Finding your voice

May 8, 2008

I picked up a book when I was in Vancouver called ‘Writing from the Body’ by John Lee. It leapt off the shelf at me, and despite being way over the weight limit already, I added it to the pile. I have just finished and know why the universe made me buy it. For the same reason that you need to own it too. This book will encourage, inspire and empower you to write from your gut, from your soul, from your heart and to write what resonates most with you so that, in turn, it resonates with your reader. Not only does it give advice on how you can develop the confidence to do this, but it has exercises too, examples of fine writing and leaves no stone unturned in its quest to set you and your voice free. Buy it!

It was high time I added this reading list to here, so here goes, my favourite books to inspire me as a writer are:

On Writing – Stephen King
Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
The Treehouse – Naomi Wolf
The Artist’s Way – Julia Cameron
Writing Down the Bones – Natalie Goldberg
Writing in a New Convertible with the Top Down – Christi Killien and Sheila Bender
Becoming a Writer – Dorothea Brande
A Writer’s Diary – Virginia Woolf
Eats Shoots and Leaves – Lynne Truss
Keeping Journal You Love – Sheila Bender

Whenever I suffer from a spot of block I buy another book – it always does the trick.

I’m battling with something I call procrastinationitis novellum. Sounds painful doesn’t it? Trouble is I usually put off the things I like least until last – like washing up the breakfast things, which I usually get around to while I’m cooking supper. Some things I hate so much I never do them all – like cleaning the car. So, why is it that I put off doing something I love too? Do you do that? I love writing. I love writing books. I love words, sentences, filling up a blank page. But knuckling down to writing my novel is beginning to beat me.

I read King’s book – see earlier blog – and that really helped. I am now managing one measly chapter a week. I want to do it so much. I love it when I’m there at the page. But somehow that washing up is more appealing at the moment.

Last night I went to a discussion between Edna O’Brien, Esther Freud and Rachel Cusk. It was held in a really funky place in Amsterdam, Felix Meritz on the Keizersgracht, in an upstairs room that was ironically lined with empty bookshelves. When asked about how they felt about writing, o’Brien said, ‘I hate it.’ She finds it torture, but she couldn’t ‘not’ do it. Cusk is riddled with self-doubt and agonises over every page. But one thing they all agree, is that that is what they do.

While I was out there, listening, I was not doing of course. Putting it off again. I could have spent the five hours it took me to get there and back at my iBook, writing my novel.

Or I could have been reading another wonderfully inspiring book about writing. As my friend Anne said on our long power walk this week, ‘I have read so many books about dieting so why have I not lost any weight? I should have by now!’ She was joking of course.

And me, I spend several months creating the perfect writing corner in my house – new chairs at just the right height, by a view of the sheep in the field opposite, new laptop (of course). But have I written there? Of course not. I am here in my office, sitting on a cheap Ikea chair, facing a wall of messy files. There is no window. And I’m writing this blog instead of writing my novel. I think I should rename my ‘writing corner’ my ‘not-writing corner’.

King created the perfect writing space too – wide polished wood desk in the white sea of a light and airy loft – and found the muse had scarpered. He is now back in a rickety desk under the eaves facing a blank wall. Because you see writers write. That is what they do. That is what I am doing now. Can’t resist it . . .in general . . . it’s just the novel that’s the problem – and of course it’s the thing I want to do most.

But, as I have now read all my emails and responded, had my breakfast, washed up and done the other stuff on my to-do list. I have run out of putting-it-off devices.

Deep breath, here goes

See you after chapter 5.

Jo

Yes, Stephen King! His book on writing, called ‘On Writing’ is first class and got me back at my manuscript at the double. I’d call it a kick up the arse, but he’d spell it ‘ass’, but you get my gist.

By the way this is FIRST book of his I’ve ever read!

Read it.

Jo

When I found a website that offers a book reviewing service I was pretty excited. Irene Watson’s site, Readerviews, offers hundreds of reviews and lots of extra services for authors. You can read my ensuing review here. I was pretty pleased with it as I am sure you can understand.

Jo
EW RBW

If you are serious about writing a novel – like me – please consider the following, all learned from Anita’s course at Castle of Park:

Join the Romantic Novelists’ Association – I know it sounds naff, but it is for middle market fiction and just has a silly name! They have a new writers’ scheme that gets you a fantastic crit and their meetings allow you to rub shoulders and network with the best.

Also, read Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’
Get a dictionary of slang and another of names, buy The Writer’s Handbook or The Artists and Writers Yearbook.
Know that the average length of time it takes to get a novel published is EIGHT YEARS!
Know that only 1000 authors in the UK can live off their writing
Know that age is no barrier to getting published
and that luck and skill are both vital!

Good luck

Jo

Fab reviews on Amazon

March 23, 2007

Wow! So many people have been buying my new books Expat Writer and Find Your Passion that Amazon is brimming with reviews. Take a look for yourself. Thanks particularly to my fan Anne Huscroft who seems determined to leave no book of mine unreviewed!

Take a look for yourself

Jo