A to Z Challenge – a retrospective

I have had my blog for over three years and have posted iregularly whenever I was inspired by something I’ve read, seen, heard, or thought but taking on the A to Z April Challenge meant writing 26 posts in one month.

The concensous is that writers write everyday and don’t wait for inspiration

When I decide to try something I do it wholeheartedly and for me and the A to Z April Challenge that meant that I approached each post as stream of consciousness, with little or no preparation apart from a list of A-to-Z with potential topics. I know that some people have prepared their posts in the weeks before April and although I admit that I may have finished on time if I had taken this approach I am unsure if I agree with it.

I tried to write each post in one session, dropping my thoughts almost unedited from my heart/mind and on to the page/screen.

This doesn’t mean that I was flippant in my writing but it did teach me to edit once and then let it go. I did fix typos in the minutes and hours after each post.

The Stats for April:

  • Followers: increased from 11 to 219
  • Views for April: 11,589
  • Comments: 260
  • Most popular post: What is the Beginners’s Mind?

WordPress – Freshly Pressed

Although I’m tempted to claim the highlight of the month was having my “B” post promoted on the WordPress Freshly Pressed page but it has actually been the amazing blogs that I’ve discovered and the wonderful and inspring comments I’ve received, especially when posts have been re-blogged.

Thanks to everyone at A to Z Challenge, to all my followers, and the the blogs I now follow and am regularly inspried by.

The Posts:

Thanks again…

releasing your and your character’s VOICE

Photo Credit: Ian Kahn

In the writing world there are two types of VOICE:

  1. Your authorial style, that is unique if
  2. The style of speech and thought pattern or processes of a character

Authorial VOICE

We all have our favorite writers and it is this that we often  recognise from the first sentence of a work. It is more than a style of Point of View (POV) and many author’s work can be recognised from blind readings; Kazuo Ishiguro is a writer I’ve found to have a unique authorial voice.

At University and in writer’s groups I found it useful to imitate the voice of an author I admired. This exercise is like the Form/No-Form training in martial arts but eventually you must relax the form you are imitating until your own appears and it becomes something only you could have written.

It can be as enlightening to turn this exercise on its head and attempt to imitate a writer you dislike, let yourself go and become that writer; you’ll recognise some habits from your writing that you need to drop.

Character Voice

Characters, too, should have a unique voice. I’ve found that I must inhabit the character’s mind to achieve this though. I try to have a minimum of one hour put aside to write in isolation so that I have the time to reacquaint myself with the character and then inhabit them comfortably.

For antagonist or evil characters it is challenging to enter their minds but also to exit their minds unscathed.

I find songs a great source for words to use in character dialog; songs are like haiku (the better ones at least) where every word, every syllable, should be there only on merit. Most of us are lazy in our speech and we often use the incorrect word because it just pops out. If not overdone this can provide a character with a unique voice.

The same two elements of writing apply for a blog; the words should drop out of your head or heart and on to the page, only editing typographical errors.

“V” is for Voice

Never Let Me Go – Discovering your character’s secrets

I read a review with Kazuo Ishiguro from the The Observer (February 2005).  His novel Never Let Me Go has come to the fore again now that it has been made into a movie starring Carry Mulligan, Andrew Garfield and Keira Nightley. 

I was thrilled to read how well he articulated an experience that I’ve also had with my own writing. Below is an excerpt of the interview by Tim Adams of The Observer.


His character “Kathy [H] herself first surfaced in Ishiguro’s notes almost 15 years ago when he had a sense of a book about a group of young people with a seventies atmosphere. ‘They hung around and argued about books,’ he says. ‘I knew there was this strange fate hanging over them, but I couldn’t work out exactly what it was.’ …It was only recently, when he was listening on the radio to various programs about biotechnology, that the particular fate of his sketchy students became clear to him.

I’ve found this happens in my writing too. I wrote a scene over a year ago in which the POV character, Elsie, felt someone watching her and she recognised something about the person’s gait and was sure she would figure out who it was. It wasn’t until last night when I was finally writing the difficult penultimate scene from the chapter that she (we) realised who it was. I’ve tried several time to guess and even removed the comment in one draft because I was so frustrated at not knowing who it was. Sometimes our characters don’t reveal their secrets when we want them to, maybe only when they have to.

I’ve only just finished re-reading  Never Let Me Go and I found it even better the second time around. It is a fascinating book but it could be construed as dangerous; it could lead an unsuspecting mind to places where they either don’t want to go, or cannot escape from.

The movie posters describe it as the “Best Novel of the Decade” and I cannot disagree.

The feature film of the same name, written for the big screen by Alex Garland and directed by Mark Romanek, has been released in the UK and USA and scheduled for release in Australia in March 2011.