One of the joys of my creative career has been brainstorming with other creative people. So why do so many emerging writers shun this practice? Yes, they'll attend writers' groups and retreats where they'll have their work dissected, poked and downright burnt (figuratively speaking, that is. I have yet to hear of any chapter burnings) but, heaven forbid, that they openly engage these other minds to explore all the angles on an aspect of their story with which they only have a tentative hold. And no wonder. We rely on fellow writers' critical faculties so heavily but call upon joint creative abilities so poorly. Why is that?
The obvious answer is the concern that someone might steal your idea. This is a misconception that in the publishing industry that Concept alone decides success. Do you really believe that those bright individuals working in publishing crave mediocrity? Did you ever consider that, to stay a float, such businesses (for that's what they are) hook …!--more-->
Ok, I’m putting my neck on the line here and naming the most common pitfalls I have seen emerging talents fall into. In today’s blog, I baldly name and shame what I would happily never encounter again:
- An entire chapter revolving around a character walking or driving from A-B alone, interspersed by long passages of back story.
- An entire chapter set around a character in bed/in nature/alone reminiscing.
- Melodramatic chapter cliff hangers. Your story is either engrossing or not. A pining character is not the answer.
- Making the same point in ten different ways –all on the same page.
- Belabouring the point. [See above]
- Describing objects/landscapes/surroundings in miniscule detail over countless pages. Poetry is a gift not a licence.
And I can say all this because, early on as a writer, I have been guilty of most of the above. Ok, who am I kidding? I have been guilty of all of the above at one time or another. And so, today, I invite you to kill off your darlings …
Speaking to Jill Coleman, Managing Director of A&C Black, the other day she used a line in regards to a project we are working on that really stuck:"I see this as a refinement of where we think we are going." And this got me to thinking about the writing process.
Starting out as writers, we each have our own quirks and predilections (be that for lists, mind maps, plotting everything out first or diving in headfirst) We each have our own ways in. That said, is there a point when you need to make a commitment? when you must draw lines? And when is that point?
My manuscript originally evolved out of a short story written back in 2005. Prior to that (since 2002) I’d merely been dabbling in several different genres, encountering one particular character over and over, perfecting the craft of the scene, and beginning stories only to leave them dangling on a metaphorical half-finished stairwell somewhere. However in the Spring of '05, I came to share the short story with a writer …!--more-->
You decide what you write. No-one else. You’re certain of that, right?
First off, let me introduce myself. As the newly appointed Writers & Artists editorial manager, over the last decade I’ve come at book publishing from many vantage points – the buying side as Amazon fiction editor, slushpile reader, commissioning ed, writer and writing coach. This has given me a view on many facets of the publishing industry but, at the end of the day, I have always worked for one client: the reader. As a writer, you must make certain demands of yourself: the key one being to actively engage with your reader. Do you deign to amuse your reader/audience? Romance them? Shock them? Change them? Make them think? Make them feel?
All that said, who decided how I began this blog? In a way, you did. Sure, I decided its content but its direction was guided by my take on your needs. Firstly, you’re not going to be bothered with what I have to say unless I can back it up in some way. Secondly, …!--more-->
Once I was back at work, juggling the baby, friends and writing was a challenge that I couldn’t have been up to without a daily nap in the first four weeks of our son’s life. Though it seemed I was wasting time during the two hours a day I climbed back into bed while the newborn also slept, I was actually fertilising the garden of my mind which often felt frayed and arid.
If you don’t have two hours (which is completely understandable given the pace I used to push myself toward pre-baby) take 20 minutes - or even ten of good breathing will do - to bring back your hurried mind to what is really important.
When my maternity leave ended, I gave up those two-hour naps as time to squeeze in exercise (and out the extra baby pounds) …!--more-->