Monday 25 May 2020


Rules! That’s a joke, right?  

Well yes. Kind of. Ish. But I do think it’s useful to have some sort of learning from all this, in regards to how I write, and to reflect and think about what works and what doesn’t.

Of course, these rules – these ‘ways’  -  are really for me.  But you may find them useful, if only to prompt you to think about your own writing practice and what habits work for you right now.

 As a general point, I’m going to take a leaf from the radical thinker and scientist Rupert Sheldrake, who challenges the very idea of the ‘laws’ of nature and asks us instead to think of them instead as nature’s ‘habits;’ recurring patterns that may seem fixed but which can change and evolve as their relationship with the other ‘laws’ and the very stuff of the universe evolve.

Which is really a pseud-y way of saying: There are habits that work at certain times and these are mine right now.

Here goes, here’s what I tell myself:

1          Be kind to yourself and your words

 Don’t get all judge-y and down on what you write. It’s a weird time and it may (*ahem*) affect what gets on to the page. But that’s normal in a way. Because personally, I find whatever’s going on in my life finds it’s way into the words, whether consciously or unconsciously.  And it’s always been like that.

2          Write something

Back to habit.  As the old saying goes, you can’t edit a blank page. Regularity is key. That said…

 3         Quantity is not quality

 I’m really pleased for the writers who signal on Twitter when they’ve hit a certain number of words on their WIP. But for me, a good day’s writing is increasingly about quality. If I put a lot of time in and ditch most of the words, but keep, say, 200 that feel honest and true to whatever it is I’m trying to express or describe, then that’s a good day’s work.

 4         Wake up.  Write.

 When I get a day when I can write it only works one way.  Wake. Read. Coffee. Write. Thinking: ‘I’ll do some later when I’ve got that other stuff done,’ simply does not work.  There is simply too much ‘other stuff’. Plus the other, other stuff I didn’t plan for, or even know about. To paraphrase Woodhouse; I often think the day is going swimmingly. But just round the corner fate is calmly stuffing lead into a boxing glove.

5          Play

I listened to an interview with the annoyingly brilliant Marcus Sedgwick, the other day. He goes through long spells of not-writing, and/or finding it simply very difficult. He says what brings him back, is encouraging himself to simply play. I’d go with that.  I have to be inspired to write, and if that means the odd turn into a strange and never visited dusty town, where I feel a bit nervous but where I can kind of fool around and be foolish, because no-one knows me there...  Then so be it. 

6   Write something new or different

 I always write on Saturday morning, in bed with strong coffee. Have done for years. But on this special day of the week I don’t have to re-write the bit I did before, or write the bit that follows on.  I can do whatever I fancy:  A different character’s POV.  Something from a different part of the  book. Something that could be part of a different book all together. It’s quite surprising how much of this stuff actually makes it into the final draft.  Or maybe not surprising at all.

7 Go there!

That place you weren’t sure of, that idea that seems a bit rad, or simply difficult, but which won’t go away. Could be dark, disturbing, surreal, bonkers.  Good to explore anyway, right.  I can always not-use it.

 8  When it’s too chaotic, try and make some order, and vice versa.


 9  Rules are there to be broken. 

Chris Vick writes books about the sea, adventure and the wonder of magic and stories. 
He spent years working in whale conservation before enrolling on the Bath Spa MA in Writing for Young People. He has four books published in several countries.
The most recent Girl.Boy.Sea is shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie medal 2020.
Chris has appeared at festivals including Hay, Bath Children’s Literature festival and Mare di Libri (Sea of Books) in Italy and has written about writing issues for a wide range of media.


Sue Purkiss said...

Absolutely agree about 'playing'. I'm doing that now - writing short stories on a pretty random range of subjects - and really enjoying it.

Andrew Preston said...

Rupert Sheldrake..., long while since I've seen his name mentioned, outside of certain circles. That's what tends to happen when your book, A New Science of Life, challenges current thinking/dogma and becomes the subject of adverse review in a respected scientific journal, 'Nature' in his case.

'A book for burning' as I recall the comment of the editor. Picked my dusty copy from the bookshelf yesterday, reminded that at the time, much of it was a rather too close read for this person who hadn't done a degree in biology.

Still interested though, in his hypotheses of formative causation...

'.... which postulates that organisms are subject to an influence from previous similar organisms by a process called morphic resonance. Through morphic resonance, each member of a species draws upon, and in turn contributes to, a pooled or collective memory. Thus, for example, if animals learn a new skill in one place, similar animals raised under similar conditions should subsequently tend to learn the same thing more readily all over the world. Likewise, people should tend to learn more readily what others have already learnt, even in the absence of any known means of connection or communication. In the human realm, this hypothesis resembles C.G. Jung's postulate of the collective unconscious..... '.

Chris Vick said...

Glad you are 'playing', Sue, who knows what you may discover or uncover.

Sheldrake is so interesting,Andrew. Lots of his stuff on Youtube. Some of it may be bonkers, for all I now, but much is really interesting, perhaps most of all on consciousness, which is a mystery, even to the hardest of hard material scientists.