Shannon Meyerkort: Your time is your own.
Shannon Meyerkort stayed at KSP Writers' Centre in September 2022 as a Flash Fellow.
There is something about time at KSP that stretches and lengthens the hours. An hour at Katharine’s Place is the equivalent of five at home, perhaps more, definitely not less.
Removed from the restrictions of everyday life - from school lunches and baskets of washing, remembering to feed the dog and putting the bins out – time slips into a new pattern.
It’s four steps from the bed to the desk, six if you detour to make a coffee. Four steps to slide on a warm jumper, to settle in front of your laptop and start writing. Keep your phone on silent, you don’t need to talk to anyone if you don’t want to, there is no one to drag you from whatever world you’re creating. Your time is your own and it is entirely up to you to use it wisely. Apart from daily walks and a meal each day with my fellow Fellows, I remained sequestered in my cabin. You couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
I used my week at KSP to reacquaint myself with two novels I have written; one had been marinating for more than two years, the other is relatively fresh. I was able to use my residency to read them both with the benefit of fresh eyes and uninterrupted time. Though dismayed at the number of typos, I was encouraged by my undiminished love for the characters. I edited and pruned and restructured and yes – killed a few darlings. The result is two stronger drafts, perhaps not quite ready to be released into the wild, but certainly on their way.
Top 10 Tips
Mock up a book cover in Canva, imagining what your project will look like when it’s finished. Stick it on the wall in front of you so you can see it every time you write.
Apply for everything.
Keep healthy snacks in your desk drawer. If you must have chocolate, put it across the room so you have to get up to reach it.
When you get stuck, take your character ‘out to tea’… imagine a conversation with them over a cuppa (or a beer) and let them spill their story.
Keep a folder for story ideas, articles you tear out of the paper, anecdotes you hear, links to interesting stories, pictures you take. It’s gold when the well of ideas inevitably runs dry.
Find a wall calendar and keep a running total of your word count. It can be rewarding to see the number grow and motivating to get back to your desk if too many days are left blank.
Ask a trusted writer friend what your most overused words are – do your characters ‘look’ too much, are you always mentioning their ‘eyes’, do they sigh a lot – do a Control F to count how many times you use them, then get rid of 80% of them.
Invest in a big whiteboard.
Colour coordinating your bookshelves looks pretty but is a nightmare when you need to find a particular title.
Make yourself known to your local bookshop, even if you don’t have a book (yet) that you want them to sell. Support them and later on they will support you.
~ Shannon Meyerkort 2022