Why I Write

I’ve recently been reading James Scott Bell’s excellent book, “Plot and Structure.” Each chapter includes some exercises at the end. Having completed one, I thought I would share the results with you all here, in the hope that it might inspire your creative writing efforts today.

When readers read my novels, I want them to feel elated and inspired at the end. That’s because, to me, novels are an opportunity to be transformed by immersing ourselves in another world where we can walk a mile in another person’s shoes, experience the drama and danger, the ups and the downs of that person’s experiences without ever leaving the confines of our own beds.

In a novel, we get to play, to experiment and to imagine what we would do if we ever found ourselves in a similar situation, so that when we come to face life’s dramas we are better equipped to do so than we would have been if we were relying solely on our own experiences. Novels broaden our horizons, they help us to imagine the unimaginable and ultimately they remind us of the universality of the human condition and that we are never fully alone.

Novels help us connect with the human race, join hands with the myriad of other intrepid explorers and travel through distant lands that are beyond our wildest dreams. When we return from the novel, it is like coming home from a long trip, back to the comfortable and familiar, yet knowing that we have been indelibly changed by the experience and that life will somehow never be the same again.

What’s stopping you..?

Why getting an editor was the best thing I ever did

I’m terrified of releasing my work on the world. There, I’ve said it. I’ve had an idea for a novel which has been percolating in my head for the past eleven years and yet it is still not published. I’ve written countless drafts, some of which I’m ashamed to say I’ve deleted in moments of pure insanity. I’ve renamed, restructured, reversed and rebelled. So what’s stopping me from giving it a go? One word. FEAR!

I’ve nothing to compare it to. I’m an avid reader so surely I’m a reasonable judge of what is good and bad literature? For me, it’s quite simple. I want to get lost in a story, be transported to another world. I want to connect with the characters, to care what happens to them, to experience the highs and lows of their journeys and to really miss them when I close the back page. That’s what I want from a story and that’s what I want to give to the world.

Yet when I read my manuscripts I get some glimpses of light coming through the cracks of my own incompetencies, but the awkwardness of the prose and unnaturalness of the dialogue rips me apart and I can’t see the light anymore. Is it good enough? Will it pass muster? I doubt it.

I long since decided to self-publish. I love social media and marketing and figured if my work is meant to be read it will find its way into the hands of the right readers. What I haven’t had until now is an editor, that is until I approached Ros. Ros is a friend who has an ability with language akin to a music maestro’s ear or a mathematician’s brain. She just knows when it’s grammatically correct. It sounds right. She agreed to take me on.

We’re working together one chapter at a time. I send it to her and she edits it, not with red pen, but the completed edited manuscript. I trust her to retain the integrity of my writing as she goes. Now here’s the catch. She won’t return it to me until I send her the next chapter. I’m chomping at the bit to know what she thinks each time, and desperate to see the finished result, but I hear absolutely nothing from her until I send her the next one. It makes me keep going and forces me to at least release my work to one person.

When I do, it’s always a joyful occasion. She tells me I’m a great storyteller and she can’t wait to hear what happens next. She encourages me to keep going. The chapters that are returned still sound like me, but I know they are cleaner and easier to read. Ros is a miracle-worker in my life and I know, because of her, that I will reach my goal of releasing my work on the world this year. Getting an editor was the best thing I ever did. What about you?