Monday, 25 June 2012

Writers should be Readers

If the amount you read correlates directly to how good a writer you are, I should rate amongst the best.

Early on in my career, I was told to read everything and anything but especially in the area that you intend to write. I have read widely across all genres from classics to children’s books and just about everything in between.

I have read some truly amazing books; I have also ploughed through some awful ones. Many authors make me weep in despair (I could never be that good ever) whilst others give me hope (how did they ever get published in the first place), practically all of them make me envious.

The pile of books on my own personal slush pile is stacked so high that I am sure they will topple over one night and knocked me unconscious. My Kindle is loaded with recommendations and I belong to two book groups (what sane person takes on two?).

I frequently stay up far too late, lost in the imagery world of someone else’s making.

If that were not enough, I edit books for a living; guiding authors gently towards publication and taking great care to help them produce the best book possible.

So, I think it is safe to say that I am a reader. It only occurred to me recently that perhaps if I actually read less, I might write more.

Yes, writers should be readers but not the extent that they fail to focus on the one thing that might lead to someone, somewhere holding a copy of their book and being moved to laughter or tears, reading just one more chapter before they go to sleep because they can’t bear to put it down…

Away then with midnight book binges and on with committing words of my own to paper for I have reached the conclusion that even penning a really awful book has got to be better than never writing one at all!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Application and Aspiration

A long time ago, when I attended my first writing course, the teacher said: “The best way to develop your confidence and flex your writing muscles is to join a writing group.”

This I promptly did and it was the start of two years of invaluable support and development that gave me the push I needed to take my writing further. It was also where I began to realise that I could research and write articles – and get paid for it. I’m not sure that I would ever have taken the leap into journalism without the support and encouragement of the ten or so like-minded individuals who made up our little outpost of creativity.

I say ‘like-minded’ because in all other respects we were totally different, ranging in age from 20 to 65, some with families, a couple retired and some single. We had in our midst an ex-detective, an actor and a (hallowed) published author but for the most part we were ordinary people with day jobs and bills to pay but with one thing in common – we all aspired to being published writers.

Life moved on and I left London but I took with me everything that I had learned in that church hall for two hours every other week. I had listened to advice, soaked up the criticism and practiced my craft and that unlikely group of odd individuals (and there were some real characters) set me on the path to success. Outwardly nothing had changed but the big difference was that I now had belief in myself as a writer.

A course can teach you about technique and give you a qualification but a writing group can give you something equally valuable – self-confidence.

Fast forward several years (decades!) and I have been a journalist and editor for longer than I care to remember but I can still vividly remember the writing group where it all started, where that first tingle of excitement turned into an achievable aspiration and later career. 

Now I am once again in the fortunate position of being a member of a writing group and it is no less rewarding. The first couple of meetings, listening to the ladies of WoSWI (Westcliff-on-Sea WI) discuss their writing ambitions and the thrill of discovering that they are all so much more capable than they think they are (yes, you really are!) has been a real pleasure.  Together, we can achieve great things.

I thank you ladies.
For my part, I hope to bring my experience to the group, develop my creative writing skills and maybe even finish that novel…

Monday, 5 March 2012

Kindle Convert

I never thought that it would happen but I have recently acquired a Kindle.

Speaking as someone with a profound love of books, who reads a lot, I must admit to having been extremely anti eReaders of any description in the past.

How can a small electronic device ever replace the look, feel and smell of a new book?  Or an old one for that matter – who has not at some point entered an antique bookshop and marvelled at the musty, dog-eared treasures to be found there?

You cannot read an eReader in the bath or on the beach unless you are extremely careful but, judging by the state of the paperbacks we brought back from holiday last year, in our case it’s a definite no. Neither do you get the satisfaction of watching the number of pages you have read build up into a meaty wedge (although a Kindle does chart your progress so that you always know how far through a book you are).

Another great drawback is that you cannot easily give an eBook as a present and it’s nowhere near as satisfying reading the children’s bedtime story from a flat metallic platform.

But, having said all of that, I am a convert.

Having acquired my Kindle strictly for work purposes, I have found myself using it more and more. It fits easily into my handbag so that wherever I am, I always have a book to hand without being weighed down by paper. It has a huge storage capacity so that I can carry a variety of titles, ideal for trips away or travelling and it is simple to operate.

Without the risk of sounding like an advert, there are drawbacks. It is not as easy to flick back through the pages to check on a missed point and you can’t mark-up interesting or useful passages in pencil, but it is a great way of carrying a large volume of reading material.

For me, eReaders will never completely replace traditional print books. I still like the look and feel of books and one of my great pastimes is browsing in book stores. I also like being able to pass on to other people books that I have enjoyed and being given them in return. My bedroom would simple not be the same without the rickety stacks of books piled up in every corner.

However, I must confess, for someone who is not a great one for gadgets, my Kindle has proved to be an unexpected success.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Pitfalls and Progress

Having stated my intention to adopt better working habits in my last post, I am writing to update you on progress
In spite of a new year that has so far involved the collapse and rebuild of my kitchen ceiling (owing to a slow leak that we were unaware of when we moved in last August), an unexpected lodger, illness and snow, writing has been going well. I have, by and large, managed to recoup the time lost by all of the aforementioned by avoiding social networking sites (at least during the day) and getting up earlier.

So far so good! I have also taken on a number of exciting new projects recently. The first is setting up a writing group for my local WI (WoSWI) which I hope will eventually help get me back on track with my novel. I have been a member of a reading group for some years but have missed the support and encouragement that being a part of a writing circle can bring and I am really looking forward to it.
I'll let you know how it goes.

On the work front, I have been commissioned to compile part of a series of quiz eBooks about popular musical artists and the first The McFly Quiz Book is now available from Amazon kindle store.

I have also penned a couple of short stories which, ever the optimist; I might just enter into a competition or possibly even publish on my blog. Now there’s a thought …x

Monday, 30 January 2012

A question of habit

I have heard it said that many things in life are a result of habit; your bank balance and waistline to name just two. As a writer, I should also add finishing that novel or even, keeping up with a blog.

Anyone who happened upon this page recently will, no doubt, be struck by the lack of up-to-date content. I would like to say that my attention has been directed at a worthier cause but in truth, much like exercising over Christmas, I have simply lost the habit.

Happily, it being nearly February, I have managed to completely bypass that time of the year when we make all those New Year’s resolutions that we have no more hope of sticking to than we did this time last year. So I haven’t vowed to drop a dress size, take up yoga or write 2000 words a day as I have done in previous years. I am, however, trying to adopt better writing habits (and yes, both my waistline and bank balance could also both benefit from this approach!).

These include getting to my desk earlier in the morning, not being distracted by Twitter, email and Facebook and making better use of my evenings (ie no more reality TV!).

It makes sense that small steps will eventually lead you to your goal, or at least get you a lot closer. Regular savings lead to better financial health, small deposits in the emotional bank lead to a happier home life and yes, all those pages will eventually add up to a book.

Or, at least, that’s the theory!

I am still juggling all those many other things that eat up my time and take me away from my desk, not to mention all the various projects I have on the go when I get there (more of that another time), but by developing better working habits, I am optimistic that you won’t have to wait another two months for a new post. 

Thank you for sticking with me.