Monday, 8 August 2011

Talking It Through

Every writer needs a writing friend they can talk their writing through with, someone to bounce ideas off, someone who will ask the right questions which stimulate good answers.  

I was inspired to write this post having spent time with my lovely writing friend Nancy (to whom Kissing Mr Wrong is dedicated).  I've been struggling a bit with the current WIP and outlined the story to her.  Two hours later, and I was fired up with ideas which filled five pages of notes just from having to explain the story to her and say where I thought the holes, blockages and other problems were.  

Nancy is brilliant to talk it through with because she never projects herself into my story.  She asks questions like, 'What if X is a teacher?' and leaves it there.  She doesn't launch into 'What if X is a teacher, and then they could do this, and then that could happen, and then this new character could turn up and then...'

Nancy says things like, 'Y seems to have 5 problems. Do you need all of them?'  She doesn't say, 'Y has too many problems.  You should get rid of that one, and then that would mean you could concentrate on this one which is much more interesting.'

Even better, when we've been talking and I say suddenly something like, 'Oh, a solution's just occurred to me, ' she doesn't say, 'What is it?' but hands me over a pen and paper so I can write it down before I forget.    

I should have known the value of talking it through from my Royal Literary Fund role, working with students on their essays.  Often, when a student is confused, I just ask them to tell me what they want to say.  They do it, and realise they're not confused after all.  They actually know all the solutions to their problems themselves.  I believe it's the same with counselling - you know the answers to your own problems, it's just a question of accessing them and a trained counsellor can facilitate that.  

Talking it through solves a lot of story problems, so long as you talk to the right person.  I hope you can find a writing friend who is as helpful as my friend Nancy is to me.  I hope I am as helpful to my friend Nancy when it's her turn to talk, and my turn to listen.

8 comments:

JO said...

I so agree. But then I have a daughter who loves me enough to read my work and tell me when it's rubbish. She is my greatest fan, and my greatest critic. How anyone manages without someone like that I've no idea.

Sarah Duncan said...

JO, you're lucky to have her. It's great when someone can be both a fan and a critic. Treasure her!

Debs Carr said...

I do this with a writer friend and always find it so constructive.

Sarah Duncan said...

I think having a writer friend like this is really important. One of the plusses of joining a writing group is finding a like-minded mate to critique with.

womagwriter said...

Please can you clone Nancy and send me one.

clarekirkpatrick said...

So how does one find a Nancy then?

Sarah Duncan said...

She's mine! Mine! Find your own through writing groups, conferences and classes- or breed one, like JO!

womagwriter said...

I'm cultivating my older son (16). He's already given me a great piece of feedback on my chapter one.