5 Reasons Writers Should Read.

Keep reading as you write.

As a tutor, I always remind my students of the importance of reading. Whether you are writing novels, blogs, scripts for film, tv radio, game or theatre as well as non-fiction even for work, you should be reading what everyone else is doing. So I’ve put together some writing tips, 5 reasons why reasons is important as a writer.

Reason One.

Book stores know what sell.

It’s give you an idea what is out there. The chances are if you by your book from a store, it is more likely to be from a publishing house. Meaning a team of experts have deemed that this book fitted in with current trends of what the reading public want. If you intend to sell you book, then this is a huge help. Not just in knowing what is fashionable, but where you book could fit in and with which publisher.

Reason Two

Reading helps you to develop you own style. Like when as a child you watched a parent or adult cook, you learn how to do the basics. As an adult in your own kitchen you add your own twist to the recipe. That’s exactly what reading as a writer does.

When you start out writing, you just write what comes into your head. No thought is out into what ingredients you need and the quantity, , you simply throw is all in!

The more you read you will pick up on nuances of dialogue, delve deeper into characters, notice the plot turns and twists and where they start to develop. It improves you grammar and language skills. Never a bad thing!

Each writer has their own Writer’s DNA, it comes from who you are and how you got there, making it pretty unique stuff!

That same DNA, effects our interpretation of books. This is what makes up your writing style, so keeping reading!

Reason Three

This one is my favourite, RESEARCH.

The Long Room,Trinity College Library

For any writer, you SHOULD be researching. It doesn’t matter what you are writing there should be an element of looking stuff up.

Let’s start with location. You decide to set your story in a place you have never been. So how do you it’s suitable for your story? How will the characters react to their environment? How will it help your story progress? Science dictions writers haven’t been to the moon, but they can read about temperatures and conditions, they can read science and technology journals to understand what we can currently achieve and what we hope to achieve, with a writers imagination you can take this further!

I love to read up on psychology, I find it a great way of developing intriguing characters with realistic flaws, such as the habits of a stalker.

Don’t let NOT researching limit what you write!

Reason Four

Expand your horizons.

Reading is one of the best tools for doing this. Whether you want to learn a new skill such as writing for film or learn about Restoration Theatre (my current expansion project), there is always an expert on the subject who has already written the book. Not sure where to start? Your local library can help or try a social media group will probably have lots of recommendations or you.

And finally,

Reason Five.

Question Time.

Reading a novel as a writer should make you want to ask questions.

Did you enjoy the story and why?

Where all the characters believable? Did you empathise with them and their situation?

Where all the loose ends tied up when the story ended?

How did the story make you feel? Were you eager to turn the next page?

Would you recommend this book to someone else and why?

I’m sure you can think of lots more questions, your readers will.

So start thinking like a reader when you write and keep asking questions of your own work.

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Fly me to the moon or Mordor.

Not Mordor, St Michael’s Mount Marazion. Cornwall.

Location. It’s not just a place, it’s a character.

As a child did you have that special place where you hid out in a thunder storm? Or a place you returned to at every opportunity for adventure?

I did. Back in my hometown there is a man-made lake, with a wooden bridge that takes you over from one to the other.

Southport Marine Lake and the Victorian Venetian bridge.

It wasn’t the bridge but what I called the islands. Back in the late 70’s/ early 80’s these where overgrown with bushes and shrubs, that had natural hollow dens inside them. Perfect for the young girl seeking an adventure with her trusty bearded collie.

I convinced myself there were mine, collecting the rare piece of litter that had the audacity to spoil the landscape, hiding from adults and families in the summer, like some lost runaway, with a book under my arm.

I don’t have my own private island (maybe one day!) but the importance of that location is till with me.

We were partners in crime. It held my secrets. It was a huge part of my life every opportunity I had.

When writing location in your stories you need to add the relevance to the main characters., what is it and why are we here.

Make your place feel real, dynamic thinks of the great fiction canon’s, from Wuthering Heights and the moody moors reflecting that of Heathcliffe. The moors set the tone throughout.

The landscape of Modor and the Shire are at odds with each other as they should be because each one involves a different part of the hero’s journey.

Your characters need to react to their location, inhale their surroundings, watch how it challenges them and sense when it’s safe and able to protect them. Location is personal.

Like with every part of your story, flip it! Make it unique!

Not only will your setting change over distance but the same one will change over time.

Has the place you grew up in remained the same? I know mine hasn’t, parts that were important to me have disappeared become shops and fast-food restaurants.

Southport sea bathing lake then.
Southport now.

Research an area, notice the changes and think how has this affected your character? What stories do they have to tell. Has it changed their opinions, their outlook?

Most importantly see the landscape through their eyes.

It doesn’t matter if your place is real or totally made-up. The attention to detail needs to be there. Take a page from Tolkien, and draw out a map for your setting. Add important features or prominent places.

For the August challenge Day Two, think of a place that holds a special meaning to you. Write it down in great detail. Now do the same with your story location, through the eyes of your character.

Whether it’s the moon or Mordor make it memorable.

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The Writer’s Garden.

Have you ever wondered why you seem to be so busy yet you have nothing to show for all your hyperactivity?

Even a child will stop to smell the flowers.

As a writer, it’s easy to get way-laid with inspiration, this is what I believe is the REAL writers block. Not a lack of ideas but too many you loose focus. Each one bringing its own excitement and reason for going down that path.

By taking a minute to evaluate and ‘smell the roses’ see what you have accomplished so far, then stand back and look at the whole garden. You didn’t plant everything in a day, you focused on one area then moved on the next.

The same needs to happen with your writing projects.

Focus on one at a time. Set your goals to complete the project, then treat yourself.

You deserve it!

Then start on the next area, you can still go back and tend (edit and revise) your garden later.

Like all successful gardens it’s about the preparation work, and making sure you take the time to enjoy you achievements once finished.

This way you have a year round garden to enjoy, with completed projects blooming!

Finally, don’t forget gardeners look after themselves too, so take a leaf (sorry!) from their book, enjoy the process of writing, then sit back and relax.

Ps. If you want to remain focused trying sniffing fresh rosemary or rosemary oil, it works wonders!

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”We need to talk…”

As a writer, I create characters every day.

I think in glorious technicolour and now 4K how they would look and behave. I think in a volume of how they would sound through a beautiful Bose system, while as a creative writing teacher, I give examples of how to bring them to live. I use questionnaires to build a profile, teaching how to ask them awkward and embarrassing stuff, getting them to reveal who they are as if in some confessional. Their innermost secrets spilling for the writing student. 

I get the students to care deeply about each character becoming obsessive about the slightest detail and then we start to ask them why. We become shrinks. Psychologically assessing them, turning them over like the next page wanting, no need to know more. I ask them to listen, not to just what their characters will say but how they say it, the tone and timbre of their voice. Is there an intended inflection? A hint of sarcasm?

I explain how eventually they won’t be able to sleep as their characters interrupt their sleeping thoughts as well as their waking thoughts. How they will start to question their own sanity as small voices whisper in their ears.

I know and understand all this yet still I write on autopilot then I stop. Silenced.  No words.  

Because I have forgotten to talk to my own character. I’ve distanced myself unknowingly.

I assumed that they were still with me and naturally as I already knew all this wonderful stuff and had a conscious comprehension into the deeper workings of characterisation, that is would automatically filter through into my writing without effort! 

I had ignored them. As in all relationships, it takes work. Firstly, you need to be aware of the other person existence.  My character had become secondary. I was busy writing other projects, teaching, running after the kids, and as any spouse or friend would be, they had started to get on with their own life and I wasn’t included. They were waiting for me to make the first move after months of pushing them away. 

So I have had to bring in ‘date night’.

A time I set aside to get to know them again. The vast expanse is going to be a long ride before we are back on track, but now I realise it was me that walked away, I can walk back. 

We talk about everyday stuff, the usual awkward stilted responses of how’s your day? What have you been up to in the last six months? or present. I even apologise.  Promising to work harder on our relationship. I check in throughout each day, with a quick question ”What did you have for lunch? Did you have cake? How’s the new boyfriend?”

Improvements are slow but we are getting back on track.  We will survive this having been friends, good friends even, for some years now. 

I know one day she will go, maybe around book three, when I have finished telling their story. But until then I will question and listen to every word they have to say. 

Draft 4.0

Covet final draft

Well here it is and for anyone who read the last one, you will notice quite a few changes to layout, but also I hope conveys the character arc better.

I have also after some advice tried to offer instead of a standard straight forward look but inserted some of the scenes In form of interviews.

One of the major issues I had with my previous drafts was the length, and I am hoping that the method I have chosen here, still gets the same story across clearer, and shorter.

I have really enjoyed this once I thought outside the box I am used to, I used techniques I have learn on the course so far to question myself each step of the way and my office wall is covered in small index cards and post-its. This actually helped the visualising process.

I can sit back and feel like I have earned my glass of red tonight, now just for the critical essay.

 

Leaving-

So we had to write an opening about two people leaving each other…

So we had to write an opening about two people leaving each other. Immediately I thought like most people would, of a relationship ending. But then I thought, what if the leaving was only temporary, who would hurt the most? I came up with this…

INT. KITCHEN- TABLE -MORNING

A young girl, MACY, 6,  sits at the dining table, her head in her hands, elbows resting on the table, while her legs swing faster and faster as her dad talks to her. The radio is on in the background.

PETE

I have to go to work

MACY

but I don’t want you to!

Her father PETE, bends down at the table, sitting on his heels, he moves her cereal bowl away, and copies her actions, head in his hand, elbows on the table.

PETE

darling, I really don’t want to travel either

 

Macy doesn’t move, she refuses to look at him

Pete sticks out his tongue at her. She moves her head to face the other way, but peeks through her fingers at him.

Pete pulls a funny face, Macy lets a small giggle escape, then pulls herself tighter. Pete is not giving up, he checks his watch then catch’s a tune on the radio.

He starts to dance around the kitchen table, arms wafting in the air, he scoops the mop up in his arms continuing to dance with his new mop partner. He dips and waltzes on, he keeps watching his daughter for a reaction.

Still not ‘watching’ she moves around the table, peering through her fingers. Her legs swing slower.

Pete starts to jive, then dancing like Beyonce her reaches for Macy’s hand.

She pulls it away, but drops her hands now to watch him. A smile sneaking up on her face. Her legs have stopped swinging.

Pete puts the mop down, spins like Michael Jackson, and goes in for her chair. Struggling he picks up Macy still in the chair, and lifts in on to the table.

She is now giggling at him.

PETE

ouch!

he rubs his back, this makes her laugh out.

Pete stands up straight, he holds his hand out for her again

PETE

My princess Macy, would you care to dance?

 

Macy giggles, her eyes already dancing, accepts his hand.

 

MACY

Yes, silly daddy

 

She jumps off the table into his arms as he whirls her around the kitchen table. He pretends to trip over the mop, and apologises to ‘her’. Father and daughter continue their waltz.

After the song has finished Pete puts Macy down standing, and kneels in front of her.

PETE

I know you don’t like it princess, but it’s only two nights this time

 

Macy nods.

MACY

I know daddy, it’s just I miss you when you’re gone

 

PETE

how about next time, you come with me, and we can dance on the beach?

 

Macy nods again, tears and snot falling, she wipes them all away with her sleeve.

Pete gives her a hug, she wipes more snot and tears on his shoulder

 PETE

c’mon, then let’s get you ready for school then

Holding hands they leave together.

Act 2 a.k.a. Week 5 begins

The last four weeks have flown by!

From being a total newby to scriptwriting to now being comfortable to use premise, treatments and loglines.

Tagline:               When BFF’s want more they will go to any extremes.

Logline:             ‘Wannabe’ teen wanting her idol’s life of fame and fortune, seeks to make her name through reality tv with dire consequences.

My first short film script in an adaptation of one of my short stories from a collection of ten, called Written in Stone. the first one is named Covet. I don’t to give too much away just yet, but it’s not all plain

As a writer, the transition from creative to script, is more difficult than at first it seems. Leaving the prose behind, is a skill in itself, but with using the step outline and writing each scene by scene really helped.

Being forced into brevity was actually a good thing, it made me focus more on the character arc and the story arc itself, and helped to refine the smaller discrepancies you don’t always notice with your own work.

As a starting point traditional scriptwriting documentation is has been great, will I stick with it? At the moment yes, as I mentioned it is easing the transition from creative writer to script writer, and while I still do both styles, I will use all I can to make my writing work.