Monday, 4 October 2010

The Why Factor

Last week I was on a writing course in Oxford. It was How to edit your own women's fiction given by Julie Cohen and Helen Corner

In three days I learnt so many things it will take me some time to wrap my head around it, but the most important  advice I came home with was to always ask yourself WHY. You should write as if you had a nagging little four year old sitting on your shoulder and asking Why about every single word in your manuscript. This will give depth and credibility to your plot and characters.

During this course we had the chance to look at each other's work, and as we analysed mine, I realized I didn't know my characters properly. I hadn't understood or considered their background enough to determine why they followed one path or another, so I hadn't been able to form round live characters that would engage the reader.

Also, I've learnt many of the basics I needed (e.g. pacing, show and not tell) to feel more confident about what I'm doing. This means, I feel ready to dig deep into my story until I find the treasure I was looking for.

Where did you get your writing knowledge from? Courses, books, blogs...? Or are you lucky enough to have been born with that knowledge.


  1. I think you probably have to be born with a little bit of it, but never needing to learn any of it at all is a rare gift! I got mine from other authors, from workshopping (I still learn new things from RNA and RWA conferences, and I've been to eight altogether), from blogs and also from unlikely places like DVD commentary, especially Joss Whedon's.

  2. I´m still learning and cconstantly asking why? Thanks for sharing this with us and continued success with your writing. x

  3. Asking why is definitely the key to deep characterisation. It is also what makes it hard because then you have to come up with the answers. I am at the moment on the threshold of embarking on something new and the fear and trepidation knowing that I shall have to delve deep are what is preventing me from beginning. Well, that's my excuse anyway!

  4. Courses, Books, blogs - I'm a proper little sponge for knowledge. Just being sociable like this with other writers is invaluable.

    As Pauline says, it's ongoing.

    Glad you got a lot from the course.


  5. I'm so jealous of your course!

    I still have so much to learn, but I think I'm getting better with each try (or at least I hope!). I think it's one thing to be a good writer and another to be a good storyteller. Two different skills!

  6. I've gathered my knowledge from every source I can find it: websites, books, blogs, conventions, movies, everywhere. There's no end to the knowledge around me. I do my best to soak it up.

  7. Thanks everyone, I too try to gather information as you do. And I keep analysing books now, which can get a bit annoying sometimes.
    I forgot to mention that Lisa Bodenham, friend, twitter friend and colleague at the course wrote a much more detailed account of the course:


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