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Where Does Your Inspiration Come From?

I’m back – again! I lost internet access for a while, making posting the new stuff I let you know about last time a bit harder but I’m back now and kicking off as I mean to go on!

Inspiration is something we all need from time to time to get ourselves motivated. That’s quite a broad and vague statement, as the kind and amount of inspiration we need depends on the project or task at hand. As a writer, one who likes to explore different genres and mediums, I find that the inspiration I want, or need, changes too. It might sound obvious but how often have you thought about it to try and influence where the inspiration comes from?

Now is as good a time as any to think about it.

Inspiration comes from all around us

We take inspiration from everything, even if we don’t realise it at the time. Someone we meet, something we see, things we here and anything we do – literally, it comes from anywhere. It might not surface for a long time but there comes that moment, like a lightbulb being turned on above your head from a cartoon, where something clicks and everything makes sense.

At least, in that moment.

Delain's We Are The Others album
Delain’s We Are The Others album

I take a lot of inspiration from the books I read, games I play, television and films I watch and the music I listen to, like countless other people. I find it hard to work in silence, I like background noise so there’s always something on when I’m writing but over the years I’ve found that if I’m in the mood or trying to write a certain genre or form, it helps if that noise matches that.

I’m not saying I have to watch fantasy to write fantasy, but there has to be something there that encourages me. If I’m reading (or watching) The Lord of the Rings, for example, it makes me want to work on something just as epic, even if it’s not a fantasy piece.

Turn up the music

Nightwish's Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish album
Nightwish’s Highest Hopes: The Best of Nightwish album

Music is a big one though, and while I enjoy listening to a lot of different genres and artists (save a couple I’m really not keen on) it’s the lyrics that hit home the most. The music adds to the effect. Much like poetry, there are different meanings you can take from them. You can find out what the artist intended and what was behind it for them but everything like this is open to interpretation.

Recently I’ve been working on two short stories – neither of which is the one I uploaded a few days ago, The (Long Overdue) Journey. One is fantasy and the other is a bit more of a gritty realism piece. Music has helped me focus on both pieces but figuring out what artists and songs was a bit trickier.

Within Temptation's Hydra album
Within Temptation’s Hydra album

For the fantasy piece, I wanted it to start a bit slower and slowly work into something triumphant, epic and uplifting. I’ve always associated the powerful vocals of bands like Nightwish, Delain and Within Temptation with this genre. The voices are powerful and the music adds to that but it’s the voices which I tune into. Watch or read any fantasy and songs are usually sung at some point but there’s no band with them. That makes the words the most powerful thing about them and there are three songs, all a little different, that helped me. These are:

I’ve included links to the best YouTube videos I can find so you can take a look/listen.

Does the genre or form change what inspiration you need?

Quite simply, yes. You may have your favourite go-to songs or films when you need a boost – I know a lot of people who run and work out have a specific playlist they’ll listen to for a good number of their sessions but it never works that way for me. I had so many different playlists it became easier just to change a couple around based on the projects I was working on at the time.

I can quite happily – to the bafflement and annoyance of others at times – listen to the same few songs over and over and over again while I take from them everything I need or want. This can be before I start writing and during it, even after at times. It really depends. I only do this through the initial writing/drafting phase. When it comes to redrafting and editing, I’ll generally avoid anything I used to inspire me while I refine it – unless I feel something is missing.

So, what do you think? Do you think about what inspires you for each project and act accordingly or do you have a go-to? I’d love to hear from you!

Proofing and Editing: Five Tips to Keep You Focused

I’ve been fairly quiet on the blogging front this month – sorry about that! I do want to give Kat a big shout out for her guest post – it seems you guys really liked it and I’m super happy about that! Hopefully I’m going to have more for you all later in the year.

So, why have I been quiet? Well, as you guys probably know, I’ve been working on my novella for the last year or so but the last two-three months has seen me ramp it up and keep on with the editing and proofing of it, getting it to this stage where it’s almost ready to submit! Exciting stuff!

It’s got me thinking though; editing is often seen as the most boring and tedious parts of writing – and I agree to an extent. So, I’m going to share some of my top tips to get you through it without losing any quality. Aren’t you guys lucky?

You can thank me later.

Don’t read off a screen

Okay, I’m not going to lie that I’ve never been a fan of reading on a screen and e-readers in the past, I often find my eyes glaze over after a while and I have to go back and re-read things. The same is true for editing; it’s so easy to miss things on a screen compared to being on paper.

So, my first tip is to print it off and read a physical copy. You will be able to focus easier and your eyes won’t get tired as quick, which is a massive help.

As a side note, I think e-readers, Kindles and tablets in general have gotten a lot better over the years – especially the ones designed to mimic paper – and I do have one myself but not for editing purposes and I still prefer a good old fashioned book!

Use a pen and get messy

Following on from my last point, if you have a printed or hard copy you can make notes as and when you spot them. So many of my old drafts are literally covered in notes in all different pen colours (I have so many around that I use whichever one comes to hand first) and I use these notes to help me make changes in future drafts.

Never lose these drafts because you might want to look back to your old versions later to see the changes you’ve made and be sure they work better. Whether you keep digital copies or hard copies – or both – doesn’t matter. Make a note of everything, it’ll make you a better writer each time you edit something.

Be ruthless

This is probably the hardest part for many writers; deciding what exactly to take out, change or add. I’m not going to lie to you guys, it isn’t easy – and there isn’t a definitive right or wrong answer. Sorry.

In the end, you’ll have to decide what works best. The beauty of writing on word processor or similar program is that changes aren’t final (and this is why you should always keep your drafts somewhere safe).

To keep it simple though, if you have any doubts about a particular word, sentence, paragraph or entire section – get rid of it. You might need only small changes to make it work but you’ll know this straight away. Whatever the specific part is you have doubts about, remove it and see how it works. You can then add something else in. Don’t be afraid to try new things, it’s how we learn and grow as writers.

Set realistic targets

This is also really important. Unless you have a full day, don’t say to yourself you’re going to proof and edit 5,000 words every day – it won’t work. If, like me, you have a job to manage too, work out what’s manageable but make sure you have breaks where you put it aside for the day/night.

My latest project had chapters of around 2,000 words. The first few edits I did 1,000 words a night or so. By the final edits I was doing an entire chapter but I was only picking up final mistakes and changes – nowhere near as much as the early stages.

Editing is mentally exhausting – more so than the actual writing. There’s less creativity and more focus and thought so you need to take that into account. If you have other responsibilities, maybe make it 500 a night or even say 30 minutes. You might come back to it later that night and do another 30 but these are bite size chunks you can handle without sacrificing your focus and quality.

Reward yourself

Finally, give yourself a break every now and then. Watch an episode of your favourite show, some chocolate, buy a little gift (I stress little or you’ll be bankrupt in no time) or something that you can enjoy before getting back to work. Every time you meet your targets, do this and you’ll be more inclined to do it again.

Even if you don’t meet your targets in that period of time, make sure the rewards are there. Give yourself an EXTRA reason to do this on top of getting your writing done. It will help, trust me.

Obviously, this is by no means exhaustive so please share your own tips and methods if you have them. These are just the main thoughts I keep in mind and work to when it comes to the editing stage of any project. Happy editing!

Finishing the First Draft

Word Count
My novella’s word count

Hello! Apologies for the lack of blogging this month – it’s been manic! My birthday earlier this month and striving to finish my novella before National Novel Writing Month begins. I did it, the first draft anyway and I’ll return to it in November. More on that in a bit.

This project has hit 24,300 words. I was hoping to get a bit closer to 25,000 but there may be a little bit more to come in the redrafting process. Either way, I need to think a little more on my ending. I’ve got a few people to read it for me though, so hopefully they’ll give me some valuable feedback.

What has this taught me?

Well, it’s not over yet. There is still so much more to do in terms of editing and redrafting and me spending countless hours analysing and obsessing over every, little, word. If you’re a writer yourself, chances are you know what I’ve got coming up. I’ve been there before and I’m not looking forward to it but the novella is good (or it will be), the idea is very good and I can’t stop now.

This is far out of my comfort zone. There’s no fantasy, science fiction or horror in this story and those are the genres I usually write in. This is set in the here and now and explores mind-sets, attitudes and the lifestyles we live in, or have lived in. I’ve spoken to a lot of people to create a scenario and protagonist that people can relate to, on at least some level.

There are even some of my thoughts and experiences in there but it’s not purely about me – even though people will think this is about me on a deeper level. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

It shouldn’t have taken me this long to get to this stage but I’ve been lacking motivation this year. I have been able to write when it counts though and that’s promising. If I can keep this up, I might finally start to feel like the writer I was before and during uni – only (hopefully) a lot better.

A Song of Ice and Fire

A Song of Fire and Ice
A Song of Fire and Ice

Or, as people seem more familiar with, A Game of Thrones – a series I’ve heard so much about, both in book and television form, and yet I’ve not actually read or seen them. This shocks a lot of people as it seems right up my alley. They’re probably right, too.

I don’t want to watch the TV show until I’ve read the books, even if it’s in stages and my reading list is HUGE. However, for my birthday this month, I did get the three most recent so now I have all seven books published. Expect me to talk about these in 2015 – they’re big books but I can read fast if I get really into them, as is the case with anything.

So, next month

Have you been keeping up with my plans for the year? If so then you know that November is NaNoWriMo and, once again, I’m going to give it a shot. I’ve succeeded only once in completing this madness of a writing challenge but I’m hoping that this will be the second success.

It means that I’ll be writing every day and my target is 2,000 words a day. It might not sound a lot but it will be very taxing, especially working full-time! I must be mad to do this but, hey, what’s new? For the next month, you’ll get a NaNo update each week, letting you know how I’m getting on. It’s also for my benefit so I can see where I’m doing well and where I’m failing.

It’s going to be a fun month, keep checking back!

Planning a Novel, Part Two

Hello, again! Last week, I talked about how to plan a novel and some of the things to keep in mind. I did this with a focus on characters and settings used already, so a sequel or series but I got some good responses from it and even more questions so I thought I’d do a follow up – even though this stuff is probably what you should know first, if you want to write the first in a series or a standalone novel/story.

How do you plan a novel?

There are a number of ways to plan a novel (or script, poem or other writing project) and I don’t know them all. There are also different pieces of software you can use too but I just stick to bullet lists, and I’ll come back to that shortly. Some people use diagrams, storyboards, audio notes and any number of methods to plan a project. There’s no reason it has be a digital plan either. Get your notebook out and write it the old fashioned way. Get all your ideas down, put them in order and you have a structure to work from.

Warning; some people may tell you they don’t plan but most of the time this is wrong, they just don’t realise that their plan is their plan. Notes can be a plan too and if you keep a plan in your head, it’s still a plan. I’d tried writing without one and it didn’t work very well. Also, trying to write from a mental plan caused me so many problems because I couldn’t remember what I was meant to be doing and when to make sense.

The one thing I’d advise you to remember is that a plan does not mean everything is set in stone. You can make changes.

Giving myself the freedom to change

An example of a plan I use
An example of a plan I use

This is one thing that always bothered me about planning when I was younger was that I thought plans had to be followed to the letter – if you wanted to change anything then you had to go back through the ENTIRE plan. I’m sure some people do that, and enjoy it, but it was far too restrictive for me. I wanted a bit of freedom to adapt, change and grow as my stories did – as I did as a writer and as a person.

So, that led to my preferred method, and it goes in stages:

  • Stage one – Create a list of about bullet points that I want to happen throughout the novel, usually one per chapter but sometimes more, or sometimes less
  • Stage two – Create a separate list of subplots that can be included in the main narrative
  • Stage three – Expand on this list by creating five or six bullet points that fill out each chapter
  • Stage four – Write each chapter by expanding on each bullet point, almost like connect the dots. This is the best time to involve sub-plots, narrative and character development

This means I have the backbone of my story straight away, as well as subplots to choose from (although sometimes I come up with more during the writing) and I have the freedom to be creative when I’m writing around these points. The image is just an example of a plan I might use – the real thing would probably be a bit more fleshed out so I had more to work with when it came to writing but you get the idea from that.

Finding out what works for you

Knowing a fair number of writers, I can tell you that there is no set way to plan a novel, story, script or poem. You need to find a way that works for you and then adapt it to make sure it does everything you need and actually encourages you to write.

You can gather ten, twenty, thirty or any number of writers and we’ll tell you our own ways of planning our projects. In fact, do that. Ask as many as you can and then choose what sounds best to you. Some people like strict plans that can act as the base for the writing while I prefer to have a bit more freedom, as I’ve pointed out.

There’s no right or wrong, just what works best for you. Now, go, young (or old) writer – go plan that book and then write it!

Planning a Novel

So, we’re almost into October (or we are, depending on when you read this) and that means just one month to go until National Novel Writing Month. It’s at this time when I start to wind down my other writing activities (don’t worry, the blogs are safe) because I want to give myself a break before such an intense month hits. However, it’s the perfect opportunity to start planning the novel I’m going to write.

Some people like to write on the fly, and I’ve done it myself in the past but I think having some sort of structure to work towards will improve my focus and that’s essential in November, especially since I’m still working full-time, so I have less time than usual!

On a side note, apologies for the lack of pictures this time – I’ll make up for it in the next post!

Reconnecting to old friends

Is it weird to refer to my characters as friends, especially if I haven’t written about them for a while? Actually, I don’t care, I’m doing it.

I’ve spent so much time with these characters that I know them very well and I should hope so since I created them! More than that, I’ve seen them at their worst, their best and beyond even if they haven’t made it that far in the story yet.

It’s always difficult to decide how far each has to or is going to grow and develop at any given time. Too much or too little development can drastically alter a story so it’s not as simple as saying that “this” is going to happen and when if the overall story doesn’t match up.

Does that make everything a little bit too convenient? I think so, yes, but how many books are made from stories of an everyday life? If there are stats on that, get in touch but I’m pretty sure I can guess it already. Fiction is an escape, even if it’s a realistic setting, and it’s important to remember that we read for entertainment and enjoyment just as much as we watch TV for the same reason.

Planning bigger

As I mentioned in a previous post, this year’s NaNoWriMo project is a sequel to my first success. That’s a four year gap to fill in. It’s good to go back over old ground and see what I’ve done and where I plan to go next. I have a plan of where the whole series is going to go but it’s easy to forget details and that’s not a good thing – who wants to read the same things twice, especially if it’s an accident or shows gaps in the story?

Exactly.

There needs to be something new, and that usually means bigger in some way. A bigger challenge, a bigger adventure, a bigger threat – something bigger, whatever it may be. This is where problems can creep in if something wasn’t meant for a sequel or it was but it went too big too soon. There are plenty of examples of this in both book and film. I’ll give ten points out to everyone who can give me a good example with a bonus five for a reason.

The prize? Ummm. I’ll get back to you on the prize.

Finishing the novella

If you’ve been keeping track of my work this year you’ll know there is something else that I have to do before November starts – finish my novella! Well, get the first draft done anyway. I’m two thirds of the way through so far and once I get into a rhythm, I’ll get through the last third easily. It’s finding the time to get into that mind-set that’s the problem.

The benefit of doing it is that I can have people looking over the novella through October and November while I’m working on NaNoWriMo and so once I’ve taken a week or two off in December, I can get back on with the editing and I’ll hopefully have something ready early in the New Year – if not before.

It’s going to be a busy end to 2014 but I’m sure I’ll do it!

Manchester Children’s Book Festival…Round Three…Begin!

It seems like only yesterday that I was volunteering for the MCBF 2010. That was my second year of uni at MMU but in reality, it really kicked me into gear again. It had been a long time since I had done anything of the sort – four years or more at the very least! It was great to dive in again and do what I could. I proved myself capable more than anyone expected, I think.

Come 2012 and I was back. I was just about to graduate and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to end my student life before heading out to make it as a writer (I’m still working on that bit, but it’s coming along). There were plenty of highlights along the way but now it’s 2014, it’s year three of the book festival and once again…I’m back.

Why am I back again?

That’s a good question. The first two festivals proved to me and those around me that I could do it – and by it, I mean a lot of things. I never had a set role; I would just fill in as needed. I was flexible although I did miss the Family Fun Day in 2012 and I’ll be missing it again in 2014. I’m cursed!

I’m taking a much smaller role this time. I’m volunteering at a number of events and while I’ll always be ready to step up if needed, there’s a part of me that hopes I don’t need to. I’ll offer advice when people need and want it and ensure disaster doesn’t hit but this festival is for a new generation. I’m passing the torch, so to speak. I’ve been involved since the beginning and this is my last festival as a volunteer in this way – I expect!

My other role has been to work with the Media Team and share with them blogging advice, techniques and tips. How to use keywords and search engines to their advantage and while social media is so important to them, the festival and all festival goers. Again, I’m here to help them throughout but I’ve noticed how capable they are so I don’t think they’ll need me much – if at all.

A highlight

The 2012 MCBF will always be special to me as I got to meet one of my favourite writers – the fantastic Philip Pullman! I love his books and writing style and it was amazing to be able to meet one of the writers who is such a big influence over my own work. I look so happy in this picture but it’s all I’ve got!

Meeting Philip Pullman
Philip Pullman with myself and a bunch of volunteers from the MCBF 2012!

That’s just another bonus of doing this stuff – you get to meet some awesome people, both established writers and other volunteers. It’s definitely worth it!

Keeping up with it all

The festival is going to run for a couple of weeks and if you can’t make it then all is not lost! The Media Team will be covering every single event and blogging about them so you can keep up with anything you might miss – you never know what you might learn. Not only that, they’ll be Tweeting (sometimes live Tweeting) so that’s a great way to keep up with them. I’m in a good mood so here are find the official MCBF blog and Twitter pages.

While the festival itself may end – that’s not the end of everything. Events take place throughout the year that you can keep track of and in some cases, you might find them to be of use or benefit to you. Keep up with them socially and some of their emerging talent through the Humanity Hallows blog.

Just don’t forget about me, okay?

Deciding What to Write and When

This is something that happens every so often for me, and I’m hoping other writers too! I’m bad as it as – I usually have multiple projects on the go so that if I get bored or need a change, I can switch quickly to something else until I’m ready to go back to it. This is very useful but as with most things, it has disadvantages too.

Changing projects mid-way through

I often get told this is quite a bad thing to do and I can see why a lot of people think th

at. If you’re in the middle of writing something, whether a short story, a poem, a novel or anything else and you switch to something different in the middle, then you are at risk of losing what flow and momentum you have. Coming back to it later is also hard because you need to find that flow and tone, which can lead to some writing that’s ultimately scrapped. I get that, and if you have the dedication and will power to stick it out, great.

My workspace
This is what my desk looks like most of the time. It can get a lot messier…

The problem is, I don’t always have it and it depends on what I’m writing and how I feel.

I keep a lot of detailed notes about each project. This covers character profiles, histories, plot points, settings, overall plans and any lore related to that world or story. Most of it will probably never be seen by anyone other than me so that information has to play a part for everything to make sense for the reader.

However, I can jump back into projects whenever and waste very little time by going over what I’ve done and these notes. There may be discrepancies but I can fix that during the redraft and editing stage. My logic is that I’ve become bored or hit a block and I’m wasting my time when I could be writing something else for a while instead. There’s nothing worse than not writing when you really feel like you can – you just need to be on the right project.

When inspiration strikes…

I’m one of those people who will have pen and paper almost all the time. It’s so frustrating when things click and you have no way to record it. Sure we have smartphones now but it’s not really the same, is it? It would work, I suppose but maybe I’m just old-fashioned – I’m not huge on kindles and e-readers either (that’s another story, maybe next month).

So, let me present you with a situation that happens every so often, and one I’ve been stuck with more recently too. I’m working on a project that is taking longer than I’d wanted and then an idea hit me, one to do with another short story that I worked on during university (so, about two years ago). I knew it had potential but I wasn’t sure how to use it.

Until now.

So, I had the dilemma; stop working on the current project temporarily and risk losing the little flow I had to start work on another project. Now, you might think that’s an obvious call but I have three or four big length pieces on the go at the moment and adding a fifth was not something I wanted to do.

The idea, while good, wasn’t amazing enough to beat off the ones I already have and so the debate began. Which project should I be devoting my time too, what do I feel like writing and how can I divide that time best?

I aim to write for at least an hour a day but that can easily turn into a three or four-hour session if I really get into it.

Finding the balance

It’s all about the balance and finding what works for you. I won’t have more than three or four big projects around at a time, and they have to be at different stages to make it easier on myself – although once these are done I’m going to cut it down to two. I occasionally take breaks for short stories and I’ll revisit these every few months to see how happy I am with them.

I like to stop and start – if the flow isn’t there then I won’t write or keep anything. That’s important to me as I’ve read a number of novels where the story just doesn’t flow but it’s a great idea or the characters are fantastic. It’s a pet hate and one I hope my work will never suffer from.

What I’m really interested in is hearing from other writers and finding out where they stand on this. Do you switch between projects half way through? What do you do when inspiration hits and when you have a project going? Get in touch and let me know!

Group Feedback is an Important Part of Our Writing

Sure, there are times when you may work in a group to get some writing done – whether that’s for ideas or actually scribing and contributing or something else entirely doesn’t matter – but for the most part, writing is seen as a solo activity. This is something most writers accept, we know we’ll be sat in front of a screen or notepad for long periods of time, probably with plenty of snacks, coffee, energy drinks, cigarettes or whatever other vice we succumb to.

There are times, however, that we could use outside help. Getting a fresh pair of eyes to look over our work can help us find the most obvious mistakes, as well as the most hidden problems.

Finding feedback

You can look at the same sheet of paper or page of text all you want, but chances are you’re going to miss something. I’ve always found that unless I’ve given myself enough of a break between edits and redrafts, I can’t spot the mistakes that are glaringly obvious all the time. Fresh eyes can help, and for those times when you don’t have time to wait, other people are a great choice if you trust their editing skills.

I know a fair few writers now, thanks to social media platforms such as Twitter and, of course, my university course, where I met a great number of talented writers. Thanks to them, I was able to grow a lot. It took a while to get the brutally honest feedback I like, but it proved invaluable when it arrived.

I’m always welcome to this criticism for my work. It helps me grow but it has to be positive and constructive, otherwise it’s just someone attacking you (or your work) with no benefit. This is a fine line for some people and this is why writing groups are useful.

Writing groups

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a number of writing groups over the years. Some have been great, others haven’t been as worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as putting in what you want to get out as you’re relying on others but if you find a good group of people, even if you don’t see each often or in person, then you’ll get more honest feedback – and that’s key.

Most writers I’ve met have some form of ego – that’s not a bad thing, we need it. To be successful, we’re going to receive a lot of rejection and criticism and it won’t all be positive. That ego will help us keep going but it’s important to keep it in check and use it to help ourselves and other writers, not act superior to others and put them down. If you find a writing group that does that, then walk away and find another.

These groups can help you meet people, you’ll gain inspiration and grow as a writer and a person. They’re not to be missed and the thing is, they’re everywhere! They’re hard to find but once you do find them, you’ll see the benefits very quickly.

My big tip; try not to be shy about your work – we’ve all been there.

Other resources to consider

There are two great resources that I’d like to share with you guys.

The first is Writers & Artists, which has a number of services that can be of assistance should you want to make use of them. If you don’t, or the money isn’t there, then there is a fantastic community with regular blogs and articles that can help you get the most out of your writing. These are both informative and enjoyable and will give you an idea of what to look out for from real writers who have been or are in similar situations. Joining the community lets you answer questions, share experiences and help others too. Finally, they run fantastic competitions which are always worth checking back with.

The next resources is one I’ve only discovered fairly recently, so I’m still exploring it’s features and getting to know it better but what I’ve seen is very interesting! It was recommended to me by a recent Twitter acquaintance so I’m passing it on.

It’s called WritersCafé and is another community that is great for getting feedback on your work. You can post full pieces or snippets at various stages, include notes and allow others to review it and offer suggestions and feedback. These people don’t (or will rarely) know you so you can expect honest feedback and by doing the same, you can improve your skills in this area and meet new people. It’s a win-win all around.

Hope these can be of some help to you, guys!

The Trials of Redrafting

As a writer, I find the process of redrafting tedious at best. This is something that not even university has been able to make me enjoy, and when I delivered workshops, it was the hardest thing to get people to do. Writing can be fun and interesting but redrafting, while necessary, can be dull – especially on your own or working on your own piece.

The myths and barriers of a full redraft

In a workshop environment, a redraft can be engaging; it can spark a conversation or debate and it can bring out more ideas and thoughts that you never even considered. The problem is, for much longer pieces of writing, it’s not practical to be in a large group. Even if you have time to read it all, either in the session or in advance, it’s not fair on everyone.

That being said, they are incredibly useful and if you return the favour outside of a workshop environment, you can get some great insight into your work and even your plans for it going forward.

Now, I have nothing against e-readers and kindles. The world is going digital and people like the access. I much prefer reading paper (but I am definitely a fan of typing electronically – it saves me on paper and makes it easier to make changes or fix mistakes) and this includes m redrafting process. I do the best work after printing the piece, annotating in pen or pencil and making the changes electronically.

Running workshops with students and school groups is fun and challenging but the redrafting stage is one of the hardest ones to deal with successfully. Younger groups get bored easily but workshops can also be difficult because not everyone will feel comfortable speaking up or giving their work to someone else – and friends aren’t always honest (or are sometimes honest without tact). So what do you do in this situation?

With a school group, speak to the teacher in question. They know the group better and can give you some advice on how they think and work. If there is an end goal or event for them, give them examples of what others have done – or even your own redrafting efforts – to let them know what they should be looking for but it should be appropriate for the age group you are working with. Older groups will do it because you ask, mostly, but in the end, this process will go beyond your workshop and it is down to each participant to do it and get the most out of you, your session and your experience.

The risk of refinement

One thing that I commonly find is that a redraft, of any length or depth, can dramatically alter the piece of writing – hopefully for the better. The problem is that any amends can change the flow of the story, and that’s something I value highly in all my writing. I’ve given up on too many books because they don’t flow and I don’t want my writing to suffer the same fate, so if something doesn’t feel right, it doesn’t get saved or is reverted to the previous version that worked.

Now, in the moment, the story or piece flows because it came straight from your flow of thoughts. It might not make much sense at first but it can also be crystal clear at times. You can improve the sentence structure, tone, style or plot later but that will alter the flow. It takes a long time to get used to it, and no matter how much experience you have, we’ve all come to that infamous wall that takes us an age to climb over.

Once you make it over, not only does it get easier to redraft and refine the piece, but the results are better. Your confidence grows and that makes your work better. Giving yourself a break from the piece will help you see it with fresh eyes – not that there’s always time for a break, especially if you are studying or working to tight deadlines.

A blast from the past

It’s been over ten years since one of the most important pieces I’ve ever produced was “finished.” Over the next few months, I’m going to redraft the piece titled The Honour of Dying is No Honour At All and see how it compares to my younger self. While I fully expect to improve on the use of language, tone and setting, I’m very curious as to the flow of the story. How will I change it after all this time? I’ve always said I wouldn’t but I think that enough time has passed for me to give it a shot. Maybe I’ll do it again in another ten years – it could prove to be a good way to measure my skills and abilities. Watch this space to see how it goes!