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Bonnes, a beautiful french village that runs along the banks of the river Dronne, held an 'Art au jardins' weekend on the 21st and 22nd July.
Thirteen years ago when I came to France for 6 months armed with my diaries, my bike, a pair of wellies and my computer, I rented a studio in one of the houses in Bonnes. For those 6 months I went through all of my diaries from the age of 11 and typed them into my computer. It was incredibly therapeutic - I was re-united with people and places that I had completely forgotten. I walked Charlotte's (the studio owner) two dogs every day for two hours and had a productive and fantastic time. I decided to buy a small house in a neighbouring village, pack up my life in the UK and come out here to write.
So it was fitting that thirteen years later I should set up a stand in Charlotte's garden for the art weekend selling Spaghetti Head. I felt as if I had come full circle.
We had a steady stream of people enjoying the open-gardens and I chatted to most of them. I was bowled over by how interested and friendly people were and how easily they bought a copy of S Head. I sold 20 in all - which I thought was amazing. And it was an invaluable exercise for me because I realised that the creative side of setting up the stand, chatting to people, smiling, laughing, is what I really enjoy doing, and so at every opportunity I will attempt to keep Spaghetti Head out there on a road-tour.
If you have a paperback to sell I can recommend getting out amongst your readers and saying hello.
Every writer faces barriers along their way: not having enough time: not having the right space for writing: not receiving support from those around you. However, for many, internal barriers are the biggest blocker. It’s our internal dialogue that often holds us back. Spaghetti Head is all about internal dialogue and how to try to turn it into a positive influence in your life.
Helen Cross, tutor for a Getting Started workshop I'm co-hosting in September, is also very aware of the internal battle that many writers face, and she gives this advice: ‘Personal confidence is a big barrier for many writers: why on earth would anyone be interested in your thoughts or opinions even if you did manage to craft them into a work of fiction? Why would anyone care about someone you have made up, within a sequence of events you have invented, when there is so much real drama in the world? There are no easy answers to this and the solution comes with writing, writing, writing. As you fall under the spell of your own fictional world and become deeply intrigued by your characters and their problems, your book becomes a story that just has to be told and you begin to enjoy writing it. As your ideas are tested on the page, as you wrestle with the truth and pin it down, you grow in confidence about your place in the world. You start to wonder if someone else might also enjoy reading your writing. Then you realise not everyone has to like it, just some people.’
Helen has written four novels, many short stories, radio dramas and screenplays, so her advice to just write, write and then write some more definitely works. Write your way through the fear is the message that I am taking from her words above. She has more wise words on her website also: https://www.helencross.net
Personally, it took years before I shared Spaghetti Head’s manuscript with anyone – and when I did finally hand it over I felt sick with nerves. Why? I was afraid of being told that it was grammatically awful and the story was rubbish – in short, that I was no good. But as I waited for my reader’s feedback I started to change my thinking to ‘hang on a minute – I’ve just handed out the second draft of my novel – which I wrote, all by myself. So stuff what they think – I’m flipping brilliant for having got that far!
When the feedback arrived, it was very constructive and motivated me to continue re-writing. I had broken through that initial fear barrier. Three years later and I’ve just self-published.
How do I feel now with all my friends and family being able to access it? I feel proud that I have achieved something that so many people would love to do. How many times have you heard people say they’d love to write a book? Well I wrote one! And that’s what over-rides my fear button. As Dr Susan Jeffers says, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’
I realise that all my efforts have gone into realeasing Spaghetti Head into the world, and I have somewhat neglected future planning! I think this is because for years I have had two book titles swimming around my mind, and it's just that Spaghetti Head shouted the loudest and so was written first. Now that it's been published, and all I have to do is fifteen hours of self-promotion and social media every day (!) I feel it's time for the second title to come to life. To bring it to life I am going to go and sit under an Oak tree in South Somerset with my notepad and pen and see what happens. Three trees will definitely play an important role in the book. This poem is getting my creative juices flowing - I wrote it in Mali in 1997:
In a village in the middle of nowhere
sit twenty-five African men and me.
Surrounded by chickens and sand,
we discuss what their women's future will be.
But there's no women around -
they've no choice,
and they've no voice
in what passes in the shade of this tree.