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Sunday, 29 January 2017

'To blog - or not to blog? That is the question...'

I was recently involved in a discussion about 'mummy blogs'. Well, when I say 'involved in', I mean I read the discussion and occasionally nodded. 'Mummy Blogs' are where (usually new) mothers blog about their experiences of parenthood and can vary hugely from 'this isn't what I expected, I want to go back to work, the baby's just eaten pooh and the dog's been sick on the carpet', to 'here are my little treasures enjoying an educational game before eating a home-cooked nutritional meal #feelingblessed'.

And it got me thinking... do you read blogs by your favourite authors? Are author blogs less or more interesting than Writing Blogs?

Really well known authors tend less towards blogs (and if they do have a blog, chances are they haven't written it, it's done by their Publicity People, because they have people. Most authors are barely on speaking terms with themselves, let alone people) and more towards newsletters. The 'here's my latest release, out on Tuesday, here's a competition.'  Which tells you a lot about the actual book, but not much about the author behind it.  So, here's my question... do you like reading author blogs? If you do, would you rather read about the author's experience with their grumpy neighbour and how everyone thinks 'working from home' means sitting around drinking coffee all day and running down to the shop in their slippers to buy more biscuits?  And how their hoover is broken and why the cat has that face on?  Or would you rather read purely about the books?

Or, again, would you rather read a Writing Blog, where authors write about the process of writing?
Do you want to read about the person behind the author? (I mean, the actual person, the real one, not someone standing behind the author with a whip and a stern expression muttering something about edits having been promised last week, because that is called a Publisher, and they have their own blogs, thank you).  And I know that reading my blogs is more like reading about the person behind that person, because I've got a lot of people in my head and it seems rude not to give them all a turn.  Or would you rather read about the writing processes of authors?

Or would you rather that we all just shut up and wrote books and didn't bother you with our biscuit preferences and our dog pictures?  Because, if you are going to be like that about it...

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Writing advice - A book doesn't just tell a story!

OK, I'm going to let you in on a little secret here - writing a book isn't just about telling a story.

Are you shocked? Well, don't be, just have a cup of tea and a sit, have a HobNob, it's all right the cat only licked the top one, the rest are fine, and I shall explain what I mean.  By the way, if you write books you will already know this, so please feel free to do some light dusting or clean down the back of the fridge while I explain it to the others, yes, you can take your tea and HobNob with you.  There's some dishcloths in...well, actually I have no idea where the dishcloths live. There might not even be any.  Just sort of waft, it will be fine...

Right. Everyone else. Now.  I know you want to tell your story.  You've got a very good story, say, for example, it's about a woman and a man who meet, and hate each other, then fall in love. Yep, that's a story, but it's not really, is it?

Think about it.  Two people meet and hate each other.  So, why do they ever have anything more to do with one another? I don't hang around with people I hate, it would be uncomfortable, and I only hate people who eat all the biscuits or are unkind to animals, so I wouldn't stay.  So you need an absolutely true and compelling reason for these two people to be together for long enough to fall in love.
Yes, I suppose trying to sabotage a race is a reason...
And then, because your reader wants to believe that their love will last long enough for at least a conversation, if not sex, to take place, then their 'falling in love' has be also be a believable conversion of feelings. One of them can't just see the other being approximately nice to an old lady and think 'oh, he/she's not so bad really, I must be completely and utterly in love with them! Gosh!' These characters must grow and change and become better people during the duration of the story; they must not act like puppets!  And, if at all possible, don't have one of them give up whatever it was that the other person didn't like them for - they both have to compromise (unless it's eating all the biscuits and being unkind to animals. No compromise there. In fact, kill them).

You know I do critiques, don't you?  I mean, in case you didn't know. And if you wanted some more and quite specific writing advice, just bear me in mind, because I've got loads more pictures of Dastardly and Mutley and I'm not afraid to use them...ahem. So. If you've written something and you'd like to have my advice on how to make it not feel like an episode of Wacky Races (I mean, I'm sure it isn't anything like that, but you might think it is and want a second opinion), then drop me an email and I will do my best to help you.

I'll even do the Mutley laugh, if you think it will help.

Right, after that little nugget of advice, I'm going to see if the others have cleaned behind that fridge yet. Keep it real (floats off, making little 'shruggy' motions and carrying a HobNob at a careful angle).

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Writing Guilt. Female phenomenon or general writerly angst?

I was having a discussion recently with a bunch of on-line friends. Yes. I have friends. Okay, so some of them I've never met in real life, but that doesn't stop me calling them friends - and yes, I am very aware of the rules on who I might be allowed to call a friend, believe me, someone with as many injunctions as me is very well aware of that sort of thing.  Anyway. What we were talking about was Writing Guilt.

We were a group of women (this is relevant, honestly) talking about having to get on with writing but our behaving as though writing was our own little 'treat' - something we must do quietly, and only when all housework etc is completed. As though, somehow, our writing was not a valuable contribution to the household earnings and/or our desire to write was something that must be placed lower on the ranking scale than the dog's desire to have a four mile walk and the cat's desire to have a really clean set of pillowcases to sleep on.

I call this Writer's Guilt.  And the topic of discussion with those friends (yes, they really ARE friends. No, not in the same way as Tony Robinson is a friend - see above re injunctions) was whether or not male writers also suffer from Writer's Guilt if they take themselves off to add a chapter to their WIP, or whether they are better able to prioritise their writing lives.  Does this depend on whether the writer is earning a living solely from their writing (ie, is it easier to ignore the hoovering and the dog if your writing is paying for the electricity and the Pedigree Chum, and I can't imagine that Sir Terry Pratchett ever delayed sitting down in front of his keyboard until the bath was clean and he'd completed the Sainsburys order)?   Is it just women who feel somehow guilty about sitting down in front of our keyboards, as though by writing we are neglecting something or someone else in our lives?
And where does this guilt come from? It seems to be felt right across the board, so it's not just an extension of the natural guilt that motherhood thrusts upon you, associated with the feeling of always being in the wrong, lack of sleep and never being able to find a pair of socks that match. Is it ingrained in us from birth? Are there men that also suffer?

Or is it just the way the dog stares at us?
Try not to weaken...