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Looking back, looking forward…

I’m a tad excited.

I had the pleasure, this week, of being interviewed by my good friend and mentor, Simon Hall, for a piece on summer schools for none other than Writing Magazine.

This is exciting. Hugely so. Not only did Simon think of me when he needed a writer to interview (I kept thinking, ‘Me? Are you quite sure you want to talk to me?’), but it means my name will (potentially) feature in a magazine that I’ve been subscribing to for aaaaaaages.

It’s very very exciting.

And nerve wracking.

But mostly very exciting.

One of the best parts was talking to Simon about my writing career so far, not least the dramatic effect his teaching and support has had on it. It’s been a long old journey.

Writing Magazine is read by so many people trying to carve a career from doing this maddening thing they love. It’s insane to think my own story will potentially be read by some of these writers, may even inspire some to go to a writing festival, as I did, and receive the guidance that will help transform their art and their prospects.

Most of all I hope it sparks someone’s tenacity, gives someone the confidence to keep on going, to accept and acknowledge another goddamn rejection without defeat, because they know, eventually, an offer will come in.

As Simon taught me, the golden key to success is perseverance. And, in my humble experience, looking for help when you need it.
It’s been a mad three years for me. I think the next twelve months will be madder yet.

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Murdering, meditating, meandering

I’m pretty evangelistic when it comes to meditation. Not just for healing, but for unleashing your creative potential. I’ve written before about my meditation mind-palace for ironing out plot issues.

Recently, however, I’ve been meditating for a slightly different reason.

You see, I’ve been killing people this week.

Thankfully they’re not technically real, they just live inside my head and on the screen of my laptop. But still, those imaginary people are very, very dead.

The odd thing about writing murder scenes is that you (or at least, I) have to get kind of angry to write them. Lots of drama is required, lots of tension and emotion and you undoubtedly get pulled in along with it.

And I am now having the weirdest sense of déjà vu that I have written this entire blog post before.

Nope. Just checked, and I haven’t. Maybe I dreamed it.

ANYWAY…

The problem is that, when you spend three hours being super angry and emotional, it can potentially be quite difficult to turn those feelings off and crack on with the real world in a suitable state of calm.

I have two methods of dealing with this problem.

The first is that I have two young children. Anyone who has dealings with children on a regular basis will know how amazing they are at bringing you straight back down to earth. (“I’ve written a book!” I said to my daughter. “Just one?” She said, “What took you so long? I’ve written four books and I’m only five.” Oh, hello earth, there you are. I was floating above you for a while. Not anymore.)

The second method, for when my children are otherwise occupied, is meditation. I have a three-minute guided meditation that is ace for levelling emotions and bringing me back from the world of make-believe and into the present moment. It has been used quite extensively this week, as you can imagine.

And thankfully it works. I have not gone postal, just yet. (Sorry to disappoint!)

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When plans go awry…

In real life, I’m a big planner. I love a plan. I don’t mind if life doesn’t go according to that plan, or if said plan goes, at some point, skewwhiff. So long as there is, in place, a plan of some sort.

Writing, on the other hand, is a whole different game. It wasn’t until I started thinking about my second novel that I even thought about story plans, chapter plans, plot plans. When I write I just crack on and, well, write.

So when my agent advised me to sort out a chapter plan for my first book, to help with the restructuring of the narrative, I started researching. Lots of my writer friends have different methods, from writing a ten-thousand-word skeletal draft to writing every idea on a separate piece of paper and rearranging said paper into a plot. Writer friends, you know who you are.

The way that worked for me, or that I at least thought had the best chance of working for me, was the post-it note plan.

It looks like this:

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Every chapter is summarised on a post-it, leaving me free to rearrange the hell out of the plot. And I did. I really worked at it, super hard, with loads of enthusiasm. Then I formalised the plot with the most formal of formalisers; sellotape.

Then I put the plan on a shelf and… uh… well, I forgot all about it.

Haven’t looked at it once.

Not once.

And I’m well over half-way through the rewrite.

My initial response was that it had been a total waste of my time. Particularly as the current rewrite is only vaguely similar to the plan I had for it.

On reflection, however, I realised I was being a tad harsh to that poor board of sellotaped post-it notes. The act of writing the chapters down and visually rearranging them helped a great deal in my ability to rearrange them subconsciously (which is my preferred method of planning any writing that I do. I sit on an idea, meditate on an idea, generally day dream until I have it nailed.)

Hmmm. Rereading this blog post made me realise that I didn’t plan this out either. I may be waffling.

So as not to lose you all entirely I will sum up; life rarely goes to plan. Writing rarely goes to plan. But it doesn’t mean that having a plan, in some shape or form, isn’t well worth the effort of its creation.

Because those plans can always be rearranged.