Getting In the Mood by Christine Duncan

I’ve written here before about how I try to read books that are seasonal to keep my self anchored. I tend to be at least half a season behind, so presently I am somewhere around the end of summer. The weather isn’t cooperating either. It’s been in the seventies and low eighties, and the trees are hanging on to their leaves. Yet, Halloween is only a few weeks away.
This is your chance fellow writers. I need a mystery book with a fall setting to read. Do you have one? Brag on!

To Talk or not To Talk

Sophie Kinsella wrote a great article for the BBC website, ten tips for a writer. One of her tips is never to discuss your book, whilst it’d being written, with anyone. She only ever discusses with her husband, over cocktails, when she’s stuck.

So I went and discussed this with my writer friend, who’s part of a book club. In that club they discuss their ideas and work all the time. She said that someone in the club found it very useful to discuss the work as she went along, so that she didn’t have to change it later. She liked the feedback to be immediate, and she would change her plan accordingly. She prefers this to having to go back to edit.

I’m the opposite. I hate discussing my book when it’s a work in progress. In my mind my plan is on train tracks, and any feedback along the lines of ‘why do that, why not do this?’ is likely to push the entire thing off the tracks and stop the writing completely. I prefer to write to the end, then go back if anything needs changing.

So which do you prefer? Talking and editing and accepting feedback as you go, or wait until the end, when you feel it’s ready before showing it to anyone?

Jumpstart by Christine Duncan

Have you ever written something, even had it published and then just forgotten it? I have. Today I came across something I wrote several years back and not only did I not remember a word of it, it was as though someone else wrote it just for me today.
It’s odd how that can work. Need a peptalk to get your writing going? Maybe you’ve already written something that will inspire you back to work. Go back through your old manuscripts and see. Sometimes, all you need to get back going is to give yourself a good swift one.

Finding your Genre

It’s odd that I’ve become a crime writer. That’s how I define myself now – a crime writer.

I’ve always loved crime novels. Right from when I was very little and I read the Famous Five and Secret Seven. (We may think of them as children’s books, but they are also mysteries). Then came the Hardy Boys, then I graduated to Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes and by the time I was 17 I knew enough about crime books to write about the Golden Age of detective stories in an exam completely off the cuff.

I still love crime books. I’m always overjoyed to discover a new crime writer, especially one who has a lot of books for me to read. But I never wrote them before.

My first book I wrote was when I was seven, and it was about a bunny rabbit. Despite my nature, I presume it wasn’t too distressing, as it was intended for the nursery class. I kept writing – but I wrote fantasy. I wrote sci-fi. I wrote love stories. I wrote ghost stories. I wrote a lot of ghost stories. I love writing ghost stories. I never wrote crime. I could never think of a plot, or characters. I don’t think I thought I was clever enough.

Then one day, about two years ago, I had an idea for a detective. Around the same time I had an idea for a villain. Nervously, I began to write. I wrote a crime story.

It didn’t come easy. I had to work at it. My agent had to give me a lot of tips. But it got written, and for the first time, I was properly satisfied with what I had written. I felt I had found my voice – and my voice was a crime story.

Now I’ve started writing crime, my head is full of stories. I reckon I’ve got enough crime stories in my head to keep me going for at least ten years, and the stories aren’t stopping, and I feel like I’m writing something decent. I’m happy with this work.

It took me time to find my genre – but now I’ve found it, my writing is coming on in leaps and bounds. You have to keep going. Keep writing everything, try everything, don’t be afraid to switch and change genres and styles. Eventually you’ll find your perfect fit, and then your writing will soar.

Priorities by Christine Duncan

I did a lot of things this weekend. I mowed the lawn. Applied weed and feed. Babysat. Grocery shopped. Did laundry. Cooked and cleaned. Rearranged the furniture. Put a bunch of photos up on the wall. Ran 6.2 miles today, and 4 yesterday. What I didn’t do was write.
And somehow or another, that seems to be the thing that stands out about the weekend. Sigh. You’d think that would teach me.

My October Read

This month I’m going to be tweeting every book I read (#myoctread). It’s not a particularly meaningful exercise for anyone but me, but I thought it would be interesting to get an overview of what I read, and what other people might think of those books.

I’ve got quite a wide range of tastes when it comes to books, and tend to be quite haphazard at choosing them. I like to walk in the library on a Saturday and say ‘ooh, I’ll have that one and that one and that one.’ I usually end up with an odd collection. For example, right now, from the library I have two books on Georgian history, two Nancy Mitford books, two of Nicola Upson’s Josephine Tey mysteries and a non-fiction book about survivors of a plane crash. And Silver Linings Playbook, and a biography of Virginia Woolf. See, it’s a wide selection, and that’s not counting the books I own.

So I thought a month of tweeting what I read might be quite interesting, so when I look back in November, I can see how much I read, what I read, what reaction there was, and whether it influenced what I’m writing in any way.

See, I’m coming to believe that writing shouldn’t just be influenced by a narrow selection of books. I’m writing a Victorian crime drama, so I’ve read a lot of books about Victorian history, to the point where I’m stuffed with it, and cannot read another one. I’ve also read a lot of crime (always have, always will). But what influence can the Mitford books, or the Virginia Woolf biography have on my work? Maybe nothing. Or maybe an influence on style, or plot, or characters or the way I present my characters or reveal my plot.

I think a wide range of reading may be more useful than just reading around the subject. I think it can expand and improve my creativity. So I’ll do this little experiment, and see what happens. And if it’s enlightening, or useful or just fun, maybe I’ll do the same with movies for a month.

A Hazard of Writing by Christine Duncan

One of the problems I have with writing is that it ruins stuff for me. Tonight I was watching a popular TV program, which had engaging characters, a plot that kept putting the heroine up a tree and throwing stones at her and a problem that as a writer bugged the heck out of me. Someone else kept rescuing her.
It wasn’t always the same someone else, mind you. I haven’t even worked out who the hero of this particular show is. Most of the focus is on her. But nevertheless whenever she is in a spot, someone else comes riding in on the white horse and fixes it.
It annoys me.
Do you critique the books as you read them and the programs as you watch them? It’s wonderful when I get m hands on some wonderful piece of writing and critique it. I learn a lot. But right about now, it’s ruining a bunch of entertainment options.