At the end of last year I created a workshop in Gibraltar for those who might be interested in writing. If anyone ever had an inkling of a desire to write a horror story, thriller novel or a Catherine Cookson romance then this is the place to begin! Here will you find advice, encouragement and mentoring in the fields of fiction and non-fiction.
Each week I provide writing prompts and help people to develop stories and improve their skills. I also discuss the different writing markets, publishing channels, and preparing work for submission. The world of publishing is something most people fear but in reality, there are thousands of markets looking for stories, novels, articles, screenplays, reports, readers letters, magazine content and so on.
Here is just one example. If you have some specific knowledge on the subject of Cars or Health or Cookery, there will be a health or car or cookery magazine (or probably dozens) out there looking for articles. Don’t forget housewives write and get paid for fictional stories in popular magazines too. The only difference between these writers and every one else, is that they have practiced their writing and learnt what it is these magazines want.
I have found that many people often like the idea of writing, but lack confidence in their language abilities.
Let me tell you that grammar and spelling are important, (of course they are, for without them we wouldn’t be able to make head nor tail of what we are reading,) but it is not the most essential to being a writer.
I repeat not the most essential!
If you are reading this and not looking in your dictionary every two seconds, then don’t worry, spelling and grammar can always be fixed with help from other people, but what other people cannot do is come up with YOUR story or use YOUR imagination!
Other’s say to me ‘Well I can’t come up with flowery words.’
Who wants to read flowery words? Writing in today’s world is actually preferred in ordinary and plain English. In fact the days of flowery prose and over the top verbosity are long gone. Most Editors today want clear, understandable words, and have a preference (genre permitting) on shorter sentences too. This is because the majority of readers today want ‘lighter’ reading and are put off with difficult words, so it is a relief for many writers who have spent years struggling with their Thesaurus!
People who are interested in writing, (and will find every excuse in the book not to do it,) must learn that the only way to actually succeed at anything, and I mean anything, is to practice. Give it your best shot! Nobody is born a writer, how to write well can be learned! What to write about comes from inspiration, and that is what you get in a writers group.
The greatest painters probably started off no better than you and I, (assuming you are as rubbish as I am at painting) and it was constant practice which catapulted some of them to extraordinary heights.
When I first drafted my book, ‘The Last Gift,’ I was so disheartened at how badly written it was that my eyes almost bled at the second reading. I could see that I had a good story in there, it was just hidden between the mad rush of words. In fact, I couldn’t have done any better if I had eaten a tin of Alphabet Soup and extracted the whole lot onto my page. (Ok, bad image, but you get the idea!) What I’m trying to say is that the first draft of anything (ask any successful writer this) is always going to be awful. Then it gets better, and better the more you write.
The writing process can be wonderful and painful, you start to love your characters but you can also tire of them, and possibly want to murder them all by the time you get to the last page! But when writing just keep your eyes on the main prize, the goal, the ultimate glory! Always! Just remember one thing:
Forget top-notch bestselling authors. It is possible for ordinary human beings, yes, you and me, to create interesting stories!
I’m not saying everyone is a ‘Dan Brown’ or even a ‘Stephen King,’ but one never knows what can be achieved without trying. If you read Stephen King’s Book about the writing process, he talks often about the start of his writing life and the ‘truck load’ of rejections he received from various publishers, one of whom told him his stories were…’ bizarre, somewhat childish and he ought to ‘grow up!’ I’m sure that particular publisher spent a long time beating himself up.
There is nothing more self-rewarding or self-gratifying than someone becoming emotionally moved by the characters which YOU have invented, or scared out of their wits by a story YOU have created. Once you improve (and you will improve all the time just as long as you keep on writing) you will notice how much better your words flow, how much better they read aloud, how your reader’s expressions become less screwed up. The more you write the less that will happen, trust me!
Group meetings are held in an informal atmosphere, where we relax over a drink or two, whip out our pens and have an interesting and sociable time over our writing. I mean after all, we are not in a Dickensian Classroom (though that would appeal to me as a writer of historical fiction!) Some people have been surprised at how many ideas flow, and how many things they realise they could write about once they interact with other like-minded individuals. It’s really about using your imagination and not being afraid to make mistakes. Learning how to correct mistakes is essential to improvement.
The meetings are just £5.00 a session to cover administrative costs, and the constant reparation of my bleeding eyeballs (I trust you will realise that was my pitiful attempt at a joke!) Well, I never claimed to be a comedian now did I?