The Craft: Celia’s advice for writers
All writers are different. Some began writing when they were children. Others, like me, didn’t start until they were grown up. Some write every day, others when they have time, or when they feel like it. Some plan meticulously, others never plan anything.
There are no rules about creativity. These are just some tips for getting started, collecting ideas and how to turn your ideas into a story:
- Keep a notebook to jot down ideas, observations, and bits of description.
- Start an ideas file. Collect and keep anything: pictures, postcards, newspaper clippings, that makes you think about writing something, or might be useful for a project you have in mind, or one that you are working on now. When I’m writing, I often collect things in this kind of way. See if you recognize any of them and can guess the title of the associated novel.
- Read as much as possible. You can learn a lot from other writers about how they tell the story, establish a sense of place, and develop characters. This is not the same as copying what they write about.
- Writers come by their plots in different ways. They gather them from conversations, newspapers, and from their own experience. Plot development is a very personal thing, no two writers work the same, but it helps to have a clear idea of what is going to happen before you start. Things can always be changed both during and after writing.
- Develop your plot by thinking what could possibly happen to these people, in this place, at this time. Plots work by cause and effect and everything should happen for a reason, even in fantasy. Ultimately, the whole thing has to be believable, so make sure that the story makes sense and that the links are strong.
- DON’T copy or be derivative. If you really admire a particular writer, film, or TV programme, the odds are that other people will, too. Learn and move on. Be original.
If you want to write scary stuff, or horror – here are ten tips – just for you.
- Avoid blood and gore – use very sparingly. At best, you risk turning off the reader, at worst you will make them laugh.
- Horror lies in small details. – use your powers of re-call and observation to build a sense that something is wrong. Remember that fear often lies in putting familiar things together in unfamiliar ways.
- What frightens you, will frighten other people.
- Set your story in places you know. Horror has to be anchored in everyday reality. Your task is to make the unbelievable, believable.
- Base your characters on people you know. We don’t just have to believe in them. We have to care what happens to them as well.
- Don’t rip off Horror films or other writers. Horror fans will know!
- Avoid clichés – trust your own experience and observation.
- All stories must obey an internal logic. Everything must happen for a reason. This is more true of horror than most other genre.
- Build your story carefully. Start with hints that things aren’t quite right, that things are getting strange, and slowly build a sense of menace and threat.
- Your task is not just to scare the reader. You must make them believe: ‘This could happen. It could happen to me.’
The number of children’s book sites is growing. They vary in usefulness and some of the views expressed are very personal and quirky, but some of the best are very good indeed and offer a great way of finding out what’s out there and what people are reading. Some of them offer readers the chance to submit their own reviews; others offer help to writers and the opportunity get their work read by others.
Anyone wanting to get published should check out http://www.helpineedapublisher.blogspot.com/ for help and advice.
[Visit the links page to see Celia’s recommended websites and other useful links]