Sunday, 22 June 2014

Writing Workshops

Yesterday I had the privilege of going to a writer's workshop. It's rare for the stars to align so that I can attend things like that - finding a babysitter for a whole day for four young children is hard enough in itself, plus it has to be local and affordable. This day was organised in a local library by Derbyshire's literature Development Officer, who sends out monthly newsletters by email to writers in Derbyshire, letting them know about opportunities like this one. If you want to receive her newsletter, her address is I'd recommend it - she also has details of writing groups, competitions and so on.

The writing exercises we took on were similar to ones I've done before at workshops, but that doesn't take away from how useful it is to focus your mind for a whole day on your ambitions, nor how fascinating it is to discuss what you've produced with others. For one exercise we wrote about a small selection of objects; the breadth of ideas was surprising - it's wonderful how differently minds work (and what a good job, too).

So here are the three biggest things I've brought away from it.

Firstly, the author who led the workshop, Emma Pass (who writes YA novels) talked about the structure of our plot and making sure that the obstacles our characters meet escalate in size. I was struck by this, as I think I may have failed at this in my current work in progress, so I'm going to be heading back to the post-its on that.

Secondly, when Emma talked about her journey to publication, I was astounded at the extent of rewriting required by agents and publishers, even after a manuscript has been accepted for publication. I knew that writers have to be prepared to rewrite and rework right up to the wire, but I didn't know that sometimes this involves major structural changes, such as changing endings or middles or getting rid of whole sub-plots. I'm chewing on this one. I'm not sure if it reassures me, that when I've done my absolute best, gone through rigorous rewrites and edits, had outside feedback, and finally have done all I can, that others will still help batter it into even better shape (which essentially I'd then have credit for!) or if the thought of all that rewriting, and the implication that you've not got it right even when you've done well is quite soul-destroying.

I'm going to take it as positive, actually. Anything that makes your writing better has got to be worth it, however painful and personally discouraging.

Thirdly, I brought away renewed commitment to those dreams of mine. It was a reminder to persevere, to make time for what I want; to keep on keeping on.

Oh, there was one other thing I brought away. I brought away copies of Emma Pass's intriguing novels. I'm looking forward to reading them - maybe you should buy one too!

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