Between events yesterday (I ran the free workshop during the afternoon and then taught in the evening) I had a little time to kill and ended up picking up the library’s copy of The Giving Tree. I’d never read it before (how??). It’s stunning. It’s beautiful and it is, I think, the perfect story. Enjoy! Weep! Be happy!
So, the free event I did for Adult Learners’ Week on Tuesday went well. I’ve done a couple of events like this before (I’ve just noticed, to my horror, that the last one was five years ago), and always end up coming out of them thinking what a good idea they are; giving people the opportunity to learn something for free is, for me, absolutely what libraries are about. And, probably, what life’s about too, to an extent.
So yep, I enjoyed myself. I talked about writing a lot and I answered questions about writing, and all was good. And the one thing that stuck out during the course of the afternoon, the best advice I gave, was, I think: that if you want to write you just should. You should just sit down and do it, trust your story, and not worry about where you’ll end up – because that discovery and that journey is where the magic is.
The other bit was not being daunted. I think that it’s so easy, when we start out, to feel hopelessly unqualified to write and that’s, from personal experience, a really scary thing (and let’s not forget that I don’t even have A Levels). But every writer started somewhere, and they got where they are by writing. Even when it was scary. Even when they might have thought they weren’t good enough or qualified enough, or anything like that.
So if I was going to give any advice to anyone just starting out, for this week at least, it’d be this: Just do it. The fact that you WANT to puts you in a very, very good position before you’ve even started. And that’s a bit magic too.
Just a quick note to say that I’ll be appearing at the fabulous Bollington library next Tuesday (21st of May) to talk about writing and publishing and helping with people’s work and all that kind of thing. I’ll be there from 2 until 7, so if there’s anything you’d like to know or like help with or ask me then pop in at any point between those times. It’s free and there are tickets available but feel free to just pop in – it’ll all be very informal, which is how I like it best. And there will be tea and biscuits and perhaps even cake.
Hope to see some of you there.
When I first started blogging, way back in 2006, Aliya Whiteley’s was the first I remember reading regularly. If memory serves, both of our first books came out at about that time. She also accepted a short story I wrote when she was the editor over at Serendipity. I like her. She’s ace.
And she has a new book out. A short story collection. It’s called Witchcraft at the Harem and it’s a bit different to the other things she’s written (funny crime novels). I’m delighted to welcome her here today to talk about that and, why writing isn’t a straight line.
AND, if you pop a comment below I’ll put you into a draw to win a copy of the book. Do it. It will make you happy. (I’ll make the draw at the end of the week.)
Over to Aliya…
Why Writing is not a Straight Line
Once upon a time I wrote two comic crime novels, and was lucky enough to get them published. That led to a contract and an agent. I thought my writing life was about to become plain sailing.
I like comedy writing, and I like the crime genre. They’re not the only types of writing I like. Commercial or literary, romance, fantasy, horror, science fiction – I’ve written them all with varying degrees of success. When comic crime paid off I told myself and my agent that I’d only write in that genre from that moment on, and my agent told me I was making a wise decision. She wanted me to build a brand. But as I attempted to write only in one direction, strange things began to happen in my novels. Just telling the story from A to B had never held any interest for me, but now monsters from hot countries and strawberry pickers from outer space started to turn up. I had great ideas for short stories, too – challenging ideas, nasty ones, peculiar ones.
Basically, it began to occur to me that didn’t want to write crime after all. My brain was not interested in thinking exclusive thoughts.
I fought it for a couple of years. Wrestling with your creative subconscious is like wrestling ghosts in the dark with your hands tied behind your back. You don’t win. As soon as I admitted defeat, I felt so much better about myself and my writing, and I hit a really production period of short story creation that could loosely be called literary fantasy writing. A lot of the stories in my new collection from Dog Horn Publishing, Witchcraft in the Harem, spring from that period.
It’s not that fantasy writing is new for me – I’d say the fantasy genre was my first love as a reader. From Diana Wynne Jones I progressed to Piers Anthony, and then David Eddings, Guy Gavriel Kay, and Michael Moorcock. I loved those books before I discovered George Eliot and Charlotte Bronte, or thought about trying to write for myself. I think the genre of fantasy allows me to feel free in my writing and my imagination after a period when I felt contained; anything can happen, from a head appearing in the cabbage patch to a cloud of butterflies sweeping you out of a hot air balloon.
So it’s not so much that I changed genre. I only stopped fighting what was there all along. I don’t know if I’ll ever write crime again, but if the ideas come to me I won’t push them away. And I won’t apologise for my imagination or my writing. Witchcraft in the Harem contains stories that are disconcerting, dark and lyrical – sometimes funny, sometimes not. But they’re all mine, and I’m proud of them.
Don’t forget to enter the draw now…