FEATURE: Thoughts for aspiring writers by Chris Ord | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Local writer Chris Ord released his third novel, Awakening on 1st December. The book is the sequel to his successful debut, Becoming, with teenage heroine Gaia being held prisoner by The Community at a village deep in the Northumberland hills. It is winter and the villagers are stranded, surrounded by thick snow and mutant creatures that roam the frozen wasteland outside. Gaia discovers she is to be taken to The Haven; the centre of The Community, to learn her fate. The story follows her journey and the dangers she encounters on the way. Becoming was released in 2016 and Chris was unsure whether to write a sequel, but requests from his readers persuaded him to take up the challenge. In celebration of its release, Chris shares some tips for aspiring writers.

How do you plan your novels?

Rather than plan or storyboard, I start with a scenario and the main characters and let the story unfold. This makes the process more exciting as each time I come with fresh ideas. There are no expectations about what to write. I try to capture the excitement I felt at school when the teacher wrote a sentence on the board and asked us to write about it. This is the joy of writing, the endless possibilities of the worlds you create. The only barriers are the limits of your imagination.

What do you find most difficult?

You need to be honest and ruthless with yourself. I become obsessed with my stories and spend all my time thinking about what might happen next. Sometimes this leads me down dead ends, hence the need to be reflective and brutal. If something isn’t working let it go. Writing is difficult, and it should be a challenge, but it should never be a chore. Love what you do and remind yourself it is a privilege to create.

What is the best method for writing a novel?

There is no right or wrong way to write, only your way. The hard part is finding your method. Stephen King’s book On Writing unlocked everything for me. His approach is based around scenarios and I found that liberating and exciting. I’ve tried several other methods which haven’t worked.

What is your most important strength?

The most important quality you can bring to writing is discipline. I write as much as I can and when I’m working full-time on something I set daily word targets. Everything is logged on a spreadsheet and I give myself rewards when I hit key milestones. Each piece of writing is a project, and the momentum discipline brings means I can produce a first draft quickly. These drafts are raw and need work, but the energy and drive is reflected in the writing. It’s important to have structure and routine. Give something your time and it will reward you. Hard work is a talent we can all develop.

How much research do you do?

It depends on what you’re writing. For my second novel, The Storm, I researched quite a lot as it was based on a local ship rescue in the nineteenth century. I visited the Laing Gallery where there are paintings of local fishing communities from the period. These were invaluable in helping create pictures in my head so I could paint authentic scenes and transport the reader back to the time. Both Becoming and Awakening are dystopian novels, so most of it came from my head. As a writer of fiction your imagination is your book of spells. The magic of the art is writers are allowed to make things up.

What is the biggest obstacle to writing?

Self-doubt is a crippling part of the creative process, this and the fear that someday you may have to share your work with the world. We all have these anxieties. Something that helps me is at the beginning of every session I write on a post-it-note ‘No-one needs to read this.’ I place this beside my laptop as a reminder I am writing for me. This is a liberating way of easing the fear and doubt. If other people enjoy what I write it’s a bonus, the main thing is I enjoy the process. Overcome this tyranny, and you’ll feel the joy of the endless possibilities. It’s your story, your world, your creation, believe in yourself and enjoy everything writing gives.

All three of Chris’ books are available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle versions. Click here to find out more about Chris and his writing or visit his Facebook page

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