From 9 – 13 June I’m going to be spending a week teaching at the stunning Chez Castillon in the Dordogne. My teaching method is not to bombard students with rules and magic formulas, but to get them inspired and give them enough confidence to get the words down on the page. So much time is spent these days theorising about how to write the perfect novel as quickly and easily as possible (a novel in a month? Do me a favour …) and it is easy to get bogged down by preconceptions. There are three things to remember:
- It’s not supposed to be easy.
- Blood, sweat, tears, panic, hangovers, tantrums, despair – this is all a normal part of the creative process.
- Grab your book by the throat and wrestle it to the ground. You are in charge. Don’t be afraid.
Above all I like to make the process enjoyable and fun. If you don’t enjoy the writing, you can’t expect the reader to enjoy reading the finished product.
If you’d like to join me there are a couple of spaces left. www.chez-castillon.com
At the weekend, I went to the Gerhard Richter
exhibition at Tate Modern. I was blown away, not only by the richness and variation of his work, but also his methodology: sometimes planned and ordered, sometimes random – sometimes both. It made me think long and hard about the way I write, and it occurred to me that the one quality all his work had, however it was generated, was confidence. Here is a man who knows what he is capable of and who is not afraid to experiment and take risks, but at the same time is very definite about what he has to say. Whatever image he ends up with, his voice is always loud and clear.
It made me realise that confidence is the most important item in the writer’s toolbox. With confidence, you can write what you like and how you like, instead of slavishly following a formula. Confidence, of course, comes with experience, but the danger there is that one becomes complacent instead of pushing the boundaries. Something that Richter was clearly never afraid to do. And that is when genius emerges: when talent and confidence and craft combine with risk.
I’m going to throw away the rule book for the next month. Forget about inciting incidents, character arcs, reveals, back stories and just see what happens. After all, any good storyteller will instinctively shape a strong narrative, but it’s all too easy to get bogged down in following the check list peddled by the myriad creative writing gurus out there. Is it any wonder that the fiction charts have been accused of becoming cynically formulaic, when everyone is singing from the same song sheet?
It will be like going on a journey without the sat nav. I can’t wait to see where I end up.
I set this up because most authors working from home don’t get the fun of an office Christmas party or Secret Santa, and why should we miss out on the fun?
So how it works is:
Authors DM or notify me on Twitter to say they want to take part – deadline 15th December – and I compile the Secret Santa list.
I allocate each author a Secret Santa from the list.
So then -
! Each author gets the name of another author to send a copy of their latest book, beautifully wrapped of course!
2 Each author will also be contacted by their own Secret Santa so they can be sent a book.
It is all organised by DM on twitter. The only slight glitch may be if you aren’t following your Secret Santa in which case they can’t DM you, but people usually send a discreet open message to alert you so you can follow them.
The only rules are you must be a published author with a UK address – this last rule is to keep the postage fair.
Follow me on Twitter – @veronica_henry – if you want to take part.
I’ve spent about a million pounds in Clarks on children’s shoes in the past, but never actually bought a pair for myself. But as I rushed in the other day for a tube of trainer whitener, I spotted these. As a committed boot girl the moment autumn arrives I am clomping around, and these will go with absolutely everything. And the best thing of all? *whispers* – they are incredibly comfortable.
Then I remembered this – they don’t make them like this any more!
Today I’m off to Exeter to talk to the lovely Judi Spiers at Radio Devon about my new book, Marriage and Other Games
, which comes out on 21 October. I bumped into her at Appledore Festival on Saturday, where we were both appering. No doubt we will touch on the subject of chick lit while we are there, and whether it is dead. Absolutely not! There are still legions of people out there buying uplifting, heartwarming, life-affirming fiction, which provides a much deserved escape during these tough times. And books still provide remarkably good value for money. So go on – stick one in your trolley!
While I’m there I get to choose a piece of music. I’m totally in love with this song at the moment, Go by Delilah. It is inspired by one of my old favourites, Ain’t Nobody by Chaka Khan, which takes me right back to the eighties. But the spare way it’s produced, and her stunning voice, send shivers down my spine. Gorgeous.