Taking an Idea Beyond the Barricades: Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask for help and be open to criticism

Sometimes we trip ourselves up. No matter how innovative we are or how hard we work on our writing projects we leave the door open to the worst of housemates – self-doubt – and it lives rent free. Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask for help and be open to criticism.

You need to trust your writing process to help you improve.Then comes the question: who to ask?

A Couple of Suggestions

Bang2Write

JerichoWriters

A trusted friend or a professional advisor who won’t hold back from presenting you with writing support that helps you find the truth. Whether you pay for this or you’re lucky to have someone who can simply respond to your script with a rare focus, it is important to let the truth sit hard. Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask for help and be open to criticism.

My New Project

Are you wondering what I’ve been working on that has made me want to talk about this? Well, I’ve been beavering away on a brand new project, a middle grade children’s book. Like many writers trying out a new format for the first time, it’s not always easy. I’ve had wonderful advice and writing support along the way but then just as soon as you finish the first draft, which for me is always at least three drafts in, you realise this is the first time you’ve written anything for children. How on earth can you be sure it is doing what you hoped it would.

Ta Da!

So I’m feeling really positive because my call for help was answered – and in spades. Yes there was some positive feedback but the reality is I need to rewrite. It’s not all bad but it demonstrates how, in this instance, I really needed some great advice. My idea is strong and most of the characters too, but the nagging doubt I had has been confirmed: something is missing and if I am to succeed I must find it and add it into the mix.

So that’s why it has been so important to try and find the most appropriate, honest and relevant advice and make sure that finding a writing process to help you improve is not being hampered by ego.

A successful, professional writer

I will.

I can’t wait.

Thank you for your honesty and I know you are waiting to read the next draft. I won’t let you down.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is ask for help and be open to criticism.

Death of a DJ

A poem by Antony Pickthall

In memory of Chris Copsey

The Church is heaving
Screens! Screens in church!
Nice touch
Everyone else in a tie
Black
He is the first
The first of the cousins to die
Apart from suddenly sounding like
A song by Morrissey
There is a point here
32 are now 31

I look around the loved up beams
Windows twinkling in a stain of colours
Feel the crafted pews through soft trousers
No graffiti to rub against
Ushers in uniform
Faces rapt
A smiling sea of love for Chris

There was nowhere else to go
The moment when Yvonne
Read, strong, controlled, a player
Then stumbled over the date
He left
Capturing the fatal charm
Of being everything
Everyone wanted you
To be
And more

As if you reached perfection
As a son
A husband
A father
A friend
Leaving the rest of us in the starting gate
Chewing on our bits
Feeling a dig
From our jockeys
Not daring to move

You flew
You pushed on and through
We looked
After
Or in my case
Turned my back to
Look the other way
A different way
To stay in the gate
To pass on the cries of the crowd

Only five years behind you
Feels like five lifetimes
The frost
The fire
The piece of wood I sit down on
To listen to your life
The connections
The jokes
The easy tone of comfort
And presence

Not that I listened
To your shows ever
My loss, clearly
300 people here
30,000 outside
In the air
We smile
As a younger colleague
Tests the water with
A more risqué
Nod to your gift
For companionship
Your easy mastery
Of the art of being
There
For everyone

Now they can’t retune
To seek
Your voice
Except, in their heads
And that’s the point
You will always be there, with
A cheesy tune that somehow
Feeds the line
Everyone needs
From time to time
Listening,
Wherever you are
In a state of perfection
Seriously
Professional

Writing a Novel

Just thought I would share with you my own disquiet about actually writing a novel.

Starting out again?

Maybe it’s just me, the satisfaction from writing short stories is infectious. I have attempted one before, a long time ago – before I abandoned it to write plays, having discovered that using plays to improve my ability to write dialogue was itself a call from the siren.

That novel never saw the light of day. I still have it somewhere. Handwritten and loosely tied together, probably with string. A friend read it but didn’t say very much. Very wise.

What is a novel?

So here I am forty years later revisiting the form. What is a novel? Is it dead? I am enjoying finding out. my theme and characters are working their magic, albeit slowly. I’ve already lost half of it once. That lazy, stupid habit of leaving a laptop on and not saving when you should. Or saving the file but foolishly letting the ones and zeros get corrupted. Luckily, I shared some of it and still had the email.

I started again, as you do. I picked up from where I had got to with the story when I shared it with a close friend, some two months before. Still annoyed with myself. All these years of reminding myself to save my work properly and in multiple places wasted.

And, we’re off!

So, at least I have passed the word count where I thought I had got to originally. But it is still confounding me. This long form danceathon. The story bites though, you’ll be glad to hear. Slowly, I am falling down rabbit holes of desire and injustice. What might not have actually been a novel is slowly proving itself to be that rare chiselled beast of narrative puzzle making. I am more like a sculptor, revealing a story somehow lost inside a vast block of unformed rock.

It’s fun too. Fun to find I am recognising stories that resonate with other people. I am pleasantly surprised. My disquiet about writing a novel should be set aside.

What do you think about the novel? If you have been reading my stories or those by another author, let me know what you think. You’l be glad to hear that the novel I am working on is different in every way, except for one – my love for a great story.

How about you?

What else are you reading at the moment? Feel free to share the books and authors you’ve found to help you, entertain you or inspire you through these dark days as we reel from pandemic and racism and the feeling that something has got to give.