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Always remember the shoes: novel writing workshop with Caro Ramsay – 10 October 2018

The truly talented and imaginative writer, Caro Ramsay, took the hot seat for the Novel Writing Workshop last Wednesday, at The Mercure Hotel, Ayr. The excellent turnout for our guest speaker at the Ayr Writers’ Club, provided the perfect ending to a beautiful Indian summer’s day.

In her warm welcome and introduction Linda Brown, who is joint President of the club, skilfully described Caro as a busy, fictional crime writer who has recently published her tenth novel. A member of Johnstone’s Writers Group for the past sixteen years and speaker at workshops countrywide, Caro has also recently taken part in Carry On Sleuthing, a group that carries out a comedy script by Douglas Skelton.

With a delightful mix of enthusiasm and humour, reflected in her many descriptions and through her workshop, entitled The Best Selling Novel, Caro then took us on her journey of novel writing, to keep us on track, from beginning to end, using ‘The Story Arc’. The journey provided the following invaluable information and advice;

Always use The Pitch Document (which we were all asked to fill in), described as ‘useful for keeping a writer on track.’
The importance of being specific. Always question your protagonist i.e. what shoes are they wearing? What car do they drive?
The muddle in the middle and how to avoid it. If the story is dragging, or with writer’s block, refer back to The Pitch Document. Aim to ‘pump up’ the middle of the book. The writing should pull you along.
Subplots. If they have no place in the novel, then don’t use them!

The second half of the session included some golden rules; come to the story late and leave early; first draft, door closed, second draft, door open; develop a writer’s mind and eye; don’t give up!

Following question time, other useful advice included; to keep track of characters, use post it notes; avoid unrealistic dialogue, keep it snappy and read work out loud.

When writing, therefore, and from now on, maybe we should make the following changes;

remove the first chapter (but never delete anything, for one rainy Sunday, the saved work may provide true inspiration)

stop worrying that we’re ‘crap’

develop the eyes of a hawk to secretly observe and then follow potential characters

delete all useless words

read out loud (and become extremely annoying to those around us)

go for lots of walks (when writer’s block sets in)

keep our readers asking, but always remember to answer the questions

and finally, my young protagonist shall be dressed in bright green and yellow, polka dot shoes.

Many thanks to Caro Ramsey for a thoroughly informative, highly entertaining and truly inspirational evening. We wish you continued success and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Carolyn Ann Watts

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