Liz Champion is a writer, teacher, and communications specialist from Yorkshire. She writes a Slice of Life blog about the highs and lows of her everyday life. Her first book, Cake, anyone? Scenes from everyday life in extraordinary times is out now.
Seeing as it was rather similar to me, I was intrigued at how a global pandemic finally gave her the push she needed to achieve her writing dreams. Read on to find out more.
My slice of life blog posts are exactly that — slices of life — scenes from the everyday. But don’t let that put you off! Readers say they are actually quite entertaining. One even said, ‘they’re a hoot in these dark days’, and it wasn’t even my mum.
My aim when I write each post is to make readers smile. I try to find humour in the mundane, finding something that readers can relate to and laugh at.
I use fictional techniques to recreate events on the page, but they are true stories. Everything I share on the blog really happened. Some things I wish hadn’t — a certain global pandemic obviously comes to mind.
But, trying to see the positives, it took this coronavirus year for me to realise that life is short. Like many people, it made me think about what is important in life, and what I wanted to achieve. My dream has always been to make a living as an author. With all the sadness and anxiety of this year, I decided that if you want something badly enough, you have to make it happen. Life is far too short not to follow your dreams.
Of course, I had no idea how to make any of it happen, but writing something and sharing it on my blog seemed like a good place to start. So, in April, I returned to writing my Slice of Life blog. I say ‘returned’ because I first started writing the slices of life in 2018. And then failed spectacularly.
At the time, I was juggling a full-time demanding day job, 300-mile weekly commute and finishing my master’s degree in creative writing. Finding extra time to write a blog post was difficult, impossible, really. But I was aware of the importance of building an audience and raising my profile as a writer so that when the time came to approach agents, I had something to include that might, just might, make me stand out.
I wrote what I could, when I could, and found some readers who said positive and encouraging things, but I was exhausted from trying to do too much. And without consistency, both the blog and I lacked momentum and fizzled out.
This time it was different. The world was different. I was different. I was more determined to write and share my work.
What Influences My Style
My journalism background has influenced my writing and reading choices. I was trained to write to tight word counts, using simple language and sentences. Someone once asked me what my writing style is like and I replied, ‘simple.’ It made me laugh but summed it up perfectly.
I’ve always been a fan of journalists Tim Dowling and Lucy Mangan, and how they write about family life in such a funny way. I love Tim’s column in the Guardian on a Saturday, and when I started writing my slices of life, I was trying to do something similar. He writes 600 words for his columns. That seemed a good word count to aim for. The problem was that my anecdotes seemed to have a mind of their own, and because I wasn’t restricted to space in a newspaper, I let them become longer.
I love writing the slice of life blog posts. And in lockdown, people contacted me to say how much reading them brightened up their day. This gave me the momentum and confidence I needed. I started to believe that perhaps there was a place for me and my stories in the big wide literary world.
As the momentum grew, I had the idea of putting my slices of life together for an online lead magnet to encourage sign-ups to my newsletter, Life happens, books and cake help. That lead magnet then became a full collection that I published as an indie author. None of this was planned, (I’ve never been much of a planner), one thing just led to another and happened.
Getting It On The Page
I am a morning person. I wake up ridiculously early, make a brew, and start writing. I love it! My morning time is sacred. The husband and hounds wake up at 6.30am, so I like to have most of my writing finished by then when the chaos of the day starts.
Most writers begin with a blank page, but my template for the blog includes some writing tips I like reminding of:
- Everything is copy.
- Start late, leave early.
- Second draft = first draft – 10%
The first is something Nora Ephron’s mother used to tell her, ‘Everything is copy’, which is a reminder that even when I think I have nothing to write about, there is always something. Even dull events can make good copy.
The second is about keeping only what is essential to the story.
The third is from Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s good advice.
I’m also going to add a fourth — progress, not perfection. I think a lot of writers, myself included, think that everything has to be perfect. They spend so much time learning and trying to be better (I’m talking from experience here) that they wonder why they’re not getting anywhere.
I always start thinking of a scene before I begin writing. I usually start crafting it in my head when I’m out walking or running. Then when I sit down to write, I already know the opening. I’ll write the first draft in one go, plan a shape to the story, and the ending. I always have an exit strategy, so I know where it’s going.
The next days after that, I’ll redraft, cut and edit. Then it’s the tighter edits before publication, and that’s where I struggle. Trying to write weekly pieces means time is against me. I’m too close to the story to spot mistakes. To help, I use the editing website, ProWritingAid. For the book, I also used two editors (money well spent).
After it’s published, I always worry that I’ll not be able to write anything else ever again, so I like to get started on a new piece as soon as possible.