Here’s an article I put up on Medium yesterday and it got such a good response, I decided to share it with you here…
Writing is something that many people aspire to do. I don’t know how many times people have said to me, once they’ve found out I’m a writer, that they want to write a book.
But actually starting a book and, more importantly, finishing it are a whole different ball game.
Let’s get this over with first – if you think writing a book is easy, stop reading now. Even the simplest children’s book takes time and effort. Writing is hard work. So, if you’d much rather play your Xbox or watch tv, cheerio.
Right, everyone still here who actually wants to write? Let us begin.
I once taught writing for children at Glasgow University and I always loved the enthusiasm my students had for the subject. I told taught them many things, so of which I’m going to share today.
Note: this article is about all kinds of writing, not just for children, so please don’t leave.
Right, on to the good bit: getting started.
The first question anyone ever asks me is are you rich? For the sake of full disclosure, I should tell you I am not rich and never have been. The second question is: where do you get your ideas from? My answer: anywhere and everywhere.
I find getting ideas for stories easy. They are born through reading, through people watching, through things I’ve seen on television. I can be drifting off to sleep and suddenly an idea will pop into my head. They come more easily if I’m bored and my mind starts to wander.
I jot down the idea in a notebook or in my cell phone, and tuck it away for a later date when I can revisit it.
Here are other suggestions for gaining ideas for stories:
Ask yourself ‘what if…?’ – What if that person were actually a time traveller? What if my next-door neighbour was a spy? What if my pet could talk?
Take a scenario and give it a twist. Write down a regular sentence such as: The man walked down the street and met his mother. Now give it a twist: The spaceman walked down the gangway and met an elephant. It doesn’t have to be that silly, but should give you a little mind boost that will trigger other ideas.
Look at street names or car number plates and create a character from it. Then ask yourself: who is this person, what do they do and what is their story?
Cut some images out of a magazine or download and print them. Put them together and create a story from what you see. It could be an alpaca at the beach with an ice-cream seller or a tramp with a glamorous film star at a fast-food restaurant.
Go to an outside space and people watch. Jot down their descriptions and what they are doing. Give them a name and a job. Start to work out who they are and what they are doing with their lives.
Hopefully, this has given you a little boost and you’ll start writing some amazing. Remember: in order to be a great writer, you should read, read and read some more. Read everything and anything. Read the greats and the not-so-greats…only then will you be able to recognise amazing writing and be able to produce some yourself.
I’m planning to do more of these short articles on writing, so keep an eye out.
Back to this week and there’s not much to update. I was supposed to see a friend on Saturday afternoon, but it was so blustery here in the west coast of Scotland that we had to cancel. I just don’t find sitting out in a wet and freezing cold garden appealing.
Book update – am back planning the second of my Sisters of Sin books. I hope to start writing it next week. The first book, Greed, is currently with beta readers and I’m awaiting their views. * gnaws at nails nervously *
Reading – still on Babylon Berlin and it’s really good. The tv series has added a lot of back story to Gereon and Charlotte that is not in the book, but that’s okay. Still loving it.
TV – today I expect to finish all 11 series of Shameless and I feel bereft already. It was a wonderful series full of mad capers and I’ve loved it. Sigh.
Well, it’s been a crazy kind of time in Nelson Towers lately. Since we’ve been easing out of lockdown in Scotland, my social life has rocketed. I’ve been able to see family (in the garden and in unseasonably warm weather, thank goodness) and friends. The friends part was last weekend when I went for a drink round to our local pub with my friend from next door and a couple of others. Then on Sunday, I joined two others for a socially distanced lunch in La Lanterna (great food btw) in the west-end of Glasgow and had a Zoom call that night with two women I’ve known since school (one I’ve known since I was four, the other since I was about 13). It was busy, it was mad, but it was great. It killed me that I couldn’t hug anyone, but it was still so nice to actually be around people again.
So how’s your week been? What have you been up to? Are you guys finally getting back some normality in your lives? I hope so. Terrible news about India. My heart goes out to them. I’m afraid we’ll continue to see people dying from Coronavirus for some time yet.
Line of Duty
Anyway, let us move on to better things. Firstly, what was that last episode of Line of Duty all about? It just all felt so flat. I was one of the many disappointed fans. I can get that they were trying something different, but I don’t think it worked. Never mind, the rest of the series were amazing.
I also watched Shadow and Bone. I ‘ve never read the books, they are aimed at children (although that never puts me off, some children’s novels are amazing) and they were brought out well after I completed my childhood! 🙂 However, I did watch the series on Netflix and really enjoyed it. The first episode was a little meh for me, but I stuck with it and am glad I did. Ben Barnes (who as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia) is still gorgeous and did a great job, as did the rest of the cast. I don’t want to go into it too much as I don’t want to spoil anything, but it is good.
Talking of good, anyone know when Carnival Row’s second series is coming out? I’ve now watched it about five times (something I rarely do) and I just love it.
Some of the cast from Shameless series 1.
Other tv I’ve been watching includes the UK (and better version) version of Shameless. I’m coming close the the end. There are 11 series and I’m halfway through series 10, and I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s funny, quirky, dirty and a damned good watch.
Reading – currently on my bed stand is still Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher. It is similar but different to the tv series (pictured), but very very good. I am halfway through it and thoroughly enjoying it.
What else have I been up to? Well, I’m continuing to write the script and I currently have a novel with beta readers. I’m a bit nervous about the latter, I really hope they enjoy it. Won’t be long till they’re back with their comments. Gulp. No matter how many books I write or how long I do this, I’m still worried that no-one will like my books. It’s the curse of the writer, I’m afraid!
Right, that’s me for this week. I’m actually focussing this entire week on my end of module assignment for my uni degree. But I’ve taken a break and snuck out to chat to you for a bit. Back to the grind.
Hi everyone! How are you? Hope you’re all well. How’s your week been? Well, I’ve got a couple of exciting things to share.
Firstly, I finally finished editing my Sisters of Sin novel. It’s called Greed and is romantic suspense story about a female assassin. As it’s part of a series, it won’t be published until early next year, but I’ll keep you posted. I have another one to write – about an assassin code-named Envy – for the series and plan to start on it next week.
Secondly, my Paisley book is finished and, as part of it, I’m just about to draft up a short graphic novel depicting one of the historical facts from the book. Once I have some images to show you, I’ll do that. The illustrations are being done by my very good friend and fab illustrator, Mandy Sinclair.
It’s so nice to have some good news to share. Something different from the norm. It still feels like Groundhog Day, but at least now I’ve had my first vaccination, I can see a tiny speck of light at the end of the tunnel!
On to TV and film. Well, I have just finished binge watching Call the Midwife and thoroughly enjoyed it, although Barbara’s demise did leave me in tears. The thing I like about this series is that it’s gentle, you don’t have to concentrate too hard to enjoy it, and the styles and music are fantastic. It’s one of my guilty pleasures and I can’t wait for the new series which starts very soon.
On to books, I’ve been trying to read, but I’ve been so busy lately that I’m shattered by the time I crawl into bed and switch the light out. I normally go up at 9pm and read for a while, but I’ve been going up at the same time and going to sleep. I’ve had a couple of extra clients for my business plus I had to complete an assignment for university, so that’s probably why.
I have got a book to start which is Babylon Berlin by Volker Kutscher. I really LOVE LOVE LOVE the tv series, so wanted to read the books. Got the first one to start and I can’t wait.
I’m also reading Bruce Block’s ‘The Visual Story’ which is about creating the visual structure of film, tv and digital media. It’s useful to know this stuff for my scriptwriting, but it should also feed into my novel writing and maybe even other parts of my working life. Only just started it and am hooked already.
Right, so you are up-to-date on everything at the moment. I’m sorry I’ve not had much to tell you. It’s so difficult to be exciting about writing when most of it is hard slog. However, I’m getting there with my novels and have already started planning my next series – a steampunk, fantasy set in Victorian Glasgow. I’ll tell you more about that in the future, it’s way too early just now.
Do you ever have one of those weeks where no matter what you do you are always playing catch up with yourself? This week is one of those. And I hate it. I love it when you plan out your day or week (in my case) and it all gets done. However, my inability to get up early (ie at 7am) means I have been chasing my tail all week. Sigh. Never mind.
So, how has your week been? Hope it’s been a good one. I’ve been struggling to keep positive this week. I’m so fed up being stuck in. I yearn to go into Glasgow and meet a friend for lunch. It is a little thing, but I miss it. In saying that, I am extremely lucky. No-one in my family has been seriously ill with Coronavirus, no-one has died. I should be counting my blessings, but it is hard to keep on going.
However, I will. Onwards and upwards as they say.
This week, I have mostly been scriptwriting. I honestly thought this script would be done by now, but it’s nowhere near finished. It’s complicated. And exciting. And funny. And I really hope it gets made one day. If it never gets made, I’ve still learned a lot. I’ve learned more about storytelling, about not overwriting, about cinematic techniques. And it’s been really good fun. I’ll be back into it later today.
I’m still editing my Sisters of Sin book. I hope to have that finished for beta readers next week. In fact, I’m saying it now. I’m going to make sure it’s finished by Saturday next week. Not tomorrow, but a week away. Shit, I now have a deadline to keep.
I’ve finished binge watching Line of Duty and feel bereft. Really enjoyed it. But, oh joy, a new series starts soon.
Have you been watching Resident Alien? It’s on Sky 1 in the UK. It is brilliant. So funny. Really recommend it. It’s about an alien, played brilliantly by Alan Tudyk, who crash lands on Earth. He has to piece together his ship and find his weapon with which he’s been tasked to destroy the Earth with. However, those pesky humans keep coming into contact with him. He likes them. He’s getting emotions. He’s having relationships with them. Watch it, it’s brilliant especially the dialogue he has with young Max (Jason Maybaum) and his bestie, Sahar (Gracelyn Awad Rinke). TV perfection.
So, I’ve been channelling my inner actress this week as myself and my compadres work on our script. We’ve been doing this for nearly a year now, but because of the complicated storyline it’s taken us this long to get this far. We’ve got a fair amount of work still to do, but we are getting there with the story. Anyway, part of our process is reading out the script as we work. That way we can pick up on any issues such as words and phrases that don’t sit well. Some of our characters are non-British which means attempts are made to do the accents. However, none of us are trained actors so the results are often hilarious. Can I just say I cannot do an Australian accent. Not. At. All.
So, how’s your week been? Same old same old? Just like everyone else. I really hope that we can get back to normal soon. I’m sure I’m echoing a lot of people when I say I just don’t think I can do another year of this lockdown. I understand why I have to do it and I stick to the rules, but I want to spend time with family and friends.
Anyway, the biggest event of the past couple of weeks is that I took my son for an eye test. We live in a village, so I took him to one of the nearby town’s for it. It was the highlight of the week, I’m afraid to say. 🙂
Another highlight – and I don’t know why I’ve taken so long to do this – is I’ve finally gotten round to watching Line of Duty. OH. MY. GOD. It’s so gooooooood. So well written, directed, acted, everything. The beat points are perfect, the storylines race along and the twist and turns are inspired. Can I just say Keeley Hawes (who I have mentioned before and I am a bit of a fan of) is brilliant in series two and three. Creepy, but brilliant. Martin Compston (local boy), Vicky McLure (loved her in This is England), Adrian Dunbar and Craig Parkinson are great in it. I loved the character of Dot – he was so sneaky and slimy, but outwardly nice. Yep, I am chastising myself for leaving it so long to watch it. On the other hand, I am desperately trying to binge watch all the series before the new one begins – next week I think. Woohoooo!
So, what else have I been doing? I’ve edited up to and including chapter 14 of my Sisters of Sin novel. That should be finished by the end of next week and going off to Beta readers to read. BTW if anyone wants to be a beta reader for me and the rest of the authors doing this series, drop me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org We’d love to get more people involved.
Reading – I haven’t managed to do a lot of that recently. Been concentrating on getting my uni course work done, so reading for pleasure has taken a bit of a back burner. However, I aim to get back to that soon.
Right, that’s me for now. I will check in again very soon. Til next time.
Okay, so I’m thinking my blog is getting really dull due to me not doing very much. With that in mind, I’ve decided to try and make it more useful to other people who want to write. So, this week I’ve collated some top tips for people who want to be or who are writers.
Before that, a quick roundup of what’s been happening chez moi. Firstly, I’m getting new roof insulation put in today. My old insulation is shot to pieces, so it desperately needs replaced. I’m getting foamy spray stuff put on the inside of the roof. It’s non toxic and extremely good at insulating, but expensive. However, it’ll last for years and should cut my heating bills down, which would be good because it’s been snowy and freezing in Scotland for the past few weeks.
Secondly, I’ve started editing my Sisters of Sin novel. If you remember, I joined up with a group of international writers last January/February with the intent of writing a book series together. However, the series hasn’t materialised yet due to the circumstances of the individuals within the group (lots of stuff has been going on) and the pandemic which side-swiped everyone (as it’s done for everyone else). The series was put on hold until now and it’s now we’re starting to pull it together with the intention of getting it out next January. I’ll keep you updated. It’s good to be getting back into writing. I’ve hardly been doing anything recently, just didn’t feel like it.
Thirdly, before I forget, how are you? Hope you’re all well. We’re find here, thank goodness, but getting a little stir crazy. The whole of the UK is still in lockdown again, which isn’t great, but it is what it is.
Fourth and final before we move on: did anyone watch It’s A Sin?? It was written by Russell T Davies – who is my favourite tv scriptwriter – and is set in the 1980s. It’s about a group of young gay men and their female flatmate and the impact of the AIDS epidemic. It sounds like it should be an horrific storyline, and it is harrowing and heart-breaking at times, but it’s such a good series. I highly recommend it. Plus the soundtrack (all 80s pop songs) is amazing – am hoping they put it out as a soundtrack you can buy! I’d forgotten how terrifying it was (as a heterosexual woman) when we were told about HIV and AIDS, so I can’t imagine what it was like for gay men at the time who were losing friends or dying of it themselves. I know there are still stigmas attached to people with HIV and AIDS and prejudices against the LGBT population by some areas of society. However, I am so pleased we are not back where we were in the 80s. What happened then in terms of prejudice and hatred and fear was horrible. Anyway, watch the series, it’s amazing.
Right, now I’m going to go on to the writerly part of this blog post. Hold on to your hat!
Carry a notebook and pen with you wherever you go so when inspiration/ideas strike you’ve got something to write them down in. You can also use your mobile to note down thoughts either as a note or as an audio piece.
Write every day – set apart a time every day, even ten minutes, and write down something. Anything. This will get you into the habit of writing. It will also allow you to practise and develop your writing voice.
Plan your writing – I know there are people out there who like to pants it (ie just write without planning) and I applaud those who can do that. However, I find that I can write every day and stick to a writing schedule if I have planned out what I’m going to say. You can plan your entire book or plan each chapter as you go. It’s up to you.
Read, read, read – people ask me what’s the best way of learning how to write and I will always say read. That’s for fiction or non-fiction. I believe the only way of learning how to write well is to read exceptional writing. Then putting it into practise. Read everything: newspapers, magazines, online articles, short stories, poetry, fiction etc.
On the subject of improving your writerly knowledge, research writing. There are lots of excellent blogs out there full of great tips and, seeing as how you’re reading everything anyway, why not read some of the great books on writing? My favourites include Stephen King’s On Writing, The Writing Gals, Craig Martelle, Save the Catand William Zinsser’sOn Writing Well.
If you are a fiction writer, write the story that you want to read. There’s no point trying to copy someone else. The best writing comes from a writer being passionate about their subject. The same holds true for non-fiction writers.
Use strong words when writing. Passive, weak verbs make for weak prose. Instead of saying something was done to something (eg The girl had her hair done by the top stylist.) make is stronger by saying the person did the deed (The top stylist did her hair.)
Don’t use cliches. Try to come up with new ways of describing something.
Get your story or text down and THEN go back and edit. And edit it some more. And edit it again. Don’t waste time by trying to get the perfect turn of phrase on your first go. Get the text down and then go back and zhoosh it up.
…believe in yourself. You can do it. So, what are you doing reading this blog? Get on with it!
Right, I am off to do more writing. Til next time!
This is going to be a rather short post this week because I have nothing that interesting to report. My week is like this: work, clean the house, do washing, walk the dogs, feed the kids and animals. And that’s about it. However, last week I did have a Zoom call with my American and Australian writer friends and we’re now about to finally launch into getting our SOS series written and out. We’re aiming to launch the series next January (I know, it’s ages away but the year will go in quickly). So, that’s exciting.
I’ve finished reading my Dorothy L Sayers book and it was okay. I can’t say it was excellent, but it won’t put me off reading another Lord Wimsey story. I guessed who the baddie was halfway through the book and why he had done it. Tonight I’m going to re-read the first Harry Potter. Haven’t read the books for years and I love immersing myself in that world.
The images today have no specific link, but are images I found on Canva that I like so I thought what the hell and used them. It’s miserable outside here in Scotland: icy cold winds and rain. Some parts have snow. Not here, we’re in the lowlands so we don’t get a lot of snow. Anyway, me and the boy took the dogs out to the park today and didn’t stay long it was that cold.
I like the photo above. It reminds me of watching The Borgias. Loved that show.
So, telly hasn’t improved much. I’ve taken to downloading history programmes off the BBC iplayer. I’ve seen some of them before, but they are interesting to watch none-the-less. Started watching Twist on Netflix the other day. Meh. I prefer earlier versions of it including the musical, Oliver. I love Dickens’ books and Oliver Twist is one of his best. This modern adaption didn’t not grab me at all, so I stopped watching after ten or 15 minutes. Not wasting any more time on it. Have you seen it? What did you think?
Still watching Finding Alice and still don’t know if if I like it or not. I’m giving it one more episode and if it doesn’t improve am gong to ditch it. Was talking to a friend on Zoom about it yesterday and she said the same thing.
Am finishing with an image of a castle. It’s Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria. One day I will go there.
Right, am finishing up now. Told you this would be a short post. Until next time (and hopefully I’ll have something more interesting to say).