Thursday 30 January 2014

A Busy Writing Week
Here are the last of my 'Thursday Thoughts' for January. I'm calling this a busy writing week and I have done a lot of writing.....but not anything new, I'm afraid. I seem to have spent the week editing and checking stories for submissions to magazines, on-line sites and competitions. Doesn't it take a time? And even then, I'd spot something I wish I'd changed after sealing the envelope or pressing the 'Send' button!

To make myself feel that I have had a productive writing week, I have made a list of what I've done:
- Sent two short stories to 'Take a Break Fiction Feast'
- Entered a short story in the Nottingham Writers' Group competition for new and less experienced writers. The theme was 'Emotion'.
- Sent a 300 word Flash Fiction entry to the Limousin Writers' Group competition in France. The story title here was 'Second Chances'. The prize is two days at the writers' retreat there. Wouldn't that be wonderful?
- Submitted a short story and a '100 Worder' to Cafe Lit. 
- Sent a story to Alfie Dog Fiction
- Met up with writing buddies to talk writing on two separate occasions
- Attended a writing group meeting where we critique each others' novels.
- Have almost finished reading Stephen King's 'On Writing - a memoir of the craft'. 

There -  I feel a bit better now.

 If you'd like to read my tongue -in-cheek story 'Stepping Out' at Cafe Lit, please just click … My daughter asked me how much truth was in it! I did trawl the shops to buy a pushchair that faced me so that I could talk to her (only for her to turn around and face the way she was going!).....but that was all I admitted!

Do you have weeks like this where on first thoughts you feel you haven't achieved a lot in terms of writing? Should I set aside certain days for re-writes and editing perhaps? I'd love to know what you do. 

Thursday 23 January 2014

Writing Buddies and Critical Friends
I think it's fair to say that writing can be a very lonely business so I'm very fortunate to have some good writing buddies, including some on-line, to accompany me on my writing journey. They act as critical friends looking at stories and chapters and give invaluable feed-back. Yesterday, I met Helen for lunch - meeting up usually involves some sort of food and drink! - and we came round to talking about what were the best ways to help each other in our writing. What makes a good critique? How can our comments help us to improve our writing? What things do we look for when giving feed-back?

When I was teaching, I used to encourage my pupils to read their partner's writing and act as a critical friend. Back then, I used 'Two Stars and a Wish'. The children had to pick two things they really liked about the writing and then choose one feature that would improve it.

But what about us as adults? Does that sort of approach work for us too? 

When we entered a short story competition before Christmas, Helen and I had both paid a small addition to the entry fee in order to receive feed-back. When we looked at the critiques, the judge had started with comments about what she considered to be good about the writing and then went on to give helpful advice about how the stories could be improved. We both felt that by having had those positive comments too we were able to work on what was wrong with the writing with more confidence. Is that because we are novice writers perhaps and will our shoulders get broader as we make progress? 

It's important, however, to say what the first impression is on a first read because surely this is what an editor or a competition judge does. Does the story grab the reader's attention? Is there anything that can be said from that first read to help the writer improve the story?

Here is my list of things to look for when giving feedback:
- Do the characters appear real? Can I relate to them?
- Does the story flow and read as a whole? Does the ending satisfy me as a reader? Perhaps there's a twist?
- Does the dialogue match the character? (Many of my characters sound the same so this is a fault of mine, I think.)
- Doe the story keep the reader's interest all the way through?
- Is the POV consistent or is there some head-hopping?
- Do the characters have some conflict to resolve?
- Is there more 'telling' than 'showing'? (Another thing I really have to work on!)
- Are the tenses consistent?
- And then there's the proof-reading and spotting the typos........ 

If you have a writing buddy, how do you help and support each other? What do you look for in a story or a chapter?

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Hot off the Press!

This new book is based on Lynne's excellent 'Telling Tales' writing course held at Cardiff university that started me on my journey to become a writer. I thoroughly recommend it as another of those helping hands I was talking about in my blog last week!
Telling Tales: How to Write Sensational Short Stories eBook: Lynne Barrett-Lee: Kindle Store

Thursday 16 January 2014

A Helping Hand
Yesterday my latest story, 'Rock-a-Bye Baby', was published on Alfie Dog Fiction. It has been described as a happy ghost story. Sounds strange? It would have done to me I hadn't had a helping hand from another writer. 

When some writing friends suggested writing a ghost story for Hallowe'en, it presented me with a real challenge. It was a new genre for me - I loved reading ghost stories but hadn't written any. Not one to shy away from something new, I wanted to have a go and bought Kathleen McGurl's 'Ghost Stories and How to Write Them'.  It was just what I needed!

As well as the hints and tips about how to write a ghost story, the book is illustrated with examples of Kath's own ghost stories that have been published. It's very readable and I learned such a lot from her. 

Did you know that ghost stories fall into three types?
            - Type 1 where the 'ghost' is the character with the problem
             -Type 2 where a ghostly presence helps a main character
             -Type 3 where something happens that may be have an alternative rational explanation.
I don't want to elaborate; it's far better that you read all the details for yourself in Kath's book. (A link to her Womagwriter's Blog is found at the right of this page.)

If you'd like to download and read 'Rock-a-Bye Baby', you can decide whether it's a Type 1, 2 or 3 story. 

What ''How To....' book has been a helping hand for you? Please comment and share with us. 

Thursday 9 January 2014

Thank you GOOGLE!
This week I have written a first draft of a new story. Back in November, my writing buddy group set the challenge of writing a crime story, something I'd never even attempted before. I failed, miserably! I was trying to write the whole thing from motive and crime through to detection. Not wanting to be beaten, when December's challenge was to write a story based on a particular date, I decided I could combine the two. The date would be August 31st 1997 - we all remember what we were doing when the news broke that Princess Diana had died , don't we? - and the crime would be the death of another Diana by a stalker. It was all sorted, well in my head at least!

I had written the first part of the story and was re-reading it. Harassment via texting on a mobile phone? Hmmm. Would that happen in 1997? I suspected not. So I checked on Google! Remember these?

Hardly small enough to slip into a pocket like the slim Smart phones of today. Although the first text message was sent in 1992, it wasn't until cell phone service providers began allowing the exchange of text messages between networks in 2001 that text messaging increased in popularity. Not in 1997 then. First 'faux-pas' in my story! 

Diana, my character, met her stalker, Kevin, when they were both volunteers at a 'Crisis at Christmas' homeless shelter. Through Google, I was able to find details of what this would entail, how many homeless guests would be provided with Christmas dinners and the sort of activities that would be arranged in a typical shelter.  When it came to deciding on a home for my characters, I researched various London boroughs and I consulted Google maps. I found it easier to describe the street where Kevin stalked Diana and the gardens where she eventually met her death with some real images in mind.

I've put the story away for a few days before I start on another re-write. Did I change the references to texting? No, I am now calling my story 'Ten Years On' and the date has changed to the 10th anniversary of the day Diana died. The talking at cross purposes at the end of the story between Kevin and his mother still works I think. Glued to the TV watching the coverage of the event in 1997 ten years before, she talks about the day Diana died and he can only think of his Diana and what he has just done. I don't know whether the story will ever get published but I'm looking forward to sharing it at the January meeting next week. 

How have you used Google in your writing?

Wednesday 1 January 2014

Welcome to 2014 and Welcome to My Blog
I hope you will join me on my journey to becoming a published writer and share my 'highs' and 'lows' along the way.

Looking back over the last year......
Came as 'Me', Left as 'We'Back in January 2013, I had just completed a ten week course, Telling Tales, at the local university run by Lynne Barrett-Lee, a published author.  I started to send off some of my stories for publication.  Alfie Dog Fiction accepted the second one I sent and I was thrilled to see my first ever story, Sledging in Mansell's Field, available for download. I now have three other stories on the site, Moving On, And Then There Were Two... and Woven with Love. The editor, Rosemary Kind, gives helpful feedback very promptly and I have learnt a lot from her advice. The highlight of my contact with Alfie Dog came when Moving On was included in its anthology Came as 'Me', Left as 'We' which is available as a paperback as well as a download.

My fictional account of Taking Tea With Emmeline Pankhurst appeared in the July issue of Pretty Nostalgic magazine. It was great fun to write and enjoyable to research the life of such an influential woman.

During the year, I have entered various writing competitions and the nearest I've come to success was to be a runner up in the NLG Flash Fiction competition with my story The House Viewing.

So you can see from these very modest achievements, my journey has started in spite of the inevitable (so they say!) rejections I've received. 

Looking forward......
I need to set myself some goals. I think, I procrastinate, I dill-dally and dither 2014 I must WRITE,WRITE, WRITE! 

Here are the goals I've set myself:

  • Start a writing blog  - yeah!
  • Write regularly and more often
  • Get at least one story published in a woman's magazine
  • Get back on track with my novel and finish a first draft.
I look forward to sharing my progress with you. Any advice gratefully received!