Thursday, August 14, 2014

Writing on holiday is...easy?

Writing while on holiday should be easy.

It’s not.

First, you’re on holiday. Obligation and duty fly away with the breezes over the water. Out with the tide. (In with the tide, too, but that means guilt, and you’re having none of that because, of course, you’re on holiday from guilt, too.)

Second, there are too many distractions. You know, distractions – like over-indulging in food, drink and cringe-worthy, lightweight summer reading. Or sitting by the water and doing abso-bloody-lutely nothing. Watching waves, falling under their spell (that rhythmic lapping is powerfully soporific). To Do Lists evaporate. Whole afternoons disappear. Actually, whole days disappear. This is a good thing. Too busy. (See above.)

Too much reading. Self-indulgent, escapist reading is so much easier on holiday. “I’m on holiday,” you say. “I’m allowed to read whatever crappy bestseller or over-rated classic I want.” Or award-winning bestseller. Whatever. When you’re reading you’re not writing. You’re doing research.

Also, this is sacred Holiday Time. No, not: “It’s time for a holiday from the demands of daily life.” Rather, Holiday Time describes a shift in the space-time continuum. Time actually slows, and your thought processes with it. Slow thinking isn’t great for productive creative writing. It’s okay, though. Just go with it.


And another thing – on holiday, your senses seem to wake up and take over. The scents of salt water or lake or pool, and wild flowers, and fresh fish on the BBQ, and sunscreen. The many sounds of water and wildlife (yes, even mosquitoes) and lawnmowers. The air, which you now have time to notice. Tastes (see BBQ reference above – add wine, desserts, food prepared with care or seized on a drive-by whim…) So much sensual overload. You’re too busy living it to write about it.

All of the above. That’s why I’m not doing much writing during my holiday.

Oh, wait…!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

REVIEW: Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens by Heather Wright

The latest writing guide from author, teacher and professional writer Heather Wright provides everything a young writer needs: instruction, prompts, examples and, most of all, encouragement and inspiration.

“You want to write stories and the purpose of this book is to help you do exactly that,” Wright begins.

Aimed at young writers of any level or experience, this guide fine-tunes the material Wright covered in her previously published Writing Fiction: A Hands-On Guide for Teens (Second Edition, 2014).

This is the kind of book I longed for when I was a kid. It’s clear and concise without being dry. I can hear the author’s friendly and encouraging voice throughout as she guides the reader through the why, what and how of creating stories.

But more than that, she’s able to make the guide relevant to others who work with kids who write. Home schoolers? Writers-in-residence? Teachers? Parents? You bet.

The scope is broad, too. Yes, Wright provides lots of tips on the much-travelled technical side of writing stories – brainstorming for ideas, charting a plot, creating strong characters, revealing setting, making use of dialogue. But she addresses the real business of writing too, including revision tips and the classic writerly problems of “I’m stuck!” and the importance of finding the discipline to write every day.

Full disclosure – Heather is a writing colleague of mine. I know how hard she works at her writing life, and I also know how experienced and successful she is as a writer. If she could sit down at a desk with every young writer, or stand in front of a classroom full of them, the tips in this book are exactly what she would share (and she does, on school visits and in her workshops).  You could not ask for a better guide.