Tuesday, 21 January 2014

An External Eye or I'd Like to Thank...

I know my story inside and out. Every writer does, don't they? Getting the 'inside' out onto the page, however, don't always happen. Not straight away. It's so easy to read between the lines, to see what isn't actually there because the picture of the story in your head is so vivid. What's needed is an external eye, a critique partner, an impartial other. All well and good, all very helpful, all very necessary, but the timing has to be right.

If you let someone see your story too soon, before it's ready, they will not share your vision. Their feedback can dilute your idea, send you down the wrong path, because your story is still too fragile. Even if you stick to your original vision, you run the risk of becoming downhearted and doubtful. So wait. Hang on. Don't show anyone anything until it's clear in your head, until the inside is out.

Then go for it. In fact, it's your duty to ask for feedback. Your story needs it! You think your character's motivation is crystal clear? Think again. YOU know why she does what she does, but does your reader? Are you sure? You think your description is spot on, but have you overdone it? Is it in your voice or that of your protagonist? (Thank you, Miriam Halahmy for that one!) Is your plot as tight as it could be? Have you tied up all those loose ends? Does is even make sense?

I truly believe that a writer can only go so far on their own. You can edit, revise, re-write to your heart's content, but there will always be something you've missed. Find a good Beta Reader; someone you trust, someone who reads and reads, even if they don't write, and beg them to critique your work. You'll be amazed at the obvious things they find, tiny things that will make a huge difference, things that you should have noticed but didn't.

So thank you to everyone who has pointed out plot flaws and inconsistencies, stilted dialogue, wooden characters. My story is, and will be, a much better thing for all your advice. Critiquers of the World – I salute you!

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Bring On The New!

Well 2013 wasn't a great year. It was, really, the year of endings.

Death was a frequent visitor – my mother, cousin, uncle, as well as my sister's beautiful horse, excellent hen, her husband's aunt, and my niece's very favourite teacher who was killed in a car crash aged just 23. My own health wasn't too handy but, thankfully, is now much better. Overall, I have never looked forward to a new year as much as I have this one. It's easy to be despondent but, in the words of Nelson Mandela (another 2013 loss, not just to me this time, but to the world), part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. And this is what I intend to do. 

So this year I will:

1.   Remember the importance of family and friends. I couldn't and wouldn't be without them.

2.   Keep following the sun, always look on the bright side. I'm quite good at this, but sometimes the load is so big that it's difficult.

3.   Know that while all things come to an end, there are always new beginnings.

4.   Keep writing. Writing can be a solace, but it's also something that takes you somewhere that's preferable to here, just for a while.

5.   Listen to my body. While I long since gave up dairy and sugar, you cannot heal on a diet of wine and chips. This is a shame but it is true.

6.   Read. Read, read, read, read, read. My, how I love books.

7.   Be inspired. Reading other people's stories, both fiction and non-fiction, lifts me up and makes me think I can do whatever I want to do.

8.   Do those things, whatever they may be. It's all very well having good intentions, but pointless if that is the way I leave it.

9.   As well as those things I feel inspired to do, I will also do NEW things. And they will be exciting, too.

10.  All this sounds far too earnest, so there must be foolishness: I will continue to be fan-girly about Tom Hiddleston, Cillian Murphy, and the Arctic Monkeys, among others; I will go to the theatre ALL the time; I will dance (very important); I will cook experimental recipes (I love cooking!); I will watch things like Marvel's Agents of Shield on TV.

So this will be my 2014. I intend to do all of this, and more. But most of all, I will be grateful, every second of every day.

Happy New Year!