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Patsy Collins (Guest Blog) | ScrivenerVirgin

In my last blog post, I recommended you take up the offer of free video training courtesy of Joseph Michael. I’m hoping you’ve had time to look at Video 1: Setting up Scrivener for Your Success.

One thing that crossed my mind was that, while Joseph explained what the Binder is all about, the editing space was blank. Joseph imported a file that had already been written – easy!

But what if you had nothing to import? I called up my nag buddy, Patsy Collins, and quizzed her.

I have a BIG blank space on my Scrivener screen. Help!Patsy CollinsCroppedResized

Patsy says: I’m sure you’ve all heard or seen the advice to ‘write what you know’. There’s a reason we come across it so often – it’s very good advice.

Of course, we can make things up or conduct research, and we’ll probably have to at times. We can’t rely solely on what we already know if we write science fiction, and can’t depend on personal experience for fantasy or history.

That doesn’t mean we can’t use what we know as a starting point, or to add depth to a story.

What kinds of starting points work best?

Patsy says: Your job might be the background, or maybe you could set it where you live, or include one of your hobbies or interests. I’ve done all of these in my writing. For example, two of my novels are set in the south of Hampshire, where I live, and many characters in my short stories often do jobs I’ve had.

What’s your favourite starting point?

Patsy says: My interest in gardening has been used the most in my writing.Patsy Collins (Guest Blog) | TTGG | ScrivenerVirgin

My latest book, Through The Garden Gate, is a collection of 24 plant and garden related short stories. It’s the third in the series and I’ve written more which haven’t yet made their way into collections. Actually, I’ve just finished another gardening one and am taking a break from it to write this before going back to edit (using Red Pen techniques – obviously!)

So what’s your genre? Gardening?

Patsy says: These stories cover a range of genres.

There’s humour in Going Green (Up The Garden Path), Science Fiction in Children of the Blue Flower (Over the Garden Fence) and Please Remember Me (Through the Garden Gate). Crime, family saga, and even a touch of horror, in Hallowe’en Candy (Over The Garden Fence) make their way into the collections. There are romances, twist endings and ghost stories in all three. I’ve even included a few about gardeners gardening!

Why do you think gardening makes such a good starting point?

Patsy says: Gardening is a very popular hobby and many people will enjoy the descriptions of flowers, the colours, scents, and insects buzzing around. They’ll sympathize with the hard work involved and recognise the rewards this brings.

Even those people who’re not interested in getting dirt under their fingernails will recognise parks, gardens and florists’ shops.

Familiarity with the setting doesn’t just make things easier for the writer, it also helps the reader to step inside the story.

As a keen gardener then, you don’t need to do a lot of research!

Patsy says: I not only enjoy working with plants, I also spend a lot of time reading about them and sometimes watch TV gardening shows and, naturally, I visit lots of gardens and places which sell plants.

It looks like I’m just enjoying myself, but really I’m hard at work researching my writing!

You could do the same kind of thing with your favourite sport, music or craftwork.

We used to set challenges for the RedPenners: me about editing; you about getting work published. How about setting a challenge for my blog readers?

Patsy says: Make people work? Absolutely!

With your next piece of writing, try giving a character your job or hobby, setting the story where you live, or at a favourite location. The writing doesn’t have to be about any of these things, just use a few details to bring it to life and add authenticity.

Thanks, Patsy! 

Through The Garden Gate is available here and is only 99p until 19 April.


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  • Mary Ainsworth

    12 April 2016 at 12:41

    Great, Patsy. Thanks very much. I accept your challenge!

    • Patsy

      12 April 2016 at 18:25

      Excellent! Hope you enjoy writing it.

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