Thursday, 28 June 2012

Why Do You Love Writing?

Dear Writer,

(Please note: there is a very exciting competition coming up in this week’s blog, with signed books and the chance to win me as your writing mentor for a month up for grabs, so don't flick back to Facebook -  KEEP READING!)

How are you? I hope you’ve had a good week and have had plenty of opportunities to write.

If you read last week’s blog then hopefully you’ve found the whole ‘writing for the bin’ thing helpful.

Bin on My Desk- reminding me it's OK to write rubbish!

This week, at one of the workshops I run for young people, I actually put a bin on the table in front of them to really ram the point home (a small, waste-paper bin, not a huge, smelly refuse bin, just in case you’re trying to picture the scene – I think a huge, smelly refuse bin might have been a tiny bit off-putting). Anyway, after reminding them that whatever they were about to write could be chucked straight into the bin if they didn’t like it, I got them to free-write* for ten minutes. I told them to write about whatever was on their mind, in order to get it off their mind so that they would then be free to focus on their fiction. I joined in too and it ended up being a really powerful exercise. We all ended up writing about issues that had been bugging us and most people said that they felt a weight had been lifted from their shoulders afterwards. The best thing was that the bin ended up staying empty – everyone was really pleased with what they had written and ended up reading their work to the rest of the group. It was a great reminder of how heartfelt and powerful your writing can be when you just let it flow.

*Free-writing is like free-running, but with words. It’s where you just let your words spill onto the page without censoring them in any way. When you are free-writing it is OK to make spelling mistakes, forget punctuation and to get angry, emotional and rude!

Let Your Words Flow as Fast as They Can

Writing Exercise

If you want to write really heartfelt, powerful fiction, try doing a free-write to tap into your own emotions first. For example; supposing you’re writing a story about a person who wins the lottery, falls in love and gets the job of their dreams all on the very same day. Now, I’m pretty certain that hasn’t ever happened to you before (if it has, what are you doing reading this? Why aren’t you off having romantic moments on your yacht?!), but that doesn’t mean you can’t write convincingly about how it would make your character feel. Hopefully, at some point in your life you have felt really, really happy. So sit down, close your eyes and take a moment to relive that moment and then write really fast, without worrying about grammar or punctuation, about how it made you feel. Write as much as you can, then re-read your work. Hopefully there will be at least a couple of great lines or details in there that you can apply to your fictional character. And of course, you can use this exercise for any emotion – happy, sad, angry, jealous, excited, scared, depressed etc.

Dear Writer Competition

Drum roll, please!

This week, I’m delighted to announce the first ever Dear Writer competition. I thought long and hard about what the theme of the competition ought to be and then it struck me that, as this blog is all about the joys of writing, that ought to be the focus.


I’m looking for entries entitled: Why I Love Writing

Entries should be up to 300 words long and can be prose or poetry. The title is fairly self-explanatory but here are a few pointers to help you:

  • You can write about what your own writing means to you
  • Or you can write about what a piece of writing by someone else means to you. Maybe there’s a poem or book or short story or song lyric which has really made a positive difference to you in some way.
  • What I’m looking for is a real passion for writing so try free-writing your entry first in order to really tap into your emotions


Entrants must be under 25

Entries should be emailed to: contact[AT]siobhancurham[DOT]co[DOT]uk

The deadline is Friday 20th July 2012


First Prize – a signed copy of my book Dear Dylan and I will become your writing mentor for one month – offering you personal advice and feedback on your writing via email.

You could Win Me - as Your Writing Mentor!

Runners Up – Second and third prize will be a signed copy of Dear Dylan and emailed feedback on one piece of your written work (maximum 3,000 words).

Signed Copies of Dear Dylan Up for Grabs

I really look forward to reading your entries.

Till next week – happy writing!

Siobhan x

Thursday, 21 June 2012

How to Think Like a Writer

Dear Writer,

Welcome to the very first Dear Writer blog! Please imagine a dramatic drum roll, a trumpet fanfare and maybe some fireworks erupting from the top of your screen.

So, what will I be talking about in this very first blog? Well, it just so happens that this week I started running a Dear Writer course for some young people in Camberwell, London (and that’s in England for anyone reading this in say, Outer Mongolia). Anyway, I thought that the topic we covered in our first workshop would also make an ideal first blog:


What came out of the workshop was just how many negative thoughts a writer can have. I’m not kidding, when it comes to thinking about writing, people can get very down-hearted indeed! Let me give you an example…

  • You have an idea for a poem or short story – or maybe even a novel.
  • You think – that’s a good idea, I’d better start writing it down.
  • Approximately one hundredth of a second later you think – I can’t start writing it down because…
  • I have too much else to do
  • I’ll do it tomorrow
  • I don’t have enough time
  • I need to do a bit more planning first
  • I have too much homework
  • I’m too tired
  • It’ll probably be lousy anyway
  • I need to tidy my bedroom
  • I need to polish the cat

It is truly amazing the excuses we can come up with to stop ourselves from writing. One time I even cleaned attic (THAT NOBODY EVER SEES – EVER!) rather than write.

Okay, so that’s the bad thoughts that writers have. The good news is that even the most successful authors have thoughts like these. I bet there was many a time when JK Rowling sat in that cafĂ© in Scotland, writing her first Harry Potter novel, and thought to herself, why am I bothering to do this, who’s going to want to read a book about a boy wizard, I really should just go home and polish the cat (or something). But she didn’t give up because somehow she managed to overcome her fearful writing thoughts.

So, how can you do that too?


Write. For. The. Bin.

No, I haven’t gone nuts, and I’m not saying you should dedicate your novel to your wheelie bin – unless of course you’re particularly fond of your wheelie bin – in that case, I'm very happy for you and go right ahead. But what I’m trying to say is, instead of worrying that your writing is going to be crap and letting that stop you from writing anything at all, think to yourself that whatever you write is going to be for the bin and the bin alone. That way, if what you write does turn out to be rubbish, no-one will ever know, your friends won’t ever laugh at you – and at least you won’t have had to polish the cat.

Writing is like running or any other physical exercise, in that the more you do it, the better you become. So you have to find a way of shutting up your negative thoughts in order to allow yourself to actually start writing.

And when you do start writing for the bin – or the delete button – a funny thing happens:


Try it and see. And if you are impressed with what you end up writing – and you’d like to share it in a follow-up blog on this site, drop me an email – I’d love to hear from you…


In next week’s blog I’ll be giving you details of the first ever Dear Writer competition, with signed books and the chance to win me as your writing mentor for a month up for grabs.

I’ll also be writing about the power of words and how we can use our own life experiences to create powerful pieces of fiction. To make sure you don’t miss it, click on the Follow by email button on the right hand side of this page, and it will be sent straight to your email address as soon as it’s posted.

Until then, happy writing - for the bin!

Siobhan x