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Over the summer, apart from having a wonderful holiday that has refreshed me (and made me realise that being on holiday forever would not be a bad thing), I have had time for reflection and planning. Consequently, I have made some decisions about my writing (to be revealed in due course) and have set some wheels in motion to move those decisions from mere thoughts into action.

Rescued filing cabinet, old string and pages from unloved (till now) charity shop books.

Rescued filing cabinet, old string and pages from unloved (till now) charity shop books.

I have also begun the joyful task of creating a writing space/art studio all of my own; the trauma of grown children leaving home does have its compensations. This has led to quite a bit of sorting (not yet completed, as you will see from the photos) during which I stumbled across the reflection below. Written in 2008 as I completed a Creative Writing course with Lancaster University before I ever completed a novel, I have found myself encouraged from my-voice-from-the-past as I realise how far I have travelled, how much I have learned and how much my writing has improved. Three completed novels later, one underway and others queuing to be written, little could make me happier. Except more readers. For which I have plans …
Art studio; not there quite yet

Art studio; not there quite yet

Writing space; almost there

Writing space; almost there

“During this course I have learned more about the importance of having a plan. However, if that plan proves to lead to dead ends or scenarios that are contrived or forced, then it’s back to the synopsis to make alterations rather than ploughing on regardless. I have learned not to set my ideas in stone, and that I can’t hang on to my ‘darlings’ just because I long for them to work. Planning involves flexibility rather than rigidity, allows for creativity and is key to achieving the goal.

I have learned that I don’t have to write in a completely linear way, starting at a) and moving inevitably to b). In trying to do this, ideas that come to mind can either be lost as I try not to listen to them when they don’t fit into the section I am writing, or I can try to force them into a section where they don’t really fit. During the course, I have developed the habit of ‘parking’ ideas when they occur, by making notes that I can turn to and use in different parts of the novel, or even store for another story entirely. This has been a liberating experience.

I started the course with the intention of using an omniscient voice to narrate my novel, as I didn’t see how I could communicate some of the information I wanted the reader to have any other way. Feedback has made me realise that I don’t need to do this, and that it isn’t always very helpful to the reader. One fellow student commented that they wanted to skip through sections of information-giving to get to the action, to find out what was happening next. Another comment I received likened a section to reading through gauze. On reflection, most of the detail I introduced via the omniscient voice was ‘backstory’ that added little to the action, nor did it move the plot forward. Anything that is vital for the reader to know can be revealed quite easily through the developing plot, for example by entering the thoughts and memories of the main character, or through dialogue. The details the reader doesn’t need to have, but which are known to me as the author, add depth to my knowledge of the characters, which, hopefully, allows me to write more fully developed characters who have credibility with the reader.

I experimented with free indirect discourse but wasn’t very successful, as instead of creating a sense of intimacy and free access to characters’ thoughts, the effect was distant, like looking at something through smoky glass. I need to hone that technique to use to optimum effect so that the reader never loses the sense of where they are in the story-present.

I want to create characters who are real to the reader and create plots that allow my characters to develop and learn about life. I want readers to be fully convinced, to experience a reading dream that captures their imagination and takes them away from their real world to worlds they will remember long after they have read the last page of any novel I write. If I ever achieve that, I will be a happy woman.