Thursday, 31 January 2013

Competition Time

Whoop! Whoop! It's competition time again :) 

To celebrate the upcoming publication of my next novel, Finding Cherokee Brown, I thought it might be fun to give away a signed copy before it hits the shops.

So, if you would like an exclusive sneak preview, either write a poem or a piece of prose inspired by one of the following pictures - both of which are settings in Finding Cherokee Brown.

This is a church in Spitalfields, East London, where Cherokee hides out right before taking a massively courageous step in her life.

And this is taken at the Old Truman Brewery, again in East London.

Please send your entries to me at: siobhancurham[AT]yahoo[DOT]co[DOT]uk by Monday 11th February.

Entries should be no more than 600 words long.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

How Photography Can Help Your Writing

Dear Writer,

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unimaginative writing = sucky writing.

And nowhere does this apply more than when it comes to description. Check out the following examples:

‘It was as black as night’

'His heart pounded like a drum'

‘Her eyes were as blue as the sky’

Yawn. Yawn, Yawn,

But how can you get your description to stand out and remain imprinted upon your reader’s mind long after they have put your writing down?

The answer, or one answer at least, is PHOTOGRAPHY.

A few years ago I wrote a novel set in Hammersmith, London. As this was an area I wasn’t all that familiar with I decided to go there and take some photos. I ended up spending hours pounding the streets, looking for the kind of buildings my characters would live and work in, the cafes and bars they would drink in and the places they would shop. It was a lot of fun and hugely productive. I came home feeling like I knew a whole lot more about my characters and their world, without even writing a single word.

When I did get down to the writing of the novel I made a collage from the photos, which I put up over my desk. Whenever I got to a piece of description I would study the relevant photo, looking for any unusual details that would help bring my writing to life.

Using photography to complement your writing soon becomes a virtuous circle: the more you train your eye to look for an interesting or thought-provoking picture, the more you train your writing mind to focus on the unusual and imaginative.

So, your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to take yourself out with your camera and seek out some killer shots to help enhance your writing. They could be photos that are in some way linked to your work in progress, or you could use them as starting points for brand new pieces of work.

If aliens have abducted your camera / phone and you aren’t able to get out there and take any photos of your own I’ve included some pictures I’ve taken while I’ve been out and about in London the past couple of days. I hope they help and, if you do end up using one of them as a writing prompt I would love to see the results so please do email them to me.

Till next time,

Happy writing and happy snapping!

Siobhan x

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Writing Resolutions

Dear Writer,

Happy 2013!

How was your Christmas? I hope it was happy and healthy and hearty – and all other good things beginning with H. And hope you’re now relaxed, rejuvenated and raring to get on with your new writing goals.

You’re not?

You’re too tired?

Too fed up of school / college / work already?

Got a terminal case of the January glums?

Okay, worry not – here at Dear Writer we just so happen to specialise in turning that writer’s frown upside down – and no, I’m not gonna get you to stand on your head.

The only good thing about January is that it’s clean slate time. A fresh new writing year awaits, and what better way to get focused and ensure you make the most of it than to get yourself a swanky new set of writing resolutions.

Writing Resolutions Action Plan

Now, before we go any further, I have to clarify one thing – I am not from the New Years Resolutions Should Be a Form of Torture school of thought. I have no idea why, in the bleakest month of the year, people draw up lists depriving themselves of life’s pleasures, like chocolate, wine and cake. I mean, seriously, why would you do that to yourself? New Years Resolutions should be fun. They should be about resolving to do things you’ve always longed to do, not depriving yourself of the things you love. So, when it comes to writing resolutions, set yourself goals that make you feel excited, not depressed.

And the very act of writing your writing resolutions should be fun too. So, set aside some time when you won’t be interrupted, put on your favourite feel-good tunes, and close your eyes.

While you have your eyes closed take a few moments to let go of any nagging irritations that might be buzzing round your mind. Focus on your breathing and, when you’re feeling relaxed, picture yourself living your writing dream.

Now, for the purposes of this exercise, there is no such thing as impossible. This is your writing DREAM – and the whole point of dreams is that you get to dream them up. So go ahead – if you could do or be anything writing wise, what would it be?

Really have fun with this. Try imagining a typical day in your Dream Writer Life. Where would you be? What would you be doing?

The very first time I did this exercise I was living in a flat above a chip shop in London. I hadn’t had a single word published yet, but my dream was to one day be writing novels in a cottage in the countryside. I pictured myself tapping away on my PC, stopping every now and then to check out the beautiful view from my window.

I’m typing this blog now in my bedroom, in my cottage, in the country. I just stopped to look out of the window at the woods on the other side of the valley. My seventh book is coming out in March. Life is good. Dreams come true. Believe.

With my seventh book, Finding Cherokee Brown

So, once you are clear on what your big, massive, writing dream is, it’s time to open your eyes and write yourself a set of fun and achievable writing resolutions for the year ahead.

Think of these resolutions as stepping stones to the big dream.

If your ultimate writing goal is to become a novelist, how about setting a writing resolution to write a short story first (this is one of the resolutions I made before I wrote my first novel).

Or you could resolve to find a new writing place – somewhere that makes you feel alive and inspired (I used to go up to London’s South Bank – it was people watching heaven!)

Or how about setting yourself the goal of developing the characters for your novel in the coming months? (Please see my previous blog post for a free character questionnaire to help you with this one).

Maybe this year you could resolve to start posting your work for feedback in online writing forums.

Or you could set yourself weekly word count targets – but if you do this one, make sure you come up with rewards for meeting them (remember, it’s got to be fun, people!)

When you’ve written your list of resolutions be sure to keep them somewhere you can see them – and tick them off as and when you achieve them.

Nothing is more satisfying than a ticked off resolution – apart from a ticked off resolution and a big chunk of chocolate cake.

May 2013 be the year all your writing dreams come true!

Siobhan x