Monday 29 April 2013

Detailed Instruction Are Hard to Write...

Essential: they have to be written better than flat-pack instructions...

Now I've been having a busy few days in a writing related way- must add to my word count.

Nottingham Writers' Club have a one-day workshop taking place on the 11th May, (plug, plug :-) ) but with all the road closures and tram track construction going on, it's been necessary to update our direction information.

Issue one: You can no longer use the walkway from inside the station to get to the tram platform. You need to leave the station and get to the tram from outside- down the road in this case...

Issue two: The station building is undergoing a massive update, so entrance and exits are different.

So I needed to write out detailed instructions for anyone arriving by train and needing to know how to get to the workshop via the tram.

It was tough.

You have to start with putting yourself in the role of the person needing to access the tram- not something I need to do as I use the bus.
Getting left or right correct.
Instructions to get to the access point for the tram via stairs/ lift depends on whether you come out the front of the building- through a hardboard walk-through tunnel, or via the side exit- nearer to where you have to go...

Once you get off the tram it's a brief walk. But it only takes being vague about where you cross over the road and the hapless writer could end up in the cinema or the shopping centre, so it does become a little bit like dot to dot with a few landmark buildings thrown in to help.

Almost there.
Crossing the road without getting run down by the traffic coming round the corner, it takes you a little out of the way you need to go, so remember to say, go right then immediately left.

I had to mentally imagine what would be seen, and produce the right description to ensure the walker looked in the correct direction; one minute you're following the road and then you suddenly have to ignore it - as it turns away from where you're going.

The last fifty yards was rewritten three times!

And then I began editing- well it was a bit long, and people might give up reading it.

Changing one word for a much better descriptive word, then realising that no, the first one was the best, and yes I could make that sentence shorter...

Finally I was finished. I tell you, writing fiction is much easier and less headache inducing.

Now I just hope the powers-that-be don't make any more changes between now and the 11th May...

Thursday 25 April 2013

Fortunately I Can Sit Down to Write...

I've been suffering since last week.
Apple Tree in Spring

I woke up last Saturday morning with a pain in my left foot- looked like my instep was bruised as it was red and I could only hobble on that leg. :(

So I was a pitiful sight getting round the garden with my secateurs trying to help with the 'spring' (ha ha) tidy up- that should have been completed a month ago!

I've just about stopped hobbling now and can flex my foot without discomfort. But I could have done without the busy week as it limited my writing time, and meant I've not given my foot much rest..

But I've made up for it, today I added 897 words to yesterday's 482. The novella is about to pick up speed as I head toward the last three or four chapters. I'm on chapter 12 currently.

The break from writing over Easter did help me get my thoughts in line, and the content of a couple of chapters have changed order from my original outline.

I have decided that working on the skeleton of the first draft does seem to work for me.

Scene order and content, along with dialogue has been my framework, with any detail where I knew what I needed to know already, written in as I've gone along.

I've got some questions noted too- like yesterday, my heroine Sarah, was weeding the vegetable patch when the baddie turns up.
We have lots of tools for gardening nowadays, but what did they use in the early 1800's- and could it have been used as a defensive weapon if needed? I thought holding a nearby spade in front of her might work, but were they heavy, easy to lift?

Fortunately I have a few reference books which might have details, otherwise I'll be Googling...

Draft 2 is going to be a lot harder work as quite a few of the chapters lack description, and I have one scene that I marked in place on the manuscript, but haven't written yet- as the description elements in the scene need to be right.

It's very true about only ever needing about 10% of your research in the book, but you still need to understand the other 90%...

Draft 3 will be the checking for inconsistencies, plot holes, corrections; then Draft 4 will be editing.

Once I'm at that stage I have a couple of readers to give me feedback- if I've missed anything, or something isn't understood, they'll tell me.

Meantime I have a few competition entries for the writers' club to get on with...

Image courtesy of Vlado and

Saturday 20 April 2013

Spring Into Opportunities with Wells...

Today has been wonderful. Sunshine and a comfortable temperature has finally allowed the spring tidy-up in the garden to take place (too busy to stop and take photos).

Mind you not everything survived. Three frogs have had to be buried after expiring in the garden at some point. Not sure if they were victims of old age or all the snow and bad weather.

The hawthorn has suddenly opened it's leaves, though it is a month behind last year.

There's now a wheelie bin full of dead branches, and old wood from last year. The fruit bushes may actually produce their crops at the appropriate times this summer, rather than a month or two early. :-)

And just as the gardens are springing into life, lots of competitions are around.

I'm considering entering a short story for one of the Wells Festival of Literature competitions. One recognisable name from the judges is Della Galton.

There's a competition for poetry- judged by Sean Borodale. Short stories and a Crime Novel.

The Festival is the 11th to the 19th October this year; there's a great selection of speakers- have a look here.

If you're interested in entering any of the categories, have a look here.

You can enter online or by post. Deadline 31st July. You can find details of the reasonable fees here.

And yes there is prize money for those who get judged 1st, 2nd, 3rd. For the poetry and short story First Prize £500, Second Prize £200, Third Prize £100.

If you happen to have a crime novel ready then you may find the prize for the winner very attractive...

"The winning entry will be read by a major publisher and by a leading agent.  In addition there will be a cash prize of £100.  The judge may also arrange for an exceptional runner-up entry to be read by an agent or a publisher."

(The judge for this competition is Janet Laurence.)

But note for the crime novel competition: "Entrants should not have had a full-length work of fiction published before."

The prize-giving is on Sunday 13th October 2013.

I've been to Wells a couple of times over the years, but not to the literary festival.

If you enter, fingers crossed you do well.

Tuesday 16 April 2013

Back To Writing...

It's always hard get back into routine after a break, and that certainly goes for writing too.

I was at a difficult point in my manuscript just before the Easter holidays and having had a break for a few weeks, I've had the necessary time to sort out what was bothering me- my heroine had been getting very introspective in the last chapter and I wasn't sure if I was letting her get away from the plot.

But with time away, I've realised I'm just at that point where she is changing from who she was at the start of the story, to whom she will become by the end.

And the next part of the story is going to be hard work as both my protagonists are in that changing process. Sarah is the one with the problems now, while Hugh's initial source of conflict has been resolved. But of course, he isn't go to have the rest of the story to relax in- he will still have issues to resolve... :-)

Now I'm feeling comfortable with my writing process, I'm going to try adding in some other writing.

Last year, I did say I was going to enter more of the competitions run by the writers' club I go to- and as Chairman, I really should be leading by example...

So, I have deadlines for handing entries in by the first few days of July- these are annual competitions.

One is a new non-fiction competition for members; we need to write a piece on what kind of future for the printed book- I already have a few ideas for that one.

I also want to try the story suitable for radio. There was a useful short column in Writing Magazine recently which will be very helpful. And I'll be checking out the BBC's Writers Room pages.

I do have a deadline for a short story competition in early June, so I better get my ideas jotted down...

And in a couple of months I'll be performing a piece of flash fiction (already written) at the second 'Fringe at The Ship' event, on the last Saturday of the Lowdham Book Festival. (The festival runs throughout June.)

So the next few months will be busy.

Saturday 13 April 2013

The Times/Chicken House Competition...

This is quite a high profile competition which has been running for a few years now.

When The Times went behind a paywall I did think this competition would suffer, but I'm pleased to see it is still running despite the difficulties in finding the info.

The entry cost is high- £15, to cover the administration costs for the large number of entries received- but if you do get into the longlist you will get an editorial report on your entry.

"Your full-length manuscript (no more than 80,000 words, with a suggested minimum of 30,000 words), suitable for children aged between 7 and 18, must be received by the closing date of November 1, 2013."

But you will also need to include: a brief synopsis- no more than one page and it should give an overview of the whole story etc. A submission letter explaining the book's appeal to children, and a plot plan. (see the requirements in the terms and conditions).

There will be a longlist of 20 authors announced in January 2014. Then in March 2014 the shortlist of 5 entries will be announced. The revelation of who has won is just listed as spring 2014, but t&c's state expected result about the 29th March 2014.

"The winner will be the entrant whose story, in the opinion of the judges, demonstrates the greatest entertainment value, quality and originality.
The prize is the offer of a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House, with a royalty advance of £10,000, subject to a signed contract."

And these terms are really important; but it's good to see self-published books aren't excluded.

"Entrants must be aged 18 or over. One entry per person. Entries must be submitted by the author, not an agent. Entries must be the original work of the entrant and not previously commercially published and distributed, however, self-published works are allowed. The entrant must not have previously commercially published any whole children’s novel in any country. Resubmission of previous entries (excluding previous winners) is accepted. Entries must be written in English, picture books and graphic novels will not be accepted and illustrations will not be considered. " (Details from The Times here.)

But do read all the detailed terms and conditions here on the Chicken House web pages. (And note number 11.)

You can't enter by e-mail, entries have to be received by post, so don't leave it to the last few days before the deadline...

The instructions on the Chicken House terms and condition pages are very precise, even down to how your manuscript should be presented.

There's an alternative prize for the best entry if the judges decide that none of the finalists are of a standard to be offered the stated contract.

This is a serious competition to enter, so double-check you are fulfilling the terms and conditions to the letter before sending your entry... And good luck.

*   *   *
But if you aren't ready for the Chicken House competition yet, or just starting out, then you might want to consider a workshop.
11th May, 10am to 4pm, Writing for Children- is it kids stuff? With Coventry based author, and Raring2Read winner, Ann Evans.
The cost is subsidised, so you will only be paying £20 for the day, including tea and coffee.
If you're interested download the booking form here and follow the instructions on the bottom of the sheet. 

Monday 8 April 2013

Spring Is Here...

You may have noticed that there were no blog posts last week. I was quite busy and very tired, so posting and reading other blogs just fell by the wayside...

Immediately after the Easter weekend, I had to get a few things sorted for the local writers club AGM. I was elected Chairman last April - so I have two more years to go before I have to step down. But there's still a lot to do, keeping the club viable and modern; moving forward into another decade...

Writers have so many opportunities to develop their craft nowadays via the internet, online groups and forums, a wide variety of competitions, courses and workshops, that it is getting harder for many groups to continue to attract members.

There are still a lot of groups around, some parts of the country fair better than others, but don't overlook them. Some will have visiting authors you might like to hear talk and to get their latest book personally signed.

When Nottingham Writers' Club was founded in 1927 life was much simpler for it's members. Short stories were read widely, and novels were what we now look on as novellas.

Publishers worked with their authors and didn't demand instant success to keep on producing the individual writer; and newspapers - there were lots of them in the first half of the 20th century - actively looked for articles and fillers.

Even in the 1930's writers were still writing to future deadlines. I do think this suggestion from the club magazine, Scribe, in July 1935, was a bit extreme...

"Now is the time to write your Christmas stories and articles. If you find it difficult to conjure up the appropriate atmosphere try sitting in a cold room wearing a heavy coat, with your feet in a cold bath."

The modern world does have some advantages after all... :-)

Do you think a writers' club or group still has a place in today's writing world?

See: for author talks, workshops and other info.