Kick-starting the Imagination

Sourdough

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know where I’ve gone wrong – the starter wasn’t active enough (I know just how it feels). Bear with me, though; this does have a correlation of sorts with the writing process. I’m attempting to make sourdough bread and this mini disaster has got me thinking about the similarities between baking and writing. I’m not an experienced or intuitive bread maker and I’ve never made sourdough before.The first thing I need is some ‘starter’. And this is where the comparison with writing comes in. As with sourdough, writing can also benefit from the addition of a starter that we’ve already got on the shelf – in the form of ready-made plot ideas. As I kneaded the dough I mentally listed a selection of plot devices and strategies to kick-start my imagination and help my creative writing. Some are quite specific, others more general, but all these scenarios can be played out in various ways – how you do it is up to you. Continue reading

Advertisement

New Year, New Growth

Gerbera

As I coaxed the Gerbera on my windowsill into bloom for a second time, I thought I should apply some of the same magic to my writing, and the New Year seemed a good time to think about setting some objectives for 2016. I don’t make resolutions that require any sort of denial – they’d be doomed to failure from the start, so Yes, I will still be eating the chocolate and drinking the wine – I’d much rather give myself goals that will enrich my writing life. Early in 2013 I wrote about using the SMART acronym for personal development. It fits well with this aspirational time of year, so I’ll roll it out again. Continue reading

Double Dilemma

Two dilemmas present themselves as I get close to finishing my new novel. The first one was prompted by a song on the radio that gave me an idea for a lovely little connection between an event and a character. The second one was a great plot twist that came to me in a dream. Really. Continue reading

Credit where it’s due

I’ve been giving a few talks to local writing and book clubs recently and one of the questions that keeps popping up, particularly from aspiring writers, is, ‘How do you deal with the problem of potential plagiarism when you submit your work to agents and publishers/competitions/tutors/writing groups?’

I haven’t got an especially suspicious nature, nor do I think my writing is so ground-breakingly original, artistic and eloquent that someone might want to appropriate it and pass it off as their own, so the idea had never occurred to me. But it’s obviously a worry to a lot of people. Continue reading

So many books….so little time

Are you a carry-on-to-the-bitter-end reader, or a mid-chapter abandoner? I used to read every book I started from cover to cover, regardless of whether or not I was enjoying it, because I reckoned that I owed it to the author to finish what they’d written before I rushed to judgement. Not anymore. Continue reading

Short Story Writing

We’ve been doing a lot of work on what makes a satisfying short story at the writing group, and here’s an easily digested summary of what we’ve discussed.

A memorable short story will say something about the human condition, encapsulating one idea succinctly, with each scene building towards a crisis point, followed by a point of realisation or moment of clarity. The issue you address at the start of the story should be the issue that is resolved at the end.

A good short story starts in the middle of the action and as close to the climax as possible. At the end of the story, the main character should be in a better place than at the beginning, enabling them to move forward.

Once you’ve chosen an idea, remember these basic steps: Continue reading

Sagging Middle Syndrome: are you a victim?

We’ve all been there, and I don’t mean that rapidly expanding rear end through far too much sitting and writing (and eating snacks, let’s be honest) and not enough exercise. I mean that space between the opening of our novel and its climax, when we run out of steam.

Continue reading

The Plot Thickens

We’ve had some good sessions discussing plot in the writing group lately, which is useful as I’m midway through the first draft of my next novel. The outline, plot and its overarching narrative has been established, but the story needs a subplot or two to allow me to explore the characters’ personalities more deeply and examine their motivations. I also need to be clear on the story. A plot doesn’t make a story but for there to be a story, something’s got to happen. I was all set to share some thoughts last week. Then life got in the way.

Continue reading

Did Someone Mention Cake?

They say that’s it’s a brave writer who exposes their work to the critiquing of a bunch of fellow writers. And those who do it face to face, in a writing group, must be especially heroic. I am one of these people. I’ve belonged to a local writing group ever since I started writing seriously. I don’t consider myself to be particularly heroic, in fact it takes a certain kind of masochism to lay oneself bare like this, but I do think that the advice I get from this disparate group of like-minded men and women has helped my writing career progress.

Writing groups take different forms. Some read out all their work and invite comments from members. We do things slightly differently – producing hard copies for everyone to take home and study properly. As well as storyline, we look at grammar and punctuation (we are very hot on the apostrophe), layout and presentation, none of which is evident when hearing a piece read out loud. Some groups don’t meet physically at all, getting together regularly online instead. Saves on rent, and you can have members on all seven continents. Horses for courses, I guess.

Continue reading

Stuck for Words?

It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words but sometimes my imagination goes temporarily awol when I’m supposed to be creating a coherent piece of writing. Staring at that blank page can be daunting so I thought it might be handy if we revisited some tricks for waking your writing mojo.

Remember those six honest serving-men from Kipling’s Elephant’s Child: What? Where? Why? Who? When? How? They help us evaluate every situation and character and once we’ve got past the seemingly obvious questions about who the character is, what they are doing and how they come to be doing it, we can widen our scope and pose other questions that reveal different facets and characteristics and help us build up a character, a situation, maybe a story.

Continue reading