Thursday, 30 January 2014

All writers are dreamers, optimists, romancers. Read 'The Romancer'.

New Edition, Updated,On Kindle Now

My revised and updated my How To... book about writing, the  'The Romancer''  is on Amazon Kindle today and will be out next week as a new paperback. 

If you are a writer or wish you were, this book might get you going again or simply get you going for the first time.

If you get to read it and like it let me know. Share your own experience with me.  (Perhaps there is another book in there*...) 

It's not necessary to write a much valued review for me on Amazon, but truly that would be the cherry on the cake...

'Dreamers, optimists, visionaries, enthusiasts, escapists.’ Wendy Robertson declares that all writers are ‘Romancers’.  In this book she explores the way memory and dreaming have been at the roots of her inspiration for her fiction.  Here in 'The Romancer', aspiring and experienced writers will find writing processes and practical approaches – including her forty day plan for writing a novel – to re-imagine their own lives to inspire their fiction and develop their writing. '

* That would make an intriguing new anthology about writing wouldn't it?

Monday, 27 January 2014

A Writer's Afternoon in Very Early Spring.

Afternoon light in my garden

These flowered through winter into spring
 Here feel we but the penalty of Adam,
The seasons' difference, as the icy fang
And churlish chiding of the winter's wind,
Which, when it bites and blows upon my body,
Even till I shrink with cold, I smile.
(As You Like It, 2.1.12-16) 

Snowdrops insisting on their earlu presenc, always come first.

I am longing for some sun and some heat.

Yesterday I dashed out to get the papers and in the sleety rain and the raw wind I was a miserable, cold soul.

I came inside and sat on a long sofa by the fire, turned on a powerful spotlight and read a book from my pile of must-reads. (Adele Geras' Facing the Light)

Warming up. I pulled out a notebook and wrote a list of all the things I have to do this spring, I stopped at fifteen and thought I must try to whittle it down.

I pulled out my drafting book and pored over my sketches for the forthcoming book. I wondered whether it should be a novella. This literary form has been much on my mind lately.

Then I looked  outside saw the dark afternoon light. \My heart sank..

So I went outside and my eye settled on the primulas which - against all odds - have flowered through this damp chill season.

And I knelt down to see the snowdrops insisting on struggling through the detritus of a garden winter.

Hope,  then ...

Monday, 20 January 2014

Compelled to Write - My Writing Process

Today is "My Writing Process" blog tour day, when writers post about their writing process. Last week, the inspired Kathleen Jones, posted hers.  Thank you Kathleen for inviting me on your Writing Process blog tour. I read your post and was inspired.  Click here for Kathleen's post 

My Writing Process

Q. What am I working on?  I have just sent to my agent the completed revision of my novel ‘Herding Peacocks’ about a group of writers on retreat in a house in France and...   ‘You can’t have rules for writers. That would be like herding peacocks,’ says crime-writer Ruthie Dancing, who suspects her plan for a Writer’s Retreat in might be a folly. Still, she gathers together a diverse group of writers - from young Joe, who lives in a homeless hostel, to the venerable romance writer Francine, whose life, going back to World War 2, is at the core of this novel. Then there are the cerebral poet Mariela and sociopathic Abby with her dangerously passive boyfriend Felix. Ruthie’s honoured guest at the retreat  is Booker Prize-winner Kit Hallam. And then there is American actor-playwright Tom Roache who comes join the fun and perhaps nail a part in the film of Kit’s prizewinning novel.’…

I hope my lovely agent and the editors like my new baby. The writing profession is unique in that with each major project we writers are reduced to an anxious infant, hoping that our parents approve of our precious product.

As Kathleen pointed out in her last post this situation is in a changing state with with the independent eBook publishing revolution. I have joined in this, recently using Amazon Createspace to publish my novels Paulie’s Web and Cruelty Games on Kindle and in Paperback. This was a truly pleasing and empowering process that I would recommend to anyone disappointed in the present state of mainstream publishing. My next personal publishing project with them will be to republish my two short story collections Knives and Forms of Flight.

In this intensely weird 'waiting game' I am also waiting for publishers reactions' to my novel Lines of Desire.
This one is  set on the island of Britain in 383 AD when a great love story blossoms between Magnus Maximus, (in the Welsh myth Macsen Wledig), the Roman military leader in Britain, afterwards for five years Roman Emperor. At th ecentre of the novel is Elen the legendary daughter of a powerful British king in the place we now call Wales. Magnus is fascinated by Elen, a gifted Seer and healer who is a ‘pathfinder’ and whose artistic, talented ancestors made straight roads in Britain long before the Romans. Now, as the Roman Empire begins to crumble, these two lovers symbolise the merging of the spiritual, sophisticated Celtic culture (with its esoteric rites and rituals) and the pragmatic military culture of Rome which is beginning to embrace Christianity as a useful political tool

At present,ever compelled,  I'm involved in reading and researching  for a novel about an as-yet un-named (do you have any names to suggest?)  ex-military prisoner, painter and poet. It's set in Bohemian London society just after World War Two. 
      I reckon you need to read and explore a hundred sources -  letters, histories, diaries and  artifacts before embarking on a fiction that will spring authentically  out of those times and events. 
      My working title for this one is Wraparound - after a short story written last year out which will be the basis for this novel. More about this on Life Twice Tasted anon...

Q. How does my work differ from others of its genre?    A perpetual drawback for me -  in publishers eyes - is that my work is seen as not sufficiently ‘genre-specific’. This is demonstrated by above, I suppose, by my diverse (some say crazy...) work-in-progress list above.  

      Interestingly this diversity has never been any kind of drawback for my precious readers, who themselves are a pretty diverse, imaginative, intelligent, well-read lot,

Q. Why do I write what I do?  The past-in-the-present dominates my mind, my imagination and my writing. I always 'see' individuals, unique characters in their times. And I tell their stories.

      I have lived through interesting times and have been a compulsive writer since I was eight. Anais Nin once said that writers taste life twice, once when they experience it and secondly when they write it. This so very much expressed my own writing experience that I named this blog Life Twice Tasted.
     My novels are mostly set in some crosspiece of time, place and the unique lives of my characters. Look at my Lavender House set in London in the 2010s and goes back to life in the 1960; and The Woman Who Drew Buildings , set in present day Durham City,  which  goes back to Poland in the 1991.  And An Englishwoman in France set in contemporary France  2006 and goes back  through the Middle Ages to even earlier times. . My new novel, Lines of Desire, is entirely set in Britain in 383 AD but in its way looks back thousands of years and forward to imperial attitudes today.

Q How does your writing process work?  My writing process has evolved from the early days when autobiographical scraps stumbled on into stories that were published, then into longer stories that evolved into young adult novels which were also published,  then into much longer adult novels that required reaching and research to absorb the feelings of a time and a place to I could write my novels freely and imaginatively. These were also published.
 (Add to this the practical and personal insights obtained from my five years as writer in residence in a women’s prison, from which emerged my novel Paulie’s Web emerged.)

I suppose my ingrained habit of  writing every day, every year, has meant I have taught myself a good deal about the writing process and how it works for me. I read, think and dream for some months - often years – before a  whole idea emerges, in the end welding all this together into shapes in my head, like iron filings tapped by magnets.

This is the most  exciting part of the process and often happens when I am editing and working on the earlier novel, I sometimes have to fight quite hard  to keep it at bay until I’ve completed and sent off the earlier novel. Like Kathleen Jones I start writing by hand in notebooks and drafting books. (See my last post…)

Then I transcribe and tentatively edit this draft onto my computer and play about with it for a time. Then by some kind of organic magic I begin to recognise that I have a novel there.

Then I print off the whole novel and look at it before giving it two buddies - my colleagues at RoomTo Write for their opinion. Then I enter all my own amendments and viable suggestions from my buddies. Then I go through it editorially yet again, And again.

I relish  this editorial stage. It is finicky and detailed – the opposite of the seductively exciting flamboyant early stages where the words flow onto the page and the pages pile up,
       I think all writers nowadays have to develop editorial skills to a high level because publishers are not prepared to invest so much in the editorial process and like near perfect copy and joined up storytelling.

Equally important is the fact that in these days of personal and independent publishing - enabled by companies like Amazon Createspace - the writer her or himself has to ensure the perfection of their own copy before they upload their baby and send it out into the world.  
       For me the kingdom of self-publishing  out there is divided into two categories. One category features good novels so well edited that the reader’s mind never thinks about the edit, The other category features potentially equally good  novels whose under-edited  state sticks out like a sore thumb and does the writer no justice.  Nothing is ever perfect but it is our job as writers now os  to make our babies as perfect as they can.

I am well aware that  everyone has a unique approach to the writing process but I think the great key is to begin by writing freely and very consistently - eventually to create a critical mass of relatively coherent prose text with an original story at its core. In time will inevitably form up into articles, poems, short stories and novels.
        In this critical mass of writing the writer will find her voice, her style, her themes, her  form and the default errors built into her intuitive writing.  Recognising all this through several writing processes must show in better and better writing in each successive novel.

Now I am passing the Writing Process Baton on this Blog Tour to a writer whose work I admire,

So the baton goes on to novelist Avril Joy.

Avril Joy writes novels, short stories and poetry. Her first novel The Sweet Track was published in 2007 by Flambard Press. In 2012 she won the inaugural Costa Short Story Award. .

Click here to  Read Avril


Friday, 3 January 2014

Small Aspects of Courage for the Writer

Being a writer demands acts of courage, large and small:

Among the large ones are:

Working entirely alone and sustaining your self belief

Writing with honesty and telling the truth

Tapping into strong elements of your own experience and telling some kind if truth that will relate to more generic human experiences.

Having faith in your vision of the world even if it doesn’t fit the genre-ridden business model of modern publishing,

But in thirty years of writing I have discovered other small acts of courage which involve opening a new notebook and making a start on new work.

I’ve written here before about the significance of notebooks - and writing by hand with an ink-pen - as the first stage in serious work, letting the blood flow from your heart down your arm into the ink and onto the page.

One consequence of trumpeting this theory all over the place is that good friends have given me fine notebooks to work in. I’ve just finished working through two such notebooks (fine board covers and stitched spines so the book lies flat …) I left the second one in London with LickedSpoon and am waiting for it to come to me through the post.

So now, beginning a new year and new work I cast around on my shelves and pick up a blank notebook – a present from a friend from the Middle East. This is a wonderful notebook – its cover is a lump of thick hide and its 150 pages in five hand-stitched sections are made of handmade pages pressed with wisps of tiny flowers and leaves.

It takes a small act of courage to mark, to write on such pages.

I see on the front page I wrote New Journal November 2006  Dreams etc and Other Things. Very grandiose. Perhaps fitting for such an extraordinary notebook, there follows some four pages about the death of a great friend and something about leaves on the ground. And about my grandson being away and missing him.

Then, nothing! This notebook has clearly been too beautiful to use - the beautiful pages too precious to mark.

But 2014 is to be the year of courage. So I have decided to use this magnificent object as an ordinary notebook – for writing lists, observations, inspired paragraphs for the new book, for scribbled drawings, and blog drafts like thus

At first it’s like writing my way up a hill, my ink-pen finding its way through a new landscape, dislodging here and there a tiny pressed petal or a strand oif grass. The ink suffaces.
In the end, like many things that seem hard, almost impossible to begin it has been easy. And, as a tiny petal floats off the page it seems like an experience worth writing about. As you can see

I only wish you could feel this paper. Wx


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