Check This Out: 52 Dates for Writers

Once again, I am interrupting the Space Series, this time to bring you this awesome author: Claire Wingfield. Claire’s book is 52 Dates for Writers. For those of you who will participate in NaNoWriMo, you’ll find this a great way to stay inspired. One of you will have a chance to win this Kindle ebook. But first, let’s talk to Claire.


El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Claire: I live in the great literary city of Edinburgh—the first UNESCO City of Literature—with my husband and book-loving toddler. I work as an editor and writing consultant, supporting writers at different stages in completing their manuscripts and developing their craft. I studied English Literature at Cambridge University’s Downing College, where writer P. D. James also studied. She kindly submitted an article to a student magazine I launched. One of my first jobs in publishing was as a reader for a book production company, and I remain painfully aware of how mistakes can creep in right until the end of the publishing process!

El Space: Please tell us how you came to write 52 Dates for Writers. How did your background make you uniquely suited to write it?
Claire: The ideas in 52 Dates for Writers: Ride a Tandem, Assume an Alias and 50 Other Ways to Improve Your Novel Draft stem from my one-to-one work with writers over many years. Many of the exercises are those I devised to help writers solve real problems in their manuscripts. I decided to bring the material into book format during a period of maternity leave, and following the suggestion of one of my writers.

10569El Space: At this post about Stephen King’s craft book On Writing (“Stephen King’s 20 Tips for Becoming a Frighteningly Good Writer”), we learn:

Where other writing books are focused on the mechanics of the written word, King shows you how to capture the joy of the craft. You’ll find yourself wanting to write, not because of fame or fortune, but because it’s fun, and there’s nothing else you would rather do.

How does your book encourage the joy of writing?
Claire: 52 Dates for Writers is all about encouraging writers to be playful. Play is so important to creativity, but increasingly there can be so much pressure in day-to-day life that I found even the writers I worked with needed an antidote to this. Each writing date is almost like a workshop environment—giving writers the chance to experiment with different facets of their writing—from voice and style to the format and structure of their piece—away from the screen or written draft, and then return to work with new ideas, a refreshed approach, or simply the desire to keep writing.

The experiences themselves are designed to be fun—from completing a hi-tech treasure hunt to help readers think about the order of revelation in their novel, to climbing a hill or riding a ferris wheel in order to experiment with perspective. There are plenty of simple tasks like cooking a luxurious meal to work on refreshment scenes, which can often suffer from underwriting, as well as many which encourage the reader to try something entirely new.

6867The dates are an invitation to writers to escape their desks and engage in challenging and enjoyable tasks, often bringing new light on an area of their writing. They each provide space away from the daily grind to workshop a particular area of a draft, plus fresh and unexpected inspiration, all backed with rigorous theory in the form of a series of mini essays on the craft of writing. There are also fun examples from well-known novels to accompany the dates, such as the plot of Atonement laid out as a maze.

Those who are new to writing will find plenty of prompts and inspiration, showing there are as many different ways into a fresh piece of writing as there are those of us willing to write.

El Space: What author or authors have you read recently who seem to capture the joy of writing? How so?
Claire: I read a lot with my son right now, and am really enjoying revisiting the stories of Dr. Seuss. So inventive and playful with language. We’ve also just acquired a book by Neil Gaiman called Chu’s Day—about a panda with a very big sneeze, which has my son in fits of laughter, so certainly captures the joy of reading for both of us.

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El Space: What are you working on now?
Claire: I’m currently working on the second in the series—52 Missions for Children’s Writers—Learn a Circus Skill, Go out in Disguise, and 50 other Ways to Inspire your Children’s Novel whilst continuing to have the pleasure of working with a host of talented and committed writers. I’m working on a section called “Eat Jelly for Breakfast” right now—which is proving very enjoyable!

El Space: What writing tip would you offer a writer going through writer’s block?
Claire: 52 Dates for Writers is all about preventing writer’s block, but for starters, try to recall what first sparked your passion for what you are writing, and incorporate something from that into your writing life. If it was a place you haven’t visited for a while, pay it a fresh visit, or if it is a place you visit every day, try varying your journey. If it was a strong opinion that motivated you, try embracing the opposite point of view for a week—the clash of ideas may just get your project moving again. Or take your writing outside and tackle the part of the novel you’re most afraid of—that niggling problem you’ve not got around to fixing, but know you must. Be playful in your solutions—push your story further than you or your reader ever expected.

Thanks, Claire, for being my guest!

You can find Claire at her Goodreads author page here. Claire’s book is available right now at Amazon. One of you, however, will win a copy just by commenting. Since I’m hosting two giveaways this week, the winners will be announced on Saturday, November 1. Thanks to all who stopped by!

Book covers from Goodreads.

35 thoughts on “Check This Out: 52 Dates for Writers

  1. I love the reminder that play is important to creativity. I was actually reading an article recently that talked about daydreaming being an important time for the brain to connect information and learn. Thanks for sharing “52 Dates” with us!

  2. Will check out Chu’s Day to read with my kids.
    And Edinburgh has always been on my ‘to visit’ list. Thank you for this post-a reminder that all work and no play makes Andy a dull boy. 🙂

  3. I lived in inspirational Edinburgh for 18 years. The city and its people have so much to offer, I’m sure I wouldn’t be writing today without that wonderful experience. I’ll definitely be buying Claire’s book! Great interview! -:)

  4. 52 Dates for Writers is great! It’s got me through a rough patch with my novel, part of which Claire has mentored me through – my original efforts weren’t quite working and Claire made me see what the problems, particularly with the plot, were. I’m well on the way with it and am using it as part of my MPhil/PhD.

  5. It’s been years since I visited Edinburgh, but what a great place it was. Claire’s book sounds both helpful and fun. And, like Andy, I’m going to check out Chu’s Day. A sneezing baby panda bear – who can resist??

    • I agree! That’s why my grocery lists are so brisk and engaging. I must be entertained at all times. Speaking of entertaining, I hope you have something special planned for Thanksgiving in the Punchy Lands!

  6. This book sounds so fun. I’m a big believer that getting stuck in the same writing routine can lead to boredom and writer’s block (at least for me). This book sounds like a great way to break through that.

  7. Sounds like there are a lot of fun “experiments”, but I’ll tell you: I would rather cook a fancy meal than go on a Ferris ride! Great interview, as always!! 🙂

  8. This sounds like an awesome book. Enter me for the giveaway! It reminds me of my former advisor and mentor AM Jenkins, who kept suggesting something new (and fun) to do every time I’d complain about being stuck. I also look forward to the writing for children version of this!

      • Sort of. I’m not really signing up, but I’m planning on immersing myself–as best I can in my WIP, A Gift of Shadows–and doing my best to get the rest of the story out and onto the virtual page. I’ve also committed to doing a first content edit of a memoir for a friend–but I’ve got a couple months to get the editing done. What about you, Linda?

      • I’ll do a semi-NaNo–perhaps 25,000 to 30,000 words if that’s possible. We’ll see. I’d like to get a good chunk of my draft done.

  9. Great interview and a very interesting sounding book. I love the idea of prompts to bring playfulness back into writing – sometimes that aspect can be forgotten when you’re bogged down with plot, problems with characters or viewpoint or are in the difficult process of unravelling and editing a very rough first draft!

    • Thanks, Kate. I agree that a sense of play is needed. I can always tell when my writing seems labored. I think that’s why one of my advisors told me to write poetry daily. Sadly, I’ve gotten out of the habit and need to leap back into it. But writing nonsense rhymes and other word plays really helped open up my writing.

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