who does that? Would you?

    1. Good point. The ideal is to feel that you can let go of anything. The reality, as I’m finding in my current re-writes, is that part of my brain always wants to hold on. Me and the other half of my brain realise this is wrong. But the argument goes on…

      1. Safe is definitely easier than stepping out onto that girder 20 floors above street level and I think it’s ok to push the boundaries from within that envelope. The risk takers will always be the crazy stars though, and maybe not until long after they’re gone. Bit of a deterrent, that!

      2. Yes. As I say, I’ve been having a go with risk, in trying to change the main male character after six years writing. Do I get out on the girder or stay within the envelope? I’m going to put up a post about the process on 3 March.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s