Monday, 27 October 2014

Seven Rules for Writing

In last week’s post I mentioned the workshops I attended, facilitated by novelist and poet Jeff Phelps. He mentioned a book by Natalie Goldberg, called Wild Mind (Living the Writer’s Life). In it, she recommends seven rules and, in light of all those writers who are preparing themselves for NaNoWriMo in a few days’ time, I thought I’d share them with you, because no matter what you’re writing, it’s all about getting some writing done, without analysing it. These are Natalie’ rules (with my comments in parentheses).

1) Keep your hand moving. (It doesn’t matter whether your hand is holding a pen, or bashing at a keyboard, don’t stop. As soon as you stop you’re allowing your brain to start analysing and thinking. There’s a time for that, and that’s later.)

2) Be specific. (Don’t generalise. Nail the adjectives and nouns. He drove a car? No. He drove a jet black 2 litre Audi A4.)

3) Lose control. (Say what you want, warts and all. Don't worry about be polite, political correctness, or whether Aunt Flo won’t like it. This is the first draft. Aunt Flo won’t even see it!)

4) Don’t think. (Don’t edit. Don’t re-read. Don’t consider. Just write.)

5) Don’t worry about spelling, punctuation or grammar. (Hooray! This is part of point 4 - not to think. Punctuate as your brain thinks of it, but don’t worry about getting it right. Get it writ, as they say.)

6) You are free to write the worst junk in America - or wherever you live. (No one, apart from you is going to see the first draft, so no one is going to judge.)

7) Go for the jugular. (If you find yourself writing towards a painful emotion - don’t shun it - go for it. Nothing is out of bounds. When you go for the jugular you’re writing the important stuff, which is where the power is.)

So, to everyone tackling this year’s NaNoWriMo, and to those who aren’t but are planning to get some writing done, consider Natalie’s rules and …

Good luck.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The Simpler Things

This weekend, it was the annual open writing workshops at the writers’ circle I go to, run as part of the local town’s literary festival, and our guest speaker was Jeff Phelps ( He’s a novelist and a poet, and although poetry is not part of my natural writing inclination, I found that workshop an interesting exercise. (We should step out of our writing comfort zones from time to time.) Indeed, if you’d have told me I’d be writing a poem on Saturday afternoon from the viewpoint of a piece of waste ground on the verge of the A49 I would not have believed you.

However, for both workshops (prose and poetry) we looked at how to draw upon the simplest of subjects in life; not the dramatic life-changing stuff (that you might read in the real life readers’ stories magazines), but the more mundane (yet sometimes still life-changing moments), such as when you lost your favourite marble at school, or when next door’s dog licked your ice-cream off its cone. (That can be so devastating when you’ve spent all day pestering parents for that ice cream in the first place.)

It was a great reminder that there is so much to write about, all around us, and while the big writing world out there may seem to hold the key to our inspiration, what we find closer to home can be just as inspirational (such as that plot of land on the verge of the A49.)

So the next time you get stuck for an idea, look closer to home for inspiration. Mine your memories. Look around your local area. Explore your garden, or window box. The simplest things give the simplest pleasures, and sometimes the greatest inspiration.

Good luck.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Ignore Those Who Say It Can't Be Done

A couple of weeks ago, the author Simon P Clark wrote an interesting post on the Writers’ & Artists’ blog called Writing Is Worth It. (You can read the full blog posting here:

In it he discusses the joy of having his first novel published. He makes the comment that now he’s had a novel published it’s easy to forget the journey to this destination. Writing is hard work. Writing takes commitment. Writing takes dedication. Writing takes precedence over a lot of other stuff that would be much more fun to do at the time. But that commitment is worth it. Only we know what the end goal is. Many may say that we are wasting our time but if we have the desire to finish a writing project then it is not time wasted … if we finish it. It is only time wasted if we start a writing project and do not finish it in one way or another. So don't let their negative thoughts influence our thinking process.

It’s so easy to become disheartened when tackling a big writing project. It’s at this point where the wheels can come off, and the decision to quit is made. Don’t. Keep going. The reward will be worth it in the end. It will taste so much sweeter, because only we know what it took to achieve it.

Some of you may be considering attempting this years NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), where the aim is to get 50,000 words written in November. One of the points about this exercise is to get writers to keep writing, no matter how they feel. You have to write 50,000 words, not 50,000 words of perfect prose. That’s the next step. But it’s much easier to perfect the prose once you have a first draft. So don't give up on the first draft, because it will be worth it.

The next time someone tells you that you won’t finish your big writing project, whatever that may be, thank them for their comments but file them somewhere appropriate. Because when you do complete it, it will be worth it to you.

Good luck.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Remember The Smaller Details

I have a conker in my coat pocket. (I must remember to take it out.) I picked it up while out walking at the weekend, with the idea of putting it on my desk to remind me to remember the smaller details.

When I saw this (small) conker lying on the ground, I realised that I’d been looking at the bigger picture of Autumn - the changing colours of the leaves, the changing weather, and the shortening days. But there’s more to autumn than these things. Autumn isn’t about red, orange and gold leaves. There are other colours too, if you look long enough. There are purples, and even silvers, and that seems to make the green of evergreen trees more vibrant.

Autumn is about seeing cobwebs capture moisture molecules on a foggy day. Fog usually means we see less, yet it’s possible to see lots of spiders’ webs, highlighted in this way. It’s about the rigmarole of having to capture more spiders that have found their way into the bath, and put them outside (only to watch them run back indoors again). It’s about having arguments of when to put the central heating on. It’s about our woodland floors becoming littered with wild mushrooms, some of which look perfect to eat (but you can’t take the risk), whilst others have already been nibbled by  some of the smallest of Mother Nature’s creatures.

Remember the small detail of things. These are the observations that turn your writing from the cliches to the original and interesting.

Good luck.