Beginnings

Image Credit:  As ever, all images are from Pixabay unless otherwise stated. Think I’ve finally nailed the “have an appropriate title for the start of a New Year for your blog post” game!

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Well, Beginnings is an appropriate topic for the start of 2020! I look at why beginnings are so important for any creative art (especially storytelling), share some of my favourite story openings, and discuss New Year’s Resolutions. Talking of which, Happy New Year!

As my CFT post on Beginnings mentions, I see the end of the old year as the time to take stock of where I am writing wise, so I am raring to go again as soon as possible writing wise after the festive season.

My initial goals are to continue to try to get more work in more anthologies and to develop professionally in other ways too. I hope to share more of the latter as I go throughout the year.

I am aiming to submit two of my big projects by the spring and see how I go with those. I’d like to finish another project by the end of the summer if possible and see if I can be submitting that by the autumn.

I’m also hoping to pitch more non-fiction articles too.

I don’t set specific dates ever because life can and does get in the way and no writer should feel bad about that. My deadlines are only set for my CFT posts and competitions and I work to those fine but it is lovely having longer projects to work on too. I like a good writing mix and am loving all of the writing I do. I hope that comes through in what I write.

So onwards then. Happy New Year and happy writing and reading!

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Sent off my two short stories yesterday so that gets 2020 off to a promising beginning! I’m also working on some writing prompt exercises and those are proving to be good fun. Hope to resume my major projects over the weekend.

Appropriately my CFT post this week is on Beginnings. As well as sharing what I think of New Year Resolutions, I discuss why beginnings are so important to get right for any creative piece of work. I also share a couple of my favourite beginnings. Link up tomorrow as normal. I am SO grateful to CFT, especially this week. It means I know tomorrow is Friday!! (On weeks like this one, having a good writing routine helps so much!).

(Oh and the pictures of fireworks below, courtesy of Pixabay, are the only place I like to see such things. Lady agrees with me on that one).

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Wow! Absolutely adored Doctor Who tonight (shown in the UK on New Year’s Day) and can’t wait to see Part 2. Cracking storyline and am intrigued to see how it pans out.

Getting off to a reasonably good start as I have two stories I’m planning to submit this week. I then have two competitions to prepare material for plus, at the weekend, I hope to get back to my longer projects.

Have been out and about with other half and Lady in the New Forest today. I hope all the exercise will prove to be refreshing to the imagination as well as much needed after the Christmas festivities! (Lady had a great time at the festivities and on the walks!).

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Plans for 2020 include submitting to even more competitions (flash fiction and short stories). I am pleased I did enter more last year though nothing happened with the tales themselves. Still, that is material I can edit and resubmit elsewhere.

Little is wasted in writing especially if you can take a step back, analyse your story and be prepared to change things to make the tale stronger if it is needed.

Bear in mind sometimes a story not “making it” can be because the competition organisers/publishers have already chosen a story using the same theme you have. Sometimes, even when they want the same theme, someone else’s tale has just got a bit more bite to it which has clinched things for them. I’ve found it helps to see this as a challenge to me to “up my game”. That aspect of writing keeps me on my toes and I think that’s a good thing. Never take anything for granted!

Look at work that hasn’t been accepted in the cold light of day. Still can’t see any changes needed? Try submitting the story elsewhere. If you can get feedback on it, even better. And good luck with your writing plans for 2020.

I’m having fun at the moment coming up with linked stories based on the same character but set at different word lengths. Worth a go! (And a big thanks to #DawnKentishKnox for the tip). Will definitely be trying this again.

One huge advantage to writing prompts (which is where the above idea comes from) is they make you mix up how you approach writing a story. That keeps you on your toes, I’ve found it keeps writing interesting for me (and hopefully that comes through to a reader), and differing approaches can encourage you to try different styles. Well, you never know what you like here until you try it! I DO know you don’t want to get stuck in any kind of rut with your writing,

See Prompts by #GillJames on Amazon. Highly recommend.

 

Prompts 2020 by [James, Gill] Image by Gill James

Lovely afternoon walking in the New Forest with other half and Lady (New Year’s Day). Was eerie the way the mist suddenly appeared though. Of course the problem with having any kind of imagination at all is being able to visualise what kind of monsters that mist could be hiding!! Fortunately, only the New Forest ponies were company for us (and Lady looks at them curiously. We think she thinks they’re some kind of very big dog!).

Hope to get back to flash fiction writing shortly (though my immediate plans are to submit a couple of standard length short stories). I must admit the break has been great but the lovely thing about writing is I always look forward to getting back to it again.

Onwards and upwards! Or maybe for flash fiction that really should be onwards and downwards (with the word count!😀).

Fairytales With Bite – Starts

So many of the classic fairytale characters have awful starts to their stories but, of course, the real tale is in how they overcome those things (with or without the help of a fairy godmother).

This is why Hans Christen Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is such a revelation. It was the first fairytale/story I’d come across where there isn’t a classic happy ever after ending (well not for her anyway. Do check out the original tale and you’ll soon see why Disney couldn’t film it as true to the original. Well not and keep their All Ages certificate anyway!).

How do you start your stories off? I like to set up an intriguing situation and/or characters quickly (it usually is both together) and then I happily dump my characters in it. I have fun in finding out how my characters sink or swim and I hope if I have fun in writing that, readers will also have fun in discovering the same thing for themselves.

I nearly always have to chop the start of a story when I go back and edit it. It can be tricky to work out where a story should start but what matters is getting that draft down. Then you can see, after time away from the tale to give you some distance to be able to be objective, where the opening should be. But you do need to get  started on a tale and I’ve learned never to worry that an awful lot will be chopped later. That’s okay. It is a case of looking for the nugget of the story and ensuring that shines through. Anything not helping that nugget to shine gets cut.

Happy editing!

This World and Others – Celebrating

I hope you had a wonderful time celebrating Christmas and the New Year. When it comes to our fictional worlds, what kind of celebrations do they have? What is the history behind those celebrations? You almost certainly won’t put all of that into a story.

I’ve found it useful to work details like this out and then select those a reader needs to know. I’ve found working things out gives me the confidence to write the story and I think something of that confidence comes through. (It can also be useful to have this material to hand for use on your website as additional information for readers. I know I love reading material like that on favourite author websites. Little is wasted in writing. It is a question of finding an appropriate use for material at times!).

If your world does not celebrate anything, why is that? Was there a time when it did? What went wrong? There should be some interesting story thoughts there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Achievements and Descriptions

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When you write descriptions, do you just focus on what a character can see? Do you bring in what they can feel/touch/taste etc? Also an interesting perspective can be to take what is a normal everyday object but show it from the viewpoint of someone who has never seen it before. (The reasons why they haven’t seen it would be interesting too).

In flash fiction, of course, you can’t be overly descriptive. You simply haven’t got the word room. In my Telling the Time I refer to an object as a “beautiful grandfather clock”, leaving it to the reader to imagine what THEY would think such a thing would look like. In my Rewards, I do bring in a thick red carpet but that purpose is to show my character, Becky, pacing around on it!

Description then, like any other element of a story, has to serve a purpose. If it doesn’t, it really shouldn’t be there even if you are writing an epic saga and word count isn’t an issue!

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What do you want to achieve most with your writing?

For me, it is knowing I’ve created a piece of work (of whatever word count) that entertains others. Course I wouldn’t object to being a bestselling author etc but then who would?!

But given there are no guarantees the latter will ever happen, it is far better to focus on writing because you love it and to do so to the best of your abilities. Then put it out into the market and see what happens!

You also have to accept from the outset I think that you are in for the long haul and adapt expectations accordingly. Persistence pays only when you put in the work to get your MSS up to publication standard and that takes time and more effort than non-writers realise.

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What made you decide to write and why? Did you find what you wanted to write immediately or did you have to try short stories/novels etc before finally settling on what you really want to do?

The fascinating thing here is no two writers have exactly the same journey, even if a lot of their paths cross.

I started off with an idea for a novel, wrote that book, it was longlisted for a competition years ago and then I wrote short stories and flash fiction. I am now revisiting that early novel given flash fiction has taught me so much about editing and I know applying that to the book will do it the world of good.

As for why I decided to write at all, it was one of those things I knew I would have to at least try. I’ve always loved working with/playing with words. My only regret here is not starting a lot sooner than I did. But what matters is starting and then keeping going.

Biggest joy of writing? Yes, being published, but making so many writer friends is right up there too.

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I’m looking at the highs and lows of the writing life in this week’s CFT. I hope it’ll be an eyeopener for readers, or indeed anyone who knows a writer, especially on why reviews and supporting writer events matters so much. Link up on Friday.

NB: This post definitely comes into the “write what you know” category!

Also pleased to say I’m in the Spring edition of Christian Writer talking about Making Your Characters Count.

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For the flash fiction collection I’m currently working on, I’ve had a great deal of fun with linked stories. That is I’ve used the same character(s) in a follow up tale.

I’ve also used a viewpoint of a character in one story and then flipped it to show the viewpoint of another character, who isn’t necessarily in agreement with the first one.

Plus there have been the acrostics, the one-line stories and so on. Flash fiction can be amazingly versatile and the fact you have to work to a word count is a good thing. It helps you write (and edit) with precision. You work to find exactly the right words to convey as much meaning as possible in as short a word count as possible. That discipline can and does spill over into other things you write, which is always a good thing.

When do you know if a flash fiction piece has real bite? When you read it again after a break from it (say a few days) and it still hits you hard, as you originally intended the piece should do.

When I’m editing, I’m always asking myself how the reader would see what I’ve written. CAN they fill in the gaps the way I intend they should? HAVE I given them what they need to know to do that (but no more)? IS the impact what I think it will be? Could what I intend be misconstrued? Is the language used appropriate for the piece? Do I still like or loathe my characters (as appropriate)?

I think it is vital to see editing as a totally separate job to the act of creation. Creation is the fun bit. Editing is the bit which makes sure your created work IS as fun as you meant it to be when read by a stranger. Without good editing, your story will not work as nobody can really claim to ever write a perfect first draft. Shakespeare didn’t so I think it’s safe to claim we won’t either. My attitude to editing changed entirely when I saw it as what would make the difference to my being published or not (and it does).

I was wondering when I had my first piece of flash fiction published on Cafelit. It turns out to be A Study in Magic way back in 2013. Wow! That six years has gone quickly. Well here’s to the next six! I still love the very short story form. It has a great deal of potential and can/should make a powerful impact.

When I analyse a flash fiction piece, what am I looking for?

1. Do the characters “grab” me? It doesn’t matter if I love or loathe them. Have they got my attention? Have I GOT to find out what happens to them?

2. Does the story have an impact on me? If it’s funny, did I laugh? If it’s a crime story, did my blood run suitably cold?

3. Are there stand-out lines which, when written by other authors, make me wish I’d written them? (I use that to spur me on incidentally, which is what great writing should do).

4. Is the start intriguing enough?

5. Does the story end with a suitable punch? When it’s twist in the tale, did I see that twist coming? I don’t mind if I do incidentally. Sometimes it’s nice to be right but I adore the ones where the author has wrong-footed me and come up with something really special. Again, I find this encourages me to “up my game”, something all writers should always seek to do.

Goodreads Author Blog – Encouraging Books

Yes, this could mean the self-help books and there is much to be said for those, but for me an encouraging book is one that makes me read further into the subject. This can apply to fiction as well as non-fiction.

For example, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time is fiction based on Richard III and is one of my all time favourite books. It has also led me to read far more about Richard such as The Maligned King, The Last Days of Richard III and others.

For non-fiction, it is easier to go by topic of course when looking for books to encourage further reading.

For fiction, it is nearly always based on how well the main character comes across and the theme of their story that makes me look for similar themes in other tales.

When the character is based on a real person, and if the story has gripped me enough, I nearly always look up non-fiction material on that character as I did with Richard III.

And there is scope for a lot of crossover – fiction leading into non-fiction and vice versa. Book reading leading into magazine reading etc.

I don’t write historical fiction (though I do read some) but I should imagine one of the great joys of it is the research the writer has to do before starting. I should also imagine the big problem here, and one I know I’d have, is stopping the research and actually getting on with the writing!

So what books have encouraged you to read more on their character/theme etc?

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