Week In Review

I’m really pleased that I got anything done at all this week! I was visiting family who live in one of the coldest places in North America outside the Arctic. img_6290 Despite travelling across the continent (and making it back before my luggage!) I created a writing prompt and free-wrote one page about it every day. I started on a very detailed biography for the main character of my new novel based on Elizabeth George’s “Write Away: One Author’s Approach to the Novel” method and read a large part of Shirley Jackson‘s collected works.

But there’s more! Possibly the most exciting step I took to improve my writing skills this week was to enroll in 2 creative writing courses from Writers.com. Although I completed the Technical Writing program from UC Riverside in 2014 and Copy Writing courses from Humber College and St. Lawrence College, I’ve never before had the money to devote to what I perceived to be the luxury of formal Creative Writing classes. This lack really shows in my work. When I was reviewing past projects it occurred to me that, although I have many creative ideas and creative writing is my favorite hobby, following through with the execution is an area I struggle with. Hopefully these courses will teach me the skills I need to finish more projects and be an overall better writer.

So here’s to a lot of hard work, a lot of fun and (hopefully!) becoming a better creative writer in the process!

Character Studies

I’m finally ready to start my new novel. In the past I’ve outlined the plot and let the characters and geography follow. But after reading “Write Away: One’s Writer’s Approach to the Novel” by Elizabeth George (Harper Collins eBooks, 2009), I’ve decided to try a new approach. I’m going to follow her advice and create a complete outline for the main character first:

“That’s where I want to begin, then…with character. Not with idea? … We will get to that. But if you don’t understand that story is character and not just idea, you will not be able to breathe life into even the most intriguing flash of inspiration.”
-Write Away: One’s Writer’s Approach to the Novel, Elizabeth George (Harper Collins eBooks, 2009, pg. 4).

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Image: Amazon.com

I had always thought that plot should lead and that I could choose character traits that would support the plot events I wanted to include. It feels a bit overwhelming to change my usual methods so much but I need to change up what I’ve done in the past and George presents such a convincing argument that I’m determined to try:

“An event alone cannot hold a story together. Nor can a series of events. Only characters effecting events and events affecting characters can do that.”
-Write Away: One’s Writer’s Approach to the Novel, Elizabeth George (Harper Collins eBooks, 2009, pg. 4).

She provides a template for a character sketch at the end of the book that I’ve transcribed to my Scrivener file.

Hopefully this will lead to a richer story and a better book!

Shirley Jackson

I kept reading the name Shirley Jackson and decided to check out what all the fuss was about. It has been a joy to follow the path of fantasy, mystery and horror that is her work.

Her fiction was so inspiring that I downloaded a couple of her collected articles, essays and lectures. These were so great I bought a couple of biographies. Each path I followed lead to a treasure. Her articles spoke about her struggle to balance life and writing. Her biographies outlined her drive and determination to be published and the obstacles she overcame to reach that goal.

The best advice (amid lots of great advice) for me personally came from the book “Let Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays and Other Writings” compiled by her children. In it, she states:

“I cannot find any patience for those people who believe that you start writing when you sit down at your own desk and pick up your pen and finish writing when you put down your pen again; a writer is always writing, seeing everything through a thin mist of words…” page 377, Memory and Delusion (Kindle Edition, copyright Random House 2015).

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Image: Wikipedia