Tuesday, 15 January 2008

50 go off to the Dales

Well that was fun. A weekend in a Youth Hostel with some of my favourite people. We booked the whole of the hostel at Hawes and filled it with twelve families, about half and half kids and adults. It worked really well. The kids had a fantastic time and seemed to particularly enjoy the fact that they had their own 'dormitories'. We had lots of lovely food and some great waterfall walks. Also managed to fit in trip to a fab pub at Hardraw, a run up a hill and down again, and a music session late into the night using guitars, penny whistles, spoons and Jenga blocks.

I even did a couple of hours of writing. The change in environment (hmmm hills, rain, OK not that different from home, maybe it was the bunkbeds) seemed to stimulate something and I managed to polish off a couple of crucial scenes (and resolve my heroine's dilemma when faced with a savage dog). I also wrote a bizarre short story which I have yet to re-read.

My WEA Creative Writing class starts up again this week. I'm really looking forward to it, the class is made up of such interesting, creative and supportive writers and our tutor is a star (and no I'm not after extra points there miss). I also find the weekly assignments really useful for story ideas, and some of my most successful stories have sprung from there. The assignment for this week is particularly pertinent to my novel writing. Its about the concept of 'plot bombs'. Apologies to all you more experienced writers out there who know all this already. I was aware of the idea and I know it's something that should build into a storyline naturally, but I found it really helpful to apply it to my novel and see how my plotting fared. So here's how it goes.

Break your story down into a bare description of six major scenes. Arrange them for the maximum degree of suspense by using a 'slow burning fuse' and delaying the explosion. Include a few hidden danger spots that characters nearly step on time and time again.

It has woken me up to some weak spots in my plotting and has highlighted bits that need sparking up a bit.

While rummaging through my folder from last term I also found a hastily scribbled note "Each scene has a beginning, a middle and an end'." Basic stuff, shouldn't really need saying, but I decided it was worth reminding myself occasionally so I have written that one on a post-it and stuck it to my screen.

All this nuts and bolts stuff often just happens anyway when the writing is flowing well, but one thing I love about going to a writing class is that regular reminder of what lies beneath. It mops up the sloppiness in my writing and I am very grateful for it.

OK enough, back to the novel, time to relight that fuse.



A really useful post - it doesn't hurt to be reminded occasionally of those 'obvious' things that, I for one, seem to lose sight of or forget about along the way. Time to make a list methinks!

Casdok said...

Your weekend sounds great!
And the classess even though i am not a writer sound interesting.

HelenMH said...

Looking forward to hearing more about the bizarre short story!

Sarah Dunnakey said...

Karen- Thanks, glad it's not just me

Casdok - Yes it was rather fab - we organised it through the YHA 'Escape to..." scheme which allows you exclusive bookings of their hostels out of season. Full details on their website. Like your blog by the way. Really interesting stuff and some exellent links

Sarah Dunnakey said...

Helen - let me know if you hear of a competition for "Bizarre stories that reveal disturbing aspets of the author's psyche" it could be a contender