Last week, we held our first Words Away salon at the Tea House Theatre Cafe in Vauxhall. The rain magically stopped just as Emma and Andrew Wille arrived, followed by a friendly and enthusiastic crowd of published and unpublished writers. With tea, cake and drinks secured, pens and notepads at the ready, introductions were made and together we launched our inaugural salon, How To Make Your Novel Shine, Self Editing Your Fiction.
Emma began the conversation by asking, how do you work on your manuscript as if it was written by someone else? It's not an easy transition, moving from the creative to the editorial self and we were all keen for tips like this one of Andrew's; when revising try working away from the screen. Defamiliarise your manuscript, reformat a page or two in a bookish font and read your work with fresh eyes. Andrew's interesting and holistic take on editing gave an emphasis to giving. He produced a brilliant handout specially for our Salon packed with practical tips for everyone to take away and absorb in their own time.
I took away a couple of key ideas from our discussion. Have you ever found yourself ready to edit your W.I.P, having forgotten or lost sight of what you were trying to do in the first place? Andrew suggested asking (and continue asking at different stages), 'What is my intention here?' What's the story about, who's it for? Clarify. Challenge yourself. Seek out the subconscious. Develop your instincts. As someone who struggles with writing longer form fiction, I've been looking again at the profusion of signs and symbols littering my writing life. Behold the wall plastered with reoccurring images. Witness draft after draft of stories circling around the same themes. And as for my Pinterest storyboards..."Duh!" they seem to be shouting, "Here's your story, Look closely! Listen! We're trying to tell you something."
I also loved the reminder to separate problem finding from problem solving and to pay attention to different aspects of the novel on a draft by draft basis. It seems simple, doesn't it? But marooned in the thick of the editing process it's easy to become swamped. Questions of tense, point of view, consistency of voice and so on can be addressed in separate drafts. Andrew recommended drawing up a To Do List. Build on your work, layer by layer, from first through to final draft.
Finally an oldie but a goodie; read like a writer. Seek out your favourite texts and influences. You know the ones? The stories that made you want to write in the first place. For me these include Dylan Thomas', Under Milkwood, F. Scott. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, Jessica Anderson's Tirra Lirra By The River and Peter Cary's, Bliss. Go back and revisit these stories, what was it in these beloved books that triggered your impulse to write? What speaks to you now and why? Barry, one of our writer's in the audience, made the excellent point that invariably one remembers a favourite story but not which tense or point of view the story was told.
Following our discussion we had a chance to mingle and chat over a drink. I loved meeting everyone! Thank you to all who came and made it such a lovely evening. Also a big thanks to Harry and Freddy, our fab Tea House hosts, kings of cake and providers of such a welcoming venue! Thank you too, Emma and Andrew for a great beginning. I've received lots of positive and helpful feedback which I plan to take on board for next time. Meanwhile I'm looking forward to meeting Elizabeth Fremantle on the 17th October when alongside Emma we'll be exploring Creating Characters In Fiction. Hope to see you there!
Catch Andrew's summary of the evening here.
Read some of Emma's related posts mentioned on the night here.