Genre Fiction

Image Credit:  As ever, Pixabay and Pexels unless otherwise stated.

REMINDER –

WATERLOO ART FESTIVAL – WRITING COMPETITION – LAUNCH OF TRANSFORMING COMMUNITIES EBOOK ON FRIDAY 12TH JUNE 2020 FROM 6.30 PM UK TIME.

Just a quick reminder that the writing side of the Waterloo Arts Festival is on this evening, 12th June, from 6.30 pm to about 8.00 pm.

The event has to be online this year but it is free. You do need a ticket for the event but the link is here.

The launch is for the ebook of Transforming Communities, the theme for this year’s WAF writing competition, and my story, Books and Barbarians, is part of that. I am delighted to be a winner here again and many congratulations to all of the other winners too.

There will be videos, extracts of stories, and you can get to meet, via Zoom, the writers and publishers.

Hope to see you!😊

Image from link above to the Festival.

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction.  I share what I love about it and why I loathe the snobbery that can exist around it. Genre fiction is the bread and butter for publishing houses and helps fund literary fiction.

That’s fine but I do wonder if some of the snobbery is a hangover from the old “penny dreadfuls”. Though I’d argue even those had their place. They got people reading! Anyway, check out the post and see what you think. Do share your favourite genre books too. It’s another way of building up a reading list!

I’m taking part in the online Waterloo Arts Festival – Writing Competition Ebook Launch later on this evening and hope to report back on that for my CFT post next week. I hope some of you can “pop along”.

Zoom has been a lifeline for many writing events and I hope the good from that continues once we are back to any kind of normality again. It will make events more accessible for more people I think and that’s a good thing always.

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Funny old day weather wise here. Sun, thunder, lightning, heavy rain, sun again. Still it IS only June…!

Stages of Storytelling for me:-

1. Get initial idea for a character and flesh that out.

2. Get initial idea for a situation to dump them in and flesh that out. Well, I’m not going to make their life easy for them. There’d be no story otherwise.

3. Write first draft and put aside.

4. Start thinking of other story ideas and making notes.

5. Back to story 1 after a suitable gap away from it and re-read it on paper. Immediately notice lots of ways to improve it and do so. Put aside again.

6. Start fleshing out story 2 following steps 1 and 2 above.

7. Re-read my story 1. Less to improve on this time but I can see the odd awkward phrase so reword that. I can see how a change of phrase will make the flow of the story more even so go with that. I finish correcting any typos and grammatical errors.

8. I write the first draft of story 2.

9. Final read through of story 1. I often read dialogue out loud to make sure a reader won’t stumble over it and make any final changes.

10. Knowing the story is as good as I can make it, I ensure I am following publisher/competition guidelines and submit the story, well ahead of the deadline.

And then back to story 2!

My CFT post this week is all about Genre Fiction and what I love about it. Great fun to write. Hope you’ll share some of your favourites in the comments box when the post goes live on Friday.

I’ll also be interviewing authors over the next few weeks and am on the receiving end of the questions for an interview I’ll be taking part in. So busy busy and that’s how I like it.

Looking forward to Waterloo Art Festival on Friday night. I will share the link again for where you can get a free ticket at some point during the day on Friday so do keep a look out for that.

I hope to report back via CFT on how everything went. The strange situation we’re all in pandemic wise has led to some creative thinking about how we do things and I hope the good from that continues long after the pandemic is over (or as over as it ever will be).

Facebook – General – and Book Cover Challenge

See previous post for Days 1 to 5!

Day 6

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #FranHill who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse. Wonderfully funny.

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A wonderfully funny writer!

Day 7

I have accepted a challenge by #JaneBrocklehurst to post seven books that I love, one per day, no reviews, just covers. Each day I ask a friend to take up the challenge, let’s promote literacy and build a book list.

Today I nominate #DawnKentishKnox who I hope will join in the fun.

My choice today? Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett. I love the Discworld series and this has two of my favourite characters in it – Sam Vimes and Moist von Lipwig. It’s also about trains and I have a soft spot for them too! Great storyline.

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One of my favourite Discworld stories.

Facebook – From Light To Dark And Back Again

Where does the time go? I was looking through my Cafelit stories and came across my first 100-word tale on there. A Study In Magic appeared all the way back in 2013! This story made it into FLTDBA and I’m looking forward to sharing more details about Tripping the Flash Fantastic in due course.

I must admit I couldn’t imagine my writing life without flash fiction now.

Can I see how I could improve this first flash tale now?

Of course. I’m not saying how though! Why? Simply because you write to the best of your ability at the time you write. Hindsight is a rotten mistress!

What you do though is pick up on how you can improve things and apply that to the next story, the one after that and so on. The idea is to try to continually improve on what you do. Doing that stretches you and, for me, it makes writing more fun.

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Flash fiction has to be to the point but that’s a good thing regardless of word count. Any story needs to reveal what a reader needs to know to make sense of it but no more. Flash fiction forces you to cut the waffle and I know that has gone on to help me with my blogging, short story writing, etc.

I keep some questions in mind for when I’m editing a story and have found these useful. Hope you do too.

1. Does this contribute to the story in any way? (If no, cut immediately!).

2. If yes, how vital is it? Is it something a reader absolutely has to know? If yes, fine. It stays as it is.

3. If no but the information is important enough to add depth to the story, then note it. At the end of your first edit, prioritise what information the reader has to know. Is this particular piece STILL vital after all of that?

4. If yes, keep it in. If no, then look at whether you can get this information into the story another way so it IS vital. If that’s not possible, then the information almost certainly isn’t as crucial as you first thought!

5. Does everything in the story move it on to the conclusion? If there is anything in there that doesn’t move the story on, then I’d remove it.

Happy editing!

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Another advantage to flash fiction is when it comes to Open Prose Mic Nights, you know you’re not going to send your audience to sleep. You’re not on for long enough!😆😆😆

Joking aside, flash fiction does work really well for this. You haven’t long to keep the audience’s attention but you are only reading/performing a short piece so that helps.

And of course you can also make a story trailer/video for your website and use that as an advert for what you do, writing wise.

On my book trailers page on the website, there are videos for FLTDBA, Nativity, The Best of Cafelit 8, and I experimented with one of my stories, Job Satisfaction, from FLTDBA too and produced a trailer for that. I hope to do more of this. It’s good fun to do and helps add interest to your website.

 

Fairytales With Bite –

Top tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale? Top tips include:-

1. Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2. You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3. Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

Let your writer charge up their batteries and give you the proper star billing in the story.

 

This World and Others –

Do You Have Favourite Characters?

So do you have favourite characters of your own making and, if so, should you?

I must admit I can’t see how any writer can avoid having favourites amongst their characters. There are bound to be creations we prefer over others, simply for things such as we like Character A’s sense of irony, which Character B, noble as they are, simply doesn’t have. What DOES matter is that we are scrupulous about how we create our characters.

By this I mean when planning out characters, we should ensure each and every one of them has flaws and virtues. Each and every one of them must have good reasons for acting the way they are. Each and every one of them should feel real to a reader. No cardboard cut-outs here!

You, as the writer, have got to know what makes them all tick. You need to know what drives them, what would frustrate them, what would tempt them away from the path they’re supposed to be on, and how they handle weakness in themselves, yet alone in others.

A good sign of a “proper” favourite character is knowing you’ve created a character that for many reasons you dislike (e.g. you disagree with their attitudes) but have brought them to life in such a way your reader will be intrigued by them and there will be no sign of your antipathy towards them either. Good luck!

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Back to Earth, Special Moments for Writers, and Publication News

Publication News

My story, The Delivery, is now up on Cafelit. It looks at what can happen when you fall foul of the old boss and not just any old boss, come to that. Hope you enjoy. It was good fun to write!

brown envelopes in mail box

The Delivery! Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Facebook – General – and Chandler’s Ford Today

My CFT post this week was a real labour of love. (They all are but this one is particularly so). I get to talk about Swanwick Writers’ Summer School! I also look at why seeking to develop and feeding your mind is so important to a writer.

The lovely thing is you feed your mind through fabulous things like reading and interacting with your fellow writers! The best forms of development should be fun (otherwise you won’t stick with them, will you?).

Image Credit:  All Swanwick images taken by Allison Symes, except those of me reading at the Prose Open Mic Night. A huge thank you to Penny Blackburn for those. Captions as ever on the CFT post. (Also it was great to include here a photo of Jennifer C Wilson of the Kindred Spirits series at her Social Media for Writers talk at Swanwick, which rightly was very well received).

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Tough questions to answer:-

1. Why does time drag when doing anything boring yet flies by when you’re enjoying your writing and/or reading? The latter is when I want time to slow down, thank you. I wish there was a way we could control these things.

2. Why do you run out of paper and/or printer ink half way through printing a MSS you want to work on? Why can it never be at a convenient moment? I’ve lost count of the times I’ve had to re-run a significant portion of a MSS because I went and did something else during the printing, only to come back and go “argh” (or swear, much depends on my mood!), as I discover the last 30% or so is not readable.

3. Why are there either loads of writing competitions you want to go in for because you know you can meet the brief or none at all when you could do with them? You either have the dilemma of working out what you can do in the time and miss out on entering some because you know you can’t do them all, or have nothing to submit to, and neither is good!

Special moments for writers:-

1. Finishing first story/article/book. Just getting to the end is a huge achievement. Well done! (Many say they will write, many will start, not all will see it through and complete the work).

2. First rejection. I know it sounds odd but it is proof you are getting work out there. Also, all writers get them. You’re not going to avoid this (so it’s best to face up to this and remember it is never, ever personal). This is where it can be helpful to have a couple of pieces of work out there at any one time. There is always something then that might do better.

3. First publication.

4. First writing conference (and knowing you fit right in!).

5. First acceptance of a previously rejected piece of work. You’ve looked at the piece again, edited it again, and send it to another competition or market. They take it. I believe no writing is ever wasted. So what might be rejected now might, with more work, be accepted somewhere else later.

6. Discovering new competitions/markets to submit to – this is fun!

7. First review of something you’ve written (on the assumption it is a good one).

8. First shortlisting in a competition.

9. First book signing.

10. First taking part in a book fair etc with other writers. (Okay, getting sales is another matter but it is good experience and usually fun too. They can be great opportunities to engage with readers. I’ve nearly always found, after an event, my Kindle sales have gone up even if I didn’t sell many paperbacks).

Can you think of others to add to this list? I’ve treasured all of the above (and still do).

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Facebook – From Light to Dark and Back Again

Delighted to have my story, The Delivery, up on Cafelit today. Hope you enjoy.

Will be out and about over the weekend so hope to get more work drafted while travelling. It’s a great use of time!

 

red mail box

See the link to post in The Delivery. Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

 

Which writing exercise do you find the most difficult?

For me, I think it is where you have to put a certain line in the middle of a story. I have written these but not often as I much prefer an opening line or a closing one.

With closing lines, I will “outline backwards” before writing the story up to make sure I get to the required line in a way that makes sense. Once I’ve got my outline I will look to see if I can improve on my initial thoughts. I nearly always can and then when happy with the outline, I write the story up.

But with a middle line, I’ve found the temptation is to cut the story into two halves. The problem with that is it may well come across to the reader as a story of two halves, which is not what you really want. So the trick there is to ensure you can’t see the join, as the wonderful Eric Morecambe so often said to the equally wonderful Ernie Wise!

What is your favourite writing exercise?

I love them all but I think for me it has to be the opening line. Why? Because a promising opening line can take you in all kinds of directions and that’s very addictive!

Usually with this I jot down a few thoughts as to where the story could go and then pick the one I like most and away I write. I do look at the ones I discarded again later and occasionally pick up on another one or two on the list. Why only occasionally?

Because inevitably those at the top of my list are the “obvious” ideas and while there is nothing wrong with them, a competition judge will have seen them all before. You want your own take on the theme that has been set which still meets that theme. You have to dig deep to find the gold.

One wonderful idea that came from Swanwick was to write down your first ten ideas. Having to come up with ten forces you to think more deeply (and laterally) about the topic and that is never a bad thing. And this can be applied to whatever kind of writing exercise or prompt you use too.

Fairytales with Bite –

Top Tips for the Aspiring Character

You are a character who wants to come to life on your creator’s page but they’re umming and ahhing about whether you are really the character they want to lead what they laughingly call their story. It is your story, naturally. They just haven’t realised it yet. So what can be done to make your writer give you your proper place in the tale?  Top tips include:-

1.  Ensure your personality is strong enough. Don’t be a doormat. Doormats not only get trodden on but, far worse, they’re forgotten. That must not happen to you.

2.  You must have good turns of phrase so your conversation is unforgettable too. If you can be witty and come out with appropriate one-liners, so much the better. Readers remember those. Your writer should remember that.

3.  Are you prepared for adventure? Are you happy for your writer to drop you right in it, several times if need be and usually from a great height? Yes? Good! They can do what they like with you then and they will like that.

Good luck! (And tell your writer to get a move on and get you in the story).

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This World and Others – Back to Earth

I had a wonderful week at the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and now it is back down to earth once more. I share a little of what it is like at Swanwick on my Chandler’s Ford Today post this week. I do think you need at least a week to get over a holiday, wonderful writing school or what have you.

How do your characters react when they have to come back to reality after their adventures? Most of the time we don’t find out of course because the story stops when the adventure does. One thing I love about The Lord of the Rings is it does show that things are never the same again, particularly for Frodo, when he finally returns to Middle Earth. I won’t say more than that but I thought this part of the story is realistically done. Frodo would be affected by all that he has gone through.

All stories should show that your characters (especially your main one) have changed in some way, otherwise there is no story. Changes can be positive or negative. Now I must admit I generally prefer positive changes but there is a place for the opposite. What would work best for your character and story?