Thursday 29 November 2012

Do you have anything to say?

I recently met another writer who said something along the lines of: 'I need to know if I have anything to say.'

This made me think. When I studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, Austen, Wordsworth etc for English Literature A-Level at school, much time was spent analysing what these writers were trying to say. Often someone in my class would pipe up with: 'But I'm sure [Shakespeare] wasn't intending to say that at all.'

Stephen King says in 'On Writing' when talking about 'the first read-through' of a novel he's written: '..I'm asking myself the Big Questions. The biggest: Is this story coherent? And if it is, what will turn coherence into a song? What are the recurring elements? Do they entwine and make a theme? I'm asking myself What's it all about, Stevie, in other words, and what I can do to make those underlying concerns even clearer. What I want most of all is resonance, something that will linger for a little while in Constant Reader's mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it up on the shelf.'

When I analysed my Book 1, 'The Grandson' whilst editing I realised that the themes had more or less written themselves, coming from my subconscious whilst I focused on the plot.

Some of the themes are ones which appear often: love, the role of women, marriage and family relationships. I'm fascinated that a difference in time can influence how someone lives their life. Currently I'm engrossed by the eighteenth century for Book 2, 'The Painting' and how this impacted a woman's choices. For 'The Grandson', I found I'd compared a woman's options during World War II to the 1990s.

Which themes have you written about without realising or do you have any other comments?

Ps. I had a great time at the RNA Winter Party last week. There are a few photos on my Facebook page: Anita Chapman Writer

Pps. Best of luck to everyone finishing NaNoWriMo this week!

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Monday 19 November 2012

Getting into the writing zone: Peaslake Part II

This weekend I returned to The Hurtwood Inn Hotel in Peaslake for 'Write Away!', a course with Ruth Brandt. Ruth has had short stories published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 4, in several magazines and her short stories have been long and short-listed in writing competitions.

Peaslake is a picturesque village in the Surrey hills which looks like a film set. The trees were at their best in shades of yellow, red and brown. Peaslake is quiet apart from the occasional car engine and the chattering of cyclists who huddle in the bus shelter whilst taking a break.

Ten of us attended the course, four for the second time. We had chance to get to know each other over meals and during tea breaks. After dinner we gathered in the cosy bar next to the log fire, some of us into the early hours. Being in a hotel meant no cooking or clearing up so I could focus solely on writing (and eating, drinking, sleeping...)

Ruth talked about story ingredients, characters, driving a story forward, beginnings and endings; and editing. There was free time to write and we had two workshops. Ruth gave me valuable advice during our one-to-one and we discussed the plot of my Book 2, 'The Painting'.

I came away from the weekend pleased to have moved forwards with the eighteenth century part of The Painting. I'd been mulling over a scene and I produced a draft of it whilst scribbling in a quiet room.

Sometimes escaping everyday life, especially with other writers is a good way to get into the writing zone. It was lovely to meet everyone on the course. Thank you to Ruth and the staff at The Hurtwood Inn Hotel for making our stay so enjoyable. The next 'Write Away!' will be in April 2013.

Here is a photo of us all having lunch (one of many meals together!). I'm in the grey jumper third from the back on the right.

Do you go away to write?
My first 'Write Away!' weekend in Peaslake in the snow

Friday 9 November 2012

Two steps forward, one step back?

I started to write the eighteenth century part of my Book 2, 'The Painting' this week, but I had to stop because I didn't know enough about my character's day to day life.

I've spent the rest of the week taking notes from books I found in the library and mulling over ideas. Next week I'll get back to the writing.

Some of my Book 1, 'The Grandson' is written as journal excerpts from World War II in the UK and Italy. I wrote the first draft of these excerpts without doing much research because I've studied World War II in the past.

The difference with Book 2 is that I need to do more research before writing.

With The Grandson I used a lot of information I knew already and I've lived/ worked in all the settings I used: Italy, London, New York and North Yorkshire. I do have a file filled with research notes (and I read a lot of text books/novels/biographies about Italy and Italian history), but the file for Book 2 will be considerably fatter. I've read that many writers use what they know to inspire their first novel. Maybe this allows a writer to focus more on learning how to write a novel.

Sometimes as the French say: Il faut reculer pour avancer. It's worth taking one step back.

What do you think?

Thursday 1 November 2012

NaNoWriMo-yes, no or kind of?

I haven't blogged recently due to half term and a streaming cold, which hopefully is on its way out. The photo is from Polesden Lacey in Surrey, one of my favourite places for a walk, especially at this time of year.

Firstly I'd like to wish those writers taking part in NaNoWriMo the best of luck. I won't be taking part, but on Monday when half term ends, I'll be taking part in my own mini NaNoWriMo, aiming for 1000 words per day on Book 2.

I went to Guildford library a couple of weeks ago and found some great books to use for research. Next time I must remember to take a carrier bag and to park a bit closer!  I was pleased to find a biography from the 18th century which includes information I've been searching for. At the moment, I'm using these sources to tighten the plot so I can get on with my own mini NaNoWriMo on Monday. Currently Book 2, 'The Painting' will be set during two time periods: the late 1700s and now. But I may change my mind!

Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo or using it to motivate yourself in some way?