Writing. It takes skill, dedication, determination and lots of ideas to become a writer. It also takes a little business sense too. For getting published is all about meeting a market’s needs, whether that need is from a magazine editor looking to please readers and editors, or a publisher, looking to boost profits and keep the accountants happy. Writing, these days, is a business, even if something you do at the end of a long day at work, once the kids are in bed.
Today, Wrekin Writers held a Meet the Author day at Wellington Library, as part of the Wellington Festival. We had a fab time, and we even sold some books!
I must begin with an apology.
I espoused my ‘X’ theory to colleagues at the last meeting without fully formulating my argument.
I also did not explain with enough clarity and detail the reasoning behind my assumptions.
However, if we start at the beginning again here is my theory of a writers reason d’etre in two parts:
Part 1 – First Person Singular
If a mouse sat up and barked would that make him a dog?
If a cat spoke in Mandarin would that make him Chinese?
I would argue creative writing cannot be taught; merely nurtured, encouraged, trained and honed if the talent, knack, gift of story-telling, call it what you will, is innate to the student.
That may sound controversial; even dismissive and elitist but it is not said in malice. It is merely a statement of empirical fact, made by someone with his nose pressed against the literary pane, fighting desperately to get in.
There are a thousand hacks masquerading as journalists in Fleet Street, as we speak. These are paid professionals all, who write all day, every day, for a living. Busily filling up newspaper columns till the cows come home. They produce prodigious reams of prose that’s printed as gospel every day and avidly consumed by their readers.
If all it takes is the ability to string one word to another and use a key-board – why isn’t every single one of them a best-selling author?
Few have that devine spark; that ‘X’ factor that drives writers along to capture and record a thought or feeling with enough emotional drive and creative talent to win the readers attention first and their hearts second.
That’s called building a readership, a fan-base, a career; and it takes time and dedication.
Part 2 – Present Indicative
If ‘X’ is the unknown, that indefinable unique factor within the author, then we should first take mental stock (especially when we feel doubt-ridden or literally stuck for words).
Be honest with yourself and ask these questions:
Who else but you can tell the story in the first place? (If you don’t write it – who will?)
Who else can best inform the reader that there is a story to tell, if not you?
Your unique perspective, which is different to mine or anyone else’s on the planet, qualifies you to write the story. This is true regardless of whether you are writing fact or fiction.
In the highest sense you owe it to your readers (present and future) to tell the story to the best of your ability and as soon as you are ready, without waiting for devine inspiration.
What if Shakespeare had put off writing Hamlet on a Monday; caught the plague on the Tuesday; and was dead by the Friday (that’s how quickly it took people to die)
Would the world be better off culturally? – of course not.
Bubonic plague was rampantly endemic to Britain during most of his lifetime and besides killing al lot of people, particularly in large cities, it frequently shut down many theatres for twelve months at a time; cutting off people’s incomes.
Remember, Shakespeare didn’t think of himself as a genius, just a struggling writer, the same as all of us.
I admit that all of the above is a blatant application of moral-boosting rhetoric for which I make no excuses.
Nevertheless it is also cold, hard, undeniable fact.
If you have ever sat staring at a blank page not knowing what to say or how to say it, take heart.
You are not alone.
© Chris Owen
Persistent, Continuous, Repetitive Graft
(And other lies we tell ourselves)
A good colleague and esteemed member of our little writing community has recently admitted albeit, in a blog, that his daily writing habits aren’t always consistent.
That’s a big admission; very brave and very honest – but ultimately human.
This level of personal integrity sets him above the norm and makes him the true professional he is. He could have insisted in well worn tones to the rest of the world that he rose at six-thirty every day in Thackarian style, showered in cold water then sat writing for four hours before breakfast and then wrote for another four hours before venturing out into the world every 24:7 + 365. He didn’t.
Buggering About with the Bard
Write a play to be performed in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company? Too good an opportunity to miss.
Both my wife Suki and I like The Taming of the Shrew and have fond memories of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor yelling at each other in the 1967 film. But it does present issues for modern audiences: It’s about a man turning a woman from a bitter termagant into a loving and obedient wife by bullying her. There are twenty-one characters of whom only three are women. Shakespeare’s language can be difficult to get used to, and he refers to literature and events familiar to the Elizabethan audience, which we probably now have to look up. The play we know is book-ended by scenes concerning Christopher Sly which many people, including me, have difficulty with, because they seem unrelated to the main story.
As part of April’s meeting, Chris Owen did a talk about playwriting and rounded off with a quiz on the greatest playwright of all time: Shakespeare. For those who missed it, here are the questions (along with the answers).
1) What was thought to be Shakespeare’s Breakthrough Play and the publishing year ?
A) Henry V1 Part 1 (1590 – 91) 2 x G of V (1589 – 91)
Well, here they are: all 3,784 words, written by our Chairman in his monthly emails to round up the troops before each meeting:
The Theatre of Shakespeare – Everyman or Elitist?
The actor playwright Ben Jonson, a contemporary of the bard, famously declared in his dedication that Shakespeare ‘was not just for his own age – but for all time.’
This unequivocal affirmation of the universal appeal of Shakespeare beggars belief to the sluggardly schoolboy making his way to school nowadays. Indeed this attitude evokes what we all similarly experienced when trapped in the state education system. (more…)
I don’t know what it is at the moment but I have the urge to go out, meet other writers and learn from other writers and so I have been looking out for opportunities to do this. One of these opportunities was the Writing West Midlands networking event, which I had heard about on the Wrekin Writers’ Facebook Page, which I attended in Shrewsbury on Saturday.
I think my interest was sparked because writing can be a lonely occupation and as the event was actually in Shropshire and not Birmingham I felt it would be a good idea to attend it. The more of these events we as writers support the more likely these events, and others, are to be held locally.
I recently attended the Franche Primary school in Kidderminster for my first Author visit. I had been approached by one of the teachers who wanted to buy several copies of my latest children’s book ‘Every White Horse’ and so I was thrilled when they invited me to go and join their weekly enrichment class.
The pupils aged 7-8 had worked on my book for several weeks before the visit and put in a lot of hard work to prepare.
I recently had the opportunity to attend three events at the Oswestry LitFest. Armed with the tickets I had won, courtesy of the Shropshire Star, and the company of fellow Wrekin Writer Angeline Wheeler off we went. We weren’t entirely sure of directions but we just left caution to the wind and like a couple of explorers we headed for Oswestry and hoped for the best.
I have been to literary festivals before, the Hay being the big one, but although I had thought about going to Oswestry, I hadn’t yet had the chance, so it was a completely new thing for me. I also did not know any of the speakers we there to see. I didn’t know what the authors had written, the kind of clients the literary agent was after or who the editor edited for. Did my lack of knowledge matter? Not one bit.
No, it’s not about sailors with afflictions – but that old thorny problem of the meanings of words and phrases in prose and their correct usage.
Prose is defined as: ‘A form of language that exhibits a grammatical structure and a natural flow of speech rather than a rhythmic structure (as in
“In the beginning there was the word. And the word was good”
So the 1611 AD King James bible states.
However, the word is definitely not set in stone. The English language is not the constant and unchanging yardstick we thought it was. Along with most other languages in use in the twenty-first century, it is evolving. As a result, it is the least reliable medium of communication – which ironically is supposed to be its only function. (more…)
Rudyard Kipling wrote – ‘I keep six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.’
When he wrote these words his intention was to alert the reader to the possibilities of words and where they could take us as writers.
Words are the golden keys to unlock meaning within any text or story. Yet they are, after all, only signposts to interpret understanding – but they can also become jailers imprisoning us in the mesh of ideas we were trying to unravel for ourselves and our readers.