Late nights are a great time to rummage through the bins of your self-loathing and come up with material for the villain of your piece.
If you're hoping to write a 'classic' you're going to need a bad guy. Luckily for you, you've got one to hand.
It's Saturday. Everyone else is out doing things normal to good society. You, my darling introverted writer, are at home. Because this is the perfect time to note down aspects of your own decrepitude. In the new 'Classic' course I will help you find great use for the parts of you you'd thought best to ignore. We're recycling!
List your flaws and failings. Take note of everything that's rubbish about you. If you're struggling to think of any, you may wish to give up and go tweet instead.
You'll have plenty I'm betting. (I give you prompts and a worksheet inside the course so that you can make sure you've got the most useful offences listed.)...
What do I mean by that?
'Speculative' narrative fiction, which appeals to readers aged 8 to 80, which hits the erogenous zones of our primitive imaginations. Think of the all-time best sellers - The Hobbit by Tolkien, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, J.K Rowling's Harry Potter books.
Yes, there are conventions, some call them ‘rules’, to this bold genre which delves into our subconscious and dabbles in magic. But I am going to show you how once you tick all the boxes, you can create a Neverland that is quite unique to you. In fact you won't be able to help it.
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus is the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings. He is usually depicted as having two faces, since he looks to the future and to the past. Janus held the key because he was the gateway to any passage: birth, death, travels, change.
As writers we work between two worlds, with one face set to the actuality, the reality, the individual and particular day to day stuff and the other turned to peer into deeper, darker dreams, the unknown, the common myth, the universal.
We work the Janus method, with a 'back and forth' motion.
‘As I reflect on the process of writing and ask myself how themes enter that process, it seems to me that a certain back-and-forth motion takes place. First you give yourself to (or throw yourself into) the writing, and go where it takes you. Then you step back and ask yourself where you are, whether you...
By Bee Middleton-Manners
The Novelry is this amazing online course in novel writing set up by author Louise Dean, which as well as offering general advice, support and one to one novel writing meetings also offers the Novel in 90 Days course which gives one the kick up the ass they might need to write the first draft of their novel in just 90 days.
90 days might not seem like a lot of time to write about 70,000 words, but once you get going with it and write daily then the goal doesn’t seem so far out of reach. It’s definitely doable even if you have a full-time job – you just have to be willing to put the time and effort in and follow the daily lessons that guide you every step of the way.
My favourite part is the Inspiration Phase right at the beginning where you’re given all the tools and inspiration you need to get started. It really gave me a whole new sense of creative writing purpose that I...
But, you feel stale.
You keep tidying stuff, chucking out crap, or wiping down the kitchen counters.
You toss books aside as ‘too easy’ or too hard’.
You turn about your life, like a cat trying to find a way to settle.
You’re sentimental. About old memories, old things. Objects which have no value suddenly seem vital. Images of loneliness or reunion, scenes at the airport move you to tears. You miss people you haven’t thought of in ages. You feel like you learnt a lot last year, but you’re worn out.
You need to shake the snow dome of your life. Hard. Watch where it all settles, and maybe let a snowflake or two land on your tongue. You need to recover the child you once were.
You can keep trudging through the snow that’s gone grey or you can take the sled into the New Year.
You have all you need to be the person you want to be. Apart from a sled.
Make an idea a...
I’ve never paid attention to the features of my story which might make it more likely to be a bestseller.
But I’m all grown up now, so I thought I'd best take a closer look at the difference between the novels I've long admired and fiction's bestsellers of the last hundred years to understand what makes one book sell millions, and another thousands.
Not all of these three features need to be present in the one story, but of course 'layering' them up in the winter of our publishing discontent, might be smart.
'Literary' fiction works the other way round, and deposits an extraordinary person in a normal or 'normalized' situation - think Orwellian or Kafkaesque dystopian nightmares. We have a whole range between classics and bestsellers best exemplified by The Bourne Identity on the one hand which has an extreme situation meet its match...
‘Playing’ as children, is partially a rehearsal for growing older, for trying on lives. As children, we put on the clothes - the ties and high heels - of our parents and try them for size. We try out situations too. I love the video clip above from the hit reality TV series - The Secret Life of 5 Year Olds.
It’s an interesting age, says Dr Laverne Antrobus, one of the psychologist-commentator-spies on the TV show: “They are going through a phase of experimentation, trying on different identities, to see which one fits.”
Maybe writers don’t leave this phase?
Some lovely soundbites from the show:
“I want to be a vet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and the Queen Saturday and Sunday.”
“When I grow up, I want to be a jelly maker, a pencil sharpener… a toy maker”
With a romance blossoming in the treehouse, five year olds Sienna and Arthur play 'mums and dads' in one episode. Sienna wants him to kiss...
First of all WELL DONE for creating so much material. Hats off and I'm betting you’ve struggled on and dragged the novel along against your own fading hopes for a few chapters now.
Fear not. If a novel sags - it’s usually easily diagnosed and fixed.
We are never meaner or less sympathetic to anyone than we are to ourselves. So that’s not a good ‘hero’ for a novel because if you’re lacking in sympathy for your hero or heroine, the reader will be too.
There are quick fixes:
1. A Make-Over - change everything superficial about the main character. This is my ‘back of the head’ test. You must be able to see the back of her head. Immediately, that’s not you since you haven't seen yours. Immediately, it asks you to think about their hair colour and build, their posture (tense,...
1. Write fast
The Brexit vote was 23 June 2016. Ali Smith's novel Autumn, dubbed the first Brexit novel, was published October 16th. Ali Smith wrote this book within three months or ninety days.
"It’s a brilliant and unsettling conceit, leaving you marvelling that writing this good could have come so fast." (Financial Times.)
"I've been thinking about writing a seasonal series of books for about 20 years now, and in 2014, after finishing How to Be Both, I realised it was time to start. This might simply be because I knew now it was possible, after Hamish Hamilton made such a beautiful finished book-form for How to be Both in a matter of weeks (!), to turn a book around quite speedily compared to the usual time it takes, and this excited me about how closely to contemporaneousness a finished book might be able to be in the world, and yet how it could also be, all through, very much about stratified, cyclic time." Ali Smith.
I commend to you today John McGahern and his work ‘Amongst Women.’ He was not a plotty writer, but he was a genius writer, supremely elusive in his work.
McGahern adhered closely to Flaubert’s guiding ethos that the writer should ‘be present everywhere, but not visible, like God in nature’.
If you have not discovered him you should. ‘The Pornographer’ is on the hero book list for The Novel in Ninety course.
Mr McGahern came to rock boats, not lull cradles.
As you will read in the blog tomorrow, I’m venturing to suggest you raise your game and follow rabble-rousing footsteps.
John McGahern, like so many of the greats, wrote for two or three hours a day, with ‘a lot of time looking out the window in between’. (Slow, steady writing beats bingeing; it produces results, not emotional fatigue.)
‘In fiction, the most powerful weapon the writer has is suggestion. I think that nearly all good writing is suggestion, and...