Welcome to my November blog. My article this month is about starting your stories more dramatically – with action. There’s a new variety of prompts to get you going. And I’m recommending two books this month, both page-turners.
As I mentioned in last month’s blog, autumn seems to be a good time for new resolutions and a big tidy-up. So I’m quite pleased with myself that I’ve finally managed to sort, tidy and de-clutter all the files in my study. And before you tell me, I KNOW it’s a displacement activity from actually getting down to writing! But, now that it’s done, I’m so much happier to sit down at my desk in the morning and write, knowing that when I want to refer to something – books and brochures collected on holidays, newspaper articles from five years ago, handwritten notes of story ideas jotted down on anything at hand – I know exactly where I can find it.
It was certainly a revelation going through all my writing files. There were three box files of pictures alone – I’m a big fan of images prompting writing ideas but it’s probably time I dispensed with the snooker-playing nun that I inevitably produce for my creative writing classes. (But if you think it might help, here it is!)
Then there was the box entitled Writing Ideas: everything from newspaper stories that could make a Jodi Piccoult-type novel to snippets of overheard conversations in the supermarket queue.
I am one of those people who just HAS to buy a guidebook whenever I visit any stately home, museum, castle etc etc. I have boxes of them. But I spent a happy afternoon sitting on the floor remembering all the places I’ve been to.
And, inevitably, I came across the manuscript of my very first novel: started in the early 1970s on a TYPEWRITER on paper that is now much more than coffee-coloured. It was there, in a ring binder, together with all my research notes, some written in pencil that have faded to illegibility. That novel will probably never see the light of day again. I read through some of it and was alternately pleased and horrified. Some bits were quite good, but I felt like red-penning my way through all the point-of-view mistakes, the adjectives and adverbs and, I will admit, the clichés.
But throw it away? No, I can’t.
That discovery led me to look at the very oldest files on my computer and again there was an abundance of short stories started but never finished, random paragraphs of ideas, exercises done on creative writing courses, some good, some not so good.
But I really believe that no writing is ever wasted. Some of those ideas might make it to a competition some time. That description could well find its way into my novel. And those exercises are definitely going to be recycled for my current classes.
The moral of this rambling – don’t throw any of your old writing away – it can be recycled.
A good writing friend has the perfect anecdote: she has just re-launched her first novel Girl in the Hat Shop. (Have a look at the Book recommendation page.) And this week on Facebook, she wrote: That scene that never found its way into the final draft? Who knew when I wrote those words (five years ago) that they’d become the first chapter of my next book? The message is don’t delete! Archive the best stuff. Nothing’s wasted.
ps Have you set up your own NaNoWriMo yet? You don’t have to join up to sign 1666 words a day! Set your own target, perhaps 250 words, for every day of November.