Friday, 30 October 2015

Yes or No to NaNo? How to get back into your writing

Image courtesy of
National Novel Writing Month
Hard to believe, but it’s that time again! November is looming up fast and November for many writers means National Novel WritingMonth. Thirty days of frenzy and exhaustion as they try to rack up 50,000 words by 23.59 on the 30th.

NaNoWriMo is in many ways a Very Very Good Thing. So much of the writing life is about procrastination, waiting for conditions to be better, writing in fits and starts – a month in which you dedicate yourself to major production levels is a month where you can discover what you’re capable of. Many writers are amazed, once they get into it, to find just how much they can achieve. They start December with a pile of messy pages, but pages which can lead to other pages, pages which can be edited into shape.

So, yay for NaNo.

But I’m not doing it this year.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, or you’ve read my last blogpost, you’ll know that this year has been all about distraction. Service providers have let me down and my days, weeks and months have been filled with lists, correspondence, shouty scenes and anxiety. Even now, I’m barely coming out of it.

If I sign up for NaNo this time round, the dark side of it may be revealed – it’s another form of pressure and I really don’t need any extra pressure right now. The voice, that voice any writer is so familiar with, the shrill nagging ‘Why can’t you just get on with it!’ voice, will raise its decibel-level even more.

I have projects. I have ideas. I also have clients whose work needs editing, workshops to run … so my own work will have to wait a little while longer. I’m fairly OK about that. I believe in the work. It can keep, just a little while longer.

Are you contemplating doing NaNo? I genuinely think it’s worth considering. I’ve done it before, and always on my own terms – I've written posts about previous years’ NaNoWriMos, including the technique that I’ve found served me best when aiming for ultimate productivity. You can find my posts here and here, and earlier ones here and here.

If you are doing NaNo, you could do part of it at my next writers’ retreat, Fictionfire by the Spires: Reboot and Troubleshoot, here in Oxford from 7-8 November. The title tells you what I’ll be focussing on. I’ll run four workshops designed to get you back in touch with your writing and help you with issues you’re having with your project. There will be peaceful time for you to just … write. There will be constant tea and coffee. And buffet lunches. And cake – there must always be cake.

It’ll be fun. The group will be small (maximum 8 people), friendly, supportive. You’ll be in Oxford, one of the most gorgeous cities in the world.

To find out more about what’s involved, visit my website.

Here’s what people had to say about my two previous writers’ retreat weekends, in St Ives in Cornwall:
‘It took me out of my day-to-day environment with all its everyday complications and gave me a space in which to write.’ C.J.

‘I can’t recommend this event highly enough! If ever you have the opportunity to attend one of Lorna’s workshops, grab it with both hands!’ C.W.

Can’t make this one? Sign up on the website to my mailing list, to be kept informed.

And if you’re doing NaNo, enjoy the ride!

Friday, 16 October 2015

Summer schools, festivals and retreats, Fictionfire by the Spires and new workshops

Fictionfire by the Sea retreat
Saturday dinner at the Porthgwidden Cafe
It's been a while since I posted on Literascribe, mea culpa. So much has happened in the meantime, some of it good, some of it really not! I had joyous times teaching creative writing, first of all at my Fictionfire by the Sea retreat in St Ives in Cornwall, back in April. The best group of writers attended - we shared stories, advice, laughs, gasps at the beauty of the location. I stayed on for a few days after the weekend was over, to get back in touch with my own writing. That was pretty much the last time I felt relaxed! Read on, and you'll find out why.

Giving my talk on self-editing
(thanks to Debbie Young for the photo)
In June I taught for my fifteenth year at the University of Winchester's Writers' Festival - I gave a talk on editing and a day course on character building. It's always lovely to go there and meet again friends and fellow writers again - there's a real reunion feeling about it, but also the chance to make new friends. The plenary speech this year was given by Sebastian Faulkes - a very polished performance.

In the garden of Exeter College -
reception before final dinner

In July and August I taught on two summer school programmes for Oxford University. The first of these is OUSSA, held at Rewley House. I've been teaching on that programme since 2002 and always enjoy it, though it is very intense! Then, over the course of three weeks, I taught advanced fiction writing at the OUDCE creative writing summer school, for the third year. This is held at Exeter College, which is such a beautiful location. I got held up one day because they were filming the new series of Endeavour in the front quad - with the wonderful Roger Allam and Shaun Evans. When I've run Fictionfire day courses at Trinity College, we've coincided with the filming of Lewis - Oxford is always full of film crews!

with fellow tutor Julie Hearn
So, hard work, great company, good fun, fantastic stories being written!

Now for the bad news ...

It was also a summer of delays, distraction, exhaustion and frustration - and I'm still not quite out of the woods yet. I'm not going to go into detail because I can't bear to dwell on it anymore, but since June we've been embroiled in renovation of two rooms in our house after a long-term water leak caused significant damage. The leak had been there for months, perhaps years, so entailed drilling up floors, letting walls and floors dry out, stripping the rooms back, replastering, refitting, decorating etc, etc, etc. Next week, we hope to sign off on the whole process - but believe me my stress levels have been through the roof.

Also raising my blood pressure was my Fictionfire website, which was to be 'migrated' to new software in August. A process which should have taken three weeks took seven and is still ongoing. The site is at least live now and I can take bookings, but for several weeks I could update neither it nor my online shop. I have just discovered I don't have a mailing list sign-up box anymore - argh! So, it's a work in progress ...

Looking ahead, in spite of the website woes, you can now visit the site and book places on the new series of Focus Workshops and Fictionfire by the Spires: Reboot and Troubleshoot, a writers' workshop/retreat weekend here in Oxford from 7-8 November.

The first Focus Workshop will be Breathtaking Thrills on October 24th - if you want to learn how to create tension, excitement and suspense in your fiction, this is the one for you. It's followed by Layers of Meaning on November 21st, Share and Support on November 28th and Does Happiness Write White? on December 5th.

Take a look at the website for full details. There are currently only 5 places left for Fictionfire by the Spires: Reboot and Troubleshoot, so don't wait too long!