Tagged with "writing"
Question Time
Category: Writing
Tags: Writers Abroad writing writers

You know that thing where you look at the WA planner and realise itís your turn to write the weekly blog post and youíve been occupied with visitors all week and your head is devoid of ideas and other members seem to have far better ones than you do. That.

So I sat down to chew over what I could write about. After a few minutes looking at a mental blank sheet of paper, my thoughts turned to other things. Chief among them was an author session Iíve been invited to do at a literary festival soon. Iíve done a few of those in recent years (pic of me above signing copies at one) and I always enjoy the opportunity to talk with readers and other writers in person. You get some great insights and they are an excellent sounding board.

Occasionally, though, you come across someone who wrong foots you with an undiplomatic or just slightly daft remark. These are the ones that leave me struggling for a response.

So, today Iím imagining that I have carte blanche to be honest with impunity. Here are five selected observations/questions Ė all of which have been addressed to me Ė and my imaginary responses.

Will I like your book?

Since I donít know what you like to read, itís hard for me to answer that. Naturally, I hope you will, but if you donít, please donít give it one star on Goodreads without saying what didnít appeal to you about it.

How much money do you make from writing?

I think you might object if I asked you what you earn. You would be surprised at how low the figure is, anyway, at least for fiction. Very few authors make a living from writing fiction.

I lent my copy of your book to all my friends.

I hope your friends enjoy it, too. And if they do, perhaps they will buy it as a present for their friends and family.

Iíd love to have a copy of your book! (I.e. please give me one).

Iím so pleased youíd like to read it, and you can buy it from these retail outlets (list).

Iíve just finished a novel. Would you read it for me?

I lead a busy life. I work, write and have plenty of other activities to keep me occupied. I also do this for a number of writing colleagues already. So, no, Iím afraid I donít have time. And if I criticised it you would probably be very unhappy. I suggest you find a writing buddy/buddies and/or a writing group and share your work with them.

This is all tongue in cheek, of course, and the vast majority of the time one has sensible and enlightening conversations with readers.

As fellow writers, what tactless questions have you had to parry? And how did you reply?†

A Sisterly Inspiration
Category: Writing
Tags: writing content

As we were checking out of our hotel in Slovenia last month I cast my eye over the souvenir stand. Sitting in a wicker basket were a pair of hand knitted socks. Just before we'd left on holiday a package had squirmed through the letter box at home and, yet another, pair of hand knitted socks from my sister fell to the floor. The urge to return the favour proved irresistable. In the spirit of 'coals to Newcastle' I purchased a pair and sent them flying westwards with a suitably frivolus message in the enclosed card.

About a week later a picture of my sister's feet encased in her new socks came through together with a heartfelt thank you. We fell into chatting about my writing and her craft work. She complimented me on my embryonic writing career and I complimented her on her knitting and quilting. My sister knits hundreds of pairs of socks with elegant patterns and designs and, when she isn't spoiling her grandchildren, makes home made quilts.

She gives them away. For our house warming present she sent us a beautiful quilt featuring the state tree of Maine, a glorious pine. I've told her several times how beautiful it is and didn't see any reason why I should stop so I said it again. My sister confessed to having been urged to sell the things she makes. But she refuses for two reasons.

First the materials don't cost very much. The only real expense she incurs is her time but more importantly she said that if she began charging it would change the dynamic and rob her of the joy she gets in creating. Because she gives things away she feels free to express herself exactly as she likes, without compromise, with total honesty.

There was a seed of inspiration in what she said. While I have no intention of matching my sister's generousity in my writing career what she said about the importance of expressing oneself as genuinely as humanly possible, no matter what the discipline, has to be true. I'd spent the previous month puzzling over what sort of shape my writing career should take and my sister provided the final piece. Whatever comes out this escapade, good, bad or indifferent, it will be exactly what I want to express, without compromise, with total honesty.

Smelling of Roses Tags: writing tips

We all know that good stories engage the senses, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves how we can achieve this.

††††††††††† Our sense of smell is one area we often donít consider as much as the other senses. It is a more intrinsic part of us and not one we are always explicit about. But think of the ways that smell can add to a story.

††††††††††† Firstly, smells can help with setting. Consider coconut sunscreen, fish and chips frying, ozone, rotting seaweed and candyfloss and you will have conjured up a seaside landscape without expressly saying so. Likewise antiseptic, boiled cabbage, urine, floor polish and fear might evoke a hospital or old peopleís home.

††††††††††† Smells can also help set an emotion. The sour odour of sweat can show a character is fearful, or a chemical smell might evoke danger and worry. The sweet smell of chocolate can bring happiness and (for me) that first coffee waft of the day brings relief and awakening.

††††††††††† Other smells bring to mind a familiarity or history with a person: lavender for a grandmother or aftershave for a boyfriend; or with an activity like gingerbread at Christmas or pine with cleaning.

††††††††††† A quick search on the internet told me that we react to different types of smell. Different websites offered varied lists but several agreed on the following: fragrant (florals and perfumes), citrus (lemon, lime etc), fruity (non citrus fruits), woody (pine and fresh cut grass), chemical (ammonia, bleach), sweet (chocolate, vanilla), minty (eucalyptus or camphor), toasted and nutty (popcorn, peanut butter), pungent (blue cheese, cigar smoke) and finally decay (rotting meat, sour milk). How many of these do I or you ever think to use in our writing?

††††††††††† A poll by the Daily Mail printed in 2015 recorded the (British) nationís favourite smells as fresh bread baking, cooking bacon and freshly cut grass. At the other end of the scale were bins, drains and body odour. Smelling from either category might determine your characterís mood at any point in time.

††††††††††† But some smells are not static and can reflect a change happening in your story as well. Think of a couple arguing while the toast goes from that nice breakfast smell to the acrid odour of burning, or a cake cooking that turns to carbon while someone sleeps or forgets, or as happens where I live, a farmer starts spreading muck.

††††††††††† And finally the act of smelling has entered our daily language. Will your detective smell something fishy, sniff out the truth or be put off the scent? Can your heroine perceive the sweet smell of success?

††††††††††† As you write your next story, poem or nonfiction piece remember that a smell can offer the reader a short cut to a person, a place or a feeling and tell them something without you necessarily having to explain it.

††††††††††† And youíll be smelling of roses.†


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