Denise M Taylor

Writing Consultant I Editor I Proofreader

When I am approached by a writer about her or his writing project, I am always curious. I try to gain an understanding of what motivates the author to write about a certain subject or character. Even though there may be a deep desire to write a specific story that focuses on a theme or satisfies a genre that interests the author, a writer needs to be forever curious and open-minded. This allows for a new direction or idea that could enliven the narrative or add a fresh angle to an academic book or memoir, which will bring it to a successful and memorable conclusion.

In this year when fracture and fear finger across the world, the Virginia Woolf-inspired ‘wayfinding’ art installation called ‘Around the Corner’ guides curious people through the streets along London’s Culture Mile (the north-south route connecting the Millennium Bridge, St Paul’s Cathedral, the Museum of London and the Barbican Centre) using words from the quote from Virginia Woolf’s Jacob’s Room: ‘What are you going to meet if you turn this corner?’

The installation, designed by architects Karsten Huneck and Bernd Truempler, was (in their words) “inspired by the history of London as a whole and 20th-century literature specifically: a time when the City of London was starting to thrive, and many writers focused on the subject of an enigmatic London. Virginia Woolf was part of a group of modernist writers that brought interesting changes of unusual narration to literature. Authors began to tell stories in a way that reflected the fragmented and disconnected world.”

Robert Macfarlane, an acclaimed British author whose wide-ranging interests and research include preserving nature and wildlife for future generations, writes about psycho-geography:

“Unfold a street map of London, place a glass, rim down, anywhere on the map, and draw around its edge.  Pick up the map, go out into the city and walk the circle…. Record the experience as you go… Complete the circle and the record ends. Walking makes for content, footage for footage.” (Macfarlane, R (2005) A road of one’s own: past and present artists of the randomly motivated walk. Times Literary Supplement 5349, October 7: 3–4; quoted from the introduction to Psychogeography (Pocket Essentials Series, Coverley, ed.)

Macfarlane encourages us to tap the energy around us when we go for a walk. Imagine what might be revealed behind the layers of history if you allow yourself to be curious. Whether you write fiction, non-fiction or poetry, you will respond in different ways: you may ‘see’ a book structure in a more interesting way; envisage a line of poetry; find a new character; come up with a new layer of intrigue to add texture to your plot; steal scraps of conversations from passers-by to enliven dialogue. If you lose yourself in the process of curiosity, you will return home invigorated with new ideas, and maybe even a new direction for your writing project.

Maybe you have a few ideas that you’re ready to string together, or maybe you’ve been experimenting with a variety of writing styles and can’t decide on one. Maybe you are curious about hybrid forms of writing. Take inspiration from authors, books, and aesthetics you may not have considered before. A useful exercise is to read a page from a book by a favourite author, respond, and write a new version. Imitation is a form of practice, and through it emerges clarity of self and the development of a unique style.

The most compelling and authentic written work is not a means to an end, but a journey to discover and unravel the “thousands of thoughts lying within a man [or woman] that he [or she] does not know until he [or she] takes up the pen and writes”; so observes nineteenth-century British novelist William Thackeray.

So be curious. You could find new and unexpected ways to tell your story or write about a subject that you know ‘inside out’. This can help reshape and refresh a writing project that has been languishing in a file.


Writing Mentor

I mentor three writers at a time, so if you would like to send me a few details of your project, and check my availability, why not contact me and we can set up a time to chat?

If I have availability and we seem compatible then I will send you a mentoring proposal. If you agree to appoint me as your mentor then we can come to an arrangement that usually involves regular face-to-face meetings or phone/Skype/Zoom chats following a constructive critique of your work-in-progress. My role is to keep my writers motivated and writing! A fee will be negotiated, usually in pre-pay blocks of 8-10 hours.

If I am unable to offer a mentorship, I may be able to help by providing a manuscript assessment.


Featured image: Mary Cassatt, ‘In the Loge’, 1878, oil on canvas, 81.28 x 66.04 cm, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

2 Responses so far.

  1. David Muirhead says:

    Very impressive Den. Congratulations.

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