What music or sounds do you write to? Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer credits Muse as a huge inspiration to her whilst she was writing her four-book saga, and Fiona Apple, The Clash, Sia and Queens of the Stone Age all feature on this list.
I personally prefer the sound of silence, with added chirp. I live in a village in Staffordshire, so bird song is my usual, natural soundtrack. I sometimes even get a tawny owl at night which is a rather lovely sound. I have to absorb myself in my story, the structure, the voices of my characters so to me, anything else is a distraction. And when it comes back to editing my work, it REALLY has to be quiet. As much as I’d love to catch up on my favourite artistes and new albums, I’d probably just block it out anyway. And I have a three year old…I write when she has gone to bed so I always have one ear out for her too.
Once again, it’s all about whatever works best for you. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution here. You may find you write best listening to Iron Maiden. Jazz. Classical. If you’re in a particular genre, plot or theme, your soundtrack may be your research; I’m sure Taylor Jenkins Reid’s recent triumph of Daisy Jones & The Six meant she was listening to some awesome Fleetwood Mac. Crank it up to eleven, or dial it down to a wood pigeon like me.
I used to be scared of sharing my creative writing. Why? There’s probably four reasons here; lack of confidence, fear of failure (criticism and people hating my writing), inexperience and a little arrogance.
On my MA course, I have rapidly learnt not to be scared of criticism and to go outside of my comfort zone by sharing my work. Our module group is extremely supportive and provides positive criticism on where my work is and isn’t working. For the ‘isn’t’ side, you can of course choose to take it onboard or to say ‘thanks very much’ but stick to your guns. It is after all your story, and you may feel passionately that your work should follow a particular direction. However, if a lot of people are picking up on the same things, it’s usually worth investigating and amending.
On a recent assignment, I decided to write a short story on an internet troll getting his comeuppance. It was a tricky and challenging piece of work where I had to undertake a lot of research into online trolling. I also had to get into the ‘head’ of 19-year-old male troll which, I’ll be honest, took a lot out of me. I had to explore areas that I found repulsive and very upsetting online. And then the New Zealand Mosque attacks happened and I didn’t want to continue. But I had an assignment due in and encouragement from my fellow students, and also a big hole in the ending where many of them were commenting on it ‘just didn’t work’ for them.
In my original drafts, the protagonist narrated his own story but died at the end. Many students didn’t like this aspect and felt it was a little bit of a cop out. I felt strongly that the main character should get his comeuppance as his behaviour and trolling was so heinous, so I decided to instead commit him to an online ‘purgatory’; he became part of the internet, buzzing, static, overwhelmed by cat videos, shouting and pornography, unable to escape, completely powerless. This was a much stronger end, rather than just killing him. My inspiration here was the latest season of American Gods with the digital new Gods. Except this character isn’t a God, he just gets sucked in and stuck there forever.
I no longer fear criticism. It has grown me as a writer. I actively encourage feedback, and often send my work to my friends now to read. I ask them first! I am lucky to have two – three close friends who I know will be honest critics. One friend simply said to me the other day ‘Keep going’ and that means the world to me.
I’m currently studying a MA in Creative Writing at the Open University, a course I am finding very challenging but it is motivating me to progress with my passion. It has taken me to surprising places and has also made me delve into some uncomfortable territory, writing in different voices I have never encountered before. I have started this blog as I want to share my writing, but also to use this as a forum to discuss the art of creative writing, what books we’re all currently reading and author inspirations.
I’m a Mum of one human and many animals, I’m always rescuing stray pets! I live in the countryside in Staffordshire and it is my peace and calm. I also enjoy yoga, cooking, travelling, films (I lean towards horror and independents) and family time of course.