Words of wisdom

IMG_4404This 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

  1. 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.
  2. ‘Description is revelation’ – only describe the things that are relevant to the character or the story. Description should be dynamic.
  3. ‘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.
  4. 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.
  5. Find uniqueness in your character; we are all fascinating because of what we think of as normal.
  6. Connect character and story to place. All three are intertwined. This story can only happen in this place, to this person.
  7. Your characters come alive when they speak; dialogue is where you are least present as an author.
  8. Think of it as dialogue, not conversation. The best dialogue reveals something beneath.
  9. Cut out adverbs. Dialogue should speak for itself.
  10. Don’t be frightened of silences. Let the reader fill in the gaps.
  11. Plot is seeded inside character: this kind of thing happens to this kind of person.
  12. Write characters with strong desire and the plot will sizzle.
  13. As writers, we operate in a rhythm of doubt, and doubt is an important part of the process. All writers feel it.
  14. Tell the story because you know it.
  15. Be brave.

Thank you, Niall Williams.

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