Keep Writing The Boring Way

Just keep writing! (2)

How to Avoid the Boring Story-Telling

This post is for writers, and it’s about how to keep writing by avoiding the pitfall of trying to write stories in the same way (style) other authors write them, and boring yourself to death in the process.

I’m going to tell you a story

That ‘I’m-going-to-tell-you-a-story’ voice in novels, the one you think you ought to sound like if only you were a proper writer, it’s everywhere. You know, it’s that know-all, see-all, can-do-all tone that’s not easy to shake off once encountered, but shake it off I must because it doesn’t inspire me. It doesn’t empower me to do what I can do anyway, which is be myself.


I often start reading books that I have to put down. Not because they’re not brilliant, or beautifully written, or very famous, or much-lauded, they’re always all of those things, but I have to put them down because I find myself wishing I could write like that, and over the years I’ve discovered that wishing I could write like that results in the blank page of doom. So, I do something else instead. I am myself. I have fun.

Cue parody, pisstake

My next novel, The Onion Seller (It really isn’t called that), is the story of a hardworking onion seller who has a shop (Five stars for good work ethic) somewhere I’d like to go on my hols (I would if I could). It will start in the assured voice of the authorial narrator, something like this (I dream).

The Onion Seller


A timeless faraway city 

Telling this amazingly slight story is a little like peeling an onion. Peeling it began ten years ago to the day, and if it’s still being peeled at the end as it is in the beginning, which is the middle because (oh woe) the onion peeler has altered in subtle ways when compared to how he peeled ten years ago, then my work as a master story teller is complete. Are you sitting comfortably? You know, you’re in very safe hands, well-versed in onion-peeling story-telling. Then I shall begin. If you’re not comfortable, skip to the end. Now I shall really begin. Really. Really. It was three hundred years ago to the day this amazing story began with an onion being peeled in a shop in a busy faraway city, and no matter how many times it was peeled, it was still an onion, so you may as well skip to the end where you will be amazed to find it’s the same old onion, still being peeled, still magical after 550 pages. Except the shopkeeper died. And he acquired a parrot who was adept at peeling an onion because the onion seller had taught him.

His lively daughter ran in, “Pa-pa!” she exclaimed.

The end of the beginning

Not bad, eh? What do you think? Do you like the way I compared that convoluted way of telling stories with peeling an onion? Of course, it’s readers I’m parodying as well as writers. Do people really finish books that read like peeling an onion, or do they speed read their way to the end? One book I’ve just read that doesn’t fit the onion-peeling mould, is James Kelman’s brilliant Dirt Road, a masterpiece of linear story-telling genius that keeps real surprises and emotional shifts under wraps till the very end.

Shameless Plug

Another way to avoid tears of boredom is to read Cy Forrest’s amazing book, The Punished, available here.

Gin, a determined young woman angered by the way she’s been treated, wants to save the world. Jack, a teenage outcast, dreams of a better life. They both demand some kind of change as they start a journey into the rural south of England.

“Cy Forrest has crafted a story filled with intrigue and surprising turns and once the reader is introduced to the characters, there is no way they’d want to miss a moment with them. I was most attracted to Gin, a well-developed character, and readers will be interested to discover her subtle transformation from an effervescent young woman to one more mature and calculating, risking a lot for patriotism. The writing is awesome and the pacing measured. I enjoyed the dialogues, the well-developed setting, and the balanced and deft writing. The Punished is, without doubt, a work of great entertainment, a book with great psychological allure and emotional depth.”

“I came away with a new understanding of the world generally – which is one of the most wonderful things a book can do – namely how real lives get relegated to the past and what is remembered, whilst factual, barely scratches the surface of feeling what it was like to be one of these people in such extreme circumstances … We are fallible, partial and we see the world through our own filters. Added to that, forces are at work to deliberately obfuscate and bury the truth and ultimately, the full picture is forever out of our reach. However, this story allows one person to see a greater whole: the reader, which I think is an immensely powerful possibility.” – Cornerstones


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