I Don’t Care If You Don’t Care Festival Of Writing 2016

Writers Workshop Festival of Writing York University Spaceship

This week is brought to you by the incredible emotional fallout that always follows The Writer’s Workshop Festival of Writing.

Writers Workshop Festival of Writing York University Spaceship

More than ever this year I was struck by the sense of community that the festival brings. There’s a genuine feeling that not only are there people who legitimately care about your work and creative progress, but that you support and believe in them, too. Also, there is a door in constant pain:

Neil Gaiman got himself in trouble earlier this year for saying that “If you want to be a writer, you […] NEED to go to Clarion.” I don’t know if I can say if that applies to Festival of Writing, all I know is that without it, my writing would be in a poor and confused condition.

I’m not going to recommend any specific workshops, or namedrop any one delegate or educator, because I am convinced that all the material I didn’t see or attend was just as brilliant as my actual schedule, which was as follows:

Self-Editing Your Novel – Debi Alper
Shaping Your Commercial Novel: Pitch, Plot & Pacing – Kathryn Taussig
POV/Psychic Distance – Debi Alper
Showing and Telling – Emma Darwin
Plotting, and how to climax in every genre – Jeremy Sheldon
The Art of the Rewrite – Julie Cohen
Character is Destiny: Basis & Application – CM Taylor

So what have I garnered from this amazing weekend that I can use to move forward with The Wrong Ghost? Well firstly, that “The Wrong Ghost” is not an appropriate working title, as it generates too many comedic connotations, and references a plot device that doesn’t even exist in the text any more. A lightning quick focus group or two came up with the title “Dead Ringer” – a recognisable phrase, with layers of connotation that are actually relevant to the novel.

Secondly, and speaking of relevance to the novel, my cover letter is as good as garbage (not that anyone said as much, they’re far too kind for that). Here it is with everything superfluous, inaccurate, misleading, or downright untrue highlighted.

Nick Sheridan The Wrong Ghost Dead Ringer Cover Letter

I’ve been dragging this cover letter through from day one and it has become so distorted and irrelevant that I really need to put it aside, focus on the theme and direction of the novel, and start again.

My next revelation is one of structure, rising action and climax. The string below represents a version of the four act structure, with a big emotional finish. That’s where I should be. Where I am is shown by the post-it notes, with pink representing key moments. As it stands, The Wrong Ghost Dead Ringer is too episodic and flat, but thankfully I have some key changes in mind that should solve this. Festival of Writing has helped me reach my climax. Och!

Nick Sheridan The Wrong Ghost Dead Ringer Four Act Structure Post-It Notes

The central issue of The Wrong Dead Ringer however, lies in Jamie himself, and his apparent unlikeability. He may drag his feet and loathe the world because of everything it’s done to him, but as the novel opens he is presented as a surly, self-entitled little git. He needs humanising, and his grand (or not-so-grand) narrative needs to be a little more intriguing early on. Simply put, the reader isn’t going to care, if Jamie doesn’t care.

My agenda for the next few months, other than getting myself a dayjob, is essentially to fix the key issues with Dead Ringer, then put it aside until spring. In the new year I want to give something new a look, possibly Keith Has OCD, since despite the poor working title, the ideas around that have received some pretty good feedback.

I have a novelty Kindle book coming out soon, but it’s the kind of novelty where if I tell you the title too far in advance, half the novelty is gone. So keep your eyes and Kindles open for that one.