NaNoWriMo here I come!

nanowrimo-crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76I’m going to write a novel in November and today is October 27. There, I’ve said it.

I know there are not thousands of people reading this blog but for the small number who do, you heard me commit myself.

I have to write 50,000 words in November to upload my novel on the NaNoWriMo web site at the end of the month.

There are loads of blogs with loads of advice on how best to tackle a novel so I am feeling overwhelmed but excited.

A novel, me? Yes.

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On tenterhooks

Scottish Book Trust produce a delightful anthology of stories each autumn, selected from submissions from across Scotland. Its theme this year is Secrets and Confessions and the book will be launched during Book Week Scotland, 21-27 November. The little anthology is usually packed with stories and poems of all shapes and genres.
age-cannot-wither-her-smallMany of us are on tenterhooks because Scottish Book Trust is announcing the stories that have been selected in early September.

Rosalind Newton has submitted a poignant romance about her grandmother and a special portrait of her (pictured left) during the First World War.

boy_and_girl_in_car

Another writer friend of mine, Lucy Taylor, has  chosen her father as the topic in an emotional roller-coaster of a story. By coincidence I myself have put in a piece about my own father during his war service in Italy in 1944.

The Secrets and Confessions theme this year has certainly drawn out some heart-rending pieces.

Whether our stories are selected for publication or not they remain on the Scottish Book Trust web site for everyone to enjoy. Fingers crossed!

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What a stunning piece from Tania

Here’s some news from Tania Hershman, a talented and accomplished writer of stories about science. Tania read her own story on Radio 4 and her reading voice is a pleasure to listen to.

Tania Hershman smallLatest News

Aug 2016 my brand new short story, There Is No-One In The Lab But Mice, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Sunday Aug 28th at 7.45pm, and is now available on Listen Again if you’d like to hear it!

 

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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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‘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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Admiring other people’s work – Shirley Golden

Every so often I come across a story that says something to me. Not because the subject matter is something I know nothing about but because the writer has managed to convey a special feeling and connect me with the story and the protagonist.

A link to one such story was sent to me by Linda Tyler, my writing buddy.  We have both enjoyed this touching piece. It’s written by a very accomplished writer called Shirley Golden and it hamsterwon the 2014 Greenacre Writers Short Story competition. I hope you enjoy its gentle flow – and imagine what happened next…

It’s called The Mad Schemes of Morris.

 

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Cathy Bryant’s excellent listing for writers

Cathy Bryant, poet and author, produces an invaluable monthly listing (compsandcalls.com) for people like me to submit stories and poems for publication and competition. The great thing about Cathy’s list is the opportunities on her listing are all FREE TO ENTER.

My little success with OpeningLine.org and a more recent success with Infective Ink have resulted from targets on Cathy’s list.

Thanks Cathy, and keep them coming. It does wonders for the morale of us struggling short story writers.

Shirley

 

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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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An Infectious Success

My story published in The Opening Line Literary ezine and my name on the front cover.

Thank you, editor Frances Button for selecting my story. I am thrilled.

Pages from Winter 2016 - Infection

 

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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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