#MondayBlogs ‘Write from the heart’ #WritingTips @BathFlashAward #FlashFiction

I was recently browsing the Bath Flash Awards website when I came across an interview with this edition’s (March-June 2019) Flash Fiction Award Judge, Christopher Allen. You can read the whole interview here.

It was the final question and answer that has mesmerised me all weekend. I quote the question and answer here:

  • Any final suggestions for writers entering our award?

Yes. Write from the heart. Edit it and edit it and edit it. Have other people read it. Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something? Write something you think the world needs.

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So much advice in so few words, a true ‘flash answer’ to a complex question.

My thoughts on this priceless and concise advice:

‘Write from the heart’

Inspiration is entwined with emotion. Whatever we write should spring from passionate feelings about an issue. That’s an easy one to fulfill. Most of us write stories about people, places and events that are meaningful to us.

‘Edit it and edit it and edit it’

First drafts are necessary, but also messy and too long. Most of us need to ramble to ourselves to get to know our characters and understand their thoughts and actions, and yet those ramblings need to be carefully edited, more than once, thus the repetition, before they can be shared with readers.

‘Have other people read it’

We all know and appreciate the invaluable task of alpha and beta readers, friends, agents, editors, proof readers, and an array of generous and professional people who are usually acknowledged by authors in their books.

Ask them if it has an emotional impact. Did it make them feel something?

Words need to go beyond an aesthetic use of language in order to make an impact on the reader. It’s not only about organisation, expression, wording, pace, and grammar, but about the inspiration and feelings conveyed in the writing.

Write something you think the world needs.

Finally, the most important attribute which distinguishes good writing from outstanding writing, the content or message of the text.

Is there an intention beyond entertaining readers? And secondly, is the idea worth writing about? Do readers need to know or think about the characters or issues in your flash/novel?

Christopher’s answer is great advice for writing, a haiku, a birthday card, a flash, a letter, a short story, a novella, a novel and everything else.

If it’s worth writing, it’s worth doing it from the heart.

My twenty-word flash conclusion:

Write with passion about a meaningful issue, edit, aim for emotional impact, edit, share and test, edit, publish. Start again.

And now, let’s finish that flash/novel and start the next one…

 

 

 

Falling in love and staying in love with my #novel #amwriting

My Writing Process: Falling in love and staying in love with my novel

From Freewriting to Editing

It’s easy for me to fall in love with my latest novel.

I love words. I’m  an artist, so I let it flow. I love feeling the rush of inspiration, getting  it all out if my system. Splashing the words on the page as my characters take over my mind and create their story.

This is when I fall in love with my novel. I’m crazy about it and I can’t get enough of it. I even think I’ll never be able to live without this burst of creative energy in my life.

Love

It’s such a powerful high that I forget it won’t last (thank goodness it doesn’t, otherwise I’d be a bundle of unconstrained, nervous energy, which would burn myself out!)

While I’m in love with my novel I have no friends, or family, I drift through daily chores, even work, only living for the moment I can sit down and write my new story.

I usually do this by hand, once I’ve thought about and envisioned the scenes, but I soon move to the typewriter where I can easily bash out between three and four thousand words a day, sometimes even more, sometimes less; I can’t avoid all my other obligations.

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This is the easy stage, often called freewriting.

The problem is it ends, and once I’ve fallen in love with my novel, I need to stay in love. Something has to remain after the mad rush has subsided (and I know deep down that it will eventually subside).

Can I do that? Can I sit down, read the thousands of words I wrote and love them after the frenzy? Can I be ‘reasonable and realistic’ and edit and shape it into a novel?

Can my passionate lover become my best friend? Can my idealized novel make it in the real world? Does it have a ‘real life’ outside of my obsession?

If it’s no, then it goes into the drawer for a time, or forever, who knows?

If the answer is yes, then I need to edit and shape the mass of unbridled madness.

This is painful. I have to cut out words and even whole lines, paragraphs and pages…

EDiting

I’ve learnt my lesson after writing three novels.  ‘Less is more’ and ‘simple conveys the most complex message effectively’.

As Kurt Vonnegut wisely told us: Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.

He went on to expand that even every letter should fit the bill, and I agree. Every single word and letter should be there for a purpose. I’m still learning to do that, because I’m biased. All the words are mine and I love them all, cutting them out is painful, but I’m convinced it needs to be done either by yourself or with the help of another expert pair of eyes, such as an editor.

I have to plan it and often rewrite parts of it until it’s shaped into something I can fit into scenes, chapters and parts. I need to identify stages, plot lines, time sequence, turning points, climax, and so much more.

It’s like a first big argument between lovers. The novel drives me crazy with frustration and I know I either sort it out and we make it up, or we have to go our separate ways, because we can’t even be friends.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I’m falling in love with a new novel, and I’m in agony. I don’t know what’s going to happen… yet.

I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, does this happen to you?

 

5 Days to Launch Midsummer at Eyre Hall. Writing Stage Two: From Pen to Keyboard

I’m relieved, overjoyed and excited to tell you that The Eyre Hall Trilogy is complete.

There are five days to go to the launch of Book 3, Midsummer at Eyre Hall, on the 21st of June, and I’m aiming to write a post a day about my writing process to celebrate my achievement.

Day five is all about the transition from the scene I’ve seen in my mind to the written version.

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As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, once I’ve visualised the scene and run through it in my mind’s eye, I start my writing process.

The first thing I do is pick up a pen and a writing pad (I prefer large ones, but sometimes I use smaller ones I can carry in my handbag) and jot down my thoughts.

This first draft looks nothing like the final version and works like this:

First I write some loose ideas or instructions, like detailed playwright’s stage directions. I might add some snippets of dialogue, and some instructions or notes to myself, like ‘remember to make sure the reader knows it’s late afternoon and the journey will take four hours.’ I’m sure nobody would make any sense of it, except myself!

A few days ago, I learnt that this technique is called ‘Freewriting’ and is very useful for writers thanks to a post by Icy Sedwick How can freewriting help writers with plotting or blocks? Read this fascinating article if you want to know more about how this process can help writers.

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This is a small notebook because I’m writing on a plane, but I prefer big bulky ones!

Next, I usually do some more visualisation, because writing it all down has sparked my imagination and raised more questions or included more people or actions in the scene. I might have to do some research or rethink the whole scene.

The second time I take up the scene, I start writing all over again, using my first notes and any new ideas I’ve come up with. At this stage it is usually a much more coherent text, but it’s still nowhere near finished.

At this point, I usually stop using my pen and take up my keyboard. This is the most productive part, five or six handwritten pages, about 1,000 words, easily become 5,000. And the best thing is that once I get to this stage, the words flow like a waterfall.

 

Lucy writing

I usually write in my garden or patio or near a window overlooking my garden and the countryside. I was at my daughter’s house here, by the beach.

 

When I finish my first typewritten draft of a scene, I know there’s more work to be done on it in the future, but I move on to another scene, for the time being.

Although I move on, I reread and edit what I’ve already written regularly, expanding, cutting out, and modifying as I go along.

I follow this process this with every scene, and each scene usually becomes a chapter, although some chapters have more than one scene, but more about my scenes tomorrow.

Do you your pen before your keyboard too?

Do you ‘freewrite’?