So, what have I been up to (apart from day-jobbery) for the last couple of weeks? Well, the Derbyshire Literature Festival has been on with events up and down the County for people to attend. At the previous Lit Fest two years ago I didn't go to anything; this time I went to four events - 3 of which were writing related.
Event number one was a morning on the basics of Japanese Bookbinding and I
came away from that session with one medium and two small books that I'd made
and enough enthusiasm to immediately head for a craft shop and get paper and
card supplies to make some more for presents for people. I think they'd make
nice photo albums so I'm going to try it out as a Father's Day gift and see how
we go from there!
Event number two was a two hour 'Plot Your Novel' session with Louise Doughty (novelist
and journalist). The most helpful aspect was when she got us to encapsulate our
novels (completed or planned) by having us finish the sentance "This novel is
about..." But we had to do it twice - once for plot and once for theme - which
gave us a blurb by the end and was handy for determining whether there was
enough of a story there. In the second half, Louise spoke about the problems she
had with the structure of her latest novel (Whatever you love) and how
she eventually sorted things out. It took over two years and she wrote numerous
drafts, and from what I overhead at the event what most people took from that
was that even published, successful authors don't hit the mark first time every
time. Sometimes they fumble too. It was a good event.
Event number three was a presentation 'From Finland to Bagend' by members of
the Ironville & Codnor Park Myth & Magic Tolkien Reading and Language
Fellowship (all school children) whose love for Tolkien's work really came
through in the hard work they put in to researching the place of The Hobbit as
an integral part of Tolkien's mythology. (It's not all about The Lord of the
Rings). It was great to see schoolchildren so engaged with reading and I just
hope that more students get involved with the Fellowship. (And that more get
involved with their public libraries as well and join reading groups and
Event number four was a busy day in Bakewell (why, yes, there was
pudding, now that you ask!) entitled 'Reading and Writing from the Archives with
Sheridan' and it was split into three parts. Part one was 'Ask the
Archivist' and we had staff from the County Archive telling us about the
resources that were available to the public at the Archive and online. They'd
also brought along a broad sample of resources for us to look at and I found the
County Asylum records of female patients from the 1800s fascinating. (Most of
the conditions were mania or melancholia.)
Part two was the first of two
talks by Sara - and this was about narrative drive - how to keep things
jogging along and avoid boring your reader/ making them put your book down. One
of the things that she said was that modern culture is more visual than in the
past and so one of the things that *might* help is to storyboard your short
story/ book to see whether there are any areas where nothing is happening. Then,
obviously, you need to think whether nothing needs to happen (there is
room for introspection and reflection in novels that you don't always have time
for in visual media) or, is the lack of something going on and indication that
you've missed something? That you need to ramp up your narrative drive and get
the ball rolling again?
I think I will try this with a short story first and see how that goes. The
reason being that, Sara read four pages from one of her books and then went
through each board for the action points in those four pages and it came to 15
storyboard boxes! So I'll try it with the 32 page short story before I try it on
the 400 page novel!
She also recommended Robert McKee's 'Story' for some useful hints on
ramping up the narrative drive and if I can find the notebook with the chapter
information in I'll add it here later.
Then we broke for lunch and Chum #1 and I headed off into the town for a
pasty (Lamb & Rosemary for me, and Steak for her) before swinging by one of
the Original Bakewell Pudding shops and picking up a couple of individual
puddings and a large one. Yumm. I had a disturbing moment when I got back to the
event and took the lid off my Latte to find that not only had the server put a
Latte in my cup but a tea bag as well. It wasn't an unpleasant taste initially,
just unusual, but it got progressively worse so I'm putting the initial 'Hmm,
not bad' down to the novelty factor rather than it actually tasting ok.
(Seriously kids, don't try that at home.)
Part three, Sara did her author talk and explained how her love of history
and objects came into being; how she researches for her books and the glee
experienced when you come across new documents no-one's looked at before. She
read from her post-WWII mystery 'Brighton Belle' which I'm looking
forward to reading (it's in the TBR pile but I have moved it to the top). She
reads very well but I have to say the best reading she did on that day was of
another writer's poem about being a writer. It highlighted why poetry is
wonderful when read aloud by someone who really engages with the words and
throws themselves into it. Again, as with the chapter in Robert McKee's 'Story',
when I find the reference I wrote down I'll put it on here.
And that was the last event I went to. Well worth it; I had a lovely time
this year and if there are any Literature Festivals in your County/ area then
it's always worth having a look at the brochure and seeing if there's anyone you
want to go and see/ listen to or any workshops you want to take part in.
Next stop, Theakston's
Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival in Harrogate in July.