Sunday, 5 June 2016

Word Factory - Neil Gaiman

My next career move is to become a photographer

The other week I attended one of the Word Factory events (I went to the Stella Duffy workshop last year and found it really helped me focus on my writing), and this session was run by Neil Gaiman, and the short version of this blog is that the event was amazing.

Neil talked about short stories, and the ways to capture them as well as reading a couple of stories from his short story collection and also a piece from his new book, a collection of his non-fiction

One of the major discussions was about ideas - finding them, writing them down and maintaining them through the story. Neil talked about how ideas can turn up from daydreams*, turning things upside down, and wondering ‘what if.’

Here are a few other tips which Neil gave away to the audience:

  • Short stories are like icebergs – there is a bigger story underneath.
  • You know when to stop on a story when you run out of words, when the characters either change or resist change or even when the reader changes.
  • Give yourself room to screw up.
  • Steal from real life to build fiction.
  • Find the voice of the story – be confident and it will guide the story.
  • Use the minimum of words to create maximum impact.
  • The first draft is an explosion of the idea while the second draft is for words to be removed which distract from the theme.

Yes, definitely a photographer, specialising
in hair.
There are some writing events which leave you feeling quite flat about your writing, and then there are events like the Word Factory event which gives you a kick up the bum and gets you back at the desk, writing again. Since the event, I have been trying to work on the redraft of my novel most days even if I redraft a couple of hundred words, or write a list of what needs to happen in the next section of the chapter then I feel like I’ve moved forward with the project – I have nine more chapters to redraft, and even though it’s coming along slowly I can feel like I’m nearly there, and I’m already looking forward to starting back at chapter one, ready for the next round of edits.

* Which is good as I had the strangest of dreams (or probably a nightmare) the other day. It was a funeral, full of people who I used to love and know, and I interrupted the service as I knew the person who had died would not have appreciated it at all – everyone was looking at me, expecting me to say horrible things but I didn’t. I talked about the funny times and for a while the dream got stuck on a loop as I kept telling the same story again and again – lunchtime cocktails, French onion soup, sitting on the kerb, laughing at buses- I think I was trying to get the crowd to laugh but it was a funeral and everybody wanted to wear their sad faces. And then I started to talk about the power of missing someone, and love, and, anyway I woke up crying… Don’t worry I’ve had some leftover cake. Thanks subconscious…love you too.

Oh look, I’ve done that trick Neil Gaiman does when writing introductions – I have snuck in a story while telling you guys about the event.

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