The FREE online creative writing magazine
Mid-Spring 2015 Issue 5
Inspiration: That is the Easy Part Krystina Kellingley
On Writing First Chapters Annette Oppenlander
Ideas and the Complete Article Writer Simon Whaley
Springtime often inspires all sorts of ideas in the writer and this issue features plenty of things to think about as the evenings grow lighter and (hopefully) the weather improves. Spring and early summer brings new growth. Any form of creative writing is also about growth and in order to keep our writing fresh and sparkly, we need to experiment with new genres, even if we do so under a pen name. Writers, like most creative artists, need to reinvent themselves every so often and move away from tried and tested formulas, and explore. Even experienced writers can get stuck in a rut when churning out the same sort of material all the time, so perhaps try something fresh and new yourself for the spring.
tive writing to the table. You will find here the usual assortment of handy hints, tips and advice for making the writer's life a more productive one. We have also been busy generating interest for Compass Books through Facebook and Twitter, and are about to begin a revamp of the Compass Books blog, so lots of opportunity to contribute to the growing CB network. Facebook Twitter Compass Blog Writer’s Wheel has been compiled for the benefit of both readers and writers, and if there’s anything you’d like to see featured just fill in the form with your suggestions at Writer’s Wheel You can also contact us in the first instance if you wish to submit articles on the writing process, short stories or poetry. We also welcome short writing exercises. Our aim is that WW should be more like a writer’s club rather than just another writing magazine – and you don’t even have to pay to join!
In this issue of Writers’ Wheel, Krystina Kellingley writes about this very subject – inspiration and where to find it. Annette Oppenlander tells us how your first chapter must draw in the reader or your book will return to the shelf unread and unnoticed. Simon Whaley is, as always, generous with his advice on generating ideas for articles, Happy writing, while Autumn Barlow brings her vast experience in crea- The Writer's Wheel Team
The beautiful artwork on the front cover is by tonal-impressionist landscape artist, Stuart Davies.
Writer’s Wheel now invites contributions for the next issue of the on-line quarterly magazine. There is no payment as Writer’s Wheel is purely a voluntary effort. So please do include links.
reflect the hands-on, practical nut and bolts approach to writing rather than philosophical ‘why we write’ reflections.
We are particularly interested in features, articles and interviews from beginners, authors, publishers and readers on all writing -related subjects. Writer’s Wheel is a stable mate of Compass Books, the writers’ resource imprint of John Hunt Publishing and the material submitted for consideration should
We will be featuring extracts from both fact and fiction already published by JHP authors but we are also interested in receiving original short stories up to 2500 words and flashfiction of 1000 words maximum, regardless of whether you are a JHP author or not. Stories may be previously published or part
Articles: 1000-2000 words.
of a published anthology or collection. Original poetry should be a maximum of 40 lines. Please accompany submissions with by an author photograph and a 30 word biography. Photographs that enhance the submission will also be considered. Material that is date-related can be submitted for entry on the Compass Books blog. Submissions should be sent by email and attachments to: firstname.lastname@example.org 3
From the Editor's Desk
Writing From Experience Part 1 Using Your Senses Jane Bailey Bain
The Right Time to Write Alicia Garey
On Writing First Chapters Annette Oppenlander
Inspiration: That is the Easy Part Krystina Kellingley
A Novel Idea Suzanne Ruthven
Competing Books and Genres Autumn Barlow
Dear Sir or Madam Geoffrey Iley
If It Isn’t On the Page It Doesn’t Exist Maria Moloney
Roderick Vincent on Turning Your Novel Into a Screeplay
Ideas and the Complete Article Writer Simon Whaley
Hera Pan: Village Matriarch Part 2 Dark Secrets Helen Noble
Anticipation and Fear Linda M. James Editing From Both Sides of the Pen Autumn Barlow
Songs of the Naked Monkey Roderick Vincent
20 Shades of Awful Mikey Dunne
Wattpad – Worth It? Maria Moloney
Writing with the Leannán Sídhe Lee Morgan
Making the Most of Your Writing Time Sue Johnson
Fifteen Minute Brain Workout Sue Johnson
Musings of A Young Writer The Great Idea Mikey Dunne
Poetry Jennifer Copley
The Real Author of the Therapist’s Cat Stephanie Sorrell I Couldn’t Believe I Did That: Writing Through the Heart Maria Brennan
Competitions & Events
Writers' Resources Directory
Spring 2015 Set your kitchen timer for five minutes. Write the letters of the alphabet down the left hand side of the page. Create a ‘story poem’ with each line beginning with the next letter of the alphabet – for instance: Annie filled her basket with Bread and set off for the Church where she was meeting her boyfriend Dan …. Write as quickly as you can – don’t worry about it making sense at this stage. Stop when the buzzer goes at the end of five minutes. Set the timer for another five minutes and write brief character studies for the people in your story. Who are they? What do they most want? What guilty secret are they trying to hide? ‘Surfing the Rainbow: visualization and chakra balancing for writers’ by Sue Johnson published by Compass Books
For your last five minutes, see if you can begin to shape this raw material into a flash fiction story.
‘Unlock Your Creativity: a 21 day sensory workout for writers’ by Sue Johnson and Val Andrews published by Compass Books
(You may find this exercise gives you enough raw material for several stories!)
SS-Obersturmbannführer Friedrich Höcker reached into the pocket of his luxuriously tailored winter jacket and removed his black leather gloves. A new consignment would be arriving shortly and he could already see the billows of smoke emerging from the approaching Deutsche Reichsbahn train on the horizon, somewhere beyond a clump of snow-clad conifers. Today would be a very long day. Friedrich had been informed that many of the occupants of the windowless cattle trucks had actually survived the long passage, which was unusual in these extreme temperatures. Yes, it would be a very long day indeed. Commencing his morning routine, the sound of Friedrich’s boots pierced the gloomy air as they loudly clanged upon the iron staircase leading down from the exterior of his office. The steam from his breath was barely visible in the freezing mist, which lingered low over the camp.
He tried to comfort himself with the thought that cattle would actually be harder to process. Any dead bodies would be taxing and difficult to lift, and with rigor mortis set in they would be like statues. Any animals remaining alive would hardly be in any mood to cooperate after such a lengthy journey with no access to food or water. Certainly the simple-minded herd would also not comprehend the fear of a loaded machine gun. They would be unruly and unpredictable. Human beings were different though, especially weak and starving ones, and this particular breed would also be afraid, and rightly so. Friedrich shuddered at the thought that somewhat later that day the foul stench of their smouldering bodies would drift into his office; the fetid odour always found a way to seep in despite his best efforts. It would linger deep in his nostrils just long enough for the next consignment to arrive. The sound of the arriving train was now deafening, bringing him sharply out of his thoughts; it would soon reach the end of the line, and for many of the train’s worthless occupants it would be the end of the line too. Friedrich relished that as a very good thing. He smiled, sheathed his cold fingers into his gloves, and prepared for the forthcoming pandemonium.
Annette Oppenlander Dos and Don’ts of First Chapters As I’m renewing my struggle with the first chapter of a manuscript I wrote five years ago, I’m perusing a lot of the advice on first chapters. The majority of first chapters of contemporary fiction that make it to the bestseller list, no matter what the genre, are extremely well written. Often the quality diminishes later in the book, but by then the reader is hopefully hooked and won’t give up the story easily. One thing is certain. Unless you’ve already made a name for yourself as an author, your first chapter must draw in the reader or your book will return to the shelf unread and unnoticed. So what makes a first chapter truly great? We know that the first sentence must be powerful enough to entice the reader into continuing through the first paragraph, then the first page and so on. But what is it exactly the reader must be hooked with? Here are ten things your (and my) first chapter must deliver 1) Introduce protagonist(s) and potentially main antagonist(s) You should have a character bio for all your important players, but only give us hints about their looks and personality, mostly through action, not a laundry list of traits. Refrain from launching into backstory. Often the sign of a novice writer, back story should be doled out little by little throughout the story. It is partially what keeps people reading… to find out what moves the protagonist. 2) Develop setting (time and place), better yet put it in context I just learned in a great class by Daniel José Older at
the Midwest Writers Conference that context is developed out of place, time and power. ‘Power’ are the forces that define the setting in much greater detail. For example power can be institutions such as governments, religion, education, media, financial system, employment, family, medical and community. Power can also be race, sex and gender, violence, age, family, language and culture. There are more, but this gives you an idea what context is influenced by. So in chapter one, we must create a feel for this context the characters are acting within. 3) Set up your story and character arcs A first chapter should contain some sort of action that pulls the reader into the story. Character arcs, however should be treated lightly, because just like with backstory, the beginning may only hint at what makes our protagonist tick. 4) Hook the reader Your protagonist must face either emotional or physical peril caused by an inciting incident. Not only that, the reader must care about the protagonist. Making a reader care is probably the most important task to accomplish in the first chapter. 5) Action or mystery The most common advice for writers is to begin the story with action. Blood-dripping murder must happen on page one or else. Maybe. In some genres such as thrillers there is often a gruesome or highly scary incident in the first two pages. If anything, I advise you to read a hundred books in your genre before deciding on the level of activity. In many cases, setting up the action requires a lighter hand, something more mysterious and brooding, something we feel rather than see yet. All we know is that
Spring 2015 something is coming at us—our protagonist—and it’s bad. I’ve seen plenty of self-published novels where almost nothing happens. Characters get bogged down with boring activities, doing laundry, taking a walk or drive. Readers crave something they themselves don’t do. Make it interesting, unusual and exciting which leads me to item 6. 6) Stakes not steaks Whatever is “at stake” has to matter. It cannot be some unimportant issue like your protagonist losing a knickknack or being scolded for missing school. Your first chapter doesn’t have to give it away, but it has to at least “hint” at something large. 7) Tight and to the point Avoid long sentences and flowery script; avoid overuse of adverbs and adjectives. Always, not just in the first chapter. You do not need to prove your writing skills by using words only found in the dictionary. In fact, Ernest Hemingway, wrote at a fourth-grade level. Unless you’re writing an academic paper, keep it simple and straightforward. 8) Voice Developing a strong voice takes practice. Your protagonist’s actions, internal and external dialogue, his choice of words, the flow of his thoughts all determine voice. Is he perky, self-confident or sad? In order for us to follow the protagonist, he must be likeable (not perfect by any means). He cannot be whiny nor should he engage in truly despicable activities. I.e. there may be a pedophile in your story, but he should probably not be your protagonist. 9) Theme What is your story’s theme? Summarize in one sentence what your book is about. Whatever it is, it must be reflected and hinted at in your first chapter. Can you imagine reading a first chapter that leads you to believe the book is a romance and turns out to be a thriller? Be consistent and establish your manuscript’s theme from the beginning.
10) Add dialogue Today’s readers expect dialogue, exchanges of words that hint at each character’s motives, reveal conflict, move the story forward and make the story interesting if not exciting.
Common writing mistakes In addition to setting up your story, you also want to avoid common writing mistakes. Most of them have to do with craft and are easily avoidable. A great book about common mistakes is THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman. Consider making it a staple on your book shelf. The author lists the most common mistakes and reasons why agents and publishers turn down manuscripts. Don’t give them that chance. Five common first-chapter mistakes (there are plenty more…) 1) Presentation: everything from stained paper and unprofessional fonts to grammar and punctuation. 2) Generous use of adverbs and adjectives—do I need to explain further? 3) Sound: reading aloud identifies sounds that are too similar or sentences that don’t flow. 4) Comparisons: analogies, similes and metaphors. The use of too many, the wrong ones or worse, clichés. 5) Showing versus telling: let characters speak through their feelings, body sensations and language and dialogue. However, too much showing can get in the way of flow, so use a mix of both. Are we confused yet? When reading my notes, I’m cringing at the task ahead. Again the best advice I can give is to read a hundred opening chapters. See what you like and determine why? Read books on craft. Take notes and analyze. Be patient, write and rewrite. Then run your story by your writers group and a group of beta readers (not your best friends and family). One more thing. Don’t rewrite your first chapter a hundred times without finishing the draft. One person in my writing group tended to rewrite the beginning of the story over and over without ever progressing through the entire story. It’s tempting to rewrite if you don’t like what you see. But the most important thing you can do is to finish your story and call it a first draft. Then return to chapter one. Several times.
Annette Oppenlander (annetteoppenlander.com) loves telling stories about young guys thrown into interesting and challenging historical settings. She holds an MBA in marketing and market research and lives with her husband and mutt Mocha in Bloomington, Ind. Her YA novel Escape from the Past – The Duke's Wrath will be published in July by Lodestone Books. 7
I think the most often asked question when people discover I write is ‘where do you get your inspiration from?’ Sometimes that’s followed by something along the lines of ‘I couldn’t come up with a story even if somebody held a gun to my head.’ And there we go, right there! Because someone actually did use that phrase, and I lost track of the conversation for a few moments, due to an ideas overload. In the past, I worked in a Young Offenders Institute. There was one particular group I worked with where a slim, young man, who habitually wore an air of vulnerability and sadness, at some point in the lesson, would inevitably ask, ‘Sing me a song, Miss.’ I always wondered if someone, his mother, perhaps, had sung a particular song to him when he was small, and if it brought back comforting memories. Anywho, that recollection, and the idea of your life depending on being able to tell a story crashed together and my brain went into overdrive as various scenarios flashed through my head. The thing I’m saying is: for a writer, inspiration is everywhere, in every day you draw breath, in every conversation you have, every film you watch, every book you read, every song you hear. No—I’m not suggesting you should plagiarize another person’s work. What I am suggesting though, is that bouncing off an idea can lead to a whole, new and very different story. I was eleven when I first put grubby pencil (pencil! for goodness sakes!) to equally grubby paper (it wasn’t even lined paper!) and wrote a story after reading a girl’s comic book. In a fever of excitement I sent off my creative effort with a covering scribble (letter would be far too grand a title for what I actually produced) to the same girl’s comic, and because it was a vastly different world back then, the long suffering and extremely kind hearted editor wrote back. His letter informed me that my idea was good but needed filling out and if I should choose to do this, I would be welcome to re-submit. I don’t think he even connected my story with the one I’d originally read because, although it was along similar lines, it was different. My character behaved differently, spoke differently, the situation, although it had similarities to the other story, progressed differently and the outcome was different. My next creative effort came some years later. I had watched an episode of Star Trek. It was the one where Captain Kirk meets a beautiful and perfect woman
whom he falls in love with. Then, shock, horror, he discovers she isn’t human. In fact, she’s an android. Just like that, he loves her no more. I remember thinking, bloody typical man. She’s perfect, wonderful, everything any man could want. But one tiny, little thing and that’s it, he’s off! Well—yes, I might be in the minority to consider not being human as a ‘tiny little’ thing but still . . . The next day I sat down and wrote my reply. In my version, it’s the guy who isn’t human (he is gorgeous and perfect though). He’s also married and when, after an incident where he’s injured, his wife discovers his androidness, she thinks about his virtues and how good he’s been to her all their years together and stays because, she LOVES him. Similar is far from being the same. Check out Stephen King’s The Stand and Robert McCammon’s Swan Song and King’s Salem’s Lot and McCammon’s They Thirst. No idea which was written first. No idea if either writer was even aware of the existence of the other book as they wrote their own. The point is, they’re very similar books but that doesn’t stop them being excellent reads and different enough to be enjoyed by the very same reader. My short story The Price of a Dream, deals with a hypnotherapist’s ambition bumping up against a personal crisis, leading to having the tables turned on him by a ghost. Now, during my successful career as a hypnotherapist, I never did once sit down with a ghost. I did, however, encounter much in the way of life’s challenges in assorted guises—not all of them presenting as clients! It was a conversation with another hypnotherapist’s assistant, coming together in my mind with something I heard in a seminar I was attending, about salesmen being the easiest people to pitch a sale to, that spawned the idea of someone who practices hypnosis being particularly suggestible to it. I have several novels on the go now, one was inspired by a TV series, one by a line from a song, the other has its basis in real life (my own). It’s a story set at the end of WWII, which looks at the effects of disenfranchisement, poverty and PTSD. Throw into the mix a family history of mental health problems, jealousy and the demands of a small baby and who knows what might happen (well, actually, I do.) But you, peeps, will, hopefully, have to buy the book to find out. My children’s story, Mistflower the Loneliest Mouse,
Spring 2015 also came out of experience, this time, second hand. It doesn’t take any effort at all, for any humane person, to see that animals are constantly subjected to needless suffering in the name of the great god CASH. Most animal lovers, particularly those who are fortunate enough to have known the unconditional love of a furry friend, don’t understand why scientists should be paid huge amounts to come to the obvious conclusion that animals do, indeed, have feelings. These are the people who shudder when they read of needless cruelty to an animal—just for the sake of it. During my time working with young offenders, I heard stories of things done to animals, particularly cats, which made me both angry and very sad. Although dogs seemed to be valued, though not necessarily exempt from cruelty, cats were seen as rodents and more often than not, were hated. The things I heard played on my mind and I wanted a way to reach children that would perhaps help change that perception. One day, driving down the A30, the story of a young, very distressed kitten, who finds the only creature to take pity on him is a tiny mouse, arrived, complete, in my head. I think, perhaps, a Higher Power than myself also had an inclination to help. It certainly felt like a gift had been handed to me. Usually though, it takes a bit more work than that to develop the whole story. Although my writing is character driven, and I’m of the opinion that, no matter how good the plot, if your character doesn’t engage the reader enough to make them care about what happens, then your story will fail to capture and then keep said reader’s attention, usually it’s only a page, two at most, that arrives in my head already ‘written’ so to speak… well…write. So what is it that keeps the inspiration coming? For me, that’s where what I call the ‘what if factor’ comes into play. It’s that factor that turns one or two pages into a 100,000 plus word novel. The game is, whatever your character tells you, the question you ask yourself is—but what if? For example, I was the child of Polish immigrants so, as an adult, it was easy to appreciate the problems faced by my parents, plucked from their homes and their lives, firstly by German invaders, who wished to take them for slave labour, and secondly, by the allies who liberated them but forbade them from returning home. It was painfully easy to understand how it must have felt to set foot on English soil with empty pockets and one cardboard suitcase, containing all your meagre possessions. Even easier to understand that lemonade was the only pop I tasted until I was old enough to ask a friend what all those other, enticing, different coloured, bottles of fizzy stuff were called. But harder to appreciate the difficulties in something so simple as ringing the changes of menu when you had been taken from your family before you learned to cook and were now in a country where recipe books were written in a language you couldn’t even speak; harder still to have to deal
with a migraine without any medication because, back in the old country, there was no such thing and lack of language skills left you unable to find out otherwise. But the inspiration for putting pen to paper could just as easily have come from walking home alone, in the dark, suddenly fearful that those really are footsteps behind me. Who hasn’t faced a moment of fear in some place, at some time in their lives? Take that moment out of the box you’ve consigned it to, buried deep in your memories, and dust it off, shake it out, hold it up to the light; ask yourself—what if? Sometimes, when I point out these rich lodes of inspiration within family life, people will shake their heads and tell me that their lives, their families are too ordinary, too boring. But what could be more monotonous than a prison regime? And when we did the exercise of ‘a day in the life’, a large percentage of the young men in my writing classes would present quite an uninspired log of their activities that day. But, occasionally, just occasionally, one of them would have asked themselves ‘what if’ and their account would be very different. Their story would soar to the heavens, along with the large population of ducks that migrated to our grounds each year, during mating season, or travel through the bars riding on a pathway of moonbeams, to a craft of a strange design, sitting in the dark sky in a holding pattern. Sometimes it was a family drama they envisioned, or a reconciliation. Sometimes they told of the day they longed for and, just as often, feared; the day the gates would clang shut behind them, setting them free, at least for a time. Of course, some of my sources of inspiration come from completely external places. The nightly news and the tabloids frequently offer up good titbits. I have a file into which I put all the ‘oddities’ that have come to media attention; places where there’s an unusually high rate of suicides: houses where strange things have happened, unusual sightings, in short, anything that triggers my ‘what if’ response. Mythology and folk tales are a good source of inspiration. Pictures are another strong trigger—a picture of a solitary beech, limbs beseeching the moon, gave rise to a short story of the same name. A lonely bench, a bruised sky, a stone circle, a crowded shopping mall; all teem with hidden narratives, resting just below the surface, waiting to be called forth into the light of day. Waiting for that one, all important question— ‘what if’. Out of that simple, powerful, magical enquiry, endless stories are born. Krystina Kellingley is publisher of several imprints within John Hunt Publishing. She is currently working on an adult supernatural fiction novel. She has had several short stories published in spiritual magazines as well as many online articles on dream interpretation and other subjects. Krystina travels internationally to tutor in writing workshops as well as privately mentoring new writers of adult and children’s fiction. 9
If you are submitting your book to a publisher, they may ask you to identify your “competing books.” This sometimes causes consternation amongst authors. “But there is no other book like mine!” you may cry. “If there was a competing book, I would not have bothered to write this book.” Let us begin by separating writing from publishing. Writing can be both an art and a craft; authors sometimes speak of a calling to write. They have to write. This can be a fine and noble thing. Publishing, however, is a business. Any time that art intersects with business there is tension – between the author’s vision and the company’s accounts, basically. Publishing seeks to take that author’s vision and present it to the people who want to explore that vision. In other words, put the right book in front of the right readers. Cooking can be an art. Restaurants, however, are business. If you open a restaurant there will always be competing restaurants. The very existence of competition is a good thing, because it shows there is a market. I could open a fast food joint that sold nothing but gravel and toothpaste burgers, but no one would buy the stuff. There’s no demand. I could open a standard burger place, but make it better – I would not only meet my customers’ expectations, but exceed them – then I would be a success. And so it is in publishing. The book has to meet the readers’ expectations, and then exceed them. First, then, the book has to simply meet the reader. How? By looking like the other books that kind of reader likes. By being in the same category that the reader browses in. By saying, very loudly, “Hey, you like vampire mash-up steampunk? Read me! I’m just like that, only better!”
Competing books aren’t books with similar titles, or even similar settings. If I have written a crime thriller set in an Antarctic research station, and you have written a tender love story set in an Antarctic research station, they are not competing books even if they both have an ice-scape for a
cover and the title of “Out Of The Cold.” A linked problem is that of identifying your book’s genre. Many publishers get faced with authors claiming their book is unique – it’s a never-written -before romantic zombie science fiction espionage thriller set in an alternate universe. From a business point of view, which shelf in Waterstones’, exactly, do you want that book placed on? Of course there are hundreds of successful crossover fiction examples but they all have a primary genre. Pride and Prejudice with Zombies (yes, this exists) isn’t literary/classic and it isn’t horror. It’s comedy. What is genre, anyway? It can be defined as many things, but I find it most helpful (as a writer myself) to analyse the emotional impact a reader expects from their book choice. Why does someone read a romance? For the thrill of being in love. Why does someone read a horror story? To be scared. Why does someone read a literary historical espionage novel? To be challenged and to work their brain. To feel intellectually superior, too. If you, as a writer, are not sure of the genre in which your book should fit, then consider what emotions you are trying to create in the reader. Your job, as a writer, is to transport them somewhere else – you do this through emotion – what emotion is the primary one? (A good book should have aspects of all human emotions but there will be one overriding one.) Once you really know the genre, you can find your competing books. And then … oh then, it’s easy. Just be better than them. Autumn Barlow is a writer and editor. She is publisher of the historical fiction imprint, Top Hat Books. She writes a monthly column for Cycling Active Magazine, as well as contributing regularly to other fitness publications. She has written fiction for Take A Break, People's Friend, Women's Own and Woman, and been widely published in numerous other magazines like The Big Issue and Writing Magazine. She also writes romance, rather prolifically. She lives up in the Lake District, North England.
Okay, so you have the entire story in your head. You've lived the scenes, you, as the author, know exactly what's going on and what's going to happen. You know what your characters look like, their age, where they work (or if they don't work), what background they have, if they are married or single, have children, perhaps even what their star sign is. At any given time you have it in your head where your character is, indoors or outdoors, which city, town, village, building (be it at home in an apartment or house or even room, in an office, shop or school). So all is good. You write for a few months or years, and there you have it, your whole story on paper. Or is it on paper? In fact if it isn't on paper then it might as well not exist. There are a few common problems, particularly with new writers, where vital pieces of information are missing from their work, mainly though insufficient editing, or failure to ask others to read the text to see if they fully understand it. Below are listed six possible scenarios where this might happen.
Missing motive: Having a character suddenly do something with no real motive. You might know the motive; you have it in your head. Unfortunately, unless it's down on paper then your reader does not know, they are not psychic (well they might be but they shouldn't have to do the work for you). Perhaps there is no motive as you don't feel you need to have one, after all it's a work of fiction, anything can happen. Well in fact anything can happen within reason. The reader will suspend their disbelief to a certain extent, but only up to a point. A character should not 'act out of character' for no particular reason. And if they do, use language to convey why. The magically appearing item: Your reader will notice an item suddenly appearing from nowhere. One minute the character doesn't have a gun or sword, but then, suddenly, they do. Or the magic crystal will suddenly appear in a character's hand (you decided it's a good idea for them to have it and you know they've had it in their pocket all along – the problem is we, the reader, didn't as you didn't tell us). Guess where Wally is? You character approaches a building and goes in. Again you have it in your head what building this is so don't need to describe it. Oh yes you do! Your reader doesn't know what it is. Is it a castle or school? Who works or lives there? The reader will read on to find out and if they don't, then they will go back
and read the piece again to see what they missed. Not finding it annoys them and they may well abandon your book (and a one star review will suddenly appear on Amazon). Rules the reader doesn't know about: It's a fantasy or sci-fi book and as such you can invent anything you like, when you like. Well…actually, no. Even in your own invented world you need to be consistent and not constantly change the rules. If you've already said something is so, then you shouldn't suddenly change it unless you have a good reason to do so (and something has happened in the meantime to affect this rule). You can't just change things to fit in with a new idea. For instance, at the start of the book you make it clear that your main character is living in a medieval world. The weapons used for three-quarters of the book are swords and daggers. Then suddenly everyone is running around with guns. It's a fantasy world so you may think this is fine. No it isn't. You already set the rules. If you want guns as well as swords and daggers then they need to be in the book from the start, or at least you need to mention that they exist, even if your characters can't get to them yet. They shouldn't just appear out of thin air. Missing sense of place: You might have it in your mind what that remote island, or fantasy world looks like. Again we don't have access to your mind, so without parachuting in description in one big go, feed the information in gradually within the action and through the eyes of the characters. Coincidences to explain plot development: Back to suspension of disbelief. You have an event you can't explain, so you manipulate the story to suit where you're going next. Result – the reader loses trust as the event/explanation is not plausible. There's been no foreshadowing or anything that will justify the use of your unlikely plot ploy. Readers will not take these ploys at face value. They will question them and think "what the hell!".
Jeanette Winterson sums it up: I don't give a shit what's in your head. By which I mean if it isn't on the page it doesn't exist. The connection between your mind and the reader's mind is language. Reading is not telepathy. Jeanette Winterson, The Guardian
Simon Whaley Ideas are those pesky little things that have a habit of biting you at the most inopportune moment and then buzzing off into the ether, if you don’t swat them hard enough and imprint them into some sort of permanent format. Of course, it’s all well and good having a method of capturing our ideas, but we need the little blighters to show up from time to time. And if you’re looking to generate a useful income stream from articles then they need to turn up on a regular basis. Think of yourself as a great explorer, rather than an armchair traveller. Don’t expect the ideas to come to you; go out and find them. It’s not necessary to travel to the ends of the earth though. Ideas are everywhere, once you start looking. I used to work for a high street bank. (Please don’t hold it against me.) As a result, I’ve used that knowledge to write articles about looking after your money and how to protect your personal data. I spent several years working for a local authority dealing with grants and European funding (yawn), but I used my knowledge and experience to write a book on the subject. My hobbies include walking, which means I’ve discovered lots of interesting places to go hiking, which is why I’ve regularly contributed to magazines like Country Walking, BBC Countryfile and Lakeland Walker. And as a columnist in Writing Magazine I need new ideas every month for that, too. “I have two small children under five,” someone once said to me in a workshop. “Going anywhere, or doing anything with them can be a complete nightmare. So what do I write about?” Easy. Ideas can be found in the mundane areas of life. Write about what you do know: What techniques/tips have you created to help make taking the children out shopping as easy as possible? What time of day, or day of the week, is quietest in the supermarkets? Which are your favourite free places to take the children out to? (Children’s play area, library, interactive museum, local park.) Which shops have the best baby-changing facilities – national chains, or local independent retailers? What are your five top distraction techniques, for when the children are misbehaving? How do you make the most of your time when your children are asleep? With ideas, it’s not about what you know, but what others may be interested to know. It’s a struggle bringing up children on your own, but you know you’re not the 12
only one doing it. Your coping techniques could work for someone else. The trick is to assess the idea. Our first ideas are usually too vague. They need to be fine-tuned. Article ideas fail because: They don’t have enough depth to them. Save money by always buying BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) products with long use-by dates is not an article idea; it’s a tip. It would work on a filler page, but does not work as an idea for an 800-word article. (What else is there to say?) However, Eight Ways To Make Your Money Go Further (of which the BOGOF is one element) could work as an article idea, because there is more to say. It’s an anecdote. We all have stories of funny things that happened to us while doing some DIY on the house. It’s the sort of thing you tell your friends at the pub or over coffee. What will the reader learn from it? (Apart from the fact that you’re not to be trusted with a hammer and some six-inch nails.) It’s too big an idea. Some ideas are too enormous for the article format. A complete account of World War Two would fill several books. It’s not possible to do it justice as an article. However, there are several techniques you can use to focus your idea and make it more suitable for an article.
Angles When you angle an idea, you’re narrowing in on a smaller element of it. This means thinking about a specific type of readership. It’s tempting, when you’ve done lots of research and discovered a wealth of interesting facts about a particular subject matter, to want to include everything you’ve unearthed in your article. When you angle an idea, it forces you to choose which facts to include and which ones to leave out. What you leave out of your article is just as important as what you put in. For example, a dog magazine might be interested in my home town as a holiday destination for dog lovers. It was recently voted the dog-friendliest town in the UK and there are some fantastic places to take your dog for a walk. So the angle of this idea is my home town as a tourist destination for dog lovers. However, I would not mention the golf course we have here, despite it being one of the most scenically outstanding courses in the country, because my target readership, dog lovers, would not be interested in this information. Topical Hooks and Anniversaries Timing is everything. Magazine production schedules
Spring 2015 can extend to weeks or months, which means that editors are often working three months ahead on monthly publications and anything between four and eight weeks ahead on weekly issues. Therefore, they put a lot of work into making their issues as relevant to their publication date as possible. When the reader sits down to read it they should feel they’re reading something up -to-date and relevant. Anniversaries can be a great way to give your idea topicality and make it more interesting to an editor. They can also be written many months in advance, which is great from a writer’s perspective. They take planning though, because the stronger the anniversary, the more interest an editor may have. However, more writers will want to write about the big anniversaries. First World War articles are popular at the moment because of the centenary of the event. Nice anniversary numbers are 25, 50, 75, 100, and so on. But if the approaching anniversary is not a nice round number, don’t be put off. Sometimes editors will consider any anniversary if the idea is right. I once sold an article to The Lady about earthquakes in Britain using the third anniversary of the last big quake to hit the country. Consider all potential anniversary options, too. For example, if you’re writing about a historical character, look at all of the dates for potential anniversaries. When were they born? When did they die? When was their first big breakthrough? If they died 78 years ago, that’s not a great anniversary number, but if their big breakthrough achievement occurred 125 years ago, then use that as your anniversary hook to hang the rest of your article on. Sometimes being a writer is all about being creative with numbers. Broadening Ideas It’s possible to generate an idea by broadening it to encompass a wider picture. Many people will have heard about the Bayeaux Tapestry, depicting the Battle of Hastings and the invasion by William the Conqueror. But did you know there is another tapestry depicting scenes from the last invasion of Britain (Fishguard, in February 1797)? A quick search on the Internet reveals there are other similar tapestries too. So, why do people feel the need to commemorate war with needle and thread? What are the ten top war tapestries of the world? And you don’t have to stop at this world. One Internet result mentioned a tapestry depicting key battle scenes from the Star Wars films, which, as everyone knows, took place in a galaxy far, far away …
cle to Derbyshire Life magazine about earthquakes. Although I used a bit of information about British earthquakes in general, I included everything I could find about their impact upon Derbyshire. Local readers are interested in local issues. They don’t care what’s happening in the county next door. Using a local angle is no different to any other angled piece: draw upon the information that’s relevant to that local readership and discard the rest. Once you start scrutinising your ideas you’ll find there are gazillions of them out there. There are some writers who say they never have enough time to write up all of the ideas they have … and this is why. So what are you waiting for? Get writing! The Complete Article Writer draws upon Simon Whaley’s own 25-year article-writing experience and is a step-by-step guide taking writers through the process of creating a publishable article, from developing an idea, angling it to a specific readership, knowing what structure to use, selling the idea before writing it, and even showing writers what to do once it has been published. ISBN: 9781502491817 Print RRP: £7.99 eBook: £2.99 About Simon Whaley Over 600 of Simon Whaley’s articles have appeared in publications such as: BBC Countryfile, Country Walking, The Simple Things, Cumbria, Discover Britain, British Heritage, The People’s Friend and Outdoor Photography. He’s also the author of The Positively Productive Writer (ISBN: 9781846948510) and Photography for Writers ISBN: 9781780999357), published by Compass Books and Compass Points respectively. For more information about Simon visit: www.simonwhaley.co.uk
Local Angles Having considered a galaxy far, far away, don’t ignore what’s on your own doorstep. Local county magazines and local newspapers all need articles. Can you take a national story, or idea, and give it a local twist? Remember my article about earthquakes in Britain that I wrote for The Lady? In my research I discovered that one of the UK’s biggest quakes caused damage to buildings in Derby. So, by focussing on that local angle, I sold an arti13
Good suspense in stories makes readers so eager to discover how the conflict resolves that they can’t read fast enough. We all know that wonderful feeling that comes from being so immersed in a story that the outside world ceases to exist. How do you stop the world from existing? How do you build up credible suspense that makes readers hover on the edge of their seats, desperate to know what’s going to happen next? You use two basic principles: anticipation and fear. Anticipation is a simple concept. In fiction, the secret to anticipation is letting the reader know something bad could happen. We create anticipation by introducing a situation that’s fraught with the possibility of danger or risk. Situation One A Cabinet Minister is driving down the road, stressed by her job. She’s so behind with her work that she takes home some top-secret papers so she can finish an urgent report. [Notice that I’ve ‘upped the stakes’ by making this report ‘urgent.’] She’s so distracted that she fails to stop at a junction and another driver shouts abuse at her. She apologizes then drives off, still distracted. You know something awful is going to happen, don’t you? You’re anticipating that she’s going to crash and someone will discover she’s carrying top-secret documents in her car. What will happen to her, then? How could you stop reading now? Situation Two Your main character, an assistant bank manager in a 15th century building, is sitting at her desk when two hard men stride past her and walk into her boss’ office without knocking. The door is locked behind them. Why? She thinks. An hour later, she sees them leave, but her boss’ door is still closed. She has too much work to worry about this odd event. Of course, the reader hasn’t and thinks about it. You have planted the seed of anticipation. Who are the men? Why did they lock the door to her boss’ office? What has he done? Situation 3 A single father is changing the tyre on his car in his garage. When he’s tightening the nuts on the wheel, he drops a heavy spanner on his foot. He winces but finishes the job. Just as he’s hobbling back into the house, he feels a little faint, but he’s got no time to worry about it as he’s got to look after his small son. We have foreshadowed a problem in the future for the father and because he’s a single father we start to worry about him. 14
In each of these situations, the reader knows something bad is likely to happen and will try to speculate what that is. But the only way the reader is going to find out is by reading on. That’s how effective anticipation is. However, it is very important not to resolve this anticipation too quickly; let the tension build for pages before you resolve the situation in whatever way you decide. On the other hand, you mustn’t string out the anticipation too long or the reader will become irritated. Tease the reader, but don’t annoy. Creating good anticipation is a fine balancing act. While you’re creating this anticipation ensure that your narrative is important to the story-line. Don’t include unnecessary details which slow the narrative down. Readers don’t like you ‘showing off’ with unnecessary research that you’re determined to put in the story because it looks clever. FEAR The second principle of suspense is fear. Fear is the inextricably linked with anticipation. Fear occurs after the awful thing has happened, but the outcome hasn’t been resolved. Let’s take two of the earlier examples and see how fear works. Situation One Distracted, the Cabinet Minister doesn’t notice the car in front of her has stopped for a red light, and she hits it. She hits her head and feels concussed, then sees the angry driver in the other car coming towards her. He shouts that he’s calling the police - she ought to have her licence taken away. What on earth will she do? Put the reader in the woman’s awful predicament by highlighting the woman’s thoughts about what will happen to her career, her marriage and her family if she is discovered. Situation Two Work continues in the bank at normal, but the bank manager doesn’t emerge. The assistant manager is now worried. She walks to the manager’s office and knocks on the door. There’s no answer. When she opens the door, she’s horrified to find the bank manager hanging from an old beam. [Remember it’s a Tudor building.] She looks at the papers on his desk which shows he’s been embezzling. Then she notices another paper in which he implicates her. Stunned, she’s just about to remove the paper when one of the staff walk into the office, sees the body hanging and the assistant manager trying to remove evidence. She screams and all the staff rush in.
Spring 2015 What do you think will happen next? A character’s fears [and the reader’s] should increase as the story progresses. The best way to increase fear is to give your main character options at the beginning of the story, then gradually decrease them as the story unfolds. However, make sure you don’t escalate the problems so much that the story becomes melodramatic. Anticipation and fear are vital tools that give interesting tension in a story. They can be woven into even minor conflicts. So don’t forget to spice your stories with suspense. You’ll be amazed how much more publishable this will make you.
Exercise 1. Develop a story from Situation 3. Remember to escalate the problems for the poor single father so that you will have your readers desperate to help him. Extract from “How To Write And Sell Great Short Stories” Linda M James is a writer of novels, non-fiction books, screenplays, short stories and poems. Before becoming a writer, she was a model, a singer and an English Lecturer.
Musings of a Young Writer The Great Idea Any passionate writer, even those with an undeniable gift for gripping tales or fascinating subjects, knows that the love for the printed word is undying. It is a love of a lifetime.
We reward ourselves with a nice cup of coffee, because caffeine is the brain food of every writer, except it isn't and the large quantities of it might explain why we can't concentrate on one thing for more than an hour. We couldn't possible enjoy our coffee without some television, but it's okay because we're only watching one epiHowever, most writers are plagued sode of Orange is the New Black… by good intentions that never seem to come to fruition, replaced instead by enticing distractions, bottom …Ten episodes later and its 3am. We'd better get some scratching and an endless stream of unfinished products. sleep, but we must first make sure our work is properly saved. We save it to the digital folder of great ideas, and As with all good intentions, it starts with a great idea. guiltily try to ignore the number of files containing previThe great idea inflames us, we spend half an hour imag- ous great ideas that never came to be: 'Wind and the ining how wonderful it will be when the great idea be- Swallows' which sounds horribly familiar, 'Mary Had a comes a novel. Then who might star in the future motion Little Lamb, It's Fleece Was Black as the Night Sky' and picture: how it will be someone handsome or beautiful, the one that got away 'Harry Potter and the Woman with a great body, because this is our chance to marry Who Got There First and Robbed Our Millions'. someone famous. A possible further ten minutes may be spent thinking of what we will say as we collect our The next morning (or afternoon after the death grip of Booker Prize or even the Nobel Prize. Netflix kept us up all night), we start the day with our breakfast and a cup of tea, staring at the television. After a saddening and blunt crash back to reality, it's time to sit down and puzzle over a name for this master- The infuriating trailer for Fifty Shades of Grey comes on piece we are yet to start. and we are forced to wonder how such a mediocre idea is doing all the things we ever dreamt of. Once we get 'The Apple of Mystery' … no, that's no good, 'The Fruit of back to our masterpiece however, we'll show the world Foreboding' … no, no, that's too clichéd, 'The Banana what great ideas are all about. That Never Could' … oh dear, maybe we'll come back to that later. Later that year, with a layer of digital dust on 'The Banana That Never Could', a new great idea has inflamed us Then as we start on the first paragraph of our new mas- once again, and this time, this time, we will definitely terpiece, something magically happens; the words actu- become rich. ally begin to flow, our fingers whip back and forth across the keyboard and for once we are actually writing. Every- Mikey Dunne is a make-up artist (curer of ugly) and something is falling into place, we've written our first page or times has the intention of being a writer. He is also a caffeine maybe we've done so well we've finished our first chap- addict. Mikey currently resides in Liverpool, UK (famous for Paul McCartney, John Lennon and those other two). ter. 15
Autumn Barlow I am an editor and I am a writer. Some days, I am the poacher and others, I am the gamekeeper. Editing other people’s work has made me a stronger writer, and I also believe that being a writer, having my own work edited, has made me more sympathetic as an editor. What is editing? It can be many things. If you are a writer seeking an editor, you need to establish what level of editing you require. Don’t assume an “edit” is an “edit.” It’s not. Structural or developmental editing is the hard-core stuff. It takes many hours of work on both sides. This is where the editor wades into your lovely novel and tears it apart. If writing a book is like building a house, this is where building control come around and tell you that your foundations are in the wrong place or you’ve used the wrong stone. You might have to shift scenes around. Delete whole chapters. Introduce or change characters. It really hurts. The only thing you can tell yourself that makes it any better is this: if the editor didn’t see some glimmer of hope, they wouldn’t have taken the job on. Heavy edits and light edits depend on what is needed. Typically, if you have found a freelance editor, they will assess a few pages of your work and tell you what you need. Some people struggle with punctuation – it seems like a simple thing, “oh, just fix the commas” – but it’s a lot of work. You might find yourself paying for a heavy edit. Many heavy edits also include continuity errors (do John’s blue eyes turn brown in chapter seven?) and fact-checking (the hero can’t have been conscripted into the British Army in 1938). However, check with your editor if they are going to cover these issues. A proofread usually occurs once the text is laid out for print. This is to mop up those stray errors – an errant plural, a lapsed quote mark. If you save money and pay for a proofread instead of an edit, many errors will be missed or simply ignored. If you are working with a traditional publisher, changes at this stage cost money. No edit or proofread is 100 per cent accurate. If you’re a self-publisher, you are under the spotlight far more; there are certain reviewers who delight in finding an error, waving it proudly as an example of your lack of quality control. But even a traditionally published book contains errors.
The pitfalls I am a UK author. I love the English language and the history of it – it tells us so much about peoples and movement and migration and change. However, there are more ebooks sold in the US than in the UK. It’s simple maths. (Or, indeed, simple math.) Many authors who write in UK English find that they get reviews criticising their grammar and claiming that the book has not been edited. This is so frequent that most of the independent authors I know put disclaimers at the start of their books, essentially explaining (or apologising) for being English. There are other solutions. I also know of UK authors who write in US English – for my erotic romances, I do too. As a writer who seeks publication, the most important thing to me is the reader. The reader’s experience is paramount. They have spent money on my work. It is a grave insult to them, then, if I do not meet their expectations. Most of my readers are in the US and so I want to give them the easiest reading experience – so I write in US English for them. Of course, most American readers handle UK English and it’s condescending of me to assume they cannot. Yet the fact remains that there are significant differences between the languages, beyond matters of spelling and vocabulary. The punctuation is different and so is the phrasing. (Compare “did you hear about Mary?” to “have you heard about Mary?”) In the UK we are exposed to far more US culture than the other way around. A British resident will read a book in American English without noticing. I have another set of books which are placed in England. For these, I employed an American editor with one very specific task – tell me what might be confusing to an American reader. I wrote these in UK English but I wanted the sense of the story to be accessible to all. She flagged up many instances which simply hadn’t occurred to me, from the descriptions of houses (a terrace? Not in America) to the associations of a high school leaver, or graduate. Some matters of grammar are set in stone. Others cause more debate. If you have time to kill, look up the arguments around the Oxford Comma! An author may decide that some words will be capitalised. Often, their intentions are unclear – they might vary between king
Spring 2015 and King, or seven pm and 7p.m. or okay and OK. Editors will generally use the first instance as the author’s intention and change all subsequent presentations to the first usage, but a good editor will also query the intention with the author. On Being Edited Being edited really hurts. I suspect that many independent authors don’t get their work edited or proofread before publication because they are scared. “What if the editor tells me that everything is wrong? It took so long to write – I can’t rewrite it!” There can be debate. I hesitate to call it argument, but there are sometimes disagreements. The editor should state their case, the author will explain, the editor may press their ideas – but ultimately the decision lies with the author. It’s their name on the work, after all. This is one reason why it’s helpful to let the book be set aside for a little while. When the edits come back, the author can approach them with a fresh eye. It is often difficult for an author to have their sentences changed. “But I know what I meant! It’s obvious!” Yet if it was so obvious, then the editor would have seen what the author meant… clearly, they did not. If the author is adamant that they are correct and the editor is a fool, it is worth asking a few totally impartial people for their impression. Not, alas, family and friends. They love you too much to tell you the truth. Find an English teacher; they are quite good at careful criticism, and they will do most things for a bottle of wine. Failing that, join an internet forum critique group and swap work.
The Author and the Editor You don’t have to get on. If you don’t like one another, it doesn’t matter. You can respect the work and treat one another with courtesy and professionalism. The
editor doesn’t need to be a fan of that genre of work – unless, I suggest, they are conducting a developmental edit, in which case they need to be familiar with the tropes and structures of that genre. Sometimes, however, the relationship breaks down. This has only happened to me where there has been miscommunication and skewed expectations. If you are working privately or having your work edited by a freelancer, this is where you need to be able to refer to an email or contract which clearly sets out the level of editing that was agreed on. If there was a sample page of editing, that’s even better, as you can refer to the example. Seriously … HOW MUCH? Editors are not cheap. “It’s only reading a book!” you might say. That’s usually followed up with “I love reading. I have often thought about being a proofreader.” Ahh. It’s not the idyllic career choice you might be daydreaming about. It’s not all day on a sun lounger with a novel in one hand and a martini in the other. I have timed myself. With most general editing jobs, I can do around ten 250-word pages in half an hour. So that’s 5000 words in an hour, and you can expect to be paid around £3 per 1000. £15 an hour – well, it’s better than minimum wage. Except you can’t sit and slog at the computer for hour after hour. I find my attention to detail drops off after 60 pages in a day, and that’s with sensible breaks. I also do two passes of the work, and I suspect most editors do too. One’s a read-through and one’s the actual work. I do the actual work first, and then a second read-through with the “track changes” mark-up hidden, showing only the final copy. You won’t get rich as an editor, and it can ruin your recreational reading as you constantly see the errors! Impartial editing is essential for all writers. If you find an editor you work well with, hang on to them. Honestly. The polished end product is worth the pain!
One of the most inspiring places for garnering ideas are the regular agony aunt columns in weekly magazines and newspapers. It’s not just the original letter from ‘Worried – Cheltenham’ that can spark off an idea, more often than not the response can add even greater depth to the plot depending on the political/religious/social slant of that particular magazine. For example: I recently found the idea for a murder mystery beginning to form around the problem of a narcissistic mother and the response which included a website referral – and the ’work in progress’ notes for one of my books were immediately mapped out for future exploration. There’s a lot more to agony aunt columns than their amusement value...
SPECIAL OFFER FOR WRITERS FROM COMPASS BOOKS! Compass Books are offering a special deal of 0.99p and 0.99cents (plus tax) on two of our e-Books on Amazon. This offer runs for the whole of the month May – so now’s the chance to build up your library of writers’ how-to books to help you explore new directions.
How To Write and Sell Great Short Stories DO YOU KNOW · How to create characters who are more real than your family and friends? · How to make these characters speak with their own dlogue, not yours? · How to create vivid locations that readers can actually see? · How to create such intriguing plots that readers are desper ate to carry on reading? · How to be really creative with words? You don’t? Then you need to buy this invaluable book. It will not only teach you fascinating story-telling techniques, but how to market your polished short stories once they are written so that they sell worldwide! Strongly recommended reading by anyone aspiring to write in the short story format – and have those stories published! ~ Small Press Bookwatch, Midwest Book Review Linda James talks about what makes a good book here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liYD-NPOXQQ http://www.lindamjames.co.uk/
Write a Western in 30 Days Nik Morton has been writing for over forty years, honing his craft. He writes genre fiction, whether that’s science fiction, horror, crime, thriller, romance or westerns. To date he has 15 books under several pseudonyms. His westerns are usually written under the name Ross Morton. Within these pages you can discover how to write a western – from the initial ideas, through the preparation and research, to those allimportant character studies and plots. And you can do it in 30 days! This book will prove invaluable to all writers, especially those undertaking courses and degrees in the subject. I really cannot recommend `Write a Western in 30 Days' enough, and having finished it I'm going to start reading it again! ~ Mr M Iles, Amazon http://www.freewebs.com/nikmorton/ http://nik-writealot.blogspot.ie/
REGGIE & ME REACHES THE FINALS OF THE PEOPLE'S BOOK PRIZE! Written by Marie Yates and published by Lodestone Books, Reggie & Me tells the story of Dani Moore who is a survivor trying to rebuild her life and figure out how to be normal again. Sky News is to broadcast the awards ceremony, which takes place at Stationers' Hall on 27 May 2015. The prizes are decided by public votes. Founded by Beryl Bainbridge, the current Patron of the People's Book Prize is Frederick Forsyth. Reggie & Me is the first book in the Dani Moore Trilogy. Dani's story is told through her diary in the wake of her rape and subsequent court case.
Author Marie Yates is known as The Survivor’s Coach and works predominantly with survivors of rape and sexual abuse, taking clients through a journey of self-discovery towards a positive future. Marie also takes her survivor’s message into 3rd Sector, Youth, Educational and Corporate organisations to enhance skills of resilience and personal development. As a motivational speaker and regular guest on radio, she emphatically shares the message of surviving with purpose. Marie has written for numerous magazines, regularly blogs on the subject and is currently writing the second and third books in the Dani Moore Trilogy.
Having moved with her mum, Dani starts year eleven at a new school, facing various challenges that bring a renewed energy to face whatever is thrown at her and carry on regardless. She realises that ‘normality’ is something that she can define herself, with the help of her dog Reggie and the people around her. Reggie & Me is more than a story of survival, as the reader is taken on an inspiring journey of personal development, interweaved with tools that girls and young women can use to create the positive future they deserve. FINALIST WINTER 2014/2015 THE PEOPLE'S BOOK PRIZE Reggie & Me is a heart-warming tale of survival after the most difficult of circumstances. Marie Yates has written a totally realistic, and heart rending story about the power of healing assisted by the love of a four legged friend, filled with identifiable and inspirational characters that practically leap off the page. Reggie & Me should be on everyone's must read list. ~ Thomas E. Sniegoski, New York Times Bestselling author of THE FALLEN series, and the BONE: QUEST FOR THE SPARK trilogy.
Are you fed up with publishers and their annoying theories of 'grammar' and 'spelling'? Did you think Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series was actually quite insightful and well written? Do you think 'irregardless' is a real word? Then I have great news: you're awful. Remember that story you read about the publisher who jumped from a thirty-storey building? That was down to you!
12. When all is said and done, at the end of the day, clichĂŠs make the heart grow fonder. I say with a sharp intake of breath (or more likely 'breathe').
Here are 20 great ways to keep people banging their heads against their keyboards in disgust.
14. Most celebrated books aren't written in the first person and in the present tense, but people will praise your new approach.
1. Reading improves your grammar and spelling, so make sure you draw inspiration from the masters like L. Ron Hubbard, E. L. James and Dan Brown. Because nothing inspires drivel more than diarrhoea disguised as a novel. 2. Be sure to take your laptop to a public place e.g. a coffee shop. What's the point of being a writer if people don't know about it, right? Don't forget to talk about your plot out loud. Don't worry about that woman who got up and moved to a table further away from you. Clearly jealous. 3. An inappropriate font type and size is a great start to any wonderful disaster of a book. It also makes it easier for people to read your novel in the coffee shop. Remember to think of an appropriate title, I suggest Terrible by Crappy McGee. 4. dont worry about grammar an editor can add all that boring stuff in later i mean who really needs grammar the words are their so why wouldnt people be able to read what youve written with ease i dont get the big deal either
5. taht goes fr spelling to 6. Don't know a word? You can just make it up. My personal favourites are supposably, vice-a versa and announciate. For all intensive purposes. 7. It's okay that your first chapter is 10,000 words, we all love description. 8. It's not plagiarism as long as your school of witchcraft and wizardry is run by vampires or trolls. 9. If your novel follows the viewpoint of the protagonist, it's absolutely essential that the reader knows something before the character does. 10. Your erotic novel should mention a 'throbbing member' or 'heaving bosom' in the first paragraph. Also, random inanimate objects must cause your main character great arousal. 11. Good writing means that characters living in the 21st century talk as if they live in the 18th century.
13. Be creative; your character has cephalalgia of the cerebral hemispheres not a headache.
15. Offensive stereotypes are the way to go. Your gay character, Jude Garland, will most definitely be a hairdresser, and everyone will cry when he dies of AIDS in the third chapter. Don't forget your black characters; if she's female she'll need a name like Orlanda and have an overly aggressive attitude but the reader will love her when she wags her finger and says 'mhmm'. Also remember to empower the female reader with talk of 'girl power' because nothing mends gender inequality like meaningless babble. Especially in contrast to the rest of your novel in which the heroine changes her personality to please a man. 16. Remember to follow the genius of E. L. James in using inappropriate adverbs to create bizarre actions. 'I whisper recklessly,' writes James, clearly trying to insinuate her character is spitting and speaking in gibberish. 'His eyes smolder,' which sounds painful but it's not, it's poetry. 17. Readers are stupid so you will need to demonstrate a character's actions, unnecessarily. For example, 'Ha ha ha,' he chuckled. Now the reader knows what laughter sounds like. 18. Leave out character description to give the reader room for their imagination. Be sure your characters are two dimensional and boring, this way the reader will have to 'event' the character for you. 19. Simple actions need to be peppered with complication; nothing thrills a reader more than an awkward sentence. Stephenie Meyer does this masterfully; instead of a simple explanation of what is happening, for example, 'she glared at me' â€“ Meyer, being such a gifted writer, opts for awkwardness: 'The look she directed at me then was a glare.' 20. Be sure your poor excuse for a book receives unprecedented attention and that you make millions selling the film rights to your dreadful idea. Annoying every hard working, good writer, who is left wondering why his or her wellconceived novel has been left on the dung heap, whilst your actual dung is now a film in every cinema.
If you're a writer of Young Adult fiction (YA), you can't have failed to have noticed Wattpad the social network for readers and writers. Wattpad has an estimated 40 million users, of which approximately two million are writers. The site is most popular with the 13-18 age group but has a growing proportion of 18-30 users and older. It can be a great way to build a fan base as long as you keep active within it. Just as with any other social networking site, if you neglect it you will lose the momentum, along with your following, wasting the time you have already put in.
she says: "But Margaret," you can hear them whispering. "You're a literary icon at the height of your powers; it says so on your book covers. Why are you sneaking out with an online story -sharing site heavy on romance, vampires and werewolves? You should be endorsing Literature, capital L. Get back up on that pedestal! Strike a serious pose! Turn to stone!" Maybe my dates with Wattpad are a bit undignified. But at my age you can afford to be undignified. You're free to explore, and to
Wattpad is most often used by authors to post their work in progress, to raise their profile and to help sell existing books. Yes, there will be much writing on there that needs a good edit and, needless to say, there will be authors who will dismiss the site as rubbish and who wouldn't dream of putting their own work up as it will of course tarnish it â€“ and them â€“ by association. But that attitude could be shooting yourself in the foot. Best advice: try it before dismissing it as not worth your attention. Margaret Atwood agrees when, in a Guardian interview,
guinea-pig yourself, and to stretch the boundaries.
Remember that many writers on Wattpad are young people getting their thoughts and feelings down and generally working out their own problems through fiction. As a YA author these same young people are your potential audience, so don't dismiss them so readily. And what about the other 38 million â€“ the readers? That's your potential audience right there. According to the International Business Times there 21
are plenty of other well-known authors who have not turned their noses up at Wattpad, including Scott Westerfeld, Meg Cabot, R.L. Stine and Paulo Coelho. If it's good enough for them… Marketing Wattpad is great for marketing. Goodreads even has a section especially for popular Wattpad books. If you get enough votes and comments on your stories then they will be picked up and promoted further by Wattpad. You can end up with millions of reads. One way to sell books is to start serialising one little by little. Announce where readers can buy it. With a bit of luck, your readers won't be able to wait until you've posted your whole book and will go out and buy it. Posting excerpts doesn't work as well. It needs to be something that keeps readers coming back. How does it work? Wattpad is for both writers and readers. It takes minutes to set up an account. Add a bio and a pic. Ensure your password is a mixture of symbols, number and letters, because, as with other social networks, your Wattpad account can be hacked. You can also delete comments if you are subject to trolling. When uploading stories add keywords such as Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance and Young Adult. You can give your stories a recommended age rating.
You can write straight into Wattpad or copy and paste. Uploading a document may well upset your formatting. Wattpad converts to ebook format that can be read either on a PC, tablet or smart phone. You can organise your uploads, rearrange, add and delete. Followers can vote for you (similar to a like on Facebook).
What is the most popular genre? Romance, YA/teen, Fanfiction, Fantasy (including the supernatural), Science Fiction (including Dystopian), Paranormal, and Suspense (often a mixture such as paranormal with a romance element). Fanfiction listed here is growing in popularity and according to Wattpad is… 22
…writing that remixes characters, places, or plots from existing narratives to tell new, original stories. Existing narratives could mean things like popular books, TV shows, movies, games, comics, or plays. Some types of fanfiction even cast real people as characters in the stories. Fanfiction can expand the story world (like sending Katniss into the 76th Hunger Games) or can take known characters in completely new directions (like having Katniss battle it out with Pikachu). More about this below. What should you be sharing? You can serialise a book and all the better if you have more than one book in a series. Post little by little – but often, not dragging it out – and make sure followers get the links to your other books. Perhaps write short stories to get followers interested in your writing. Another idea is to write separate but exciting back stories or subplots for your existing characters (again posting the link to the actual book). Or perhaps write a short prequel, or, if you only have one book, a short sequel. Two thousand words is approximately ten minutes of reading. It is said the average length of time spent on the Wattpad app is thirty minutes. So bear this in mind. Will I sell more books? There are good reports of authors increasing sales. This is not without hard work put in. If you post one or two items, don't follow anyone or interact, then don't complain about it not working. You do get out what you put in and those authors that work at it certainly have more success. It may take a little trial and error to hit on the right formula, but giving up if you don't have instant results is the fastest way to fail. As with any social network, time and patience are both required and if you found you quickly gave up on your Facebook page or Twitter through lack of your interaction, then you shouldn't expect Wattpad to work any better for you, unless of course you are more suited to the format. Authors have been discovered on Wattpad and
Spring 2015 offered lucrative publishing deals, often by one of the big five publishing companies. Paramount Pictures have acquired the rights to a Wattpad serialised book After by author Anna Todd. This is a book of the fanfiction genre as detailed above. Todd began by writing stories about One Direction's Harry Styles. Not surprisingly with Wattpad and One Direction being popular with teens her After trilogy has gained over 600 million reads, although this has morphed from teens to romance readers and then on to the older reader (with the main characters being 18 and 20 and with some "risqué" scenes). In thestar.com author Anna Todd, who never imagined making a career from her writing, talks about her new found fame: “I had no idea what to expect when I first started writing…I never expected it to turn into this.”
Things to consider
Bear in mind that 85 per cent of users are on tablets and phones, so experiment a bit. See what brings you the most views. Keep a record. Be sure to reply to comments. It's only polite. If anyone asks where they can buy more of your work, you can add links to your answers. If you are serialising your work, post regularly so that your readers know when to look for the next part of the story. Perhaps give them a teaser to the next one to keep them hooked. Don't neglect this as you will soon lose your readers as they will move on to something else. If you have two books in a series, then consider posting the first one a little a time on Wattpad. Don't post all but the last chapter or two and then say, "To find out what happened you need to buy my book." Your reader will feel cheated. Take on board comments when posting a work in progress. It may well help to improve your writing. You might not strike lucky with lots of views straight away. Some authors will find they hit on something within a short time. Others will struggle to get a dozen. Don't give up at this point. Keep going and try to discover what works. Add users, read their stories, comment. Remember to repay the favour and read and comment on the work of others. After all, this is a social network and just like with a Facebook author page, it will lose momentum if
you get lazy or lose interest in regular posting. As with Twitter, follow others who write in a similar genre to you. Following people back who have followed you can also help with exposure. Make sure you have a strong cover with a good resolution. You might want a photo of one of your relatives or a pet on it, or a design you did yourself, but try to think about what your readers will go for rather than be self-indulgent. Check your grammar and spelling. You will get this pointed out if you don't. As with Facebook and Twitter you might want to decide not to have email notifications as you can end up feeling spammed. Perhaps leave it switched on at first to see how quickly you get responses, but as you build your readership you don't want to spend all your time deleting emails. Be friendly and grow a thick skin. Getting uppity or defensive about criticism is likely to lose you followers.
Is it all worth it? Whether by being a Wattpad user you will sell your existing books or get a publishing contract will depend on the factors highlighted above, and perhaps a bit of luck in hitting on the right formula. On a work in progress followers may interact with you, help shape your story and direct which path characters will take, what problems they might meet and generally guide or influence you on the final resolution. Even if you do not win a publishing deal, Wattpad is a good way of receiving feedback and improving your writing; and, as Margaret Atwood says, to stretch your boundaries. You may also gain exposure and add to your author platform, which helps when submitting your book to a publisher. The other benefit is that you will have a readymade audience if you go on to self-publish. It may just be worth giving Wattpad a try.
Maria Moloney has worked for John Hunt Publishing since 2009, she is an imprint publisher of Lodestone Books and Our Street Books, is publicist for Compass Books, a reader and copy editor. Maria is also author of five MBS books, and a children’s novel. She teaches creative writing and has a degree in Imaginative Writing and Literature, and has studied both Writing and Research at postgraduate level. Maria lives in Ireland. 23
Jennifer Copley lives in Barrow-in-Furness in her grandmotherâ€™s house, a large draughty Victorian pile that has informed much of her poetry. She is the author of three full collections of poetry and four pamphlets including Ice (Smith/Doorstop), Unsafe Monuments (Arrowhead), Beans in Snow (Smokestack), Living Daylights (Happenstance) and Mr Trickfeather (Like This Press). Her work has appeared in The Rialto, The North, PN Review, the Independent on Sunday, the Forward Prize Anthology and GCSE Poetry Unseen revision papers. Her latest collection, Sisters (Smokestack), was published last year. It burst into life after seeing a Victorian post-mortem photograph of two sisters. 24
Surprise deliveries – deadly discoveries – and once more, the demons of despair rise from their lair. Filoppos Pachis paced back and forth in front of the open doorway at the rear of the village bakery. As the figure of Dr Phaedrus approached through the dusk, he threw his cigarette to the ground, squashing its final embers into the dust with his toe. “Dr Theo, thank the gods that you are here. Come, they are inside,” Filoppos ushered the medic into the tiny kitchen. The scents of cinnamon and honey warmed the atmosphere of the room, dimmed by the shuttered window. Despina Pachis prepared her baklava in the evenings. Each morning she baked fresh bread, and mid-morning she served up her traditional recipe meat, cheese and spinach pies. The bakery closed for the day at siesta. Although if anyone was desperate for some provisions, the Pachis had been known to open their doors and allow people to fill their baskets with the day’s unsold goods. Filoppos had finally persuaded Despina to accept some help in the bakery, as her health was failing and both of their offspring had long moved away from the sleepy island. The couple had taken in a young girl from Albania, who had arrived in the village looking for work at the end of the summer season. She explained that she had not managed to save enough money from her job in a hotel kitchen, on the east of the island, to enable her to return home. Slight in stature with round, blue eyes, Odeta, who herself seemed little more than a child, had described herself as the oldest of five, fatherless children. It had fallen to their mother and Odeta to earn money for the family, and she continued to remit half of her weekly wages to her home address. The solemn-faced young girl had proved a very diligent kitchen hand, as well as an obliging house guest. Despina’s initial fears at allowing a strange young woman into their home had soon dissipated. She enjoyed nourishing the pale girl with her baked delights, and watched as the colour and softness returned to her face. Enjoying the break from the kitchen, Despina had once more become more involved in the church and village life. Recently, Filoppos had also started to teach the girl some baking skills and had stated that he was pleased with her aptitude for the craft. The news of her pregnancy had caused a tectonic shift amidst the tiles of the bakery floor. Despina had recognised the girl’s condition only at an advanced
stage, but due to her petite stature, she could not believe that the child had been conceived prior to her arrival in the village. Convinced her husband was the father and shocked to the core by the notion, she sought solace in the company of the priest. For the past few weeks she had avoided Hera, her close confidante, who had raised her eyebrows in disapproval on the initial arrival of the girl; the same girl who now lay, writhing in the sweat of labour, on the bed. “She has a fever,” explained Filoppos, as he mopped her brow with a damp cloth. “Where is Despina?” asked Dr Phaedrus. “She is with the priest,” the anxious baker replied. “How many weeks pregnant are you?” Theo asked Odeta. “Thirty six or seven,” the girl managed to say before once more doubling up in pain. “Is she having the baby? Is it happening now?” Filoppos was becoming frantic The doctor told the patient to take a deep breath and roll over onto her back. With a gentle apology and the lightest touch, he pressed her swollen abdomen. He
popped a thermometer under her tongue and asked her when she had last passed water. Then he lowered his tone and asked if there had been any other indications of early labour. “Is she OK? What is happening?” Filoppos demanded, leaning over the doctor’s shoulder. “I have called the ambulance. I’m not sure if the pains are a sign of early labour. But I would say she is suffering from an infection of the urinary tract, maybe the bladder. Hopefully it has not reached the kidneys. The hospital is waiting to admit her and I’m sure a course of intravenous antibiotics will sort out the problem. They will of course at the same time check that everything is as it should be with the pregnancy.” The doctor’s expression darkened. “Why has she not registered with me and attended for pre-natal care?” Filoppos took him by the arm and led him away from the bedside. “We did not know,” he whispered, shrugging his shoulders. “She did not tell us. My wife became worried about her when she started to get very tired, but she insisted that she was fine. Now as you can see, she is clearly with child.” Dr Phaedrus looked straight in to Filoppos’ eyes. “Where is the father?” he asked. An impatient Hera Pan wondered how much longer the doctor would be away from the surgery. The ambulance had long left the bakery to transfer the patient to the hospital in the capital. However, closing time had passed and there had been no word. She would be happy to wait if he was to return that evening, if only to learn of the details of the evening’s unexpected events. If not, then she would like to lock the door and head over to find out for herself what was amiss with her old friend, Despina, at the bakery. Hera knew not of any visitors staying at the Pachis household, and so the only person who could be pregnant would be that young worker they had employed in the autumn. Hera would have something to say if her friend’s trust had been betrayed, and her kindness so rudely rewarded in the way that it now appeared. Impetuously she tapped in the number of the bakery to the ‘phone. The call remained unanswered. Night fell. The empty surgery became enshrouded in a dark silence. Hera would soon have to leave. There 26
was the mountain to climb. She would call in to Arsenios’ house in the hope that he would offer to escort her and Dora up to the farm. If they were both already at the hilltop, as was often the case, she would have to make the climb alone. Hera was not alarmed. She knew the Gods were on her side, and that she could always rely on Arsenios. Firstly there was just the matter of that sealed envelope… Theo Phaedrus had avoided the surgery on his return from the bakery. Instead he had headed to the taverna of his oldest friend and confidante, Dimitris Floros. A glass of Metaxa, poured over ice, was duly placed on
the bar in front of him. Dimitris knew not to speak until the doctor had gathered his thoughts. The two men had known each other all of their lives. The boyish love they had for each other had grown into a mutual adult respect, as both made their choices, each creating their lives in accordance with their individual values. Theo had applied himself conscientiously to his studies. He heard his calling loud and clear from an early age. He had never questioned that his role in life was to treat, cure and heal people. Dimitris knew this. He knew Theo better than anyone else. However, he chose to fulfil his family’s expectations, marry and bring children into the world. His
Spring 2015 Sue Johnson wife was happiest when she was clucking around after her brood, arranging family meals and dressing the taverna tables to welcome in the guests. In the quiet moments, Dimitris sometimes wondered how different his life might have been if he had followed his first love away from the island. Theo had begged him to leave so that they could live an anonymous life together in Athens. Dimitris could not work out whether he was more scared to stay than to leave. Obligations had finally overridden desire for him: the young man had chosen to conform with the traditional, community ways. Heartbroken, Theo had qualified and practiced on the mainland at the start of his medical career. The endless hours spent tending to the broken and sick bodies on hospital wards proved a timely distraction from the pain in his own body. Not lacking in offers of company from eligible young women over the years, indeed he had acquiesced in the face of temptation on a number of occasions, however, the younger Theo had mainly preferred to keep his own counsel and concentrate on his work. This continued until the death of his own father. Theo’s mother had passed away whilst giving birth to him, her first and only child. His father, also a doctor, had raised the boy with a distant love, always impressing upon him the need for compassion for others. On his passing, Theo had found himself surprisingly groundless and his life seemingly aimless. His reaction had been to return to the island, and to the only source of love he had ever known. On his arrival back home, Dimitris had agreed to meet with Theo, in private, on just one occasion. It was out of compassion, at least on Dimitris’ part that they coupled just once more, some ten years previously. Despite his ardent desire for his only love, Theo had promised to honour and respect the Floros family, by keeping his distance and playing the acceptable role of their physician and friend. As such he no longer pursued his lover. However, at moments of sorrow, discord or disappointment, Theo always sought out his closest friend, whose silent company was the only intimacy he could ever expect. He drained his glass and asked politely for another drink. Dimitris frowned. He did not approve of Theo’s drinking. However, he refrained from commenting, and obliged by filling up his friend’s glass. As the men’s eyes met, Dimitris could see the pain in Theo’s eyes. He had learned that he should not question his friend. As a physician, Theo witnessed much suffering, most of which was subject to his oath of confidentiality. Dimitris nodded in acknowledgement of the man’s heavy burden. “Have you finished work for this evening?” he asked. Theo shook his head and looked tentatively around the
bar, to see if anyone sitting close was likely to hear his answer. “I still have some paperwork to complete, but I am waiting for Madame Pan to leave the surgery,” he said quietly, lifting and rotating his glass, watching the melting ice swirl gently before dissolving in the whirlpool of liquor, deadening the pain of his memories. Meanwhile, under lamplight in the doctor’s room, Hera had been inching open the flap of the half-sealed envelope. With the gentlest of motions she eventually removed the report, noting every fold and crease and spread it open on the desk. It read: ‘Oncology report for Kokkinos, Arsenios DOB 14/02/1957. This gentlemen attended recently at my clinic and was presented with all of the test results. I must say he did not demonstrate an overly emotional response at the news. I checked his understanding. His hearing and eyesight are both of a good standard for a man of his advanced years and I am satisfied that there are no significant impairments to his cognition. Generally speaking, Mr Kokkinos is in good health. He is aware that there is currently treatment available for the tumour on his prostate gland and that at the present time there is no evidence of any secondary growths anywhere else in his body. However, Mr Kokkinos informs me that he does not wish to engage in any form of treatment and that he is not likely to change his mind on this issue. It is his choice to continue to live his life and leave his fate in the ‘hands of the Gods’, as he puts it. I am sure you, as his personal physician, will advise him otherwise. Therefore I leave this matter in your capable hands and will respond next if/when I hear again from you. Of course I do not need to impress upon you that time is of the essence in this matter. Yours faithfully, Dr Gus Papadopoulos’ Hera’s legs started to shake and she sank back into the doctor’s chair. A wave of nausea washed over her and for a moment she felt sure she was going to faint. Instinctively, she fanned herself with the letter, waiting for the feeling to pass. Finally coming to her senses, she re-folded the report, re-sealed the envelope and replaced it back on the desk. As she rose to leave the surgery, the night sky was a shade darker, her limbs felt stiff and awkward, and her heart weighed heavily in her chest. She could not summon the energy to detour across the cobbled village square. She would have to wait another day to find out what had happened at the bakery. (c) Helen Noble 2014 27
“I am an obscure and patient pearl-fisherman who dives into the deepest waters and comes up with empty hands and a blue face. Some fatal attraction draws me down into the abysses of thought, down into those innermost recesses which never cease to fascinate the strong. I shall spend my life gazing at the ocean of art, where others voyage or fight; and from time to time I’ll entertain myself by diving for those green and yellow shells that nobody will want. So I shall keep them for myself and cover the walls of my hut with them.” ― Gustave Flaubert When you’re a writer people often ask you about where you get your inspiration. Another common question is: Do you ever get writer’s block? I like to tell people when they ask these questions that I don’t have to worry about either of these things anymore, because I’m being slowly eaten alive from the inside out by the leannán sídhe. This garners some mixed responses, not least from among those for whom it’s the first time they’ve heard of this creature from Irish mythology. Most people who are idly curious about the doings of writers, do not in fact know that there’s a species of faerie creature who will bury you alive under a mountain of narrative in return for absolutely everything in you. If you feel more comfortable that way, feel free to view the leannán sídhe as a metaphor for the creative process. Even so, being eaten by a metaphor is no laughing matter. Most of the metaphors that control us are enormously powerful. When one has you, you end up silent, pushing and kicking and twitching like the prey in the love-grip of the python. A reverse birth that takes you back closer to the source of meaning, closer to the place where words get their potency, the flavours they carry like lingering perfumes. Once you’ve been embraced by leannán sídhe, inspiration is a topic you can only speak about in inspired terms. The process is mythic or it’s nothing. There is no process… There are appearances, apparitions, revelations, confrontations and trepidations. There is an ongoing dance of dissolution, in the digestive juices of leannán sídhe. She wanders out of the mist as dreams move, treading a wet-printed trail up to your door. Those who know her well know her footprints aren’t wet because she comes from a river, no… They are lubricated like the glistening trail of snails, membranous… Inspiration must cross an osmotic membrane into our world, light dancing dizzy on sticky dampness, and so her feet can never quite fully touch the ground. And when you’re dancing 28
with her your feet don’t touch down either, sometimes, not for weeks. Beware. She can make you dance till you die. Sometimes she knocks first. At other times she just makes damp grasping, squeaking sounds on the glass against your window… Eventually you’ll let her in if you love words more than safety. You know all the stories they tell, about how leannán sídhe pours fire through the forehead of her chosen victim/lover, making them compose or write themselves to death in a frenzy of beauty. But you’ll say ‘yes’ if she comes because you’ve been waiting. You’ve been trying to find the words to trace the pattern of your secret life, to make a roadmap for others, with an X marking the spot. To show them the way to the central myth of yourself, because being alone inside your head has become a silent, crystalline scream, echoing inside your skull. It won’t be easy if you open the word door. Consider for a moment that each of us knows what no one else does. Each of us holds the precious elixir of memories that no one else witnessed or knew in quite that way. When we go those echoes leave this world. As a writer, or someone who feels called to dance with the leannán sídhe and enter the death embrace of the written word, you are one of the witnesses. You are a watcher, and this is your task. Sink so deeply into the uniqueness of yourself that you are uncompromising in your dedication to your personal myth, know the pattern of your own key-story in an alembic vessel so contained that nothing ‘not you’ can ever penetrate it. Here, in the mighty virginity of your mind, consider and brew on why you want to write, find the space of your aloneness until it becomes loneliness. If it’s less than a scream from your marrow centre – desist. Please. Do not look into the Medusine eyes of the Leannan Sidhe for anything less than a scream. What will be asked ahead will be too much for
Spring 2015 you unless the fire in your belly forces you forward. As you move out into the world, you must watch. Contemplating always the potential stories of the strangers you meet along the way. Become familiar with the details in things, become good at watching without being noticed. Cultivate a light weighted stare and a cloak of misty obscurity about yourself. Become the sort of person no one notices, but who notices all. Just as you learned to sink into the centre of your own story, begin to sink into theirs. Imagine that you are them, what is your soul song? What is your disappointment? Your passion? Your unnamable craving? What is the strangest thing that this stranger’s eyes have seen that no one else witnessed? What are your secrets? When you become a witness you are always synthesizing. This is the true skill of writing that is seldom spoken of. Unlike a musician at practice, the skill involved cannot be seen or witnessed properly by others. On paper it comes across in pleasing surprises that words spring on you, words that taste of Otherness. A writer is a witness of stories, but they cannot remain just a recorder of happenings, a transmission of dry realism, not if they are to raise the hairs and harrow the breath. A writer must be able to synthesize dozens of stories, if not hundreds, into a new story that no longer belongs only to their own inner mythos, but is the poetic honey created from hundreds of human and nonhuman story-pollens. In the work of a good honeybee one does not find chunks that smell or taste just like one particular blossom, only to find other segments with another discordant flavor
that gives away its multiple origin. Honey has a uniform taste marked out with accents of the flowers it came from, transformed into a single taste and perfume by bee alchemy. What does all this have to do with the leannán sídhe and her dark promise, where beauty is wed to death? Her kind are part of the realm of rainbows and songbirds which is forever wed to death and melancholy, and the sheer, reckless wastefulness of spring. Even when poets and writers make old bones they are always dying. A relentless death of self is required to fully synthesize stories; we die to ourselves whenever we bear deep witness. And we are seldom the poorer for such dying. For losing ourselves in Otherness, letting in the rampage of narrative, grants us the ability to lift others out of themselves also. Whenever we sink into the story of someone else so deeply that we are one with their soul’s joy, shouts and laments, we make a sacrifice at the door of leannán sídhe. In this way, whether it is currently fashionable to believe so or not, the process of writing is akin to many other mystical paths that teach the sacrifice and dismembering of the ego. A taking apart that makes way for the birth of some new glistening thing, wet-winged and blinking in the light. Lee Morgan is an English Australian currently living at the bottom of the world in Van Diemen’s Land, with a partner and two sons. Lee’s writing has been published internationally in the fields of fiction, poetry and non-fiction.
I’ve spoken to lots of people at workshops and book-signings who say: “You’re lucky to find the time to write.”
Not all writers have the luxury of a room to write in. If this is your problem you may find it difficult to find somewhere to settle. In her book ‘Becoming a Writer’ (originally published in 1934) Dorothea Brande recommends that new writers try to write at the same time of day in the same place. This is good advice as it establishes a regular habit, but if this isn’t possible for you, then why not create your own writing environment?
The truth is that I have no more time than they have – I’ve just cultivated the habit of using the spare minutes that would otherwise just be swallowed up. If you don’t believe me, try the following experiment. Carry a notebook wherever you go and write as much as you can at the following times:
get up five minutes earlier write on the train or at the bus stop get to work a few minutes earlier – sit in the car and write while you’re running a bath on the loo while the potatoes are boiling waiting for children to come out of school go to bed five minutes later while the TV adverts are on Write in your head while you’re in the supermarket queue. If you’re driving, say the words aloud. Pretend you’re a performance poet.
For many people, saying they don’t have time is a convenient excuse masking the fear they feel of the blank page. I can understand this. I can remember thinking that everything I set down on paper had to be perfect first time. This ‘perfection trap’ is another outward sign of fear.
Try the following ideas:
create a sound-track that signifies your writing time – play it before you begin writing
light a scented candle or joss stick (keep to the same fragrance)
use aromatherapy oil – again, keep to the same fragrance
wear a special scarf, sweater or ring Remember
Get playful with your writing. It doesn’t always have to make sense. Watch a young child drawing pictures and see how they just enjoy the creative process. Jot down a list of things you could write about if you’re ever stuck for an idea. For instance, you could start with: “My mother never told me…” and see where this takes you. Other ideas could include: a colour weather a childhood memory 30
a secret a holiday drama
Write regularly. Imagine you are training for a race Let the ideas flow Don’t try to create and edit at the same time – they involve different parts of the brain Don’t expect your work to be perfect first time. Keep going, don’t be despondent. Reward yourself for the effort you’ve put in
Sue Johnson www.writers-toolkit.co.uk Look out for further exercises like these in ‘Surfing the Rainbow: visualization and chakra balancing for writers’ by Sue Johnson – published by Compass Books.
Although I am partly responsible for writing The Therapist’s Cat (Soul Rocks) I have to say, in all honesty, Moo, my late cat was the real author. Weighing 2.9 kilos with long spiky fur she stayed with me 23 years in all. Seven of these years were spent at Bosham House, where I worked as editor for New Vision, a publishing company in West Sussex. Moo would take up residence in an old letter tray, warming the outgoing mail. From the beginning, she wanted to be in on everything. Really, she was quite 'high tech' and loved computers because they were warm and purred. In the early 1990s computer monitors were more bulky, not streamlined as they are today. Moo would spend her days draped across the back of the warm monitor while, every now and then, her tail would fall forward across the screen and I would gently return it to its place. But then it would drop down again, moving irritatingly across the screen, until I took notice of her and acknowledged her presence. I’d have some respite in summer when she was out hunting birds or mice. From an early age she had me very well trained and would catch a wren, run into the house with it and announce in that deep meow of hers that she had caught something. I did just what she wanted. I would rush down the stairs, open a tin of tuna, then she would let me have the wren unharmed and I would set it free. This was a pattern and I knew I should admonish her instead of reward her behavior, but on the subject of birds, I just gave into her. I have always noticed that at roughly four years, the soul seems to enter a domestic animal. The playful instinctive part, slowly gives way to the animal underneath. It’s as if they drop down into themselves and become properly embodied. Moo had character and charm, which seemed to work with most people, even those that were less connected to animals. Gradually, as time passed, she began to develop a wisdom. It was there in her presence, not that she ever let go of those mischievous and playful traits of hers.
While other cats in the household came and went, Moo lived on. When she could no longer sit on top of the television set and swish her tail across it, she would still mew loudly if she wanted something.
But there is a time when you know that your animal is ready to go ‘home’, to that far place of feather and fur. Moo let Hanne, my partner, know when the time had come. It was with a mixture of reluctance and relief that we took her to the vet to make her final journey home. It was about a month after Moo had passed away, that I began to notice a presence as I travelled to work on the train. I knew it was Moo. It took just over an hour’s journey to reach the hospital where I worked. Moo’s ‘presence’ would drop in when I was on the train and she began to explain in no uncertain terms that she had a book to write about animal evolution. And ‘now’ was the time. She had tried to communicate this to me when on the earth, but I was always too busy. She urged that because it was so important that her work got written, that we had no time to waste. She wanted to make known the effect of cruelty and animal exploitation on human evolution. Apparently, we had reached a critical juncture in our co-evolution. She explained that the best lessons in the world were told through oral or written narrative. Stories had the power to evoke images and bypass the analytical censoring part of the brain. This was why the power of story is so powerful. Moo didn’t relent. Every time I got on the train to work my night shifts, she would be there. Later, after collapsing into bed, she would be present, urging me to make a note of what she was saying. So – for effectively six months, Moo related her story through the lens of the main character, Pete Shepherd, a psychotherapist. Usually, I find writing takes a certain amount of selfdiscipline and it very rarely flows. But writing The Therapist’s Cat seemed moderately effortless in comparison. It just flowed, because in a way I was taking diction from Moo through a running commentary of images and words. It was also humorous to write. Moo had a sense of humor that was engaging… Both Moo an I have been deeply indebted to Alice Grist of Soul Rocks who saw Moo’s potential. Stephanie Sorrell has an MA in Psychosynthesis Psychology and trained as an Applied Practitoner at the Institute of Psychosynthesis in London. She also works at a NHS hospital in Cumbria. 31
People are more beautiful than they can even imagine. Yet if there is not a way to capture this beauty and reflect it back to the person and to those around them, it may well go unnoticed. In my book The Heart of the Hereafter: Love Stories from the End of Life (Axis Mundi, 2014), I describe my experiences working as a creative writer in a hospital setting, interacting with people at the very end of life. While the individual stories are all quite different, each narrative conveys a sense of the subtle— yet extremely powerful—forms of beauty that emerge at this time.
One day I met a middle-aged woman who was struggling—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—with her advanced ovarian cancer and her impending death. Although she had limited formal education, this woman was very smart and very poised, and she had a special talent for working with her hands. She told me how much she loved to sew, crochet, and decorate cakes. As we flipped through a garden catalogue together, this softspoken woman told me that, above all, “flowers are my passion.” In her literary artwork, flowers vibrantly bridged the domains of the decorative and the numinous as they appeared in the home and the church, spaces of domestic warmth and sacramental ritual. As objects of beauty, joy, comfort, and ceremony, flowers provided a tangible means for this woman to gain self-knowledge and self-confidence as she recognized her own creative accomplishments. As she told me: I Couldn’t Believe I Did That
My image is of a bouquet of flowers. No matter what flowers you look at, They’re all so beautiful. I love to do flower arrangements. That’s my passion. I like all the flowers But I love the roses. I had a business out of my home, And I would do flower arrangements for proms, fu32
nerals, and weddings. I’m a crafty person, And I love working with my hands. Once I made some arrangements for a wedding. The baskets of flowers were pink, gold, and white, Filled with daisies, gladiolas, and roses. At the church, the baskets stood at the two sides of the altar, With the white candles burning on either side. It was really pretty, And I was so proud. I couldn’t believe I did that. As I discuss in The Heart of the Hereafter, since March of 2009 it has been my privilege to serve as an Artist In Residence in the Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine at the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. As the patients and I produce poetic narratives together, my role can perhaps best be described as that of a scribe and a curator of thought, as I ask questions and record the responses they inspire. Depending on the circumstances I might ask a person, “Where are you from?”, “What do you love to do?”, or even more simply (yet never simply), “What do you love?” Sometimes if a person is particularly weak or short of breath, I will just ask them directly, “If you had an image in your mind of something that holds special meaning for you—and it can be anything at all—what would that be?” Very often a flash of illumination will become visible on the person’s face, and they will share an image with me. They will describe a subject or a scene, while I gently encourage them to talk and make notes to help crystallize their thoughts. Once the artwork is complete, I read the person’s words back to them, while making any additions or corrections that they indicate. The text is then inscribed into a handmade paper journal, which the person is able to keep and share with their family, either as a medium for further creative expression or as a legacy gift that performs a memorial function.
Spring 2015 By listening with the heart and recording whatever comes forth, creative writers can directly shape how a person is seen, heard, and known, by themselves and by others. While this activity can be very powerful at all times, it is especially so during vulnerable and transitional junctures in a person’s lifetime, occasions such as births, engagements, marriages, major illnesses, and the end of life. Working together produces an intriguing form of blended creativity—one that reflects both the person whose words and images are being honored, and the skills and talents of the writer. I’ve Got to Get My Hands On It One afternoon, I visited with an older man who had come to the hospital for a clinical trial, and who had received the very bad news that treatment was not an option. On the Palliative Care Unit, this man was receiving medication for pain and anxiety. When I asked him about his imagery, he said that his image was of “freedom.” When I asked him what that looked like for him, he initially told me that he had some difficulty expressing this because he had never thought about it before. Yet as we spoke, his narrative gradually emerged:
Above all, such creative writing represents an affirmation to another person that “You have something very important that is worth saying, worth knowing, and worth sharing. Just look at how beautiful you are.” If, as a creative writer, you undertake such activities—and particularly, if you interact with people whose voices truly need to be heard— you may well be amazed at the beauty that emerges. You’ll read the texts together, and you won’t believe you did that. Marcia Brennan, Ph.D. is Professor of Art History and Religious Studies at Rice University in Houston, Texas. She is the author of several books, including Curating Consciousness: Mysticism and the Modern Museum (2010). In addition to her academic work, she also serves as an Artist In Residence in the Department of Palliative Medicine at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
I’ve Got to Get My Hands On It My image is of freedom, So I can do what I want. I work with wood, and I work with my hands. I like to make things, and to fix things. There’s a sense of accomplishment to it. You know what a machine is supposed to do— How one part interacts with another, cause and effect— And you find out why it isn’t doing it. I’ve got to get my hands on it. The biggest, and hardest, thing I ever had to fix Was a turbine generator at a power plant. There was not enough heat going to the bearings, And it kept seizing up. It took a couple of weeks to make it work. When I got it going again, I felt great. I was the MAN. There’s just a sense of accomplishment to it, When you do something That nobody else can do.
The Unacknowledged Daughter of King Henry VIII
With all things Tudor being being popular after the recent success of the Wolf Hall TV series, this book is flying off the shelves. Published in January 2015, it is already selling well. Well done author, and Writers Wheel team member Sarah-Beth Watkins! Katherine Knollys was Mary Boleyn's first child, born in 1524 when Mary was having an affair with King Henry VIII. Katherine spent her life unacknowledged as the king's daughter, yet she was given prime appointments at court as maid of honour to both Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard. She married Francis Knollys when she was 16 and went on to become mother to many successful men and women at court including Lettice Knollys who created a scandal when she married Sir Robert Dudley, the queen's favourite. This fascinating book studies Katherine's life and times, including her intriguing relationship with Elizabeth I. Sarah-Beth Watkins is an author and freelance writer. She has written over 300 articles for the web and tutors creative writing and journalism courses for various colleges and community centres as well as working as a copyeditor and proofreader.
May be (two words) means ‘might be’. – She may be going to the party. – The party may be Susan’s house. Maybe is one word that means ‘perhaps’. – Maybe she won't go to the party. Any one refers to any one person. – "Any one of you can go to the conference, but not all of you. " – Anyone means anybody – but not a particular individual. "Would anyone like to go to cinema with me?" 34
The Bristol Short Story Prize
Poetry Space Competition 2015
Chipping Norton Literary Festival
Prizes: 1st £250, 2nd £100, 3rd, £50 Entry fee: £5 per poem. Friends of Poetry Space (i.e poets who have paid for annual membership) One poem free for every paid entry. Three first place winners, seven highly commended and ten selected top create an anthology of 20 poems The top twenty poems selected will be published in a beautifully produced competition anthology and all selected will receive a complimentary copy. Poems must be your own original work, must be previously unpublished in print or online and must be 40 lines or less. Entrants must be 16 or over.
23rd-26th April 2015 Author talks, signings and readings; workshops; children's events (more info to come).
Details: Short stories up to 4,000 words. Stories can be on any theme or subject and are welcome in any style, including graphic, verse or genrebased. Fee: £8.00 entry fee for each story entered. Prize: First prize is £1,000 plus a £150 Waterstones gift card, 2nd prize is £700 plus a £100 Waterstones gift card and 3rd prize is £400 plus a £100 Waterstones gift card. Twenty stories will be shortlisted and published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology. The top three winning stories will be selected from the shortlist of twenty. Deadline: 30th April 2015 Click here for more information
The Bridport Prize Short stories should be 5000 words maximum with no minimum, and flash fiction is 250 words maximum, with no minimum. Fee: Flash fiction £7,. Short story £9. There is also a novel competition, £20 entry, more details on the website.) Prize: The poetry and short story categories each have a first prize of £5,000, second prize £1,000 and third prize £500. An additional 10 supplementary prizes (for each category) of £50 each are awarded. (Poems, you are restricted to a maximum of 42 lines. ) Flash fiction – £1000, a second prize of £500, 3rd prize of £250 and 3 supplementary prizes of £50.
Deadline June 30th, 2015. Click here for more information.
The LPF Poetry Competition Adults: First Prize: £1000 cash and a course at Ty Newydd, The National Writers’ Centre for Wales. www.tynewydd.org Second Prize: £500 Third Prize: £250 Young People: 12 – 17 First Prize: £100 Second Prize: £50 Third Prize : £25 Children: (11 and under) First Prize: £25 book token Second Prize: £15 book token Third Prize: £10 book token All winners get a chance to read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in 2016. First poem free to enter for children and young people than £1.50 for each additional poem. Adults £5 for first poem and then £3.50
Click here for more information
Winchester Writers' Festival This year, the Writers’ Festival takes place on 19 – 21 June with three days of courses, workshops, talks and 750 one-to-one appointments with around 70 literary agents, commissioning editors, best-selling authors and publishing experts. Attendees may book to come for one day, two days or all three days and the Friday night open mic and editors' panel is free and open to all. Scholarships and bursary places available. University of Winchester campus, Winchester, Hampshire Sebastian Faulks and other speakers including top literary agents, commissioning editors and awardwinning novelists, poets and scriptwriters. Click here for more information
Deadline: 31 May 2015
The deadline is Thursday 9 July.
NiddFest Literary Festival Celebrating Nature In Writing UK’s leading writers talking about all things wild and wonderful. 24-26 July, 2015 Upper Nidderdale, Yorkshire Dales Gillian Clarke, Carol Ann Duffy, Mark Cocker, Valentine Warner, Evie Wyld, and others .
For more information click here.
Click here for more information
Click here for more information
This is the first of two articles about how to improve your writing by using your own life experiences. It applies equally to fiction and autobiographical writing. At the end of this piece is a practical exercise to help you focus on using your senses. ‘Write about what you know.’ It’s an old writers’ chestnut, and for a good reason. You probably write best – most vividly and convincingly – when you’re writing about something real. When you’re writing about something that you have personally experienced, a place you’ve really been, something you’ve actually done.
What? – I hear you say. Supposing I’m writing about a murder. Does that mean I have to go out and kill someone? – Well, obviously not! There is a limit to how much research you should do, even for ‘method writing’ (to paraphrase the acting term for total immersion in your protagonist). Your character’s actions are going to be their own. But even then, they will probably be based on people you have known. If you use character worksheets* then you will know all sorts of details about your characters. Many of their traits and idiosyncrasies will come from real people in your own life: Uncle Albert, who used to sprinkle desiccated coconut on his curry; Mrs Matthews-next-door, who’s suffocating hugs left you smelling of cheap perfume. Writing about what you know means writing from life. That means that the scene and setting of your story should be congruent with your own experience. This applies whether you’re writing fiction or autobiography. You will always be more convincing if you base your writing on what you are familiar with. Remember another old adage: ‘Show, not tell!’ You can only do that if you know what you’re writing about. Otherwise, you will have to use clichés. Your readers will sense if you’re using second-hand similes. ‘Mary waded into the sea. It was very rough, with big waves.’ Yes, I can see that from the shore. ‘The cold water hit her like a slap in the face.’ Ouch! That’s a lot 36
more vivid. ‘The sand slipped treacherously under her feet.’ Now I’m feeling really worried… So when you’re going to write about something, start by doing your research. Luckily, a lot of this work can be done from home. It’s largely a matter of becoming more mindful in your everyday life. This is currently a fashionable concept, promoting an attitude conducive to personal development. Writers have actually been doing it for a long time already. Mindfulness means that you must walk like a cat: become more aware of every experience. Sniff the air as the garbage van drives down the street. Run your fingers across the rough bark of a tree. Stand still and listen to the noises around you. Remember to engage all your senses. We tend to put too much importance on visual stimuli: ‘Seeing is believing’. Scientists say that 80 per cent of our sensory information comes from sight. If you pay more attention to the other modalities – hearing, smelling, tasting, touching – you will be richly rewarded. Here’s a simple exercise to help you focus. It’s called ‘Still Life’ after the artist’s term for a picture of fruit. All you need is a pencil, paper and tangerine (or orange). On your paper, write out: How does it… Look? Feel? Smell? Sound? Taste? Then pick up the tangerine and examine it, as if you’ve never encountered one before. Jot down adjectives as they occur to you. Record any similes that come into your mind. When you’ve thoroughly investigated the tangerine, compose a paragraph describing it. Imagine you’re writing for someone who has never eaten a tangerine. This is a great exercise to focus the senses. You can repeat it with lots of other things – a cup of coffee, for example. Do this exercise regularly and incorporate your research into whatever you’re working on. Have fun thinking up different things to explore!
Spring 2015 In May O Books launches Storyworks, A Handbook for Leaders, Writers and Speakers by Jane Bailey Bain. This follows her previous book LifeWorks, Using myth and archetype to develop your life story. Jane is an author, speaker and executive coach. She studied Psychology (BA) at Oxford University and Social Anthropology (MSc) at the London School of Economics. Jane currently runs workshops and courses on Speaking, Writing, Story Structure and Presentation Skills in London.
A Handbook for Leaders, Writers and Speakers
Using myth and archetype to develop your life story
Inspirational leaders know the power of story. Top coaches use words as a tool for personal transformation. Great speakers and writers realize the importance of narrative. Do you have a new idea? A good proposal? A great product? The best way to sell it is by telling a story. This book shows you how to do that effectively. It is a practical handbook on how to tell stories, and ranges from classic tools like the ‘Rule of Threes’ to the new mnemonic ‘Five Finger Technique’. There are stories and creative exercises to expand your narrative repertoire. If you’re a leader who wants to communicate well, a professional keen to improve your speaking skills, a manager with a team to motivate or a writer looking for more ideas – you’ll find resources here to inspire, to inform and to entertain. Whether you have one minute to impress at an interview or the keynote speech at a conference, this book will help you tell better stories. We all have a story in us. ‘StoryWorks’ tells you how to get it out. This book explores why we tell stories and how they can help us relay information in a more interesting way. Written in a clear, accessible style for anyone who wants no-nonsense practical advice on how to tell stories. ~ Susie Lynes, Writing Coach Paperback £11.99 || $19.95 May 29, 2015. 978-1-78279-986-3. eBook £4.99 || $7.99 May 29, 2015. 978-1-78279-987-0.
Follow Jane's blog and find details of forthcoming events at http://janebaileybain.wordpress.com/ Follow Jane on Twitter @janebaileybain
Why did your life turn out this way? Who are the most important people in your world? What would you do differently, if you had the chance? Your life is a story. It is better than any book you have ever read. Your story defines who you are and what happens to you. Ever since you were a child, you have been writing your own life script. You use stories you have heard to weave your personal narrative. The parts in your script are played by the people around you. Some of the oldest stories still seem relevant to us today. The characters in them are familiar: the princess, the hero, the good mother, the wise old man. These characters are based on universal figures called archetypes. LifeWorks introduces the twelve major archetypes, with examples from books and films. Each figure has a story, drawn from myths and legends around the world. LifeWorks is a practical handbook that combines insights from psychology and anthropology. Questions and tasks help the reader to identify relationship patterns and life themes. It is also useful to authors and scriptwriters, for character development. "Lifeworks" introduces the twelve major archetypes, with examples from books and films. Each figure has a story, drawn from myths and legends from around the world. "Lifeworks" is also a practical handbook which combines insights from psychology and anthropology. Questions and tasks help the reader to identify relationship patterns and life themes. ~ The New Writer Paperback £9.99 || $16.95 Jan 27, 2012. 978-1-78099-038-5. eBook £5.99 || $9.99 Feb 28, 2012. 978-1-78099-039-2.
Writers write even when they're I've always been a writer but very not writing, right? few people knew. Since childhood, it was something I gravitatThat's my bit of cleverness as of ed toward and helped me feel late. A friend had asked me re- sane, whole, and inspired. I had cently how the writing was going. my struggles and writing was alAt some point after the release of ways there for me. It was and is my book in December, I had blurt- sometimes my quiet meditation. ed out that I already had a title for Not all of it is meant to be shared, "my next book". Did I really say of course. that? Yes, I did, because I do, and no, I'm not revealing the title yet. Writing is not only the hours we sit in the dark in front of our glowEven if I hadn't had the audacity ing computer late at night when to suggest that I was going to everyone has gone to sleep. write book numero dos, people Writing is also not always the were asking, "So, what's next?" same. I've been writing terribly It's flattering. And it is also a bit lately (shh, don't tell anyone). daunting. What if I only ever have Other times an idea flows. A deone book in me? Is that enough? cent bit of words on a page must Do I really want to actually keep feel to the writer as a lovely drawwriting and publish something ing feels to the artist, or capturing else and does it need to be non- an image to the photographer. fiction (again)? So many questions, so little time. It is in the very quiet moments, when the writer is not writing at Speaking of time, it certainly does all, or when life is buzzing with take time to write. I believe how- activity and work calls, that the ever, that writers are always writer begins to form an idea writing. Not to say that makes an- which may in fact be the ything go any faster. Even when a brushstroke on a new canvas. All writer is sitting there idly looking thoughts count but it is the ability out of the window, or perhaps she to let go that often brings upon us is taking a nice stroll with the dog, a moment of clarity through the or doing something totally mun- haze of thought. I believe that dane such as washing those darn some of the best ideas are to be dirty dishes, even when she or he found in this in between place, is petting the cat, yes, even then where the brain has let go of logic (and maybe especially then), the (and has had a good night's sleep). writer is writing. For me, I must come from this
place first before I eventually settle into the actual work of writing; editing. Someone recently asked my husband and me what we each like best about writing. To my surprise, his response was that he didn't like starting to write at all but what he really loved was the editing. Really? I feel the opposite. If and when I have an idea in my head, I can't wait to sculpt it onto the page (or computer screen as it may be). It is the editing, a necessary and important part of writing, where I must make sure I've eaten a good lunch and stay hydrated to get through. The editing is where I start to question where the passion came from to begin with. The editing is, for me, where my critical eye is besmirched with doubt. But it is there, in that laborious phase of the writing experience, that the refinement the writer must achieve shines through. This is the work of writing after the writing has been done! What are you doing when you are not writing, dear writer? Alicia Garey is an interior designer and blog contributor for the Huffington Post. She lives in Santa Monica, California with her husband and their two children.
Naked monkeys swing in a cathedral of trees under a crescent moonlight. The bird has been eaten and afterwards Tumbili stands beneath swaying branches but the life in them forsakes his brassy dirge. In cracked darkness, sulking in a tambourine of winds, the treetops throw chimeras of feathery blood, pluming like rainbows in the hot summer darkness. Tumbili misses seeing them, instead plays a trumpeted tune with decaying ears, hearing the sourness in the notes he sows. With pinched lips and a tart face, the boy blows the horn and hears callowness in his efforts. Notes pop like repenting prayers, whine, wrinkle, and flutter to tree monkeys toying with themselves under the twilight moon. The safari is done and Tumbili reels away with his case underneath a covetous arm and away from the tree monkeys and towards the thatched hut in the meadow. July buzzes the countryside with cicada hums and reptile croaks, and white lilacs and marigolds bloom in the darkness shooting pollen to the blue-boned stars. Straw blades crunch underneath his feet and he can hear the frogs making love. In the hut, he pours some innards in a tin tray and sits to eat by a glowing fire cutting up umbras against the wall. The shadows dance like demons around Tumbili as he eats the guttural porridge, fresh from the evening slaughter. The bird’s name was Zuri, and it was the only one his dead father bothered naming, and its body had leapt high in the air after it was finally separated from its head by the machete. In its lek, Zuri had the fanning tail of a drooping sun crashing rays on folding clouds. But the bird refused to mate, and his father had admired its independence. Tumbili missed his father, but boyhood was turning to manhood and manhood was the martyr of memories too fond. The previous night, the American offered Tumbili a trumpet in exchange for a private safari. The shiny brass glimmered in his black eyes and made them golden when he looked into it. Finger pins and mouthpieces, and rhinoceros ass noises rocketed from the anus of the horn when he blew it. The flat-footed, high-socked man owning the horn wore a plaited crocodile-toothed bush hat and stroked the air with his moustache and farted from his mouth foreign grunts of gaiety. The American man stole the horn from Tumbili’s rigid fingers and blew it and it was beautiful, like the ripples on the lake from a rock skip,
cascading like careening clouds, breaking themselves into surrealistic monsters. The man pressed the ivoryboned pins and his mouth puffered like the love frogs near the exploding lake in the tomb of the meadow. The man laughed like cannonballs at Tumbili’s reaction, and Tumbili’s ears were ripe with what noise might come next. “I bet you’ve never seen a horn have you, you little monkey,” the man said. From a triangular glass, the American man offers Tumbili a drink, and Tumbili swallows and his guts swim in fire and he heaves and sprays the wall with the volume of the triangle. Another cannonball rockets from the American man’s mouth, and then he blows again the sounds of ragtime. Tumbili’s face ripped shadowy skin into the ball of a gaped smile, and he squeezed the room with clapping and kicking feet which divided the timbre of the brass with the sounds of a bone machine. Tumbili had a vision, and the vision was clear, and it told him to leave the American man and the voice was sire and bled from the trees across the meadow. But Tumbili ignored the pricking, needly voice because the trumpet was beautiful and laced his eyes with gold and his heart with glee. And so the safari begins. The safari man brings a gun, and shoots at antelope. They run from his pellets and the safari man farts from the mouth and stamps his hands madly into July’s dying grass. The day lingers at afternoon, and Tumbili wants to pull the sun with his bony hands and have it follow. The safari man is impatient, angry, and the spoils of the day are patient in their rotting. “You’re holding out on me, aren’t you, you goddamn dirty monkey. There isn’t any game here. Where are the lions?” The safari man spills tiny cannonballs from the rifle, but they miss all but the ground and the air. Tumbili sniffs, and the safari man smells like blood that hasn’t spilled, his spirit bloated and blue. The sky wrinkles and cries a soft gray and its age gives way to the abandonment of a dying sun giving a sad eulogy to the wandering clouds catching its pink words, and it is night. Tumbli brings the safari man to the hut, and the man holds the trumpet tightly against his monkey chest, wagging his tongue and dusting the air. Tumbili prepares a fire, and then sharpens the machete for the meal, and the safari man watches with sparkling teeth and sandpa-
Spring 2015 per hands. Sunburnt eyes wrap the area and march like bayonets among the animals. “No-not-that-one. That-one. No-not-that-one. Thatone. I-want-to-see-what-that-one-tastes-like.” A fight of fingers ensues. “So that’s how it’s going to be?” The man hugs the golden horn like a mistress in the throes of love, and pretends to walk off, a water bag of blood on a dried up ground. And then Tumbili farts at the mouth. “Yes,” Tumbili says, and the white head nods, and then the black eyes pop and fill with the gold that melts his pupils and metals his mouth. The trees listen and the ancestral voice repeats, but ears have rotted, and the feast is yet to be cooked. The man is eager. “No-No. I-want-to-do-it.” The peacock, Zuri, plumes and Tumbili holds the feathers as the man puts its neck on a stump that has long forgotten its rings. After the kill, the safari man moans and twitches. The blood dries the white on his face, and the color of death
refreshes him. Rainbowed pinions are plucked, the body is bare, and the flames lick and burn it tonight. “Well. Well. This isn’t the best tasting bird, is it now? All the same, it’s good to try new things, don’t you think?” The safari man glances at Tumbili and watches him tear the meat off a bone. “I guess anything tastes good to you, doesn’t it?” After the feast, the safari man pisses in the dust and leaves the horn. Tumbili picks it up and runs toward the amphibian meadow. Across the dead hills, he skips past the lassoing frogs, and towards the trees. The evening is shrouded in the plumage of the wind, and it rustles wistfully against the skin of the darkness. But Tumbili misses seeing it, instead, skips to proudly blow an unlearnt song to the folding branches of the naked monkey trees. Roderick Vincent is the author of The Cause, book one in the Minutemen series. He has lived in the United States, England, and the Marshall Islands.
Writing Tip If a writer knows enough about what he is writing about, he may omit things that he knows. The dignity of movement of an iceberg is due to only one ninth of it being above water. Ernest Hemingway Knowing a lot about your characters – doing in depth psychological profiles (you may even be a psychologist). Knowing a lot about your setting – you've been there many times. Knowing a lot about a character's job – it's your own occupation. None of this means it has to all go into the book. Avoid too much erudition and don't bore your readers just to show off your expertise.
Dangling Modifiers A dangling modifier according to Purdue OWL is as follows: A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept. Here is an example: Grabbing hold of the reins, the horse was slowed down. Omitted from this sentence is the subject. Who was holding the reins? We don't know as it hasn't been
stated. Let's look at the corrected sentence, which makes more sense. Grabbing hold of the reins, Mike slowed the horse down. A second example: Having tried the dress on, it would be perfect for the wedding. Again the subject is missing to make sense of this sentence. Having tried the dress on, Emma thought it would be perfect for the wedding.
“There are more rejection letters now than in any time in literary history. There are more manuscripts than ever — most publishers receive at least 100 a week — and more people to reject them.” Daily Telegraph
So why do these typescripts find themselves rejected after the would-be novelist has spent so much time and effort in getting things right? In a nutshell, there are usually just FOUR simple reasons for this… The first and most important is that the writer has failed to gain an understanding of his or her marketplace. So the first question every potential novelist should ask themselves is: Who is going to read my novel? And since every target market for consumable products is subject to marketing analysis by the producer, the fact that we are talking about books and publishers doesn’t alter the fact that we are still referring to a commodity that will be aimed at a particular target market (readership). So we must start by identifying the type of reader for whom we are telling our story. At this stage, someone will complain that this is not a creative approach to novel writing; or that they find this idea inhibiting, strangling the creative urge at birth; or even that they are writing for themselves and not bothered about who will read the finished story. Unfortunately, there are still the last shreds of glamour clinging to the image of the novelist, and, even up to twenty years ago, we could still allow ourselves the luxury of not compromising our personal integrity by becoming a slave to commercialism. A couple of decades down the road, however, publishing has become the sole province of the accountants and every book is looked upon in terms of profit and loss – not literary merit. And so the truly ambitious make a point of understanding who’s publishing what in today’s book world. The first thing we need to establish is identifying the genre in which we are writing … so-called ‘slip stream’ novels are fun to write but infinitely more difficult to sell, so a lot of deliberation needs to go into this answer. Broadly speaking, the most popular commercial novels fit into the following categories: Romance – standard boy-meets-girl plot with little or no gratuitous sex. Often thought to refer solely to Mills & Boon-type writing but can, according to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (www.rna– uk.org), straddle a much wider field, including historical and thrillers. Historical – anything with a period flavour up to the 1950s falls into this area, including family sagas as featured on the website of the Historical Novel Society (www.historicalnovelsociety.org) 42
Women’s fiction – generally refers to contemporary fiction covering intimate relationships, controversial domestic situations and more recently including the genre of ‘chick lit’. Science fiction/Fantasy – self-explanatory but ranges from classic Arthur C Clarke sci-fi to Terry Pratchett and Harry Potter … and everything else in between, including ‘sword ‘n’ sorcery’, although the latter has lost and regained its popularity in recent years. Crime/Thriller – generally anything that culminates in murder and mayhem, either from a detection or victim pointof-view, including everything from Agatha Christie to Nikki French, and Desmond Bagley to Sally Spedding. There are, of course, other genres such as horror, humour, war and westerns that still manage to produce the odd rabbit out of the hat, but these are extremely difficult areas to break into and publishers tend to stick with tried and tested authors, rather than taking on new ones. There is also the literary genre that is often reflected in the type of writing chosen for the Booker shortlist, and new novels from the graduates of the University of East Anglia. Needless to say, this is a very general overview of modern publishing categories but the odds-on favourites for a new author will be those who don’t try to invent a new one. Bridget Jones’s Diary was the founder of ‘chick-lit’ but it still sat comfortably within the women’s fiction genre, just as Harry Potter had a ready-made slot within fantasy. Next … identify your target readership, because at the end of the day, this will make it easier to target the right agent or publisher for the finished typescript. What type of person would you generally expect to pick up your finished novel from the shelves of a high street bookshop? This is the same kind of market research we do when first starting writing and we learn to identify the readership of a certain type of magazine or newspaper. It is also applicable to marketing a novel, and we learn to keep an eye open in bookshops for the latest releases, especially those similar to our own plot and/or theme. Just as we select the right target market for an article or short story, so we learn to make sure that our typescript is targeted at the right area of publishing … there is no magical formula for this, just plain common sense. You are a potential novelist and have to supply what the publisher wants. As writing tutor Chriss McCallum once wrote, “You are the manufacturer, and you have to supply what the retailer wants. An editor is a retailer. He buys from the manufacturer – the writer – what he knows he can sell to his customers – his readers – or in this case, the book buying public.” In fact, many typescripts are rejected because they have been submitted to the wrong type of publisher.
Spring 2015 So, this is no time to be precious. Get to understand the market place but just for starters, here are a few ‘rules’ that you would do well to take on board: Don’t try to ride on the tail of what’s currently in fashion – by the time your novel is finished, never mind the time it takes between contract and launch – your piece will be outdated.
Don’t try to turn your own life-story into a novel – it doesn’t work. Draw on personal experience by all means but ‘true life’ into novel isn’t half as interesting as you may think.
Don’t bore the reader. Can your story retain the reader’s interest for 80,000 words?
Don’t try to base an entire novel on a single fragment of an idea. It may be a brilliant opening or closing scene, but without a detailed structure to unite ideas, characters, setting, drama, tension, plot, dialogue and action, it will be extremely difficult to maintain the momentum.
Don’t get disheartened.
Before returning to the original question of why typescripts are rejected, let us consider one or two other points. Few contemporary novels cover the whole spectrum of age, gender and literary style. Books written by younger authors tend to reflect the viewpoints of their own age group, while well-established authors like Deborah Moggach can still appeal to much younger readers, as well as the older generation. Gratuitous sex and/or violence will have its own following and the writer must be able to differentiate between the requirements of the various different publishers, so be prepared to spend some time in your local bookstore and find out who publishes what. Now to the novel itself. Let’s try to establish who or what the novel is about. Some novels are plot-driven, others character-led and to help us clarify which path we intend to take, it is a good idea to write a short ‘blurb’ for the story, even if it’s only in its infancy. In the publishing trade this is understood to be the short precise of the story, and examples can be found on the back cover of most paperback books. Try to précis the novel in around 150 words. This will reveal whether the emphasis is a human-interest story, action-packed thriller, a sex-romp, police procedural, adventure, etc., and what the important points of the story are going to be. It is at this stage that we need to lay down the structure and plot because this is a common flaw in first novels where the writer has been unable to maintain the action/ tension/drama up to the finish. An old writing tutor of mine always said that the reason first-time novels floundered – either at the writing stage or at the publisher’s desk – was that they hadn’t been planned properly. Planning a novel is just as important as writing it because as Kelly Lawrence points out in the opening to Building Your
Story, if you don’t have a structure, then you don’t have a story. In other words: “Your plot is what happens in your story; your structure is a map for how that plot unfolds … Without a well-structured plot it doesn’t matter how beautifully you write or how wonderfully imaginative your original idea, you still don’t have a story.” And if this stage hasn’t been worked out at the beginning then your whole novel will collapse as a result of poor foundations and will be rejected. Poor characterisation is also the ‘kiss of death’ for many novels because the author has expended all their imagination in creating the main protagonists and had nothing left in reserve for the ‘supporting cast’. As Nicholas Corder explains in Creating Convincing Characters, “Characters are crucial. We don’t become emotionally involved in a story unless we can see a human being at the core of an event.” In a large number of typescripts the main characters are so over-written to the point of obsession, while the sundry personalities in the story get barely a mention in terms of turning them into ‘real’ people. Judy Hall, author of Astrocharacters, admits that many new, and even experienced writers, find characterisation difficult and offers a solution in using astrology as an “easy method of creating effective, intriguing, and authentic multi-layered personalities that leap off the page”. Publishers’ readers look for strong characters and if they can’t relate to the author’s interpretation of well-developed behavioural and personality traits, then the novel will be rejected. Ineffective dialogue is also one of the main reasons for a publishers’ reader glazing over when reading a novel, where the writer has seen fit to include every superfluous utterances of everyday speech. The purpose of dialogue is to move the story along and to give added dimension to the characters through what they say, and often think. Creating Meaningful Dialogue by Suzanne Ruthven shows how to get rid of the dross from a typescript and retain the gold in the story by using different creative writing techniques. Dialogue should always be crisp and invigorating – if it’s not then the typescript will be rejected. Believe it or not, it’s not uncommon for authors on their second, or even third book, to find that they’ve run out of steam and titles covering plot, characterisation and dialogue can be just as helpful in kick-starting the imagination. If you’re going to spend months, if not years, preparing your novel, don’t you think you owe it to yourself to get it right first time around? Recommended reading:
Compass Points: Building Your Story: A Guide to Structure and Plot, Kelly Michelle Lawrence Creating Convincing Characters, Nicholas Corder Astro-characters, Judy Hall Creating Meaningful Dialogue, Suzanne Ruthven All titles are published by Compass Books (www.compass – books.net) in paperback and e- book format. 43
The world of human interaction has changed for ever. Traditional salutations, including the quaint 'Dear Mater and Pater', are all but extinct. Now, even in a commercial communication, the first words have already gone beyond the more relaxed 'Dear Mr. Smith' and are quite likely to be 'Dear John' (or Johnnie) or, saints preserve us, 'Hi'. Other casualties include 'I remain, Sir, your humble and obedient servant'. Even 'Yours faithfully' is increasingly replaced by the more friendly 'Yours sincerely', the chummy 'Best regards' â€” or even 'Ciao'. And whatever happened to 'Esq.'? No longer is the household enlivened by the excited cry 'Hark, Papa, is that the postman?' And, unlike those earlier Papas, the twenty-firstcentury Dad cannot send a letter in the morning, confident that he will receive a reply by teatime. Just look what's happened. The eagerly awaited sheaf of beautiful, handwritten envelopes that graced Victorian breakfast tables has been replaced by an avalanche of computer-generated mail; unreliable deliveries often arrive at unpredictable times. No longer, sadly, is the letter crafted carefully with care and attention to style;
disappointed with his own efforts, Oscar Wilde is supposed to have written 'I'm sorry to have sent you this long letter, but I did not have time to write a short one.' Almost daily I receive catalogues from mail order retailers I've never heard of, glossy brochures from cruise lines and holiday companies, heartwrenching appeals from charities, bills from energy suppliers (like the credit card companies, they are often angry that I haven't opted to 'go paperless'), reminders from the taxman and the Vehicle Licensing people â€” but, once in a blue moon, a handwritten envelope arrives. What joy! I pounce on that one eagerly and with good reason; it is the only one in that pile of junk that has a whiff of humanity about it. The diary, as a vivid portrayal of life and customs, has also largely disappeared, except for the carefully crafted writings of the politician, self-consciously preparing for his (or her) place in history. But it wasn't always like this. Along with skill as letter writers, most educated people would keep a diary. As Gwendolen Fairfax says in The Importance of Being Earnest, "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." It is sad to reflect that in the drive for rapid, instant, contact the handwritten letter and the diary have been replaced almost completely by emails and social media. The telephone, followed by the smartphone and Skype, have had a huge impact too, but those mainly verbal communications leave no enduring trace that can be savoured long afterwards. Sadly, these new digital formats also fail to convey the nuances of the handwritten word. The tremor of suppressed desire or anger in the script, the texture of a 'special' notepaper, the hint of perfume, the enclosure of a lock of hair â€” these ephemera simply cannot be transmitted elec-
Spring 2015 tronically. A 'real' letter also provides the opportunity to add sketches, diagrams and cartoons; some letters even had whimsically personalised signatures. What will biographers do in the future? With precious few letters to draw on, written records will provide meagre material. I was reminded of this when a hoard of old letters turned up during the long-delayed process of 'sorting out old stuff' when my wife and I did a major downsize, moving from a fairly large house into an apartment. We had enormous quantities of our own possessions to dispose of â€” so much that even the remnants of a two-day garage sale held at a sunny weekend left rich pickings for local charities. The whole business was extremely traumatic and, in the process, elderly suitcases full of my late parents' treasures came to light. Inside one of these, nestling between some aged family photo albums, was a plastic bag containing two bulging, spiral-bound exercise books containing around 190 original letters in date order, carefully pinned to the desiccated pages. To my astonishment, I found that my parents had lovingly preserved every letter and card that I had sent to them during WW2. I had written the first, dated 2nd September 1939, on my arrival in Staffordshire as an evacuee. The last, just after the end of the war in Europe, was dated 7th July 1945, shortly before returning to my home in Birmingham.
Reading those old letters bought back so many memories. Then I realised that others would be intrigued by the often hilarious story of this young boy, his selfcentred focus on hobbies, games, school work, the conflict, food rationing, hypochondria, religion, sport â€” and the atmosphere surrounding 'the way we were' in wartime. So began the fascinating process of moulding this raw material into a memoir. It's been a fascinating process, but without that discovery I could not possibly have produced 'A Schoolboy's Wartime Letters'. In future, how could the most dedicated writer create anything similar? What source of information could replace those atmospheric letters? What could possibly substitute for those rich 'extras', the accompanying embellishments of sketches, cartoons, maps and more? No, there is no adequate alternative for recording human history. The handwritten letter must be nurtured, encouraged and never, ever, allowed to perish. I rest my case.
Geoffrey Iley has been writing since childhood and was lucky to be influenced by a dedicated wordsmith during the early years of his time in the Motor Industry. Later, he was still writing during his new career in the Glass Industry. Since retiring to live in Towcester, Geoffrey has published two books; his memoir, 'A Schoolboy's Wartime Letters', an action novel, 'Navegator', and he is currently working on a sequel.
Leaving the r off the word "your". It was all you fault. (It was all your fault.) Leaving the hyphen out of compound numbers Twenty-seven, forty-five, ninety-nine, thirty-six. 45
First Scene How does your novel change when you put it in a screenplay? It’s a good exercise to not only tighten dialogue, but also to make you think visually about how events should be ordered. As an example, I will present below how I envision the screenplay to my novel The Cause. The first thing to note is that I pushed time farther into the future in the screenplay. With the book, I wanted it to be more topical, but in the screenplay I wanted the reader to feel more as if it was in the future. This helps create a greater fiction. In Chapter 6 of the book, there is a backstory where the leader of black-ops training camp (Seee) is speaking with our protagonist, Isse Corvus, about his early asset days in Geneva. I brought that scene immediately to the front in the screenplay because it works visually if you can imagine music blaring and the camera literally being the man’s eyes. After doing this, I won’t have to relay this information later in the screenplay, because it’s all done visually at the beginning. Let’s start with this wide departure from the book. THE CAUSE (SCREENPLAY BY RODERICK VINCENT) (Screenplay based on the novel, The Cause by Roderick Vincent published November 28th, 2014 by Roundfire books) EXT. GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, PLACE DU MOLARD –DAY April 20th 2020: (music playing, Carmen Opera, intro) The camera is following a man's eyes. He is shabbily dressed and has like a bum. As he walks, he is conducting an invisible symphony. as he gesticulates to the music. The scene is long and drawn out along while various glimpses of the city are shown. He passes by built man who is a body guard watches him.
a heavy raggedy beard, His hands are gyrating as the music plays a café, and a well-
BODY GUARD Qu'est-ce qu'il fait? (What is he doing?) WAITRESS
Il a des troubles déficitaires de l' attention et il pense qu’il est un chef d'orchestre. Vous ne l'avez jamais vu avant? Il joue la musique du monde. (He has attention deficit disorder and he thinks he is a conductor. You haven't seen him before? He plays the music of the world.)
EXT. GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, RUE DU RHONE -DAY Two years later: (music continues to play) The same bodyguard is helping his boss out of a limousine. A colleague spies this crazy conductor walking down the street. The two watch him pass close by as the doorman to the building opens the door.
BODY GUARD Ne t'inquiete pas. Il est un peu fou. C'est tout. (Don't worry. He's just a bit crazy) DOOR MAN Salut, maestro. Comment vas-tu? (Hello, maestro. How are you?) To body guards: Il passe frequemment. The Conductor fails to see any of them. His eyes are engrossed on the street as his hands fly around conducting the
Spring 2015 music. EXT. GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, PLAINPALAIS APARTMENT -NIGHT Inside an apartment, The Conductor (SEEE, 31) takes off his disguise in front of a mirror, slipping off his beard and wig, and meticulously taking off the makeup which is making him look older. EXT. GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, RUE DU RHONE -DAY Another two years later: The same scene as above, but this time, the doorman screams as The Conductor approaches. The diversion is enough for The Conductor to feign falling. As he does so, he slips between the body guards and latches onto the boss's ankle twisting it somewhat. With a small syringe hidden in his fingers, he injects the boss. In the mayhem, the boss tries to shake away without noticing anything but the twisted ankle. The body guards are quick to grab The Conductor and throw him back in the street. He grunts but is on his way, his hands again flying in the air to the music in his head. After he turns the corner, he grabs the syringe from his mouth and lets it fall in a storm drain as he passes. INT. GENEVA, SWITZERLAND, COLOGNE MANSION -DAY One day later: In the boss's huge fortified mansion, the boss is deathly ill. Several doctors surround him, confused at the cause of his malady. The boss dies.
Okay. Up to this point Iâ€™ve taken a large chunk of dialogue from Chapter 6 and created something that is hopefully visually intriguing and tells the story of how CIA asset Seee (The Conductor) goes about taking out a target through years of patience. The next scene is from the beginning of the book, and is freely available here: You can see how I chopped this down to only the essential bits of description and dialogue (changing it somewhat from Chapter 1). Barely any dialogue has happened in the first five or ten minutes of the film which would allow a director ultimate freedom to choose how he/she would want to present it. EXT. LOS ANGELES, 7th STREET -DAY April 2032: In the heart of the L.A. projects on 7th street a SWAT team is trapped under a hail of sniper fire from a gang who has looted a gun store. Riots have been rampaging the city much like those in the 1990's. A gang is on top of a building targeting police and pedestrians not smart enough to flee for cover. The Charleston building is on fire. Fire is gushing out of the windows of the second and third floors, licking the walls and getting closer to the people waving inside on the ground floor. They are trapped by the hail of gunfire outside the door. Two bodies are on the ground close to the entrance. The flames are spreading. Captain JOSEPH DROME (48) is telling his group to hold their cover. ISSE CORVUS (26, African American) smiles at him as if he is a coward, then dashes through the gunfire and leaps into the SWAT-H mobile, driving it ass-end into the burning building. Bullets are pinging the vehicle and cracking the windshields but Corvus ends up saving the occupants of the Charleston, two of which
are Astronaut TIMOTHY SKIES (67) and his wife, MARGARET SKIES (60). INT. TUSCON, ARIZONA HOTEL BANQUET HALL-NIGHT One month later: The opulent banquet is a fund raiser and many highbrows are there (Senators, Datalion CEO BLAKE THOMPSON (52), NSA Director TITUS MONTGOMERY (55), NASA). There are huge banners with emblems saying “To Mars We Go.” There is a red carpet flowing into an elevated dais and the speaker, astronaut Timothy Skies, is addressing the audience speaking about how close they are to the first manned mission to Mars as long as they can get the funding. The scene is being watched from a CIA-like Control Room (not CIA however, but this is divulged later). Timothy Skies finishes his speech and joins a table where Isse Corvus has been honored for his bravery. SKIES (Sitting down) Has my wife already told the table about your incredible bravery last month? CORVUS She has, sir. (Corvus looks embarrassed.) She graciously takes the tale one level higher on the danger scale. SKIES (Laughs) That's nothing new. (Looks at his wife dubiously.) INT. MYANMAR, TECHNICAL CONTROL ROOM Seee is watching Corvus at the banquet from a control room. Inside the room a plethora of screens are shown broadcasting the benefit dinner. The audience would now recognize him as The Conductor from the first scene. A team of people are in the room as one would find in a CIA control room. SEEE Let's see this from Bloom's camera. INT. TUSCON, ARIZONA HOTEL BANQUET HALL -NIGHT Waiters are coming around filling up half-empty champagne glasses. CORVUS (To Skies) Impressive speech. You're pretty optimistic of us getting there. SKIES The pace of innovation is parabolic, Mr. Corvus. CORVUS (Smiles a little playfully) Yet we still don't seem to be able to get a man to Mars. SKIES It's what we're here for, isn't it? CORVUS Thank God for Blake Thompson, (Eyes him sitting with a throng of senators.) With NASA's wings clipped, he's been very generous from what I've read in the news. SKIES Budget cuts are a bitch. CORVUS That bitch seems to be everywhere. What will you have to give Thompson in return? (Skies smirks and Corvus reads it.) He wants to be the first man stepping out, doesn’t he? Isn’t he pushing past seventy now? SKIES Who cares? The man is an inspiration. CORVUS Certainly a man who can buy a lot of inspiration. SKIES Whatever gets us there. INT. MYANMAR, TECHNICAL CONTROL ROOM On the monitor, Seee watches Skies stand, a bit exasperated by the conversation. He watches Skies walk over to Blake Thompson's table, he is sitting next to NSA Director Montgomery.) Dinner is being served and wine replaces the champagne on the screen. A camera focuses on AHMED BLOOM (52, middle-eastern) at Corvus’s table. SEEE Okay, here we go. Let's see how Corvus plays it. INT. TUSCON, ARIZONA HOTEL BANQUET HALL -NIGHT BLOOM You don’t believe in technology then, Mr. Corvus?
Spring 2015 I know a thing or two, but I have my doubts technology will save the planet. (Pauses with a smile) For example, world food production increases were enabled by a cheap and abundant energy supply as much as technological advancement. Its weight on humanity's swell cannot be ignored, wouldn't you agree? Bloom smiles back, wiping his fork fastidiously with his napkin. Then he stares through the tines at Corvus. BLOOM Have you ever been hungry, Mr. Corvus? Haven't eaten in more than a couple of days? CORVUS No, but you must be about to make a point. Bloom stabs a piece of prime rib off his plate and thrusts it into his mouth. He chews with zest, shifting the lob into a cheek so it balloons. Then he takes a sip of wine, swirling it in the glass first. BLOOM After about three days without eating, you get a bit antsy. You find yourself weakening, and suddenly those dormant animalistic tendencies encoded in your genes wake up and want to do something about it. Socialization skills vanish in a flash. Now imagine we have that problem on a grand scale. CORVUS Africa is not a grand enough scale? BLOOM Yes, Africa is a tragedy, but I don’t consider it grand scale. Perhaps you are sensitive about that being African-American? I’m talking about when the supermarkets have bare shelves. CORVUS There’d be riots of course, but we have that now. We— BLOOM We have riots for differing, debatable reasons. But what about you? How long do you think you could last without food before succumbing to the primeval, before you might resort to cannibalism, for example? CORVUS (Laughs as he produces a lop-sided smile)I think I could last for a pretty good time. INT. MYANMAR, TECHNICAL CONTROL ROOM SEEE (Smirking) We'll see. INT. TUSCON, ARIZONA HOTEL BANQUET HALL -NIGHT Bloom hears Seee's voice through a miniature earpiece. He smiles again politely at Corvus, then picks up his wine glass, and salutes Corvus as if challenge-accepted. BLOOM Mr. Corvus, you seem to be a cynic. CORVUS People have called me worse. BLOOM (Laughs, then his smile goes cold.) Kill your father and a cynic is born, is that it Mr. Corvus? INT. MYANMAR, TECHNICAL CONTROL ROOM Seee watches Corvus's reaction on screen. Corvus bumps the table getting up. The plates and glasses clatter. Corvus stands, ready to fight. Bloom leans back abruptly in his seat. The group behind Seee is yelling whoooo in a chorus. Seee folds his arms and smiles. INT. TUSCON, ARIZONA HOTEL BANQUET HALL -NIGHT BLOOM Sit down, Mr. Corvus. The Company knows what really happened with your father.
If you’ve gotten this far, thanks for reading. To summarize, screenwriting can be an interesting exercise in editing as well as useful to show your work the way a director or actor would want to see it. The scene above is a drastic cut on Chapter 1 and adds something new as well. In the novel, Seee isn’t looking in on the conversation between Bloom and Corvus. In the screenplay, it would be revealed later that Seee is not part of the CIA at all anymore. Instead, he has become the leader of a revolutionary cadre, turning CIA recruits to The Cause and infiltrating them back into the CIA. Here, he is recruiting Corvus, unbeknownst to Corvus himself.
Roderick Vincent is the author of The Cause, book one in the Minutemen series. He has lived in the United States, England, and the Marshall Islands.
WRITERS’ RESOURCE DIRECTORY Krystina Kellingley is a reader and commissioning editor/ copy editor/co-publisher across various imprints. Author of a children’s novel, she has had several short stories published in spiritual and fiction magazines as well as online articles on dream interpretation and other subjects. Krystina travels internationally to tutor in writing workshops as well as privately mentoring new writers of adult and children’s fiction. She has a First Class BA (hons) in Imaginative Writing and Literature and an MA in Creative Writing. She lives in the UK. Here is what one author has to say: “I felt very lucky to have Krystina Kellingley as my editor and mentor. She is a sensitive and intuitive professional with broad vision and a huge knowledge in creative writing. Krystina is a visionary who has the ability of traveling deeply inside the story as if she were one of the characters. All this ensures a high quality on her work.” F. T. Camargo, author of Shanti and the Magic Mandala. Find her on, http://writerswheel.com/ RESOURCE: Editing at all levels, fiction manuscript appraisal, tutoring, workshops, re-writing, ghost writing. Maria Moloney has been part of the John Hunt Publishing team for six years and runs editorial services and foreign rights. She is also a publicist and co-publisher across various imprints. The author of five MBS books with two more in the offing, she has also authored a children’s fantasy novel, and is currently writing the sequel. Over a number of years she guest lectured at Liverpool John Moores University, and now holds workshops in writing fiction and non-fiction and on spiritual subjects internationally. She has had many articles published, and as well as being a team member on Writer’s Wheel magazine, she was co-founder and former deputy editor of Irish magazine, Brigid’s Fire. Maria has a BA (hons) degree in Imaginative Writing and Literature, and has studied both Writing and Research at postgraduate level. She lives in Ireland. Find her on, http://writerswheel.com/ RESOURCE: Editing, mentoring, workshops, fiction and non-fiction manuscript appraisal. Suzanne Ruthven has authored over 30 titles in the country lore, MB&S and creative writing genres, as well as ghostwriting a further ten books for other people, including a field sports autobiography that was nominated for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. She has also tutored at writers’ workshops including The Annual Writers’ Conference (Winchester College), The Summer School (University of Wales), Horncastle College (Lincolnshire), the Cheltenham Literature Festival and the Welsh Academy - following which she was invited to become a full member of the Academi in recognition of her contribution to literature in Wales. She now lives in South Tipperary, Ireland. Find out more at http://suzanneruthvenatignotuspress.blogspot.ie/ RESOURCE: Ghost-writing, tutoring, workshops, non-fiction manuscript appraisal.
Sally Spedding is an experienced adjudicator, speaker and workshop leader at many literary festivals and writing conferences, where she enjoys meeting aspiring writers and helping them get published. She is a manuscript appraiser for the CWA and regularly assesses work sent by all those who have stayed in touch. This has firmed up her belief that new, original talent is too often overlooked for the safe bet. She lives in Carmarthenshire, UK. Find out more at http://www.sallyspedding.com/ RESOURCE: tutoring, manuscript appraisal, speaker, workshop leader. Sarah-Beth Watkins has been a freelance writer for over 20 years writing for magazines and websites such as Your New Baby, Changing Ireland, Banulacht's Gender and Development Bulletin, Take a Break, Scouting, Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly and many more. She has written over 300 articles for the web on a variety of subjects. Her most recent work includes writing articles for Wikio Experts, Vista magazine, Overblog and New Consciousness Review. Sarah has also tutored creative writing and journalism courses for various colleges and community centres. She is the author of Telling Life's Tales, The Writer's Internet, The Lifestyle Writer and Life Coaching for Writers available through Compass Books. She lives in Ireland. Find her on https://www.facebook.com/SarahBWatkinsWriter RESOURCE: Non-fiction tutoring, coaching for writers, making the best use of the Internet Simon Whaley regularly facilitates workshops and courses at writers' festivals and events, and also at writers' groups. His practical and hands on workshops offer tips on non-fiction writing including: how to analyse your target publication, drafting your magazine article, writing letters for publication, writing travel features, creative non-fiction and maximising your ideas. He lives in Shropshire, UK. For more information visit http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/workshops-talks/ RESOURCE: workshop facilitator, tutoring Nicholas Corder is the author of hundreds of articles and fifteen published books and plays. He writes mainly on the topics of historical crime and on writing skills, but also light stage comedies. He has worked in a variety of community settings and as a university lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and the Open University. His novel The Bone Mill is set in the murky world of body-snatching in 1820s Stoke. He is currently working on a new novel with a contemporary setting, as well as a book on writing crime, which will be his second outing with Compass Books: the first, Creating Convincing Characters, will be published shortly. He also writes songs for The Pie Men, a light-hearted musical duo. He lives in Shropshire, UK. See www.nicholas-corder.co.uk and www.thepiemen.co.uk RESOURCE: Public speaking, workshops, teaching, manuscript appraisal, mentoring, writer-in-residence.
Published on Apr 18, 2015
Welcome to the fifth mid-spring issue of Writer’s Wheel, the FREE online creative writing magazine from Compass Books. Spring and early sum...