The biggest lesson

I’ve been writing for a year now. I’ve read books, blogs and websites. I’ve done online courses, workshops and undergraduate courses. I’ve listened to podcasts, attended meetings and generally immersed myself in writing. Looking back over all the pieces of advice, all the lessons learned in that year, I think the one that has most changed the way I write is a realisation that I came to somewhere along the way.

It’s not enough to just write a description of the story as it plays out in my head. My job as a writer is to get the reader as involved in that moment as I am.

And that’s tricky, because the things that play out in my imagination are full of sound, scent and action. My imagination is vivid and I just know things about the characters; who is lying, who is scared. It’s easy to forget that the person who is reading this doesn’t have those experiences unless I find the perfect combination of words to trigger them.

It means when I write a description, I have to remember that people experience things differently. Some people are visual, some experiential. Different senses dominate, scent, sound, touch, taste all need to be remembered alongside the appearance of a thing.

The words that I choose, their length, the rhythm of sentences, all of these can create a sense of time and place. They can pull the reader along at a frantic pace, or force them to slow down and immerse themselves in the moment. They can make people cry, or smile, or feel that creeping sense between the shoulder blades that something isn’t as it should be.

One other thing I’ve learned? I love writing. In the last year it has become as natural to me as breathing, eating and sleeping. I don’t know how I got to 44 without realising this was a fundamental need of mine.

In the last year I have conjured up more than 50,000 words of fiction, between Alfie Slider and a plethora of short stories. It’s so freeing to be allowed to daydream, to be able to call that ‘plotting’ and not think of it as a waste of time. I’m more myself now than I have ever been, and I count my blessings that I am able to do what I love, right here, right now.

For my next trick…I’m going to try and earn a living from it 😉

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