Bill Coles: Fiction Chat – 20 November 2019

This was no chat! It was a deluge of advice, hints, humour and experience from a most enthusiastic writer. I do not recall the club so silent as Bill bombarded us with tales of his career as a journalist, (wouldn’t mind hearing more of the stories he covered) and now a successful writer. And how reassuring to novice writers to learn that even established writers get knocked back from time to time.

Using ‘boring gits’ as a source of character and plots was unusual but I know I was not the only person mentally selecting a few of such people usually avoided but now with the possibility of ‘having a wee coffee’. According to Bill the more weird and irritating such people are makes them worth tolerating while even the addition of disgusting habits is a bonus!

Bill stressed that writers must observe and take notes, never be without a notebook and open to hand. Sorry guys that is where a handbag is useful. Such items should also be beside the bed in readiness for the ‘morning pages’ when the flow of thoughts in your mind on wakening are jotted down immediately. Don’t leave them lying around, especially if they are derogatory regarding the outlaws or even your partner.

Coming up to the Festive Party season is a good time to encounter a ‘boring git’, with luck your neighbour at the table. Make certain that the person is well warmed up with alcohol and in full flood of boring epilogue, then break into his conversation and enquire … “what was your best or worst holiday, romance, or employment or similar events…”. Be as bold as you dare. Sounds like that could be fun. According to Bill if you ‘derail the train’ you have the source of a novel. Watch out for club members with notebooks at the club dinner! And don’t turn down seemingly dull events like reunions, they can be a great source of characters and their habits!

Bill’s ideas for starting a story are seemingly simple but definitely workable. I was particularly taken with the idea of a scenario which you reassemble and twist into something else. A writer, he asserts, should be able to craft a story using a miscellany of character, events and situations. It sounds so simple but as he said it can be sticky to get started. A writer needs to find the correct ‘voice’ and when that happens the ideas will flow. Hard to describe but for novice writers you will know when you find that ‘voice’. Bill likes writing in the first person and I believe he is correct in saying that makes that elusive ‘voice’ come easier. Possibly because you are donning the character’s persona.

Show don ’t tell was stressed by Bill as with most writers. Detail is boring and should only be drip fed into narrative. And when a writer is ‘stuck’, commonly known as writer’s block, go for a walk or take some exercise and hopefully the creative juices will flow again. And don’t forget to have a treat one day a week , the artist’s treat, after six days of slog! Bill suggested going to he cinema. I visualised a bottle and a glass.

Bill understands there are always obstacles in the writer’s way but his wise advice was to avoid becoming angry and frustrated. Rather, he suggests, you look at the problem you are facing and see it as an opportunity towards personal growth. Remind yourself that you are a writer, you are strong, and you can face rejection, take it in your stride and get on with the job.

This was a superb evening with an inspiring speaker whose enthusiasm and his own experience made it seem possible that we can all be writers but we must remember writing is a craft and must be studied, practised and worked at and only then can we have success. It is within your grasp.

Sheila Grant

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