Keeping it Fresh

Even if an author avoids writer’s block, it’s quite possible to feel jaded by one’s output.

There’s a lot that’s rather mechanical about the writing process, when it comes to multiple read-throughs of the manuscript, editing away, thinking that you’ve finally created a version that’s faultless, at least so far as punctuation, grammar and repetition are concerned—only to discover a glaring error that you somehow missed fifty times!

Some writers love the task of editing, but whatever your attitude, there are various proofreading apps such as Grammarly, Hemingway Editor and Typely to assist you.

When I returned to creative writing in 2013, I did so after four years of depression, which my brain cells plainly got tired of, as suddenly I had a freshwater spring of writing ideas bubbling from me. Titles, sentences and fragments of verse erupted: I had to sit down at the keyboard to turn down the noise in my mind.

Initially, I wrote short stories, poems and song lyrics. Some of these were about aspects of life that were of concern to me, such as bereavement, being a loner, the aftereffects of having fought in a war (PTSD), mistaken identity and the search for love. Several poems became the inspiration for short stories and novellas.

I turned to writing novels in 2014. I completed the fifth story in my Cornish Detective series in 2018. I queried 88 literary agents and indie publishers early this year, which is my third major campaign of making submissions, totalling 650 times I’ve heard ‘No’! It’s hard to keep querying fresh, for there are so many hoops to jump through, to satisfy agents’ different requirements, that it becomes an exercise in concentration and humility.

I’m planning a return to self-publishing. In between novel writing, and even during, I’ve created flash fiction, poetry, short stories and novellas. Some of these were for competition entries, but working in shorter forms is stimulating.

Even if you don’t normally write poems or stories that are 50 words long, there are benefits to trying. For one thing, it forces a writer to consider word choice, refocusing your imagination. With no intention of releasing this work on sensitive readers, you might still get inspiration from it, that will intensify your novel.

Another advantage of compressing or condensing ideas into verse or flash fiction is that when you return to longer forms you’re more aware of the logline and tagline of your story….

Altering perspective in this way helps me to stay fresh. It’s very easy to get obsessed with the characters in your main project. But, changing tack doesn’t always provide clarity.

With the overbearing influence of technology and forensic evidence in 21st-century criminal investigations, I was starting to feel rather constrained in how to simply tell a story, so I took a break and returned to the 19th-century to write the second novella in a series about an American Civil War veteran. Far from being simpler to create, there were so many complicated issues to do with race and politics, that it was even trickier to tell in a cogent way. I began to yearn for the solid certainty of CCTV and autopsy evidence.

How do you keep your creative juices flowing?

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