Thursday, 3 May 2007

Write on track!

A slightly rushed post - just finished work and preparing for tomorrow's teaching but...

Today our Edge Hill writing students (and therefore me too!) were privileged to have a 3 hour workshop with the author Toby Litt. He worked with us on dialogue, and I found it most useful. The first exercise he gave us was to write down on a piece of scrap paper, everything that is "pissing you off" at this moment. Write with venom. Get it all down. And then, rip it up and throw it away. What a great idea! I think I'll start every writing session with that little gem from now on - a way to eradicate any distractions and prepare mentally for a positive writing day.

We also quizzed him about his writing life - how he worked, his thoughts on writing, and so on. He was a most knowledgeable and accessible speaker, very open and honest about his experiences, and I came away feeling truly inspired, safe with the new knowledge that the fact that I don't know what I'm doing is a positive thing! That the writing is about discovery - going on a journey that excites the writer as much as it does the reader. He advised us not to worry about the market, to just write whatever it is that we can write best.

He also had some interesting tips on writing the first draft - that getting it all down before editing is the best way to write an 'even' novel in terms of its voice and construction. He talked about writing in double spacing, leaving large margins, and thereby giving yourself room for corrections, an assumption that means you give yourself the space to write material that will be improved, crossed out, re-written. It was very liberating as I normally write longhand and don't leave room for corrections, instead re-writing the entire page over and over again.

So a whopping great thank you to Toby. I am drafting again with a new found sense of freedom. And what a lovely man!!! If you get the chance to see him, I can highly recommend him!


Anonymous said...

How very positive and inspiring - go Lisa!!

JJ said...

That sounds wonderful. I am jealous of all the workshops, readings, literary opportunities of being in the UK. Our book club had a talk by Malcolm Pryce, recently, although those things are few and far between here. It is really inspiring to listen to other's success stories.

hesitant scribe said...

anon - yes, 'bout time I was more positive!

jj - I don't tend to go to these things outside of uni I must admit - so one a year. So far I've been to see/meet/workshop with Jackie Kay, Jane Rogers, James Friel and Jenny Newman (I think I've missed someone out?!), as well as lots of poets such as Alan Halsey, Robert Sheppard, and Scott Thurston, and Allen Fisher, in no particular order. The poetry is beyond me mostly but some of it is really nourishing for the mind and soul. Some of it is just odd - or rather I am too dim to "get it"!

The best thing for me about meeting the prose writers is just listening to their experiences of being a writer, and making connections with my own ideas and practices. Al Kennedy was a fantastic speaker at last year's Short Story Conference, and I'm really looking forward to this year's, even though I'm supposed to be presenting and haven't really done much about it except stress out!

p.s. sorry to any writers I've missed out on the list!

Rising Rainbow said...

I like the idea of writing on scrap paper with venom and all that which annoys us. Clearing out the mind is good.

hesitant scribe said...

MiKaila - it's a great idea I think! And must just say how gorgeous those twins are! Hope they're doing well!