Following on from one of our most successful Meet the Professionals events last week, Jasmine Fassl has written a blog which offers all writers…
Five pieces of essential advice for writers inspired by Claire Askew
The Meet the Professionals (MtP) event with award-winning author and poet Dr Claire Askew took place on Sunday 24th October. It was our 9th MtP event and actually our 1st anniversary – the very first MtP took place in October 2020. And what a year it’s been with guests from across the whole of the publishing industry – literary agents, marketing directors, TV directors and of course writers!
We started the session off with Keith Gray, co-founder of Sunday Writers’ Club and award-winning writer in his own right, introducing Claire. He asked about the difference of writing crime fiction and writing poetry. Claire said that she can write crime anywhere, regardless of noise levels, people fussing and movement all around her. In fact, she plots her crime storylines constantly in everyday life and the characters of the DI Birch series invade her everyday decisions: ‘What would DI Birch do in this situation?’ often crops up. But for poetry, Claire needs particular writing conditions to get into the mindset – a totally empty house, music, if at all, without words/lyrics, and a good chunk of uninterrupted time.
That distinction sorted, the floor was opened up to the audience and continued with much nodding and Aha!-moments for everyone, and a genuinely pleased author.
Here are five pieces of advice which stood out from the hour of MtP:
You don’t need to put every single idea you’ve ever had into your current book.
You’ve done the hours and hours of research, now you want to pass your newfound knowledge on to your readers. Don’t. Just because you know it, it’s not necessarily relevant for your story. Only put in what your story needs and perhaps keep the rest for the next book.
Never finish a writing session at the end of a chapter.
The blank page is a mighty mountain to cross. If you never finish a writing session at the end of a chapter, no matter how tempting, you’ll always have a sentence or two, to hold onto and to set off from. Try it. It really works.
Edit one category at a time.
This works best for full length novels which are on average about 90.000 words long. Editing that kind of volume of story and words is a daunting task. So split it into chunks. Do one edit focussed solely on dialogue, one on characters, one on plot and on one setting. Each will be hard work, but achievable, less overwhelming and therefore more focussed.
Your book will never be finished unless you involve other people.
Are you on the 6th edit, the 8th edit or even the 15th edit of your book? Unsure if it’s any good anymore? Worried that you lost your spark halfway through edit 4? Your book will never be ‘done’ until you take the scary step and show it to other people. Find trusted beta readers. Get feedback. Pick an agent and send it out.
Nobody in the industry expects a perfect book.
Agents will give you pointers on how to make it better. Editors will help you shape your story. In Claire’s case, her editor took what Claire thought was a fair genre-less novel about three women all dealing with the same horrific event and, advised her with how to shape it into the first book of an award-winning crime detective series.
Throughout the hour-long conversation between the audience and Claire there were plenty more insights, light bulb moments, personal encouragement, a reading which gave everybody goose-bumps and recommendations of tools, books and creative writing courses. Claire was generous with her expertise, honest and encouraging to all participants.
Every MtP event is different, but they all focus on the craft of writing. Regardless if you write as a hobby, aspire to be published or are already well along that particular path, we promise an evening with like-minded writers, discussing what they love.
Maybe you’ll join us next time?
Join us for our upcoming workshop with previous MtP guest Dr Joanna Nadin taking place on Sunday 7th November. Find out more here: https://sundaywritersclub.com/workshops/
Sunday Writers' Club Team Member
Jasmine grew up in Vienna but studied in Edinburgh, Scotland. She stayed in Edinburgh for another 12 years after completing her degree, working first for a UK-wide bookstore chain, then for Scottish Book Trust – Scotland’s national charity promoting literature, reading and writing. During her 10 years at Scottish Book Trust, Jasmine was the manager of a national touring programme taking authors and illustrators all over the UK. She also organised a national book award and managed the first-ever live online author event programme in cooperation with the BBC – which reached an audience of over 1 million people worldwide. Jasmine wrote a quarterly fiction review column for the Scotsman newspaper for four years and was a regular event chair at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. With these and many other projects and programmes Jasmine has worked with authors and illustrators at all stages of their careers helping to build bridges between them and their readers. Jasmine returned to live in Vienna in 2017.
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Some really great advice from Claire Askew. I really like her suggestion for editing one category at a time for novels. Thank you, Jasmine for sharing.
Thank you Paul! My pleasure.