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Live webchat with author and creative-writing tutor Louise Doughty, TODAY, Thursday, 10 May at 12noon

(78 Posts)
PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 08-May-12 10:46:15

We are delighted that Louise Doughty, author of Whatever You Love (shortlisted for the Costa Fiction prize) and A Novel in a Year, will be joining us at MNHQ this Thursday to talk about her own writing experiences and what it takes to be a novelist while juggling two school aged children with no childcare. Louise is also a highly experienced tutor of creative writing and happy to take questions about everything from the value of taking a creative writing course (she's teaching one of our first Mumsnet Academy courses with author of One Day, David Nicholls) to the publishing process and getting your novel published.

Alongside writing highly acclaimed novels, Louise has written for radio and broadcast, writes a weekly column for the Daily Telegraph (Short Story Club), is a regular on BBC Radio 4, and was a judge of the Man Booker Prize in 2008. There's not much Louise doesn't know about writing so please join us this Thursday at 12 midday, and if you are unable to join us, please post a question on this thread in advance.

thebestisyettocome Tue 08-May-12 11:42:16

Urgh. I hate the phrase 'juggling children.'

That said, I'll be watching this thread with interest.

I hope this doesn't come across as cynical but my question is about this new 'how to write' industry we seem to have in the UK. Do you think people taking part in these courses are made aware of how hard it is to break into the industry?

Hullygully Tue 08-May-12 15:51:57

<juggles children>

<drops one>

<runs away>

ninah Tue 08-May-12 18:43:20

I prefer to juggle school aged children too
apart from their being easier to catch I get 6 hours a day off

LynnCSchreiber Tue 08-May-12 19:31:52

Hello Louise.

Do you think that a writer has to chose between fiction and non-fiction or is it possible to do both? I am currently finding that my non-fiction/journalistic endeavours are more successful but am reluctant to completely give up the idea of writing a book.

<sneaks second question in and hopes that Patrick doesn't notice>

Can I ask you about bloggers? In my opinion, there are very few bloggers who manage to make money from their blogs, but the idea persists that if you plug away at it, you can get a book deal. Is this totally idealistic or does that still sometimes happen?

Cwm Tue 08-May-12 20:36:53

Hello Louise,
I've been diligently keeping journals/notebooks for quite a long time now, and I've now got several notebooks with various bits of writing and story ideas. Have you got any practical tips for how I can organise some of this material now? With the dc at school I feel I can now spend a bit more time writing, but I just seem to have hundreds of little strands of writing and ideas and no idea of how to start bringing them together. I'd love some tips on how to keep track of what's in your notebooks, if you got any! Thanks

Spirael Wed 09-May-12 08:40:40

How about juggling children and a full time career as well as trying to write a novel. wink

Anyway, my question is:

With the rise of the electronic readers, do you think it's going to become more common for people to choose to self-publish their books in that format?

JustFab Wed 09-May-12 13:01:11

This might be the first live chat in the history of mumsnet that has all the questions answered grinwink.

Snowtiger Wed 09-May-12 13:02:21

Hi Louise
I've finally picked up the threads of one of my half finished novels now that one of my DC is at school and the other at nursery part time, but am struggling to do more than a few 20 min sessions of work / writing per week. I find it hard to make time to write and it feels as if I'll never finish a novel if I'm only writing in dribs and drabs, but I am determined to get to the end of at least one book!
I have a million questions I'd love to ask but I think my main one is, what is the best thing to focus on in writing my first draft? Should I be worrying about plot curves, depth of characterisation, sub-plots and style etc. at this stage or just focus on getting the story down on paper? And if it's the latter, what do I do with my first draft once it's written? Should I edit alone or show it to others and risk being crushed by criticism?
(Apologies; that's two questions but I hope they sort of count as one!)
Thanks in advance, and any help / advice / encouragement you can give will be really gratefully received!

silverreigns Wed 09-May-12 20:23:25

JustFab: nonsense, everyone's just editing and proof-reading their spots stops strps posts.

Louise, if you were choosing an MA Creative Writing course, which one would you enrol on?

silverreigns Wed 09-May-12 23:12:50

Should clarify: I'm interested in doing a part-time MA, while living in London.

Not sure I can bear the title "Creative Writing" however. Will have to tell everyone I'm doing an MA in Knitting and Crochet.

Snowtiger Thu 10-May-12 07:41:19

If no-one else asks any questions, can I ask the rest of my million please? grin

Hullygully Thu 10-May-12 09:24:52

Louise, I have written a novel of stunning perspicacity, startling wit, bittersweetness and irony etc etc and did have an agent who then dumped me when the recession hit...She found me, rather than me her (at the end of an MA in CW!), how do I get another one? Is it really worth sending it out to agents cold?

I have written a second too, and that also sits nestled in a drawer, keeping the first company...

dontgobacktorockville Thu 10-May-12 09:33:54

Hi Louise,
I've nearly finished a first draft of a novel for young adults. I'm enjoying the wild free-for-all writing of my first draft, but I'm a bit worried how to get started on a second draft - how to tame it all in and even out the tone and the plot. Any second draft tips?

Thank you! smile

writerknights Thu 10-May-12 09:44:16

Good afternoon, Louise

Good luck with your first live web chat (this is my first time, too!)

Do you think completing an MA in Creative Writing (university based) stands you in better stead for getting short-listed / winning those big short story competitions out there - Sunday Times EFG, Bridport, Bristol Prize, etc - than honing your craft through week long creative courses, here and there, coupled with self-teaching yourself through comprehensive reading, writing and reviewing?

Thank you.

Pozzled Thu 10-May-12 11:38:46

I'd love some tips about where to start. I've been interested in writing since I was a teenager, but life has always got in the way and I never quite put pen to paper. Is it ever too late to start? I love the idea of doing a course, but feel like I should have something to show first, even if it's not much.

chessa Thu 10-May-12 11:41:54

hello,
my question is if its your first book and once its written, how do you go about finding an agent to actually get the book published?

Thanks
Chessa

PatrickMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 10-May-12 12:00:00

Hi everyone,

And a very warm welcome to the brilliant Louise Doughty. Louise will be here for the next hour to answer your questions about her own work, publishing, creative writing courses and all things writing. Please welcome Louise!

LouiseDoughty Thu 10-May-12 12:00:03

Hi Everyone,
It's great to be here - I'll try and get through as many answers as possible. I tend to be a bit verbose in print as well as in person but I will make an effort to keep it concise... Welcome to the thread!
Louise

LouiseDoughty Thu 10-May-12 12:02:31

Hi Snowtiger,
I would definitely concentrate on character development to start off with - I always do my plotting quite late in the day, when I've got a large body of material to work with, so that the plot emerges from what I've already got. Also, I think character is key - you can get away with quite a lot in a novel but if your characters don't come to life, the reader won't be interested, so developing them is everything. Write biographies for them, CVs, their dearest hopes and dreams - even if you don't use it in the book, it will inform your writing. Good luck!
Louise

Snowtiger

Hi Louise
I've finally picked up the threads of one of my half finished novels now that one of my DC is at school and the other at nursery part time, but am struggling to do more than a few 20 min sessions of work / writing per week. I find it hard to make time to write and it feels as if I'll never finish a novel if I'm only writing in dribs and drabs, but I am determined to get to the end of at least one book!
I have a million questions I'd love to ask but I think my main one is, what is the best thing to focus on in writing my first draft? Should I be worrying about plot curves, depth of characterisation, sub-plots and style etc. at this stage or just focus on getting the story down on paper? And if it's the latter, what do I do with my first draft once it's written? Should I edit alone or show it to others and risk being crushed by criticism?
(Apologies; that's two questions but I hope they sort of count as one!)
Thanks in advance, and any help / advice / encouragement you can give will be really gratefully received!

LouiseDoughty Thu 10-May-12 12:05:46

MmeLindor

Hello Louise.

Do you think that a writer has to chose between fiction and non-fiction or is it possible to do both? I am currently finding that my non-fiction/journalistic endeavours are more successful but am reluctant to completely give up the idea of writing a book.

<sneaks second question in and hopes that Patrick doesn't notice>

Can I ask you about bloggers? In my opinion, there are very few bloggers who manage to make money from their blogs, but the idea persists that if you plug away at it, you can get a book deal. Is this totally idealistic or does that still sometimes happen?

Hi MmeLindor,
Nope, don't choose, go for it! I know some writers who alternate between the two very successfully, and between novels I do a lot of journalism, radio plays, anything really - any form of writing is practice for using words, so however successful the non-fiction is, don't give up on a novel.
Second question (it's ok, Patrick has gone to the loo) I think very few bloggers make real money - I think the answer to that one is, like any form of writing, do it if you love doing it. The money follows the love. Write what's in your heart to write, that's all that matters. If you manage to make money as well, then that's lucky, but no-one should write just for the money.
Louise

LouiseDoughty Thu 10-May-12 12:08:45

Cwm

Hello Louise,
I've been diligently keeping journals/notebooks for quite a long time now, and I've now got several notebooks with various bits of writing and story ideas. Have you got any practical tips for how I can organise some of this material now? With the dc at school I feel I can now spend a bit more time writing, but I just seem to have hundreds of little strands of writing and ideas and no idea of how to start bringing them together. I'd love some tips on how to keep track of what's in your notebooks, if you got any! Thanks

Dear Cwm,
Oh dear I'm the wrong writer to ask, I'm so disorganised about notes and threads... I've written two historical novels and the research for those got really out of hand... I'm a lousy archivist. What I usually end up with is a bit box file or folder that I just throw everything into. Then, when it reaches critical mass, I end up spreading it all over the kitchen table or the floor (when everyone is out, of course). There's something about looking at it all spread out that really helps. I shuffle things around into a rough plot order, and then put it into 3 or 4 piles, depending on where that idea might appear in the book. Sometimes I do diagrams for plots, but only when I've built up a lot of material first...
Louise

Grace29 Thu 10-May-12 12:10:20

Hi Louise,
Hope you're well. I'm writing regularly on my blog at the moment (www.mothersruined.wordpress.com), and find it a great discipline to have to produce something every few days. I've approached a couple of papers with the hope of one day writing a column... The Indy said they'd like me to write on their blog, but I struggle with news related items (i.e. a news related blog). I prefer creative writing. Do you believe it's important to experiment with different genres, or stick to what you know and like? With 3 kids and no childcare (like you) I really have to use my time sensibly!

Thanks

Grace

LouiseDoughty Thu 10-May-12 12:10:59

silverreigns

JustFab: nonsense, everyone's just editing and proof-reading their spots stops strps posts.

Louise, if you were choosing an MA Creative Writing course, which one would you enrol on?

Well silverreigns, I did the MA at UEA many many years ago - my tutors were Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, which should tell you how long ago it was. I loved it but there weren't many other options - now every university has one. I think it comes down to the quality of the tutors - do you like their work? Are they experienced teachers? If you can find any ex-students, ask them if the tutors are genuinely enthusiastic about helping new writers - I think that's key.
Louise

LouiseDoughty Thu 10-May-12 12:12:38

silverreigns

Should clarify: I'm interested in doing a part-time MA, while living in London.

Not sure I can bear the title "Creative Writing" however. Will have to tell everyone I'm doing an MA in Knitting and Crochet.

Ah, I see, so Norwich no good. Birkbeck has a really good reputation - but there are lots of London based ones, you'll be spoilt for choice.

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