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.