Sunday 29 May 2011

Workshop Details...

If you are within reasonable travelling distance of Nottingham you might be interested in an inexpensive workshop being hosted by Nottingham Writers' Club on Saturday 4th June 10am to 4pm.

Writer Michael Eaton will be leading the workshop. He is probably best known for his television work, including 'Shipman' and 'Shoot to Kill', but has written in many more areas. He's also the visiting Professor in the School of Creative Writing at Nottingham Trent University.

' If you've got a great idea for a piece of work but aren't sure what format it should be in, story, novel, radio play or film - this workshop is for you. Bring it along, talk about it for a few minutes and during the workshop you will get together with Michael and work out the best way to use it. By the end of the session, everyone will have gained experience on how to focus even the vaguest of ideas into a firm reality.'

I know there are still places available (limited) so if you want to attend then follow this link.

If you know anyone who might be interested then please pass the details on...

EDITED TO ADD- you don't need pages already written, an idea and some basic details can be enough.

As Monday is Spring Bank Holiday I'm going to be relaxing and catching up on my reading, so if it's a holiday where you are, I hope you enjoy it.

Saturday 28 May 2011

A Little Introspection Does A Writer Good...

Well it does for me.

Every three or four years I find myself getting to a sticking point in my writing and that's when I find a little in-depth analysis useful.

The last time I did this I decided I needed to learn to use description more effectively, and also try plotting a little more on my longer length stuff- even though that wasn't the natural writing process that I began with. 

When I decided that I wanted to write a novel-back in 1999- I had an idea, a few characters and occasional plot points along the way, plus the ending. (I'd set out not to have a happy ending, in fact it wasn't even going to be a romance).

I put a lot of time in and got to 40,000 words. At this stage I'd reach the end point of my original idea and it had turned into a romance. I realised that there was still a lot more story to write, but I also understood that I still had a lot to learn about the skills I needed to make the novel work.

So I set it aside and promised myself I would come back to it, then I joined my local writers group.

A few years on, more books in my chosen genre read, more experienced and able to write better I looked at that first novel again, but I just couldn't get back into it. So I started new projects instead, including another novel.
(That's where the plotting and description targets came in.)

So now I'm at another of those decision points.

I think I've just about got the description issue more or less sorted from my last set of targets. Plotting- much better but could still do with work.

Now I need to work on my characters more. I've learnt that I can't write to any extended length with just one viewpoint character- so multiple person VP is my preference for novel length.

As I mentioned on an earlier post I had flat character issues. I also realised that I'm writing stories more from a male viewpoint, whether it's a short story or longer pieces.
Admittedly I grew up with older brothers, and my own children are all male too so perhaps that explains it.

So one of my targets this time is to use more female viewpoint characters in shorter stories. And I need to work on rounding out my flat characters.

Finally, persevere.

I think that's enough targets to work on for now.

Thursday 26 May 2011

To Short Story or Not To Short Story...

I'm having one of those moments. It's a bit like those self-doubt moments but not as bad.

When I first started writing short stories (seriously, rather than just for fun) it was as much as I could do to make 1000 words. The thought of a 2000 word story would have had me shaking my head in disbelief.

Over the years I've gradually increased that figure. First it was 1200, then 1500, 1800, 2000. But now my problem is trying to keep to under 2000 words. Basically I'm failing. I think my brain and fingers are working to their own plan and consider 2500+ quite okay.

My other difficulty is that my ideas just don't stay small enough, they keep wanting to turn into much bigger projects. Okay I won't be short of ideas but it isn't helping me write shorter stories.

Perhaps I let my imagination run away with my ideas and I need to exert more control.

Maybe I need to work on one of my longer projects for a while- it's happened that way before.

Perhaps some writers are short story writers and don't want to produce a novel, so it's not unreasonable to assume there will be some for whom the reverse is true and those who want to do both.

I want to do both, but I'm realistic enough to know that if I can't get the short story right, then a successful novel is going to be even more difficult.

Well, back to the short story editing.

One day, one day...

Monday 23 May 2011

A Book to Help Me...

Well I hope it will...

I know a few writers (on a forum I contribute to) have mentioned Evan Marshall and his 'Section Sheets', so last week I had a look at Amazon to find out more. 'The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing' had a look inside option available, so I was able to see what the book covered and read an example.

I bought it from another online supplier in the end- and it popped through my letterbox this morning. So I'll be reading this over the next few days and making notes.

Back in January I got the feedback from the two novel competitions at the writers' club and it was clear that I had a problem with my characters- a character who was dead was the most interesting one and the others weren't too good- a bit flat.

I decided I needed a new approach and since then have been considering what I needed to do, but health issues have rather interfered with the process to date.

Meanwhile more ideas and characters have been stacking up. I know that's good in one way, as I'll have plenty of options to work on.

So I've resolved that as soon as I finish the current short story I'm editing- and get it sent off, I'm going to make a start on one of my longer ideas- a novella length.

I decided that the Plan just might help with my characterisation problems- and having only taken a brief flick through I can already see elements that will help me.

I know my strong area is dialogue, so I can concentrate on improving my weak points now.

I'll let you know if it works...

Have you had, or got, a weak spot in your writing? If you're willing to share, how have you tried or resolved that issue?

Now I'm off to start reading...

Friday 20 May 2011

I'm Not Crazy- I'm a Writer...

Nothing heavy for my weekend post this time.

Most writers probably wouldn't admit to strangers/non-writers that they have people hanging around in their head holding conversations and generally trying to get attention, or admit to characters even being there.
It gets you strange and worried looks if you do...

Flash back to this Wednesday just gone...

It was manuscript night at the writers' club and I'd popped down to the bar for a top-up of fizzy apple before the meeting began. Since my accident I've found climbing the stairs very tiring in the evening, so I opted for return via the lift...

As I stood there waiting, a thought popped into my brain, then the door began to slide open and I saw a body slumped in the corner with a trail of blood running from his head- don't worry the lift was actually empty.

With only a momentary pause I returned upstairs and the first thing I did was grab my notebook and without thought said 'hold on I've just got to write down the body in the lift'. There were a few smiles and jokes in response.

That is one of the joys of being among a group of writers, you can say something like that aloud and it's considered quite normal... :-)

My only worry now is why did some unknown girl slug this reasonably attractive man round the head- it's now on my to consider list...

Anyone had any moments like this when they were in less understanding company?

Thursday 19 May 2011

Kindle Direct Forums- What You Need to Know...

Author Carol Arnall- who kindly provided some further information on Kindle Direct Publishing   (in April) has recently made me aware of an issue relating to the use of the Kindle forums.

"I don't know if any of you know but have changed the rules on posting in their Kindle Discussion Forums. You have to post in the new Author Forums now otherwise your posts will be deleted and you stand a chance of being banned! I'd say read the rules first before you post in the new forum they have created."

(Like any forum there are people who abuse the rules- whether intentionally or through failure to understand and follow them; as a consequence everyone has to jump through hoops to comply to even stricter rules.)

Carol added. " A friend of mine got banned from two weeks ago for leaving his website in his post! He only posted over there once a week. They are getting even stricter because of the fly by posters. There are still threads where you can just leave a link and not say anything apart from a line about your book."

Carol has also provided two links that currently seem to be okay, here and here but do check you qualify to post on them first.

So the advice is check first, otherwise your promotion efforts could be wasted.

Just to remind everyone, this only relates to NOT

Monday 16 May 2011

A Boat on the River...

I spent two hours on the river today. Well I was inside the boat, which was fortunate as it was a bit breezy and dismal outside.

A friend was celebrating her birthday and she chose a two hour boat trip up and down (parts of) the River Trent-where still navigable, so we could enjoy sandwiches and scones as we passed by some of Nottingham's past- warehouses, canal locks leading to other once connected waterways, and the two football grounds (Nottingham Forest and Notts County).

It was interesting to see the backs of the many buildings whose frontage I'm so familiar with that I don't pay much attention to them anymore, or even think about what is behind them.

Each of the places we passed had stories attached and could give a writer ideas- I have enough ideas to deal with at the moment...

So if you ever get the chance to take this sort of river trip, a mystery tour or an open-topped bus trip around a historic city, then go, look beyond the obvious and discover...

Saturday 14 May 2011

The Time I got Flash Fiction Right...

Flash Fiction is becoming very popular, more competitions are using this format. Even the major Bridport Prize competition introduced a flash fiction category in 2010- and there's still time to enter the 2011 competition.

I have a problem with condensing a story into such a brief amount of words. Basically I am much better at writing longer pieces.

Personally if the idea inspires me then I might be able to do it, but often the problem is my ideas are too big and don't work when they're cut...

Whenever I try anything this short I refer back to my post of the 17th January this year where writer AJ Humpage kindly helped me out by explaining the essentials. You can find the link to her blog post on writing flash fiction, there.

I said I did get it right once-and as it is no longer available on the web- I'm going to post it here for you to read.

Now here's the inspiration for my story...

In 2007 all the awards ceremonies had a few celebrities wearing strapless dresses and hems that flowed out over their feet. I did wonder what would happen if someone foolishly stepped on their hem...

About a week or so after this I was listening to Radio 4 and an actress who had appeared in one of the early Star Trek episodes (the 1960's TV version) was recounting her costume disaster, it was fine until she breathed and moved, so the costume department used tape to keep her brief dress in place.

(I later discovered you can buy pre-cut tape to keep your clothes in situ, and it's great for low necklines that could expose too much flesh if you bend over. It's saved my embarrassment a few times.)

I was also inspired by a number of older well known lady celebrities who still look stunning despite their age- I'm not suggesting they went to Lola's extremes of course.

(The final line was plucked out of the air after the rest was written and got a laugh...)

The story appeared in print in the Winter 2007 edition of Scribe magazine, and between May 2010 and early May 2011 as an audio download (read by me) on the Nottingham Writers' Club website. (I even have my own MP3 copy).

(My pseudonym for the entry was Lola de Cortez.)

Positive Exposure

    When the work dried up I knew I had to do something. Who would know it was me doing the voice-over for Squeaky Clean washing up liquid?
     I made changes, finding a nice cosmetic surgeon in Harley Street; who reminded me of my third husband. I had a face lift; botox and breast enlargement, and it certainly got me noticed.
     I was booked for Parkinson, and then invited to present a BAFTA for the best Make-Up and Hair in a movie. I'd have liked something a bit more prominent, but there's always the Oscars.
     I looked amazing on the night, three inch heels, diamonds at my wrist and ears, complimenting those sweet little gems in my beehive. And the dress...a perfect grey strapless floor length silk. It was such a shame I had to tape myself into it.
     It wasn't that it didn't fit,well it was a teeny bit loose about the chest, but I couldn't let the opportunity go- it was reduced in the sales.
     Double-sided tape was all I needed, strategically placed; I even bronzed my shoulders and cleavage to give me a glow.
     If only that silly young man doing all the talking hadn't stepped on my hem. My dress parted company with my chest, and I was bared to the world.
    The next day the tabloids were covered with my moment of exposure, and I must say I looked good for 62.
     The headline blazed '60's Siren Coming Unstuck', and I've been working every day since.

© Carol Bevitt 2007

Rarely do I get such a ready-made character pop into my head, so Lola was obviously lurking, waiting to be written, just at the right time...

Friday 13 May 2011

Back to Normal Soon

As you may know Blogger has been down and some blog posts are still missing.

I was intending to post Thursday evening, but could only read, not write posts because of this Blogger issue, so the weekend item will be a little late. Fortunately I'm not missing any posts...

I'm trying to decide which of my previously published items to show you and explain what inspired the story.

So I better go and decide...

Monday 9 May 2011

An Award For My Blog...

I've recently been given the Versatile Blogger Award by Romy Gemmell- thank you.

Admittedly I've had to think what else I could say about myself  without repetition or inducing boredom...but I hope I've managed it.


1. I met my husband in a library- I was working there, he was looking for a book...

2. One of my teenage writing projects was a sci-fi saga covering 25 years and two generations. Sadly I didn't keep the numerous pages and chapters I wrote. (I have now learnt to keep everything.)

I was very influenced by the original Star Trek series at the time, which probably explains why my aliens were generally humanoid.

3. If I could nominate one book to be turned into a film or tv adaption it would be award winning author Jude Devereux's 'Sweet Liar'. The book actually came out in 1992. It is one of her Taggert family stories and it really is a shame the book didn't have the hero Mike on the cover- I merely mention the word 'muscles'...

It cleverly combines the events surrounding a murder in a 1920's nightclub with the current day, where the hero and heroine eventually solve the mystery of that night in the club (and their personal connections to it) despite the ominous signs of things going wrong- there is still a happy ending.

4. I like traditional scents-especially Rose.

5. I'm hopeless at hand-sewing. My stitches are a little neater and more even now, but when I had to do sewing in secondary school I never got beyond the second project. Actually the teacher kept making me unpick the stitching on the half slip's hem, so I really wouldn't have been any good at making clothes in the 18th century...

6. In Primary School winter PE sessions I was taught Country Dancing- we had to go across the road to the church hall, where I also attended Brownies.

7. I always watch the Eurovision Song Contest with delight and fascination, especially at some of the costumes singers and dancers turn up in. When I was little I once sat at the top of the stairs trying to listen to the contest after I'd been sent to bed at the normal time.

So now to the 7 blogs I'm awarding the Versatile Blogger Award to:

Blog Thoughts from a Broad

Rosalie Warren

My Musings


Ramblings of a Frustrated Crime Writer

Jane Retallick

Novel Thinking

Friday 6 May 2011

An Interesting Evening...Peter F Hamilton

Wednesday evening (4th May) was the Speaker's meeting at Nottingham Writers' Club. This month we were very fortunate to have Sci-fi writer Peter F Hamilton  sharing his knowledge and experience in interview form, followed by a Q & A.

writer,science fiction books
Writer Peter F Hamilton and a few of his books

We were lucky in having former club member Neil Fulwood to help us out with the interview. Neil is not only an experienced writer and poet, but has also read and enjoyed all of Peter's books, so could ask relevant questions- even if a few of them were beyond my reading scope...

I have to reluctantly admit that the nearest I usually get to sci-fi is repeats of Star Trek.

But I did pick up some quotes and useful insights that apply to all of us even if we don't write science-fiction.

Yes, he has had rejection slips just like the rest of us.

Now 'world building', Peter emphasised that he puts a lot of thought into this aspect before he writes. He needs to know how that world works, is governed and so on. He said "If I can't believe it, I have no chance of anyone else believing it."

(For the rest of us, even if we already have the world set up for us [world as it is today or in the past] we've still got to make our reader believe that the place we've set our story in is believable.)

There's no set formula to work to- each writer works their own way.

You "need to write from the heart."

"If you can't stand being criticised then don't get published."

"Every story has its own length."
(That's reassuring as I often worry about length of my longer projects.)

I didn't feel too bad when Peter said that when he starts work each day he reads the previous day's work and polishes it, then moves on engaged with the story.

(Okay I don't write every day yet, but I do re-read the previous writing session before I can get on- if I don't do that I just can't get on as something will be nagging me.)

There was a lot of information relating to sci-fi writing so if you ever get the chance to visit a convention or book signing where Peter is talking then go, you won't be disappointed.

Be warned, his books are big, but fortunately you can read many of them as  Kindle books.

Tuesday 3 May 2011

Write a Short Story for Bedtime Competition...

Here's a competition that I received details of today. Unfortunately it is only open to UK residents, so if you are overseas- sorry.

Entry is free but you must be 18 years old or over to enter. There are cash prizes: 1st £500; 2nd £300; two 3rd places £100 each. Closing date 28th October 2011, so you have plenty of time to write something.

Your story needs to be minimum 1500 words to a maximum 3000 words- no erotica or children's stories. Ideally it should be appropriate for bedtime...

You'll recognise the judges, or some of them, Della Galton, James Wong, Ann Burnett and Healthy Living magazine editor Tracy McLoughlin.

You can enter by e-mail, but do read the rules on format and pseudonym use...

All the information you need can be found here.

And good luck.

Sunday 1 May 2011

News of a new blog for girl readers...

Just a brief post about a new blog that's launched today 'Girls Heart Books'. For girls who read from 8+ to teens.

"It's a joint blog with lots of well known children's/tween's/young teens' authors on it" says 'Coping with Chloe' author Rosalie Warren.
There will be a post every day from a different author, plus news, competitions, quizzes and book reviews.

I'm all in favour of anything that encourages children and young people to read- my boys have always read fortunately- so if you have any girls in your family or friends with daughters, grand-daughters, or nieces then point them toward the Girls Heart Books blog.

And I hope the GHB blog is a great success...