Writing Secrets: It’s a different year – let’s make up for the last

 In Jo-Anne Richard's blog, Tips for Writers

If last year taught us anything, it was that nothing should be taken for granted. Remember when we hankered just for a trip to the supermarket?

Well, don’t let’s take anything for granted this year. Nothing is so prosaic an experience that it can’t provide an anecdote, a piece of humour, or a story.

In other words, this new year, choose to see the world differently – through a storyteller’s eyes.

If you can do this, then every day, every trip to the supermarket, can feed your writing. You’re never really resting. You’re observing, collating, picking up material.

See yourself as a character and your life as a series of journeys. When you tell stories at the dinner table, tell them as a series of scenes, with dialogue. Collect anecdotes and scenes, scraps of dialogue and even phrases from the people around you. Scribble them down in your notebook.

Everything becomes grist to the mill eventually, and every experience can become a good story.

Writers draw from life all the time. This is not to say they write autobiography, necessarily. Even fiction writers pinch aspects of their own and other people’s lives and use them in entirely different ways, for different purposes.

So, as a writer, you’re never not writing. You’re watching, collecting, practising. It’s just a matter of the way you see life: not as a string of discrete events, but as a series of stories, which build and grow.

Happy New Year. I hope it’s the best it can possibly be for you and your family.

Jo-Anne Richards is an internationally published novelist with a PhD in Creative Writing from Wits University. Jo-Anne has published five novelsThe Imagined Child, The Innocence of Roast ChickenMy Brother’s Book,  Touching the Lighthouse and Sad at the Edges.

Her first novel, The Innocence of Roast Chicken has been rereleased, as part of the Picador Africa Classics collection. When it first appeared, in 1996, it was nominated for the Impac International Dublin Literary Award and chosen as an “outstanding debut novel” by a British book chain.

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