Friday, 11 April 2014

How to write like Lloyd Jones

Today, I was lucky to be one of twenty people who attended New Zealand author Lloyd Jones's masterclass 'What to write about: The authenticity of the writer's voice'.
I have struggled to find my voice in the historic fiction project I am working on, so I felt very fortunate to be chosen to take part. And even luckier when Lloyd and the class critiqued the first page of my work-in-progress. More than anything, it has given me the momentum to keep writing and a new plan of attack -- just what I needed.
Here are some tips the Mister Pip author passed on to the emerging and the established writers in the class today.
  • 'Masterclass?' Lloyd says writers are 'forever the apprentice' who have to re-learn how to write with each new project.
  • He says writing is like sitting on a bus; the person sitting next to us is either boring or engaging. What is it that determines that? Light and shade? A unique story? What makes it authentic?
  • A writer needs to establish a 'contract' with the reader. When a 'break of faith' occurs -- either through the language, tone of voice, or getting some detail wrong -- then it tells us that something is not quite right.
  • Find your own voice through writing what has never been written before. Give yourself permission to be nonsensical. Everything else will fall into place; don't worry.
  • Don't necessarily write about what you know (as opposed to what other writers may say).
  • Don't over explain yourself. It is the reader who 'completes' the literature.
  • Do some 'limbering up exercises' before you start -- write about a word or a group of words by closing your eyes and listening to your voice.
  • (Julianne Schulz, Kerri Harris and Lloyd Jones)
  • Be playful and see what happens -- you may be surprised.
Isn't technology wonderful? Eighty other people joined a webinar to participate in today's class. Writers from Flinders Island in the Bass Strait to Albany in WA to Rockhampton in Queensland, provided some incisive comments and examples of writing from our free-writing exercise. The Griffith Review editor Julianne Schulz should be given a special mention here -- she did a great job hosting the two-hour class, adding valuable comments, as well as responding (by typing on an unfamiliar laptop) to webinar participants.
Thanks to The Griffith Review, Arts Queensland, the Brisbane Writers Festival, the Queensland Writers Centre and Flying Arts for making the class possible.
I'm off to see if I can take that fourth paragraph and turn it into the start of an engaging, unique piece of literature.

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