I spent a happy half hour last week reading through the notes from Andrew Wille’s and Shelley Harris’ workshops from the Festival of Writing 2017. I had a play with the planning frames and concepts from each session, and created the planning grid love child of those two wonderful teachers.
With the kind permission of Shelley Harris (@shelleywriter https://shelleyharris.co.uk/) and Andrew Wille (@andrewwille http://www.wille.org/) I’ve added it here.
If you’re on the desktop version you can also click on the link at the top right. The grid’s neighbour document is Shelley Harris’ Novel Matrix from FoW15 which I’ve also found to be hugely useful.
If you’d like a Microsoft Word version, just ask and I’ll endeavour to email one as soon as life / work allows.
Andrew Wille Planning Masterclass / Shelley Harris Architecture of Stories – FoW17
Merged Planning Frame
|Stage of story
|Equilibrium / Status quo
||Once upon a time there was…
|Disruption /Inciting incident
|The push and pull of hope and despair/ Rising action
||+ Because of that…
|– Because of that…
|+ Because of that…
|– Because of that…
|+ Because of that…
|– Because of that…
|Denouement / Exploration of new status quo
Shelley Harris‘ workshop at FoW15 was brilliantly useful. I’ve had plenty of need recently to revisit the lessons from the session. One section of the workshop was about kickstartng your writing. The idea behind all of these exercises is to write something new and different. Use the exercises as a warm up, as a writing break when you’re stuck on your work-in-progress, or to generate a new idea for a full piece of writing.
Five names you’d never give a character.
- List them.
- Think about why you’d never use each name. How could you write a character with that name and challenge the stereotype suggested by their name?
- Pick one and write.
Five stories you’d tell if nobody was going to know / read them.
- List them
- For each, write a couple of sentences about why you wouldn’t write it.
- Use the “Fuck It Draft” to write part of one of the stories.
- Fill in the matrix (click the link)
- Randomly combine one box from each column – ask yourself ‘If this was a story, what story would it be?’
- Answer the “further questions” about your randomly generated story.
- Write a few paragraphs of the story.
Another excellent point from Julie Cohen‘s ‘The Art of the Re-write’ was that writing is tough so if you can stop writing and do something else, do it! If you can’t not write then you’re a writer and you need to get on with it!
This is something that I’ve been pondering over the weekend whilst struggling to make a major decision about my current work-in-progress. As I can’t get characters and storylines out of my head unless I get scribbling then I guess I just need to get on with it and ‘finish the damn book!’
Flicking through my notes from FoW16 two post its caught my eye from a workshop who else but Julie Cohen, Queen of Post Its!
Julie had been talking about how daunting the re-write can be, and how it can seem that this massive document that you’ve written is out of your control. She reminded us all that we have the power over our novel, we can undo it and make it better. An apt reminder for me today when I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by the scale of the re-write. Thanks Julie!
Julie has many helpful and inspiring articles about writing on her website here. If you get the chance to attend one of her workshops don’t hesitate, just do it. It’ll be one of the best and most enjoyable ways to boost your writing.
The keynote speeches at FoW16 were great but two stood out as supremely inspirational – Joanna Cannon (@JoannaCannon) author of ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’ who spoke about mental health, self-care and self-confidence. Also Cally Taylor (@Cally Taylor) whose speech detailed her journey as a writer from criticism of her short stories from a writing forum member, to publishing both women’s fiction (Heaven Can Wait and Home For Christmas) and then crime novels as C.L Taylor. (The Lie, The Missing and The Accident.)
Amongst many useful lessons was the message EXPERIMENT, LEARN, BOUNCE.
Experiment with genre – short stories are a good way to do this.
Never stop learning – learn from critiques, from feedback, from studying published books in your genre.
Bounce back from criticism and rejection. Writing is subjective so allow yourself time to reflect on feedback and act upon it if you know they’ve hit upon something true, albeit painful.
Great advice from a truly lovely person.
Andrew Wille’s workshop was initially called ‘Finding Your Voice’ but within moments he replaced ‘finding’ with ‘trusting’ – a change that struck a chord with me. I spend huge amounts of writing time deleting and re-phrasing, second guessing myself and doubting my voice. The central message was to follow your instinct to tap into something easy and natural then your writing will come to life. If your writing feels forced it is probably because you are using a voice that is not true to you – we need to learn to trust the voice we’ve got.
Andrew Wille (@andrewwille) has a great blog post about this and many other incredibly useful and insightful posts about improving your writing here.
Joanna Cannon’s keynote speech was so inspiring that I’ll probably get a month’s worth of lessons from it. My first thought after her speech is that we could re-name the FoW as the Goat Pride Festival. (Actually, my first thought was ‘wow’ and ‘I wish she was my friend’ however my first sensible thought was about pride.)
It’s easy to feel isolated as a writer. It’s easy to feel out of place when your interest in life is driven by people and situations that take up residence in your head until you write about them. Joanna Cannon urged us all to be proud of being goats, not sheep. The whole FoW celebrates our goatness and creates a wonderful sense of belonging and acceptance.
Spending a weekend in the company of so many like-minded and lovely people is such a rare treat that a post festival slump is inevitable. Real life hits and we’re back to balancing the jobs we do to pay the bills with the writing we do to feed our souls. I’m determined that the sense of pride I feel in our collective individualism and creativity will endure.
I’m also determined that I’ve got to finish the re-write before I let myself read more of ‘The Trouble With Goats and Sheep’ otherwise I’ll never ‘finish the damn book ‘ – my own, that is.
@spongepaddy phrased it perfectly – the post it revolution has begun.
Julie Cohen’s ‘The Art of the Rewrite’ workshop on Sunday made the whole room glow with light bulb moments as every last delegate realised how much easier and enjoyable the re-write could be with post its and coloured pens. She’s got a great blog post about it so I don’t need to embarrass myself here by attempting to explain it as brilliantly as she does.
Julie Cohen’s ‘The Art of the Rewrite’ started with the command WRITE CRAP. Give yourself permission to write crap. First drafts are always crap. If you try to make the first draft anything other than crap you’ll never finish it. So, write a crap first draft and CELEBRATE. You’ve finished the ‘damn thing.’ Now for the re-write – don’t worry, there’s post its!
Julie Cohen @Julie_Cohen you’re awesome.
After an awe-inspiring weekend at the Festival of Writing the spectre of real life looms. So, how to avoid post-FoW slump? Blogging and tweeting daily about one of the lessons from York of course.
I see blogging as a high-tech version of talking to myself but in case there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t know about the FoW, the Writers’ Workshop explain it far better than I ever could. Suffice to say if you’re a writer – or trying to be – it’ll become your spiritual home and the weekend you’ll look forward to more than any other every year.