What a week was the last week of the short hot summer! I spent it doing a Faber Academy intensive novel-writing course called: “Summer Fiction Booster”. If you’ve never done a Faber course you’ve missed a treat. First, it’s easy to get to, being practically next door to the British Museum (only a small distraction) and the people who work at Faber are all very friendly and helpful.
In 2011 – 12 I did a six-month advanced fiction course with Richard Skinner at Faber, and it was terrific. So when I saw this one advertised I thought it was just what I needed to push me over the half-way mark where I’d been stuck for months in Book 3 of my trilogy, The Voyagers. The course was run by the lovely Maggie Gee, but when we allowed her a day off on Thursday(!) Joanna Briscoe took the class. She was equally lovely.
There were only seven of us attendees which was perfect as it gave everyone lots of attention and a longer 1 – 1 with Maggie. My 1 – 1 stretched to half an hour! Maggie was so wise and encouraging and enthusiastic about all our stories which were widely different, yet we all bonded in the first five minutes.
It was great fun getting to know each other’s work, and seeing how the stories developed over the week. The group were quick to come up with ideas for plot holes (nice change from pot holes) in the critique sessions, and no matter whose work we were focused on in that particular session, it invariably had relevance to our own writing problems. Then while ideas were fresh in my mind I would stay behind in the afternoon to get on with my own writing. In five days I’d put another 3,500 words into Book 3.
I stayed at my club in Mayfair throughout the week so I didn’t have to worry about grocery shopping, cooking and all the other trivia we writers are forced to do every day. It was also an excuse to enjoy London. I saw ‘What Maisie Knew’ at the cinema, ‘Strange Interlude’ at the theatre, and listened to Mozart and Bruckner at a wonderful Proms evening. One night I had supper in a Lebanese restaurant in Shepherd Market and was joined by two handsome strangers, beautifully-dressed businessmen, one from Saudi Arabia, the other from Pakistan. We talked and laughed for four hours and I ended up giving them a bookmark each of Seller Beware: How Not To Sell Your Business which they promised to buy. If I’d had two copies with me I could have sold them on the spot (That was my own Strange Interlude. Do I feel a short story coming on?).
After all that excitement I’m home. Back to hum-drum. But writing is still the most exciting thing ever, and I’m delighted to say I’ve kept up the momentum from the week and added another 3,000 words to the novel.
Looking back, instead of calling it ‘Summer Fiction Booster’ I think it should have been named ‘A Summer Kick Up The Bum For Your Novel’.
What boosts your writing?