This past few monthsI have mostly been distracted from writing by a crisis of confidence. In short I started writing a novel (yeah ... me too!); got stuck (who'da thought?) and stuttered into a seismic sulk (because we all know THAT works).
Thankfully I had, during more optimistic times, booked myself onto the Writers' Workshop Festival of Writing which I (bravely) attended this weekend. The strapline for the Writers Workshop is 'From Here to Publication' and the Festival presented a wealth of information, inspiration and expertise to help writers of all kinds towards that ultimate goal.
I'm currently going through my (MANY) notes from the weekend but wanted to capture the essence of my learning - something to turn to should the sulk kick in again.
P is for adopting a Professional approach...
Not in the sense of wearing a suit and board (in) meetings but by being systematic; when I hit a sticking point in my ‘other work’, I take a step back, reflect and adjust my route forward.
Use whatever tools and strategies you use to get you through your ‘real’ life to support you in your writing life.
Well I KNOW it sounds simple now!
U is for Understanding yourself as well as your characters...
The more you know your characters the better but it’s important to remind yourself what you’re trying to achieve when you're writing about them and to make sure you only expose the bits the reader needs to follow the narrative.
I do fabulous character profiles because making up people is my very favourite thing about writing fiction but I am absolutely rubbish at getting them DOING THINGS that move a narrative forward so I need to be strict with myself about WHAT I am trying to SHOW my reader through my characters.
B is for Building tension on every page ...
The narrative needs to bubble and burst across the page regardless of genre. THIS is what keeps the reader reading on; keeps the characters dynamic; keeps them DOING something.
Building for me needs to start at the foundations of plotting. I need to be clear about how WHAT characters DO in each scene moves them forward towards the destination point of their internal and external journeys.
L is for Listen and Learn...
Listen to anyone who has anything to say about their writing; listen to how the words on a page you are reading work to convey meaning (or not!). Listen to the world around you, especially the people – ALWAYS listen to the people and hear their stories, their voice. Most importantly, listen to yourself because only you know the kind of book you want to write. Listening to other people talk about their writing was easy at the Festival but we can do this at home too. Twitter, blogs, writing forums all offer opportunities to listen to others and learn from them but I ALSO need to make sure I listen to myself and stay focussed on my own writing. As for listening to the world around me? Oh I’m good at this; writing is my way of legitimising my snooping instinct!
I is for imagine...
There were so many great people at the Festival but my epiphany moment came in a workshop with Emma Darwin where I realised that I really am not doing it wrong. In her workshop How To Tame Your Novel, Emma Darwin started by asking if we were planners or ‘pantsers’, went onto show how unhelpful it is to think in this way, and explored a range of strategies we could use to help develop our writing in a manageable way.
I hit my big sulk when I had to stop drafting and return to planning – I sulked because I thought, having spent so much time planning in the first place the need to return to it PROVED I’m no good at writing. Emma Darwin urged us to think less about ‘planning’ and more about imagining on paper and whatever stage I am at with my drafting I realise that going back to imagining on paper is a useful way to proceed not a sign of failure.
S is for Sulking...
It doesn’t work! Search for answers, sip wine, slouch and dream but SULK NO MORE.
H is for Hope in Hells Chance of Making it Happen...
Getting published is hard, making good sales even harder. Write the book you want to write; write from your heart and make it the absolute best it can possibly be.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Thank you to everyone at the Festival of York (#fow12 on Twitter) who helped to make it such an amazing learning experience and great fun too.