If you would like to be featured like this on my blog, drop me a line.
I had the pleasure of meeting Esther through the writers bureau, where I am studying a creative writing course and she is my really, truly fantastic tutor. :). Esther is an award winning writer, tutor, author, novelist, and generally awe inspiring freelance writer, so of course I had to ask her for an interview. To which she obliged… (more…)
Hope you all had an amazing Christmas Day, filled with over indulgence, gifts and quality time with your family.
I decided some time ago to do a writing course. I had wanted to be a writer for a long time, it just took me a while to figure it out. When I did, I decided I still had motivation issues. I am a planner to my core, so much so I can find it difficult to actually get on with the business of writing.
I searched for a long time for the right course, a course comprehensive enough that I could learn skills for all kinds of writing, from radio scripts to novel writing, short stories and readers letters. But also a course that represented value for money, I do like a bargain!
I can’t recommend enough the benefits of doing a writing course. It has forced me to write, but more importantly to submit my writing to competitions and magazines. The exact thing every writer needs.
As part of the course you get a tutor, mine is Esther Newton, a fabulous tutor with an uncanny eye for grammar and detail (exactly what I need) and a brilliant writer in her own right. She tirelessly answers my questions and provides detailed feedback. Part of the reason I think the course is so beneficial, and why I am recommending it.
If you’re one of those people who wants to be a writer, but hasn’t quite found the motivation – try this course, it might just work.
I wrote about killing off characters a few weeks ago here. I unashamedly ranted about Veronica Roth and her blatant distasteful murdering (still bitter) of her main character, Tris. I continued to rant about how you shouldn’t flippantly kill off characters and definitely not main characters. But, after some thought I decided to revise my conclusions. Whilst I stand by my point that you shouldn’t casually kill a character that your readers have spent a 1000 pages getting to know and love, I also think that in order to have some credibility you need to kill some characters off.
The lesson I learnt recently is:
Torture is good!
Torturing your characters at any rate. Make them, no, force them to feel emotions, feel something. Push your characters to their limits and see what happens. That’s what makes an interesting read. It gives your characters depth, and makes for an interesting story. If you can’t kill them off, then make it difficult for your characters at every possible turn, take away that tool, instrument or person they need most, make the situation look as though its impossible to come back from, then at the last minute something unique about them means they can save the day (or whatever).
Do it. Just torture them, even if you don’t want to. In fact, if you don’t, thats even more reason why you should do it. Because if you’re afraid to write it, then it must be good!
Here’s the thing, NaNoWriMo was great. It really was, I finally after about two years of claiming to have a dream of writing but not actually putting any words down on the paper other than planning related words (that kept changing) I actually stopped procrastinating and stuck fingers to keys and tapped some 50,000 words in 26 days.
Writing novel length stories is so, so very different to what I had been doing though. As part of my writing course I had been writing short stories. Stories of not more than a couple of thousand words. Whereas NaNo, was all about the long game. A strategically different game all together, different everything. The problem is, after submersing myself in the story, and forgetting any writing skills I might have learnt in order to just bash words out to complete the challenge, I completely forgot how to write a short story.
When it came to trying to sit down and write my next assignment of just 4000 words, I couldn’t do it. I’d forgotten everything. I was trying to tell too much of the story, I had forgotten how to be concise and how to weave a storyline into hardly any words.
My tutor gave me a great piece of advice, to go back and reread some of my short stories I had already written. Which I did, and it helped a bit. But I still felt stuck on how to write a story in so few words. Consequently anything I have written since, I’ve hated! I can’t get it right!
I guess writing is like any other muscle – it needs constant use, and practice, or it forgets how to do what it needs to. My writing certainly forgot at any rate!
So whats the tip?
If you’re intending on writing short stories but want to write a novel – don’t forget to practice the other type of writing in the mean time.
My lovely tutor Esther Newton at the Writers Bureau nominated me for the writing process blog meme. Esther is a fab tutor, always giving such thoughtful and comprehensive feedback, and also an extremely talented writer, my favourite story I have read of hers which had me in fits of laughter was a story written through a series of letters from a very angry customer to a rather naughty hotel owner!
I have to answer four questions and nominate three other bloggers to continue the process. I will do my best at answering the questions, but I might have trouble nominating bloggers, as most of the friends I have made through blogging thus far have been fertility friends rather than writing friends, blogging about writing is still new for me. What I will try to do though is nominate people in my writing group- and then consolidate their answers into one post and pop it up here at a later date.
So, here goes:
1. What am I working on at the moment?
So much it hurts!
- I blog, obviously. That’s a constant WIP.
- I have written a short story for an adult fairy tale competition, that is sitting on my laptop in desperate need of proof reading so I can submit it by the 14th November. But I’m rubbish at proof reading so I am quietly ignoring it, until I have to submit it. When I will unsurprisingly give it a quick once over, beat myself up AGAIN about being shit at grammar and then submit it anyway, probably full of mistakes. 😦
- My next assignment which is a 4000 word short story about post apocalyptic Earth, due on the 10th December, and thus far I have a title and an idea! and 44.5 thousand words between me and finishing NaNo to have the head space to write it! Gulp.
- I run a writing group on Facebook – its a small group of just 16 at the moment, but like anything, if you want it to flourish you have to put the time and effort in, and constantly think of new conversations to generate new writing chat.
- My labour of love… The novel I have slaved over, and am writing as part of NaNo. It wasn’t created because of NaNo, I have been working (planning) it for at least a couple of years, although one character and a couple of creatures, have been nuzzled in the corner of my mind since I was 9. I even found the story I wrote about them the other day. This is THE book, the story, that one everyone has in them thats probably rubbish but a complete labour of love. I am in love with my story, I want to live in this world! I know, I probably sound like a complete lunatic!
- The second instalment which came to me like an epiphany in a training session, at which point I then scrawled all over my training book with maps, and notes and keys for the story in the tiniest writing you have ever seen so that I didn’t get caught! This is now in the fermenting stage (I’ll explain later)
I think that’s it at the moment.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?
This is the hardest question to answer. Other than the fact I am coming up with new ideas (which I guess is the one thing I do pride myself on, my unique ideas) I am not too sure. I guess everyone has their own writing style so that would be different too. Although I don’t quite know how to describe my writing style, maybe I will ask Esther, or some of my friends who have read my work. I guess the one thing my friends say, is that they can clearly hear my voice in my work, they know it’s me writing, so that I guess makes it separate from other writers work because there is only one me!
Ugh, this is actually really hard! I am a bit stumped, particularly because I am really quite critical of my work, so it’s hard to now think of something good to say! erm… A couple of people have said my dialogue is quite good, I am quite good at making it realistic and believable.
Does that count? I give up!
3. Why do I write what I do?
I’m joking, kind of! Writing isn’t a choice though. It’s not a want, a like or a desire. Its an out and out MUST. I HAVE to write, I NEED to do it. Writing quiets my brain from the incessant noise all my characters make in my head. If I don’t write, they scream at me, or prod at what brain cells pregnancy left me with, until I write their stories, and tell their tales.
I mean, of course, like any budding writer, I want to be published. I want to be the next JK Rowling, or Stephen King, or Veronica Roth. But we all know the odds are infinitesimally small. So that doesn’t drive me. An intense need to quiet my characters does!! Ok, a need to tell the stories that fill my head, create the worlds I always wished I could read about. Writing, is a therapy, its cathartic, it allows me to live in another world, where possibilities are limited only by my own mind.
4. How does my writing process work?
HA! 64 million dollar question. Erm. Well, I am a bit of an epiphany kind of girl! I will have a Eureka moment, when something pops into my head, whether it be a character or concept, or plot twist, and then I will spend a lot of time padding it out. I would say that the majority of my writing process is unconscious thought. I need time, not to consciously think about my story, but to let it ferment unconsciously in my head. I just need it to sit there quietly in a corner of my brain whilst I carry on with day to day life. Generally speaking I hate detail, in life, mostly work, I’m awful, I can’t do grammar, I can’t do numbers or spreadsheets. It always surprises me when I can delve into such depth with a character or setting. I spend an awful lot of time noticing little intricacies about people, friends and colleagues. If I meet an interesting person at work, I will scribble notes in my work notebook about that person or character right next to some important work notes! I remember in a meeting once a few years ago, I was so flabbergasted at the sight of a particular person, I was gobsmacked that no one else in the room was as intrigued as me. This gentleman was late 50’s and had skin so deeply grooved and lined he looked like a sculpture, he had a beautiful afro, that reminded me of my grandad, and his big dark eyes made him look ever so slightly like a lion. I had to literally force myself not to stare at him, so instead, I spent most of the meeting snatching glances at him, and unashamedly drawing a picture of his face on a post it… which I still have!
I write notes about my characters and settings and storylines EVERYWHERE. Literally, I have a notebook on me constantly, whether in my work bag, handbag, or on my phone, I have scraps of paper, project files, and document after document clogging up my phone.
I draw them all together and generally speaking put them either into a word document of notes that I develop into a short story. Or if it’s for my novel into my Scrivener file. Genuinely don’t know where I would be without Scrivener.
I am annoyingly organised. I would say that for novel writing, I drive myself utterly insane with planning and preparation, to the point where, for an entire year, I put off writing my novel because I didn’t feel I had prepared enough. I also have a tendency to hold a lot of information in my head, which usually results in me having mental bandwidth issues, and monging around like a zombie at the end of the day when I physically can’t hold anything else in my head! If it wasn’t for NaNoWriMo, I don’t think I would have ever gotten my novel written.
For short stories, I am much less uptight. I can generally speaking let them evolve naturally, you don’t have time to put all the detail in, it’s short sharp and to the point, I generally take a week to get a story down, then spend a few days editing and re reading it. I have a few friends who tirelessly read the drivel I write, so I often send copies of stuff to them just to have a second third or fourth opinion. My poor wife, usually gets roped in to read them, as does my mum. Both of whom aren’t really readers, and don’t enjoy this part of my writing process! but do it anyway because they love me, and I nag them! haha.
There are two other bits I failed to mention:
1. Pinterest. I am a hugely visual person, and I love a good scrap book / mood board. Pinterest has become the bane and love of my life. I use it constantly drawing boards together for inspiration characters and stories and research.
2. Research, I love research, particularly if there is a theme in my book, in my novel, the different places are based on different themes, so I had to do a lot of research on those topics. But for the 4000 word short story, I am currently doing in-depth research on ‘alternative history’ there is a whole culture out there that believes aliens have visited and our history is not what it seems, so my story is partially inspired by this. I love a conspiracy and anything unusual, so I regularly take snippets of odd things I hear, or strange topics for inspiration.
3. I’m a night owl. Mostly I write at night, after my boy is in bed.
That’s it. Possibly my longest post ever, and a little insight into my strange brain!