Category Archives: writing resources

Arvon’s inaugural flash fiction course a great success

I have just returned from my first Arvon creative writing course – an intensive week at The Hurst in Shropshire.

What an experience! Thank you Tania Hershman and David Swann for insights, advice, encouragement and inspiration to write and write and write. I came home with a dozen drafts of new material and am working on two or three of them now. What a thrill to have some new pieces to focus on. And I got going at last on the production of some science fiction/scientific story items. Thanks Tania for the critique and pointing me towards superb role models for scientific fiction writing.

Arvon Foundation

Fifteen of us from several countries (Luxembourg, USA, Italy, Scotland, England) gathered on the Monday night and it was a rollercoaster of reading short stories, writing flash fiction, discussing our work and others’, listening to the experts and finally performing our work at Friday evening’s finale.

An inspiring and amazingly varied group of students – of all ages – we worked together and learned from each other and cooked for each other and washed one another’s dishes. I can’t thank everyone enough for making the week so memorable.  The Hurst is a wonderful setting for such an event and my first Arvon experience will certainly not be my last.

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Filed under Arvon, fiction, flash fiction, Free writing, New Scientist, Sci-fi, Science fiction, short stories, short story, submissions, Tania Hershman, Uncategorized, writing courses, writing resources

‘Don’t treat your reader like an idiot…’ I love this quote.

firewordsThe people at magazine Firewords talk a lot of sense and this piece of advice for writers struck a chord with me. I tend to over-explain my stories and choosing what stuff to leave out is a real skill.

READ THE ART OF FORESHADOWING AT FIREWORDS

 

 

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Writing Buddies, a guest post by Linda Tyler

My sincere thanks to my two-year writing buddy, Linda Tyler, for this insight into how she got her short fiction writing career off the ground. This is my first guest post on this blog and I am grateful to Linda, whose work I admire.

linda tyler with sherlock holmes

Linda Tyler in conversation with Sherlock Holmes

Early Writing Buddies Success Already friends, Shirley and I started to write seriously a couple of years ago (2014), bouncing ideas off each other and providing an honest critique of each other’s stories. We were delighted when our first success was joint second prize in a regional short story competition in Scotland.

Since then, like Shirley, I have had a few successes.   I’ve self-published on Kindle an historical romance (Summer Intrigue), have a poignant story in an anthology (Last Call and Other Stories, published by Ouen Press), been highly commended for the opening page of a crime novel, short-listed for a piece of mystery flash fiction, had a family tale published in The People’s Friend and have stories, one bizarre and the other comedy, in two anthologies to be published this year (2016).

Write the story You want to write As each of these works of fiction is different, I feel I’ve yet to find my ‘voice’.  On the other hand, this means I’ve written the story I wanted to write and the style followed naturally.

Rejections go with the territory Despite these little successes, I’ve had many rejections.  Between the summer of 2014 and the end of 2015, I submitted 58 stories; six of these were successful.  Interestingly, two of the stories had been rejected previously by other competitions/publishers, another had been rejected elsewhere twice and yet another had been to three different places before finding a home.

Don’t Look Back Writing really is a case of perseverance.   Shirley’s motto is Onwards and Upwards; mine is One Story Back, Another One Out.  Both are good maxims.   Send off a piece of work, forget about it and get on with the next one.

My ideas usually come from comments made by friends or something I’ve read (I read widely, both fact and fiction).  We are often told ‘write what you know’.

For whatever reason, I find it difficult to base a story on an aspect of my life; and the one story where I’ve attempted this has been out seven times with no success.

What I do find helpful, though, is to set a story in a place I know – for example a coastal town, a relative’s sitting-room, a church and a preserved steam railway.  The characters may be imaginary, but the setting is one I can easily visualise. Image result for pound money

Don’t waste your money With the exception of the flash fiction piece, my successes have been with free submissions.  It is too easy to spend £5 here, £7 there, and find at the end of year how these sums have mounted up. This year I intend to submit only to those competitions, magazines and anthologies with free submission.

And I cannot over-emphasise the importance of a writing buddy.

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Robert Louis Stevenson might have sat here

As I always carry a notebook and pen with me I often capture my thoughts when they amount to something. Yesterday I sat at the harbour in North Berwick and looked across the Firth of Forth to the massive slab of rock that is the Bass Rock. It’s an uninhabited volcanic island that is home to thousands of seabirds and was an inspiration to Robert Louis Stevenson. It featured in his 1893 novel, Catriona, which he wrote as a sequel to the more famous Kidnapped.

word in-notebookYesterday, this sombre edifice three miles away inspired me, too.

The sun shone on the green-swathed headland to the east, it bathed the northern coastline of the Firth of Forth in golden light. Even the harbour wall at North Berwick gleamed on this bright February afternoon.

But Bass Rock was brooding. Solemn and grey against the blue of the winter sky it lay in the shadow of a single blanket of darkness, the only cloud in sight. It was as if the rock was sulking, waiting for someone to switch the light on.

And then a shaft of light trickled over the top of the tiny island, sneaked down the vertical cliffs to the sea and the rock smiled. Warm at last. Gloom dissipating.

 

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What a useful coincidence

It’s only two days since I was bemoaning my inability to write some science fiction.

By total chance an email from the local library dropped into my inbox yesterday telling me about their new e-resources. Lo and behold they offer some online magazines. Best of all they have available my favourite magazine – New Scientist. It’s chock-full of snippets about science, medicine, climate, all sorts of information on Pluto in case I want to write about alien worlds. (I don’t)

scrabble wordwriting

 

So that’s today’s writing planned. I have no excuse at all to complain I’m short of ideas. I’m spoilt for choice in fact. Now I just need a plot, or some free writing to get me going…

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I want to write science fiction stories

I am a scientist and I love science, medicine, drugs, technology and learning about their use and mis-use. I wrote two stories last year using science as a base and I enjoyed doing it. Two different subjects and quite different stories.

Then I ran out of ideas. I surprised myself that the well of imagination was dry. Why?

long DNA colourI did research in two or three new areas that I have some knowledge of so that I would be up to date in those fields. The research excited me and thrilled me with possibilities. I spent ages online and printed off lots of useful background and even drew up a list of possible story plots.

But my pen wouldn’t write about them.

  • what if my science was rubbish?
  • what if the story had already been written by someone else?
  • what if my story was so scientific it was boring?

But when it comes down to it, why don’t I just write it and then ask those questions? Not all of my stories are boring so why should these ones be? aaarrgghhh

Resolution for February 2016 – write at least one science fiction story. And don’t be such a wimp.

 

 

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Loads of people thrive on deadlines, great!

I see from woman’s magazine writer (and other credits) Helen Yendall, that a number of authors past and present regularly go head to head with deadlines.

evelyn waughHelen includes herself in this approach and says it forces her to get things done. hmm, me too, as I posted yesterday.

She quotes Charles Dickens (below), Evelyn Waugh (right) and Kasuo Ishiguro as working hard in the struggle to meet agent’s deadlines and finish pieces. There’s hope for me then.

Thanks Helen, I’m glad to be in good company!

0551-Charles-Dickens-in-1868-q75-1054x1484

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Flash Fiction – why not?

flash fiction

I like short short stories and today I wrote my first 100-word story for a competition. It was great fun and it reminded me of some of the writing exercises we have done in workshops. There’s nothing like a deadline and a prompt to get me writing.

I think I should always have some urgency to write because I produce words more readily under pressure. Well, here’s hoping my foray into short short stories will prove fruitful in 2016.

I must thank Cathy Bryant for her super site cathyscompsandcalls. Already I have had a success with one of my stories being accepted for publication in one of the literary journals that Cathy recommended in her list of opportunities for writers. Thanks Cathy!

After submitting over 50 entries for magazines and competitions in 2015 I am hoping to up my success rate this year. And in January I saw my first little success, so that bodes well. Thanks especially to Linda, my writing buddy who keeps me on the right track, and who has seen her own measure of success rise too.

Onwards and upwards, I say.

Linda and I are off to Durhamhill for one of their marvellous residential writing courses in March. Really looking forward to that!

 

 

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My long journey to my first short story success

Christopher Fielden hosts and manages a very useful web site with advice and resources for short story writers. My favourite section of this comprehensive site is the Competitions listing which Chris keeps up to date with hundreds of story competitions around the world.

It was from this listing that I selected the competition that brought me my first Short Story First Prize, the inaugural Crediton Short Story Competition in 2015.

Crediton_Festival

Chris has kindly featured my story and my journey on his web site.

Thanks Chris.

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