It's appropriate that a weekend immersed in all things writing has drawn me back to my neglected blog. (It's not you; it's me. I just needed my own space for a while. Let's not rush things ...)
The Festival of Writing in York is a delectable mix of the dependable and the unexpected. Dependable because it’s always crammed full of valuable workshops and keynotes, the people you meet are warm and interesting, and the time between falling asleep and waking up is never quite long enough.
It’s the unexpected that makes it something special, that moment in a chat over lunch or in the middle of a talk that connects with the sweet spot of your writing racquet. I had just such a moment in my last workshop of the weekend: Andrew Wille’s 4 Elements of Writing. It had been a last minute choice, the option I’d booked months before lost in the befuddlement of sleep deprivation and that last bottle of red.
Andrew's session offered a simple but wildly useful premise: great writing needs a balance of the four elements -
Fire: the guts, energy and imagination of the piece
Water: the heart of the story, the emotional connection
Earth: the evocation of the setting and the action: the visceral and the tangible
Air: the ideas, structure and the language craft
You see, it’s as if Andrew had read the imbalanced draft of my current book and laid out a brief for the next rewrite. Serendipity. And what’s more, he did it in a way that left me with a strong physical sense of that next draft: its earthy heart, rather than just its airy intellect.
It was an hour that improved me and transformed my draft. Which is what York does: it gets inside you and makes a difference.
And to think that 12 hours earlier I was being pursued across the car park by a security guard intent on retrieving the half bottle of wine which had accompanied me ("illegally") from the gala dinner venue. I thought about spinning a story about writerly research, briefly considered making a run for it, and then stared into the abyss of a life of crime. I gave it back.
The Festival of Writing: all life is there.
(And if it's fiction you're looking for, try the Pain in the Art blog.)