Third-year Creative Writing students on Writing the Past and Life Writing courses were treated to a seminar with author of historical novels, George Green.
In an informal session, George offered a number of writing tips.
For historical fiction, these included:
1. Think of a three-line pitch for your story. What is your story really about?
2. Readers may not know much about the era you are writing about. Think about what information you will need to give them and how to integrate this seamlessly into the narrative.
3. The events you are writing about have already happened. Think about what you are going to add in terms of perspective. What is your story?
4. Have three pieces of paper in front of you: a three-line pitch, a half-page summary, a one-page synopsis. As you are writing, compare your story to these. If you are going too far off-track, consider whether the writing or the plan needs changing.
5. Don’t keep redrafting your first chapter. Better to continue with your novel to the end, and then you will have a clearer idea of how chapters need to be redrafted. This way you will save a lot of time.
6. Don’t grow too fond of your characters. Plenty of horrible things need to happen to them.
7. Don’t fall in love with the research. It is your story which is important. This is fiction, not history.
8. Keep the pressure going. Build and complicate your story.
9. Consider the advantages of using a minor character to tell the story.
For life writing, George’s tips included:
1. Think about the story you are going to tell. Your life in itself may not be that interesting.
2. Think about how you are going to shape that story, and keep the reader turning the pages.
3. Good life writers have been defined as ‘liars in search of the truth’. Consider the relationship between fact and fiction in your story.
4. Use humour.
5. Consider how you will use time. Your story does not have to be in chronological order.
6. Consider how you will balance the relationship between time, events, and characters. Where will your focus be at different points in the story?
7. Don’t forget the importance of ethical and legal issues.
George Green is the author of Hound and Hawk, and the co-author of Writing Novels for Dummies, as well as number of critical articles.
Blog post: Dr Ian Seed, Programme Leader for Creative Writing.
To find out more about Creative Writing at the University of Chester, go to:https://www1.chester.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/creative-writing-combined/201809