Another Rejection Slip? Never Give Up, and here’s why…

Image

Adelaide Godwin, Author ‘Landing on my Feet. The Adventures of Poohka the Cat’

Guest blogger Adelaide Godwin talks to Tracy Thomson about the launch next month of her new children’s book.

Is this the first novel you have ever written? Yes
What about when you were younger at school?  I enjoyed writing but I am not sure the examiners felt the same when marking!
Was your first language French?  No, this is why at the age of 9, I had to start from scratch, having lessons in French and abandoning my limited knowledge of English grammar!
Did you shine at English composition or find yourself naturally more steered towards images and painting?
I loved to draw but we did not have art classes at the school.  I took my Art O Level for a joke and got an A grade. I never had any tuition until attending art classes, here, over the last 4 years. I never really shined at anything academically, I was more sporty, I like to think.
How did you conceive of the novel?  We saved a feral cat (he had been missing from our Urbanisation for a month) returning with a bad leg injury.  He is now a three legged cat living with us as part of the family.
Did you see images of a little cat and then let your imagination flow with a journey, friends and morals? Yes, my imagination took over and I set to painting his journey at my art classes.
You said you saw the book first in images and then came up with the joined up writing part, could you perhaps elaborate on that?  Once I had completed the paintings, I then put pen to paper to write the story as I imagined it.  My Publisher, Digital Leaf, said that was completely the wrong way round.
Initially you saw the reader as being older than the eventual age chosen. Yes, I thought perhaps with mentioning a cat being neutered it might be for a slightly older group.  But then again I have a talking tree! So I can see how the publisher’s thought differently. 
Did any differences between the Publisher and you cause problems?  No, I was happy to go along with whatever the publisher’s thought. I was just so pleased they were as passionate about my story as I was.
Who or what served as inspiration for you on your writing journey?  Our dear pussycat “Pooka” (Poohka in the book)  We bonded with him when he was living outside and he would walk around the Urbanisation with us on a daily basis.  So when he went missing we were most concerned for him.
How long did it take?  From starting with the paintings then the writing just under 2 years.  The actual writing took approximately 6 months, but I did not have a routine.  I wrote when I had the time and that was not as frequently as I would have liked.
Why did you decide on a nom de plume?   I always thought I should have used a different name when acting but never did, so this time I decided I would for writing. I have chosen  my grandmother’s two middle names.
I understand more than one Publisher was interested, what helped you to decide which one to go with? No only the one.  When sending off submissions I had 13 refusals but a number of them came back with complimentary responses, saying it was not for them, but someone out there will take it!  It is finding that someone, sadly they never guide you.  Anyway, I was most fortunate.
Have you started the next one yet? Yes, the first two chapters, it is just finding the time to shut myself away and get on with the rest.  I need a routine.
The publishing process can seem arduous do you have any advice for others out there who are taking their own baby steps?  Never give up.  I understand JK Rowling found an agent on her 12th attempt.  Geoffrey Archer on his 27th.  The lady who wrote The Help on her 61st attempt.  So there is hope for us all.  Basically if I can do it, anyone can.  I have absolutely no writing background at all.
What is the best approach for negotiating with the Publishers along the way vis a vis book jacket and illustrations.  I was lucky I liked the front and back cover.  The internal illustrations had to be changed because they were too English, so with a bit of coaxing and gentle persuasion they were altered.
How will you keep track of book sales? Will you access Amazon sales via the Amazon account set up or is that all being done by your Publisher?  This is all being done by the publisher. They will be sending me quarterly accounts of sales and so on.
Below is a brief bio of the author (in her own words):

Adelaide was educated at an Ursuline convent in a remote Belgian village before attending Winkfield Place Finishing School, famous as Constance Spry’s school. There she achieved a Cordon Bleu Diploma and went on to work for Prue Leith in London and as chef at the Little London Restaurant in Chichester.


Adelaide then joined British Airways and took to the skies, working as Cabin Crew for fifteen years and travelling the world extensively.


Adelaide has also worked in the television and film industry doing small acting roles, as well as some photographic and voiceover work.


She now divides her time between the UK and southern Spain where she cares for animals, writes, paints and enjoys the Mediterranean sunshine.

So with a vivid imagination Adelaide picked up a pen and a piece of paper and started to write!

The result is:

Landing on my Feet; the Adventures of Poohka the Cat by Adelaide Godwin

This is the incredible tale of Poohka a feral cat from Sotogrande who through an error of judgement ends up on a landfill site many miles away from home. Seriously injured and left for dead, this story takes you on his epic journey of survival.

With courage and determination Poohka starts his amazing journey with the assistance of some very unexpected friends he makes along the way. With highs and lows, twists and turns, the story leads you to a heart-stopping conclusion.

A taster from my book:

Chapter 2 – No place for a siesta

In August, the hottest time of the year in southern Spain, Spike sat motionless in the heat of the sun. He was perched on a decaying branch of an old cork oak tree. The week had passed too slowly for Spike, a mature and splendid looking vulture. Spike longed for Wednesdays to come around, and waited impatiently.
There was a gentle but obvious roar of a lorry in the distance. Spike jumped up, stretched his scaly neck and flexed his claws. ‘It’s coming!’ he cried joyfully.

Señor Arbol, the once majestic cork oak tree, groaned loudly. ‘For goodness’ sake, Spike, if you carry on with this behaviour you will break my weary old branch. Then you will lose your prime spot here at the rubbish tip.’

‘OK, OK!’ he yelled with excitement, struggling to contain himself. ‘I’ll try my best, but my tummy is rumbling so much, and my food is on its way!’

As if in reply, the decaying branch beneath Spike made a big creaking noise. Spike gulped and immediately stopped bouncing up and down. Spike liked his vantage point closest to the dumping area, and he’d fought hard to get this prime position. He had no intention of losing it now!

Described as:

“A roller-coaster ride of a book for young animal-lovers everywhere.”
Age: 8 +
Digital Leaf

“A claw-biting journey of bravery, persistence and unusual friendships set atmospherically in southern Spain”
Heather Hacking Bestselling Author-Illustrator

More: Poohka the Cat age 8 yrs+

//

Congratulations to Susan Molbeck, Second Place in the Bootcamp Writing Competition

WHY

Sitting.  Sitting on the Esplanade.  Sitting and waiting.  Waiting for what?  If I knew the answer to that question I wouldn’t be here, I’d be far, far, away, beyond those blue hills I can see when I turn my head and look back towards the town; beyond the edge of that straight horizon directly in front; oh yes, I’d be far away doing something else and being someone else.

 

As a small boy my mother would bring me to this spot, of course the Esplanade didn’t exist as such in those days.  There was an untidy bit of beach with a dirt track running alongside of it, rocks, stones, pebbles, the sea and the gulls.  We kids thought it a rare treat, the freshness of the sea breeze and the sparkle of the water broke the monotony of dust and heat we experienced all the other days of our lives.  Mum would sit with us while Dad did his business in the town, then we’d up on the cart and bump our way home, waving regretfully ‘Goodbye’ to the sea.

 

Even when I was little this place used to give me weird thoughts and I’d ask .. “Mum who am I? Why am I here?  Who are you?”  If she were serious she’d refer me to ‘God’ – now don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that I don’t believe – it’s just that I’ve never met him, face-to-face like, and been able to ask him my questions, so they’ve gone unanswered;  but if Mum were light-hearted she’d laugh, clap her hands together and exclaim telling me I’d turn out to be a professor in something or the other.  Lizzy, my sister, would squeeze my hand and say “Don’t worry Arnold, we’ll find out.”  Once I went all the way over to Europe to her gravestone, it was with a lot of others, I felt I owed it to her to see where she’d been put.  There was an archway over the entrance which said ‘Their name liveth forever’ and underneath ‘They made the supreme sacrifice’.  I was the only living being there.  I found the headstone ‘Elizabeth Andersen’ it said and in a loud voice I spoke, “Lizzie girl, “ I said, “Did you find out?  Can you tell me why?  It’s Arnold, your brother.”  If anyone had overheard me they’d have thought I was stark staring mad, I didn’t expect an answer only an indication – over all these year – nothing, nothing came.

 

When I was courting our Meg I would sit with her on this very bench, the palms and bushes had been planted only a short while and the whole place looked new and scrubbed.  Come to think of it, it was the Esplanade’s fault that we ever came together, I always pick up my ideas here.  After that decision the game called ‘life’ caught up with me and I had no time to sit and think of asking questions like why? – how? – for what purpose?  Every waking moment was filled with work and at night I was too exhausted to do anything but sleep.  I hadn’t grown up to be a professor as Mum prophesied, just an ordinary farmer, taking over Dad’s few acres, adding a few of my own.

 

The Esplanade was here all the time while my kids grew up, by then we had cars and trucks, Meg could come and go in and out of town as she pleased;  the ‘stead was no longer considered to be in the outback, it was only fifty minutes from shops and schools.  We saw more of other people than my folks ever did, we acquired neighbours on both sides.  Me?  I waited.  I waited for the day when my children would look up at me and ask “What’s the reason behind it all Dad?” and I would have to admit that although I played the game, although I worked and strived, lived and breathed, tried and failed and then tried again, I didn’t know what the purpose of it all was.  My biggest disappointment was that they never asked.

 

Meg, a stranger to me now, is an old, tired woman who’s only interest is her children and her children’s children.  I’m left on the outside because their problems are not my problems – anyway I’m not supposed to have any of those, I’m retired, I’m Dad, left here sitting in solitary splendour on the Esplanade, in the sun.  The cars flash by on the road behind my back, not one stops, I have as much contact with them as I do with the people on the pathway in front of me.  They, like the cars, go by, one after the other.  The odd one might say “How’re you doing mate?” in a friendly manner but they don’t stop for an answer, however I have found out something and this has made me content to sit and wait.  I’m an old man, I shouldn’t have too long to go.

 

The other day a young man with a priest’s collar, what we used to call a dog collar, sat down on my bench beside me.  We sat together in silence looking out at the calm sea, the boats, the hot sun, the blue sky, the shadows of the old trees.  I thought to myself ‘Now here is a man who must know all the answers in the world or he’d be ashamed to dress himself up like that and proclaim his faith.’  On the spur of the moment I found the courage and without preamble, mainly because I’d thought about it so much I was past the point of explaining anything to anyone, I asked:

“WHY?”

 

He must have known something was coming ‘cos he didn’t turn a hair but swung round and replied.

“To give us shade on a hot day, to give us somewhere green to sit in under this tireless sun, to allow us a place to rest close to the bustle of town, here we can be with our fellow man and contemplate God’s miracles.”

 

Not exactly the answer I’d expected:  I could have told him that it was the Shire that put the money down and built the Esplanade, that it was gardeners who had watered, weeded and worked on it, that it hadn’t even been there sixty years ago.  But I held my tongue, because he had given me an answer I could accept, the first one.

 

Sitting here, looking out at the sea, I know why the Esplanade was created and can even give God his due for part of it.  I know why this place is here, NOW I only have to find out why I’m here too?

 
//

How to hook a reader, plot or character?

My dog got a lovely gift this Christmas, hope you do too! Happy Writing.

Image

Be it people or animals, if I suddenly care what happens to them I become interested in the story itself. It is arguably the key reason ‘Homeland’ spawned three series; the plot is terrorism the watchability is Carrie and Brody.

Plot v Character

Luminaries of the literary world such as Robert McKee, John Gardner, Stephen King and many others have fought over what is most important in writing, is it character or plot? It seems an unnecessary battle. Both are equally important and the genre chosen partly decides which if any has the upper hand. In a thriller, for example, the action may drive the story more than the characters, but it is the characters that really hook us, they are who we care about. It is trite but true that without the plot they would have no reason to be there.

Some Gentle Suggestions

Identify your main character in the story:

  • What does he or she look like?
  • How does he or she behave in different situations?
  • Are there any specific moral lines that he or she will cross?
  • If so, under what circumstances?
  • Are there any inner responses to different situations, i.e. mental reactions that could surprise us or underline just how that person ticks under different triggers?
  • If he or she has an antagonist, how do both characters differ and what traits are similar about them?
  • Does the way he or she speaks reveal social class, education, or how he or she sees life?
  • If told in the first person what does this say about how he or she interprets events, surroundings and people?
  • What is his or her main motivation, would this motivator appear as reasonable from the readers’ perspective as it does to the protagonist?
  • If his or her responses could appear unreasonable, what does this say about the main character (MC)?
  • Does the MC really understand what he or she is setting out to achieve?
  • How does the character change in response to the events in the story?
  • If the character does not change, how is he or she tested, and are you sure there has been no change?

John Gardner

‘In the final analysis, what counts is not the philosophy of the writer (that will reveal itself in any case) but the fortunes of the characters, how their principles of generosity or stubborn honesty or stinginess or cowardice help them or hurt them in specific situations. What counts is the characters’ story. A profound theme is of trifling importance if the characters knocked around by it are uninteresting, and brilliant technique is a nuisance if it pointlessly prevents us from seeing the characters and what they do.’

E. M. Forester

He described characters as ‘flat’ or ‘round’, depending on if the author had sketched or sculpted them with words. Sometimes we want to highlight just one thing and create a character as a vehicle for this; it is a way of narrating a message that we show rather than tell.

Katherine Anne Porter

‘By the time I write a story, my people are up and alive and walking around and taking things into their own hands.’

W.C. Fields.

‘A woman drove me to drink and I never even had the courtesy to thank her.’

In summary, study the protagonist, or any other figure, that you are creating. What makes this person different from the others in the story? The way characters speak can immediately reveal more facts, social class, education etc. and can reveal important things about their values, belief systems and behaviour.

Those of you who attended the last writers’ workshop remember you have until 2nd January to submit your short pieces, fiction or non fiction up to 2,000 words.

//

Mind the Gap, NLP and Me

Guest blogger Andrea Myers is a certified master practitioner of NLP and her blog  focuses on mind maps and filters.  Before you dismiss this as “pseudo science with quack factor stats” remember this, we learn, read and write in different ways. If we can increase our readership, or inject credible characterisation from looking at how others think, it has been worth the journey.

‘He searched her eyes with deep emotion – it was the mention of his childhood that brought the flood of memories and finally moved him to act…’

George sighed, “I just do not get this author. I am not on the same wavelength at all I feel I have just wasted my time trying to read this, and what a waste of money!” and with that, he slammed the book shut and tossed it into the bin.

♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣♣

Oh dear, not the reaction we authors want at all! So what went wrong? George and the author were indeed “not on the same wavelength” and the reason is this: Our author used the word “childhood” as a huge emotional turning point to his story – but “childhood” means something different to every one of us. Some of us had an idyllic youth, others a busy hectic time as part of large bustling family, others were very alone, perhaps an only child. So we need to be aware as authors that our language and our use of it is totally coloured by our own, individual map of the world. A world made up of our own very unique experiences and emotions. And when we use key words we need to ensure our readers get onto our wavelength. Try using the phrase “How specifically?” to ask yourself what you mean and ensure your reader has understood. Had our author said “tortured childhood” or “soporific” perhaps our reader would have stayed with him.

NLP or Neurolinguistic Programme is the study of the effect of language (linguistic) on our brain (neuro) patterns, created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in the 1970s.They studied how the pathways or filters into our neuro system worked and how the language we use mirrors our own personal world. They created a set of models that can be used to achieve excellence in everyday life: business, education, health, sport as well as psychology.
If you look up “NLP and writing”, you will see that there are dozens and dozens of courses being offered to writers and journalists, using NLP as a foundation. Many scriptwriters use NLP in their work – in particular in TV series and films. This year over 1,200 teachers were trained in NLP and it is also used in education, medicine and in many different aspects of therapy.

At our last Writer’s Workshop I spoke about the two basic tenets of NLP – Our Map of the World and the filters we use to take in information. The example given above with George explains Our Map of the World. Let’s look now at filters.

Bandler and Grinder found that we take in information through 5 basic filters Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, the primary filters, and Gustatory, and Olfactory the secondary filters. What filters we use as our primary ones are very individual. But if you try to communicate with someone without using their primary filter – you may again find “we are not on the same wavelength”.

You have only to ask a group of people who have just come out of a film what they liked about the film – and some will say the photography was fabulous (Visual) some will have noticed the musical score (Auditory) and some will have said the film made them feel great (Kinesthetic) And we cannot help using the words that actually give away what filters most influence us. For example, at a meeting, if something is decided, and the individuals are asked for their understanding, some will say, “I hear what you say” others will say, “I see what you mean” and others, “feels good to me”.

Returning to our reader, George, he gave us a clue as to his primary filter with his words “I feel I have wasted my time” He may well be a kinesthetic. If a writer totally ignores his kinesthetic readers, this could well be the outcome. If you try to sell a car to a kinesthetic and you focus on the visual qualities – you might not get a sale! Mention the comfort of the seats, the smooth ride, the heated seats and fabulous climate control and the sale could be yours.
I found another very interesting aspect to the VAK filters – I am a Visual, and I found to my surprise that my writing was lacking the visual aspect – too much dialogue and not enough scene setting. The reason must be that as a visual I just assumed everyone would be able to create the scene in their minds and didn’t need me to describe things. Not so! When I reversed things, and “told less and showed more” I got a far better response.

How can we use this information for us as writers? My suggestions are:
When you are doing your first edit of your writing identify the key words or turning points in your writing – and ask yourself, “What specifically do I mean by this word or phrase?” Remind yourself that your map of the world is unique to you and that to engage your reader you need to expand or illustrate your meaning.

Again, at your first edit stage ask yourself what is your writing style? – Have you engaged the Visual Auditory or Kinesthetic filters in your overall approach? Is there a balance?

I have only skimmed the surface of NLP and its practices and philosophies – but I close with one of the ten basic tenets of NLP:

‘The meaning of your communication is the response that you get, which may be different to the one you intended. There is no such thing as a resistant person, only an inflexible communicator.”

Andrea Myers


//

‘Silence’ – Stream of Consciousness

An example of the literary technique ‘stream of consciousness’ by SW member Emma Wilson that illustrates the benefit of free-flow writing. Getting down what comes into your mind without interruption can be a powerful stimulus that can help to kick-start the creative process and help you get inside the mind of a character.

Silence

I dream of silence.

Tap Tap, Scratch Scratch, Tick Tock, Cough.

That’s the sound of my life.

No wait, that’s just the dark hours. The evenings. The darkness.

Darkness means silence right? Nope.

Tap Tap, Scratch Scratch, Tick Tock, Cough

My days are not like this.

Oh no, they are much worse.

I DREAM of silence.

I rise from my bed to the ear piercing scream…

“muuuuuummmmmy!”

I lift my body unwillingly and lurch toward the high pitched screech,

Inevitably followed by the clatter of cereal bowls and cups in the kitchen.

Here we go again.

Oh god I dream dream dream of silence.

Mummmmmmy!

Tap Tap Bang Bang “I want juice!!”

I glance longingly back at the bedroom door and my inner clock starts the countdown.

How many hours until we are re-united once again in silence.

Tap Tap Bang Bang Hiss Bang Screech

Oh God I dream of silence.

“Darling, where are my car keys?” It starts again.

Oh Lord just give me five….

“Mummy I want my…. Honey I cant find them – Jesus is that the time?”

 The day drags on, the air filled with noises. Screams and cries, giggles and groans.

The darkness of the coffee pulls me in… darkness, stillness, black and thick. Oh god im dreaming of silence.

As their heads hit the pillows and their eyes slowly close, little breaths and whispers escape their dreams.

Tick tock tick tock – counting down. Nearly time for sleep.

We meet again my dear old friend, a million noises have kept us apart.

Tick tock, click click and suddenly its dark.

His tinnitus takes over and tap tap here come the noises.

“Today in the news” – Lord above here we go again.

 Tap tap scratch scratch Cough tap tap.

Finally he slips into sleep and the radio clicks one last time, finally the start of silence…

But then it starts…

I fear the silence.

“Is the oven off, is that bill paid. Did she clean her teeth – what was that noise, is that her out of bed?”

Holy hell I just want to sleep.

I dread the silence, because that’s when it starts – that’s when my day begins.

All the worries, all the questions, in the silence my fears sing.

I fear the silence.

But then the birds begin to sing.

Tap tap bang bang “mummy I’m thirsty”

I sigh, and rise and look to the bed – breath in and out and take a beat.

I dream of silence once more… that is until it starts again.

Blogged by Emma Wilson

…And look at why she did it…

Hi [Jo and Tracy]. I dont generally do this, but i blame both of you. It seems since joining the group my brain simply wont stop. The dam i put up around my creative brain has been ripped down and i cant stop the flow. I woke up last week (at around 3am) and my brain just would not stop. So for the first time in a long time i wrote it all down and didnt think about it again.

Last night i took a look at what was written. To be honest i don’t even REMEMBER writing the words – reading it over last night it made me giggle.

It is completely stream of consciousness but really does sum up the life of a mother of two in my eyes.. i thought it might interest you to see it. Normally i would simply leave these musings in my notebook never to be seen again – but after meeting a fellow “compulsive writer” in Lindsey last week i think it might interest people to see they are not alone when they write nonsense words on scraps of paper in the wee morning hours.

Hope you like it

//

Revelations of a Notebook

The following guest blog was posted by the elusive Lindsey who not only loves to write, but needs to write. She was unable to make the inaugural meeting of the club and this is now in the guest slot in the hope that she contacts us. Mystery Blogger, Come in from the Cold…we can help you.

‘I wanted to share this that I found this evening. http://www.jackiemorris.co.uk/blog/writers-notebooks/ – I hope this might work as a link and save a few Ctrl C, Ctrl Vs. Either way, as a writer, you should look at that page.

It has inspired me to comment on your website. And accept that my modus operandi (or is it: operandum?) of writing is not so different to other writers, but how would I have known before? Only my children really know the extent of the chaos which surrounds my need to help the words escape and I know little of other writers’ methods. I had never really considered the subject until tonight.

How do you write? Longhand, computer, haphazardly, super-organised, on parchment and with a quill, perhaps? Could we all share our notebooks or glimpses thereof? I feel I need to know, now, how others write. Not the words nor the discipline, but the method, the hardware….. the biros you use.

These photos of notebooks led me to a moment of introspection. After all, it is the Equinox and a time of change, seasonally if not spiritually. And I’ve just arrived here so I feel new, naive, nervous. And I am homesick, but not for home, nor friends, nor family, although I would be lying if I said I didn’t miss them. (And they might read this)…….No, I miss, painfully, a vast wodge of paper I left behind. Said a forever goodbye to.

On finally moving out of my house last year – which I rented out on Facebook after meeting up with a long-lost old friend and imbibing a bottle of wine whilst looking at her most recent paintings – I had to say “adios” to over 10 years of scribblings. Reams and reams and reams of notes, ideas, moments of genius. (Or so I suspect and can hope, against hope but don’t know, not for sure and never will). Pages of captured meetings, memories, dark moments of self-doubt, and worse – half-written, unfinished, interrupted outpourings – what would those have led to? I can only wonder.. Where was that sentence going? Oh, the anguish at a lost thought.

Literally scores of black bin liners full of A4, envelopes, hurriedly ripped shreds of tree bark used to jot down my thoughts. All etched in multi-coloured biro, pencil and…. was that blood?

I went to a friend’s farm in Lancashire and there, with the help of Grandad, the firestarter and Boss, Mum and assorted grandchildren – pyromaniacs, all – we burnt every sheet, almost religiously ardent in our task, in a rusty, well-used and capacious iron firepit at the edge of the field, yet still in the garden to help the roses. And next to grandma’s grave because she loved fires too.

Now, I miss not only my writing and recalling how it changed with time, mood, even the colour of the biro, but also I miss my writings. What, oh what, have I lost through consignment to the flames? Yet, I had no choice. It all had to go. I could not move on with it, we were downsizing and lightening up. It was also downsized, reduced in bulk and weight, and then became embers, turning to grey, light, floating, flaking ash, thrown onto the roses and carried by the wind, drifting across the farmland to nurture future growth.

And in amongst that loss of mine and gain for the countryside I love, lies the inspiration for many more hours of an unstoppable, unexplainable force that is …how I write and the words which quite simply have to escape. I might stick to ink and pass on the blood from now on though.’

Lindsey
//

Point of View

Point of View

So what are we talking about here?

Sol Stein’s definition is a good one,

p. 109, ‘The character whose eyes are observing what happens, the perspective from which a scene or story is written.’

Much has been written about ‘Point of View’, so much so that some people begin to get confused about the do’s and don’ts. Others don’t really care; they just want to write.
Sometimes we want to include so much information, all the research we did; what different characters are thinking and saying in response to any given event.

All of that is possible, but remember to keep the reader on board.

When we are listening to friends in a bar or coffee shop there is no confusion about who is saying what; they are present in the room and we are looking at them,  listening to them and sharing their stories.

We can achieve the same when we are writing. Apart from writing an autobiography we write with a mouth-piece, one of the characters, real or made up, usually the most important one for the telling of our tale; THE MAIN CHARACTER.

Having decided who fits this role we then decide on that person’s delivery. The two most popular these days are first person and third person subjective.

FIRST PERSON

It was dark and I kept looking over my shoulder every time the wind blew.

We are in the mind of the character with great immediacy, using  “me, myself, I.”

THIRD PERSON SUBJECTIVE

‘I’m up,’ He shouted, turning over in bed and resting his head on the pillow. For extra measure he banged a shoe up and down on the floor so his mum would think he was walking around. She would set off for work soon and he would be alone. He had no intention of going to school today.

We are in the mind of the character, but once removed, using “he/she, his/her.”

If we want to get into different characters’ minds we can do so in the same way, but need to flag up the change to the reader.

Those that know suggest you keep the characters separated into their own chapters, or if that is not what you are looking for, leave a blank line or two in your document so the savvy reader understands.

First Person POV is alluring but dealing with the first person POV’s ego is harder. As Sol Stein says, p.111 ‘If he sees himself as weak, the reader won’t have much interest in him as a protagonist. If he sees himself as strong, the reader will think him a braggart. Therefore, in the first-person POV the author relies on action and the speech of other characters to reveal things – particularly good things – about the “I” character. An unreliable or villainous first-person narrator can lend credibility…

If the character takes the reader into his confidence, the character can’t “forget” to provide the reader with an essential secret or other important piece of information. When the reader learns that was withheld, he will feel cheated. The most dramatic way of handling information that the character is reluctant to convey is for another character to strip the secret from him in heated conversation.’

What do you think?

Tracy
//

Grab Their Interest.

Image

Our writing club opens its doors the last week of September and until then I have another opportunity to blog… Sol Stein is a terrific writer to go to for tips on techniques. Born 1926, he edited and published books for 36 years from some of the most successful writers of the twentieth century, including James Baldwin, Dylan Thomas, Elia Kazan, W.H. Auden, and Jacques Barzun. If you want a better look, check out Stein on Writing, St Martin’s Press (1995)  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Stein-Writing-Successful-Techniques-Strategies/dp/0312254210

So, what did he have to say?

Lots. Nearly all of it valuable.

He begins by quoting E. L. Doctorow, “Good writing is supposed to evoke sensation in the reader, not the fact that it’s raining, but the feeling of being rained upon.” p.4

Yeah, we get it, -Show not Tell-. Good advice.

Stein studied buying behaviour in a Manhattan bookstore during lunch hour. They mostly read the front flap of the book’s jacket and then went to page one. No-one went beyond page three before either taking the book to the cashier or putting the book down and picking up another. p.9

So, no point encouraging someone to read on because your novel picks up a bit after the first few pages. Start writing where it picks up, as near to the climax of that particular episode as possible and hook the reader. No matter how beautiful your writing is, we’re in  a hurry and as a reader need to:

  • know why we’re reading,
  • enjoy where it’s taking us
  • seek the answers to the questions that got us hooked.

Stein advises we should grab the reader’s curiosity, PREFERABLY ABOUT A CHARACTER OR A RELATIONSHIP and create a setting to lend resonance to the story.

Characters Build Strong Interest.

Think of even the most meaningless soap opera. You may not admit to your friends that you even watch it, but when it’s on it’ll pull you in. There’s possibly no point talking about the plot, it may be banal, but for some reason, you care about how that particular character will react, how he or she will deal with whatever the script writer has concocted.

What Excites our Interest?

  • the unusual
  • action
  • conflict
  • knowledge that something is not right, that fate is being tempted
  • when characters find themselves in a situation  you identify with…

It’s not an exhaustive list. Think about it, what works for you? Perhaps a character wants something important, wants it badly and wants it now. Or maybe a character that you are rooting for finds herself in danger and you must find out what happens next.

Write responsibly.

We need to write for ourselves AND the reader. Imagine you are at a party and someone ‘corners’ you and insists on a boorish recital of a tale that you must listen to, politely, until an escape route opens up to you.

Do not be that boor.

How better to be captivated by something that entertains and raises questions that catch your interest long after the story ends.

Be that captivator.

Years ago I heard two girls chatting to each other at the bus stop. My bus came and I seriously considered missing it, just so I could hear more…

The hook?

‘So, was he circumcised?’

//

Welcome to Sotogrande Writers

!cid_36BC50F2-D5B6-4AEF-A4FE-10C19658347F

Welcome

This is where writers, in any genre or medium, can share their work and get inspired. Hopefully we will encourage and learn from each other with the end goal of growing together and becoming the best that we can at our craft. We are egalitarian; some of us at different stages of development to others, but we were all beginners at one time.

The Art of Writing

For some of us writing is a passion, for others, it can be a chore. However, just because we love to write it doesn’t mean we are necessarily good at it. Writing anything if your heart isn’t in it is not a pleasurable experience, so if you enjoy the process of writing that in itself is a great starting point.

The good news is that writing is a craft that can be honed to perfection. This doesn’t mean that we will all find publishers for our work, but if we want to then it will make our chances of doing so that much better.

“We do not write as we want, but as we can.” – W. Somerset Maugham

It may sound simple but there are three crucial steps that should be a part of any writer’s routine:

  • READING – reading books by established authors will help you to absorb the process of writing successfully
  • LEARNING  – this is where we hope that Sotogrande Writers can assist
  • WRITING  – this may sound obvious, but you must write often and consistently

“It is by sitting down to write every morning that one becomes a writer.

Those who do not do this remain amateurs.” – Gerald Brenan

 If you have never shared your writing with others, now is the time. Becoming part of a writer’s group is a good way to fire up your motivation.

Sotogrande Writers – a creative environment and support system for current and aspiring writers.

Looking forward to meeting you!

Jo
//

Becoming a Writer

Image

“My name’s Tracy Thomson and as co-founder of the Sotogrande Writer’s club, (www.sotograndewriters.com),  I am delighted, and sufficiently audacious, to have welcomed myself on board!

I’ve just finished my first novel, Kiss the Candle Goodnight – an eco-political thriller set in the Sumatran Rain forest. It took me two years and is now being submitted to agents.

But enough of me, during my apprenticeship to novel writing, for that is what happens,  I became an avid reader of nothing but advice and below are excerpts from the earliest book I came across, by DOROTHEA BRANDE, ‘Becoming a Writer.‘ She penned this in 1934 and I read the reprint that came out Jan 1981. (First Published by Harcourt, Brace, New York.)

The famous creative writing teacher and writer, JOHN GARDNER wrote a fantastic foreword to this which I also recommend reading. The link to Amazon lets you look inside.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Becoming-Writer-Dorothea-Brande/dp/0874771641/

I shall start where Dorothea Brande ends,

‘When you sit down to write do not sit idle. Avoid the habits that we employ to induce procrastination.’

Brande’s common-sense approach is packed with wisdom. She talks about the need to see as if through the eyes of a captivated child. It reminds me of a Michael Parkinson interview, with Dennis Potter shortly before the author died. He was in great pain, but in getting ready to leave this world his eyes saw only wonder and splendour. He showed us life’s delicate beauty in the commonplace where once I had forgotten to look.  A remarkable man. This freshness of response is what Brande knew was ‘vital to the author’s talent.’

Here is more of her splendid advice.

Page 48,

‘The unconscious is shy, elusive and unwieldy, but it is possible to learn to tap it at will, and even to direct it. The conscious mind is meddlesome, opinionated, and arrogant, but it can be made subservient to the inborn talent through training.’

Page 53,

‘If you leave it to the more sensitive side of your nature to set the conditions of work and living for you, you may find yourself at the end of your days with very little to show for the gifts you were born with.’

Page 153,

She talks about an ‘artistic coma’ that afflicts us so thoroughly that we feel defeated, but we need not worry,

Something is at work, but so deeply and wordlessly that it hardly gives a sign of its activity till it is ready to externalize its vision.’

We all know what she’s talking about, let us end on that word, INSPIRATION.”
//