When advice really matters …

ImageAnother super blog post from Triskele Books this week about the learning experience of writers.

One of my personal Eureka moments is included in the list, and the discussion took me back to the first piece of critique advice that really stuck with me. Where, I guess, I first started to realise there were ‘rules’ that needed to be learned and understood. And it was also that first gush of fresh air that makes you think ‘oh, yeah, of course. I get that now.’

It’s been so long ago, probably a dozen years or more, and I confess I’ve forgotten the name of the American guy who gave me so much of his time and good advice back then. He said he saw something special in my writing and he really gave me so much confidence to pursue my dream. It was on my very first writing site, Critique Circle, and although I don’t remember his name, I do remember his writing was the first I’d ever read on such a site that stopped me in my tracks and made me go Wow.

And his advice, once he said it, was SO obvious. Not so obvious to achieve – but so obvious where I needed to improve.

“You are an excellent wordsmith, however, why use twenty words when two will do? When I read your writing it’s like it’s covered in a veil, a fine mist and it makes me want to scream. If you could erase that mist, polish those words until they shine, your writing would sparkle like a diamond.”

The second Wow moment I had several years later was on a site called The Shed. I’d somehow landed there after a run in with the ‘Prefects’ on another site and a disastrous experience. The Shed was a minefield of egos. But a talented minefield, and it was there I met Amanda Hodgkinson (http://www.amandahodgkinson.com) and had that second Wow moment.

One of her early stories caught my eye, it had Cherry Tree in the title, and I adore cherry tree blossom, so I read it. And I couldn’t believe the quality of the writing. From there we somehow connected, and I read some very early drafts of her now successful novel, 22 Britannia Road, and it was a real goosebump moment. The first time I actually thought maybe I could get to a similar standard if I worked hard and learned more of these ‘rules’.

I’d class Amanda as a muse to this day. We have week long discussions about the actions of a character. We can almost argue if we don’t agree where a story should be going. But one snippet of advice stays with me. Amanda and I talked on a bench at the side Lake Zurich in the fading autumnal sunset, and it was this …

“You need to burrow deeper. Burrow into the story, burrow into the words, burrow into the characters. Really dig deep and let the story tell itself. You’re only scratching the surface, you have to go deeper.”

We were talking about my novel, The Charter, which had recently received numerous rejections to the point of really making me question my future as a writer and my ability to improve to get the book from good to great. Amanda made me realise I wasn’t alone, that she’d faced similar moments of crisis, but most importantly, gave me the confidence to write myself out of that hole.

So, those are my personal muse moments. There are a lot more to be found here on this weeks Triskele Books blog which can be found here …


I’d love to hear any of your muse moments that have helped you as a writer.


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