Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Pace- getting it right

I don’t mean here the pace in a story though that is of course important. I’m talking here more about pace in the writer’s life.

The difference between selling and not selling and between being published and not being published

We all probably recognise that that has little to do with the quality of the work. Given that the writing is good, it won’t be published unless it gets to the right publisher at the right time and once published it won’t sell unless both writer and publisher make the right sort of marketing moves. We have to be proactive both in sending out to publishers, in marketing our work and creating helpful publicity around it.

Monday, 16 June 2014

One writer’s take on social media

I actually thought I was quite connected. I went to a talk last week and learnt that I was  actually quite disconnected. There are times, you see, when I deliberately don’t plug myself into the net. I’m not one of these people who is constantly trying to keep up with Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and my email even when I’m out and about. I’ll look if I’m expecting something or I find myself idle or bored. I only like on Facebook and retweet on Twitter what I genuinely like.
But if I’m disconnected, some people are totally isolated. And for a writer and an academic who works a lot of the time in isolation, social media is a real gift.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Building Characters

I’ve written about this before and I’ll probably write about it many times again. In my day job as a lecture in Creative Writing at the University of Salford I have just been marking the first attempts of many of my students at writing fiction. Okay, so they’ve probably been doing it since infant school but have had a huge break since then. Now, anyway, we’re looking at it in a more critical way. We’re trying to unpick what the tools are and get a better grip on them.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The Return of the Penny Dreadful?

I resist melodrama and impossible coincidence.
I love British drama and British literature. They keep me in Britain. I’ll be retiring in a couple of years and I often think about where I’m going to live. Live theatre here and easy access to good television and literature that is neither too popular nor too literary make the UK an obvious choice.
But is there something more sinister creeping in at the moment?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

My Ten Rules of Writing

Everyone else seems to do this so I thought I’d better do it too. I wonder, though whether this changes from day to day and I’d imagine it certainly would over a period of time. I wonder also whether one or two items are actually constants. Here’s today’s list of ten, anyway.    

1.      Write every day

Yes, write absolutely every day. To me writing is like cleaning your teeth – I feel uncomfortable if I don’t do it. I actually have a two hour rule – write at least two hours a day. It used to be one hour and / or 1,000 words. I upped it to two hours and 2,000 words when I got a contract for a non-fiction book. 
I started the one hour / 1,000 words when I still had a demanding day job and two teenage children. I managed it somehow. I’d say to those even busier – start really small. Maybe ten minutes a day. You’re less likely to talk yourself out of it as you’re more likely to find the ten minutes. More often than not you’ll manage more.
And every day means every day. Today is Sunday and I’m on holiday in Scotland.   

2.      Don’t beat yourself up because you can’t manage it one day

Life happens. I have a day job – one that is very apt for a writer and keeps me in contact with writing. Sometimes, however, the demands of that day job are such that I don’t get time for my writing. I don’t fret if there is day on which I really cannot write. I know I’ll be able to again soon.  There is no question of not being able to.

3.      Don’t wait for inspiration

Because it probably won’t come. It doesn’t usually come, anyway, when I’m sat at my desk. That is really an info dump.  I’ve done all of the thinking elsewhere and else when. It’s surprising, though, what does start happening as you hit the keys. Other ideas creep in round the edges.
And even on days when I think I’ve got absolutely nothing to say, I just start typing and out comes the story.  

4.      Writing is mainly rewriting

Such a cliché but it’s so true. What takes me three months to write takes me up to eighteen months to edit.  

5.      Write what you know

Yet I write fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction. However, I would still say I am writing what I know. I submerge myself into the scenes I am creating. I become at one with them. It almost becomes a form of method acting. I am writing from what I know, from what I am when I confront the monster, when I visit another world and when I’m in Nazi Germany.

6.      You never finish, you just abandon

There comes a time when you have to meet the deadline, when you have to send your work out into the world, when it has to become public. If you had more time you would write it even better. We are perfectionist and we never achieve perfection. Thankfully we continue to improve. Be pleased that all of your work leads to your best work. Treat earlier works kindly.

7.      Write what you love

Write what you are passionate about. Take care not to become a disillusioned jobbing writer. If you don’t like the compromise the market forces on you, then earn your daily bread another way. Don’t compromise, anyway. Find a third way that suits both you and the market.

8.      Don’t ever give up

You can make it as a writer if you really want to. It’s a big “if”, however. You’ll have to face rejection, self-doubt and even disappointing reviews once you are published. Keep faith with yourself.

9.      Take the time to do nothing

You can’t give and give and give. You need to nourish your own soul. You need some experiences to feed your writing. Take a stroll in the park, walk through a colourful market or sip a hot drink in crowded café.

10.  Read, read, read

You’ve probably picked up most of your writing skills by a form of osmosis from reading. Now that your inner editor has developed you’ll probably not enjoy reading quite the same way you used to.  You’ll notice the misplaced apostrophe, the clunky sentence and the strained dialogue but you’ll also notice the well-drawn character, the strong sense of time and place and the tightly written prose. Whether you label what you read as good or as bad writing you will still learn from it.                                      

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Balancing a story – story structure and more with St Mary’s Catholic Primary School, Bath Spa

It was a fabulous sight. Practically every person, including all of the staff and the headteacher, were dressed up as characters out of a book. We had Puss-in-Boots, several Wallys, form Where’s Wally, a harry Potter and a Hermione or two, several Alices and many, many more. It was clear that everyone had gone to great deal of effort. The costumes were convincing. It was also good to see so many books lying on tables.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Getting there? How do you know when you’ve made it as a writer?

How is a writer defined?

That’s almost the easy bit. If you write, or at least if you write and take yourself seriously, you are a writer. But at what point do you become an established, professional or experienced writer? Let alone talented or skilled? (I actually argue you can’t help talent but you can always develop skill.)