Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Embracing the spider's web

A spider's web is a fascinating thing, an act of sheer will that results in an ingenious trap. It's also a tremendous feat of engineering, each seemingly delicate strand relying on its neighbours to retain the shape and strength of the whole.

It's creator, however, is rarely seen in such a positive light - a blood sucking, scurrying, long-legged beastie that eats its victims alive. Spiders are often met with, at the very least, distrust if not outright hatred.

My mother would work herself up into a state of panic if she came across a spider. Squealing to my father to "Get it out of here", she would refuse to enter the room until said creepy crawly had been vacated. My father's attitude to spiders was generally to squash them or, if he was feeling charitable, to put them in the garden. I don't know why I didn't inherit their attitudes but I actually quite like spiders. They may not be the most attractive of creatures. They have a devilish habit of posing still then scurrying towards you just when you're about to pick them up. That one always makes me jump. And their dining habits are rather, well, unsavoury. Having said that, they're just doing what comes naturally. There is no spite in their actions. They don't purposefully crawl into the bath to alarm you. Dropping down from the ceiling on a thread is probably as annoying to them as it surprising to you.

A piece of writing can be as wonderful a creation as that spider web. It's driven by the will of the writer because, as we all know, stories don't write themselves. If it weren't for our storytelling skills, writerly eye on the world and vivid imaginations, there would be no tales to read or listen to. If written well and presented to the correct consumer, they can trap the reader into turning and turning pages of adventure, life and learning. The parts of the writing - characters, plot, pace, setting, etc - all play their role in creating a cohesive, rich whole. A writer's vision set down on paper can be a wonderful invention.

And yet, the will that drives our writing isn't always a beautiful thing. Sometimes we reach into the darkest corners of our imaginations to pull forth, kicking and cussing, a victim, perfect for our purposes. The unhappiest times in our lives can inspire the greatest leaps of faith and the biggest pictures of what could be. Where a non writer can naively cross the road, buy a newspaper and pass a coffee shop, we see the possibility of a road accident, the cracks in the vendor's face and the exchanged glances in the shop window. We build and weave and repair our webs, drawing in the less wary victims from what we see, what we imagine and what we surmise. Furled into ourselves and our minds, we don't always strike the most attractive of appearances.

But, at the end of the day, we can't help it. This is what comes naturally. After all, we are writers

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

Are Non-Interactive Books Going to Be the Black & White Movies of the Future? by Nathan Bransford offers an interesting discussion on the future of e-books.

Use Synesthesia for Vivid Description from Writerly Life suggests enlivening our descriptions by crossing the senses.

Developing Your Writing Presence on the Web by Susan Bearman on Write It Sideways is an informative article that tackles the 'do I need a website/Facebook page/Twitter?' question in a clear and well thought out manner.

First Draft Saboteurs: What's Getting in Your Way? on The Lit Coach site discusses the factors that may be stopping you from finishing your first draft.

What's Happening in the Next Room? from Writerly Life discusses the use of interiors in our writing.

Monday, 25 June 2012

Happy Birthday George

Eric Arthur Blair was born in 1903 on today's date. George Orwell was the pen name he used to write as a novelist and journalist.

My father was a great fan of Orwell but I came to him as many of my generation did through studying his novels 'Nineteen Eighty-Four' (written in 1949) and 'Animal Farm' (1945) at school. There are a handful of books and plays that have remained with me from school - Day of the Triffids, Macbeth, Great Expectations and the Orwell novels.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Summer Solstice

Today is the summer solstice in the northern hemisphere, the longest day of the year - a time for standing still (as the sun appears to) to take stock and for celebrating the warmth and joy in our lives. It's a day that is fertile with the optimism of summer days, and nights.

What is it about summer that brings out the best in us? Even on a muggy, cloudy day like it is here, we throw open the windows, bare our legs and look up. Perhaps the vibrancy of colour makes us look around and outside of ourselves. Ideally, the warmer temperatures should cause us to unfurl from our winter wrappings, although British summers can rarely be relied upon for a multitude of sunny days. Maybe it's the smell of freshly mown grass or suntan lotion (which we British stoically bring out from around April each year, regardless of the weather). It could be all of these things and more, but summer definitely brings on a change in our outlook.

Life can be a treadmill, not necessarily an unpleasant one, but a path that keeps us focussed on getting through the daily routine. Events like the summer solstice provide us with a chance to step off the path for a moment and look around, get some perspective, just breathe. Just be.

Perhaps we should learn to carry that feeling around with us a little more often, lift our head and see the good stuff rather than hurrying by on our journey from A to B.

When life races by

When the days, and the nights,
slip by in the pass of a hand,
and the details of your life
blur into a shade of mud,
search for these things -
the touch of the grass,
the  breath of the sky,
and the reach of the trees.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

The Simple Reason You're Not a Writer (Yet) from Copyblogger is a much more optimistic read than its title suggests. Have a look.

5 Tips for Turning Real Life into Fiction by Claudia Cruttwell asks 'how much of myself should I put into my writing?'.

Authenticity of Voice by Lucienne Diver on the Magical Words site asks for clarity in portraying your character's viewpoint.

For a different slant on developments in the publishing world, read Going to the Very Edge of the Known Writing Universe on the Publishing Perspectives site.

How to Romance Your Readers, a guest post by Dr John Yeoman on the Writerly Life site asks if you're modelling your protagonist on yourself or your reader.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

I have just a couple of links for you this week but they're good ones.

Stephen King's 20 Tips for Becoming A Frighteningly Good Writers from the Boost Blog Traffic site is an interesting read that uses quotes from Mr King (one of my favourite writers and also one of my writing heroes).

Good Books Are Worth the Wait appears on the Publishing Perspectives and argues that publishers should not be asking their authors to increase how many books they produce each year.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Tuesday Choice Words

Finding inspiration: A fun exercise to help explore and develop characters - the title explains itself. This article is from Marie Borthwick of Novel Publicity & Co.

6 Reasons Editors Will Reject You on the Writer's Digest site is a brief but interesting read on how 'not' to submit your work.

Traditional vs. Self-publishing is a False Dichotomy by Nathan Bransford argues that it's not an 'either or' battle but rather a broad field of finding what suits your writing.

Noveling 101 - A snapshot overview of writing by Katalyna on the Magical Words site deliver exactly what it says.

Your Guide to Productive Summer Writing by The Lit Coach is an interesting read.