Just a quick note to every reader and writer out there to wish you all the very best for 2017.
As an avid reader, since childhood, I’ve always appreciated great books – the kind that live on in your imagination long after you’ve finished the very last page – yet have you questioning the characters decisions as you wonder how it all might have panned out if only they’d taken a different route. The what if …
When I began to write, I initially lost a little of the magic of reading. It felt as if I was watching a magic show where I knew how the magician had pulled off the trick. But thankfully, I’m out the other side – there are so many wonderful writers out there who deliver a fabulous read while managing to keep the secrets of how they deliver them carefully hidden. And so, for me, the magic is back.
Now all I have to do, in 2017, is to find a way to up the ante so that I too can deliver a fabulous read while hiding the strings. A challenge, but what’s life without them. Onwards and upwards …
Wish me luck as I wish you all the very best of health and happiness in the New Year!
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
I am a word lover! I would have said I’m a book lover, but over the years how my world has changed. I’ve grown from an avid reader of the physical book (still my favourite form, I have to add!) to loving my Sony eReader which allows me to read six books on holiday without paying the dreaded penalty of luggage charges, as I cram books into my suitcase.
But I then became a writer – if I thought I loved words as a reader – I love them even more as a writer. Finding just the right word to portray the image I’m compelled to create brings back memories of my dad, cup of tea in hand each evening, as he sat with his daily crossword fix.
But how exactly does this all lead on to Toastmasters?
Well, I don’t know whether you agree – and would love you to let me know either way – but early in my writing career, I realised that how you deliver your writing to the wider audience is every bit as important as the way you write it. Never having trouble reading in class as a child, I suddenly found myself becoming tongue-tied and emotional as I read aloud memoir pieces in my creative writing class. My throat would dry up and my heart thunder in my ears. It may be a good thing to ‘feel the moment‘ in what you’ve created, but it dawned on me then, that as a writer you bare your very soul to the world. You feel that anyone listening to you read is judging you not only on your writing, but also on your delivery.
Although I’m still going to buy their books, I have occasionally come away from a book launch just a little disappointed if my favourite writer has mumbled their way through their reading. On the other hand, I have often listened to writers read so beautifully, that even though I might not have been a fan of their genre, I have purchased their book.
I considered a quick-fix and scoured the internet. I found various sites on public speaking courses and even psychotherapy – which I considered enough to send off an enquiry email. A couple of friends mentioned Toastmasters (even though they didn’t know much about it) and the name popped up favourably, again and again in forums – so I decided to give it a try. I rang the President of Clondalkin Toastmasters, who was friendly and encouraging and informed me that it was free to attend the first couple of meetings to see what I thought. I still hadn’t a clue what to expect that first night, but if I told you I’m in my second year and currently hold the title of Vice President Public Relations, I’m sure you’d figure out that I enjoyed it and found Toastmasters did exactly what it said on the tin!
‘Our Club is made up of people from all walks of life who come together to practise public speaking, evaluating and inpromtu speaking in a supportive, friendly environment.’
It is and it does. Toastmasters hold meetings all over the world. Their members are from all walks-of-life; young, old, rich, poor, confident and shy, but all with one goal – to become better public speakers. And believe me, it works. Every meeting is an enjoyable night as you partake or listen to speeches or tall tales; a poem or a joke, give your feed-back and enjoy the laughter and banter over a cuppa at the break. It is the most encouraging environment you could imagine where you learn from watching others and put these tips into practice in your own speeches. The ‘pause’ is one I have yet to master – it adds so much to a speech – I’ll keep practicing . . .
At any stage in our lives – be it weddings, funerals, meetings or book launches – the ability to stand up in front of a crowd and speak is one we should all strive to master.
Do you agree with me?
Or are you already a fellow Toastmasters who would care to share?
There could be only one answer – a resounding YES – when I was asked to chair Three Voices/Three Forms at the Loose End Studio, Civic Theatre last Wednesday.
As part of the Red Line Book Festival 2012, this was a platform to showcase three very diverse, but equally talented writers:
Each writer read extracts from their work – Colm from his poetry, Don’t Go There; Eileen from her short story collection, Snow Shoes and Louise from her crime bestseller, Red Ribbons, along with a tantalizing taster from The Dolls House.
After their Readings I had an opportunity to ask each writer a couple of questions about their writing before opening up to the floor where the fun really began.
You only had to look at the audience to see how much they enjoyed listening to these wonderful writers and from the photo’s it certainly appears as if Colm, Eileen and Louise enjoyed the night too!
BOOKS ON WRITING:
Since I began writing some years ago, the one thing that has astonished me, is how giving, every writer I have met has been. It doesn’t seem to matter if it is a writer, at the top of their game, with a bundle of published books on the shelves or someone on the bottom rung of the writing ladder. I’m sure I’m not the only one who pounces on these nuggets of information, shared by these wonderful people, especially when they seem to be especially relevant to my writing at that particular moment in time. What better place to share with fellow writers than here! Hopefully, with your help, this post will grow and we will all pick up even more helpful tips and advice to push us to the top of that ladder. To get started, I’ve included books on writing but watch out for future posts I’m currently compiling, on software tools and general tips:
‘The New Author’ by Ruby Barnes
A self-help guide to novel writing, publishing as an independent ebook author and promoting your brand using social networks.
‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves‘ by Lynne Truss
The zero tolerance approach to punctuation.
‘The Five-Minute Writer‘ by Margret Geraghty
Exercise and inspiration in creative writing in five minutes a day.
‘On Writing‘ by Stephen King
A memoir of the craft.
‘How To Write Damn Good Fiction‘ by James N Frey
Advanced techniques for dramatic storytelling.
‘How To Write A Thriller‘ by Scott Mariani
This book is designed to help aspiring thriller writers to create exciting, suspenseful novels and to give you the best chance of getting your work published and into the bookshops.
‘Write And Get Paid For It‘ by Terry Prone
‘From Pitch To Publication‘ by Carole Blake
Everything you need to know to get your novel published.
‘The Author’s Toolkit’ by Mary Embree
A step-by-step guide to writing and publishing your book.
‘Becoming A Writer’ by Dorothea Brande
– As recommended by @maryjoburke1
A reissue of a classic work originally published in 1934 on writing and the creative process, Becoming A Writer recaptures the excitement of Dorothea Brande’s creative-writing classroom of the 1920’s.
‘Elements of Style’ by Strunk and White
– As recommended by @n_appleton
First published in the 1930’s and considered classic and timeless by many. Mentioned as a must by Stephen King in his book ‘On Writing’.
‘How Not To Write A Novel‘ by Sandra Newman & Howard Mittelmark
– As recommended by @gutterbookshop
200 mistakes to avoid at all costs if you ever want to get published.
‘Write Away‘ by Elizabeth George
– As recommended by @JanetOkane
“Here’s what I tell my students on the first day when I teach one of my creative writing courses: You will be published if you possess three qualities — talent, passion, and discipline.”
‘Getting The Words Right‘ by Theodore A Rees Cheney
– As recommended by @JanetOkane
39 ways to improve your writing.
‘Write To Be Published ‘ by Nicola Morgan
– As recommended by @JanetOkane
The Crabbit Old Bat whips you into shape and helps you make a publisher say ‘Yes’.
‘Writing Fiction‘ by Janet Burroway
– As recommended by @ValerieSirr
A guide to narrative craft.
‘The Writer’s Handbook Guide to Crime Writing‘ editor Barry Turner
– As recommended by @arlenehunt
With advice from Val McDermid, Ian Rankin, Tony Strong and Minette Walters.
‘The Art of Fiction‘ by John Gardner
– As recommended by @MWheelaghan
Notes on craft for young writers.
I’d love to hear your comments and any recommendations which can be added to this ever-growing list.
- Good Habits Make Good Writers Part 1: Rise and Write (readhead.ca)
- Best writing prompts… (maryjoburke.wordpress.com)
- My New Writing Bible….Stephen King ‘On Writing’ (missuswolf.wordpress.com)