15 September, 2019 § Leave a comment
Malala Yousafzai told her amazingly brave story in her first book I Am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban. She has since penned two other books and a documentary in addition to her advocacy work for education.
From the age of 11 Malala pursued her activism by blogging for the BBC about education in Pakistan. She was marked as a threat by the Taliban and an attempted execution occurred on a school bus when she was 15. By 17 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. Currently, she is studying at Oxford while continuing her writing career and pushing for the right to education for girls.
What formed Malala’s views? Her father was an advocate of education and had set up a school. He was anti-Taliban. There’s no doubt she was influenced by her father’s politics and belief and the family almost paid the ultimate price for it.
Reading and writing are powerful. They are the fundamental building blocks of education. When someone can read they have access to the knowledge of the world. Malala has exemplified the potential for education and her writing has changed the world from igniting a push for girls education to establishing schools for refugees to influencing leaders.
Malala has an impactful story. You may not. But that doesn’t lessen the capacity of your writing, your words, to benefit others either through education (non-fiction) or entertainment (fiction).
Learn. Write. Get your words out there.
9 September, 2019 § Leave a comment
“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.”
Thomas Mann, Essays of Three Decades
How true is that?
Most people can write, even if only their name.
Most people can fashion a blog or a letter or a job application, even if they need some help.
Those who are called to write from a professional standpoint … it becomes harder.
Forcing creativity is a challenge. The right words don’t always come. Or they fall out in the wrong order. Or some words are missing and they’re needed to make the entire work make sense.
Inspiration doesn’t come on demand and sometimes pops in at the most inopportune times when you don’t have a pen or paper or app to capture it.
Deadlines can be killers of words. The closer a due date looms the harder it is to write. The words that are written are scratched as soon as they hit the paper. More than one writer has begged leniency from an editor for an extended deadline. And self-imposed deadlines? They are made of elastic.
Finally, that sense of writing something beautiful, read-worthy and magical that puffs out your chest and makes you feel you’ve chosen the right path can be vaporised into the air by one tiny criticism, a rejection letter, a comment.
Such a nefarious activity, writing.
And yet, we crave it. We love it. We play with words and build castles of stories.
We wouldn’t have it any other way. Writers are tough, strong, persistent, insistent and dedicated to their craft. We can handle difficult … can’t we?
1 September, 2019 § Leave a comment
Writing an 80,000-page novel sounds arduous, and difficult and long. Some people take years to write their novel: some work assiduously every day and pump it out in a few months. If you do NaNoWriMo style, you’ll have a rough draft in a month.
Flash fiction though can be written during a short trip on the train. Doing quality flash fiction might take a slightly longer train ride.
Micro or flash fiction is an art form in itself. It demands that every word works to create the whole story. Oscar Wilde* once famously wrote, “I’d have written a shorter letter but I did not have the time.” Because you have less space to build a world, its characters and a plot, micro fiction forces you to be economical with your words. No fluff, no padding, no extraneous detail.
So, how do you write microfiction?
David Gaffney gives you a plan in his article in The Guardian.
“1. Start in the middle.
You don’t have time in this very short form to set scenes and build character.
2. Don’t use too many characters.
You won’t have time to describe your characters when you’re writing ultra-short. Even a name may not be useful in a micro-story unless it conveys a lot of additional story information or saves you words elsewhere.
3. Make sure the ending isn’t at the end.
In micro-fiction there’s a danger that much of the engagement with the story takes place when the reader has stopped reading. To avoid this, place the denouement in the middle of the story, allowing us time, as the rest of the text spins out, to consider the situation along with the narrator, and ruminate on the decisions his characters have taken. If you’re not careful, micro-stories can lean towards punchline-based or “pull back to reveal” endings which have a one-note, gag-a-minute feel – the drum roll and cymbal crash. Avoid this by giving us almost all the information we need in the first few lines, using the next few paragraphs to take us on a journey below the surface.
4. Sweat your title.
Make it work for a living.
5. Make your last line ring like a bell.
The last line is not the ending – we had that in the middle, remember – but it should leave the reader with something which will continue to sound after the story has finished. It should not complete the story but rather take us into a new place; a place where we can continue to think about the ideas in the story and wonder what it all meant. A story that gives itself up in the last line is no story at all, and after reading a piece of good micro-fiction we should be struggling to understand it, and, in this way, will grow to love it as a beautiful enigma. And this is also another of the dangers of micro-fiction; micro-stories can be too rich and offer too much emotion in a powerful one-off injection, overwhelming the reader, flooding the mind. A few micro-shorts now and again will amaze and delight – one after another and you feel like you’ve been run over by a lorry full of fridges.
6. Write long, then go short.
Create a lump of stone from which you chip out your story sculpture. Stories can live much more cheaply than you realise, with little deterioration in lifestyle. But do beware: writing micro-fiction is for some like holidaying in a caravan – the grill may well fold out to become an extra bed, but you wouldn’t sleep in a fold-out grill for the rest of your life.”
Flash fiction is a terrific technique to use small periods of time productively – waiting at the dentist, at the airport, those times you wake up at 3am for no reason. Keep a little notebook handy and pop a bundle of writing prompts in the back for when you need to be inspired.
Who knows? It might be the easiest way for you to publish – your own collection of microstories.
Read the whole story at https://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/may/14/how-to-write-flash-fiction and make sure you look at the follow-up article he wrote too.
The attribution of this quote is more correctly Blaise Pascal in 1657 who said “I have made this longer than usual because I have not had time to
make it shorter” as noted at http://www.lb7.uscourts.gov/documents/314-cv-921.pdf.
23 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
Elmore Leonard was a prolific and successful writer who found late success with crime and mystery. In this gritty production (only 7 minutes) “Dutch” gives some clarity to writers.
This one hit home for me. His characters ‘audition’ in the first 100 pages. He names his characters. In one case, one of his characters appeared but never said a word. He changed that characters name and he “couldn’t shut him up.”
Watch it. There’s more to learn from this legend.
And if you want to learn more from him, try these (poor audio but gems of info).
Video 1 (32 mins) Part 1 of 2
Video 2 (16 mins) Part 2 of 2
“I love the sound of speech.”
That is a terrific tip for writers. Dialogue is king in Leonard’s works. It brings immediacy and reality to his work. Fall in love with the sound of speech and you’ll improve your own writing. Get comfortable writing great diaogue that moves your story forward.
16 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
Who’d have thought this delicate woman could write such gothic novels.
From the heart, successful author Anne Rice talks about the craft and art of writing and publishing. 12 minutes of viewing, packed with punchy advice for you as a writer. Here are just a couple of practical gems…
The only way to write is to “kick out the pages everyday“.
The only thing standing between you and realising your dreams as a writer is usually yourself.
Really good viewing – take notes!
Check out her book list – notice the periods of publication. Interview with a Vampire was first published in 1976. Be peristent! http://annerice.com/Bookshelf-AllBooksInOrder.html
If you want to indulge in more Anne Rice writing advice, go with this, even if (like me) you’re not into the gothic genre – there are gems of ideas here. 45 minutes.
“Forget all the rules .. and what blocks you. You want to get your work done… do what helps you to get it done.”
14 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
When you want advice on how to write, it’s hard to filter through the dross. Everyone’s suddenly an expert on the internet, even if all they’ve ever written is a shopping list.
If you want to learn well, learn from those who have done what you want to do.
I’d never heard of Scott Sigler.
He’s not world-famous. His name doesn’t drop off your lips when you talk about contemporary writers. But he’s written ten books, five of which were published by Random House. So I’ll take my hat off, pull up a chair and listen to what he has to say.
Even better, he’s not selling anything! Isn’t that refreshing?
Here are his steps:
- Write every day (everyone who’s anyone says the same thing, but are you doing it?)
- Learn to finish a novel by writing your first book – it’ll be very ordinary but get it done
- Put that book away for six months – let it percolate in your desk drawer uninterrupted
- Start writing your next book – it’ll already be better than the first attempt
- When your six months are up, pull out that first book and read it – where is it weak? fix those weaknesses
Watch the full 11:55 minutes for the details. He presents well – an easy listen but keep your pen and paper handy.
9 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
One of our most successful contemporary authors not talking about fantasy.
In this interview post-Harry Potter, Joanne reveals her practice in developing and defining issues in a novel, creating reality, thematic approaches and the grit of real-life turned into written stories.
“Probably everything I write will be about death and morality”.
And, I love her laugh!
Definitely worth a viewing – around 28 minutes.
7 August, 2019 § Leave a comment
You can get lost on the interwebs looking for writing tips.
So, where do you begin and which are the really useful ones?
After looking for a while, there are a number that stand out which I find work to improve your writing. To save you time, I’ve distilled these down to two – just two – essential tips to improve your writing.
- You can’t be a good writer if you’re not a good reader.
- Reading expands your vocabulary and exposes you to different writing styles.
- The more you read (and the more widely you read) the more you inculcate the craft of writing.
- Ideally start by noting passages, words, sentences that jump out at you. Over time, you will build a wonderful arsenal of mentoring notes that will inform your own writing.
- Read in your genre.
- Read the iconic books and authors.
- Read for enjoyment too.
- Sure, study the craft of writing but that doesn’t make you a writer. Writing makes you a writer, just as publishing makes you an author.
- The more you write the more you build your writing muscle. You can’t do a 100 push-ups by watching tons of youtube videos and googling how to’s forever. At some point, you’ve gotta put your hands and knees on the floor and start pushing up.
- The more you practice the easier it becomes and in time the more you can do.
- Same with writing. Practice it every day, even if you’ve only got ten minutes.
- Schedule writing into your day.
- Make it a routine like brushing your teeth.
- Squeeze extra time into your lunch break or just after you wake up.
- Use a pen and paper, use a laptop, use a voice recorder, use whatever you’ve got to work with. Get fancy-schmancy later.
- Just start and keep the practice up.
Really, these are the two critical tips you need. What you do need to do is apply them! Don’t worry about all the what-ifs: they will work themselves out once you build your confidence and your craft.
The article below has some good expanded tips that are worth a look too. (I’m not promoting this mob, by the way. But their tips are useful).
Of course, you could just turn off your browser now and go write 🙂
29 July, 2019 § Leave a comment
Margaret Atwood has written a broad range of work over 60 years, even though she is now especially famous as the author of The Handmaid’s Tale (based on real events in Cambodia).
She is prolific and thought-provoking in her writing. I first came across her in 1993 when she published The Robber Bride. Atwood has 17 books of poetry, 16 novels, and a plethora of short stories – many with critical acclaim. Want to know how to write? Read and listen to Margaret Atwood.
This beauty takes less than 18 minutes and worth every one.
The young interviewers in this video put professional interviewers to shame with their questions and handling of the process. I could listen to Margaret all day, couldn’t you?
25 July, 2019 § Leave a comment
The literary world is complex. There are broad genres then sub-genres and even deeper categorisation beyond that.
Within the Crime genre, Domestic Noir occupies a peculiarly feminine place. It comprises crime that usually takes place within familiar places such as the home or workplace. It often concerns itself with the woman’s perspective. At it’s core, the topic of domestic noir centres around the concept that such domestic situations are inherently challenging and even dangerous, especially for women.
48% of crimes are domestic-related and women represent 70% of domestic murder victims.
Such statistics are perhaps sufficient to argue that a domestic noir sub-genre is redundant and may serve to minimise the contributions of many female authors.
By way of example, Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn and other female authors are considered writers of domestic noir. Male authors eg Harlen Corben, Lee Child, who write in a similar vein are not normally described as writing domestic noir books.
The domestic noir sub-genre was coined by Julia Crouch in 2013 so is relatively new in literary terms. It is perhaps too early to tell if it will become a category of fiction which will serve a long-term purpose.