Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Story Abounds is a thought provoking article from Wired For Story.

The Biggest Problem with Writing Advice is an interesting article from Write It Sideways.

Top 10 Writing Tips is a post on the website of crime writer, James McCreet. Well worth a read.

Risky Business by Tania Hershman on the Writers & Artists site suggest that taking a risk can improve our writing.

And finally, a little visual advice from Leslie Gordon Barnard.

Monday, 29 April 2013

How well do you know your book?

Is it a passing acquaintance or a life long friend? Do you know all its dirty secrets or are you making a massive number of assumptions?

I write murder mystery plays for a living. I started doing this back in 1997 for the am dram group I was  part of at that time. In case you haven't attended one of our murder mystery events, they go something like this:
  • Introduction by the compere.
  • The Play!
  • Interval.
  • The suspects return to the stage to be questioned by the audience.
  • Deduction time.
  • The Verdict.
Initially I co-wrote the plays, publicised the plays, acted as producer to my writing partner's director, helped with front of house, occasionally did lights and sound, and also acted on stage. The rehearsal period and production nights were incredibly busy - my hours frenetically filled with all manner of tasks - but ultimately they were was richly rewarding. I quickly learnt the knack of developing an overview of each production, knowing what stage each element was at and what still needed to be done.

One of the tasks assigned to me was to run the actors through their character histories and practice question times. The audience could be devious in their questioning, imagining motives that my co-writer and I hadn't considered, and on occasion extremely random. Each actor had to know their character inside and out, filling in the gaps in the histories we had provided them, so that they could ad lib convincingly in the face of the audience's interrogation. They had to not only know the bare bones of their characters but the muscles, sinew and tendons that encompassed those bones and held them together.

It's just the same with writing a book. It's not sufficient to simply have a pencil sketch of your characters and the world in which they exist. It is necessary to have all the answers to all the questions that your readers may throw at you:
  • back stories for your characters,
  • the history of your world,
  • cultural rules,
  • physical laws,
  • the condition of the environment.
It may well be that you never write any of these, or all of these, into your book but to have them to hand, to know your world inside and out, to fully realise your character histories lends an assurance to your writing. There is no longer a reason to stop and consider the legal implications of a character's actions or what their house might look like, if you already have that information to hand. 

Try it. Write a history for each of your characters (job, dreams, relationships, times spent in different places, family life) and a culture for the world they live in (landscape, social mores, laws, mythology, religion).  Learn it so well that you can then forget it and still be able to write your world without distraction.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

10 Writing Exercises to Break You Out of your Creative Rut is an excellent article on the BookBaby blog.

When Is My Story Ready for Publication? is the first part of a topic that is currently being discussed on Writerly Life.

Neil Gaiman made a keynote speech at LBF this year which has got people in the publishing industry talking. Here it is.

Are you choosing the best words to describe your setting? is an interesting article from The Other Side of the Story.

The Elf in the Kitchen is about normalising the unusual in your novel. It's written by Mindy Klasky on the Magical Words site.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Daily Practice

One piece of writing advice that has always been thrown at me is this,

"Write every day",

and for a long time, I took that to mean write your novel or work in practice every day. I tried. I really did. Every Monday morning I would say to myself, "This week I will work on my novel every day". During a very rare, peaceful week, I would succeed but for the most part, I would fail. And every time I failed, I would get angry with myself, doubt myself and basically give my self esteem a good kicking.

It took me a long time to realise that, for me at least, what 'write every day' meant is that I should do that exactly. I should write every day but not necessarily write my novel or work in practice. I should write in my diary. I should write small stones. I should write blog posts. I should write letters or emails to friends. I should write down new ideas that came to me.

When my family and I went on holiday last week, I knew full well that having any time for writing would be difficult. The physical removal of my children from their computers meant that we had to keep them busy while we were away. There was the morning club which usually meant sticking miscellaneous brightly coloured objects to pieces of card, balloons or available adults, and a screaming run around several highly enthusiastic but I assume deaf members of staff. We also threw the children at the pool on numerous occasions and on differing vehicles (aqua jets, aqua gliders, inflatables, water walkers). We dragged them round the mini golf, fed the ducks and swans (until the invasion of seagulls put a stop to that) and generally walked them to exhaustion. I spent very little time sitting down. Opportunities to write were limited but precious. I got up early to work on my novel on a couple of days. When the children were engrossed in an activity, I made notes on my phone for blog articles and two new murder mystery plays that occurred to me over the break. I wrote my diary each night and I even dreamed up a new novel idea, literally. It came to me in a dream so I noted that down as soon as I woke. I wrote a little each day.

This isn't a get-out clause. This shouldn't be an excuse for procrastination. What it is, however, is an admission that on some days, picking up your work-in-practice just isn't going to work. There isn't enough time to get any work done on it or perhaps you've hit a pothole in the road of your novel and need to pull yourself out by mulling the dilemma over for a bit. To have written something that day, be it a note on your novel, a blog post or a letter to your Great Aunt Mildred, is always valuable because in writing a little or a lot each day, you keep the writing muscle in action.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Shut up and write the book is a post about, well, just getting on with it, from Austin Kleon.

This is Secret Two of M R Hall's series, The Secret to Crime Writing. It deals with how to build your central character.

Elements of a Successful Ficton Platform is an excellent article by Christina Katz on the Writers Digest site.

Irreconcilable Goods is a post by Steven Pressfield about presenting your characters with choices.

Tightening Your Sentences is a guest post by Reena Cruz on the Writerly Words site.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

How to Write a Killer Logline is a post I need to inwardly digest. Do you have a decent logline? It's from the diy MFA site.

Matters of Life and Death on the Magical Words site discusses how to use death (killing off a character) in
your book.

Four Steps to a Winning Query is a useful post on the diy MFA site.

Princess, and some thoughts on writing by Neil Gaiman discusses a miscellany of topics. One particularly interesting subject he touches on is a find from his writing youth.

The Rewrite Rules! is a guest post by Bess Weatherby on the diy MFA site.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


I like this time of year because a whole host of TV series, old and new, begin. One which I have been looking forward to is Defiance. As in much of the fiction that I enjoy, there are large areas of grey in this story. We see humans and aliens working alongside each other in peace (even if that peace is troubled, to say the least) and joining to fight those who would threaten their community.

With a brilliantly diverse cast of characters, I was already looking forward to discovering this new tale of survival and tenacity, when I found out about an additional element to the Defiance concept.

Alongside the TV series, there is a game featuring the same characters and storyline. Now, although this is a moneygrabber, merchandising the game as the TV series is launched, it's also a chance for players to be included in the storyline because the characters of major Defiance game players may appear or  be mentioned in the TV series. This is the first time that there has been such a linking between a TV series and an online game.

You can find a more in-depth explanation here.

"The experience of one is going to enhance the experience of the other in ways that are both overt and very subtle."

"Immersive stories on two platforms that are seamlessly living together."

"The real crossovers happen while the season is going since we planned from the very beginning to do this, things like a character leaving the game and going to the show and talking about what they did in the game."

Defiance takes storytelling a step further than a regular TV series or film, drawing the audience in to take part in the peopling of the story and experience the world of the story for themselves. This is a new way of spinning a tale. Fingers crossed it lives up to its promise.

Thursday, 4 April 2013

I want to be a baglady...

if these are the kind of bags I can have. I recently came across these on the arms of several American celebrities and, ever the magpie for bookish accessories, I just had to share. I think the Edgar Allan Poe bag is my favourite. Which is yours?

Natalie Portman with a Lolita clutchbag from  Vladimir Nabokov 
from http://www.etsy.com/people/spoonfulofchocolate

from http://www.etsy.com/people/spoonfulofchocolate

from http://www.olympialetan.com/

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Weaknesses from Magical Words suggests that not only should your hero be flawed but also your villain.

There Are Two Kinds of People is a fascinating read from Write It Sideways.

Is Your Description Helping Your Story Or Holding It Back? from The Other Side of the Story discusses how to keep your descriptions efficient and effective.

This is Secret One from a series of writing advice videos from crime writer, M R  Hall.

Premise vs Plot is a guest post by Janice Hardy on Rebecca Belliston's blog. It's part of her March Book Madness series.