Monday, 12 June 2017

Guest post: Blogging - A writer's sketchbook from Val Poore

Blogging is a valuable platform for both writers and publishers, so this week, Val Poore has written a guest post for us on the creative benefits she has personally gained by writing a weekly blog.

Val Poore

"How often have we noticed artists sketching architectural scenes? Or people? Or animals and wildlife? I remember my father always had a sketchbook with him along with a selection of well worn pencils of different grades. He was an architect by training, but he enjoyed painting for relaxation. I used to love it when we went to the park as children and he would sit on a bench and draw. Later, he would select one of his many sketches and produce the most beautiful water colours based on the images he had recorded in his little book. These days, many artists take photos and use them as their 'sketches' but I still see others now and then with their notebooks full of finely detailed drawings.

An artist's watercolour sketch by my father, MV Poore
So what do writers do to prepare for their books or stories? I know many who keep journals of impressions, stories and ideas. They write in cafés, trains and anywhere they can sit down and make notes or write short pieces of things they have suddenly thought of or observed.  These are their sketches.

Then, there are the many who prefer to write short stories or flash fiction as a means of honing their skills.  These writers frequently go on to develop full length novels from an idea they have first sketched out in a much shorter narrative. Added to that, the discipline needed to write a complete piece of fiction in a limited number of words can be beneficial to improving a writer's skill for encapsulating atmosphere, setting, thoughts and emotions with deft economy. But there are still others - and I am one of them - who use a blog as a means of practicing their craft.

For me, my blog is my sketchbook. It is the place where I ensure that I write a complete piece every week to keep my writing current, vivid and alive. I use it to write descriptive texts or accounts of incidents, sometimes involving dialogue and humour. At other times, it is simply a diary of certain events going on in my life; for example, travelogues about the places I have been to and explored with my partner. Occasionally, I use it to publish interviews with other authors and even to write about writing techniques, but more often, my posts are the sketches about my life from which I gather the ideas for my books, especially my memoirs.

Another point is that a regular blog post is a tremendously good routine for a writer. If, as in my case, writing is not and cannot be a full-time job, it is often difficult to find the time to work consistently on a project. As a  consequence, it would be all too easy to spend several weeks without producing more than a few pages of the current book-in-progress. With no other writing outlet,  the will and self-discipline needed to keep going with a book can wither away before slinking off to a dusty, unused compartment of the brain where it can quietly die. That might sound a bit melodramatic, but it's painfully true and a familiar fear for many writers.

This is where I find my blog is not only useful for keeping up the momentum, but it also provides me with the challenge of working up something that is (I hope) interesting to read, creatively stimulating and also enjoyable to write. My book-in-progress is not forgotten and I never lose sight of it, but I don't feel the frustration of not having written anything for long periods.  As a writer, I need to write and keep writing to improve (wasn't it Stephen King who said that?), so at those times when I cannot work on my main project, my blog is a sufficiently diverse creative outlet to keep the muse satisfied.

In effect, then, my blog is my notebook, my journal, my creative palette and my recreation all in one. As someone who makes a daily living from teaching others the basic mechanics of the writer's craft,  my blog is also my weekly relief from the more technical side of the skill. It is where I can play with words, sentences and images; it is where I can be myself and have some fun.

So coming back to my original idea, we often use the word 'sketch' to talk about rough unfinished drafts, don't we? I believe this is what a blog can be as well. It can then serve as the basis for a complete book or story: in short, a blog can be what I suggested at the beginning of this article - a real sketchbook for writers."

An evocative sketch by my father that would also inspire a writer
Thank you, Val! To finish this week's post, we'd just like to mention that the links to most of our authors' blogs are in the sidebar on the upper right-hand side of the page. Do visit them and read their posts. Many of them write regular blogs like Val and would enjoy hearing from our readers too.


Unknown said...

Your father's sketches are truly lovely as are your memories of spending time with him. I'd never thought of a blog as my writing sketch pad. Maybe because I'm not as good with technology as you, dear one. I jot down notes everywhere and always carry a notepad so do things the old fashioned way. I'm going to try it your way from now on xxx

Vallypee said...

I'm glad you enjoyed it, Toni! I find that blogging really helps me to keep writing! xxx

Unknown said...

Brilliant blog, Val. Blogging really is a writer's sketchbook. I had never thought of it that way before. You are amazing...keeping up with your life...whew! Your dad was a talented artist, as are you. His sketches must give you joy and link to great memories.

Vallypee said...

Thank you, Steph. My father's paintings are very dear to me indeed. He was very talented!