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Lockdown Writing Tips (No.2)

We hope that you - and your loved ones - are continuing to stay safe and healthy. Earlier this week we were telling you about our friends at Kobo and their initiative for getting people reading during self-isolation. It's almost the weekend and we wanted to turn our attention to writing. In fact, in these times perhaps Lockdown Friday is the weekend! In the media, we have noticed that lots of people are talking about spending the time in isolation finishing that book that they have always talked about writing. We thought we would share some useful pointers on how to beat cabin fever and get pen to paper!

  • Use Post-it notes. This is a trick often used by screenwriters to keep track of characters or plot-lines and subplots. We find that it is especially useful when it comes to your characters; list their traits and characteristics (physical and personal) and you will never find yourself asking "What would Bob do when Jennifer proposes / points a gun at him / offers him the gold bullion?" You will find that it really helps you keep a tight structure.

  • Read, read, read! A lot of authors think all about the writing and forget to read. Reading the work of other writers - including things you don't like! - is important "research" for any author. Like a screenwriter reading screenplays, reading other books is part of your ongoing author-education. Through osmosis you will pick up on techniques and styles that will benefit your own writing. It can even help with grammar.

  • Watch the film adaptation. It's a nice way to take a break from the laptop. It will also help you analyse structure and plot. Knowing the book, think about what does and doesn't work in the film. It's permitted procrastination (see Tip 6) - you're not writing but it's time well spent!

  • Read out loud. Perform your writing. I cannot recommend this enough. It helps with pace and punctuation, drama and tension, and general flow. It also helps with dialogue - does it sound authentic, is that what Bob would say and how he would say it? (And refer back to your Post-it note!)

  • There is no wrong way to write. Find the way that’s most authentic for you! The more you get into it, the more you'll find your own way. When to write, how to write, short bursts or long slogs, target word counts, tea or coffee, music or silence and so on. Just get writing!

  • Don't procrastinate. Putting off starting that next chapter in favour of watching just one more Netflix episode or doing the dishes is the thing that will stop you finishing your book. Power-up the laptop, stick the kettle on and start writing. You can always bin your efforts later, you're not committing to the words just because you've written them. But you've written them and who knows where they will lead!

You might also be interested to listen to the BBC's Arts Editor Will Gompertz discussing the impact of the virus on the Arts. On Steve Wright's Radio 2 show last week he was predicting a boom of creativity and shared some interesting parallels from history. You can listen to it again here.

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