Saturday, 28 August 2010

Have you got a writing buddy?

I don't mean someone who reads your work.  That's one sort of buddy and can be helpful.  No, I'm talking about the buddy stalwart, the fellow writer who shares your dream and dreams it with you.

It's easy to "make friends" on the net, and we all belong to groups.  We know lots of other writers.  Strangely, this hasn't really changed the truth that writing is a solitary business.  We are all vulnerable and scared sometimes, and it takes a hell of a lot of confidence to talk about the writing worries that beset us.

The plot ain't going nowhere.  The characters won't come alive.  I've spent hours writing thirty pages of total shite and I'm about to slit my wrists.  My editor hates me.  I hate my editor.  No one is ever going to buy this rubbish.  Why am I doing it?

There is no more valuable buddy than the writing friend - or group - into whose trusting bosom you can pour these intimate writing woes.  These friends hear you when the chips are down, the fat's in the fire and you are mentally pelting off the rooftop and landing in an ungainly broken heap in the garden.  They pick you up, dust you off and set you back on your writing feet.

When hope rises, their fingers are crossed and breaths bated on your behalf.  When it goes right, they share the euphoria, send you cyber champers and hugs, and even empty their pockets to buy your book.  Needless to say, you recriprocate on all fronts. You share daily niggles and doubts, questions and comments, ups and downs.

Most important of all, you know absolutely that anything said is sacrosanct.  It won't get passed on.

Whether one can look for such buddies is a moot point.  But if such a writing friendship offers, I urge you strongly to cultivate it and use it to the full.  Keep it close.  Don't be tempted to widen the group once it has gelled.  Trust is a delicate plant.  Get too many involved and you lose confidence.

My own group of writing buddies is small but tight.  We've been together for years now and the common bond has never been broken.  We've become close friends, and I publicly thank them right now for the incalculable contribution they have made to my writing life.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Nothing is wasted

Oh, don't we groan when those rejections come in?  Really, is there any more soul destroying moment than answering the door to the postman's knock only to find him standing outside with one of those ominously familiar packages in his hand?  It's back.  Oh, no.  Please let me hide under the bed and scream and scream.

As the rejected novels pile up in a corner, we alternate between mood swings of hope and despair.  Can't I ever get a break?  What is so hard to believe is that you are getting a break.  You're being forced to write and write and write.  Sooner or later you are going to get it right.

The point is you can't help but get better at it.  You're working your writing muscle.  I've recently had to start the most ghastly painful exercise class to build up core muscles to support my dicky back.  The first time I knew there was no way in the universe I was ever going to be able to do some of the stuff the tutor was asking me to do.  What do you know?  A few weeks in, it's still hellish painful, but I can do most of it.

The tutor tells me it always will be painful.  So is writing at times.  We've all experienced the fight to stop displacing and get on with it, or writing through days when your brain is made of mush.  But you do it, and you get better at it just by doing it.

I've got more unpublished novels lying around than I care to think about.  But if I didn't have them, I wouldn't be writing as well as I do now.  What's more, I've got a mine of developed stories to recycle at need.

You're not wasting anything.  You're learning all the time.  Keep doing it.  Someday someone will start paying you to do it.  And believe me, that ain't no picnic either!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Over-emphasis - let's not fall into the trap

Certain of my early books I can't bear to read because the italics leap out and poke me in the eyeballs.

We all do it.  Overuse of emphasis is one of the major pitfalls - too many adverbs, strings of adjectives, italics.  And heaven help us all with the dreaded exclamation mark.

I'm still paranoid about them, even though it's a good twenty-five years or more since an editor remarked - with unwarranted sarcasm in my view - on my manuscript littered with exclamation marks: "I assume it is meant to be funny."

I still regard the things with horror - I take them all out, put some back in, scream blue murder and take them out again.  And finally argue the toss with myself for every one I desperately want to keep.

The truth is we over-emphasise because we are not convinced that simple prose will put our point across.  We don't believe the reader will get it if we don't really truly force them to understand!!!

We need to trust the reader.  We need to grant them intelligence enough to be able to read between the lines.  Reading, unlike film or TV, invites participation from the audience.  The reader wants to use their creative imagination too.  Whack them over the head with it and they don't get the chance.

Scatter the whole text with emphases and they all lose force.  Emphasise sparingly and each one will have a stronger effect.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Entering the Blog World

Gosh, this is pretty scary!  It looks so easy, but I bet I mess up.

The object of the exercise is to share some of the writing lore I've acquired over the years.  And to post news about my own work now and then.

I've recently started an assessment critique and mentoring service, so it seems logical to gird my web loins and join the tecchies who do this off the top of their heads with no problem.  For one brought up with old lined exercise books and copying from the blackboard, I can tell you this is no mean feat.

Bear with me as I learn this game, so that I can help you with the writing game.

Tip Number One:  A writer writes.  Ergo, if you write, you must be a writer.

Let's do away with all those "aspiring" "trying to be" "wannabe" labels and speak only of writers writing better.  That's all any of us ever want - to write better.  Because the better you write the more likely you are to get that coveted publishing contract.

Welcome to my blog, writer!