Sunday 23 November 2014

Workshops and Festivals in 2015...

As I missed this year's Festival of Romance in September- it was the same weekend as my son was moving into halls at university- I was hoping that I'll be able to attend next year.

Well the dates and location have been announced.

6th to the 8th November 2015 at Stratford upon Avon in Warwickshire.

I spent many summers there going to the theatre- a whole week to visit places during the day, and in the audience at the RSC performances in the evening.

It's been a very long time since I last visited...

You can keep a watch for future details on the Festival of Romance website, here.

2015's date is in my diary already. :D

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If you're in the UK and within travelling distance of London, then you might be interested in the dates for the Women's Weekly fiction workshops being held in 2015.

I know a number of writers who have attended them and enjoyed the day- they always fill up quickly, so if you're interested get booking.

Each one day workshop costs £75, and starts with coffee and biscuits at 10 am and finishes at 4.30 pm, with an hour for lunch. 

It's held at the Blue Fin Building, in London, which readers may recognise from the magazine address.


Serial writing is running: February 9, April 20, July 3, and October 9.

Short Story: March 2, August 24, October 5, and November 9.

Crime Writing: March 23, October 2.

Twist in the Tail Short Story: April 13, September 7.

You can find out more details by clicking on the workshop date you're interested in, here. You can also book your place and pay online there too.

I'd like to go to one of the short story workshops, but then I'd also be interested in attending one of the serial writing sessions too.

Choices, choices...

Thursday 20 November 2014

Openings to Stories...

Wednesday night at the writers' club I was in charge of the evening; it was a 'Discuss and Read' session.

This month's topic was openings- whether a novel or a short story- and the idea was to bring in a book where the start grabbed you and made you want to find out more...

Writing the opening of a story?
I took along the latest issue of the Woman's Weekly Fiction Special as there were a few interesting opening paragraphs that immediately made you want to read on- well a few of the older men didn't find them intriguing, but they weren't the target market of the magazine! :D

It was interesting to compare the openings of 'The 39 Steps' by John Buchan, written as a serial in the summer of 1915 before being published as a book a few months later, and Michael Frayn's, 'Towards the End of Morning' originally published in 1967.

Both these books didn't follow the grab your reader in quite the way it would be now. They were a more subtle winding of tendrils around the reader, luring them in out of curiosity rather than an outright, yes I want to know more now reaction.

 I had that, I want to know more now reaction to a modern sci-fi/fantasy type opening read by one of the members- when I can get in touch with her and find out the title and author, I'll let you know.

Like the other two, the opening was centred around the thoughts of the viewpoint character, but in this case you knew something was going to happen to this one any moment, and it wouldn't be good.

Obviously the writing style of those 20th century written novels were different to the current demands. Novel lengths were shorter, and long paragraphs weren't frowned upon because that was the norm.

Openings are never easy, and I do wonder whether these earlier writers went through the same indecision with the start of their novels, that writers nowadays often experience.

Personally I couldn't narrow down my choice of openings that have stayed with me, from all the novels I've read...

Do you have a favourite opening to a novel that has stayed with you?

Image courtesy of Nuttapong via

Monday 17 November 2014

It's National Short Story Week...

The 17th to 23rd November is National Short Story Week in the UK.

After years of decline the short story has had a resurgence, and the organisation behind this week, works hard to encourage and promote short stories, as do the organisations that support it.

Collections of short stories are becoming very popular, as they can be turned into an e-book, or find a home with a small publisher like Alfie Dog Fiction.

Many of my blogger friends (Patsy Collins, Rosemary Gemmell and Teresa Ashby to name just a few) have had lots of stories published, and they are now giving them another outing in collections.

If you pop over to Sue Moorcroft writes you'll be able to find out more about Wendy Clarke and her new short story collection, "Room in Your Heart". Wendy's name will be recognisable to anyone who has read The People's Friend magazine.

Do you remember a few months back, I was going to try and get an entry done for The Historic House Association Short Story Competition?

In the end I didn't have time, but you can find out who won, the names of the runners-up, and also those who were shortlisted and highly commended, via the National Short Story Week website, here.

Writing short stories are a good way to learn the skills you need to eventually write serials and even  novels. While the parameters are larger in a novel, the same skills in dialogue, narrative and characterisation are needed.

The wonderful thing about short stories is that you can read them anywhere, whether you have five or ten minutes, or an hour...

Long live the short story...

Thursday 13 November 2014

It's November So It's Bad Sex in Fiction Time...

I admit, I do enjoy reading about the shortlisted entries for the annual Bad Sex in Fiction award-the winner is announced 3rd December.

Some years the entries get more publicity than others, and I suspect 2014 might get more than usual as there are a few well known names among them: Kirsty Wark, Wilbur Smith and Michael Cunningham.

You can read the shortlisted entries in this Guardian article. You can even take part in their own vote on who you think should win.

If you have missed this before now, the Literary Review's purpose for the award- in it's 22nd year- is to bring attention to, "poorly written, perfunctory or redundant passages of sexual description in modern fiction, and to discourage them."

Now admittedly, these extracts are only a small part of the book- I've just had to rewrite that sentence, as my original words sounded like a deliberate double entendre... :D

This year's nominees include Man Booker Prize winners, current and past; and a former winner of the Pulitzer Prize. Fortunately these high tokens of literary esteem don't take bad sex scenes into account in the judging process.

Having read through each extract in this Guardian article I went from thinking that Kirsty Wark's wasn't that bad, but as I read the rest it quickly became: good grief, that's really bad- and the really bad ones- five in my opinion.

My nominations for possible winners: 'From 'DD-MM-YY' In Things to Make and Break', by May-Lan Tan, and 'The Hormone Factory', by Saskia Goldschmidt.

You can find out more on the Literary Review webpage here.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Learning from Feedback...

Finally had time to grab a moment to blog.

November is always a busy month with family birthdays, organising for Christmas, and the run up to Awards Night and Christmas Party at the writers' club.

I took on the role of Prose Secretary around this time last year just as a stop-gap, but I decided to carry on with the job, as next April I complete my three year stint as Chairman and have to hand over to whomever is standing for election to the role.

Occasionally I also get an opportunity to judge a competition- which I've just done.

Feedback is a vital tool in enabling writers to improve, and it was while I was typing up my notes that I realised how much I've learnt, not just from reading and writing, but from the generosity of other writers giving their time and experience- whether as a competition judge, during workshops, or even informative blog/website posts.

When I think back to my manuscripts 12 years ago, I can now see how much I've learnt- and still continue to learn of course.

I don't think we can ever have a total disconnection from our stories and characters, having lived with them so closely during the writing process. So a competition judge will be reading our work with a fresh perspective and will pick up the faults we might have missed. Because we know that's what our characters are thinking, it's easy to miss getting that over to our readers...

So in just under a month I'll be handing back a number of manuscripts from the club's annual competitions- ghost stories, romance, radio, and this year's non-fiction, article writing- and the first thing the majority of the writers will do is read the comments.

Admittedly we don't need to follow the judge's feedback completely, as there's bound to be things that we don't agree with- I was devastated one year when a judge said that one of my character's who was dead was the most interesting, and then the next judge who read it liked it, and awarded it first place.

My current work in progress was entered in this year's bi-annual Romance Novel competition, so the judge's comments on the synopsis and first 3 chapters will be very helpful when I get to the revision stages.

I'll tell you how my entry got on after the December 3rd evening...

Meanwhile there's still a lot to do, and writing to get on with. :-)