Reading Responses

Stained GlassLast week we attended a concert of classical music performed by the South East London Orchestra. We heard some stirring Mendelssohn, a very interesting piece by Fung Lam and Dvorak’s crowd pleaser, the New World Symphony. I get quite teary when listening to dramatic music like this and my husband squeezed my hand sympathetically as I dabbed my eyes. Afterwards he commented that the Dvorak had obviously gotten to me.  No, I said, the tears sprang into my eyes while the orchestra was tuning up. Sadly it seems mine is a purely Pavlovian response to the ‘A’ note the musicians tune their instruments to, and little to do with the music itself, beautiful though it was. Continue reading

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10 Time Management Tips for Writers

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We’re all under time constraints these days – work, partners, kids, parents, exercise, social media; the list goes on – so it pays to be flexible in our approach to how we allocate the precious minutes we do have and grab writing opportunities whenever and wherever they arise. Here’s a short list of time consuming activities that I’ve had a rethink about and turned to my advantage. Continue reading

Nine-dollar bills and other irregularities

We had quite a heated debate at the writing group this week. The discussion was about a patently unreal scene in a piece of fiction. This wasn’t a story about another dimension or some magical kingdom where the usual rules don’t apply; the scene was set in the real world, but so unrealistic as to be absurd. The writer maintained that it’s fiction, so it doesn’t need to be realistic.

But does it?

Continue reading

Food for the Soul

I’ve just caught up with the twenty first century and bought a Kindle. It’s on the kitchen table looking very smart in its zebra-patterned coat, but I haven’t managed to download anything yet.

Kindle
But I don’t want to get into a debate about electronic v paper. There’s room for both. No one complained that typewriters, then word processors, PCs and laptops would signal the end of hand writing, or that ballpoint pens would mean the end of ink. Though I remember arguments about how the humble biro was ruining the nation’s handwriting, when I was at school.
No, I want talk about the reasons for reading, not the delivery system. Continue reading

How Old is Young?

I’ve just finished reading Rosamunde Pilcher’s bestselling novel The Shell Seekers and while I would still recommend this beautifully written saga about family relationships I can’t help feeling that the characters display some very old-fashioned ideas, as if they inhabit a different era to the one portrayed. And here’s why: Continue reading

Diversions, distractions and digressions

This week I’ve been lucky enough to witness a small miracle – baby house sparrows, a species much in decline in the UK, hatching in the rosemary bush under my kitchen window. Very interesting, but what does this have to do with writing, you may ask. Absolutely nothing, but I took some photographs and added the experience to my ever-expanding list of distracting time fillers, seized upon so that I can further avoid the inevitable – facing that frightening blank page.

Baby Sparrows2

I decided to write them all down, the little non-essential deviations and digressions, to see how much time I was wasting when I should be labouring at the keyboard.

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

But I thought you just said….?

Like most things in life, the more you write, the better you get. You discover your personal writing style, your voice. As you progress you hit some tricky issues. Should you always consign adverbs to the recycle bin or can you use them sparingly? What about clichés? You want to improve, so you check it out, see what the current thinking is. Then you find there’s actually a bigger problem. As if writing wasn’t difficult enough for the novice, the huge amount of conflicting information available doesn’t always make things any easier. Like the bible, writing advice reveals lots of contradictions. Take these examples: Continue reading

New Year, New Words

I’ve always been a sucker for unfamiliar words and a few have come to my attention recently. The Reader’s Digest used to advise that it pays to increase your word power, but what can we actually do with this unwieldy vocabulary? Do we collect it in pristine notebooks – a brand new one every year – to pore over and learn by heart, before returning it to the obscurity it richly deserves? Or do we use it to liven up our prose and sprinkle through our writing like stardust? Continue reading