Becoming a Better Writer: A Guest Post by Fiona Claire

CloverWhen you’re surrounded by a lush, green landscape, crumbling medieval castles, and ancient stone circles, writer’s block isn’t a thing.

I live in Ireland. And I’m a writer. Those two things seem to go hand-in-hand. It’s no coincidence that some mighty scribes have lived here. William Butler Yeats, Anne Enright, Oscar Wilde, Roddy Doyle, C.S.Lewis and John Banville all called Ireland home at one time or another. I think that’s because the land on this island is fertile, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually too. It feels like stories come up out of the ground, grab me by the ankle, and demand, “Write me!

For the past fifteen years, I’ve been a professional tour guide, so the idea of combining a writers’ conference with tours seemed natural. This summer was our third annual Ireland Writer Tour (, and it was a grand success, due in part to our dynamite instructors: historical fiction author and editor, Heather Webb, and young adult author, Lorie Langdon. Both ladies shared wonderfully helpful information, and a few of the intrepid Spinning Pen writers joined us.

It’s difficult to describe the infectious creative energy that fills a room when twelve writers, determined to improve their craft, and two successful authors bent on helping them, get together. Magic happens! At least, that’s how it feels to me.

Our July 2017 Ireland Writer Tour and conference was titled, “Writing A Novel That Sells,” and the teaching authors gave us all sorts of valuable tips. Here’s a tiny sample of the gems they shared and points that all writers should practice and learn to become a better writer:

  • To help get voice into a query, dictate your story idea into your phone, then play it back and type it word for word.
  • Write your synopsis first, or after the first act is complete.
  • How to work flashbacks into dialogue effectively.
  • Delete superfluous description. Instead, use it to reveal something about the character and how they view the world around them. So “a clear, blue sky” might become “a mocking sky.”
  • “What is your opening line? Does it leave us with a question?” And other fun exercise questions about our WIPs. Our responses then led us to understand changes we needed to make to improve our WIPs.
  • The highly debated topic of prologues and why they may hinder your opening pages (ex: They force the reader to begin twice; and They can signal the agent that the first chapter is weak.)
  • “What sales have you had in [my genre]?” and other important questions to ask an agent during “the call.”
  • Must-have books to help hone your craft, like: Story Genius by Lisa Cron; The Art of Character by David Corbitt; and The Wisdom of the Enneagram by Don Risso and Russ Hudson. Participants offered suggestions too, like for location research.

Another way to become a better writer is to get a consultation. At the conference, two of my favourite parts are the individual editing and one-on-one consultations with the guest authors. Having an actual conversation with authors and professional editors who really know what they’re talking about can bring instant clarity. Thanks to the feedback, and everything I learned during this year’s IWT conference, I’ve polished my manuscript and feel confident it’s time to query.Dunguaire Castle

2018 will be IWT’s fourth year, and we’ll have two new and exciting conference/tours on offer. One will be 24 June through 1 July 2018, and the other is 8-15 July 2018. For each of these, the tour and conference days rotate. One day we’re walking through big, fat leaves of clover in a primordial faerie forest, the next we’re learning how to create a character who feels so real you could reach out and touch them. The next night, your new friends might help you brainstorm your way through a plot hole while you enjoy dinner in a 15th century haunted castle.

Over the last few years, quite a few writers have undertaken the great journey to come here and participate in Ireland Writer Tours. As like-minded souls who share a love of words, (and a sprinkling of Irish luck) we often end up becoming friends and critique partners, and that is indeed a blessing.

Celtic Journey Prayer

Be thou a smooth way before me,

Be thou a guiding star above me,

Be thou a keen eye behind me,

This day, this night, forever.



Fiona Claire 

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