At the weekend, I joined a lively group of writers in Guildford at the Surrey New Writers Festival at G-Live, organised by the School of Literature and Languages at the University of Surrey. The mix of discussion panels and workshops made for some insightful debates, including; literary start-ups, creating and nurturing a support network, writing for TV and Film, a panel of agents, publishers and editors as well as a lunch time workshop delivered by writing coach and author, Melissa Addey. There was also a poetry stage going on throughout the day with readings from special guest poets.
It was a great opportunity to network with local writers and chat with students and staff from the University, who invited me along to do a reading at the evening launch of the Stag Hill Literary Journal. As a contributor to the inaugural issue, I was honoured to read an extract from my short story, Habitat, an near-future SciFi story, which appears in the journal. You can follow the future of the journal on their facebook page here, where you can get a copy of Issue One, read the online version or send in your own submissions. Thank you to M.E. Rolle and the editorial team for the opportunity to network and share my work with a wider audience.
Of course, any job is a good job for a writer. We like to think we would be happy in isolation, chipping away at our work in progress, but actually any job that brings us into contact with people provides a rich source of inspiration and character ideas. Nevertheless, writers are wordsmiths and happiest when engaged in the written word, so here are twenty jobs for writers that make use of our skill.
A copywriter writes advertising and product descriptions (known collectively as copy) for print and online catalogues, commercial scripts, brochures, direct mail. Can be freelance or working for an agency. http://www.ipa.co.uk/
With the rise of content marketing, an increasing number of companies are paying freelancers to write articles for their blogs. A combination of one-off articles or series of articles – useful to have a specialism. Be prepared to chase work.
A reviewer writes an evaluation of the quality of something eg. books, films, food, art, music, theatre. Can be quite lucrative, often work as freelancers.
An editorial assistant provides administrative support for editors, associate editors and writing/editorial staff. They often perform scheduling, filing, note taking, and other administrative duties. They may or may not perform writing and editing tasks. http://www.bookcareers.com/ Read the rest of this entry →
I was inspired by an article I read in The Conversation about why the teaching of creative writing matters by Simon Holloway, Lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Bolton, who says that ‘very few students will earn a living as a writer. But writing is about more than that, and the ability to communicate effectively is a rare and precious thing’.
There is mixed opinion about the benefits of undertaking a course in creative writing; Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha of Suburbia, famously said that creative writing courses are a ‘waste of time’.
By coincidence, I was recently invited back to my university to talk to the MA Writing students about my experience of the course and what I have gained. It is only a year since I graduated, so it is still fresh in my mind, but talking it through with a group of engaging peers at various stages of their careers helped me to reflect on and consolidate my own experience.
I thought it might be useful to share some of my reflections in the hope of reaching out to anyone out there who is at a cross roads and trying to decide the best route to take.
It is unfortunately true to say that few creative writing students will earn a living as a writer, but even as I sat in front of this year’s cohort and asked them what they most wanted to learn from me, many said it was how to earn a living from writing. Although I have a full time day job as well as being a writer, this is perhaps one area in which I can add some valuable insight. I work in graduate careers and employability, and much of the advice that I offer students in preparing for the jobs market is transferable to writers preparing their work for publication. In fact this is the one area where my day job and my writing work find a happy coexistence. Here are my top tips for getting a job and/or getting published. Read the rest of this entry →
I delivered a session last week on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which is based on Jung’s personality type theory.
I just love seeing that moment of understanding when a participant realises that something they have been doing all along and not had the confidence to voice is really grounded in psychological type theory. As an MBTI practitioner, it sometimes feels like I am giving people permission to be themselves. It is powerful and it is liberating. It gives the clients I work with confidence in their strengths and a framework in which to describe what they are good at. Not to mention, the understanding of how and why other people behave in certain ways – perfect for demonstrating teamwork scenarios.
This tool has so many other advantages, one of which is applying it to characters in my stories and books. It helps me to keep characters behaving in a way that is consistent and believable, without the need to even reveal how or why. It just is. And it works, as you have a theory in the sub-text of the work, invisible to the reader, but underpinning the elements that make a believable plot. It helps the reader to suspend disbelief without you having to signpost what you are doing. It is a powerful gift; check it out.
Should you be concerned about your digital footprint?
I came across this hilarious video clip whilst researching content for a presentation I was invited to give recently about managing your online identity. The presentation was primarily pitched at university students but it occurred to me that this is something of interest to anyone who is active online. After showing the clip, several people in the audience whipped out their tablets and starting searching for their privacy settings!
Enjoy! (And beware…) Read the rest of this entry →
I participated in a workshop last weekend, entitled ‘Plot – what plot?’ during which the facilitator, Anne Patrick, talked us through different plot structures from the classic – beginning, middle, end, through the 5 tier plot (now taught at GCSE) to an 8 tier story arc (Nigel Watts). We did some interesting exercises, but it all seemed very formulaic to me and it got me wondering what methods other writers use to plot their stories and novels. So here are few that I uncovered.
Stephen King: How to write in the Observer (01.10.00)
“The basics: forget plot, but remember the importance of ‘situation’. I won’t try to convince you that I’ve never plotted any more than I’d try to convince you that I’ve never told a lie, but I do both as infrequently as possible.” Read more..
Aliette de Bodard, Nebula Award shortlist nominee, on plotting short stories. A guest blog on ‘The Other Side of the Story’ with Janice Hardy.
The Shamsie Method (Kamila Shamsie, from Mslexia issue 45)
“Don’t do plotting beforehand; starting is very intuitive. ‘Here’s an idea, here’s a voice in my head – let’s see where it goes.’ For 20 or 30 pages, just bounce off in whatever direction.”
Neil Gaiman on the ‘loose approach to plotting’ – mikeshea.net
The Thomas Method (Scarlett Thomas, from Mslexia issue 36)
“Plan everything. Plotting is like planning the perfect bank robbery. You need to take care of all possible contingencies so you don’t get caught out.”
Other weird and wonderful ways of plotting:
The NaNoWriMo Way
I once read (a long time ago and I don’t know if this is true or not), that David Bowie used to write song lyrics by cutting out words and phrases from newspapers and throwing them into the air, then arranging them in whatever order they randomly landed *!?*.
Interestingly, I recently attended a workshop on writing drama, facilitated by Donna Franceschild (creator and writer of ‘Takin’ over the Asylum – BBC TV 1994 – great viewing if you haven’t seen it before…). We all had to write down 3 unconnected pieces of dialogue and throw them into the centre of the table. We then mixed them up and picked 3 each at random, then paired up. Each pair then created and acted out a scene using their 6 lines of random dialogue, trying to create a background story. Fascinating stuff (acting skills notwithstanding) and it really highlighted the power of subtext.
And finally, in How Not to Write a Novel by Sandra Newman and Howard Mittelmark, you can explore “200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published.”
Disclaimer: The views and methods described in the links above are not necessarily those shared by the author of this blog; use with extreme caution and don’t blame me if it all goes horribly wrong. Plot, what plot?