A changing wind

Sometimes, you just have to read a really good book (or three) to make you want to pick up your pen and get to work. Yes, great books can also have the opposite effect, where you think the writing is so good there isn’t much point attempting anything yourself, but usually, reading something I love inspires me to get back to the notebooks.

After all – we should acknowledge our own style and story as being unique and stop comparing ourselves to others. Whatever you write needs you and you alone to write it.

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Anyway, I’ve now finished the Fillory trilogy (the books that is – the TV series continues), and it has blown some more wind into my writerly sails. It has reignited my desire to finish the story I’ve been working on since last year and which has been set aside for lengthy periods since then (it could well have been finished long ago). However, I’m not too worried about that, as I’ve written shorter stories and poetry in between and am a firm believer that you need to be in the right frame of mind to write particular tales. I’ve also realised that I find it much easier to write in the winter, when the days are short, the evenings long and chilly, and the fire warm at my feet. I’m by no means a ‘sun person’; I think I just find the atmosphere towards the year’s end more inspirational to my story-telling! (Which is perhaps reflective of the kind of stories I write…)

Anyway, having moved on to a very different type of book for my next read – an Arab novel which is very firmly set in reality – if I want to meander through a more fantastical type of landscape, then at this moment in time, I’ll need to conjure it up myself. And that’s quite ok – it’s like I’ve just been doused with inspiration and I’m ready to let the ideas flow from my head into the pen. I’ve been reminded of what we can achieve with our words and I’m back on form again. And – maybe it’s because our Northern Irish summers sometimes resemble winter, but the mood right now seems just about right…

Now – where’s that notebook…

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Fillory – and further…

If my title makes any sort of sense to you, then you will also be a reader of the Lev Grossman Magicians trilogy – or be watching the 5* TV series inspired by the same. The world of Fillory has been described as being like a Narnia for adults or, if you’re watching the show, it’s been referred to as a grown-up Harry Potter tale. The TV and book versions differ a fair bit in their form, as is to be expected, though their make-up remains very much the same…

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My feeling is that, as we all know, there are no really original stories left in this, or any other, world. Hence, there will always be comparisons to those novels which came before. Of course in reality, Brakebills College for Magical Pedagogy, isn’t really like Hogwarts at all, and Fillory isn’t really like Narnia, though it’s easy to see why they’ve been compared. The ingredients are similar – young people learning magic and travelling to other worlds; a beast out to get them – it’s a new spin on a classic type of tale. Which is, of course, where the author’s skill comes into play – how Grossman makes his stories come alive in fresh and unusual ways.

His fans are pretty high-profile in the writing world, with the likes of Junot Diaz, George R. R. Martin and The New Yorker among the many to rave about the writing. All three books were also previously New York Times Bestsellers – which I love to see for  the fantasy fiction genre.

Usually, I prefer to have read the book before watching a film or TV version of it, as I like to have confirmed the characters and the landscape in my mind before the screen dictates it to me. However, I stumbled upon The Magicians TV series before buying the books, so have actually been reading and watching at the same time – which has made it interesting in terms of seeing how the scriptwriters have adapted the novels. I’m currently on the final part of the trilogy, but there are elements in the TV series which have migrated into the series already – the writers weaving the book narratives into the show in unexpected but very clever ways.

To be so far ahead in the books but to be watching the series at the same time, makes for an intriguing insight into how two types of writers create a story – for the page and for the screen. I can’t say which I prefer, to be honest, as they both tell the story in different ways, each one playing to its audience perfectly.

Lots of novels get adapted for stage and screen these days, so from a writer’s point of view, I think it’s useful to see how much a story may seem to change on screen, yet retain all the essential elements of the tale. Indeed, with TV always keen to add in a dash more drama to the mix, it can really bring a story to life…

I’ll always prefer to read the books – the page, after all, is where every story starts – but it must be nice for an author who’s achieved all they can with a book, to see their imaginings enjoy a second life on screen. I for one, can’t wait to see how it all ends…

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Submission success

Good news this week… one of my short stories has been published in the latest edition of the SHIFT-Lit Derry magazine. I’m looking forward to seeing what other writing lies within and adding it to my reading list! My own story is inspired by the coast and also by someone I know, so let’s hope it goes down well…shift

Summer here in NI heralds the arrival of more than one literary festival and event, though I haven’t been able to get along to much of these so far this year due to work commitments. However, submitting to journals and interviewing authors all helps to keep one inspired and I won’t let the summer pass without making sure I get along to some sort of literary occasion.

In the meantime, I’m still scribbling bits and pieces here and there, and I WILL get that short story finished for the end of June – if only to enjoy the satisfaction of having submitted another piece of work…

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Writing revelations

A good storyteller, like anyone who’s skilled at their craft, makes the art of creating a story look incredibly easy. When we see the finished product – the story, the drawing, or whatever it is that you create – all too often the process of work that produced the end result just isn’t acknowledged.

Even the best writers have multiple drafts of a story floating about before they get it ‘just right’ and are happy enough to put their work out into the world. Even then, they’re usually never completely satisfied that it is what it should be.wallpaper-830417_1280

I’m currently reading Claire Keegan’s book of short stories, Walk the Blue Fields, which is of course, a perfect example of someone who’s great at what they do, but who makes it look deceptively easy.

Does it take away the magic of writing if we make it clear just how many drafts and scribblings out we do in the course of creating a story? Or does it educate readers and make them more appreciative of our work?

As a copywriter, I find that outlining the process of writing and explaining the value of it is of the utmost importance in my day-to-day job. Most people see the finished content you create and assume it was easily done and place little value on what is actually a very valuable commodity. With creative writing however – with novelists and short story writers and poets – do we need the same disclosure? The process is perhaps a little better understood anyway – most people know books get edited, and I’m not sure they’d necessarily buy a novel quicker if they knew it had taken X amount of drafts to create.

Writers of course, are perhaps more interested in hearing about other writers’ habits than the general reading public. I’ve interviewed lots of authors over the years and feedback always references the writing process – we wonder at the number of drafts someone had before they finished their story; we agree with them that mornings are best for writing (for some!) and feel relieved that we’re on the same page in our working styles. IMG_1697

My own writing process has been quite disrupted this week, with an ill dog (I refer you back to my previous post where I mentioned his love of scavenging….), a press launch and work in between. I’ve managed a little reading, but the writing has suffered.

I know my own writing process however, and that I can have periods of ebb and flow as part of this. Ultimately though, I always end up scribbling away in that notebook…

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Wanderings…

FullSizeRenderFive days into June and my literary wanderings (aka dog-walking) are somewhat askew, with 10pm presently the norm for our evening rambles (which are usually around 6.30/7pm), and 7am or earlier being the usual preference for the morning. I find the coolness and the quiet of these mornings and evenings much more peaceful and inspirational than the heat of the day could ever be – when visitors and weekenders and those just taking a trip outdoors after work are nowhere to be seen.

Would I walk at these times without the pup to prompt me? Hmm… I’d love to think so but I know I would not. I never did before he arrived – not in the early morning anyway! And yet, I’ve mentioned before – as others have too – of the positive effect solitary walking can have on a writer. Whether it’s flooding your head with ideas or siphoning off cluttered thoughts to clear your mind, walking is great for granting new perspectives on just about everything and opening the door to creativity – or at least pointing you in the general path towards it.

Where I often used walking in recent times for teasing out ideas to write, I’ve become more prone of late to letting it simply still my thinking. Aside from the fact that the pup is a complete scavenger and I’m always watching him in this sultry weather to make sure he doesn’t start scoffing baby rabbit carcasses in the dunes (this happens more than you’d think!) – which does tend to break up one’s train of thought – when you have too many ideas floating about, sometimes it’s just good to forget them for a while.FullSizeRender (1)

When you return, you then feel refreshed and ready to write… Well, that’s the ideal outcome anyway!

Since we last spoke, I’ve written my poem and, whether it was due to walking out those thoughts or not, I managed to pen it in one go with just a little editing afterwards, and am very happy with the result. I’ve also written a little more of my formerly stalled story and remembered that I have an unfinished short story which had been started with the view of submitting to a competition. This closes at the end of June, so I’m still within deadline and just might have to get that completed and sent off.

In the meantime, I’ll be keeping up with those refreshing summer walks. They might just do the trick…

 

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Rainbow writing

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Sometimes a little time apart can help your writing to grow…

When you’ve left a piece of writing aside for a little longer than intended, the time between the last word written and the next letter to touch the page often grows exponentially.

The rule of thumb being – the more distance there is between you and the writing, the more difficult it becomes to dive back into it and pick up the story. So, you leave it a little longer still, you think perhaps it’s too much effort to reacquaint yourself with the intricacies of the plot and eventually, the poor old story is relegated to the ‘forget about it’ pile.

I don’t like to leave anything incomplete however, so my own piece of writing in this scenario, which started off well but sort of stalled as day-to-day workload consumed my time. has now been revived. (It was a ‘in the wee small hours’ sort of a revival). Let’s just say the story has been on simmer for a while, but now the heat’s being turned right back up. Inspiration/the creative urge can strike at any time and, while I’ve written other things since I last tackled this particular tale, it seems the time is right now to pick this one back up.

I’m not quite sure where it’s headed, but I have a skeleton trail to follow, so we’ll see where it takes me…colorful-1312799_1280 Indeed, having been away from it for a while, I now feel refreshed and more excited to delve into it.

Having just finished a short story last week, I think these will perhaps take a backseat now for a little while, as I focus on this longer piece. I’m interested to see how it will all end and I think that this time around, less distraction will be good. There’s just one wee poem waiting in the wings, but it won’t detract too much from ‘the plan’.

After all – it’s good to keep a little bit of rainbow in your writing…

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Reading:writing ratio

In the past couple of weeks I’ve been doing a heck of a lot of writing – just not necessarily the fictional kind. Yes, copywriting has been consuming my time, but my own stories have not been totally neglected – I’m currently editing one I wrote a little while ago to send out to a journal and I’m determined to get more words on the page during what’s left of this weekend.Flying letters

I’m in a bit of a reading haze at the minute though. Some writers don’t like to read a lot or indeed, at all, while they’re writing – particularly books in their own genre – but what can I say, I like to multi-task. Reading feeds the imagination and to me, not to read while you write is to deny yourself literary sustenance for no good reason. Plus, it’s just good to take a break from your own words for a while with someone else’s.

I think most people are tuned in enough to stop themselves from blatantly copying work they read, and the great thing is – you just never know what ideas it might spark off for your own story…

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