Monthly Archives: January 2016

Improving Your Writing Through Feedback

As I’ve probably mentioned before, I’m writing a novel called ‘White Water’. I’m about a third of the way in and seek every opportunity for feedback I can get. Even the bad stuff. Especially the bad stuff.

When I first started as a writer I used to attend the odd course in the community and these were great but as I moved on with my writing I found that often they could end up as ego massage sessions rather than a useful forum for learning and developing a a writer.

That’s why I’m so pleased I found the brilliant Sheffield Novelist Group. We meet once a month, usually the last Monday and we critique each others submissions from our novels (sometimes short stories). We manage to tread the fine line between useful critique and positive comments pretty well and it’s a really friendly unpretentious group run by the writer Anne Grange (Author of Inside Outside).

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I also find the Kindle Write On site really useful. You basically post your novel a bit at a time and hopefully people follow you and provide feedback on your writing. I’m also a member of a brilliant critique group on there, all writers of women’s fiction, some published. For this, we review one book every three months.

This is really useful in preparing your work for submission to an agent or going down the indie publishing route such as publishing it as an ebook for the Kindle.

Of course, both of these involve the commitment and hard work of taking the time to read other people’s work and commenting on it in return. This though, is an overlooked aspect of becoming a better writer. By critiquing other people’s work, you learn what does and doesn’t work and carry it forward to your own writing.

If you’re writing and want to take it further, I’d seriously recommend you join a group or one of the sites for this. Some of these sites are listed below:

Sheffield Novelists

Write On by Kindle

Scribblers Writers Forum

Do you know another site for great feedback or do you dread feedback? Maybe you’ve had a bad experience you want to share? Leave a comment below and let me know!

 

Nourishment and Self Care for Writers

It’s hard being a writer. It’s hard working on your own full stop, be you a writer, artist, blogger or whatever.

It’s a lonely business and it takes a lot of fortitude when you face criticism, rejection or lack of interest, even if that can sometimes be a learning process in itself.

So many of us, especially creative women, give so much of ourselves, rushing about writing, looking after the kids, taking care of our friends and sometimes we forget to nurture ourselves.

I got so bad at this recently that self care had completely fallen off the list of things to do. When I stopped to ask myself what I could do to make myself feel happy and nurtured I actually drew a complete blank I was that out of practise.

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That’s why I found it really nice to attend my friend Estelle Keribin-Connolly’s ‘The Genuine You’ presentation on the Psychology of eating the other day. I don’t feed myself properly when I’m writing. Sometimes I don’t eat at all or survive only on chocolate biscuits and tea. I’ve lost count of the number of cups of tea that have gone cold,  so I was looking forward to this!

First of all, she did a really nice meditation that got us all relaxed and then gave a brief talk about self nurture, binge eating and the psychology of eating. It certainly gave me some food for thought! She does coaching and mentoring and I’d recommend her highly!

When she spoke about nourishing yourself, it was a light bulb moment. I realised that you can’t be creative consistently unless you have nourishment, not just for your body, but also your mind. She talked about nourishing your mind with relaxation and inspiring activities. How can you keep the good creative juices flowing if you haven’t nourished your mind with these?

This reminded me of Julia Cameron’s idea of filling the well. I wrote about Julia Cameron’s great book ‘The Artist’s Way’ before on this blog. She talks about creativity as a well of inspiration, your subconscious, that needs refilling from time to time so that you can continue to be creative without burning out.

There’s another great article here about avoiding burn out as a writer courtesy of Anne Leigh Parrish on the Women Writers, Women’s Books Site.

Estelle practises a whole self approach – her psychology of eating is about improving your relationship with food as well as yourself, in order to become your best self.

Her Facebook page is below.

The Genuine You

 

How to get Started as a Writer

I was having a conversation the other day with a friend that went something like this;

Me “I’ve been really busy working on the novel..”

Friend “Yeah, I should write something. I’ve got a few ideas but I just haven’t got round to it..”

Will he ever get around to it? I don’t know. Maybe it depends on what is motivating him. I wrote and enjoyed writing as a child. I got a lot of praise from my teachers and that’s what motivated me but when you’re a writer working on a second novel and the first one didn’t find an agent, praise as a motivating factor isn’t an option.

I’m currently working on ‘White Water’ a historical novel and writing is a pretty lonely business. My motivation therefore has to come from somewhere else: enjoyment of writing itself.

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It took a while for the penny to drop after finishing my first novel. I really pushed myself with that one, allocated a number of words per day that I HAD to complete, planned it like a  military campaign, chapter by chapter and scene by scene but something terrible happened in the process. I started to hate writing. The enjoyment dissolved – poof! – it was gone and after finishing the book, sending it off to agents and sitting back, I never wanted to write again..

How I got Started as a Writer, the second time around was that I told myself one day, after the penny had dropped, that I would write a little bit. I could stop when I felt like it, I wouldn’t worry about what I wrote and I wouldn’t allow myself to critique it at any point. I would do it only because I enjoyed it. Nothing more, nothing less.

Many writers will tell you – don’t do it for the money! – and they are one hundred per cent correct. If you want to write, you need to do it because you love it. You might have days when you want to throttle it, slam the door in it’s face and go down the pub but in the end you always come back because you love it, through thick and thin, for better or for worse.

Here are my top tips for starting writing creatively:

  1. Just write. Get yourself a notebook and pen and write ANYTHING. In the brilliant book ‘The Artists Way’ Julia Cameron suggests you should aim for three sides of A4 a day. Just let the pen move. Shut off your editor. It doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad. Just write. Don’t read it back. Move on. Over time, like sculpting, shapes will emerge from the words. These will be the bones of your stories.
  2. Get out and observe. Go for a walk. Describe the sky, the road, the trees, the people – to yourself. Take a notebook. Sometimes when I’m out I write things down on my phone and copy them up later.
  3. Read. You can’t be a writer if you don’t love books. Hoard them. Give them a good home. Read widely. Read non-fiction too. Great for story juice.
  4. Keep going. About 90 per cent of writing is fortitude and not giving up.

Recommended reading:

The Artists Way – Julia cameron

Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg

On Writing – Stephen King

 

And if you try writing, let me know how you get on. If you already write let me know how you got started. What would you tell people to do or not to do? Stop by, leave a comment!

Fire – A New Short Story

Here is a new short story. It’s called ‘Fire’ and it’s the third in a quartet about Earth, Fire, Air and Water (the so called four elements of magic). It’s not been without its problems. I wrote it a couple of weeks back and was really happy with it but when I came to edit it I realised I’d lost over 1000 words of the damned thing – one reason I wish I still had my Mac – that never happened with it.

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However, I dragged myself together, telling myself I wouldn’t rewrite it as it was because that wouldn’t work – no story is ever the same on two different occasions, the sands of subconsciousness shift so to speak – so I would write it as it came out the second time and let the first draft rest in peace.

Anyhow, couldn’t move on to what I wanted to write next without laying this one to rest so here it is. I’m still pretty happy with it. It’s set, somewhat predictably, in 1666 during the Great Fire of London but it was a good exercise in writing historically and using a healthy mix of fact and fiction.

I found out some pretty interesting things about the Great Fire whilst researching it. Did you know, for instance, that a simple-minded French watchmaker (the French were blamed a lot for the Fire – no one realised that the winds carried embers from one building to other seemingly unrelated ones and we were at war with them at the time) named Robert Hubert was hung at Tyburn on 28th September 1666 for starting the fire  even though he was later found to have been at sea at the time of the fire?