We become better writers by reading widely, so which books have coloured our lives? Which are our favourites, which inspire us and which do we wish we had written? As we’re approaching Christmas, which books will we give and which would we like to be given? Continue reading
A perfect storm. A new PC with an unfamiliar operating system, no internet connection and an awful lot of snow. What could possibly go wrong? Well, the shop had run out of Windows 8 for Dummies for a start. Couldn’t be better.
I’m not a computer expert and I appreciate that I need a modicum of understanding. Why should it be easy? I’ve read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and I know it behoves me to at least show willing, to get to grips with it, but perhaps not today. The lack of connectivity has given me an ideal opportunity to get some uninterrupted writing done and I shouldn’t ignore this gift. At least I’ve managed to upload all my files from the old computer so I’ve got something to work on. I’ve even managed to open a new document. I’m off and running.
I’ve never been one for New Year resolutions that involve any sort of deprivation. So I don’t resolve to lose weight, drink less alcohol or give up eating chocolate. I much prefer positive resolutions – those that require some action or input on my part – so I might decide to take more exercise or adopt a healthier lifestyle, or, more usually, read and write more.
Can you imagine not being able to read or write? I get panicky faced with the prospect of the 10-minute wait for a doctor’s appointment with no reading material to while the time away. Leaflets advertising devices and medications I don’t need, but whose advantages am I now fully up to speed on; old shopping lists I’ve found in the depths of my handbag, usually featuring items I’ve forgotten to buy; the fine print on the backs of old prescriptions outlining exactly who is exempt from payment (never me) – I’ve spent quality time with them all when I’ve left my paperback at home.
I am also conversant with current lifesaving techniques, should any of my work colleagues have a stroke, heart attack or emergency caused by poor handling of electrical equipment, because I’ve read and re-read the instructions on the kitchen wall numerous times whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. Continue reading
The trouble with writing humour is that it’s so subjective; lines that will have one person giggling up their sleeve will leave another completely unmoved. Consequently, many writers don’t even attempt it. Some say they don’t have sense of humour themselves, or that it’s just too difficult. I don’t write much humour myself, though I do like to inject sarcasm and understatement into my characters’ thoughts and dialogue. But conjuring up funny scenes is just beyond me.
With NaNoWriMo fast approaching I find myself on the horns of a dilemma. Shall I participate or not? If I do, I wave goodbye to my partner and most of my free time for the month of November. If I don’t, I miss out on a potential 50,000 new words that will form the basis of a new novel.
Given that procrastination is my natural inclination, indecision isn’t new to me. So what’s holding me back?
How does the structure of a novel help to build our understanding and appreciation of its characters? Does its construction support a particular kind of storytelling? I’ve just finished reading a beautifully crafted novel – ‘A Perfectly Good Man’ by Patrick Gale, which has an unusual construction, but one that undoubtedly gets the best out of its subject matter.
I had intended to use the time off work to get some serious writing done – I don’t often have the opportunity of a full week to clear my mind of all household- and work-related matters. Pity it didn’t quite work out like that.
Day 1 – coincidentally the first day of an unpredicted Indian summer. Late sunshine too warm to resist. We packed sunscreen (yes, sunscreen, in Norfolk, in September. It beggars belief.), books and a picnic and headed for the coast. Kids are back at school now and the beaches round here, never very densely populated, are deserted.
Friends who have achieved a similar age received diamonds, or trips to Venice. What did I get as a birthday present? An invitation to take part in a bowel cancer screening programme. Be still my beating heart.
But it got me thinking about the nature of failure in general, and that of budding writers in particular. I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the pitfalls that can betray us as amateurs and which should be avoided at all costs.
At the risk of sounding like a tabloid headline writer, crickey, it’s hot! Hotter then Hawaii, apparently, here in sunny Norfolk. Which adds a whole new set of complications to the writing experience; the hunt for that bon mot pales into insignificance when compared to the search for a cool place to sit and cogitate. My brain has the thinking capacity of marshmallow and I feel as if I’m melting by degrees, like the wicked witch of the west.
It won’t last, the forecasters tell us, which is a bit of a shame since this has been the wettest, coolest summer hereabouts since people started recording these facts. You guys on the other side of the Atlantic are probably wondering why I’m making such a fuss – it’s only weather. And I agree with you. Still, I look forward to the approach of autumn.