Daily Archives: October 24, 2015

INKSPILL Not Yet Ready for Sleep


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For those of you far from sleep, here are links to archived INKSPILL retreats from 2013/2014, enjoy and feel free to add comments.


Historical Research

Writing Historical Fiction

How to Write a Short story

The WHY Technique

Archive INKSPILL 2013




How To Get Rejected

Making Time To Write

Writing Doctor Who

What You Get From Writing

ARTICLESArchived Links


Stephen King On Writing

HEATHER WASTIEOn Her Writing Journey

Editing A Poem

Histrionic water

Spaghetti hoops

INKSPILL 2014William Gallagher Guest

Writing Motivation

You vs Yourself

CHARLIE JORDANThoughts on Writing & Editing Part 1

Thoughts On Writing & Editing Part 2

INKSPILL Night Write


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Welcome to the Night Write, we hope you find it stimulating enough to stay awake. inkspill night owlAs with all other activities it would be great to see the comments filling up with feedback, links to your writing or even the writing itself.

Start by watching this short film ‘The Art of Love’

It is a silent movie…

Do you believe in love at first sight?
During a stroll through a park, a lonely photographer meets the love of his life. Through a series of unfortunate events, he must find a way to her heart before his luck runs out.

are you ready to write the story? Give it a go.

Alternative activities:

  • Pick a still image and write it out.
  • Pick a character/moment (girl on bench) write the inner monologue.
  • Take us into the dream the young man has before waking at the start of the film.
  • Write a piece that starts with the message HELLO STRANGER

REMEMBER to share your work with us.


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INKSPILL Poetry Film (2)


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Shot Through The Heart Poetry Film Competition:

‘Rolling Frames’ by Katie Garrett.

The inaugural 2014 Shot Through the Heart Poetry Film competition received entries from all over the world. Inspired by Southbank Centre’s Festival of Love, we asked poets and film-makers to create poetry films that explore the joy of first love, the pain of lost love, the confusion of displaced love, the purity of platonic love, or any other kind of love.

INKSPILL – Guest Writer – Interview with Alison May


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Guest Writer – Interview with Alison May

alison may author GUEST

1) Can you tell us how you got into writing?

It started, as I guess it does for most writers, as a hobby. I think the first thing I tried to write was a play, I co-wrote with my best friend from school when I was about ten. I don’t think we ever finished it, or indeed ever got past writing ‘Our Play’ at the top of a piece of paper.

Fast forward to when I was twenty-five and slightly bored at work, and I signed up for a creative writing course through Birmingham University. That evening class turned into a six year part-time degree, during which I switched from thinking I wanted to be a very serious playwright to writing romantic comedy novels instead.

2) What can you tell us about your current novel?

My latest release is Midsummer Dreams, which is a contemporary romantic comedy inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My full-length novels tend towards the grittier end of the rom-com spectrum, rather than the lighter, fluffier end. I’m interested in all the different ways that people manage to screw up perfectly decent relationships, and then I make jokes about those poor sad messed-up people, but they’re imaginary people so it’s fine.

Alison May midsummer dreams

The novel I’m working on at the moment is my first non-romance book, and is about a mother who’s lost her son, a man who’s lost his mother and a woman who says she can talk to the dead.

3) Why Romance?

Well, why not? Love and death are basically the two main things that fiction writers congregate around, and many of the authors I love are (or were) romance writers for at least part of their career – Charlotte Bronte, Shakespeare, Marian Keyes, Terry Pratchett (yes really – Sam Vimes and Lady Ramkin are one of the best drawn couples in fiction thank you very much). I’m not personally particularly interested in romance in the ‘hearts and flowers’ sense, but I’m very interested in love and relationships, so I write about those.

4) What tips would you give to any budding Romance Writers?

Join the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers Scheme (http://www.romanticnovelistsassociation.org/join) – it has limited places and only opens for new applicants in Dec/Jan each year and you have to get in quick, but once you’ve joined you’re a member of the RNA so you get to rub shoulders with a whole load of published authors (and publishers and agents) who are generally generous and supportive beyond any reasonable expectation. You also get to submit your novel-in-progress for a critique from a published author in your genre, which is invaluable.

You were probably expecting tips about creativity and art and finding your voice, and they’re all good and lovely things, but ultimately being a writer is about cracking on and doing it, and joining the New Writers’ Scheme is one of the best ways I can think of to crack on and do it.

5) How do you do your research?

I really don’t if I can possibly avoid it. I essentially write books about twenty and thirty-somethings getting drunk and making poor life choices, which requires very little research for me! Some writers love research – I find it tiresome. My first degree was in history so I think it gives me flashbacks to being at Uni and having to spend whole terms reading about tenth century peasants *shudders*

6) Where do you get your ideas from?

I have no clue, but I’ve never been short of them. Ideas are the easy bit of writing, and they don’t even have to be that good at first glance to build a novel out of – ‘Well it’s sort of like Twilight, but there aren’t any vampires and he’s into kinky stuff’ is a terrible idea, but EL James made it work.

I think I have an ongoing interest in the lies that people tell themselves and the ways in which they self-sabotage, but beyond that I just write about whatever pops into my head, and the problem is usually forcing myself to focus on one idea at a time, rather than trying to come up with an idea to start with.

7) Can you tell us a little about the process of writing a novel?

How long does it take?

As long as it takes. Over recent years I’ve written one full-length novel and one shorter novella each year, I don’t really have a ‘normal’ process for writing a novel. With my first book, Sweet Nothing, I had a couple of months where I was out of work, so wrote 2000 words a day every morning Monday to Friday for eight weeks and got a first draft, and thought ‘Oh this is really easy.’ Of course, that first draft was beyond awful, and I’ve never managed a nice neat 2000 words a day that consistently since.

Some things have stayed constant though – my first drafts are always terrible. I’m a much better editor of my own work than writer! I don’t always write a complete first draft before I start revising anymore though. Usually I get to about 65-70,000 words in and then start revising and write the last 20,000 words after I’ve reworked the first bit. And it’s different for different books – if I’m writing a novella I tend to plan a bit more and work to a bit more of a schedule. With a full length novel I prefer to keep things a less structured at least to start with.

8) What is the allure of writing for you?

You can do it in your pyjamas without leaving the house. What’s not to like?

And now my (slightly more) serious grown-up answer – writing is the love of my life, alongside my husband who is, obviously, also the love of my life. Love is magic like that. There’s always enough of it to go around. I’m generally very dispassionate about writing. I get uncomfortable when people say ‘Oh I just have to write.’ I’ve never really felt compelled to write, but I am much less pleasant to be around if I’m not writing.

9) Can you tell us a little about how you found your publisher?

In the traditional sort of way really – I submitted Sweet Nothing to various agents and publishers and got rejected. Somewhere along the line I moved from having standard rejections to getting ‘We really liked this but…’ rejections (which, weirdly, are way way more disheartening).

At the same time I put the manuscript through the RNA New Writers’ Scheme for critique twice, and my second feedback report suggested submitting to Choc Lit, who are a small publisher of romance and commercial women’s fiction. Happily they accepted Sweet Nothing, and went on to publish Midsummer Dreams, and my Christmas Kiss novellas as well.

10) What did it feel like to see your first novel in print?

Completely awesome. The day my box of author copies of Sweet Nothing arrived I basically sat on the floor stroking them all afternoon. Worryingly, that is not an exaggeration.

11) Can you tell us about some of your central characters?

Essentially I write dysfunctional people who mess up their relationships in (hopefully) interesting ways. Romance readers are always interested in heroes, but I tend not to write big strapping alpha male types.

Probably two of my characters that I love the most are Ben from Sweet Nothing – he’s a mathematician and proper full-on nerd. I really wanted to write a romantic hero who was attractive because of his brain; it’s an urge that I can totally trace back to having been in love with The Doctor pretty much ever since I was allowed to stay up at watch Dr Who back in Peter Davison’s day. At the other end of the spectrum, I also adore Alex in Midsummer Dreams. He’s a total flake; he sleeps around; he has no impulse-control at all – I wanted to get away from the idea in romantic fiction that the heroine is automatically looking for a super-dependable guy who’ll always look after her. If your heroine can look after herself, why not give her a hero who’s just going to be awesome fun?

12) Asking which one of your books is your favourite – may be asking you too much – can you tell us about your favourite bits from some of your books?

At the moment I’m particularly proud of Midsummer Dreams. Books usually develop and warp as you write and edit them, changing (often for the better) but moving away from your original idea. I think Midsummer Dreams is probably the book I’ve written that is closest to the book I set out to write, if that makes any sense at all.

And there’s a scene in a car park in it, which I’m not going to describe in detail, in case you read the book, but writing it was probably the most fun I’ve ever had at my writing desk.

13) What is your favourite part of the writing process?

Those very rare moments where you write something and you just know that it’s right. I generally only have about one scene like that per first draft though, so apart from that, my favourite part is the editing and revising. I love taking a book that doesn’t work at all apart and rebuilding it into something good. That’s part of why I love tutoring and mentoring developing novelists as well – you get to help them make their novel work, without having to do any of the tiresome first draft writing.

14) What is the most challenging part of the writing process?

Slogging out the first draft. Ugh.

And, of course, the moment (and there is at least one for every book) where I just know with absolute certainty that the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo, and that I can’t write, and I can’t fix it, and all the previous books were flukes. Those moments are horrible, but inevitable, and actually, I believe, essential to making the book better. If you never reach a point where you think the whole thing is a steaming pile of poo, then I suspect you’re not being sufficiently self-critical about your work.

Alison M Christmas

Huge thanks to Alison for this exclusive INKSPILL interview.

honeyman Interview by Nina Lewis

Buy Alison’s books in the AWF Shop CC bookshop-window Garry Knight


INKSPILL Guest Writer Interview David Calcutt Part 2


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Earlier on we brought you the first GUEST WRITER interview from David Calcutt.

Here is part 2

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David Calcutt – Playwright

The thing to remember when writing a play is that no matter how much you work at the writing of it, no matter how many drafts you might go through, the finished script is not the finished piece of work. A play is only truly complete when it’s performed with an audience present. That’s when whatever life it has comes into being. The writer of a play should bear this in mind throughout the whole process of composition. And it’s not only that they’re writing for an audience. They’re writing too for the actors who have the responsibility of portraying the characters the writer has created and of enacting their story onstage. It’s an awareness of this that will help with all those practical aspects of playwriting, such as how to bring characters on and offstage, when to change from one scene to the next, how to make dialogue sound if it’s really being spoken by the characters and so on. And, very importantly, how to keep an audience entertained, gripped, enthralled throughout the entire performance. One of the best ways to bear all this in mind, of course, is to write for a particular group of actors and for a particular space so that you can constantly test if what you’re writing is working are not. I’ve been lucky enough to have done a lot of work in the past with youth and community theatre groups so I’ve been able to develop and hone my playwriting skills through writing in the very practical way. But if you don’t have that opportunity, then it helps to create that theatre space and those actors in your head and write with those in mind. And to keep stopping to read the dialogue out loud, playing all the characters yourself. Finally, it’s important to keep in my mind that the story you are telling in the play is a story for which the audience is taking place in the present. They are watching the story happen as if for real before their eyes, being involved in a moment by moment unfolding of events, and that there are forces driving these events on towards their conclusion. So, when writing the play, every single word spoken, every action and movement, must feel fresh and true and instantaneous. Nothing can be wasted.

My most recently completed work for theatre, by which I mean a piece that’s actually being performed, is a one-man play called “The Life and Times of the Tat Man”. It was originally a piece commissioned by my local museum as a way of bringing attention to some of its artefacts, and was scheduled for six performances only, in the museum itself. I came up with the idea of having a scrap merchant, a tat-man, tell stories about some of those artefacts as if they were pieces of scrap he’d collected. But during the writing process I struck through to a much deeper vein. The Tat Man himself, originally intended to be simply a storyteller, became more complex, a character in his own right who had his own story to tell too, and this became bound up with the objects he was telling stories about. This was in part practical, because I felt that, in order to hold an audience for ninety minutes, the piece needed to be more than a simple storytelling piece, it needed to have all those dramatic elements to it that I’ve just been talking about. The Tat Man needed to be a living, dramatic presence himself, so that the audience began to realise, as the play progressed, that there was some secret, inner life to the character that was slowly being revealed, and that they were witness too. But also, during the writing, there came a moment when the character himself suddenly came to life, and I began to hear his voice, and to gain access to that inner life of his. The writing then became an act of discovery, and the more I discovered the deeper became the character and the deeper the levels on which the play seemed to be working.

The challenge of writing a one man play is that you do only have that one character, and therefore the only other people they can talk to are the audience. But this is also one of its strengths. The fact that the character onstage is talking directly to them means that they can’t help but be involved. Also, for the character, the people in the audience are characters too, characters in their own story, so the audience, instead of watching passively are actively taking part in the play, they are part of the story’s dramatic unfolding. All this can make for a gripping and intense performance. As long writer, the actor and director are all working together to ensure that happens. In every performance.

From its original six performances in the museum, “The Life and Times of the Tat Man” has gone on to tour more than thirty more performances over the past eighteen months and shows no sign of stopping yet. We’re already receiving bookings that will take the show into autumn next year.

Other things that I’m working on now: I have a novel I’m trying to get published, a new play we’re looking to find money to produce and tour, and a very new piece of work that I’m not quite sure what to call yet. It has elements of prose, poetry and drama, and the closest thing to autobiography I’ve tried tackling yet. I have no idea how it will turn out. I’ll just have to wait and see.

What excites me in theatre today is what I think has always excited people – theatre that is both visceral and poetic, that is both an emotional and physical experience. Theatre that doesn’t try to hide anything behind elaborate sets or lighting or costumes, but is nothing more nor less than that simple and profound act of human beings in an open space telling their stories to fellow human beings, in a language with artifice or pretence. It’s very rare that you come across it, but is a precious jewel when you do.

Huge thanks to David for the exclusive INKSPILL interview.

honeyman Based on an interview by Nina Lewis

Visit the INKSPILL shop to buy David Calcutt’s books.

https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/inkspill-shop/ CC bookshop-window Garry Knight

INKSPILL Workshop (2) Creating Characters


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Creating Characters

Characters drive fiction, strong characters are crucial to fiction. Many of us borrow traits from real life, from hours of people watching, or (more riskily) from people we know. That famous line ‘be careful or you could end up in my novel’ couldn’t be closer to the truth for some of us. But the best characters come from a deeper place, to understand humans is to be able to create solid character.

We all know that we are not the same person throughout the day, characters are the same – it is not the personification of a moulded character profile + incident + reaction = fantastic, bestselling fiction.

The best writers get inside the character. It is a traditional exercise to place your character in unfamiliar situations and write their reaction. Common practise at creation stage can involve character profiles, pages of post-its, massive posters for each character etc. Many of you know how to create characters and work with methods that suit you. So I have attempted to construct workshop exercises that you can enjoy.

Let’s get ready to play.

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I am going to suggest we start with family, for anyone that finds that difficult, use your own family, that tight circle of friends that you have adopted for life as your world. Your readymade family.

How likely it is that you could create characters from this base? Mix up their personality traits, change their names/ambitions/beliefs, physical appearance. Have fun, give them a tattoo, a complex anxiety.


Choose 2-3 of your family members and spend some time on a character mash up, have some fun with it. Profile them if that is what you’re used to or just write a couple of paragraphs to describe each character.

  • Post your writing in the comments below.
  • Or post a link to where we can find your writing if you want to share it.

084723-pink-jelly-icon-business-clock7-sc43 Take 20 minutes



Of course many of us invent our characters, they are works of fiction and less likely to land us in court. Sometimes a character can appear swiftly, others (like butterflies) take their time to emerge.

Another source of character can be found in what we are already familiar with through film, television, books etc.

Think of a character – take the 1st one that springs to mind.

Make a few quick notes;

name, where character is from, physical appearance, personality, why you are drawn to this character, how the reader/viewer feels about the character, complex issues.

Now you have written that list, play with it.

You are going to create a new character based on a ready-made.

Again approach this in a way that feels comfortable for you, a couple of descriptive paragraphs, a profile…

  • Post your writing in the comments below.
  • Or post a link to where we can find your writing if you want to share it.


084723-pink-jelly-icon-business-clock7-sc43 Take 20 minutes


Choose one of the characters you have created in this workshop, bring them with you now for SECTION 3.


You are stuck in a lift (elevator) with your character, there is nobody else to talk to. The world is just you two. STOP – do not go changing the character you have chosen! Stick with it.

Write out a full conversation between yourself and this character.


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What develops? Is there trust? What are the thoughts on the stressful situation, what worries occur?

The point of this is to see what other people see when they meet this person in your story.

  • Post your writing in the comments below.
  • Or post a link to where we can find your writing if you want to share it.


084723-pink-jelly-icon-business-clock7-sc43 Take 20 – 30 minutes



Describe that person you were stuck in the lift with earlier to a friend. What has been remembered?

  • Post your writing in the comments below.
  • Or post a link to where we can find your writing if you want to share it.


084723-pink-jelly-icon-business-clock7-sc43 Take 20 minutes



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Finally, a word from Andrew Miller on character;

‘At its simplest, its barest, characterisation is about a writer’s grasp of what a human being is. When we set out to write, we do not do so out of a sense of certainty but out of a kind of radical uncertainty. We do not set out saying: “The world is like this.” But asking: “How is the world?” In creating characters we are posing to ourselves large, honest questions about our nature and the nature of those about us. Our answers are the characters themselves, those talking spirits we conjure up by a kind of organised dreaming. And when we finish, we are immediately dissatisfied with them, these “answers”, and we set out again, bemused, frustrated, excited. An odd use of time! An odd use of a life. But there’s a courage to it. Even, perhaps, a type of beauty.’

© 2015 Andrew Miller Source: The Guardian

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We hope you enjoyed this workshop. The final workshop takes place tomorrow.


INKSPILL Guest Writer Interview David Calcutt


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GUEST Part 1

1) How did you become a writer?

I suppose you could say I started writing with a view to being published when I was in my late teens. This was when I began to think seriously about the possibility of someday making my living as a writer. I’d discovered at school that I had a talent for it, had written poems and stories for the school magazine, written short sketches to perform with my friends. And when But it was when I was at college, helped by the encouragement I received from some of the lecturers there – two in particular I can think of – that I really began to work at writing, and to think about publishing it. But that didn’t start to happen until I was in my early twenties, and for a few years then it was mostly poetry that I was writing and publishing. It was having two poems broadcast on Radio 3, on a programme called “Poetry Now” that was produced by the poet George MacBeth, that in a roundabout way turned me towards playwriting.

I found I liked the medium of radio and began to think of other ways I could have work broadcast, and one of those ways, of course, was to write plays for radio. So I started doing that. It was some years before I wrote one good enough to be broadcast. There was a lot of learning to do, trial and error, listening to radio play, thinking about the medium and the form and what was required to make them work.

2) You are a successful writer and playwright. What are the challenges distinct to each medium for you and what are the strongest similarities?

This is what’s true about all forms of writing. They all have their own particular challenges, strengths and limitations. You need to learn what those are, work to their strengths, try and make the limitations into strengths too. And, once you have a hold of the form, practice manipulating it, shape it to your own particular voice, so that you’re speaking through the form, and it feels natural to you. There are areas of crossover between the forms of course. What it was that attracted me to playwriting – first for radio, then a little later on for theatre as well – was that of all the forms I’d worked in – poetry, mainly, and some short fiction – it seemed the most fluid and adaptable, seemed, and still seems, to contain within it and to embrace the most important elements of poetry and narrative. Theatre especially has the same kind of tight restraints that poetry has that force you into a compactness of language and structure that combined with its narrative drive, it it’s done well, creates for a real forward thrust of energy. And what live theatre has that the other forms don’t have is that it takes place with and for and audience, who bring their own energy to the piece. So, while I do get a lot out of writing poetry and prose fiction, it’s writing for theatre that gives me the sense of being most deeply involved in the actual act of writing itself.

3) What’s the first hook that gets a new play started for you? Is it an image, a theme, a character?

I suppose it’s the search for that initial spark of energy in writing a play that gets me started. Trying to find that piece of action that will get the whole thing started. And a play does for the most part start with action. At least one character has to come onstage before they can speak, and they have to come onstage for a reason, have a real need to be there, a real need to say or do whatever it is they say or do first. It usually takes me a long time to get at those first few moments and I find the play can’t really take off until I’ve found them. Once I’ve done that – or once they’ve found me – then I try to imagine the whole theatre space, create it as real, and watch the characters as they enter the space and start to move and speak, listen to what it is they have to say, while at the same time being in control of the plot and the action, the story I want to tell. Those two modes of imagining are more often than not in conflict at the beginning, but once they come together, and the story I’m trying to tell is in harmony with the real, inner lives of the characters, and what they say do and do is both what is natural to them and what I want them to say and do, then I know that the play is really working.

Part 2 COMING SOON – Check in after the Character Workshop



Huge thanks to David for giving us an exclusive interview for INKSPILL.

honeyman Interview by Nina Lewis

FIND PART 2 HERE https://awritersfountain.wordpress.com/2015/10/24/inkspill-guest-writer-interview-david-calcutt-part-2/

INKSPILL – Interview with Amy Tan -Finding Meaning through Writing – Roger Rosenblatt and Friends: On Writing


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It can be hard to get back into writing mode after lunch, so we thought we would treat you to a video. The full interview can be found on the previous post (link to follow)

Amy Tan Finding Meaning through Writing


Bestselling author Amy Tan recalls her childhood efforts at writing, and discusses how certain events in life have influenced her as an author.

Amy Tan speaks as a part of “Roger Rosenblatt and Friends: On Writing” during the 2008 Chautauqua Institution morning lecture series.

Amy Tan is the author of The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Opposite of Fate, and Saving Fish from Drowning. She has also written two children’s books, The Moon Lady and The Chinese Siamese Cat. The latter became a children’s television series for PBS called “Sagwa.” Amy is a member of the literary garage band, The Rock Bottom Remainders, for which she sings the Nancy Sinatra classic, “These Boots Are Made for Walking” to raise money for after-school literacy programs for inner city kids. Tan’s rendition of the pop culture classic can be heard on the CD Stranger than Fiction, which benefits the PEN Writers Fund.

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Again we invite you to like the post and leave us any comments & feedback.

INKSPILL – Lunch & Links


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Congratulations on your morning, we hope you have enjoyed yourselves and managed some writing.

After lunch we start back with an interview with Amy Tan.

The full interview is available here;

Writing for your Reasons



It lasts over an hour, so you may decide to watch it with your lunch.

CC supermarket1by-lab2112 We start the afternoon programme at 13:45 – we hope to see you later.