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We have been lucky enough to have the lovely Helen Lederer write us a great article, sharing her tips on getting started with writing! Helen has created a fantastic initiative encouraging women to put pen to paper called Comedy Women In Print and the tips she shares there can be applied to any medium of writing from short stories to blogs and much more.
There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank screen or spanking new notebook and being bereft of any words - even the small ones… but take heart – the cavalry's here. If I can do it, YOU can do it!
Why not shut your eyes; having made coffee and lit a candle (obvs) and decide what has irked you or amused you in the last week? Perhaps someone spoke very loudly on the train and somehow got under your skin. Why was that? What is it about you that gets affected by other people? Perhaps you can start here. You are on a journey…where is your character going? Is it urgent? Are they late? Or, are they running away from somewhere? Once you have a character in a situation you can play with motivation and then enjoy describing the environment. Above all KEEP IT REAL and your reader will thank you (unless of course, this is a dystopian sci-fantasy - in which case I’m not your best advisor).
A journey can take many forms… it is a way of correcting a mistake or seeking love or anything else that affects our waking hours. One thing is for sure - every character wants something! So, if you start with your desire, and you set about meeting that desire - you already have something interesting to write about.
Make sure your narrative voice – be it in the first or third person - is authentic… too many ‘try hard’ and ‘clever clogs’ observations can alienate the reader because they lose trust in you. Be real. Write your page as if you’re telling your best friend a very engaging/alarming/ horrifying tale that really happened. Do you want a response? Then make it happen by being dramatic and real. Truth is all. Remember that moment when you meet someone at a party, and you felt distanced from them? That is because they are putting up barriers (which is, of course, interesting in itself). Your job is to allow the reader to draw their one conclusion by offering the information in an immediate way. Don’t do the thinking for them and don’t put up barriers. The best book is written by those authors who can make a connection with the reader.
Life would be very dull without conflict. Once you know what your character wants - we need to care if they can achieve it or not. There needs to be a challenge for any ‘pay off’ to work. We need to earn a good ending; therefore, we need conflict before we can enjoy a satisfying resolution.
Et VOILA! Purpose, Conflict, Resolution and a stonkingly connectable narrative style! I’d recommend ‘Starter for ten ‘by David Nichols, ‘Bridget Jones’ by Helen Fielding and any short story in a weekly magazine. These must grab you quickly and always have an excellent beginning middle and end because there’s so little space
Love Helen Lederer