How to Write When You’re Not Writing

Okay, so today’s post is a day late. No, it’s not because I spent ages trying to think of a pun for the title. As you can see I failed in that anyway. No, it was was to do with the fact that I was away at Download Festival in Donington Park all weekend. I fully intended to write a post when I got home yesterday, but energy and time escaped me. So, you can have it today instead. Aren’t I kind to you?

Today’s blog is in a way about Download Festival. Not directly as such, but more what happens when things like festivals, conventions, and other events get in the way of your writing. If you’re an aspiring writer then you probably will be, and should be, attending all sorts of conventions and events to meet fellow writers, agents, and publishers. Things like writing retreats are great to get away and put pen to paper. But what if the event you’re attending isn’t conducive to writing? What if it’s something like a festival where you are stuck in a field for days, cut off from the internet, and horror of horrors, having fun? *gasp*

Well, I would say that this is where ‘thinking’ comes in. Yes, it sounds silly, but it’s something I’ve talked about before. There is a lot more to writing than just typing words on a page. There’s research, planning, and plotting. All of which I’ve covered in previous blogs.

When I’m not by the computer, and even when I’m not carrying a notepad (this isn’t very often, but sometimes I forget it), I spend a lot of time thinking about my story. This can be absolutely anything to do with your story, but it’s a good idea to sometimes take some distance from the page and to just think about it. As I’ve said before before you start writing you need to know certain things about your story and characters.

A writer is always writing.

Right now, as I type this, I’m thinking about a few plot points of the novel I’m currently working on. Because to be fully immersed in it, to be able to write it well, it can never leave you.

I find it useful at the very least to run through dialogue. This can often be tricky to write, and young/inexperience writers often try and cram too much information into dialogue. It needs to be natural. Just sit somewhere and listen to how people talk. Most of what they’re saying is in what they’re not saying.

So, what I’ll do is run through the dialogue in my head, before I’ve even written it. What would that character say in that situation. No that doesn’t sound right, try again. Yes, that’s what they’re trying to say, but this is what they’re actually saying. By the time it gets to the page it’ll feel more ‘real’. As far as you’re concerned those characters have already had that conversation, you’re not making it up on the spot any more.

Dialogue isn’t the only think that you can think through. This weekend, I spent a bit of time, on the bus between Nottingham and Donington Park, thinking about the hierarchies in my novel. Who represents the main organisation, and what are their job roles? This all works towards having a workable, relatable world, even if it is science fiction. By thinking through this, it also brought up relationships between characters: if that was so and so’s job role, then actually they would treat so and so like this…

In short, there is so much that you can be doing, when you don’t have a chance to actually write prose, that will benefit your story. Try not to beat yourself up about not ‘writing’ and realise that actually what you are doing is ‘writing’, just not the physical side of it. I’m not saying drift off and waste time daydreaming and never get you’re writing down. But if you can’t write, then thinking through dialogue, characters, setting, or scenes can help you when you come back to the computer and that blank page that you left behind.

Thanks for reading, and if you liked what I have to say, or even disagree with it please comment below.

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I Return

Well I guess it’s time I wrote one of these things again. It’s been quite a while since my last blog once again. But I have excuses a plenty! I’ve only just really finished moving house. Monday was the last day on the tenancy of my old flat. Those of you who have moved house will know that it’s not just about moving stuff from one place to another, which is incredibly tiring I might add, it’s also having to sort everything out from utilities to changing addresses with every service you subscribe to. I’m still living out of a few boxes and bags… All in all it’s pretty time consuming and I only finished sorting the most part yesterday. I’ve also got a problem where some quite expensive tickets were dispatched to my old address and the property managers are being as unhelpful as possible at getting back. Trust me there will be more on them in a future blog!

It has also been a busy period at work. The demand has been phenomenal and we have a record number of new students. As great as this is, it made the first week of the new course pretty intensive for everyone. There is still a lot of work to be done but it’s starting to ease off and relax slightly now we are getting in to the swing of things. It didn’t help that towards the end of the week I started to pick up what I can only describe as freshers flu.

Over the weekend I was busy away in London crewing a convention called the Entertainment Media Show. I’ve been to plenty of conventions as a paying attendee, but I have never crewed before so a few months ago I decided that I should give this weekend a go a my first event crewing. I didn’t realise at the time that it would fall right in the middle of this busy work and moving home period, otherwise I might have left it until the start of next year. In hindsight it probably wasn’t the best time to start and I could barely talk to anyone over the weekend due to losing my voice to the flu. So apologies to anyone I spoke to, I’m not normally quite that quiet/rude! That said, I did have a really good time.

I was musing in the week before the event that so many people seem so self-absorbed, so caught up in their own lives. I was even going to write a blog about it but didn’t get time. I constantly found myself getting out of the way of other people without so much as a thank you, especially it seemed, when carrying heavy things. Why should I move out of the way if I’m the one carrying something heavy? Anyway, I didn’t want to go in to that now. What I was going to say was that it was so nice and refreshing to crew at an event and see that for the most part everyone else crewing was very conscientious of what was going on. They seemed to want to help the attendees and make sure everything ran logically and smoothly while making sure everyone, including the other crew, enjoyed themselves.

So I had a really good time. The Saturday was hard work in parts, bag checking for Matt Smith (Doctor Who), Red Dwarf and Mike Tyson photo queues. But it was great fun really, being close to these guests and even getting to chat to them was excellent. Also working with and getting to know some of the other crew was great, it’s always good to make new friends and I hope to make many more. So in short I will definitely be applying to crew again. I’m not someone who goes round and gets loads of autographs and photos and obsesses about guests. So it’s much nicer for me to do something active and be a part of it. These shows are always a nice environment to be in (although the boxing fans pushed it at times! I won’t go in to details, but sheesh, considering it was a family show, some of that language was fairly inappropriate!) so I will be back.

Thankfully I have this weekend free, the first in what seems ages. It will give me time to sort out the flat and do some writing.

On that note, I don’t know if I have mentioned it before but in a few weeks I have the opportunity to chat with an editor from the Black Library about one of my stories. This is obviously a great opportunity and I’m almost finished on a short story, but for previously mentioned reasons I haven’t done any writing in a couple of weeks. I will be from now on spending as much spare time as possible on finishing the draft of this story. I’ve got till the start of November so it should give me enough time to draft and hopefully edit. Wish me luck… Once again I will be calling on my test readers for their feelings on the work. If you feel like getting involved, feel free to comment or message me!

Once again thanks for reading and hopefully it won’t be so long before my next blog.

Mike