Goodreads.com

Calling all Social Networkers! If you like reading, this is for you…

I was directed towards this wonderful little site a few months ago by my partner. Basically, it’s like Facebook for people who are active readers.

Simply create yourself a profile, add a few of your favourite books, and away you go. You can share your reading preferences with friends, rate the books you read and even add full-scale reviews.

You can join groups, take quizzes, and there’s even a creative writing section where authors leave their stories.

Enjoy!

http://www.goodreads.com/

 

Creating a Plot

Something else we’ve covered in the Creative Writing class is plot structure.

I guess a good question to be asking ourselves as we write is: what happens next?

So far, this has tended to be my biggest problem. I love starting a new story and introducing the main character. For a while, the words will flow effortlessly and I begin to feel very proud of myself for my creation.

Then, I come to a stop.

Where do I go now? I ask myself. Where can I take the story next? How can I keep the reader involved?

I’ve learnt that it helps to write a brief plan for short stories. To do this,  I separate the piece into three acts, like a play.

The first act concentrates on setting the scene; I will introduce the main characters and some background, telling the reader what has brought them to the current situation. I will also leave a couple of subtle clues as to what happens in act two.

The second act will involve more of the conflict in the story. It will have some action or drama. I love to write in the first person, so this part of the story will often include some internal dialogue of the protagonist.

Obviously, the third act will conclude the story. There will be the moment where things ‘come to a head’. There may be an argument, for example, which forces our protagonist into a corner where they feel vulnerable. Sometimes there is a practical solution to a problem, as well as an emotional resolution.

Gradually, the plan becomes a list of activities or key scenes. Often, a small amount of research may be necessary. I’m writing a ghost story at the moment, for example, which requires some knowledge of Victorian burial customs. My general history knowledge is appalling (as my mother would be very glad to tell you) therefore I have had to call on the 21st century Oracle, the World Wide Web for small details to add weight to my story.

The planning can take a couple of days or several weeks, depending on how much I apply myself to the task. Then, once I’m happy, I then begin to write.

Writers School Booked!

I have finally taken the plunge and booked my very first writing retreat at Swanwick in Derbyshire (http://www.swanwickwritersschool.co.uk/index.asp).

There are courses every day for the week-long event, but my intention is not to cram my days with listening to everyone else. I want to learn, of course, but my main reason for going is to get away from my normal routine, to a place where I won’t be distracted by kitchen chores or pestered by a well-meaning but overly affectionate cat.

Basically, I want some ‘Me’ time.

A question to all you budding writers out there: Do you struggle to make time for writing? Does life interfere with your desire to get on and write?

I’m really looking forward to my week of writing. By then, I’m hoping to have three short stories completed and ready to publish on the Kindle. Watch this space!

Writing Competition Entry

I have great ideas and I can imagine them in my head. I am even good at putting pen to paper and making a captivating start to a story.

My problem lies in continuing the plot and seeing it through until the end. Often I get an idea and I struggle to get even a plan onto paper before it vanishes out of my head.

Is it possible the problem is my memory? It is true that now I am 40, some less tactful friends have made comments about early onset dementia.

Perhaps my mind is in chaos? My demanding job can be stressful at times and this does not help.

What I crave is time to unwind and relax prior to a writing session. A quiet place in my head is all I need. A room of one’s own, so to speak.

 

(This is my entry to win an online writing bootcamp from Urban Writers’ Retreat – http://tinyurl.com/bootcomp.)

Building a Character

Characters are essential to every story.

Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how many times have you heard the phrase ‘wooden characters’ when someone referred to a book they didn’t like? Personally, I can think of several books I’ve read to which I could attribute that phrase.

I have a top tip for all you budding writers out there: get yourself a character template. They are available from various sources. Try Google for starters and see how you get on.

The format is not really important. The key thing is to give you, the writer, a method of recording details about your character.

You’ll need to know basic things like name, age and appearance, of course. But you’ll create a much more realistic person if you think about the deeper aspects of their personality.

For example, your John Doe may well be a tall, dark and handsome eligible bachelor, but does he have a dark side? How does he deal with conflict in a relationship? Is he argumentative by nature? Does he have demons from his past that haunt him?

You may well choose to model a character on a real person you already know. If so, make sure you change the name to something completely different. Some people would be flattered if they appeared in your novel; others might take it in an entirely different light. No one needs a libel case when they’re trying to publish their debut novel!

Have fun creating!

Virginia Woolf – A Room of One’s Own

“…a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, first published 1929.

However, A Room of One’s Own isn’t a work of fiction; it’s more of an essay. It was written based on a series of lectures she gave to ladies colleges in Cambridge University.

It also has more than a touch of feminism about it. However, it’s important to consider the context in which it was written.

Woolf’s father believed that only the boys of the family should be formally educated so in fact, when delivering these lectures, Woolf would have been speaking to ladies with far greater opportunities than she herself had.

On reading the piece, however, you become aware of how she advises these young ladies that it was very much still a patriarchal society, and if they wanted to become writers, they would do well to ensure their own financial security.

An interesting read, certainly, I’m not so much a Woolf fan generally, but I did find this engaging.

A Journey Into The Craft

I can’t remember when I first wanted to write. I have a vague recollection of writing a fantasy story about dragons and witches when I was a child. However, like a lot of things with me, I made a great beginning, a reasonable middle, yet I never reached the end.

I’ve always had a voracious appetite for reading, though. My mum taught me to read simple words before I started school so I was ahead of the game already. I read the entire seven-book Narnia series by C. S. Lewis before the age of nine and had made a serious dent in Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy before starting secondary school at 11.

It never occurred to me that I could really be a writer myself until I met the love of my life. I was absolutely bowled over when he told me about his First Class Honours degree in Creative Writing, and the small fact that he’s a published poet. How romantic is that?! I thought, as I fell head over heels in love.

So, as I’m now the wrong side of 40, I’ve decided I need to get off my butt and give this thing a go rather than just dreaming about it. So, with the best tutor in the world by my side, I picked up my pen and paper and began to write. Imagine my surprise when he was seriously impressed with my novice attempts!

“A little editing required” he said. “Otherwise, it’s great!”

“Well!” I thought. “I have no excuse now! Let’s see what I can make of this…”

So, this blog is about my journey into the craft of writing; and it is very much a craft. It’s not a linear discipline, like mathematics. There are no right or wrong answers, no taboos, no limits. The only boundaries are the imagination.

I’ll be talking about writing courses, writing retreats and any tips I can share for budding authors out there. I’ll also be talking about the books I’m reading at that time, and discussing my favourite authors.

No doubt, there will also be comments about my beloved cat, Lily. She’s been my loyal companion for six years now and I don’t know what I’d do without her. She has a more calming and relaxing influence than yoga, meditation and a good bottle of wine put together.

So, I hope you enjoy my ramblings. Please feel free to add your own comments.

Thank you for reading!