Lorraine Wilson: How I Write When I Can Barely Read

Harper Impulse has a lot of authors that have come from extraordinary places and situations, but no one has a story like Lorraine Wilson. Read this post to hear how she has overcome disability that would put most people off reading and writing for life and instead has become the author of nine books and many short stories.

 

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I’m a writer who can’t read.

 

At least, I can read a little, but even a page or two or filling in a form can leave me with disabling symptoms that make it very unpleasant.
Like most writers I used to read for pleasure voraciously. As a child I spent all my pocket money on books. Not a single day went by that I didn’t read, until I had an accident that left me with a brain injury. After that I was left with only audiobooks, which I do love but sadly not all books make it onto audio.

 

More importantly I was left with a pressing problem – how was I going to write? I’d had a full manuscript requested from a publisher before my accident but finishing it seemed like an impossible dream.

 

Thankfully I had an amazing support worker – a speech and language therapist who specialised in acquired dyslexia and who refused to let me give up. She taught me speech to text technology and text to speech. And we found ways around the changes in my brain, around chronic migraines, disabling eye pain, short term memory problems and nerve pain in both my arms. I could work with images, colours and mind maps for plotting my stories. I could do a little on paper when I couldn’t stand to be near a computer, although my writing often comes out jumbled up and even I struggle to make it out. With all those techniques and the emerging accessibility software it has got easier, to the point where I can do most of my writing remotely on my phone using Bluetooth headphones. I still have to use a computer to edit but often get human assistance when my brain can’t cope with remembering changes in plot and different characters. I have to say I couldn’t have wished for nicer, more supportive editors and I have a great group of writing friends – The Minxes of Romance – who refused to let me give up and gave up lots of their own writing time to help me.

 

Finishing my first novella (Confessions of a Chalet Girl) felt amazing. ‘Try a 50 thousand word book next’, my friends urged me. So I did and was astounded when I actually completed it. An 80-90 thousand word book felt utterly insurmountable but then so had all my other goals. And when you break it down to one or two thousand words a day it sounds much less daunting.

 

For ‘Chalet Girls’ I used different colour index cards to keep track of the various characters’ story threads and put a scene prompt on each card to be shuffled into an order I was happy with to make up the overall plot.

 

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I’ve shared a lot today because I want to pass on a bit of advice – if you’re an aspiring writer, don’t waste time. When I think of all the years when I wrote bits here and there, of all the healthy time I didn’t use…it’s enough to make me cry, except that really would be a waste of time!

 

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