- A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.
This evening I came across a very useful podcast series produced by the Scottish Book Trust. It's a series of 5 masterclasses, all presented by children's author Keith Gray.
Each podcast covers a different aspect of the writing process. While a lot of the advice is much the same as any other source of information for beginning writers, it's still a very enjoyable series - and you're still likely to come across little things that you hadn't considered before.
Lesson 1: Ideas and inspiration
This lesson reinforced everything that I've already read (and heard) about sourcing ideas and inspiration. I didn't really come away with anything new...but it did prompt me to write down the ideas that I'd thought of during the day but had neglected to write down at the time. Good job too as I'd probably have completely forgotten them by the morning.
Lesson 2: Characterisation
The main points that I gained from this lesson were:
1. Plot grows from character - your plot is driven by the main character's actions therefore the reader must believe in the character and understand his motivation for the actions he takes.
2. Action is character - the way a person behaves or reacts tells us a lot about their character. This was a significant reminder of the importance of showing, not telling!
Lesson 3: Plot
Again, not much new here, but worth a look.
Lesson 4: Setting
This was the most enjoyable podcast by far. There were 3 significant points to be gained from this lesson.
1. Keep descriptions brief
2. Only describe your setting enough to set the mood or create an atmosphere
3. Use sensory details to enable the reader to experience the setting for themselves
Lesson 5: Redrafting
This was a very useful lesson on how to recognise when your work is done.
There are 3 C's to look for when redrafting your work:
It reminded me of the importance of reading your work from the perspective of the reader - a child. It also prompted the recall of an incident at school today.
I was relieving in a class at a school that I've never taught at before. The children were in awe of the fact that my hobby is writing children's stories. They were keen as mustard to hear some of my work, but alas I hadn't brought any with me!
This got me thinking about critiquing and editing - perhaps the best indication of how close your story is to completion comes from how well your target audience responds to it. Children can be brutally honest when asked for their opinion! Allowing children to critique your work is also a very useful teaching strategy too as it encourages the normalisation of constructive criticism and helps children to accept it as an inevitable part of improving one's writing skills.
Next time I get a call I'll be sure to include some of my works-in-progress! :)