The Joy of Restraints: deadlines, themes and wordcounts.

BY CATHRYN BURGE

In theory, writing a story which might be included in an anthology seemed like a wonderful idea. In practice, it seemed like a very stupid one. Once I’d decided to go for it, every single story seed I’d ever had promptly withered and died. I wandered around for days trying to shake something promising out of my brain, but to no avail. Cue self-doubt and panic: I’d blithely committed myself to producing something and I couldn’t even think of anything suitable, let alone write it. Worse still, there was a deadline, an absolute date by which I’d agreed to submit a story for publication. It seemed like the only answer might be gin.

Forest. I rolled the word around my brain as I walked the dog. What sprang to mind when I heard the word ‘forest’? What pictures formed in my head?

Teddy bears. Yep, teddy bears. ‘If you go down to the woods’ and all that, swiftly followed by Goldilocks and axe-men intent on lopping the heads of princesses at the behest of jealous step-mothers. Ridiculous, I told myself; you’ll have to think again. Continue reading

Crafting a poem: an insight

by Susi Liarte

In this post I’m going to cover how I usually approach writing poems. It’ll be reflective of the type of poetry I like to read and write, which is short, rhythmic poems that try to capture some imagery or poignancy. There is no ‘knowledge’ required of types of poetry and it is not my aim to cover that in this post, so I’ll be using very little terminology. I’ll work on doing that in another post. With that out of the way, let’s start!

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The Writing Squad

writing group pixabay

by Ekaterina Fawl

Writing is a lonely pursuit. There’s really no way around it: when it’s happening, it’s just paper – or the screen – and you. We have the company of our characters, of course. We draw constant, invaluable mentorship and inspiration from our favourite authors. But there’s nothing quite like sharing your stories with actual real people.

Unless you’re already a successful writer, swamped by fanmail, you might struggle finding readership. Your Mum might read your latest masterpiece, but you might not get much more than “That was nice, dear” in terms of feedback. It might be time to discover local members of your secret tribe of mad scribblers and join a writing group. Continue reading

Journalling

typewriter-801921_1920

by Helen Kenwright

Most of the writers I know have a stack of notebooks that live a quiet life, sitting on a shelf or in the deep darkness of a drawer or chest. Doomed to be unwritten in, simply because they’re ‘too pretty to use’. I confess I have this problem myself. I can’t resist a pretty notebook, and generous friends buy them for me, too. But then I buy a stack of cheap, plain ones to write my drafts in. Workhorses. Ordinary enough that I won’t mind crossings out and bad handwriting and all that messy stuff that happens when you’re crafting something. Continue reading

No writer is an island

by Cathryn Burge

If there’s an opinion piece type that’s guaranteed to raise my blood pressure, it’s one in which the author pontificates about How To Write – particularly if their pontificating is dressed up as well-meant advice. And there are lots of articles like that out there, especially on the internet. Here, have a small selection:

  • If I’m reading a Western story and the author has tried to render the characters’ accents phonetically via non-standard spelling, I stop reading. Please don’t.
  • I don’t judge … well, actually, I do. I stopped reading a romantic story when the author thought the expressing ‘sucking face’ would make a nice change from ‘kissing’. It didn’t.
  • Careless spelling in summaries augurs ill for a story. ‘Adam’s proposal peeked Rickard’s interest’. Peeked. PEEKED. Someone please tell the author the word they were looking for was ‘piqued’.
  • Another phrase I’m sick of reading is ‘their tongues fought for dominance’.

Don’t get me wrong: we (almost) all do it. We look at other writers’ work and pass judgement on it. After all, why shouldn’t we? Developing the ability to differentiate between what works and what doesn’t can help us make our own writing better. But how can we be sure of what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’? What standards do we use to guide us? Continue reading

The Writer’s Cooldown

by Helen Kenwright

So, how was Nanowrimo for you? Or perhaps there’s another big writing project you’ve recently finished?

One of the criticisms sometimes directed at Nanowrimo is that it can cause writer burn-out. Hopefully if you’ve followed the advice in Ekaterina’s blog post last month you won’t have succumbed to total mental and physical exhaustion. But there can be an aftermath to be dealt with, and in this post we give you some advice to help move forward from the experience, however it went, and keep writing into the future. Continue reading

Review: Lights, Camera, Fiction!

Lights, Camera, Fiction! by Alfie Thompson

reviewed by Susi Liarte

In this post I’m going to write about why I love this book, what it offers (and what it doesn’t) and how it can help writers among the many other writing books out there. I haven’t read any of the author’s other books, but I know she has published one called Writing for the Reader which I’m interested in checking out next.

Lights, Camera, Fiction! packs a lot into a slim, 250 page volume. Its tagline is “A movie lover’s guide to writing a novel”. The book approaches the subject by analysing several well-known films and picking out different aspects such as character and plot in order to showcase what they do well, and how this can work for novels as well as screenwriting. The core structure pairs one film for each topic as follows, but references and examples to other films are scattered throughout. Continue reading

NaNoWriMo, your wrists and the triumph of common sense

by Ekaterina Fawl

My first NaNoWriMo was a wild ride.

I’d heard about this challenge from a friend. They weren’t doing it that year; all my questions as to why not were met with hollow laughter.

I decided to give it a try, and do it all by myself. I didn’t join the website, thinking it would just upset me if the Internet recorded my early failure for the posterity. I didn’t think I needed a writing buddy, or any kind of community support. All I needed was write 1667 words a day for a month. Easy.

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The Landscape of Inspiration

by Susi Liarte

Imagine you are walking through an old town. The houses and paving are all made from local materials because these were the easiest to gather at the time. This is what it means to write what you know – to draw from the experiences and inspiration you have to hand. However, it does not limit what you can create because you are always gaining new ideas. When you are walking through a different story, a different author’s landscape, even when you are looking at familiar things they are built in a unique way. Your work from the past is also an old town; what you create now can capture its style or rise like a piece of modern architecture. Regardless, what you design with your imagination needs a strong foundation – the writing craft itself. Continue reading

Writer’s Block

by Ekaterina Fawl

This happens to every writer sooner or later: the words stop flowing. The muses have left. The writer’s block has descended, and you can’t write anymore.

That, of course, isn’t really the case. We’re always able to write. Any skills we have learnt are still there, our talent, imagination and creativity don’t disappear. And yet sometimes it feels like there’s no way to push through this slump, or worse, no reason to even try writing again. Continue reading

Why Write? Thoughts on writing for fun, health or wealth.

by Helen Kenwright

In this, the first of a series of guest blogs, Writing Tree Tutor Helen Kenwright takes a look at the different reasons people might choose to write, and how to keep motivation going.

When students first come to my classes I ask them what it is about writing that interests them. It’s a question they’ve usually been asked before, and they often find difficult to answer, unless they are hoping to write with a view to publication. It’s a strange phenomenon, when you think about it. Artistic pursuits form the basis of lots of common hobbies: writing, colouring books, salsa dancing, knitting, singing in the shower… but all too often we feel as if we’re daft for doing it, unless we’re really good. And there’s the paradox: like other skills in life, we’re unlikely to get really good unless we do it a lot.

So why bother? Here’s a few ideas. Continue reading