1. Recent goings on.
Hello! So, June 2020.
Currently Covid-19 is slowing in the UK, which gives us a little hope. In the absence of a vaccine it’s frightening to think of a future where we can’t physically touch anyone who isn’t isolating with us.
I am two weeks into an online mindfulness course I am taking at the same time as a friend, discussing our progress on Zoom every week.
Most days this month you will have found me sitting silently in the garden, concentrating on my breathing, trying to bring my attention back if the mind starts to wander.
Which it does, a lot. Thoughts constantly appear in your head like wandering bumble bees as you attempt zen-like inner peace..
You are told to acknowledge them and put them to one side. Or, in my case, occasionally note them down.
It’s all about being fully present and alive in this moment.
I’m having loads of ideas for books!
2. For the dreamers.
While there is limited physical contact we will continue to be touched, emotionally anyway, by words. I learnt a lot about writing whilst working as a news reporter on a national newspaper. I was lucky enough to strike up a friendship with a silver-haired senior journalist called Dave, who had several decades of experience. He was cheerful and unflappable even in the face of the most gruesome deadline.
Dave made many observations about writing (mostly as we sat together hunched over a brimming ashtray in the smoking room). He said good writing was precise, clear and easy to read. He advised using short sentences and paragraphs. Aim for simplicity.
Brevity was essential. Lose any phrase or sentence that you’re not a hundred percent sure about. Use the mantra, “if in doubt, leave it out.” And so on.
When it came to news stories, Dave said, “the only way to learn about writing is by writing.” Myriad rules became second nature.
Not all the lessons of journalism are applicable to writing fiction, but many of them are.
Ultimately his best piece of advice was simple: “If you’re writing a news story, imagine you’re telling the story to someone in a pub.”
That made things a lot clearer. In the virtual bar you need to entertain and stimulate your audience. Start off with a punchy introduction to draw them in. Work out what the important facts are (it soon becomes clear – the interesting ones).
Also, try and think why should the listener care what you are saying? Find a telling detail to draw the listener in.
3. Current Works.
Work on the sequel to Cape Misfortune continues!
Some is set in the 1850s. I was a bit intimidated about writing a story set a hundred and fifty years ago. But it’s the characters who are important. Human nature remains sadly pretty constant.
That’s it for this month. Thanks for reading.
Photo by Thomas Jörn on Unsplash
Find a copy of this on: https://mailchi.mp/432e05edfaf1/henry-anderson-june-newsletter-bumblebees-and-barroom-tales
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