Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Writing Wednesdays - October Short Story Course Summary

So, welcome back! Sorry for the break last week - I was working on the October Short Story Course, which is now complete (indeed, I'm about 14,000 words into Nano).

I thought what would make most sense today would be to create a summary of the October Short Story Course, putting all of the information in one place.  So here it goes!

One - Word to describe the atmosphere, description of the setting:

Two - Names and character descriptions, pick out your three main characters:

Three - Make profiles for each of your main characters:

Four - Work out relationships between different characters:

Five - One sentence summary of your story, paragraphs, and characters meeting:

Six - Check things work together, write overview from different characters:

Ten - Write three or four short paragraphs, each for a different scene:

Eleven - Write the scenes from yesterday in name: *action* format:

Twelve - Write your favourite scene from yesterday out in full:

Thirteen - Draw a table of character responses to plot development:

Fourteen - Song for each character, how they develop across the plot:

Fifteen - In character explanations of the scene from the twelfth, pick a POV:

Seventeen - Which animal would each character be and 700 words:

Twenty Two - 700 words, and the characters dreams, ambitions and super powers:

Thirty One - Finish the story, and consider how characters have changed:

Thanks, I hope this has helped you to see how I sometimes go about constructing a story, and I'll talk to you soon!

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Reading

Just a short blog entry this week due to being rather unwell (just a bad cold, but enough to make stringing long sentences together difficult).  The focus for this is going to be something that I am sure most of you already know - the importance of reading.  (Topic suggested by the amazing LJ Hamlin

You probably already know this, but if you want to get better at writing, one of the best things that you can do is reading a lot.  Read as much as you can, in different genres, things that people say are classics, things in the genres you want to read, and stories that people recommend.  Work out what you like reading, what people like reading, and go from there.  The more you read, the more you'll see how the writer's craft works. 

Read magazines, read novels, read writing blogs and read short stories, and if you can jot down the things that are most interesting in a journal or notebook.  A sentence or image that is interesting, a description you love, a concept that you like, things like that.  So you can look back and see what you find works, and you can get ideas.  Not copying what you read, but seeing what you enjoy and developing it.  Plus, being able to flick through everything you like will be quite fun, and can give you some much needed inspiration.

So reading matters.  Talk to people about what they enjoy reading, and take a look at it!  If you have no ideas of what to look at, people around you might have ideas.

Best of luck!  Go and read something now, and think about if there's anything there you can use.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Writing Wednesdays - What to Write

So I've got up to day fifteen on my writing course - I hope it's helpful for people to see how it goes together, what happens as I construct an idea and develop characters and the worlds that they inhabit.  I'll be reviewing the entire thing on the fifth of November, but first I thought I'd return to the idea of what to write.

This is something I've already looked at here: - where I said quite simply that you should write what you want to read.  I stick by that, but thought I should maybe provide some more tips.

So here are my top tips for deciding what to write:

1.  Write what you want to read.  If you aren't interested in it, then you won't want to finish it, and the readers will be able to tell you're bored.

2. Write a genre that you love.  You know it well, and it's familiar to you.  You already have some idea of how these stories fit together, you know how they work and you enjoy reading it.  If you get stuck, this can help you to work out where to go next.

2b.  But try and put your own spin on it.  Is there a trope there that annoys you? Do you love reading fantasy but get sick of damsels in distress? This is your chance to fix it.

3.  Write what you know, covering your experiences. This works well, because you already know all about it.  You know what will happen (even if it's an adapted version), and the characters in it are familiar to you (still, be careful not to offend any friends!)

4. Write what you have to.  Sometimes there is a story in your head that you just need to get down, and it won't leave you alone.  If you have a story like this, you'll know.  Get it down, and it'll be easier.

5.  Write to work out what happens next.  Stories don't pop into our head fully formed.  If a concept intrigues you, then write it to work out what will happen.

6.  Write something for someone you care about - this often works for short stories, but can work for longer pieces.  You know the individual, and you know what they like.  You can make it as a gift, and by giving it to them, it'll be a present that they will treasure, and it will mean that it will be read.

7.  Write your dreams.  Work out what you would like to happen, create the worlds that you dream of, and have fun with it.  This is particularly good when you're starting out, to get ideas together and carrying a story from start to finish.

8.  Write your fears and your insecurities.  Write about the dark things that bother you.  This can be difficult, and you need to be careful not to push yourself into something you aren't comfortable with, but  it can really grab the reader if you put your own concerns into a character's mouth - you can understand these fears and put them across well.

9. Ask people for prompts.  Ask your friends for an idea, and try to put it down on paper - perhaps "A walk on the beach" or "Two married spies on holiday".  Use it as a start for a short story, and see if it can go from there.

10.  Write what you see.  Either go to a crowded place and look for interesting characters, making some notes, or look up pictures of interesting places - for horror perhaps look up pictures of abandoned buildings, or whatever else you would find helpful - it might help to spark an idea.

So there we go, top ten tips for what to write if you have no ideas.  Write what you want to read, a genre you love (with its own unique twist, what you know, what you have to, to work out what will happen, for those you care about, your dreams, your fears, to fill prompts, or write what you see. 

Best of luck with getting some ideas, and turning them into some words.   Feel free to suggest some prompts for me!

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Writing Wednesdays - October Short Story Course #3

This is the final block of the October Short Story Course - you can follow my work on it on tumblr:   The previous two blocks can be found here ( - days 1-10) and here ( days 11-21).  Now there are ten days left, and we are certainly on the home stretch.

By the time you reach here, your characters and world have been designed.  Your plot is sorted, and you have already written 4,200 words - very nearly half way there.  Just a little further to go!

Day Twenty Two:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Design a floor plan in whatever way you would like of any buildings which it would be helpful for you to have a plan for.

Day Twenty Three:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Make a collage for each of your main characters, including at least five pictures for each - perfectly acceptable to do this on pinterest, or using a computer.

Day Twenty Four:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Write what each character's main ambition is, and what their dream life would be.  Also write which super power would suit them, and which wish they would have granted if they were able to choose - do this in the voice of the character in question.

Day Twenty Five:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project:  What would each of your characters want for Christmas (or another similar gift-exchanging occasion) and what would they give to their fellow characters? What is the best present they ever received? What is the worst?  Write a short and sweet scene of Christmas/gift exchange for them – trying to make their attitudes towards each other exactly how it is currently in your plot. (I'd be interested to see this work if your characters are currently trying to murder each other).

Day Twenty Six:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Make a school report card for each character commenting on how they did or would do in each subject that they studied or would take given the chance.  Who was the best pupil? Who was the worst?

Day Twenty Seven:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Write a diary entry from each character's point of view about what you wrote yesterday in the main story.  Try and explain how they are feeling.  50-100 words for each story.

Day Twenty Eight:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Write a page or so of an interview, with you speaking directly to your characters - praising and blaming them for what has happened.  This should help you let off steam, see any minor issues, and completely destroy the fourth wall (the barrier between you and your characters, stopping them and you from conversing normally:

Day Twenty Nine:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Give your characters a reward, something that they deserve but don't get in your story.  Maybe it's a kiss, maybe it's a happy ending.  But write something to thank them for what has happened this month, and put your mind at ease about any hanging threads.  Alternatively, use this to torture them for all the problems they have caused this month.

Day Thirty:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: : Make a word cloud of your story using wordle and consider if it captures the ideas you'd like:

Day Thirty One:
Last day.  Finish the story.  What has each character learned from it? Have they become a better or worse person?  Has their life changed? Has their outlook on life changed?  Finally, and most importantly, having made these characters from nothing in a month, do you now agree that you can write fiction?

There we go.  That's the end of the course.  All that would be left now would be to edit what you have, redrafting as you go, until you end up with a piece you are happy with.  Then it is yours to do with what you wish!

If you've really enjoyed this month's activities, why not give Nanowrimo a go in November?  That's a 50,000 word story in a month, so you'll have to write 1666 words a day - a bit of a jump up, but with what you've managed this month it is perfectly doable.  Maybe you can even carry on with the story you have been writing?  I'll be taking part in Nano, trying to meet the wordcount, and hope to see you there.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Writing Wednesdays - October Short Story Course #2

So last week, I introduced the October Short Story Course that I plan to do throughout this month ( for the less focused among you) and laid out the plans for the first ten days, by the end of which you have your main characters and setting sorted, and have begun to work on the plot.  Today, we'll be looking at days eleven to twenty one.  As I said, the end goal of this project is to have a short story of about ten thousand words from nothing within the course of November.

Every day I will be putting up my work on tumblr at, and mentioning what I've been up to on twitter.  Now, on with the course:

Day Eleven:
Write between two to four of your scenes from yestarday out in name: *action* format, i.e.
Samuel: *opens door to see Oliver sat on the couch* You stayed then?
Oliver: *glances up* I guess.  Something wrong?
Samuel: Yeh... *walks over* Look, about last night...
Try and ensure you make the scene long enough to generate an amount of interaction, and decide which of the scenes is your favorite.  Go back to your character profiles, and adapt them if necessary.

Day Twelve:
Write your favourite scene from yesterday out in full, trying to keep it dynamic and interesting - aim for a minimum of 500 words.

Day Thirteen:
Draw out a table (using MS Word, XMiind, MS Excel, paper or whatever else you find helpful) with each major event in your plot on a new row.  Give each of your main characters a column, and fill in how they feel and respond to each development.

Day Fourteen:
Choose a song for each character, and make a note of why.  Write 50-100 words about each character's development over the plot, and how you feel about them - are they alive to you?

Day Fifteen:
Write in character, having each character explain what happened in the scene from the 12th in their own voice (If any characters weren't involve, just show how they would report it if they had been there).  This gives you the opportunity to get to grips with each character's dialogue, attitude, accent, truthfulness etc.  With this, and the work from the sixth, choose your point of view to work from.

Day Sixteen:
Today's the day you have been waiting for (or dreading) - we start writing the story.  Aim for about 700 words every day.  Alongside this, side projects will run daily, helping you to fully flesh out and develop your characters.  Today's side project: do a personality test, answering as each of your main characters (I'll probably do  Do the results you get surprise you? 

Day Seventeen:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Which animal do you think each of your characters would be and why? 50-100 words for each, try not to get too hung up on detail, or to be too predictable.

Day Eighteen:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project:  Write a brief timeline for each character, working out the age they are when key events occur, and the effect these events have on their personalities.

Day Nineteen:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Describe one of your main character's living spaces (and work spaces if applicable) in 50-250 words.  What do they have there? What does it mean to the character?  What is their favorite possession? What is most precious to them? What do they wish they had?  Is there anything that they wish wasn't there?

Day Twenty:
Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Repeat the side project from the nineteenth, picking out a different character's life to explore.  Be careful to consider how the character's personality affects their living space.

Day Twenty One:

Writing - approximately 700 words.  Today's side project: Unsurprisingly, we are doing the same as for the previous two days, for the last remaining main character.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Writing Wednesdays - October Short Story Course #1

In October I plan to put up daily writing prompts, with the eventual aim of creating a writing course for across the month, with the hope that if you follow it you would end the month with a short story of about ten thousand words.  Not bad for a month's work right?  For me, this is going to be a way of preparing for Nanowrimo.

Today's blog entry is the steps for the first tendays, with the next two entries covering the rest of the available time.  I'll be posting daily reminders on twitter using the hashtag #OctoberShortStoryCourse, and posting my work on my tumblr

Day One:
Start of the writing course.  Find a word to describe the atmosphere of your setting (horror? dark? cyberpunk?) and write a fifty to two hundred word description of the setting.

Day Two:
Select eight names that you think would suit people in your world (this gets the horrible naming problem out of the way early on, you can always revise them if you don't like them).  Then make short character descriptions (ten words or less - a young baker with a passion for renaissance sculpture, a firefighter who is recovering from a broken heart etc...), pair them up to the names, and pick out three to be your main characters (maybe two protagonists and an antagonist, but that's your choice).

Day Three:
For at least your three main characters, and any others you want to include make a short profile (approximately 150 words for each character: their name, age, title/rank, appearance, sexuality, likes, dislikes, fears, ambitions, clothes, personality and history.  Include any other information you feel is vital.

Day Four:
Draw a diagram of your characters and the relationships between them, who they like/dislike, any siblings, relationships between them etc.

Day Five:
Write a one sentence summary of your story, and then try to expand it to a paragraph (no more than five sentences, after all this is a short story!)  Also write three 100 word introductions between your characters: MC1 meeting MC2, MC2 meeting MC3 and MC3 meeting MC1. 

Day Six:
Check that your plot fits the relationships, and if not revise one or the other.  Then write a 100 to 200 word plot overview from the point of view of each main character - how do they feel about the events? What do they gain from the plot, what do they do?  How do they feel at the start, and how do they feel at the end?

Day Seven:
We've got to the end of the first week, and it's time to deal with fiddly questions about the setting.  This is just a list of questions I tend to use to establish my world, feel free to make up your own questions that will help you with yours?
- What is the weather like? What seasons are there?
- How do the economy and political system work?
- What are the religious and/or scientific ideas that dominate thinking?
- What is the history of the society?
- What are typical education levels? Who has more education? Who has less?
- Are there any superstitions? If there is magic, how does it function?
- What is the state of medicine? How are disabilities treated?
- Are there a variety of cultures? How are they treated? How about outsiders?
- What are the roles of different groups? Is social status fixed?
- Which professions are there?
- What do buildings look like?
- What are the rules linked to marriage/homosexuality?
By the end of today, you should have a better view of how society functions.

Day Eight:
What are the daily routines of your MCs?  Write down a typical day for them, including what they eat and how they dress, their hobbies and occupations?
We are now over a week in, and we have our characters and world developed!  We are doing great.  Let's carry on.

Day Nine:
Draw a sketch of your main characters - it doesn't matter how good or bad it is, just so you have a picture of them.  Check that your work so far fits with the plot overview, and if not modify the overview.

Day Ten:

Choose three or four short scenes - all but one of which should be things that happen before your story starts.  The final one can be from the body of the story if you wish.  Write out a paragraph about what happens, considering how characters interact and the personalities of your different characters.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Time Management

This blog post is being written a little late today, which is rather unfortunate as the topic I'm going to be looking at is time management - suggested to me by the marvelous L.J Hamlin whose writing can be found here:

Time management can be something that is hard to do about even the most important things, let alone writing which is often relegated to the role of hobby, simply  because of how busy people find themselves and how little time they have free.  Therefore, finding time to write when you can is crucial but a lot of aspiring authors just find it impossible to catch a free moment. 

I'm particularly aware of this right now as I have just begun a new job which is meaning that I have far less free time, but I am determined that I will still write.  Therefore this blog post is as much about me making a plan of action for myself as giving advice.

For time management, the main thing is prioritising - you won't have enough hours in the day to get done every single thing that you want to get done.  Therefore you need to decide which things you want to get done most urgently, and what needs to be done.  Make a numbered list, or use websites such as workflowy ( or Habitrpg ( to prioritize and record your achievements.  Some people find that they don't know where there time is going, and one possible way of tackling this is to make a chart for a day or a week, listing each hour, and fill in what you were doing at that time, be it working, cooking or watching television.  Then you can look back, and see if there is any time you have available that you had missed previously. 

That isn't to say not to let yourself relax.  Relaxing is really important.  It's just worth making sure that when you are relaxing, you are doing it in the way that you want to.  If you want to include writing in your free time then working out what free time you have is a great start.

Now, about writing: First off, it's a good idea to consider when you might have time to write - if you know you're working late all week, maybe think about the weekend.  If you have young children, maybe after they've gone to bed - or while they're watching television.  It all depends on your personal circumstances.  If you can manage to find a few hours available, and go to somewhere quiet - a coffee shop, or a public library if you are looking for somewhere peaceful and free to visit, that's fantastic.  But if all you can get is the odd few minutes, don't worry.  That's time enough to get down a few lines of dialogue, or notes as to how a scene is going to go.

Carrying down a notebook to jot ideas in can be helpful here - it even gives you a chance to put down some thoughts if you find yourself with some free time in the middle of the day which you don't want to waste.  Make notes when you can, and when you get more time, you can write them into stories.

You might have had a look at your timetable and found that you have absolutely no spare time at all, and if so then you might have to decide to let writing take a back seat whilst you deal with everything else you have going on.  At some point you will need spare time, but if you just don't have it at the moment, that doesn't mean you have to give up on being a writer.  You can still think of ideas and stories, flesh out worlds and work out dialogue, and scribble it down when you get the chance.  Actually writing a novel might be out of the picture for you for now, but a chance may occur later.

Short stories might work better in this particular situation.  Or, when you get to November, just say to forget it and let yourself take part in Nanowrimo, immersing yourself in writing for a month.  At the end of it, even if you didn't break fifty thousand, you may have written far more than you thought was possible, and have learned exactly what it is that you can temporarily delay to give yourself a chance to write.

- List priorities
- Work out when you have time
- Carry a notebook
- Think about ideas
- Set aside time

Best of luck!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Writing Wednesdays - What to Write Tips 1

Sometimes it can be hard to work out what it is that you want to write - you might have a lot of ideas buzzing around your head, or otherwise none at all.  This is where I turn to some vital advice - write what you want to read.  Simple huh?

Well, it works.  If you write something that you don't like, or wouldn't be interested in, then your writing will be more dull.  Your heart isn't in it, and that's going to come through to the reader as well.  If you aren't enjoying it, why on earth would they?

Whereas if you write something that you would like to read, you're going to be more engaged.  You will actually want to get it down, so that you can read it.  You'll be able to think things through, and you'll be interested in the project.

The other side to this is that it can be very hard to get your work out there, especially if it is with your own characters.  You might self publish and find it takes a while to get popular, or you might just not have the confidence to get the work out there.  But if it is something that you enjoyed writing, and which you like reading, then it is in no way wasted. 

So that's my advice as to what to write - write something that you would like to read, and then it has at least one fan.  You'll enjoy writing it a lot more, and that enjoyment will come through.

A short and simple blog post, for a short and simple idea. 

Now, a quick challenge for you: Think of something you'd like to read, and write some of it.  Even if you just write  a paragraph, give it a go right now and let me know how it goes!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Inspiration

Today, we're going to be looking at inspiration. 

Inspiration is something that is always helpful to have - when you are inspired for a particular idea, character or scene, words seem to come a lot more easily, and you can get a story flowing, developing concepts and getting the idea down.  Rather than being stuck for hours on the same paragraph, you can find pages flow from your fingers - or else that you have a mental vision at least of how you want it to go.  Inspiration is great.

Having said that, I'm going to stress something I've said before: You can't wait for inspiration.  You just can't.  Inspiration is not always going to be there, and if you tell yourself that you can only write something when you are inspired to do so, you're never going to get it done.  It's important to get words down, even if it doesn't seem to be going anywhere, because at least then you have something to improve.

These tips are to be done alongside your normal writing, not instead of it.

If you're anything like me, inspiration strikes at the absolutely worst times imaginable.  Just before bed last night I worked out the plot of a six part story I promised a friend, and when I'm running I often get ideas.  Other times that inspiration sneaks up on you are when you are in the shower, on the toilet, driving, or otherwise as far away as possible from your computer/writing materials.  This absolutely sucks.

So carry something with you, so you can jot down those ideas.  Make notes - either carry a notebook around, or download an app on your phone or something.  Personally I find the ColorNote app: really  helpful, but if you don't have a phone that it will work on, just type ideas into a blank text, or scrawl them down on paper.  If you find showers are the place you get your best ideas, you forget them by the time you've stepped out and you don't mind looking like a bit of an idiot, leave a non-washable pen in reach.  If you have something you just /have/ to write down then and there, write it on your arm or something.

If you look, there is inspiration all around you - just jot down things you find inspiring or interesting.  There might be a mannerism of someone you know, or a piece of dialogue you hear that sparks ideas, and noting them down for later can be great.  One thing though - do be careful you aren't just caricaturing your friends, because that way lies arguments and distress.  You can take inspiration from people you know, just if you want to stay in contact with that person, it's a good idea not to make an obvious version of them into the villain of your piece (unless they ask for that!).

Plus it's much more original to mix together a variety of people, rather than just stealing someone you know.  That way you can combine things, won't cause offence, and can develop ideas - so that rather than thinking about that particular individual you know, you can be thinking about your character and how they would react with the combination of characteristics they possess.

Sometimes, you find yourself stuck on a particular scene, and with ideas for other areas of the story.  Don't be afraid to jump ahead and work on them, even if it will mean you need to revise them later. You can always just put down brief notes.  If you have inspiration, it often is best to use it - otherwise by the time you get to that scene, your ideas might have vanished.

One final tip I would give would be to read.  Books that have been published must have something in them that made them desirable (even if what it is that was desirable about them isn't always clear), and they might help.  The more you read, the more you will be aware of the kind of thing that you want to read, and the more you'll know what it is you want to write - come back next week for more on that topic.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Fanfiction

Now, quite a short entry tonight - midnight is approaching, and the person who normally advises on these has disappeared off to Europe.

That having been said, today we are looking at fanfiction.

For those who don't know, fanfictions are stories set involving either preexisting characters or preexisting worlds or a mixture of the two - if you think of the entire Star Wars extended universe, that's published fanfiction.  So is anything written using the characters from Harry Potter, or set at Hogwarts, or in any other kind of fictional world that someone else has created.

Now, there are two camps of thought here: That it's the most terrible thing that ever existed, and that it's a good thing.  I am most definitely in the latter camp.  As a writer, I dream of creating characters that are engaging enough and cared about enough that people are driven to write stories about them and to carry on from where I have left off.  But aside from boosting the original author's ego, why is fanfiction good?

- Chance to get into writing
- Instant feedback
- Ability to develop other people's ideas
- Able to enhance your skills and try new things
- LGBT representation

For many young writers, fanfiction is the first time they've written a long story.  They've been reading for their entire life, and one story interests them enough that it pushes them into writing.  Maybe they aren't happy with how the story ends, or they want different characters to get together.  So they write out their stories based on these other worlds, and begin to work out how to tell stories.

Once these stories have been written, they can be published online, on one of several websites set up for just this purpose.  They can get other people responding, telling them what they liked and didn't, and this helps them to develop their work.  Whilst with original writing it's hard to get a response of what people like, fanfiction will often get quick responses from a range of people.

Developing other people's ideas can help you get better at your own work, and to work on your own concepts.  It gives you a chance to look at other works in greater depth, and to practice writing whilst getting quicker responses than you would on your original work.

A lot of very famous authors started off writing fanfiction, or pastiches, of other people's works.  Most of Shakespeare's plays were based on preexisting stories, and Agatha Christie started to write with works looking at the Sherlock Holmes stories.

One other thing that I like about fanfiction is the fact that it is an LGBT friendly atmosphere.  Whilst most mainstream fiction has little representation of those who aren't cisgender and straight, fanfiction is much more liberal with gay characters particularly common.  For people questioning their own sexuality, fanfiction gives a chance to read about people like you, and that's encouraging.

So there we go - why I think fanfiction is amazing.  I know not everyone will share this view - I once went to a writing group that banned fanfiction from being read there.  But I have found it helpful for my writing process, and I think other people will as well.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Background Characters

So, last week we were looking at main characters and their development over a piece.  Today, I'm going to build on that, by looking at background characters: The individuals who populate the world that your characters inhabit, and that your characters interact with.  Background characters are an entire spectrum - from your protagonist's trusted best friend to a shop keeper who is only in a single scene.

There is one key tip to keep in mind when writing background characters: They don't know that they are background characters.  As far as they are concerned, they are the key character in their life, and they have their own needs and concerns.  They might only feature temporarily in your story, but they are just as developed in their own minds as any other person, including you.  They might be scared of spiders, dream of being a professional dancer, be allergic to peanuts - they have thoughts and feelings, dreams and goals.

That doesn't mean you need to include all of this information in your novel: If you're writing a brief exchange with a shop keeper, you don't want to write a long paragraph explaining their family situation or their ambitions - a slight description of their appearance or tone of voice will be enough.  But knowing that they have these things matters.

When it comes to a background character who repeatedly appears, then you can develop them in the same way you would develop your main character.  For example, if you're writing in a combat zone, the reality of war won't only change how your main character thinks, how they look at the world.  The characters around them, the men and women they are working alongside, would be affected as well, and in a variety of ways: Perhaps some become more confident, others quieter, some suffering from PTSD.  Perhaps one is physically injured, or loses their ability to trust, or has their faith in humanity restored.

Having background characters who are not just cardboard cut outs or caricatures but are instead people makes your writing a lot more interesting to read.   Having them developed also leaves the way open to their use in sequels and further pieces - if they are developed and interesting, then the people reading your story will become invested in them, and want to know what happens to them...

Let’s take Harry Potter as an example of background characters that do fairly well - over the books they grow and develop.  Your main characters are Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Voldemort, perhaps a few others.  But  offer those who enjoy the stories the chance to read about what happens next to Neville, or to Luna, and many will be delighted at the opportunity - they care about these characters just as much as the 'stars' of the book.

Next week, I'm going to build on the idea I just mentioned, to look not at your own characters but other peoples', as I take a look at writing fanfiction.  I'll see you then!

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Character Development

We're starting with some more shameless advertising - but this time it is for a free flash fiction anthology:  Go there, and you can download a series of short stories based on the theme of "Please Don't Feed the Alligators".  I've got a short story in there, and so have some other wonderful authors, and it's entirely free, so go and take a look, in case you find something that you'd like.

Advertising out of the way, today we are going to look at the idea of character development.  This is the personal journey your characters take over the course of the story - how they mature, and their personality develops, whilst still staying the same person beneath it all.

A good way to look at it is to consider some examples:
- Bilbo Baggins, the simple Hobbit at the start of the book who wants nothing more than a quiet life, ends up becoming more confident, having an adventure and doing a lot of things that he never dreamed he would have been capable of doing.
- Harry Potter goes over the course from a mistreated, unwanted and lonely boy to a warrior and hero who is willing to sacrifice himself, and is surrounded by friends whose loyalty he has earned.  He bears the mental scars from his journey, but he is far stronger at the end of the books than he was at the beginning.
- Ana Steele goes from an abused virgin being manipulated by the abusive and violent Mister Grey to a coldhearted murderess, able to get rid of her tormentor and take his wealth for herself
... alright, so possibly the last of those didn't happen, but a girl can dream right?

Regardless, people don't want to read about characters that are the same at the start of your story as they are at the end.  They need to have grown and changed in some way - even if it is simply that they have a renewed appreciation of their life and a greater understanding of those around them.

One of the best ways to develop your characters, and to make your stories more interesting, is to make your characters' lives difficult.  If you challenge them, and make them rise to defeat problems, you can help them grow.  Even the challenges that they can't conquer, and which they aren't able to tackle, will enable them to develop - perhaps a lost fight will give them determination, or being unable to help in an accident will inspire them to learn first aid.  Giving your characters an easy life isn't only not as engaging to read, it doesn't let the characters develop in response.

Challenges for your characters don't need to be anything particularly gigantic - it doesn't need to be a world-ending, or life or death situation.  Having to decide if they will quit a job they hate, or respond to a flirtatious word when they have been hurt before, can help to slowly move your character from who they are at the start of your writing to who they are at the ending.

One thing that a lot of new writers get criticized for is making their characters too perfect.  Whilst this isn't necessarily true; see Batman or Iron Man (both billionaire geniuses with a long list of romantic conquests, a tragic past and amazing technology), giving your characters flaws helps them to be more real.  Over the course of the story, they can come to realize these flaws, and work to tackle them, even if they don't solve them entirely.

If you are writing a romance story, or a story in which romance features, you have two main characters who will develop over the course of the story - revealing sides of themselves that perhaps wouldn't have been so obvious at the start.  A famous example of this would be the relationship between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy within Pride and Prejudice, as over the course of the book their views of each other are transformed and hatred gives way to love.

All characters within your story will be affected by the events that happen around them, and background characters will have their own lives as well that will be developing.  It might not be possible to show the development that is happening to minor characters, but if they are caught up in anything that you think would change them keep that in mind.  Next week we will be looking at background characters more closely, so I'll see you then.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Progress so far

To be honest, I'm on holiday right now, so what I've got for you this week is just a summary of what we have covered so far, with links to all the old blogs.  There is however one more writing resource thrown in, in the writing resources section.  Other than that, it's just helping you find things in the blog posts that I've already made.  Don't say that I didn't warn you!

Writing Resources:
There are lots of websites out there to be of help, and here is a summary of some of the best ones that I have found so far:, alongside a special feature on my personal favourite, Nanowrimo:

Another program that I foolishly forgot to mention in the above summaries is the wonderful Q10  It's a full screen text editor, which gives you live word and page counts, with you able to specify for yourself what formula you want to use to calculate page count.  It is customisable, and in a single file so that you can easily move it around.  It also has a timer, which tells you when your time is up, and how many words you wrote in the time - this is particularly useful for word wars (for those unfamiliar with word wars, they are when you write competing with another person to see who can write most within a (often brief) period of time - fifteen or twenty minutes is common.  My absolute favourite feature though, is the fact that you can set a target, in terms of words, lines, pages, or whatever else you would want, and it tells you how close you are to achieving it.  There are also typing sounds, and it's fast to use, it autosaves, and most important of all? It's free.  I find it useful in certain situations - especially when I have a deadline approaching.  Give it a go, and see if it helps you.

Beginning to write:
I have covered various ways to get ideas:, and how to start to develop them into a full story:  Once that has been done, you need to develop your characters:  Only when you have a plot, and developed characters, can you start to write:

Writing Process:
When it gets to writing, a routine is important to develop.  In an ideal world, you might be writing for several hours every day, but real life doesn't work like that, so I try and look at some more realistic ways of making it work

No matter how hard you try to stick to your routines though, you might find yourself ambushed by the dreaded Writer's Block.  Try not to panic: there are lots of tricks that you can use to get over it:

Keep fighting through the block, and you'll manage to be ready in time for any deadlines you have approaching.  In, I set out a few tricks for getting to the deadlines with the minimum of stress (some stress is sadly unavoidable when deadlines are looming).

Once you've got this far, and you  have your complete first draft, it's time to do some reworking.  It's good, but you can make it far better.  Here I set out how to edit, and how to rewrite in order to make your finished piece as good as you can possibly make it.  This is one of the steps you either love or hate, but it needs to be done - just push through it, and you'll get a far better story at the end of it.

When your work has been edited, and you are as happy as you are going to get with it, it's time to submit, and in I try and set out some advice for getting your work published.  Sadly, you might not always get your writing accepted, and tries to show you where to go from now, without losing your ambition.  If you have got to this stage, you've written an entire story, and that is something that you can be truly proud of.

I hope that this has been of some help - if you can see any gaping holes in my writing tips, please do let me know.  If not, well, I'll be racking my brains to see what I can bring you next week.  I have a couple of ideas, but if you have any ideas, please let me know.  See you next time, and best of luck with your writing.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Deadlines

Next week I'm going to have details for a free to download flash fiction anthology that Torquere Press will be bringing out - it contains 500-1000 word short stories on the theme of "Don't feed the alligators", and my piece is included in it.  That's coming out on the fifth of August, so when it gets to the sixth I'll let you know all about it.

Shameless self promotion out of the way, and on to the topic of today's blog post - how to deal with deadlines.

Deadlines are pretty terrifying, right?  I mean, there's that great quote from Douglas Adams:
"I love deadlines.  I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."  Which always makes me smile, but unfortunately if you're submitting for an anthology, there is a deadline you have to meet.  If you submit your work after that date, they simply won't consider it.

That is annoying, but it's an incentive to get it done.  There are three reactions to deadlines: 1. Calmly getting it done by the deadline, 2. Panicking and getting it done really early, and 3. Panicking and doing it at the last minute in a rush.  (There is also category 4, ignoring deadlines and not getting things done, but it's just a version of three where the panic carries on for too long)  If you fall into category one, you can probably stop reading this right now - I'm jealous,and I probably can't teach you anything.  Personally, I'm a category two attempting miserably to be a category one.  But my three best friends are a category one, a category two and a category three, so I know a lot about how this works.

If you're a category two, just try not to put quite so much pressure on yourself.  Strangely, for a category two, you can use the same trick I'm about to tell you for category threes: set more deadlines.

That might sound counterproductive.  If you are bad at deadlines, surely the last thing that you need is more deadlines.  But that isn't quite how it's going to work.  You divide the work into chunks, and then you can go from there.  Each chunk has its own deadline, and so you are making progress and getting towards the end goal, without time for the total panic to set in.

Say I decide I want to write an anthology entry that is due in in eight weeks exactly, with a word count goal of 10-20,000 words.  For simplicities sake, we'll say that this is the only writing project I have going on.

I break it up into separate tasks: having an idea, making a rough plan, a more detailed plan, a first draft, a second draft, edits, creating the information that needs to be submitted with it, formatting it correctly, and sending it in.
Eight weeks is fifty six days.
So my deadlines are:
Day three - by now I want to have done a brainstorm, and have a sentence long idea
Day six - make a rough plan
Day ten - have a detailed plan
Day fifteen - have at least 5000 words of the rough draft
Day twenty - have at least 10000 words of the rough draft
Day thirty - have finished the first draft
Day thirty five - finish the second draft
Day forty - have decided on the edits
Day forty five - completed edits
Day forty eight - create the sheet to be submitted with it, formatting
Day forty nine - one final read over to make sure I'm happy with it
Day fifty - send it in, almost a week ahead of the overall deadline
(These are based on the timings I find work for me.  Feel free to adjust as works for you)

If I slip and miss one of the deadlines, there is time to catch up with it later.

If you're writing a novel with no such deadline, you'll have to set your own deadlines throughout.  It's pretty difficult to do that, so what might help is to tell people around you about it - let your friends know that you are going to write something.  If possible, ask a friend if they could read it over - and give them a date that they'll get to read it over. Then try not to let them down - they're your friend, so they won't mind if you are late, but it's something to aim at.  Or give yourself treats if you meet it in time.  You can do this!

I hope this helps you get what you need to have done, done by the deadline.  And thank you to the wonderful LJ Hamlin, twitter: @LjHamlin  for suggesting this blog post theme!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays: Rejection

So today's topic is... *drumroll* Rejection.

Rejection is hard.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  You poured your heart and soul into writing something, you sent it off, and you got it back saying that it wasn't something they wanted to publish.  Now, that sucks.  You might feel disappointed, or upset, or angry - and none of those are unreasonable feelings.  Let yourself wallow for a little while, if it helps, and if not then try and push it aside.

For a start, lets look at what you've done so far.
1.  You had an idea
2. You planned it into a piece
3. You wrote something
4.  You got it to a standard where you felt it was publishable
5.  You sent it off to a publishers

Every single one of those steps is far further than a lot of people get, and you should be proud of yourself.  You got a long way.  I could state some famous statistics here, like how many publishers Rowling got turned down by, but I think you can look those up if you'd find it helpful.  You don't need to compare yourself to anyone else.  Just look at what you've done.

Next, think about what the rejection letter said.  Now, this differs slightly for anthology entries and other stories, as anthology entries have a precise purpose, but the same general ideas apply, so I'll treat them as a unit.  Some letters might say that it isn't what they are looking for - for whatever reason, it didn't meet the theme, or the type of story that they were looking for.  This doesn't necessarily mean that it was bad, simply that it wasn't what they were looking for.  A similar variation to this is the idea that they may have had too many submissions - here your one might be too different, or too similar, to others that they are bringing out.  This sucks, but it can't always be avoided. 

Another type might say that you need to work on a particular piece - if you're very lucky, they might even ask you to revise it and resubmit with this idea in place.  Whether they want you to have a go or not, this is incredibly useful advice as it shows what they want in something they are publishing.  That doesn't mean that what they are saying has to be done, but if you want to be published by that particular publishing house, it will be worth doing.

Constructive criticism can be hard to come by, so if you get it, try not to let it knock you back, and instead use it to become a better writer.

One type of rejection letter that I've heard of, but certainly never received myself, is an anthology story which is rejected but which the company asks you to develop into a longer piece.  If this happens, congratulations! Far from being a rejection, what you have got there is an acceptance for a novel when you thought you had a short story.  Work on it, revise, and get the novel in as quickly and as brilliantly as you can!

Once you've thought about what the letter says, and when you feel ready, decide if you want to resubmit it.  If so, research where else you can send it in, and take a look at their precise requirements.  Then read through what you have written and improve it, taking on board any feedback that you have gotten.  Reformat it, edit it, and rewrite any bits that you feel need work.  When you next apply somewhere else, make sure that what you are offering them is better than before.  Hopefully, this time will be a success.

Maybe you can't face resubmitting it, have had too many rejections, or wrote for a narrow theme and so can't find anywhere else to submit it.  That in no way takes away from what you have achieved so far, but now you have to ask yourself what it is that you want to achieve from your writing.  If you want to make money from it, do more research, look at what does well, and try again with something else that you think will be popular - or look into self publishing.  Self-publishing isn't easy, but it is a way of getting your work out there to be read, and there are a lot of guides online as to how to do it.

For me though, I don't write to be published and make money, not exactly.  I write so that people can read my writing, so that people can enjoy it, and because if I don't there are just stories buzzing around my head because I need to get them on paper.  There is nothing wrong with writing for other reasons, but personally that is why I do it. 

For me, the big thing isn't making money as much as having people read my work.  So whilst self publishing is definitely something I want to look into at the moment, for now I'm happy to share my work with my friends, sending it to them and getting them to read it.  If you're lucky and in a similar case to  me, your friends might even be wonderful enough to proofread (thank you R.E.) Or tell you what they like or dislike about it.  That's feedback that you can use for future work, and meanwhile your work is being read and enjoyed.

You can also put your work up online - using a site like livejournal, deviantart or wordpress.  One thing to keep in mind though is that most publishers are only interested if it's the first time your writing has been available, so by putting it up for free online you're losing any chance you might have had for getting it published in the future.

I hope that this helps - rejection is upsetting, but you can get past it, and write more.  Make changes and improve it, and resubmit if you want to.  If not, think about self publishing or just showing your friends, so that all your amazing hard work doesn't go to waste.

Keep writing, and some time soon, you'll get the acceptance email you're dreaming of.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Writing Routines

Alright, today we're going to be looking at writing routines, which honestly is something that I struggle with.  That having been said, it's something important to do - and I am hoping that by writing this, it might help me set a better writing routine as well.

One thing to remember is that writing routines aren't set in stone - if you miss a day because you are ill, or because a friend invited you out, that's entirely alright.  This is just trying to get you writing.  If it doesn't always work, that's alright.  Don't get angry at yourself, just try and do some the next day.

There are a few different ways of setting goals.
* Time based
* Word count based
* SMART goals
There are probably a lot of others as well, but these are the ones I find helpful.

Time based - you decide you will write for a certain time: For example "I will write my blog entry between ten and ten thirty this evening".  You set aside that time for writing, and when it comes to that time, you write.  This can be effective for short things, like blog posts, but it is harder to control when you are writing longer pieces - you might find that you miss the start of your time, and then find no reason to actually write for the rest of it, leading to very little actually getting done.  If you can make yourself put aside distractions while you're writing, this might be good for you (if you're thinking of other things, try noting them down on a scrap of paper), but if you can't, then you might find that this method actually leads to less work rather than more.

Word count based - this is a much more concrete method than time based - you set a number of words to write (be it every day, or perhaps just on weekends), and then you get them written.  I find this helpful, but tend to choose quite a low initial goal - say 100 or 200 words.  That way, it's very easy to meet that even with a busy schedule and you aren't disheartened by repeatedly not meeting your goal.  Obviously, if you  have an entire day to write with nothing else to do, you can be a bit more ambitious.  I find this method useful because it provides the original spark to get you writing.  You start putting down words, and once you're 100 words in you may have forgotten about the fact you only need to put 100, because you're caught up in what you're writing.  Alternatively, if you really are struggling to get any words down, then being able to write 100 then tell yourself you've made a positive step for the day can help.

SMART Goals - this is where I start sounding like a conference or workplace seminar, but these are actually quite a good idea.  SMART goals are those that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound.  To un-jargonify it, goals that are clear, that show when they have been met, that you can meet, that you will want to meet, and have a time for doing it.
An example of a SMART goal would be: "I will write a blog post of at least 500 words between 10:00 and 10:30 tonight."  This kind of goal is useful because it is clear whether it has been met or not: unlike just saying "I will write between ten and ten thirty", it gives me something concrete that needs to exist at the end of it.  There is a requirement of what is needed (blog post, 500 words minimum), a time consideration, and as I have set it, it is something relevant to me.  It's a way of combining the other two methods.

Whichever goals you set, be prepared to fiddle around with them until they start to work for you.  You might find initially that they're too difficult or too easy, so just adjust them.  Don't beat yourself up if you can't meet your targets - that might just mean that they are too high.  At the same time, try writing at different times of day, and in different environments, until you find what works for you.

It can help to have big goals, and then to split them up using the SMART method:
Overall: "I will finish my novel by the end of October"
Medium: "By the 22nd of July I will have written the next four chapters"
Small scale: "Tonight, between seven and eight, aim to get 800 words written in the current project, finishing the scene I am working on."
From a big overwhelming thing that I would struggle to do, I have much smaller steps so I can assess progress, and actually get a sensation of reward when it is done.

My final piece of advice about writing routines? If it isn't your day job, it's important you fit it around your life.  Don't let failure to write leave you feeling crippled with guilt - sometimes you need the time off.  Just when you can, pick yourself up and carry on writing.  Dependent on circumstances, that might not be for a while, but that's okay.  You carry on developing your ideas in spare moments, and when you do find time to write, the words will be there.  Best of luck!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Submitting

So, this week, we're going to be looking at another scary step.  Submitting.  You've written something, done all of the hard work, and now you have an edited, finished piece of work.  If it's an anthology entry, or a longer novel, you've worked on it for a long time, edited it, and you're finally happy with the result.  Now, you need to decide what you want to do with it.

There are two main options, if you want to get it out there.  The first one is self publishing, and the second is submitting it to a publishing firm.  For either of these, unless you are purchasing physical copies of your job with associated printing costs, my advice is to not spend money - if a website charges you to list your work, that is quite possibly something you should avoid.

Self Publishing:
If you want to self publish, there are a lot of guides out there - look for advice at how to best format things, and look at the range of different websites.  Amazon has a big marketplace, but may not have the best terms, whilst Book Baby ( has a lot of support available but is less known about.  Createspace ( can be quite good if you want physical copies of your book, and if you do Nanowrimo you may get a discount code or a free proof copy... I'm not a self publisher, but just look around - the information is out there, and self publishing can be a wonderful way of getting your writing out there! 

Think about what your work is - who is it for?  Is it a short story, a novel, or a piece that should be serialised?  Once you've answered that, look around for different websites that might support it. 

Personally, I write LGBT fiction, so I'd be looking at places like Dreamspinner Press (, Torquere Press ( and Storm Moon Press (  If it's been written for a particular call, follow the steps to submit.

If it is something that is unsolicited, take a while to look around their site - make sure that they take unsolicited manuscripts.  If they do, look at what calls they have available, and what is popular right now.  If, for example, they're selling a lot of steampunk books right now, and yours has a similar theme, you can mention it in your email! 

Take a look at the submission guidelines.  Then take another look.  Make sure you meet every one as best as you can, especially for simple things like formatting - if they've asked for something double spaced and yours is single, they may open it and close it without bothering to read it.  Publishing places have a lot of things submitted to them, and if you can't even take the time to read what they've asked of you, they won't bother spending the time to look at what you've sent.  Harsh, but true.

When you've met formatting and other guidelines, you'll need to write a summary, and answer various other questions.  Make sure you give them the information that they need.  As for summaries, try and make sure you meet what they're asking for - a summary is the entirety of the book, not the limited section you'd put on a blurb.  If there's a major plot twist, you mention it in the summary (unless it specifically says not to do it!)

Once your summary is written, it's worth getting someone else to look it over if possible.  Then once that's done? Send it in.  Don't expect to hear back immediately - it may be a couple of months or more before they reach your submission.  And once you hear back, well, hopefully it will be good news.  If it isn't?  Then keep trying.  JK Rowling got rejected 12 times before someone picked up Harry Potter. 

That being said, there's no point being a writer if your goal is to get rich.  You need to actually want to do it.  If you love writing, then try and get those words out, and send them out into the world.  Best of luck!

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Writing Wednesdays - Rewriting

Hello everyone, I’m on a course this week, so it’s another short entry – but that’s alright, because what I’m talking about here is something that really, you need to do in practice. 

First off, hope at least some of you have considered signing up for Nanowrimo.  It really does help to be writing in a community.  If you are doing that, then leave this particular blog entry until later – the point of writing is to get words down, you can edit them later.  If you’re writing, then go and write! This will still be here when you get back.

Okay, so you have some finished text now right?

Last time, we were focused on editing – the final polishing to make your writing beautiful.  We went back over what we had written, replacing crutch words, adding punctuation, correcting spellings, and altering a few sentences.  This time, it’s a bit trickier – we’re going to be rewriting.

Rewriting is going over your story, and then writing large chunks, or even the entire thing, from scratch.  Sounds horrifying right? 

Well, for a start, work out which bits need rewriting – if the order of scenes needs rearranging, and where certain things have to be.  If you have something important you haven’t mentioned, then that’s somewhere rewriting can help – or you can just add in the occasional sentence.  You’re the one who can see what you have got, and what changes it needs.

So, now let’s say you’ve got something written.  To keep my examples short, I’m just going to do a little paragraph, but this can be applied to a much longer scene, or even an entire book.

So, here is the initial scene: (Yes, reused from the starting to write entry, writers are lazy)

Argen stared at the bowl in front of him, poking the unapetizing grey goo inside it with the bottom of his spoon, then lifted his head to glance over at Vairel, who was devouring his breakfast as though he hadn't eaten in weeks.
"I'm not letting you cook again." He told him coldly, shoving the bowl in the direction of the half-elf.  Vairel simply hummed in amusement, emptying his own bowl, and shoving it back to Argen to clean.

Here is it edited:
Argen stared at the bowl on the table before him, poking the unappetizing grey goo inside it with the bottom of his spoon.  He lifted his head to glance over at Vairel, who was devouring his breakfast as though he hadn't eaten in weeks.
"I'm not letting you cook again." Argen said coldly, shoving his food in the direction of the half-elf.  Vairel simply hummed in amusement, emptying his own bowl and shoving it back to Argen for him to clean.

So punctuation and spelling have been corrected, sentences have been rephrased – changes have been underlined to make it clearer.  Small changes, that I think make it read better, but no huge differences.

When I’m rewriting, I need to consider what change I want to make – do I need to change point of view?  What mood is conveyed in the scene?  What needs to happen?  What is the point of this piece?  Make a few notes of what you need.

For me in this example, the scene is to show the relationship and friendship between the two of them.  If I want to keep the basic structure of the scene, I am doing it in this way:
·         Vairel made breakfast and it’s disgusting
·         Argen is in a poor mood
·         Vairel is used to this, and not sympathetic

When I’ve made my notes, I write it out again – either looking at the previous attempt, or just at the notes:

Argen screwed up his face as he walked into the kitchen and was met with a bowl of indistinguishable goo, held out by Vairel.  He poked at it with a fork, glaring at the half-elf who simply smiled sweetly in return.
“I shouldn’t let you cook.” Argen muttered under his breath, picking some of the goo up with his fork and letting it drip between the prongs.  Vairel shrugged, devouring his own food as though he hadn’t eaten for weeks. 

“So you keep saying.  But I never see you change anything.”  Vairel answered with a laugh, mouth full of food.  Argen groaned, shoving his bowl at Vairel, who flashed him a bright grin, and handed over his own empty bowl for Argen to clean.

Of course, this piece still needs a bit of editing, but I’ve brought out the relationship more here – I’ve made it clear that this is a part of their normal routine, and shown how comfortable and relaxed they are around each other.   Personally, I like this one more as it makes Argen seem less severe.

Another way of rewriting is to take the same purpose – such as showing the relationship, but doing it in another situation – maybe start the previous night, or show them in a crowd.  As you write more, you will work out what works for you.

If you think a lot of it needs rewriting, then go through, and make basic structure overall – that way you don’t rewrite one thing to then find that it needs rewriting again to include something that wasn’t relevant at that time.

Rewriting takes time, but the end result will hopefully be much better than what you began with.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Writing Wednesday - Editing 1

For today's entry, I thought we could look at another difficult part of the writing process - the sheer terror that is editing.

You've worked for weeks, maybe months, maybe years, and you've got a big block of text.  You have thousands of words, a thick stack of papers that you've poured your heart and soul in to.  Characters you've created, plot lines you've made, worlds you shaped.  An entire universe, that would never have existed if not for you.

Now, you need to turn that stack of papers into a book.  Scary right?

Well, for a start, take some time off.  Feel proud.  Think of how far you've gone, go and see people you've been postponing due to your writing, think about everything you achieved.  If it's the first novel you've ever written, the first you've finished, or the hundredth you wrote, you've done something amazing.  You finished it.

Relax.  Treat yourself - do something you enjoy, if it's going for a walk, or having a nice coffee, or just having a lie in.  You did something amazing, so just enjoy that.  Take some time off, to get your mind clear.Take a week, a month or somewhere between.  Spoil yourself, and think about other things - maybe consider new projects, or put writing to one side.  Then, when you've thought it through, it's time to edit.

First thing you do, is you sit down, and read through the entire story.  You can scribble the occasional note if you need to, but focus on getting your work read.  Maybe your first thought is that it's terrible.  But look beyond that - find the good things there.  Maybe it's a particular scene, or a certain character.  A line of dialogue.  But there are good things.  If it helps you, then highlight the good things as you go.  Just the good things, so you can look back and see how much you've enjoyed.  That'll help you carry on.

Now, two options.  Rewriting, and editing.  Next week, we are going to look at rewriting, but for today, we're going to look at editing.  If you're wondering what the difference is, then rewriting is going over your story and writing it either from scratch, or writing large chunks of it again.  Editing is more small scale - you can think of it a bit like polishing it - getting rid of rough edges and making it look as good as it possibly can.

First of all work out if your scenes are in the right order, and which will need a rewrite, and which will need just an edit.  Some might need a lot of work, and others might just need a couple of adjustments.

A trick I use is to use a website called Wordle:  You paste a chunk of text inside it, and it picks out the most frequently used words, making the commonest words largest, as can be seen in this example here:  You can use it, and take a look at words you've used a lot - I have a bit of a weakness for nodded, shrugged and smiled, and this is a good way of seeing it, without it being overly oppressive.

When you've got an idea of which words you overuse (these are called "crutch words"), then you can keep this in mind as you read through it.  It lets you make small adjustments as you go.  This is the time to look it over scene by scene, making sure that each piece works, and fixing punctuation, spelling, and other things like that.  Some sentences might need to be cut and that's alright.  If what you are writing doesn't contribute to the story as a whole you need to ask yourself if it's worth having.  If your answer to that is yes because it shows a character's personality or reveals something about them then don't worry, that's contributing.

Work through it scene by scene, polishing each one, then look over it from the beginning.  It might be helpful here to print it out double spaced, and make any more adjustments you need.  Then, if you're very lucky, you will have someone you can ask to proofread it, and get feedback.  If no one you know has the time, then instead try and leave it a few more weeks, then read over it again - highlight good and bad bits, then fix the bad ones.

Repeat this, until you think the end result is good - but keep in mind that it is never going to be perfect.  There will always be ways you feel you can improve it, so just like with a piece of art, the challenge is to know when it is finished.  Best of luck with this one - it's down to your own judgement, but it isn't always an easy call to make.