Showing posts with label skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label skills. Show all posts

Thursday 22 September 2016


Admittedly, first thing in the morning my motivation is poor, but once I've had breakfast, and my muscles have warmed up properly, my motivation gets going.

As I've been editing a story for a club competition, I could see what I needed to cut, and asked myself, what was my character's motivation for what they're doing.
Getting Motivated...

I think I've got to the core of the problem.

I'm going to write down the motivations for my main characters in my Nottinghamshire story. Although I think I know what they are, I've never actually written them down.

Reading this useful post on the Writers Helping Writers site, it got me thinking about my current hero and heroine's motivations, and those of my 'villain' too. So I'll be taking time to check that I've not missed any of the points mentioned in that Character Motivation post...

Like any writer I have a few essential (writing) reference books that get regular use: a dictionary and my Cassell Dictionary of Word Histories; and when I'm trying to grasp particular aspects of my characters, but I'm unsure of whether one is more suitable than the other, then I will dip into The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Expression, or The Negative Trait Thesaurus: A Writer's Guide to Character Flaws.

I have the Kindle version of Emotion Amplifiers too- it's a free e-book.

But however useful these books are, it still comes down to me, sitting down at my desk and tapping away at the keyboard to get the stories written.

So I'm off to get on with finishing the short story- motivation on full throttle...

image courtesy of supakitmod &

Thursday 21 January 2016

Changing Voice...

As I've been attempting to revise a short story that has been sitting on my computer for a while - it won one of the writers club short story competitions a couple of years ago - I've been struggling a little.

It's not that I can't sort out the edits that are needed, it's just that I've not got the same voice as I had then.

For the past eighteen months to two years I've been concentrating on my longer stories, and now have two first drafts.

Slipping into Serena Lake mode isn't that difficult, because writing a story set over 200 years ago requires a different mind-set and style of expression, as speech patterns and the meanings of many words and phrases used are very different to modern life.

Coming back to the first draft of my Nottinghamshire short novel I was back into that voice within an hour.

But now with the short story I can hear the differences in my current voice, to the one two years ago, and it's quite disconcerting.

I suppose it's part of developing as a writer, learning, and being open to trying different things.

So at the end of my unsatisfactory short story editing session I considered my choices.

a) Abandon the story completely and forget about it.

b) Carry on with the editing and hope it sorts itself out.

c) Rewrite the whole thing, keeping the good bits and taking out or adapting the bits I needed to edit anyway - and it will all be the current voice.

Obviously I chose c).

I know b) won't work, and the story deserves another chance before I resort to a).

While I'm rewriting it, I may actually lose the 300 odd words to get it down to the 1,000 word length...


Changing sky...

Thursday 1 October 2015

Hitting the Deadline...

I did it!

My entry into the New Talent Award was emailed to the competition address this afternoon, and the small entry fee paid.

The competition is part of the Love Stories Awards, and administered by the Kate Nash Literary Agency.

For anyone who may have missed the details, the competition was part of this year's Festival of Romance, but when the festival weekend was cancelled, the new talent competition carried on under the Love Stories banner.

This year's competition is looking for writers of the future, so I really couldn't ignore it...

I've learnt a lot from the experience of editing the first chapter for my entry, which will help me in the future when I'm editing my other stories.

A couple of weeks ago when I gave up on my first choice and opted for my Nottinghamshire story, I didn't think there was too much to do. But I was so wrong.

I hadn't realised how much I've learnt since I finished that first draft, nor how the characters had continued to develop while I was away from them.

All that was needed was an opening chapter, nothing else, and as I was almost ready to start the revisions on the Nottinghamshire story anyway, I had nothing to lose by trying.

Well four versions later I was ready to do the final checks this morning (Thursday). The maximum word count was 2,500 words, though I was a couple of hundred under that by the time I finished.

After every set of changes I made, I read the chapter aloud, so five hours later, when it was ready to send, I think I'd gone through it vocally ten times...

It won't be perfect, but it was as good as I could get it for now.

Of course I'd like to make the shortlist, but if I don't, it won't be the end of the world. I still have the rest of the story to revise and edit, and as I've learnt over the past fortnight, change can be good.

I'm looking forward to a restful weekend, then I can get back to creating the happy ending for the couple in my contemporary romance. Once that first draft is complete and put aside, I'll be back to the historical and chapter 2... :-)

Sunday 27 September 2015

Getting On With It - Editing...

After my down spell last week I'm pleased to say equilibrium has been restored and I'm getting on with the first chapter rewrite.

Keeping Balanced...
The deadline for the competition is Thursday night, and I honestly don't know if I will have it ready in time. It's fortunate entry is by email so I don't have to take the post into the equation.

I experienced one of those editing moments where I cut a phrase-well actually a couple of lines that I thought were good. But looking at them closer, they just didn't work.

When I stop worrying about the editing and just go with it, I find the analytical editing side of my brain switches in, but not to the exclusion of the creative part.

The longer you are away from a writing project, the clearer you can see it when you come back to it.

As the weekend rarely gives me quiet time to write I've started to use that noisy time to do all the other things that lurk around the edges of my conscious, as it helps clear my mind for the editing.

I've created a 20th century Fashion and Beauty board on Pinterest. One of the ideas that has been lurking in my head for years but wasn't fitting into my usual time periods, finally started to make connections once I moved it into the 1920's.

While the majority of pins on the board are 1920's, it also covers 1900 to the late 1950's.

It will be some time before I can give the idea proper attention, but I think it may turn out to be a longer short story...

I've also discovered some of the new changes in Blogger which have made a few things easier.

I now have all my Social Media links showing under a tab- much tidier than being in the side bar.

There's now a tab for My Writing. I still have one thing to add yet, so it's half done.

So, now that's all done it will be back to the chapter one rewrite Monday morning...

Image courtesy of Vlado &

Thursday 23 July 2015

Sorting Our Serena...

I've been busy this week putting together a website for my pseudonym, Serena Lake.

A few months ago when I bought my domain name, I also bought one for Serena. The intention was to create a website for her in the Autumn, but something has been telling me to get it done now.

I've learnt that it's advisable to listen (and action) those instinct alerts, because when I ignore them I quickly find out that it was the wrong thing to do.

I'm going to continue the Carol's Corner blog covering my writing, research and the news about competitions and other literature related items- that I sometimes venture into talking about. But while I may also talk about history related items here, I'll perhaps give a different slant or more detail on Serena's blog.

Serena's blog on the website will concentrate only the historical romance side of my writing- and reading. I may even share opinions of research books and useful websites.

I'm on the final adjustments now, and as soon as I'm happy I will get my domain transferred, and begin blogging. And of course let everyone know it's officially launched.

Making the website has taken a lot of thought as I had to decide what image I wanted to suggest by my choices of design, colour and pages, as well as their content.

Having learnt a few skills over the years with this blog I could at least create pages without any problem, though learning how to get where I want to is still a bit hit and miss. :-)

Serena's Lady with a Fan...

I'm going to let you have a quick look at the website before it is finalised- still trying to work out the contact options so that's still missing, but otherwise it's 90% there.

I'll be expanding pages when needed, and adding social media links.

So if you want a quick peek, then follow this link.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Digging Out Those Forgotten Stories...

Today I was thinking about my old stories, and how none of my teenage attempts survived- I do regret that.

When I started writing again in 1999 (after many years of not touching a keyboard of any sort)  I began using a Brother Word Processor - much better than a typewriter as I could move words around and carry on without having to retype the whole page.

Recently I retrieved a number of my old floppy disks whilst I was sorting through some old boxes. They were from the time I got my first computer that was running XP.

(Fortunately I can still read them as I have a floppy disk drive that just plugs into a USB port.)

They didn't have any full length stories on them, but there were ideas, and on one a copy of the articles I wrote for a (now defunct) online magazine. I even became their 'Lifestyle correspondent'. :-)

Despite no stories on these disks, I know that I have another set somewhere in the house, including half of the first novel I tried to write- I got to 40,000 words. Along with these are all my printed pages, research notes and images.

No doubt they're all in a box somewhere in a cupboard probably behind other boxes. I didn't have my office area then, so they got packed away in one of our major move rounds...

Meanwhile I do have a couple of short stories that I need to do something with, and I do have those on my computer, plus on memory sticks, a disc, and there's also a printed copy - okay that's overkill, but I won't lose them completely like those earlier efforts in an unreadable language.

Looking back at my old writing is strange. I can see how much I still had to learn then, but also, there were glimmers of the writer I've become, and there were also the first hints of my 'voice'.

I'm still learning, and quite honestly it's important to do so...

Have you ever lost your early writing, or do you still have it?

Friday 16 January 2015

When Characters Talk to You...

I've had a busy week so my Thursday post is being written today instead.

And just because other essential appointments get in the way, it doesn't mean I'm not thinking about writing, just that the writing pot is being stirred in the background.

On Monday I had to make a timeline (for the back story) before I could progress with the next scene. I knew roughly when past events occurred, but there were a couple that I needed confirmed.

Those details are for me, and the reader will not need to know the majority of that history...

A character starts talking...
But another aspect on both writing and non-writing time is when characters decide to talk to you; they give you an important snippet of information that makes sense of something else, or they start an exchange of dialogue- or complain about another character.

Now at home going round muttering wildly to yourself, even in front of family members, is viewed with a shake of the head and remarks of ,'there's no point saying anything to her'- at least not until whatever it is, is written somewhere!

Do the muttering out in public and people look at you a bit strangely.

A couple of writer friends revealed the times their characters start talking to them. Ironing is popular, as is cooking. It's a bit inconvenient too if you're in the shower or washing your hair when they start- my historical characters don't understand that the bathroom is not the place to start talking to me.

Today, two of my contemporary characters began holding a conversation- giving me the answer to one of my approaching plot niggles- when I was meant to be thinking food shopping.

I'm sure I had a crazed look on my face as I looked around the busy location for somewhere to stop and write. Seeing a vacant bench I almost sprinted toward it, hoping that no one would suddenly decide to go and sit there before I reached it- that usually happens to me.

Pen and notebook retrieved from my bag I started jotting, and as I was actually writing at an angle-because I was holding onto bags at the same time as the notebook- I hope I can still read it! :D

Satisfied I had the basics of the conversation my two characters quietened down and wandered off to their respective destinations, allowing me to buy food without further distractions.

That conversation will be written up onto the computer next week, when I get onto chapter 10.

I'm just glad that my other lurking characters are polite and wait until it's their story before talking to me...

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /

Sunday 12 October 2014

Dialogue & Dialects...

Last week at Nottingham Writers' Club we had a mini-workshop on dialogue.

Now dialogue has never given me issues, description yes, but not dialogue. But we all have areas of difficulty in our writing, and it doesn't mean we won't improve if we work at it.

For those who may not know, dialogue can be used to display character, provide information, but it must help move the story along...

When I was a teenager and started writing, my stories were dialogue heavy- emphasis on heavy. :D

I was fortunate to be exposed to different accents as a child; visits to my Somerset or London relatives, and regular trips to Lewisham market with different cultures emerging (in the 1960's).

Television and Radio no longer restricts what we hear to 'received pronunciation' (old style BBC English), and with regional BBC programmes you'll hear a wider range of accents. Actors no longer have to lose their natural accents to guarantee employment either.

Consider how many programmes have used regional accents/dialects and been successful: 'When the Boat Comes In', 'Auf Wiedersehen, Pet', and 'Rebus' among them.

But what about dialect in books?

There was a recent article in The Guardian online, 'A Difficulty with Dialect' by author Debbie Taylor. She wrote a book called 'Herring Girl' and was advised to get rid of the dialect before submitting- she said she went for the "dialect lite"option. She regretted how much she'd taken out when she read it out to an audience at a launch party.

At our workshop some of the attendees didn't favour limiting dialect. As an experiment one member spoke in his natural dialect, and while some understood, or were able to make a reasonable guess at what he said, others couldn't. But we all agreed that it was easier to listen to, but probably wouldn't have been if we'd been reading it.

Personally, I prefer the occasional word or phrase that the reader might associate with a particular accent, and paying attention to whether a slightly different sentence construction is characteristic of the natural speech.

There are resources available if you want to hear how people from different parts of the country sound. Here's a few:

British Library- Sounds Familiar?

The International Dialects of English Archive.

The BBC-Voices.

(These will also help with social history too.)

Even though I've lived in the East Midlands for nearly thirty years I still have my southern twang- long sounding a's in words such as glass and bath being the most noticeable. :-)

So what are your thoughts on dialogue, accents and dialect?


Monday 8 October 2012

Monday Thoughts...

Latest anthology news (see the details on my previous blog post) - it's looking like it will be out for December, when it will be available in pdf, epub and .mobi formats.

As another (local) writer/friend is also included in the anthology, we're going to get together and discuss what we can do to advertise our contributions and hopefully drum up sales in our area.

Looking forward to 2013, I'm going to concentrate on my longer length projects, and try a few more short stories when I need a break or change of perspective.

I've noticed a few mini workshops advertised so I'm going to see if I can book a place on them. I've decided to update a few skills relating to social media first.

Another writer on the Talkback forum posted a link this morning, it's a good reminder about planning ahead. (Thanks SilverLinings.)

While the agency is in the USA, and some aspects will be more relevant there, it has some good points; so if you've not taken the time to think ahead to 2013 this piece may make you reconsider. Read Mary Keeley's post here.

"Set your own pace and be comfortable with it." I think that first piece of advice is the most valuable, at least it is for me.

Life gets in the way sometimes, and pushing yourself to do more than is practical- or healthy- is a sure way of making life harder for yourself. The accident last year, and the asthma diagnosis this year made me re-evaluate everything in my life, but especially my writing.

By slowing down and accepting that I couldn't do all the things I wanted to, meant I made choices in what I concentrated on. And surprisingly I actually got more done, as I submitted a few things rather than none at all, and won the trophy at the writers' club last December (which was a morale booster).

Now I'm looking forward to my contribution in the anthology.

What has been the best advice you've received that helped you progress?

Friday 15 June 2012

Reading at the local Festival Later This Month...

This month is  Lowdham Book Festival 2012 between the 1st and 30th June.

Festival SignUsually the last day (a Saturday) is full of free talks and events, second hand book stalls, new books, writers groups and organisations.

Sadly this year the usual format won't be taking place, but there will still be lots of book related events going on during the day of the 30th. (See the link above for times and ticket details.)

I saw a mention of John Harvey, and Jon McGregor ( who very recently won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award) during the Reading Group Day in the Village Hall.

Between 11am and 5pm there will be performances in the pub, called Fringe at The Ship. And at some point during the 12 midday and 12.40 pm slot, I will be reading a couple of pieces of flash fiction along with two members of the writers' club- a poet, and a performance poet.

We were originally scheduled for 4pm, but this clashed for one of the members, so we're sharing an earlier spot with another group.

As we're in the pub we can be sure of some audience.

This means I have two weeks to time my pieces and refine my presentation, and also coordinate with my fellow readers.

Now I'm used to standing up in front of people I know (or don't know) to read aloud at the writers' club, but to do so in front of total strangers in the pub is actually a little daunting.

But I'm a writer, so it's good practise for the future...

My only remaining dilemma will be what to wear. :-) Casual but comfortable certainly, but so much will depend upon the weather on the day.

If you have any advice, I'd be grateful for your comments.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Trying For a Repeat Win...

As I've had the house to myself today, I've been writing.

It's been a bit chaotic recently with the boys going out for their exams, coming home at times they'd have normally been in lessons; then the Jubilee celebrations and the plumbing disaster at the weekend, so writing has taken a back seat and nothing has been done since I sent my short story off.

So today I began my entry for the 2012 Mary Street Memorial Shield competition for Romantic Novelist of the Year.

(See my success in 2011's competition here.)

I'm using my first incomplete novel that I began in 1998 and gave up on in 1999 at 40,000 words. I've always intended to go back to it one day and rewrite it, and as it's been on my mind recently I decided to use it for this year's competition.

(Somewhere in a box are those original 40,000 words and all my research notes, but I can't think where they were put. So I'm hoping they'll turn up while I'm sorting all my packed boxes out.)

It will then go into my queue of future novels, and all the relevant bits currently turning about in my conscious brain will be written and out of the way while I get on with my novella and the novel.

(In fact my Dorset novel started interfering in this Coaching Town novel all those years ago.)

Competitions are a great way to improve your writing skills, and there are a lot of free ones available if you look for them.

If you belong to a writing group then you'll usually have opportunities to enter different types of writing competition and you may find there's something you have an infinity for.

Even if you don't find it hooks you, you'll still be using your writing skills and developing your style.

A few years ago (2009) I entered the NWC annual drama award for a short play- I've acted in plays, and seen lots of plays, but never tried to write one. So I decided to go for it.

The maximum length was 15 minutes, two main characters- strangers- meet and engage in conversation on a bench outdoors, and a third minor character was allowed. With the added comment that a twist ending would be appreciated. (It was being judged by a local scriptwriter.)

I managed a 12 minute piece, and although it wasn't technically perfect I'd fulfilled the requirements of the theme; it had amusing elements, plus I'd managed the twist end which I was satisfied with.

And I won that one. But I decided not to take up play writing.

This year I've agreed to set and judge the drama competition. I had to choose the criteria for the type of drama setting-studio; and I wanted it to be simple but challenging at the same time so potential entrants wouldn't be put off from trying it, but they would still need to use their writing skills to make it work. (I would have revealed what I set, but the competition details won't be out for a couple of weeks yet.)

I'm really looking forward to seeing what the club members who enter (using a pseudonym), produce...

Do you enter competition? Do you feel entering competitions has helped your writing?

Thursday 10 May 2012

A Brief Catch Up and Yoga...

I'm not sure where this week has gone actually, but it's almost Friday again.

I've almost finished the final edit on my short story, now that I've got my formatting sorted out. Some of my new lines didn't indent to where they were set to- no idea why, but it was just one or two lines each on pages 3,4, and 5...

Even stripping all the formatting out of the document and re-doing the settings didn't sort it out- that document has been highlighted more than my hair!

Having asked some writer friends how to solve the problem, both of the suggested solutions were needed to resolve the issue.

It was only recently, when I was reading an article by Sue Moorcroft in Writers Forum magazine about presentation, that I discovered pressing the space bar five times at the beginning of each new paragraph was not a good idea. Apparently it makes extra work for an editor, so I thought I better learn how to set indents properly, and started with my short story.

(As you may have realised I'm still learning how to use the assorted options on Word 2007, so I won't be switching to the 2010 version anytime soon...)

Actually being able to sit down at the computer for a while was quite good, as I'm still aching from the yoga class that I attended on Tuesday. Now I did yoga when I was younger (much much younger) and I knew I was capable of doing the various positions, and admittedly some of them I had no problem with, but sadly the rest were not as successful.

Yes, I'd had one of those 'moments'. My brain still thought I could do it, but my body had decided that a) I'm not 20 years old anymore and b) my body is no longer that flexible...:-)

I'm sure I'll improve with time and practise, as my writing has...

Thursday 8 March 2012

Social Marketing -the Talk...

I spent most of Wednesday answering the phone, exchanging e-mails and putting together a hand-out on social media, and a mini talk sheet on blogging, for myself -because the speaker who was booked for Wednesday night at Nottingham Writers' Club was ill, and as I was also going to be the chair that night, I needed to get an alternative arranged.

Aware that writers of all ages and experience need to make the most of current technology, I contacted fellow member David Bowman-writer, e-book publisher, and proficient in social networking-and between us we agreed a format for the evening.

Now my part was very small, I covered blogging, so anyone at the meeting who might be considering a blog would (hopefully) realise that it isn't hard to do and is a great way to start making themselves known. I talked about free blogs, building up followers and the types of posts a writer might use their blog for- such as announcing a competition win, or a short story sale/publication date...

David talked about Facebook and Twitter, and also author websites.

The recommendations that I picked up, relating to Facebook, was keeping your account for personal, fun things, and your writing for your author page- (your name) writer; so book news, links and photos relating to your writing goes only on that page, so your readers go there for the information. And of course if you have different pseudonyms, it makes it easier to distinguish between different genres, if you write in more than one category- so that's more than one writer name for me then.

As I recently joined Twitter and was discovering for myself, hashtags # are not only useful but important; retweeting can be helpful. That there is a fine line between over promotion and sharing good news, so its clearly something that you learn by actually doing once you're on Twitter.

But never underestimate how widely your tweets can be seen. Every tweet seen by your followers, is seen by the followers of each of them- so you never know who and how many will see that interesting piece of information...

Now websites. This was interesting; having a press area that was kept up to date, so the latest press release was available was important. As David explained if a journalist wants to interview you they'll have gone and checked out all the information on your website so they don't need to waste time asking basic questions- which is logical when you consider modern day journalism.

We finally talked about Amazon and e-book ratings, and how a writer promoting their books on Amazon can use these various methods of social marketing to bring potential book buyers to their work, by promotions and free book offers- so get high up in the Amazon rankings and it will enable you to get Amazon to promote your book which could be very useful if you're a relative unknown.

I'd not considered all these various methods being used together to maximise exposure- but then I'm only on stage 2 of my marketing plan at the moment... Yes, apparently you should have a marketing plan.

The words I did take take away from the talk were as follows: politeness; being professional and start this networking before you have the publishing deal...

I've got a long way to go, but at least I've started.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Editing: I'm Starting to Understand It Better...

After a few weeks of not writing at all because my brain was in frozen mode (figuratively) while I got some new medication sorted, and the approaching deadline for the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition just over a month away, I was starting to think I may not complete my entry in time for my self-imposed posting deadline of mid-March.

I'm still determined to do it, but I won't send a half-baked entry...

So this week, with brain now defrosted, I'm rewriting Chapter 1-again. My previous attempt was okay, but I'd removed too many things that were (for me) essential in the story set-up. So I've been combining the elements from the two versions I currently have, into one.

Getting the content of my first chapter right is essential to the plot of my novel, without it the main characters would have no motive for their initial actions.

It could be done as a Prologue, but some publishers seem to have an issue with prologues, so for the moment it's chapter one.

As I began rereading, and started to do my standard tidy-up before I moved on to the writing stage I realised my editing process had stepped up another rung of the ladder-compared to a year ago.

I've begun to pick up the smaller niggles which previously I would have missed; so when I've considered, will it cause confusion or jar with the reader? 25% of the time the answer is yes, and I've then resolved it.

For example, using 'endless' to recall his journey wasn't right in the context, as shortly after he had reached the end. So some quick thoughts from my vocabulary, cross-referenced between my big dictionary and my copy of Roget's Thesaurus, I decided which of my possible substitute words worked better- issue resolved.

Perhaps I'm just in analytical mode at the moment, so the editing is easier.

I'm sure that I'll go back to it next week with my writer's head on and make a few other alterations, but that's part of the fun side of writing.

I'm sure every writer has their own editing list, so here's my immediate issues list.
  • spelling and grammar- especially get rid of excessive commas, exclamation marks and my personal weakness-ellipsis.
  • read it aloud to make sure I've not changed tenses or viewpoint mid-scene.
  • clich├ęs-watch out for any that may have slipped through.
  • a turn of phrase that sounds too 'current' for my time setting- it may be correct time-wise but still sounds too modern for the 18th/19th C.
  • dialogue- does it sound right for that character, for the circumstances they're in at that moment, and does it flow when it needs to flow...
  • words repeated too closely together, unless for a specific reason.
  • Any inconsistencies.
I'm sure there's more I haven't covered, but that's my current list, and I'm fairly certain (apologies, overused phrases do creep into my blog posts :-) ) that ten years ago I would have only been able to manage one or two of the most obvious ones.

It's important to keep improving. And when I can see I'm improving it also helps my confidence quota. :-)

Do you have any editing blind spots, or words you know you overuse?

Monday 16 January 2012

The Dreaded Synopsis-There's Hope For Me Yet...

If you've been following the tale of my Dorset novel, you may know that among the comments I received back from the judge of the competition (at my writers' club) the synopsis was mentioned.

I've always known that you had to include what actually happens at the end of the story- no, will Jean triumph in her battle of wills with Albert? You have to say if Jean does succeed or not. (No, Jean and Albert do not feature in my synopsis. :-) )

Then there's the issue of which type of synopsis- basic or detailed?

I'd gone for the more detailed type, when a basic version would have been fine. (Though even my detailed version I submitted, I'd edited down a bit.)

So looking at my synopsis I'd included the right things, but added in a lot more I didn't really need- but it did show me my plot hung together, so it wasn't wasted and I can refer back when needed.

 The main reminder for the new synopsis- 'broader brushstrokes'.

And this happily leads me to a new e-book coming out at the end of the week, 'Write a Great Synopsis' by Nicola Morgan. You may have read her Help! I Need a Publisher! blog- if you haven't, you're missing out on interesting posts.

I was very fortunate to get an early copy of Nicola's latest e-book to read, and I did, straight through. At the end my response was, 'so that's how you do it'. It really was like blinkers being removed and realising the synopsis is not scary at all.

It takes you from the basics- what is a synopsis? Through to how to write one, and even includes a section on synopsis for non-fiction. But the part I found really useful were the examples of a couple of synopsis from before and after.

I rarely recommend books to other people unless I'm really enthusiastic about them myself, as I am about this one. For any writer who has ever worried about writing a synopsis, stop worrying and buy this book as soon as it's available- you won't regret it. :-)

Now I need to get back to Dorset...

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Back To The Writing-Chapter Endings...

After a few busy weeks, plus the nasty chest infection, I'm now getting back to the writing.

Yesterday I finally completed chapter 2 of my novella (admittedly it's only the first draft) but I found myself ending the chapter at a point I hadn't expected- though when I looked at my outline, I realised that I'd planned it that way-  I just hadn't noticed that was how my sub-conscious had seen it...

I know I used to worry (unnecessarily) about where to end my chapters when I started writing again- many years ago.

Now the characters always decide for me and refuse to co-operate if I try to go beyond their cut-off point. Of course it doesn't mean it's going to stay that way in the rewriting, but as a progress point, it works for me.

Like most other areas of writing, you read, you inwardly digest and improve by doing. Basically, I'm continually learning and adapting as I find what works best for me.

Then there are the boundaries for the chosen genre- final length, and any specific editorial requirements- beside a great story that the editor can't resist, obviously... :-)

So this year I decided I had to be flexible. But as you can see from the chapter 2 mention above, I'm still trying...

Thursday 16 June 2011

Character Analysis...

I've been making progress with my new approach to my characters- writing a character fact sheet for each one. I've always done a character sheet, but not in such an organised way.

Now I've yet to apply it to a short story-but I will.

So far I've been concentrating on my novella. I was a bit concerned that I had a more detailed analysis of my hero, than the heroine who is the main point of view.
So I'm going to have to sit her down and probe her secrets.

If you're having difficulties with a character it is useful to sit them down and interview them- imagine you are sat across the table from each other with a glass of wine, or whatever your character likes to drink, then just start a conversation.

A writer friend suggested this to me many years ago and if I ever have someone in my novel who is reluctant to reveal something, I've found it is a useful strategy.

Of course it might not work for everyone, so what other sources are there?

If you just want a quick reference have a look at '45 Master Characters' by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. It's the type of book you either like or hate; find useful for generating ideas about your characters or feel they can be stereotyped- it just depends upon your own level of ability.

Writers' blogs are also great sources of advice so look through the lists of blogs others follow. You will find some gems to refer back to.

But as we're talking about character here, have a look at Kate Kyle's Gone Writing blog, especially her post from February, 'How to build believable characters'.

By the way, if you intend to try the interview technique mentioned above, just don't do it (aloud) if anyone else is around- specifically a non-writer... :-)

Friday 21 January 2011

Absorbing Words...

After my decision the other day to read more books, I started thinking about how many books that I actually absorb.

When I say absorb I really mean listen to...

Anyone who has listened to Radio 4 will probably have heard of Book at Bedtime; It is on at 10.45 pm Monday to Friday for 15 minutes and if you haven't tried it I'd recommend tuning in sometime. A book can be read over one or two weeks, sometimes three weeks, though there is obviously some abridging needed in longer novels.

A few weeks ago I was listening to Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier, a book I've always intended to read but never have.

In the past I've fallen asleep listening to On Chesil Beach but needed to force myself to stay awake so I could follow Atonement- both by the same author- Ian McEwan-but clearly with very different results.

I remember listening to the first part of Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and without knowing anything about the story- the book was just coming out at the time- thinking that the boy in the story had to be autistic (I recognised the same patterns that I've lived with every day with my own sons) and when I found out more about the story I understood why.

The books are brought to life with the very good readers, using intonations of accent when needed, easily suspending my disbelief when a male reader speaks female dialogue.

And that is something that appeals to the writer in me, not just me the the listener.

New writers are told to tune in and to listen to people and conversations going on around them- that's why I'm never without a notebook- and after a while it becomes automatic, we do it without thinking about it.

I think really we're wearing an invisible pair of headphones with an antenna attached which constantly tracks from left to right for that voice or chatter that we zero in on for some reason.

I've never had difficulty with my characters sounding different, and dialogue is my strongest area so perhaps all these years when I've been lying under the duvet listening to that week's book, my creative brain has been absorbing the skills of the readers and writers...

Monday 17 January 2011

Trying to Write Flash Fiction...

Flash fiction is a complete story in a shorter form 250-1,000 words, though the latter figure would be a short story in some markets.

As one of my writing resolutions for this year is to enter more competitions, I thought I'd start with the Brighton Cow 250 word competition that I mentioned recently.

Only once have I ever managed to do well with this very short story formula and that was because the character, Lola de Cortez (Positive Exposure) almost jumped out of my head and whacked me around the ear with her steel re-enforced corset. Since then I've struggled.

So with a deadline of the end of January I need to get on...

Knowing a number of writers who are very good at creating stories in 200 words, I asked them for any tips they could give to help me improve- or at least work out where I'm going wrong (I think it's characterisation again).

I'm very grateful to AJ Humpage who has kindly allowed me to reproduce the summary of her blog post on the subject. While she writes a darker form of fiction, the advice still applies whatever your subject or genre.
If you'd like to read the whole post with further explanations and I'd recommend it, you will find it here.

Otherwise here is the summary of the main points to aim for when writing flash fiction.

  • Use a great opening line or hook.

  • Use a powerful image for your story.

  • Keep the reader guessing - Include a twist at the end, if possible.

  • Be tight, be concise – limit adjectives and adverbs.

  • Brevity – can you use fewer words?

  • Beginning, middle and satisfactory ending – complete the story arc.

  • Edit and revise.
So armed with this valuable advice I'm going to look at what ideas I have jotted down in my notebooks and see if I can produce 250 words...Then the hard work really starts with the revision.

Next month I'll tell you whether I managed it and whether it was sent off in time.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Learn about Presentation...

We've all been there at some time, you're still a newish writer and you're struggling with your manuscript lay-out. How much paragraph indent should there be? When to use a new line in speech? And so on...

Well if you go to today's blog post by writer Sue Moorcroft you can study her pdf on Manuscript Presentation. You won't have any doubts after you've read it.

The story is still important- very important, but as we want to sell our stories and hopefully win competitions,  we need to ensure that the editor or judge doesn't have to struggle to read our best efforts-some might give up trying if your lay-out is confusing.

If your story isn't right, good presentation won't make it better, but if your story and presentation are good you'll certainly improve your chances of success...