Little Devil In My Ear

There’s a condition that plagues all writers. If you come across a writer of any sort who says they never suffer this then they are a liar. It’s the Little Devil On Your Shoulder that whispers in your ear. Some psychologists call it imposter syndrome and writers may refer to it as writer’s block but I know better. It is an invisible devil that sits there waiting for you to write. Just as pen touches paper it begins it’s games. It tells you You Can’t Write. It laughs Call That A Sentence? It says Everyone Will Think That Rubbish!

My devil still pesters me despite kids secretly reading Wishbone Billy at night or having 5 star reviews on Amazon or receiving positive responses from my author visits. That devilish negative voice can be so loud. It stops you from writing anything. You procrastinate: watch junk TV, tidy the house, daydream. The pen lies still.

I am not the only writer to suffer the devil. Vivian Gornick, critic and journalist says of it: I would look at the words on the page – still do – and think, ‘This is so naive. This is so stupid. Who’s going to want to read this?’ It was even said of the brilliant Scott Fitzgerald of Great Gatsby fame that he fell into the devil’s hands after an estatic review from Gilbert Seldes. Poor Fitzgerald, after that every word had to be brilliant, every work deserving of high praise.

The devil by the ear attacks children too. I see it every day. It tells them they can’t write. It laughs at their efforts. Their page remains  empty. Their teacher grows impatient. What can be done? We must fight against the devil together.

Pick up that pen. Strike a blow to the devil’s head. Tie it up with adjectives, smother it in similes, drown it in metaphor. Let your pen roam free. It doesn’t matter what you write. It can be as sensible or silly as you want. You can write. You’ve been writing since your first crayon marks in nursery. Each word deserves an ovation. That devil knows nothing. Kick it away!

This piece of writing waas brought to you care of one squashed devil.

 

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POEM: Pages


We’re going on an adventure
Through tall trees and over mountains
Pass great creatures in fields
And in taverns littered with gold

We’re going on an adventure
Across wide rivers with sea serpents
Through boggy lands where monsters hide
Two brave heroes with armour of foil

We’re going on an adventure
Across plains of racing dinosaurs
Pass cavemen crouching over fires
With our jam sandwiches in our packs

We’re going on an adventure
Under the three moons of Mars
Zooming across the planet on jets
Eating protein pills for energy.

Writing Spaces


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Most writers have a favourite writing space where they like to write and I am no exception.  It is a place where we find it easier to switch into writing mode and concentrate  on the worlds we are creating. They are part of our routine and without them we can writing frustrating, full of distractions, a basic non-starter.

Where writers choose to write can be varied depending on finances, personality or necessity. Stephen King, the famous horror writer, in the early days of his career found himself strapped for cash and the only place he could go to was the cramped laundry room of his house next to the washing machine. Perhaps it was the whine of the spin cycle that helped him produce his book Carrie.

Mark Twain, the writer of children’s classic The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, didn’t have that problem due to the fame and fortune his books brought him. He had a private study built away from his house in the garden where he used to go after a good breakfast to write during the day. If he was wanted by his family, they would blow a horn to fetch him. I can just dream of having such a writing place.

Roald Dahl, the writer of so many great children’s book (and my favourite kid’s author) was more modest in his writing space. He used a shed in his garden with a favourite armchair and a space littered with objects to inspire.

Charles Dickens also had favoured pieces of furniture: a desk and chair. It was so important to his writing that he would often get it shipped with him if he was going to be away from his home for a while.

I don’t have the garden size or finances for a shed or study but do have a ‘work room’ where I have a computer desk and swivel chair. This was where I typed up Wishbone Billy from my notes every evening in 2012 but it wasn’t where I created the first draft. Here, is where JK Rowling and I are similar. Her early drafts of Harry Potter were written in a cafe, for, as she put it, ‘You don’t have to make your own coffee, and you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement.’

I equally have to be with an easy supply of coffee and the gentle bustle of people as they come in and out of the pub I work in. I sit at my favourite table, slightly apart from the main part of the pub, under dim lights, with free coffee refills aplenty tapping away on my Bluetooth keyboard connected to my iPad mini whilst listening to the gentle notes of The Poet by Bruno Sanfilippo  (my go to writing music that always gets me in the zone). It is my writing place as I’m away from the distraction of daytime TV or easy access to the Internet – the internet at the pub is quirky at best so stops me from going down the wormhole of Twitter. Besides, it has the bonus that I can reward myself with a pint after a few productive hours of writing.

What’s your writing space?

WRITING TIP 6: Getting Started

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Stories can start in a number of different ways. I’ll talk you through a few and you can pick the one you want to try or you could try them all!

DESCRIPTION: You’re probably familiar with this one. It’s when you begin your story describing the setting or main character.
EG: The house stood on the hill at the end of the street, looking over all others as it groaned in the wind.

DIALOGUE: You can begin a story with some speech but make sure it’s active and moves the story forward. A conversation about going to the park is not exciting unless there is something sinister waiting.
EG: ‘I hate you. And your mother stinks too!’ she yelled.
‘You just wait. I’ll get my own back on you Mary Jenkins!’ said Pete.

ACTION: You can drop your reader right into the thick of it by starting with some high octane action. But be careful to get the pacing right.
EG: The silver ship soared across the sky, lazers blasting at the saucer. The saucer dived, twisting and turning, engines screaming; it’s rear guns beaming.

NARRATION: This is when the author is setting the scene by speaking directly to the reader.
EG: Everybody knows that when children are asleep, the little popsie-fluffs sneak out from under the carpet and begin.

WRITING TIP 5: Hearing the Perfect

‘Always write (and read) with the ear, not the eye.
You should hear every sentence you write as if it was being read aloud or spoken.’
– C.S. Lewis

Once you’ve finished writing your story don’t think your work is over. There is more to do. You have just finished your first draft. It is now time to do a bit of editing. How you do this is ultimately up to you but I have a tip if you find it difficult to spot errors in your work

The no.1 method is READ YOUR WORK ALOUD. Find a space; a nice quiet spot and let rip. Hear the flow of your narrative and dialogue.
Are there any parts that you found difficult to read? Fix it.
Are there any parts that just weren’t clear to you? Fix it.
Are there any parts when you wanted to stop reading and do something else? Fix it.
Are there any sentences that seemed to never end? Fix it.
Are there any parts where you are repeatedly repeatedly repeatedly repeating the same words/phrases? Fix it.
Are there any parts where a character is just stood still doing nothing for a while? Fix it.
Are there any settings you can’t picture? Fix it.
Are there any characters that only exist in name only? Fix it.

Your ear is your writer’s friend. Trust it. Use it.

POEM: The Spelling Test

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OK children
It’s time for the Spelling Test
Remember: no talking
If I see you talking
I will tear up your paper for cheating
Susan, what did I just say?
That’s right, NO TALKING.
Question 1
Suc-cess
Remember my clue:
Two cuffs, two sleeves
Michael, are you paying attention?

I’em a sawin bird in the ski
dragon wing tell mak me fli
a nite in rmer rides my bak
blazin sward helld hi for attak

OK
Question 2
Ne-ces-sary
Here’s the clue
One cup, two sugars
Remember that
One cup, two sugars
Michael, have you got number one done yet?

The prinsess waits in her towa
walls of vine and flowa
a which chains her too a bed
kacklin lowdly makin dred

Michael! You haven’t even started!
How do you expect to write
if you can’t spell?