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Posts Tagged ‘Sue Moorcroft’

Refridgeration – is it worth it?

Oh my goodness. That fridge. I have never heard such a collection of noises emanating from white goods. Yes, I expect it to click on and start rattling when its thermostat says it’s got too hot and bothered. But I don’t expect elemental sounds of wind swirling and whistling around imaginatively eroded columns of rock, accompanied by the rushing of spring water across pebbles!

I thought about being inspired to write a poem…

I switched it off before I went to sleep. Didn’t get to sleep till gone 2am… I reasoned that as it was already past midnight I might as well carry on reading. Not entirely sure how that made any sort of sense, but it was late and my brain was hyperactive after the quiz.

Networking – Phase 2

Spoke to someone new at breakfast – making friends is dead easy, you just find someone sitting on their own and join them. Not sure how acceptable this is, people may find it totally irritating, but it’s fun. The next thing is to pluck up courage to talk to people whose names I recognise – agents and authors and people like that. I’m going to do this writing thing, all of it, lock stock and barrel, even if it means a major character change.

Novel writing course

My morning was taken up with the first two sessions of Jane Pollard’s excellent novel writing course (where I finally caught up with Kevin). She writes as Jane Jackson, and has had several romantic and historical Cornwall-based novels published. She is also an experienced writing teacher, and it shows… in the space of a couple of hours I learned an awful lot of useful practical techniques that I haven’t yet picked up from anywhere else. Little things like how to write a single paragraph to set a scene – five sentences using all five senses, and mention the effect of the lighting. The latter tip is incredibly useful. So much can be conveyed by a short description of how a scene is lit:

The orange light from the setting sun cast diamond shadows across the polished wooden handpumps.

So you know you’re in a pub in the early evening, it’s old because it has leaded windows and old-fashioned handpumps, an atmosphere of dim lighting is created (because you can see the shadows of the lead strips).

Jane has obviously spent hours and hours and hours preparing for this course – she’s not only read and red-inked all 25 submitted synopses and first chapters, but she’s given each of us a three page printed report as well. And it’s all really useful and pertinent stuff. What a generous person… I shall learn a lot from her. Including that I need to do a bit of re-thinking about my novel before I get much further in.

…I suppose it should be obvious that the reader has to actually care about the main character… so maybe I should make her a bit more likeable…

A Productive Writer is a Positive Writer

and vice versa. Simon Whaley’s afternoon talk was very amusing, and very professional. Most of what he said was stuff I’ve heard before (you’ve probably heard it too): positive thinking, setting realistic long-term goals and breaking them down into medium-term and short-term goals, rewarding yourself when you achieve a goal, putting the work in, etc. It didn’t do me any harm whatsoever to hear it again though, and putting it in a specific writing context was useful.

I was quite surprised to hear someone behind me grumbling, ‘Shut up and get on with it,’ while Simon was being introduced. Didn’t seem to be any call for that, it was the only incidence of anything resembling unacceptable behaviour I’ve witnessed so far. Everyone else has been very friendly and positive.

Become your character

An excellent hour-long session run by Sue Moorcroft, which was very well attended. She gave us very sparse information about a character (mine was male, age 40, his wife was dying, he was scared) and we had five minutes to write a quick character sketch. She then demonstrated how to fill out those characters by interviewing them – three volunteers went out to the front and had to answer questions in the persona of their characters for ten minutes or so.

These questions ranged from simple details such as:
– What music do you like?
– How many brothers and sisters do you have?
– What are your hobbies?
– Where do you go on holiday?
to rather more deep and profound questions like:
– What are your hopes and fears?
– Why did you stay with your wife if you hate her so much?
– Does your wish to have a baby come from you, or your mum’s wish for grandchildren?
– What would you do if money wasn’t a problem?

It strikes me this is a particularly useful way of really understanding your character. You need a friend or two to fire questions at you, so maybe it’s something I might suggest we try in my writing group. I’d love to do it myself, I was too nervous to volunteer though. I know, girly wuss. I’ve promised myself next time anyone asks for a volunteer for anything I’ll be the first to step forwards (that’s anything writing-related, just in case anyone gets any ideas).

I tried to work out a way of doing this if there isn’t a handy friend around. The lady sitting next to me suggested getting someone to write out a set of questions to be asked to all such characters – this is a starting point but I think maybe it needs to be fine-tuned to follow interesting avenues which will be character-specific. [This is possibly an idea for a software tool?] My thought was to get two characters in mind and have them interview each other. This could lead to disintegration of personality though.

Katie Fforde – the evening talk

Katie Fforde gave a lovely talk then took lots of questions. The highlight was the first question, from a man who’d obviously confused her with someone else: ‘What exactly is erotic fiction?’ She did answer the question once the initial hilarity had died down, to her credit.

Main other points:

  • Plots are essential to link characters, settings and themes.
  • Characters are even more important, they must be realistic and likeable enough for the reader to be able to relate to them (i.e. not perfect or flawless).
  • When doing research, talk to people and try things out, don’t just read about it.
  • Tips for plotting: do mini-synopses for the next few chapters, or start plotting at the end if you’re struggling.

I am an old fogey

It’s 9.20pm and I’m ready for bed. I was going to do some writing, but I’m soooooo tired…

Thoughts at the end of the second day:

  • I’m enjoying this more than I thought I would (I’d anticipated being overcome with shyness and spending most of my time alone).
  • All the sessions I’ve been to have been interesting at the very least, and most have been extremely useful.
  • There are some extremely strange people in the world.
  • If anyone’s interested, contributions towards the fees for next year would be most welcome as birthday or Christmas presents 🙂
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