Writing Challenges

March 4, 2019 at 8:29 pm | Posted in Australia, Mental Health, Publishing, self-publishing, Writing, Writing and Life | 16 Comments
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When I discovered I really could write creative fiction back in 2005 at the age of fifty-seven, a flood-gate opened and words poured from my pen (I write my drafts by hand). I lost count of the number of short stories, poems, articles and memoir items I wrote over the following few years. And then I decided to write a novel, aimed at 10-16-year-olds, and things changed.

 

I wrote the following reflection in July 2011, when that first novel was about to go out into the world:

 

It took me four years to write Ben’s Challenge. All the way through, from the idea (it was originally going to be a short story) to the completion I had to battle to get it done. No, it’s not that I can’t write, or that it took many revisions, or that I didn’t know where the story was going and what I wanted it to do. And it’s not that I don’t know my grammar, punctuation and spelling either – I grew up in an era when schools taught that kind of thing. No, the problem was deeper than any or all of those.

My problem was a lack of confidence in myself, which manifested itself in many ways. The main issue I had to overcome was procrastination; after all, if I didn’t write, nobody could say it was rubbish, could they – and that included myself.

A life-long struggle with depression also helped make my self-doubts into mountains I was certain I couldn’t climb. Even when my critique group expressed admiration for my style of writing and for the story, I wasn’t able to relax and go with the flow.

Funnily enough, it was during my eighteen months of treatments for breast cancer that I wrote the most easily and with the most confidence. I suppose writing was no longer my sole focus, so I took the pressure off myself. My doubts became background noise, which I could often ignore. . .

 

After publishing Ben’s Challenge, it took me a couple of years to start on my next novel, this one for Young Adults. I had to work up the courage to see if the first book was just a one-off or if I was a “real writer”. As I had in writing that first one, I battled through self-doubt, bouts of depression and procrastination – again in spite of my writing critique partners’ and my husband’s support and encouragement. One period of not writing lasted for a whole year. As a result, it again took about four years before the book was finished. Thursday’s Child was published in February 2018 and those who have read it say it is an amazing and wonderful story – even better than the first one.

I have an idea for a follow-up to Thursday’s Child – a strong story line and again, challenging themes. I have written a few chapters, but am struggling to get moving on it. There always seems to be something more important to do – that’s the usual problem of procrastination, I suppose. You’d think that, after two well-received books, I would have confidence in myself; that the words would flow as they did fourteen years ago, but they don’t. I am scared that I won’t be able to pull it off again.

I know that if I really want the story to see the light of day, I must, as with the other stories, fight my way through the self-doubts, the fear and insecurity, and get on with the job. Or maybe I’ll just wait until after I’ve delivered my part of a panel presentation on self-publishing at the Newcastle Writers’ Festival in a month’s time. Then I’ll get stuck into it. Oh, that sounds like more procrastination though, doesn’t it? Mmmmm…

 

Linda Visman, 4th March 2019

 

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Writing Skills are Necessary

September 27, 2011 at 3:06 am | Posted in Writing | 2 Comments
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Here is part of an interview I gave last week. The question was:

Do you have any advice for new authors?

This was my reply. I have added a little more to it as well.

One of the things I would say to new authors is “follow your dream”. However – and this is where the former teacher comes out – you cannot follow that dream without the skills and tools you need to do it well.

There are too many self-published writers out there who do not have a real grasp of even the most basic writing skills – grammar, punctuation and, often, vocabulary.

Writers also need to be able to tell a story in a way that can be understood by the reader. It is no good putting in lots of action, or having unusual characters and/or setting, when your story does not flow, where the reader wonders what is going on, who is who, or why events are occurring.

You want to put the reader into the story, so you must make it logical and believable within its context. This may be contemporary, historical, fantasy, alternate, whatever.

So, if you need to write, want to write, and have a story to tell, then learn the skills that will help you to tell that story to the best of your ability.

It is hard enough to get your work out into the world when it is well-written, and when it has appropriate and realistic setting, context, characters action and story. Most discerning readers will put aside a poorly written novel in favour of a well-written one.

You can always write for yourself, and then the skills don’t matter. But, if you want to write for others, you must master the skills of writing. To be a writer is hard work. It doesn’t just happen.

These days, getting out there is extremely difficult, even if you have a perfect story, perfectly written. You cannot submit your writing to a publisher or an agent and expect them to fix up the grammar, the punctuation, the spelling, and the problems in the storyline. You have to get that right first yourself.

I suggest that you get yourself a book that will teach you about sentences, about grammar, and about setting out your dialogue. These basic skills that are not often taught in school any more, and that is a serious omission from the curriculum. If you can’t write well, you cannot communicate the exact thoughts that you wish to. So, if you want to write well, you will have to teach yourself how to do it.

© Linda Visman

27.09.2011

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