Today we have Carol Forrester , from Writing and Works, here to talk about what writing has taught her. Before we get to that here is a little something about her…
Carol Forrester is a twenty-two year old writer trying to be a better one. Don’t ask her what her hobbies are because the list doesn’t got much beyond, reading, writing and talking about the same.
She has a 2:1 BA degree in history from Bath Spa University and various poems and stories scattered across the net.
Her flash fiction Glorious Silence was named as River Ram Press’ short story of the month for August 2014 and her short story A Visit From The Fortune Teller has been showcased on the literary site Ink Pantry’s. Most recently her poem Sunsets was featured on Eyes Plus Words and her personal blog Writing and Works hosts a mass of writing from across the last five years.
With hopes of publishing a novel in the next five years and perhaps a collection or two of smaller works, Carol Forrester is nothing if not ambitious. Her writing tries to cover every theme in human life and a lot of her work pulls inspiration from her own eccentric family in the rural wonders of Shropshire life.
WRITING SHOULD BE SCARY
I would like to thank Mukthi for the chance to post a guest blog to her site and to also thank her for the one she posted to mine. She gave me free reign to choose what I wanted to talk about so I decided to write up what having a blog and trying to write a novel has taught me about writing in general. Perhaps it will be useful to those of you just setting out on your own writing journies.
Inspiration is not something that you need to sit around and wait for. It is something that you have to go out and find. I have known since I was half way through secondary school that writing a novel was the thing I want to do. However, it has only been in the last twelve months that I have actually sat down and bashed out a full first draft and the first part of a second draft. There have been numerous attempts at writing my novel over the past few years. They all had different titles; different plot lines, somewhat different characters, but the only met the same end.
There are boxes and memory sticks of forgotten stories littering my office. Some of them have some merit, most of them don’t.
I don’t think this is a bad thing though.
While it is true that I have wanted to write a novel for a good while, I don’t think I was actually capable of achieving until last couple of years. My writing has improved significantly since I was fourteen and I have also read much more widely. I now have a collection of over six hundred books that covers history of various nationalities and eras, books of poetry and short stories, classic, modern novels, fiction and non-fiction, romance, mystery, fantasy, crime, you name it, and if I haven’t read it I probably will. Reading a wide range of books had meant that I’ve read a wide range of styles. I’m not too influenced by one writer and as a result I don’t have to worry about sounding too much like anyone else. Instead there’s a whole lot of everyone in there.
The novel that I’m working under currently has itself grown into something unrecognisable from its original form. It has been called ‘Coming Into Bloom’, ‘Obscurite’, ‘Darkened Daughter’ and most recently ‘Shadow Children’. Despite feeling that ‘Shadow Children’ is a more accurate name for the book, ‘Darkened Daughter’ is still the title that I use most when talking about it with friends and family and in blog posts.
The two main characters have been the same right from the start. Tara and Nicholas haven’t changed that much at all, just the story and the writing around them.
As with any writer, time and practice has honed my craft. I’ve written flash fiction pieces, submitted poetry and short stories to competitions and websites. My blog has been the greatest asset to my writing because it given me the space to experiment. I tell people that my site is about writing but that doesn’t mean very much because inside of writing you can pretty much post whatever you want.
I have talked to readers about my fish, about my stories, my poetry, my family, my loss, my triumphs, anything that really happens in my life and to those around me. I have been given the chance to refine my skills by writing very short pieces of prose, to expand my skills by writing longer stories that span a series of posts and to share with people across the world and to hear their feedback. When I post poetry it is mainly free verse but I dabble in fixed form as well and I try to vary the themes as much as I can. My prose mirrors my books in style and theme and if I feel like I’ve leaning to heavily on something I try to write a piece as polar opposite as possible. In conclusion, I try to post something different as often as I can.
The most important thing I’ve learnt throughout this though is how to plot a novel from start to end. For those of you who have participated in National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo], you will know there are generally two types of writers. Pantsers and Planner. I used to be a Pantser which means I tried to write stories lines as they came. I flew by the seat of my pants and didn’t worry too much about where the story was going in the long run.
As a result I generally ran out of steam somewhere around the ten thousand word mark.
Now, I’ve never liked planning. In fact I hate it, and the reason for that is because I can never stick to the plan set out in front of me. The plan I write today will be utterly useless three chapters down the line and I’ll have to start again.
I learnt to just suck it up and tweak the plans as I went. Sometimes I come back to the original plotline, sometimes I don’t. The important thing is remembering to keep writing that first draft and not to go back and edit things before you have a beginning, a middle and perhaps most vitally, an end! Even if your plan is just ‘the book will end here’ you are at least giving yourself a target to aim for. A finishing line of sorts. You have an end in sight.
The second most important thing I learnt through my blog and trying to write a novel is that you can’t just stop because you get stuck. You have to work through it.
I’ve been asked before how I find my inspiration and I’ll admit there are days where I stare at the screen and wonder what on earth I am doing with my life. I have read article after article on how to beat writer’s block, how to arrange your desk to encourage productivity and even how to change your habits to help you get things done. In the end it came down to one thing for me. Sheer stubbornness.
When I didn’t want to write I made myself write something. Be it a poem, a piece of flash fiction, an outline for something longer, two sentences and a drawing of a frowning face, I made sure that I got something down on paper. Once I had done that I went and got something else down on paper and then something else and something else and something else until at last I got down the thing I wanted to originally.
It’s not easy. Sometimes it can be like pulling teeth.
Honestly though? Anything worth having is hard work to achieve. I value my writing so much more because I know what it took to get me to where I am and I know that the same hard work will get me to where I want to go. That is the message I want to leave you with. Inspiration is something you seize, not something you wait for. It requires you to make experiences for yourself, to expand the boundaries of your knowledge and for you to challenge yourself every single day.
Have you heard the phrase ‘do something that scares you everything single day?’
Well if you haven’t you have now and it’s a flipping good phrase. If something scares you then it means it’s probably new and new things are good for writers. They remind us that we don’t know everything and we need that from time to time. We need to explore and learn to be inspired.
We need to grow to become better writers.