Lyn also writes articles, short stories, blog posts and, on occasion, songs and academic articles.
When she’s not at work or writing, Lyn is reading, singing, watching world cinema, or attempting to improve her Tibetan language skills (currently dreadful).
Welcome to Last Word of the Week, Lyn! Tibetan language skills? Interesting! Tell me, when did you write your first story?
I can’t remember writing stories when I was young, but I was always imagining stories. My sister used to tell us bedtime stories, that she made up as she went along. I copied that style in my own imagined stories, that I told to myself, especially when life at home got really difficult. My first written stories didn’t come about until English class at secondary school. I was allowed to go to school just for that one class as I was a chronic truant by the age of 12. I remember writing stories at this point in life as completely absorbing.
Stories often help, don’t they? What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?
I’ll answer the planning aspect first as it’s something I really struggle with. With my first novel I just dived in and kept writing, making mistakes and rewriting. It took me ten years so with the second one I’ve really tried to plan more. It hasn’t gone quite as I intended, I’ve had to create a second Scrivener document so that I can redraft my outline and copy across all the notes and scribbles into the right bit of the structure (this is partly because I dived into Scrivener without knowing how it worked!).
I never want to get afraid to just write as things come to me because I don’t have somewhere ‘tidy’ to put it immediately. On the other hand, my ‘jigsaw’ method of writing different pieces and spending hours finding where they fit isn’t the most organised one. I’m looking for that happy medium between planning and inspiration because I think you have to work within your own limits and writing style.
Imagination grows the more you use it. I write down thoughts and ideas as they come to me, no matter how stupid they seem. Some of these ideas may never develop further, but capturing your brain’s imaginings is a great way to get over that harsh self-critic you carry around as well as being a good warm up for writing. And a few of my musings have later been used to give a character more depth or provide the backdrop for a scene. Imagination is never wasted.
I really enjoy dreaming, especially right now as I’m using nicotine patches to give up smoking. They have a known side effect of vivid, crazy dreams. My last remembered dream was watching a jet ski competition – where all the competitors were dogs. At this point in time I have absolutely no use for that but some of the best stories in the world make unexpected links between seemingly disparate events or things and/or are complete flights of fancy. Jet skiing dogs might just be the next bestseller. Love your dreams!
Great advice there: love your dreams! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?
Winning a prize for my debut novel was definitely the highlight. I was told my first book was too ‘brutal’ to be easily marketed, because my main character is a battered child. I think it’s the fact that the child is not a silent entity, as so often happens in violent crime genre, but is ‘in your face’, that made some agents uncomfortable. Being awarded the prize gave me confidence that difficult subjects can be written about, can make beautiful writing. It’s also given me the motivation to keep writing.
That sounds very affirming. Good on you for persisting. What are you most busy with at the moment?
My day job keeps me very busy, especially as it’s marking season right now. I’m also reading a lot, mostly research for the second book, though I have to remind myself to take notes as both main strands of research are so fascinating.
Ooh, fascinating. If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?
Keep writing. The more we write, the better we get – and I don’t mean in terms of winning prizes. I mean in terms of writing what we want to write, with a precision and skill that satisfies us.
And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?
Mine too! Thanks so much for talking with me today, Lyn! I’ll be on the lookout for your next novel.