Showing posts with label excercises. Show all posts
Showing posts with label excercises. Show all posts

Thursday 22 February 2018

Competitions and Romance Writing...

I'm catching up and getting back into a routine- slowly.

Last week was very busy, as I was 50% of a talk given at Nottingham Writers' Club (on Valentines Day) about Competitions:Do's and Don'ts, along with the club's magazine co-editor Jill Walmsley.
Ready to talk about

While Jill covered the technical side of getting a competition entry ready, I did the "business" side as Jill described it.

The where to find competitions handout with bullet points filled an A4 page ; also rights ( I substituted the term, 'earning potential') in terms and conditions/rules, so they could see how specific terms were worded and what it could mean (in some cases) for reusing their entry elsewhere; free entry versus pay to enter was definitely a thorny issue.

All the topics created lively discussion...

*   *   *
Three days later, it was Saturday afternoon writing Romance with local author Clare Harvey. Her books are WW2 Drama.

Clare Harvey & her

There was a mix of discussion, writing prompts and reading extracts from Clare's books for each topic.

I found the 'first scene' writing exercise really useful, and it's given me a few possible new openings for my WIP. I've not been totally happy with it as it stands, but it wasn't totally hopeless, I just needed a slightly different starting point, bringing my hero into the scene much sooner.

Getting characters together was a bit of a struggle. It's definitely easier in a contemporary novel, but writing with an historical setting you need to work harder to manipulate the possibilities against the the social behaviour of the time and situation.

Writing sex scenes are about more than part A slots into part B... We all agreed using the 5 senses was important, but between us all we came up with enough to fill the flip-pad.

What everyone came
up with...
Clare had read out a couple of extracts from books by other writers to show how different sex scenes could be and the impression each gives...

There was a phrase used in the sex scene in Clare's book, The Night Raid, that only a couple of the writers attending had ever heard of before.

It was "don't go all the way to Blackpool!"  (One of those bits of research that the writer discovered along the way...)

All the writing prompts for the afternoon were simple, but effective, just keep the pen moving for 5 minutes, write and don't stop to think.

I will try that again, perhaps with a short story.

It was a fun afternoon, and I know I wasn't the only one who went away inspired and with a buzzing brain.

If you ever get the opportunity to go along to an event with Clare, you will enjoy it...

Thursday 15 September 2016

Back to Work and Poetry...

An orderly routine at home has been restored with the academic year beginning, so that means undisturbed writing time.

Well that's the general plan...

I've bought my portable hard drive so I now have an ultimate back-up;  as I retype my Nottinghamshire short novel it's being saved onto it as well as the memory stick.

(Plus anything else I don't want to lose has been saved.)

Three forms of saving must be enough?

As friends on Facebook will have seen, I discovered that not only had I lost the first three chapters of draft 2, I had lost the whole 1st draft too.

The situation could have been horrible, but as mentioned last time, I print out each chapter as I complete it, so there is a copy of the completed first draft to work from.

Surprisingly I didn't panic, that is after the initial moment of horror at discovering the file was gone.

Rather than retyping the 1st draft again- which would take me too long- I decided the most practical solution is to retype the first three chapters from draft 2 (as planned), then once I start chapter four I'll rewrite using my print copy and the notes I'd previously made for draft 2.

The way forward...
Prevents me wasting time and ensures I still make progress despite the set-back.

As I read through and retype I've also started compiling reminder notes on a file card for each chapter. Not something I've tried before, but in the circumstances I thought I'd see if it helps with the rewriting and editing of future drafts.

Being open to new ideas is good. Which now ties into the poetry item...

I attended a short workshop about writing poetry (last night at the writers' club). The aim of the session was to encourage the attendees that even if they didn't think they could write a poem, they could discover methods that would help them do so.

Negativity was not allowed.

Admittedly by the end of the evening I was quite enthusiastic about working on the last poem I wrote, about an old glass bottle with the chemist's name - we were given a selection of objects to choose from and the little glass bottle immediately drew my attention.

Whether I can actually make a decent poem out of it I have no idea, but I said I'd try.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles &

Sunday 24 April 2016

Workshop- Writing Historical Fiction...

Saturday- St George's Day and Shakespeare's birthday I spent indoors at a workshop- except for a brief foray outside for food and to admire St. George, and his two fellow knights on horseback outside the Council House, as I passed by.

Author Judith Allnatt was running a writing historical fiction workshop, held in the events room at the Nottingham branch of Waterstones. The events room actually has a name- the Alan Sillitoe Room.

(It's on the top floor and is large enough for a book launch/ talk if you ever have need of one.)

There was also a good supply of tea and coffee to keep us alert...

I must admit that I always find workshops a little scary, as well as worthwhile.

Ready to workshop...
Scary because I worry I'll freeze when it comes to writing exercises, but thankfully I didn't have too much problem. And there were times when a few of us attending found a particular item problematic, but that was okay.

The warm-up bit was fun as we were able to choose from a selection of postcards of shoes (from assorted time periods) and used that as a starting point for creating a character. It was ideal for me as so often visuals connect with the room of waiting characters in my sub-conscious. The pair of shoes I chose were from 1912.

There was one exercise I will definitely use again. My new character, how do they sleep, what is around them in their bedroom or room they sleep in? My character didn't have a first name at this point, but I was soon realising her circumstances were dire.

When you think about it, the place where you sleep is very telling, as are the objects around you, their neatness or an incongruous item or two.

I'd never thought about it that way before, but I will now.

By the time we reached the senses, I knew my character's name, and a better idea of the time setting- late Victorian rather than early 20th century.

(This was when a missing scene from my work in progress popped up and resolved one of my niggle points.)

Judith read an extract from her third and lately released in paperback, The Silk Factory, to provide an example of how the senses could be used.

We looked at published extracts and how they convey information without it being obvious, even if you don't know what event it may refer to- such as a national/world event.

As the workshop drew to a close Timelines were mentioned,  and between us we compiled a long list of research resources. There were a few I will be looking into, especially

With time running out there was a Q&A to finish.

Everyone seemed to leave inspired to continue writing their historical novels.

Personally, it was enjoyable, I learnt more, but it also reassured me that I'm doing the right things for the historical side of my romances.

Have you been to any workshops this year?

image courtesy of noppasinw &

Thursday 16 July 2015

All Went Well With the Names Session...

Pleased to say that the session I organised for yesterday's writers' club meeting went well.

Last month one of the writers had mentioned that they had 'holding names' for their main characters, and a couple of others agreed they did this too.

Personally it's not something I've ever done. I need at least a first name that is right for the man or woman of my imagination before I start writing.

But we all work in different ways, so if a holding name works for you then go with it. Sometimes it will be the right name. The important thing is that the character in the next story doesn't have the same name too...

I'd cut people images from old magazines, flyers and brochures (before they went in the recycling bin) so there was a mixture of ages, even action shots- a runner, and a climber.

I made two tables each for male and female names -  a mixture of traditional, modern, or shortened names. Plus I had two name books, an old one from 1991, and another from 2011 - classic and modern- it also included names from other nationalities. So if anyone wanted to browse for a different name choice they could.

Finally for anyone who wasn't sure of what a character bio was and what sort of things would be included I created a short explanation and half a dozen basic questions (with an example) to get started.

As I've found when doing the bios for my characters, there will often be a statement or remark that leads me to ask, why? It can get an interesting response, or even another direction for the character to go...

It was satisfying to see a room full of writers (of all levels) creating bios and sharing their experiences and views on naming characters with one another. And then hearing the results that the images had inspired was very interesting- a few had the potential to build a story around their new character because they had answers to why their character looked/acted the way they did.

I'll be back to the latest work in progress next week when my OH goes back to work- he's been busy in the garden tidying up, now the nesting birds have gone.

So I took a couple of fruit pictures, and below it's the Gooseberries. Even fruit bushes have names, and this one is 'Careless'.

A Gooseberry bush...

Saturday 20 September 2014

Getting Back into Routine...

Normal service resumes from today...

Last weekend was very busy with shopping for last-minute items, and helping my son pack up everything he needed to take with him to university.

Sunday was a very emotional day. Friends had warned me I would cry, but I'd promised myself I'd try not to, but that was a fail on my part. I did shed a few tears, and for a good few hours felt like a piece of my chest was missing.

All is well and he starts lectures on Monday. He's not burnt anything yet, or set the fire alarms off- though a few have already this past week- including one at about 4 am.

So now I'm getting back to my current work in progress, and discovering more about my characters as I write. I've realised my heroine isn't as subdued as I thought she was at the start; and my hero has a cheeky side to his character I didn't know about...

Wednesday evening (17th) I did a session at the writers' club on Manuscript Presentation. It was only meant to be about 40 minutes (with time for manuscript reading in the second half) but every aspect generated discussion, and while it was good that everyone could share their experiences, it took up the whole meeting.

To show how important it was to really read every word and line looking for errors before sending, I gave everyone a brief exercise.

I used the first 153 words of Pride and Prejudice printed out with the punctuation and sentence structure that Jane Austen would have been familiar with. It's an opening most people will recognise.

The one thing I didn't do was remove any commas, as they can be tricky. Austen's language is much more formal and drawn out than nowadays, so I was sure we would have all disagreed on where any removed commas should have gone. So I limited it to creating spelling errors, missing words and general punctuation errors.

Some attendees were finished quite quickly, while others took longer. When it appeared everyone was done we went through line by line, with the victims  volunteers saying what errors they had found.

There were only 7 to find, and while many did find them all, others missed 1 or 2. So it was a good exercise to finish with.

I have great respect for all those writers who regularly do workshops and talks, as it takes a lot of thought and preparation time before the event even takes place.

Honestly, those first ten minutes were scary, but I was fine after that... :)

Monday 13 May 2013

My Workshop Experience- Writing for Children...

First, I must say a big thank you to Ann Evans who ran the workshop for Nottingham Writers' Club on Saturday.

It was only a group of 10, but it did mean we could ask lots of questions as we went along.

Now I don't write for children, but sometimes I do need to have children in my stories- as Sarah, the heroine in my novella is having memory flashes and dreams/nightmares from when she was a child, I'd been finding it very difficult to convey the thoughts and language of a 10-12 year when she's experiencing these moments.

So I was hoping that elements of the workshop would help me get a grip on that.

We began with picture books and worked up...

I learnt that the pages are spreads, so if you open the book and have two pages in front of you, that is a spread.

I'd never really thought about how you would lay out a manuscript for a picture book, but it is nothing like a standard manuscript; it's broken up into stages, so the editor knows what the visual clues are (for the illustrator) and the text for each page...

The language use and sentence construction needed for the younger age range proved that it is as hard work as a longer length work.

There was discussion on the skills needed for producing stories suitable for older children who have a lower reading ability. The exciting stories required by their age, but the text not being as complex as you'd usually get. These are referred to as Hi-lo stories.

Writing for young adults did seem to be popular- and it is an expanding market...

There were exercises to do and it was the last set that gave me the breakthrough with Sarah.
We did bullet points about our character- character traits and so on. But we had to include their aim- either for the day or their life, and the thing they fear.

Now Sarah fears storms, so that was easy enough. But as I slowly began to tune into Sarah as a child, I recalled my own care-free childhood around the same age, and like most children wanted to grow-up to be like my mum.
In the past life wasn't as complex as today, so our parents were our role models, who we aspired to be like, so I'm sure Sarah would have felt the same...

As the exercise progressed I found there was a depth to Sarah I hadn't been aware of, and in doing so I discovered why she is so concerned about an aspect of her friends lives in the present.

I will certainly be doing this again, with one of my secondary characters who is a bit two-dimensional at the moment. I haven't quite found the key to him...

We had a variety of discussions, including age ranges and book lengths. Nothing seems hard and fast with lengths, as a publisher may have specific requirements for a particular country/market.

So generally: Ann suggested; picture books approximately 300 words.

4-5 year old- books with line drawings, 1,800-2,000 words or less. At this point parents will be reading the book to their child/children, and then the children will eventually be able to read the book themselves.

7-9 years old- 12,000-25,000 as an average.

9-12 years old- 25,000-60,000.

But clearly every child is different. Consider how many younger age range children were reading Harry Potter tomes- each book seemed to get thicker with a larger word count than the previous one...

While I may never write books for children, I'm not going to forget that the back story of each of my main characters includes their childhood influences and experiences.

After all our childhood is a part of who we become later...

Thursday 19 January 2012

Best Laid Plans and Words..

This week just hasn't gone as I planned.

The plan for this week was: Monday- do any admin and any other outstanding tasks; Tuesday and Wednesday- concentrate on my Dorset novel.

Unfortunately one of my sons developed a bad infection in his injured knee-the result of  a slide on the AstroTurf in P.E last Friday. It was serious enough to need antibiotics, and of course he then experienced a few of the known side effects of the medication, usually whenever he moved about- dizziness and nausea. So he was home and I just couldn't concentrate as much as I needed to, when my brain was in worrying Mum mode rather than Writer mode...

This week was also manuscript night at the local writers' club.

I always enjoy hearing other writers' work, and Wednesday night's manuscript meeting turned into an interesting evening. A club competition judge had told a member that her monologue was not a monologue, but a story, and she wanted to know why her entry (that was then read out) wasn't the monologue she believed she'd written.

One of the long term members Phil C. suggested a brilliant description of what a monologue is- he calls it a 'think-alogue'.

I was leading the meeting last night, and was fortunate that everyone joined in, giving helpful feedback to the members reading their work (especially when they had specific knowledge of a targeted publication, subject or of a genre) and willingly sharing their insights.

Writers' groups don't suit everyone, but I know that I've learnt a great deal over the years from published members and visiting writers alike. Being able to enter competitions- especially in the first few years- where my efforts were among 8-14+ others, I didn't feel as intimidated and put off trying something that I might not have attempted without that impetus.

It's all about progressing as a writer and gaining confidence in your abilities, and it does take time.

Even now I'm still learning...

Friday 1 July 2011

Keeping Track of My Progress...

My writing time has always been limited so I've set targets for many years, but circumstances take over and targets are missed- or just abandoned...

So I decided that I'd start a new system with my novella. I'd keep a writing log.

At the start of a writing session the first thing I do is open my log - a Word document- and put in the session number, the date and the intended writing, then the time I start writing. Then I just reduce it to the bottom tray so it can't be forgotten about at the end.

Obviously when I finish I make sure I have a printed copy of the work done as well as the copy on my computer and a memory stick (just in case anything happens to the computer).
The final bit is to fill in the finish time of that session, save it and close the files.

So far this has been the most successful method I've tried and I'll be doing it with my short stories and novels too.
(Previously I've tried this system with a notebook but I just kept forgetting to put the details in.)

Now not only will I be able to see how I'm progressing, but by the time I've finished I'll have an idea of how long particular types of writing take me. So in future I can plan out my time better and ensure that I've given myself long enough to meet competition deadlines...

Too often I've intended to do a particular project and found I don't have enough time for it. (I have to say I can't just manage 10-20 minutes here and there- it just doesn't work for me...)

For now the log is a useful tool...

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Poetry and Me...

As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I don't write poetry. (I have read and enjoyed poetry by Byron, Keats, Tennyson and the occasional piece by Robert Frost.)

Now I admit I did try writing it last year. One of our best poets in the Writers' Club held a workshop to encourage more potential entrants to the monthly poetry competition.

I foolishly said I would try. Even more foolishly I promised that I would finish the poem and enter it into one of the 'open' category competitions that had a deadline of two months hence.

The entry went in and the judge made a few positive comments, but I think he was just trying to be encouraging- at least he didn't say it was rubbish...

Now you may wonder why I'm talking about poetry. Well tonight I am in the Chairman's seat at the writers' club, and the guest speaker is poet Carole Coates.

Viv, who arranged the booking, mentioned something about everyone needing pen and paper. I think there might be a practical element later in the evening.
As I will be sat beside the speaker I won't be able to hide, so I think I'd better quickly brush up on my poetry terminology. :-)


I survived.

I enjoyed the readings, and then after the break we did a number of simple exercises. The free writing pieces did actually give me ideas and I'm sure once my brain has worked on the phrase I wrote- " The curse of DNA" I might be able to construct something. Though I suspect that will turn into a story-eventually.

But to be honest, I will never be a poet...