For some people, publishing their story is a complex task that risks the possibility of litigation – sometimes from the source of distress that has been life-changing. For victims of domestic violence, for example, telling their story, in the absence of a conviction, not only risks said litigation, but the wrath of their abuser. Not that I would ever dissuade anybody from telling their story, their truth; but in the wake of what has in many cases been years of appalling mistreatment, people can be understandably reluctant to reveal exactly what happened to them, and by whose hand.
Often, when about to embark on a ghostwriting collaboration, my client will want to know how the right kind of information is extracted from the interviews I’ll carry out. Well, the process normally starts like this: I’ll try and establish, prior to recording, what the spine of the story is, before scribbling down some questions pertaining to the text that will most fundamentally shape the manuscript.
When answering, the client almost always segues into adjoining material that helps build the overall narrative. It’s a bit like walking backwards from a main road to the paths leading to it; and, from there, I’ll ask, in subsequent interviews, questions that spring from the additional information. After a while, the story starts to assume a different shape – rarely a wild deviation from the original direction I had in mind, more often a far fuller shape encompassing greater depth and intensity; an entire body slapped onto the spine, if you like.
I’m often asked about the best way to start working on a manuscript, and have lost count of the amount of people who claim to have a bestselling story in their heads, but have yet to write a single page. Understandably, the unrelenting pace of life – pre-lockdown, at least; and, for many, during and after it – accounts for so much time that getting things going seems nigh on impossible, let alone establishing some kind of rhythm when settling into the writing process, albeit while managing the precarious balancing act that is the work/life balance.
The truth, as dictated by my own experiences, is that some degree of sacrifice is required. The creation of time is the most important aspect of story-building, and that might involve getting up an hour earlier than normal, extending your day a little or putting some time aside at weekends, if you don’t happen to be working then. It doesn’t have to be a daily commitment, but it’s amazing what a few hours a week can do in terms of establishing and developing a story, whatever it happens to be. Read more “Starting from Scratch”
With the UK, and most of the world, to a lesser or greater extent, in lockdown, much of the business community has understandably suffered as the coronavirus takes a wrecking ball to society. Collectively, we hope, of course, that some form of recognisable order returns sooner rather than later; though the Prime Minister’s roadmap to easing lockdown will have done little to clarify what may lie ahead. Not knowing how long we are to be largely confined to our homes can be terribly unnerving, though many of us will thankfully be able to work from wherever we are based, in the hope of preserving the industries in which we operate.
For writers, or those aspiring to join our ranks – and I’ve a feeling there will be plenty of people turning their hand to writing, with some fantastic stories to emerge from lockdown – the publishing industry is much like any other: struggling, but determined to stay afloat. Perhaps the greatest challenge it faces is the current closure, in the overwhelming majority of cases, of physical, bricks and mortar book stores, coupled with publishers being forced to delay the launch of new titles, the preparation for which will have been extensive in many cases.
Recent years have seen a welcome, but belated, awareness of mental health in the UK and much of the world. Mental fragility is, thankfully, no longer considered a weakness, or something to be ashamed of; and with increased awareness of the conditions associated with it, more strategies and possible solutions are discussed out in the open – where they should be – devoid of shame and the countless other negative associations that often accompanied the matter.
Creativity is one of the many tools sufferers can employ in the battle against mental illness, with writing a sound, and often cathartic, way of working one’s way out of a period of difficulty. It doesn’t matter how random or disordered those early musings might be – it’s getting them onto the page that counts. And once they’re there, they can sometimes form the basis of a story that can be expanded upon. Read more “Writing your way out of a hole”