When my creative writing teacher announced she was organising a speedwriting morning to get the creative juices of our sluggish-summer-holiday-brains flowing I have to admit I was intrigued.  ‘Dress-up’ she said, ‘be glamorous’.  In the event it was bucketing down with rain and summer lessons are always held in a pre-fab building at the back of a garden centre.  My  Joules garden party dress and 3” Bertie heels weren’t at the forefront of my mind…I opted for Boden trainers teamed with grey pearls and prayed any future writing partner wouldn’t be offended my lack of effort and be lured by my writing prowess. Hmmm.

 Once we’d all piped down from the haven’t-seen-you-in-ages and the ‘I’ve bitten off my fingernails waiting for a response’ we were told to sit down and answer the following questions:

  1. Write down two or three tips about what gives you inspiration for writing
  2. What’s your best character tip?
  3. What’s your best setting tip?
  4. Write down your favourite writing tip

At this point I managed to have the entire group in fits of hysterics by asking, “Does it have to be about writing?”

“No,” said Judith our teacher, “Do you a good tip about how to set nail varnish quickly?”

Cheek.  That wasn’t what I meant at all.  But you’ll have to read on to see what I was actually referring to…

We were told to get up and move two places along (reminding me very much of an RNA lunch I went to in July) and introduce ourselves to the person on our right.  We then had to discuss the first question before moving again to discuss the second question with a new person and so on…

When I tweeted about this a couple of you very kind tweeples asked me to share the tips I collated so here they are.  I’ve put my own in first followed by others I picked up:

What gives you inspiration for writing?

a)      Escapism: writing is somewhere for me to go to get away from the monotony of the school run and changing nappies

b)      Quite often an object or person will catch my eye – be it an old battered armchair or an elderly lady drinking coffee – which acts like a key, unlocking my imagination.

c)       Aspiration:  I know it probably sounds vain but the thing that keeps me writing is the desire to one day see my name in print alongside Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde.  Not setting my heights too high, am I?

Other tips I received were:

  • One liners :  if someone says something that makes you laugh, write it down and use it in your own work.
  • People’s attitudes:  one chap worked in an office of women and he loved developing characters out of the way some of his colleagues were so catty behind each other’s backs!

 Character Tips:

  • In my part-time job conducting viewings for an estate agent I meet lots of new people which is quite useful as a writer.  I find if I ask the right questions I can scratch beneath the surface and bring someone’s personality to the forefront.  Getting people to open up is a brilliant way to find new characters and we can all do it, from chatting to the young girl behind the post office counter to the Bank Manager approving a new loan.  And if they don’t open up?  Well that’s quite telling about their character too…
  • Someone else I spoke to iterated my point by saying they always start their characters from someone they’ve met in real life. 
  • Cuttings of people in magazines
  • One lady generally wrote from a female perspective and drew on the qualities she most liked about herself.
  • Use qualities in your character which you feel passionate about then they will be more believable.  Even if you don’t like the character you’re writing about.


Setting Tips

  • Personally I like to let my setting grow around my character and allow both to evolve together.
  • Alternatively another lady preferred to allow her setting to grow with the plot.  We had quite a debate about which was preferable, my way or hers and neither of us could come up with a convincing argument which I guess proves it’s down to the writer’s preference.
  • One chap I chatted with liked his setting to conflict with his character e.g. an office worker who hates their job.  I thought this was a fantastic way of moving the plot forward and will be squirreling that concept away for future use…


Favourite writing tip

Remember I made everyone laugh at this point?  Well *huffs* it was a valid point.  My tip is about writing but not writing itself.  It’s about networking:


I won’t elaborate much more but if you’re a writer and you’re not on Twitter you need to be.  It’s an invaluable networking tool, some of the very best authors are on there and open to communicating with us novices.  There’s also fabulous Literary Agencies like @Bubblecow who tweet blog posts on useful tips for us writers on an almost daily basis.  

 AND…my tip was whispered all round the room.  So who’s laughing now eh?

I also picked up some useful tips on subscribing to Writers News and Writers Forum and I’ve been instructed to buy a copy of Woman’s Weekly so I know how to submit short stories to them. 

So did I find my forever-writer-lover?  Frankly no.  Speedwriting wasn’t quite what I expected but that said it was a brilliant experience; I find just being with other writers gives me a buzz and some of the tips from the others are very helpful.

And how about you?  Got any fave writing tips you want to share?  I’d love to hear them so feel free to leave a comment below.


6 thoughts on “Speedwriting

  1. I so enjoyed your blog, Lisa, that I wanted to make a comment, even though I haven’t really anything to say other than that I enjoyed reading your summary of the speedwriting event.

    Possible tips arising from above observation: 1) try not to go round in circles when commenting on a blog; 2) only comment when you have something valuable to say.

    Unlike a lot of people, I start with a story idea, and then move to the characters. The nature and characteristics of the character (ugh -sorry!) derive from my need to convey the story through them. Thus are my characters born.

    Liz x


  2. Thanks Liz! Always find it fascinating to find out how other writers go about plot/character/setting. It’s amazing how different people have different diciplines. L x


  3. I found this very interesting Lisa. I don’t think I’d be able to define the source of each inspiration, they just appear and evolve on their own somehow.
    But my trigger for a story is usually a sentence.
    Thanks for sharing your tips.


  4. That’s very interesting Sarah, obvioulsy I’m not paying enough attention to what people say! I might give your tip a go and see where it gets me. Especially if I get to frequent coffee shops on my own to eavesdrop others conversations 🙂 L x


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