Thursday, 26 February 2015

Do you limit your writing?

There's been a change in my life recently, in a good way. In fact, it's been rather wonderful. The effect of this change has been to remove limitations that prevented me from doing and having certain things. There is very little holding me back and yet my brain still thinks there is. My gut reaction is that I still can't do those things when, actually, I can.

It can be the same with my writing. For instance, they say to 'write what you know' and hence there are whole arenas of life and experience that I wouldn't dare touch on in my stories for fear of appearing naive or ill-informed. For instance, I worked in an office environment for decades, finally attaining a minor management role, and yet I don't feel comfortable writing about the upper echelons of the corporate world. I haven't ever held that kind of position so what would I know about it? There are other areas I would be reluctant to write about too - investment banking, brain surgery, politics. I wouldn't want to sound foolish.

Perhaps, though, I'm limiting myself  with these attitudes. When I was asked to write a murder mystery play set during the Jubilee celebrations in 1953, I only knew snippets of information so I researched the era. I did similar research when I wrote my 1920s murder mystery, Thoroughly Murdered Millie. Why can't I apply this approach to my novel writing?

After the assessment of my novel by the Writers Workshop, I'm making a number of changes to it and one of these is to experience more of the workings of the upper layers of the corporate world which has me a little nervous but I can see that it will add to the quality of my story. Another change involves broadening my thinking to create the entire world that my story takes place in, not just the parts that are revealed in the plot line.

I've shied away from writing short stories in recent years too because I felt I'd forgotten how to write them effectively. This year, I want to drop that limiting thought and write a whole host of short stories. Who knows? I may even send them off to a couple of competitions, if I'm happy with them.

In so many ways, 2015 is the year when I can step beyond the limitations of the past, if I have the courage. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Tuesday Choice Words

I'm very lucky to be a writer. I have a sufficiently devious, I mean, imaginative mind that even in the most boring of situations, I can see the hint of a storyline.

In his article, Think Like A Writer on Medium, Bill Barol discusses how everyone should try to share a writer's view of life. Have a look.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

A Fresh Set of Eyes

So it's been just over a week since I received the manuscript assessment report back from Brian Keaney of the Writer's Workshop. He told me, in his report, that he thought I would find his assessment 'challenging' and I did. However, it's a good challenge.

I now have information on what will make my story fit better in the publishing world. I always had a certain blindness to this reality. It's one thing to read a book, a shelf of books, in your genre, but it isn't always easy to apply that to your own writing. I now have a better idea of what will make my novel work.

I'm making a number of amendments. For instance, the book is now solely from the point of view of Steve (albeit still from a third person perspective) which has meant removing some chapters. I'll have to find a way to convey the information from these chapters in other ways.

I always wondered whether having access to Steve's internal dialogue, his thoughts, would work in a children's novel. Now, I know that it will. That's another amendment to make.

Similarly, I was unsure how much description to use. I wondered if a child/teenager would get bored and prefer action. I now know how to deal with that too.

I suddenly feel that I have a focus that was lacking before. I can see where to take my novel and I'm excited about that. My new chapter plan is almost complete. I just need one more obstacle for my characters to deal with.

If any of you are looking to have your manuscript professionally assessed, I can thoroughly recommend the Writers Workshop. Their communication by email has been swift, polite and helpful, and my assessment was well worth the money.

I envision the re-write of my novel will take me into the summer and then it's all guns blazing to find an agent.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Tuesday Choice Words

It's half term holidays here and I'm already having to separate my children to stop arguments turning into violence. It makes me think that parents are probably the best at writing fight scenes - we certainly have plenty of inspiration.

Joyce Scarborough's article Writing Fight Scenes Without Melodrama on Fiction University lays out her slant on how to write a fight scene. It's worth knowing that Joyce's husband is a boxer so she has a real insight into the mechanics of the subject.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

My kind of romance

We have a double whammy of romance this week. At the weekend, it's Valentine's Day, and tomorrow sees the release of the film of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.

My husband says that I'm not romantic. I don't make grand gestures with rose petal strewn beds and silk negligees (for me, not him). When he asks what romance is to me, I have to admit that I'm a tad stumped. I think that we've come to connect romance with events such as Valentine's Day (when supposedly you should be especially 'romantic') and cliches such as chocolates, flowers and dinner dates. However nice that might be, it all seems a little shallow.

Romance has always seemed to me to be the icing on the cake of something that goes much deeper, an enduring connection that sees past the fripperies of presents and passion. If you push me to identify my kind of romance then I'd have to say that I find romance in seeing your partner for who they really are, through good times and bad, and loving them not despite all of that but because of it. I find romance in choosing to stay on the same path for a lifetime, with all the negotiations and consideration for each other that that takes. I see romance in the elderly couple who still hold hands after decades together and compliment each other on a morning.

I don't read romance novels, however well written they are, but over the years I've come across a number of literary connections that speak to me of my kind of romance.

  • The connection between Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene in Thomas Hardy's 'Far from the Madding Crowd' is one that grows through friendship to a deeper understanding of what love really is.
  • Audrey Niffenegger's 'The Time Traveller's Wife' describes not only Henry DeTamble's struggle to live with his uncontrollable time travelling but the growing love between him and his wife Clare, from the moment they met when she was a child to their final parting.
  • Titania and Oberon in A Midsummer Nights Dream plays tricks on each other and throw unkind words but in the end, it is to each other that they will always return.

Have a wonderful weekend, however and with whomever you spend it.

Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Tuesday Choice Words

Have you ever been in the situation where you've poked and prodded at an idea or question for ages, with no solution, gone to bed in a grump, and then upon waking the solution to your query is obvious? Or how about when you're just dropping off to sleep and suddenly an idea jumps into your mind and wakes you up. Some of my best creative ideas have come from dreams that I've had or have cropped up at the point where I'm just about to nod off. That's why I keep a notebook by my bed.

In A Case for Dreaming, Tiffany Shlain discusses the connection between sleep, dreaming and creativity. Have a look.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Do you like Book Trailers?

From a reader's point of view, I love book trailers. They not only give a preview of what the book will be about but they also give an idea of how the writer wanted their book to be portrayed.

One of the many things I'm looking forward to when my first children's novel is published (traditionally or self) is making a book trailer of my own. I haven't decided yet what form the trailer should take. I could use images from the book and quotes with some accompanying music like writer Kelly Hashway. I could have actors portray events in the book like my friend Suzanna Williams did in her book trailer. I could give clues to what the book will contain with beautiful photography and questions like another friend Heather Blanchard. Animation is quite costly but a series of drawings, like in Neil Gaiman's book trailer, could work effectively with a voice over from the author. Alternatively, I could put my own face on the trailer and tell you what the book is about a'la Iain Broome. So many choices. What do you think? What kind of book trailer do you like?

Kelly Hashway explains how she uses book trailers to publicise her books on her blog here.

You can find more brilliant book trailers on the World Book Day website here.

Kelly Hashway
The Monster Within book trailer

Heather Blanchard
Dark is the Sea

Suzanna Williams

Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book

Iain Broome
A is for Angelica

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Tuesday Choice Words

I'm currently waiting to hear back from a manuscript assessment of my children's novel. I took the novel as far as I could, I think, before submitting it. You see, for me there's always an element of doubt about whether a piece is finished. How many more tweaks can I/should I make?

Writer Chris Robley tackles just this topic on The Book Baby Blog in his article How to know when you're done writing your novel.