This week I’m returning to my novel. I’ve been away from it for almost three months. It was critiqued by my writers’ group, then came Christmas, then I got ill, then I wrote a proposal for a PhD. Now, we’re into January, the application has been submitted and I’m starting to crave my imagined world again. It’s just a matter of sitting down, focusing, planning and rewriting. It’s that easy!
What will no-doubt help are some jewels I learnt at a workshop at the end of last year. It was a three-day intensive, set in stunning County Clare country (home to some beautiful Irish cows), taught by novelist Niall Williams. So here are 15 pearls of wisdom. If they give you a taste for more, Niall is taking another workshop on March 21st-23rd, and you can find more details here: http://www.niallwilliams.com
- Why do we read? We read in order to meet people. On the page, we can meet them in a more intense way than in real life. Therefore fiction starts with character.
- ‘Description is revelation’ – only describe the things that are relevant to the character or the story. Description should be dynamic.
- ‘Iceberg theory.’, or ‘theory of omission’: What’s on the surface should only hint at what lies beneath. Invite your reader to be complicit in the story, and expect them to do some work.
- When describing a character, start from the outside. Show them physically before giving the invitation to go inside. Show us his or her thoughts through action.
- Find uniqueness in your character; we are all fascinating because of what we think of as normal.
- Connect character and story to place. All three are intertwined. This story can only happen in this place, to this person.
- Your characters come alive when they speak; dialogue is where you are least present as an author.
- Think of it as dialogue, not conversation. The best dialogue reveals something beneath.
- Cut out adverbs. Dialogue should speak for itself.
- Don’t be frightened of silences. Let the reader fill in the gaps.
- Plot is seeded inside character: this kind of thing happens to this kind of person.
- Write characters with strong desire and the plot will sizzle.
- As writers, we operate in a rhythm of doubt, and doubt is an important part of the process. All writers feel it.
- Tell the story because you know it.
- Be brave.
Thank you, Niall Williams.