Tag Archives: Nottingham

Nottingham Festival of Words blog hop

I’m very pleased to join Nottingham Festival of Words’ blog hop – thanks to Rustic Writer for tagging me next.

What’s your connection with Nottingham and its written and spoken words?

I’ve lived in Nottingham now for 14 years, and I moved up here because of words. Well, kind of. I moved to transfer to a branch of Waterstone’s bookshop in an area of the country where the wages could enable me to leave home and live independently. At Waterstone’s I met some lovely friends – people who made me glad to have made a leap into the unknown and people who shared their love of literature with me, people who were happy to debate nonsense in the pub after a shift and buy coffee on an early start the following day.

No longer a bookseller, I occasionally review them for Left Lion or write stories instead. It’s thanks to the Nottingham Festival of Words that I have my name on an actual book being published this year! My first. At the last festival (actually the first) I joined a collaborative writing workshop, thought it was quite fun and applied to join a collaborative novel competition. Though I only made it through three rounds I nevertheless learned a lot about my own writing – it’s been a pretty interesting experience.

On the side from all of that, I also volunteer at Creative Nottingham, shining a light on the best grassroots creatives the city has to offer. If anyone fancies blogging for us in the autumn, get in touch!

What do you love about Nottingham and its creative scene right now?

It all seems pretty accessible – it’s not elitist or snobby. Someone like me, starting out on their own, can find a community of like-minded people pretty easily – there’s so much going on and lots of chances to get chatting to others and join in.

How would you describe Nottingham to a visitor coming to the Festival of Words?

Try and remember that as great as this festival is, it’s only a small slice of the FABULOUS stuff Nottingham has going on right now. If you don’t live here and you’re not involved, get stuck in!

You can find out more about the Festival of Words at their website. 

I shall find someone to tag in this blog post and send the bloghop on its way…

Plotting…

I went to a workshop at Nottingham Writers Studio last night. It was called ‘Plot your novel in an hour’ and was part of their summer taster workshop series, short sharp shocks to draw in the crowds and boost membership.

It was a packed room full of folk keen to learn the basics of plotting. And we did. Though I must say, I feel some people got a leetle too hung up on the intricacies of the example we were creating and perhaps didn’t get to grips with the bigger picture. But that had its advantages. In short, their working out the plot gave me time to apply lessons from the instructions to my own book. And I realised two things.

First up, my plots involve internal shenanigans. There are no shootings, burglaries or complicated blackmail plots. There are betrayals, loneliness and illness. This makes the lessons from a plotting session harder to pick apart, at least at first, but you can get there. It’s especially difficult to think about an antagonist. Unless I pick the illness itself. But that’s just silly.

The second thing was that my second character (there are two interlacing storylines) is far too passive and doesn’t do anything but allows stuff to happen to her. I knew something was wrong but hadn’t pinned it down yet. This was it. For this alone, the workshop was valuable.

This bloody character is causing me far too much trouble. I’ve already discarded 12,000 words of her when I realised they were wrong too. So the final lesson from last night’s workshop is that I need to sum her up in just two words – an adjective and a noun – and use those as my guide. These will tell me who she is and direct her actions through the rest of the book. Stick to that.

If you want to check out NWS’s courses or workshops, you can visit their website and book yourself on.

Seed packets from Writers’ Greenhouse

My writing group, Writing at Rosy’s, met last Wednesday. After a discussion about how walking isn’t as good exercise as you think it is, we managed to move to a proper table and start on the task at hand. Which was to examine the Premise versus Plot seed packets we’d been sent by Writers’ Greenhouse.

The seed packets are a series of writing tools you can buy (very reasonably) to help certain technical aspects of your work. They are divided into exercises which you can do individually or in a group, though they are specifically designed to work in a group. I did the individual exercises last month on a train journey and thought they were good but I was certain they would benefit from a group discussion. And I was right.

The Premise vs Plot packet lets you ‘explore what makes novels great and the difference between premise and plot.’ Somehow Megan at Writers’ Greenhouse had managed to put her finger on one of main worries with my current writing and sent me a seed packet that promised to help.

We started by looking at what made certain novels great, and discussed our own favourites. I’d worked out that I liked characters and setting most in my favourite books – and that plot was of less consequence (except, of course, when I’m reading a crime novel.) For others among us, their preference was plot based. We all rated characters. The trick for me was then to work out how to convey a strong changing character in a novel that, for many, has little plot. I vowed to go home and painstakingly write out what happened in each chapter of the books I was looking at (Brother of the More Famous Jack by Barbara Trapido and Nobody’s Fool by Richard Russo) which is essentially just another excuse to read them again…

This was important to me because I was feeling increasingly hamstrung by the book I’m writing, certain that I’d got a great idea and very little action. I’ve mapped out much of the book already – though scenes keep getting added as I think of them – and I wasn’t sure if I’d got enough, if enough happened, to make it a book and not just a good idea that needed some fleshing out. The premise v plot exercises were enough to spark conversation and debate. We all shared our current work – the ideas behind it, a bit more about how we developed these and what was next. It was also suggested to me that I was over thinking it all, which is certainly possible.

Once in a while, all you need as a writer is to sit down among people who understand that you’re spending a lot of time in your head with people who don’t exist. And that your self-doubt a consequence of all your internal wranglings. This chat was helpful and positive and inspiring and doubt banishing and more. What it also means is that I’ll soon find something else to get hung up on, but for now, I’m re-reading some old friends and working out why I love them. And I’m running back to my characters who are sitting patiently on Scrivener waiting for me to get past this.

The Seed Packets are available from Writers’ Greenhouse and cover a whole range of topics and areas for development. They have a simple but professional design and are easy to use. I reckon I’ll be grabbing a few more before this novel’s done.