Autumn has now come and I have taken a huge new decision to write my next novel as part of a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing. This came about as the result of a serendipitous meeting with Professor Martin Goodman who is Professor of Creative Writing within the English Department at Hull as well as Director of the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing, who I am fortunate to now have as my supervisor.
After teaching creative writing myself and running a publishing company for so many years, I felt that after giving so much out, I needed to recharge my batteries and get some input and guidance myself. I am tremendously excited about this new project and the challenges it will bring.
Autumn is always a good time to make a new beginning. Think of something you could do to support you in your own writing. It might be to sign up for a course, to set up a group of other writers, or to find someone who will be a guide or reader of your work.
Next weekend, 13-15 September, is our three-day weekend workshop, for anyone who has a writing project. We’ll be giving you lots of writing prompts to fire your imagination, setting intriguing exercises and there will be opportunity to read your work and receive feedback. The workshop will give you a dedicated time and space to finish that chapter, work through a block, or simply press on with your writing.
The September course will take place at the New Cavendish Club near Marble Arch, and we currently have just three places left.
I will be taking part in a Sponsored Write for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support. The event takes place on Friday 13 September, in a café in Ealing, or, if like me you have other commitments that day, at a time of your choice (I am writing with others the day before, Thursday 12th). If you would like to join in, please register with Rachel Knightley at: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Just Giving page to give your sponsors is at http://www.justgiving.com/newwriting2013
You can write whatever you want – you can get on with your novel or write a short story, or anything you choose – (there is an optional theme which is Quality of Life). If you can make the 13th, the best time to write is between 10.30am and 4.30pm, with an hour for lunch (usually at the North Star pub.
It’s a great way to get some writing done and give to charity at the same time, so I hope some of you will join me in signing up.
Our intensive summer workshop starts tomorrow, and is fully booked. There are a number of people who wanted places but couldn’t get on the course this year, so I thought it would be a good idea this week to put a few of the exercises on this blog so others can join in.
This year we are running the course around objects and how they are used in fiction. Objects can act as a plot device – Hitchcock famously coined the term a ‘MacGuffin’ for that object everyone wants but not all can have – and objects can also acts as clues or foreshadow things that happen later. They can be used as a way of revealing character (what objects does your character carry in their bag/keep in their house/ collect/treasure?); as a symbol or metaphor; as a trigger for memories.
Just to get started, go around your house and find two or three interesting, unusual objects. Or pick objects from this selection here.
Describe each of these in turn. If you’re writing a story, think about which character might own this object, where it came from, what they feel about it. Write about a memory the character has which each object triggers.
Then write a short piece which links all three objects.
We are very excited to go to press today with our second anthology of writing by our students.
We’ve been working on this for over a year now, with selecting the 21 pieces, editing them, designing the book, and going through the whole production process. The anthology will be available from the end of July, and we are planning a launch event in September.
The anthology is entitled ‘Collages’ after one of the stories, and the jacket has been designed by Emmanuelle Chazarin and Jane Havell. Each image in the collage is linked to one of the stories. Here it is; it would be great to have your feedback.
You’ll be able to buy the anthology from our books page soon.
We are running a ‘How to get Published’ session at the Groucho Club from 10.30am-5.00pm on Saturday 25th May.
The session is with CCWC founder and tutor Maggie Hamand, and Natalie Butlin from Christine Green Author’s Agents, and there will be a talk from bestselling author Gaile Parkin about the experience of publishing her successful debut novel, “Baking Cakes in Kigali”.
The morning will focus on writing a synopsis, a covering letter and how to format your manuscript, and the afternoon on how agents and publishers operate, the current publishing scene, and the talk from Gaile.
If you attend the whole day, the cost is £90, including tea and coffee, and there is an option just to attend the afternoon for £45.
Do let us know if you’d like to attend – there’s a maximum of 10 places for the whole day and 16 for the afternoon.
Snow has fallen. Suddenly all our normal plans are suspended, events are cancelled, and we huddle indoors in front of a fire. The world has been silenced and in our back garden a pair of foxes scratch disconsolately in the snow. Even the usually noisy cars pass slowly and silently down the icy road, their engines muffled. Darkness falls, and all is still.
Write a snowy scene in your own novel. Think about how the snow might force some characters together, keep others apart. Plans might be changed, things that were going to happen might now be suspended. The coldness outside might reflect the coldness inside people’s hearts, or might instead provide a startling contrast to an inner passion. I think of Yuri Zhivago and Lara huddled together in the icy mansion at Varykino in Boris Pasternak’s magnificent novel.
If your plans have been cancelled, use this as an opportunity. Go out in the snow, walk a little, listen to the scrunching sound beneath your feet, the uncanny stillness and silence,breathe in the sharp air. And then go in and write.
Novelist Christie Watson, whose debut novel “Tiny Sunbirds Far Away” won the Costa Best First Novel Award last year, is joining us to teach an advanced course on Sunday afternoons at The Groucho Club from 27 January.
Christie recently gave our students an inspiring talk about how her novel came to be written and published and about the long and arduous path from first putting words to paper to getting the book into print.
We are delighted to have Christie joining the team and look forward very much to working with her.
Starting a new term always gives me a spurt of enthusiasm for my own writing. Perhaps it’s the sight of keen new faces or the magic of creativity which is generated in the group. Some of the exercises work so well that while I’m teaching them I’m itching to try some of them out for myself and see what comes up.
Even if you’re not signed up for a course, this is a good time in the year to get down to writing. The evenings are getting short, the weather is miserable, and there’s nothing quite so appealing as settling down for the evening with a notebook and a warm drink or a glass of wine and forgetting the outside world. After all, when you’re writing, it can be summer in your head, you can be thousands of miles away across the sea, and you can completely lose track of where you are and all the messy complications of everyday life. What could be more appealing than that?
I came away to France for most of August and thought I had packed everything I needed – but as always vital things got left behind, like my swimsuit and the login and password for this blog! I thought about how we both forget the things we really need – like the swimsuit, as without my daily swim in the sea I am quite miserable – and the things that perhaps we would rather not remember, like things connected with work.
I thought about how much we can learn about a character by the things they leave behind them and the way they deal with the loss.
Write about your character forgetting things – large things, small things, important things, trivial things. How does the character deal with having lost or misplaced something? Are they irritated, distressed, angry? Does it bring something up from the past – a time when something else was lost? Do they try to immediately replace the thing, or try to do without it? What are the impacts on the story of forgetting something? Small actions in fiction can have enormous consequences, both for the characters and the plotline.