Every Saturday morning between 6.30 and 8am I indulge my Scottishness by listening to the marvellous ‘Out of Doors’ programme on Radio Scotland.
It’s basically a celebration of all the outdoorsy things people can do in the countryside, mountains, the Highlands and Islands, and around the rugged coastline.
One of my favourite places – The mountains of Skye from Redpoint
The producers are currently running a feature encouraging listeners to send in memories of their favourite places and this week it was the turn of the wonderful Scottish poet, Liz Lochhead, to add her contribution. She went one better, and offered some sound advice for writers.
When you have written your piece, edited and polished until it shines, she explained, then take another look, for it certainly won’t be as perfect as you might think.
Liz recommends taking away the first paragraph and the last, virtually starting your tale in the middle. She was talking about poetry, but the principal holds good for all writing.
Her words of wisdom continued. ‘Don’t tell me something is beautiful, for that means nothing. Show me! Tell me how it sounds, smells, tastes. What it feels like when you breath it in.’
Any of this sounding familiar?
As writers we have to look beyond the flowery descriptions, the tired old clichés, and concentrate on the core of what we are trying to convey.
Great writers do this automatically. Rosamunde Pilcher’s novels are a master class in the art.
Sadly, those skills do not come easily to all of us. But it’s so worth the effort of persevering when we get it right.