Saturday 21 February 2015

To Be Continued...
This week has been a week of cliff hangers if you watched Eastenders and their thirty year anniversary celebrations. Each live episode ended on a point in the plot which left the viewer needing to tune in to the next programme to find out what happened....or some viewers anyway! This got me thinking about what persuades our readers to keep turning the pages and come back for more.

What does make the difference between a story that we can't put down and one that we can read at a leisurely pace or even fail to finish? I would suggest a few of the following:
  1. real, credible characters with whom I can fully empathise, their flaws as well as their merits, especially a main character I can really care about
  2. a gripping plot that presents me with lots of questions that need answering, keeping me hooked from the very first page
  3. language that does not hinder the pace of the writing but adds to the flow of the story
  4. vocabulary choices that enhance the images of the story that I am forming in my head
  5. chapter endings that make me not want to wait to pick up the book again.
Will I ever be able to write a story like this? A very tall order indeed! I am well into draft one of my very first ever novel and already I can see which points on the list are the most difficult for me. I like to think that readers will be able to relate sympathetically to my main characters, especially Clara and Rose who are the narrators. I'm also very aware of ending the chapters with some sort of hook which will be answered or picked up at the beginning of the next chapter. But what about the plot lines? Will my readers be fully engaged with them to want to read on? Is the pace right? Perhaps, at the moment, it suffers from what Philip Larkin called 'the muddle in the middle'. Barbara Dynes has written an interesting article entitled 'Moving the Story On - the key to a good middle' in the March edition (Issue #161) of Writers' Forum magazine. She writes about tension in a story 'which needs to run along its entire length, and you can build that up by adding obstacles and complications along the way.'  

For me, chapter endings with hooks or cliff hangers are vital to make the reader come back for more. It may be said that script writers of soaps do this to excess, but we do need to think about leaving an unanswered question at the end of chapters or instalments. Readers will then start to form possible answers in their heads before returning to the story to see whether they had predicted correctly. This week, I came across an excellent post on How To Write Chapter Endings That Make Readers Want to Turn the Page on Anne R Allen's blog, October 12th 2014. She invites her readers to match the endings of the first chapters to some book titles from well known authors. This is followed by an excerpt from Jessica Bell's book which gives advice on ending chapters.

My only experience of writing stories as short serials has been with Creative Frontiers. 'I Want Gets Nothing' was posted over five days in November and this week my three part crime story, 'Stalking Diana' was published. You can read each part here:
I tried to end each instalment with something to bring the reader back the next day. I was pleased that some of the comments suggested that readers did want to come back and find out what happened:
Is Diana who I think she is? I’ll just have to keep reading …(Part 1)
This is getting much darker. No idea how it will end. (Part 2)
A really good end to this.... (Part 3- END)

How do you ensure that your readers keep reading? Have you any tips for good chapter endings? I'd love it if you left a comment. Thanks. :-)

Thank you for reading my blog. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.

Saturday 14 February 2015

WriteFoxy Writers' Inspiration Day

Last Sunday, I attended a writing event held in Dudley with a writer friend of mine, Kath Eastman. It was organised by Miranda Dickinsonbest selling author of Fairytale of New York and It Started With a Kiss. She promised a 'day for writers to come together, share ideas, be inspired and, most of all, reconnect with a love of writing.'  And it did just that! I came away inspired and wanting to get back to my writing.

First, we introduced ourselves to other writers over coffee. It was interesting to hear how some writers were like me with some short stories published on-line, others had agents and the publication dates of their books were imminent and others were already published. What was lovely was to put faces to some of the names I follow on Twitter and to chat to them about their writing.

Miranda opened the event by explaining the format of the day, including pointing out that there was a room set up as a Writers' Den for our use if we didn't want to sit in on any of the workshops. Needless to say, I didn't want to miss a word from Miranda and her speakers so I didn't venture in! 

She then introduced us to her three presenters: 
- Julie Cohen, best selling author of Dear Thing and her new book Where Love Lies, which has just been shortlisted for the 2015 RNA Contemporary Romantic Novel category. 
- Kate Harrison, best selling author of fiction and non-fiction including The Secret Shopper series, the Soul Beach trilogy, The 5:2 Diet and her new book A Batch Made in Heaven.
- Rowan Coleman, best selling author of The Accidental MotherDearest Rose and The Memory Book.
Julie, Kate, Rowan and Miranda
The first workshop, led by Julie, was on creating characters. By the end of the session, we had each created a character not just through a description of his/her appearance and actions. We also looked at how objects used by a character can introduce symbolism into our writing, how a character's conflict may be internal and external and how a character can grow and change over the course of a story. 

After coffee time, it was the turn of Kate. We returned to a room where the lights had been dimmed, candles lit and we were asked to choose a pebble or sea-shell. She led us to think of our emotional blue-print when she asked us to think about the type of stories and themes we normally write about. Thinking about the emotional journeys we were taking in our stories in such a reflective way was designed to make us more confident.

Straight after an excellent lunch, Rowan's workshop was all about discovering your voice as a writer. Something that's very hard to define, yet it's integral to what is unique and distinctive about a successful writers' work. Rowan asked us to think of three words that sum us up as writers and we then had to think about how those words are intrinsically linked with what we want to achieve in our writing.

The final session of the day, 'Writing Against the Odds', was taken by Miranda. It was interesting to hear that even as very successful published writers the four presenters had all experienced disappointments and setbacks along the way. We shared what held us back as writers and the whole session served to boost our confidence and feel positive about our writing. From now on, whenever my writing is not going well, I will leave my computer and adopt my Superman pose! I'll chuckle as I remember eighteen writers all doing that in Miranda's session. :-)

The day had flown by and my head was buzzing. After saying good-bye to everyone and exchanging names of Twitter accounts and Facebook Writer pages, we headed home. 

Many thanks are due to Miranda, Julie, Kate and Rowan for such an inspiring day. If you get the chance to attend a WriteFoxy Writers' Inspiration Day, I thoroughly recommend it;  you'll be in for a treat!

What has inspired you in your writing lately? I'd love it if you left a comment. Perhaps you've been on a WriteFoxy day, too.

Thank you for reading my blog. You may also follow me on Twitter @JanBayLit and on my Jan Baynham Writer Facebook page.