Thursday, 7 August 2014

Ten Things That Are NOT Writing My Novel (but they're not far off)

1. Reading blogs. This is fun. It's entertaining. It's informative. I can kid myself it's writing related when I read about other people's processes, interesting facts from past times, author interviews. It's not getting the words on the page of my novel but perhaps it kicks me into at least opening Scrivener.

2. Watching TV shows on Amazon Instant. It's a shame really that I can't count this as writing. If I put as much effort into writing my novel as I have with watching Arrow, then I'd not only have finished and polished it, I'd have planned a sequel too. But does it count a little bit? Can I say that following the plot and the arc of a TV series helps with my own plotting?

3. Reading fiction. Reading informs our own writing in that it inspires (hopefully) and triggers little lightning flashes of ideas, however remote and fuzzy. If we are to write, we must read. In the past week I have read 2 ½ novels. Is my own novel any further forward because of this reading? Not really, but I firmly put reading fiction in the "part of the writing process" department. Fiction fills our heads with worlds and from those worlds new ideas grow.

4. Reading non-fiction. Of course this is counted towards writing. It's research! Even if I'm writing a Victorian novel (which I am, by the way), reading a book about alchemy or Egyptian Gods is part of the writing process. We all have an ideas book, right? Well ALL non-fiction has the potential to spark a new story idea. Anyway, I have a magpie mind and I like collecting facts that may or may not be of use at some point.

5. The Theatre. Oh, how I love it! I've been to some fine plays recently – Another Country, Birdland, The Crucible, Richard III. And (huzzah!) after 3 ½ hours in phone and online queues, I got tickets for Hamlet next year with that Cumberbatch boy. Again, not writing. Although it does give me an appreciation of the beauty of words, so perhaps it's counted.

6. Music. Listening to it, not playing it – I have no talent in that department. Does singing along to the Arctic Monkeys help with my writing? It would be a huge stretch of the imagination to say that it did. Or would it? What about the rhythm of the lyrics? Could they help in some way with the rhythm of the words in my story?

7. Art galleries. There are no words here. Well, not in the exhibitions I've been to recently. So does art inform writing or is it just bunking off? Did my visit to the Royal Academy summer exhibition spark any story ideas or did I just stand there feeling somewhat confused? Both actually. Some of the pieces were beautiful. I think that any image we're drawn to can enrich us and this will be carried through to our writing. The confusion? How were some of those pieces even chosen?

8. Buying stationery. This is definitely counted as writing. You buy a new notebook therefore you write something nice in it. And neatly too. If you buy lots of notebooks then you must use them for lots of things – one for story ideas, one for character traits, one for plotting. In fact, buying stationery is obligatory.

9. Hanging out with friends. If you hang out with writer friends, especially if you meet up to write, then this is definitely counted. How can you sit at a table, opposite someone who is writing with a fury and not do the same?  I've found that it is possible to go on Facebook and Twitter while writing the occasional word, but if you have to compare word counts at the end of the session, you soon realise the error of your ways.

10. Cooking. How can cooking be related to writing? It's not. But by doing something so totally unrelated, you can free up your mind, and sometimes that tricky plot problem will resolve itself. OK, so it's not all that convenient to write down the perfect sentence or plot outline while up to your elbows in flour, but I didn't say it was easy!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Back from the Past

I've been out of the loop for almost three months. I've ignored my novel. I've been in the slums of Southwark, and by the cholera infested Broad Street pump. I've been in Kensington Palace, and to the Great Exhibition. I briefly visited the textile factories of Nottingham, and the coal mines of South Wales. I've marched with the Temperance Society, and marveled at Champagne Charlie's antics on the stage at Wilton's Music Hall. In short, I've been in Victorian Britain.

I've just finished an online course on Victorian history. I love research, and the course was excellent, but oh how much I love going back to my story. I was worried that our mutual absence would mean that my story and I would have grown apart, but that's not the case at all. In fact, the course has both inspired and informed my story and it is growing into a far better, leap-off –the-page thing.

And now I know it's true. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder!