A treat – for readers and writers alike: I’m sure you’ll enjoy the writing tips that Catherine Brophy, writer, story-teller and broadcaster has kindly shared with us. After a recent conversation with Catherine, about editing my first novel, these pointers couldn’t have come at a better time!
Catherine writes film, T.V. and radio scripts and she also writes short stories. Her previous novels are The Liberation of Margaret Mc Cabe and Dark Paradise. Her latest novel, Burning Bright, is a comedy about money, fame and the Celtic Tiger.
According to Catherine, she lives a blameless life in Ireland but escapes whenever she can. She’s been rescued by a circus troupe in Serbia, had breakfast with a Zambian chief, ate camel stew in the Sahara, and was kicked by a horse on the Mexican plain.
Now over to Catherine!
WHO WROTE THIS HIDEOUS RUBBISH?
And who stole my beautiful prose?
Ah yes, I know the feeling well. You’ve got a great idea. You’ve found the time to write. You’ve gone at it full tilt. Your head is ablaze with ideas. It’s going great. You write and write and write till you come to a natural halt. You rise from your desk with a feeling of virtue and genius and general fabulousness. This must be how Shakespeare felt when he’d put the final full stop to Hamlet.
All you have to do now is run the spell check, tidy up the punctuation, maybe change a word or a phrase here and there, and you’ll do that to-morrow. You go to bed that night and sleep the sleep of the just.
Morning arrives and you rush to your desk with a song on your lips certain you’ll get this finished to-day. You read what you wrote and OMG! That blaze of ideas… that eloquence… where is it? It’s all disappeared! All that’s left is lumpen paragraphs and hobbled sentences. You want to howl to the heavens and collapse in despair. But, before you tie a millstone round your neck and jump into the river – read on.
Lodged somewhere in the back of our brains is the notion that a REAL writer sits down and writes. That inspiration flows from the angels, through her mind and her quill and directly on to the page. If only! REAL writers write and re-write and re-write and re-write again. So save yourself trouble and heartache.
- Within all that cack-handed prose there are jewels. They need polishing and proper settings but they’re still jewels and when you calm down you will recognise them.
- All writing is about clarification. You want to communicate your ideas as vividly as possible to your reader. You can only do that when you have clarified them to yourself.
- Think of the first draft as detailed notes, the place for that clarification. Nobody expects notes to be perfect.
- Don’t bother editing, correcting or polishing just keep going –you can waste a lot of time editing only to discover later that you need to cut that bit out!
- Use all the clichés, slip shod grammar, poor punctuation, inaccurate phrases and colloquial expressions that comes to mind – they’re just shorthand. You know what you mean and you can find the accurate word, the dazzling phrase on the next draft, or the one after that.
- Don’t do too much research – you’ll waste hours on fascinating information which you don’t need. Only check facts that you know are essential.
- Make notes as you write, put them in colour or bold. “Research this” “This needs to be in earlier.” “Insert more info about x” etc.
- Keep writing on till the end.
Whew… the first draft is finished. It’s not undying prose but you’ve got what you need. More clarity. A better understanding of your characters, more information about your plot, some idea of themes and a firm foundation to build on. Step 1 of the process of writing is complete. Now for Step 2.
Burning Bright by Catherine Brophy
The Celtic Tiger is in his prime and the Kerrigans are splashing the cash. They have made it big time, so eat your heart out you small town snobs! But Daddy’s-girl Kirsty wants Celebrity and International Fame and devotes herself to pursuing this dream. Crashing Madonna’s Christmas party doesn’t help, neither does causing a stir on Big Brother but when a video clip of Kirsty goes viral on You Tube, fame arrives with a bang. But Tracey O’Hagan, a blast from a shady patch in the Kerrigan past, has appeared on the scene. She’s mad. She’s bad. And she’s definitely dangerous to know.
Set in the years of the Celtic Tiger, Burning Bright is told in the voices of Kerrigan family members and friends. It’s funny. It’s believable. And it will definitely make you laugh.
AVAILABLE NOW ON AMAZON
Unless I’m wrong, I’m guessing that most of you write with a word-processor, most likely, Microsoft Word. I started there too and couldn’t fault it for short stories and poems. But, when I got stuck into my novel and a fellow writer suggested I try Scrivener, I reluctantly decided to give it a try.
I didn’t want anything to take me away from writing, but apparently Scrivener would help me to organise everything (index cards, notes, character CV’s, PDF’s etc) into one place for easy access – and it does! You get to create virtual index cards, stack and shuflle them until you get them in the order you want and then pin them on your virtual corkboard.
Admittedly, it does take a couple of hours to get to grips with it, but once you do, you get to reap the rewards. Microsoft Word is still necessary, in my opinion, but Scrivener works at pulling everything together for novel writing and makes it easier to keep track of all those missing scraps of paper and pages of notes.
You type your novel in the main screen while, at the same time, you can see your chapter titles on the left of the screen. Scribbled notes and comments on the chapter you’re working on appear on the right of the screen. The function that I love most; is where you can have a narrow window running side-by-side with your current chapter. Here you can view whichever chapter you need to scan over to ensure that you’re familiar with what you had written earlier. It saves having to scroll through pages and pages of Word to find exactly what you need.
I would recommend downloading the trial version. You can find it here. This allows you 30 days of actual use to try it out – so if you only use it two days a week, it lasts fifteen weeks. I found it so great, that after two weeks I bought it – at $40 it’s a steal!
You can then export your finished novel into a wide variety of file formats, including Microsoft Word, PDF and HTML or even self-publishing formats.
If you’ve tried Scrivener already, please comment. If you haven’t then give it a try and let me know what you think.