I collect first lines…from novels and short stories – from anything really. I don’t only select first lines from novels I like and read in their entirety, but aim for a broad range of styles, genre, etc. I like the idea of taking these lines out of the context within which they were written and seeing what I can create around them, seeing what writing they inspire within me, once I have forgotten their original context.
“…cherry-pick the interesting incidents and emotions from your real life and put a fictional spin on them or give them to a fictional character with an agenda entirely separate from your own.” Louise Doughty tells us. You can do this with any aspect of our life and the more fictionalised your writing becomes, the less autobiographical. Write from what you know until you have enough writerly confidence to write what you don’t know, to rely on imagination alone.
Author Francine Prose, in her book Reading like a Writer, says she learnt to write by reading. “I read for pleasure, first, but also more analytically, conscious of style, of diction, of how sentences were formed and information was conveyed, how the writer was structuring a plot creating characters, employing detail and dialogue.”
Another Louise Doughty inspired piece of writing about being lost, physically and metaphorically. It is based on an incident in my life, but overly exaggerated. Actually, reading it back I really dislike the writing I have done (perhaps because most of my writing is in 1st person and this is in 3rd person – but this was intentional, to replicate the distance the character feels from those around her and from herself). However, the purpose of this blog is not to publish only highly edited and re-worked posts, but to give you a sense of ‘writing in process’ over the course of writing my novel…and it is my hope that seeing my less than brilliant writing will also inspire you to have a go at writing yourself.
I have been harping on about the importance of reading. Today I look in more detail at why we should read, what possible benefits there are of reading, especially as adults.
Author, Louise Doughty encourages writers to “…start to build up a body of material-anecdotes, notes, stories.”
Any writing you do can be applied to your character(s), to build depth of character, to help you understand their motivations, their thoughts, how they act, what they sound like, how they respond to their environment. 1) Take a previous piece of writing and give it to one of your characters. Re-write the piece. 2) Try sitting in a café and jotting down overheard conversations, then giving some of this to your characters. Re-write the conversation with your characters as the speakers. 3) Write a diary entry of a day in your life, then give this day to one of your characters. Re-write the entry as though it was a day in the life of your character.
Today is all about characters. I find it useful to write a character profile so I have an idea of who this person is – it helps me determine how they might behave in certain situations and what their motivations are – and this can help build fuller, more rounded, authentic characters.
I have come across character profile forms from 1 to 35 pages long! They get writers to consider basic facts, like a character’s age and gender, on to such things as their appearance, behaviour, familial background, medical records, voice, grooming, etc., etc…the list goes on.
Most of the writing I have done on my blog has nothing to do with the novel I’m working on, however, everything I read keeps telling that writers, well, write! So here I go writing again. At some point, I will gather some of these pieces and turn them to my novel, or actually do some novel writing! Again the important thing is to keep writing, keep exploring ideas, keep playing with language and keep practicing. Play around with point of view and genre. Today I am using first person narrative in a piece of autobiographical writing: a small memoir.
In deciding to write a novel this year, I have become a much more active writer. I am multi-tasking a number of writerly undertakings: I have been working on a plot for the novel, which prompted me to get back to researching the particular place, historical era and key figures relevant to the story. I have been reading much more, and reading in a more mindful manner, noting down all kinds of useful things during the reading and learning more about writing in the process. I have joined a writer’s group and am learning more about critiquing the work of others, reading my own work in public and accepting constructive criticism. And of course I have been writing more.
What draws readers into a book? In order to keep reading and investigating writing and writing techniques, I have added another group of books to my first page analysis.