Thursday, 4 August 2016

Editing - taking a knife to fluff

Image result for piece of fluff

When you come to edit a finished piece of work there are a couple of things you can do that will immediately sharpen your language and if necessary, reduce a word count.

1. Remove the following


Get rid of them and see if you can't improve the quality of the word they were supporting.

Very fast - fast - rapid/speedy/brisk/racing

Really hot - hot - scorching/sweltering/searing/blistering

Quite interesting - interesting - riveting/fascinating/enthralling/captivating

2. Reduce your use of the word 'and'. Make some of your sentences shorter and more meaningful.It varies the pace of the prose and makes for easier uderstanding.

3. Compress words in speech. It makes dialogue more realistic and can cut a hefty wordcount if this is your aim.

'You could have said. I would not mind.' - 'You could've said. I wouldn't mind.'

Very simple and ordinary edits like these can dramatically affect the feel of your work and there's hardly any effort involved. Getting rid of fluffy sentences makes the harder editing jobs such as restructuring or getting rid of superfluous characters much easier.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Writing about yourself

It's a long time since I've written my blog.

Picture of thyme, loved by bees.

I've been busy but I can't quite remember what it is that I've been doing! I thought I should write the months down and add roughly what I did in those months. Some of the things that kept me busy were fodder for stories.

Here are a few of the things I did.

Planted flowers to attract bees. I have worried for a while about the decline in bees and instead of thinking someone else will sort it out I got cracking. I haven't got the mass of flowers I'm looking for but am on the way. I did it all through donations and taking cuttings. I hope now to make a beehive in my garden - a secret underground one not designed for honey production but for bee preservation.

Threw out loads of rubbish. My work has meant that I have lots of paperwork and equipment at home so I've altered my occupation and thrown masses of things away, acquiring a more minimalist look in the procedure.

Prayed very hard for certain outcomes and have been pleased with the results of prayer.  Some might say manifestation or positive thinking. 

Improved my swimming so much that I have been able to swim outdoors and in water I would recently have considered too deep. I ow swim three times a week and it keeps me sane.

 Accepted defeat.  A house I was selling was overpriced. I have stubbornly refused to drop the price which is why it won't sell. I'm hoping my acceptance of the new price  brings results.

What's the point of me telling you this?

1. Your last twelve months may well make twelve chapters or more in a book. You may have to spice them up or tone them down and change names to protect the innocent but you may well have a story.

2. Some of the activities, like the ones above, are the raw material of short stories.

3. You could write a poem. 

I planted flowers 
I looked for bees
I prayed...and so on.

Look no further than your own life.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Reading outside your comfort zone

If I go to a bookshop or library I head for the fiction aisles and then search for writers or titles that I'm interested in. I'm happy while doing this to consider new titles and authors. Reading is a passion and a good story is a fantastic source of inspiration and entertainment but if I'm not careful I run the risk of keeping my book choices narrow.

Make a list of all the genres you are drawn to. Mine would include detective stories and mysteries of all types, modern and old school literary novels, collections of short stories and ghost stories of all kinds.

Good as my reading matter sounds I've walked by sci-fi, romance, comedy, plays, crossover novels, graphic novels, westerns and adventure novels. I've by passed hundreds of important characters and denied myself glimpses of life from a view that is outside my comfort zone.

Each summer I busy myself with a few novels that are outside my usual area of reading. Once I read various works by sci-fi writer Ursula Le Guin and although they didn't convert me to her work or the genre, I enjoyed them and they informed some writing I did afterwards. I have been reading folk tales and the lesser known novels of daphne Du Maurier, who is in my view the most superb creator of plots.

Sometimes old or forgotten books in second hand shops contain an inspiring point of view and sometimes non-fiction work can be full of interesting ideas and people.

Try this mind enriching activity occasionally. It will definitely inform your writing, it will advance your knowledge of the world of books and you may find a genre that you hadn't previously thought of. 

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Who are you writing for?

I'm working on two projects at the moment that have given me a lot to think about. I'm happy with the plots and fairly happy with the characters. What is slowing me down is the fact that I don't know who the stories should be aimed at. They could be for adults but they could also work as crossover pieces that appeal to adults and people in their mid to late teens. I have to decide though and in doing so will improve the focus.

It's important to think about who is going to experience your work. For a time, when I was involved in performances of my own work, I found it essential to consider audiences. An audience is made up of people with a whole host of needs and expectations. In order to create a good experience for them it's necessary to present them with those elements of your work that will impress or please them, make them laugh or get them thinking.

Some audiences were noisy and ready to laugh while others contained people who coughed and fidgeted. When my performance partner and I planned sets for a performance we always had a main plan and then a few ideas about what we might do if things weren't going well.

In other words we had to think about who we were performing to. Sometimes we had to be more funny, less funny, more specific, less rude. Sometimes we had to leave stuff out and other times we had to include things.

It all added up to us having a relationship, however brief, with other human beings who were willing to give us a chance.

Writing is the same except you can't see your readers when they are looking at your stuff. Even so, you have to work out who they are and what they already like and what they might like. You have to meet their expectations and also know how to exceed them.

It rings me back to my knotty riddle; in order to do any of these things you have to know who they are. I'm still scratching my head and trying to work that one out. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Poems carved in stone

It seems that poet Simon Armitage has something in common with lawmaker Moses. Both
have had their words carved into stone. I have now visited three of the six stanza stones that are located in the Yorkshire Pennines in the UK. Armitage has taken precipitation in its various forms as his subject matter and written poems that have been carved in rock faces in various parts of the Yorkshire countryside. Each poem can be reached fairly easily with the help of map guides and instructions. Each is in a place of immense beauty.

The poems are tightly written and down to earth with touches of gentle humour. The poetry carving project was part of the Ilkley Literature Festival and it has had a mixed response. Some people regard it as a defacement of places of natural beauty, others love the mixture of art and nature.

I have been with family and friends to three locations that I hadn't been to before and I would like to visit the remaining three. We have read the poems aloud and written our own poems based on the way the day out affected us.

An artist called Pip Hall carved the words and doing so must have been no small feat. The size, scale and angle of the poems must have stretched her physically.

A guide that can be picked up in Yorkshire's cultural spots or read on line has been compiled by Tom Lonsdale to enable people to find the works which are off the beaten track. The walks can be done separately or in one go over a few days. Most are suitable for families but all aren't suitable for wheelchair users or people with buggies and prams. Check the brochure for information

I've written three small poems based on my days out. I suggest you read the poems written on the stanza stones to get an idea of their tone. Then find somewhere near to where you live where a piece of unofficial art has been created. A wall covered with graffiti or a wall covered in posters for gigs. Look for official art in the form of an inscription inside a building or an outdoors sculpture. Read what's written there or look more closely than you usually do. Write a short poem in any style inspired by your experience. Do it in one location or several and see what results can be achieved.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Cut a Long Story Short

Cut a Long Story is an on line book shop dedicated to selling short stories and novellas. A wide range of writers and writing styles make this a fantastic gathering place for people who write stories and people who read them. You can do both, just follow the link below and see how.

I have a few stories for sale on the site and look forward to involving myself more. Hope to see some of you there.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Characters - we need them

I've just taken part in world book night again. I've added a link so that you can see what this fabulous initiative is all about. I've been involved each year in the business of giving out books to people in order to encourage a love of reading. This year I chose to distribute M.C. Beaton's Quiche of Death, the first in a series of books about an unlikely detective in the shape of Agatha Raisin, a retired PR Guru.
The book could be categorised as cosy detective in terms of genre. It is a light and humorous read with an interesting central character. Agatha Raisin is in her fifties, a bit grumpy and solitary in her ways and often ungenerous in her thoughts. She has good points and bad points and the author allows some delicious insights into her ungenerous points of view. The most important feature she has is that of the tenacity to make her a good amateur sleuth.
I was impressed with this character and the twenty or so kitch and funny novels that have been woven around her. The detective genre lends itself to characters who can appear time and time again in  a number of mysteries. Readers love to catch up with someone who feels like an old friend.
In the television series the part of Agatha Raisin is played by a glamorous woman. In the book she's well dressed but somehow plain and matter of fact and I wondered how much she resembles the writer.
Can you think of a fantastic character to hang twenty novels onto and have fans begging for more. Wouldn't it be wonderful? A writer's dream.

To make a start at finding your character think of someone you know, maybe even yourself, who has the power to drive a story along. Consider the following to help you shape the character further.

Is s/he modern or traditional in habit and dress?
Does s/he have strong views or liberal views on life issues and politics?
Is s/he religious, or lapsed in religion or a pagan?
Can your character cook?
Who are they friends with?
Have they or are they married? Just once or are there a few ex spouses?
Who are the members of their family?
What environment are they in and does this provide the potential for many stories?

Please do have a go and come up with a prize winning character with whom you can share your writing room and grow rich.