I never used to have much time for settings in my writing. I viewed them as something which had to be laboriously invented, laboriously researched, and/or laboriously described. The characters and the themes were what excited me, and I remember feeling that setting was a mere inconvenience to storytelling!
However, it occurred to me recently how untrue that is, even in my past writing. The first story I managed to complete was largely inspired by the setting, and it went on from there – steps winding up to first-story flat by the sea; a busy road, across which was a small wooded area. All I really did was to throw my granddad’s cat into that setting, and the scenario which developed became my story. In real life the cat walked up the steps and came across another cat. In my story they had a fight, then became friends. I imagined the creatures that might live in the wooded areas and the cats befriending an owl. Continue reading
‘Write what you know’ is great advice on the whole, and definitely a good starting point. We all have individual experiences, individual knowledge and an individual viewpoint. It would be madness not to make use of those, although it’s surprisingly easy to overlook things that are intrinsically part of us. However, when taken to an extreme, I find it can be unhelpful.
To me, one of the many joys of writing is the sense of discovery. It’s not so much about writing what I already know as it is about stepping, and occasionally leaping, from what I know, to the things I will come to know. Perhaps I start a story on familiar territory, but then I move on to the unknown. I may not know much about the workings of a hospital, for example, but writing might give me a reason to find out. And that’s exciting! Continue reading
Last year I made a huge breakthrough. After years of writing short stories, suffering from writer’s block and procrastination, I had finally managed to write an 80,000-word novel. I put it aside afterwards, to allow some cooling off time, before embarking on the redrafting process.
I began the book with an idea that was close to my heart and developed it as wrote. I didn’t stop to think, in case I was tempted to give up, because I’d never written anything that long before. The centre of the story changed many times, even though I eventually developed some aims and made a note of plot problems. I was a different ‘Hannah’ at the start of the process than I was at the end, and that leaked into my characters and the plot, resulting in a lack of overall focus. Continue reading
It turns out that I have enough weird habits for a blog-post sequel – no surprise!
Eating strange food – I have been told in the past that some of the things I eat are weird, or even disgusting. I will often eat a tin of tuna on its own, mixed with mayonnaise and ketchup. I used to eat tins of sweetcorn on a regular basis, and still have bowls of cold baked beans with mayonnaise (yes, I love mayonnaise – it should have its own paragraph). There might be an element of laziness in this theme of cold tinned food, but I actually like it as well.
Standing up before I’ve uncrossed my legs – This is a recently-developed weird habit. If I’m sitting down at the computer with my legs crossed (I know I shouldn’t) I have started to uncross them only after I stand up, leaving me precariously balanced on one leg for a moment. I don’t recommend it – I’ve nearly landed on my face a couple of times! Continue reading
2004: I watched the Olympics and determined to visit Greece one day. I was blown away by the skill of the athletes; but my dreams to be a world-class runner were quickly dashed by my reluctance to leave the house.
2008: I watched the Beijing Olympics in bed and marvelled at the opening ceremony. I was blown away by the skill of the athletes; but my dreams of achieving a long-jump record were thwarted by laziness and migraines.
2012: I watched the London Olympics and was proud of our country. I was so impressed with what I saw, and jealous of the people who made their dreams a reality; but I knew what commitment it took and that it could never be my highest priority.
2016: I’m ready! Continue reading
Intrinsic motivation can be a harsh master.
I hardly stopped yesterday.
I got up and instantly started my OU work (the intrinsic motivation failed me a little here, I admit – Roman villas are not my specialist subject). I was already up to date with the schedule though, so I suppose I didn’t really need to do any.
With that out of the way I began to read a book entitled, ‘How to Write’ by Harry Bingham, which I’m finding useful. After that I worked on redrafting my novel, a task that is both exciting and scary. I thought about an idea for a short story and a couple of blog posts, and wrote a few notes.
At lunchtime I silently asked myself, ‘What are holidays for if not for working harder than in term time?’ Wry smile. Continue reading