Drawing on Experiences for the Emotional Arc

The Golden Rules

  1. If you lift it straight from life, it needs to go into an autobiography, a biography, or another non-fiction book. Fiction is fictional. Don't let your imagination rust up by copying and pasting the lives of your nearest and dearest into your novels.
  2. If you ignore '1' your friends and family will never speak to you again.
  3. You CAN lift the EMOTION out of your life, but a better way to do it is to start with the fictional world you are constructing and, from within the character's psychological mindset, sink into those experiences you have had that resonate with the character's own.
  4. This will hurt (if the emotions are painful).
  5. Make sure the pain you're feeling is the character's and not your own. If it is your own, leave the room and have a piece of cake. Have a whole cake if you need to. Literature is more important than your waistline. The pen is mightier than the pin-up, and so on, and so forth. This is important stuff.
  6. Take time away from the scene.
  7. Go back to it when you can read it in a readerly, rather than writerly way. If, when you read it as a reader, you still cry for the character, you've got it right. If you cry for yourself, get therapy. Whatever the problem, it's not worth ruining a book over it.
  8. You can graph the plot and emotional arcs if you desperately want to, but an easier way to test them is just to read your book. Give it time to cool. Then read.
Any other tips you can share, word nerds?  Leave them in the comments section. 



How to Overcome Writer's Block (and LOVE the Process)

The oft-quoted phrase ‘writers write’ is all well and good if you can bring yourself to do so, but what if you are blocked?

Blocking comes in many forms. Some people refer to it as Writer's Block but that needs to be deconstructed because it’s not a simple malady. There are many components that could lead a writer to feel blocked.

1/ Your family does not take your writing ambitions seriously
2/ You don’t have time to write
3/ You don’t have space to write
4/ You lack inspiration
5/ You are too exhausted
6/ You need to prioritise your writing

The first and sixth points have the same root. Your family (you can substitute this word with ‘friends’, ‘colleagues’, etc) does not take you seriously, so you don’t take yourself seriously. Our views of ourselves as writers can be nurtured or harmed by those around us.

Sometimes, criticism is helpful. Constructive criticism is crucial. If you are subjected to the ‘drip, drip, drip’ of negativity, however, your confidence and creativity will be eroded.

Any of the following ring a bell?
  • ‘Who do you think you are?’
  • ‘Ooh. Get you. Next JK Rowling, are you?’ followed by a snigger.
  • ‘Great, Mum. Happy for you. Where’s my supper?'
  • ‘Saw you writing your “novel” on your lunch hour, Tony. You’re wasting your time. Come down the pub with us.’
  • ‘You’re a writer? *Yawn*. Fascinating. When can I expect my free, signed novel?'*
  • 'I would write a novel too, but I haven’t got the time. You must have a lot of time on your hands.'
    * TOP TIP: The answer I give is: ‘You’re an Estate Agent? *Yawn*. Fascinating. When can I expect my free, signed house?’

    Of course, there are social media versions too, which tend to be variations on:
    •         ‘Call yourself a writer? You’re a nobody! *Unfollow*’
    Well ... this is all very unpleasant. It is no surprise that you feel blocked, especially if you are fitting your little nuggets of writing time around work or family, and struggling to stay inspired – and awake – squashed into the corner of a sofa, with a laptop on a tray, at 3am.

    Stop.  Listen. Your writing deserves to be read. For it to be read, it must first be written, and edited. You need to take a stand to create a space in which it is safe for you to be a writer. It doesn’t matter if you have never been published. If you are putting pen to paper – or tapping out words on a keyboard – you are a writer.

    Find Space, Time, and Your Muse

    I got this idea into my head a few months ago, and I set out to look for a place that offered writing retreats. I’m not talking about the big, organised writing retreats, where you meet up with loads of other writers. What interested me was the idea of a personal retreat. A bit of personal time and space. That is what you need, to write.

    I found it closer to home than I had anticipated. Not only are these wonderful cottages close to where I live, but Charles Cawley and Lorna Philip, the lovely people who run Country Holiday Lets, follow me on Twitter and Facebook. I approached them and suggested the cottages would make marvellous writing retreats, and they not only agreed, but furnished me with fascinating writerly facts that proved my hunch. Each of them helps a writer in a different way. In this first post about the retreats, I'll share two with you, along with the ways I think they will help writers the most. See which would help you.

    Surround Yourself with Books

    Imagine yourself in a book shop. You are breathing in the scent of beautifully bound books. On the shelves are the classics that inspired you to become a writer. Now you are in another book shop. Now another. Each one bustles with people who, like you, believe in the power of books. You buy the book that inspires you the most, go back to your retreat and, filled with the kind of self belief the writer of that book had, you write your own.

    Having never been to Hay we would certainly go back again to get a proper look at all of those amazing book shops.

    Hay-on-Wye, on the Welsh/English border, is the location of the Hay Festival for good reason. The place is full to the gunnels with books.

    Imagine staying in your own elegant retreat as the fresh air, and sounds of the river, play through your open window. That is what 25 Millrise offers.

    Charles tells me that The Shepherds Teashop in Hay on Wye is a good place to sit outside and write. Click for a beautiful description of the area, and more pictures of 25 Millrise.

    Millrise was one of the nicest places I think I have ever stayed! The house is really well finished, very comfortable and in a lovely location! I would go back and recommend it to others! 

    Write in a Cottage Where a Book Was Written

    When you walk into a building in which the writer of a classic novel once breathed, something happens. You get inspired. You see what they saw when they wrote, you look out of the same windows. You inhabit the same space. Your writing echoes this.

    The cottage was fantastic, so well presented and so very comfortable. The time seemed to stand still, due entirely to the relaxing atmosphere of both the cottage and surrounding countryside. An inspirational kitchen garden to look at and enjoy - everything was an absolute delight. Our first break for many years but one we shall repeat thanks to finding you on-line. All being well we shall be in touch in early 2011 to sample one of your other cottages, such is your high standard. 

    When I was a child, I studied the book On The Black Hill so I was elated to discover that the cottage in which Bruce Chatwin wrote some of its most brooding chapters was also one of the cottages in the Country Holiday Lets stable: The Coachman’s Cottage.

    Set in an area of the South Shropshire Hills, one of the most beautiful areas in England, the cottage is perfectly located to explore the castles of the area. See more about the cottage here.

    I hope you enjoyed this introduction to writing retreats that inspire me. Part two will be posted shortly, but if you are inspired by either of these retreats, I advise you to act before they are booked up. First, ask yourself these questions:
    •         How long do I deserve to give myself for my writing retreat?
    •          Do I deserve more than one writing retreat in 2011? If so, how long will they be, and at what times of year?
    •          What do I want to accomplish? (e.g. Write/finish a first draft; edit a manuscript; come up with an idea for a book; research for a book; immerse self in books, etc).
    For more information, go to countryholidaylets.co.uk



    Got an Article in Writing Magazine!

    Two amazing things happened this week. My GROUPON Blog finally went live this morning:

    and my first article in Writing Magazine was published! I say 'first article' in the hopes of a second, third, etc. You never know.  :)

    Either tomorrow, or the next day, I'll put up a post that will help you commit to your writing in 2011. Some wonderful stuff to share with you. Make sure that you check back for that. I think you'll find it helpful and inspiring. Until then, please be a sweetheart and pass on the link for this post. Appreciate it. 

    Thank you. 

    Rebecca xxx



    I am a GROUPON Writer!!

    2011 Is Going to Be AWESOME!

    Hello, lovely people. It's me! Remember me? No? Oops. Sorry about that. Been a bit busy, but I'll make it up to you with some splendid news... I'm a blogger for Groupon!! 

    If you don't know what Groupon is, they are the fastest growing web company of all time. The people behind the scenes are LOVELY, and the deals are beyond amazing.

    The thing I love about Groupon is that they've hit the sweet spot between paraonia about the economy and plugging your ears with your fingers and pretending it doesn't exist. Groupon acknowledges that people are looking for bargains, but they do it in a fun and positive way. No doom and gloom here. Utter luxury for next to nothing. My kind of place!

    The next bit of news is that my Writing Magazine debut is in TWO DAYS! Whoop whoop! I haven't seen the finished article, so I'm curious to see what it looks like. Can't wait!

    By the way, if you're not a pen pal of mine yet, you're missing out on lovely postcards...

    Leave me a comment. I want to natter with my lovely word nerd chums. :)



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