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11 November 2011

It's NaNoWriMo Time

So all other things are on hold while I dedicate my time to this years challenge. For details on my progress check out my Writer in Progress Blog where you will find updates of the ups and downs of NaNoWriMo Time!

Don't Think Just Write

25 October 2011

Foreign Flavours Anthology

Foreign Flavours is the second anthology produced by my online writing community, Writers Abroad. All members have given their time freely to this project and have produced a highly professional and entertaining book packed full of stories, articles and recipes from contributors all over the world. The foreword is written by Alexander McCall Smith, acclaimed author of the famous No 1 Ladies Detective Agency and all proceeds will be donated to The Book Bus Charity. Click on the link in the side bar... Now!


Don't Think Just Write

14 September 2011

Book Analysis - Sister




TITLE:  Sister
AUTHOR: Rosamund Lupton
GENRE: Crime/Literary Blend
AUDIENCE: Adults
VOICE: Haunting, powerful yet fragile
TONE/MOOD: Gripping, frightening, spooky,                      
THEMES: Families, Murder, Relationships, Sisterly bonds



FIRST IMPRESSION:
Debut Novel by a script writer whose background is very evident in the writing. The cover is intriguing with a solitary figure in a red coat walking in the snow.

PREMISE/PLOT:
Beatrice’s sister goes missing and she flies back to the UK from her home in the States to try and find her. Along the journey Beatrice discovers as much about herself as well as lots of things she didn’t know about her sister and her family dynamics.

ORGANISATION:
Twenty-three chapters of varying length all readable in one short sitting. Some chapters are set within a time frame e.g. Monday evening which helps to place the time and place of the story

NARRATION/POV:
First person POV hard to maintain but author manages this extremely well over 358 pages, this is a long story. We see the world through the eyes of Beatrice but also through emails and flashbacks of telephone conversations we see how the other characters see things particularly the sister, Tess.

SETTING:
Set exclusively I London, although Beatrice lives in the US the story starts with her coming over to try and find Tess. Some links to famous well-known sights helps to place the story and make it familiar to read.

STRENGTHS/WEAKNESS:
I was eager to get to the end because I wanted to find out what happened, so lots of hooks and suspense. However, I felt this dragged a little towards the end, almost to drawn out but it did add to the ending which was very unexpected so looking back it was probably the right thing. It was beautifully written with a very distinctive voice.

OVERALL IMPRESSION:
The author’s script writing skills are demonstrated very well in this story, with very clear scenes which are acted out with a sense of wholeness and distinction.  The suspense slowly built up and the sense of Beatrice’s desperation about the disappearance of her sister is very real.


Don't Think Just Write

1 September 2011

NEW BROOM?



It's the first of a new month and that's when I start to make myself all kinds of promises. But before I can fulfill the actions that just spilled out into my journal I need to do a bit of housekeeping first. 
I don't know about you but my desk looks like a war zone. It's got glasses of days old water, a cold cup of tea,  pens, pencils and highlighters of all colours, paper some clipped together, dictionaries, books on writing, books for analysis, a calculators, writing magazines, part edited novels, stapler and a box of tissues. 
Phew, I'm sure I've missed loads - oh yes a large bankers lamp which is great in the winter but takes up a lot of room right now... 
So can I find anything? No, I can't.
Do I have a filing cabinet? Yes I do, last opened... some months ago.
Could I arrange thing so I don't spend the whole day cursing that I'm sure I left it right.... there. Perhaps. 
First job on the Action List - Get Organised.
Second job - Start as You Mean to Go On (which I've failed on already as I made a list for today and done just about everything else but what was on the list!)


So tell me, what is your writing desk like?

Don't Think Just Write

25 August 2011

Don't Miss It! Closing Date for Foreign Flavours



Foreign Flavours is the title of the second anthology organised by Writers Abroad. The theme is food, drink and cooking from around the world and submission are welcome from writers who are expats (or repats). We are accepting both fiction and non-fiction alongside recipes if appropriate to the piece.
The acclaimed writer known for his No 1 Detective Agency series, Alexander McCall Smith, has agreed to write our foreword.


The proceeds of the sale of the book (via Lulu) will be donated to The Book Bus, a well deserving charity which promotes the access to books for children in Africa and South America. To maximise these donations there will be no payment to authors who are selected to appear and Writers Abroad members are giving their time to edit, proof and produce the anthology. So a worthy cause all in all!


Deadlines for submission is the 9th September at midnight (Central European Time) and the Anthology will be available for publication at the end of October, making it an ideal Christmas Present, so if you can't submit, put in on your gift list instead!
Visit Writers Abroad for submission guidelines.


Don't Think Just Write

12 August 2011

Shatter by Michael Rowbotham



This is the first of the book analysis I talked about. I'm playing about with format, so it will kind of 'grow' and the system is adopted from Read Better, Write Better Novel Study Workbook.




TITLE:             Shatter
AUTHOR:       Michael Robotham
GENRE:           Crime (Shortlisted for Crime Thriller Award)
AUDIENCE:   Adults
VOICE:            Quietly powerful, clear
TONE:              Solemn, thrilling, scary
MOOD:            Mystery, dark, emotionally disturbing
THEMES:       Relationships, death, psychological, good vs evil

FIRST IMPRESSION: The first thing that struck me was how dark the cover was, after reading the story, it was a very apt colour to choose. There is an image on the front which I can’t quite work out, looks like some kind of angel.

PREMISE/PLOT: The blurb is both intriguing and all encompassing, makes you want to read on. A woman throws herself, naked apart from a pair of red shoes from a bridge for no obvious reason. Her daughter claims she would not have committed suicide and was afraid of heights.

ORGANISATION: Seventy short chapters, which suits my reading style. I like reading from scene to scene and putting the book down after a cling hanger, only to pick it up seconds later because I have to read on! Has an epilogue which is very appropriate and rounds off the story, because you care about the characters.

NARRATION/POV: Mainly split between the main protagonist, Joseph O’Loughlin and the ‘baddie. Point of View changes only with scenes which made it an easy read.

SETTING: Set in Bristol, an area which is very familiar to me and a definite pull for selecting it to read.  The events take place in a reasonably short time frame.

STRENGTH/WEAKNESS  The major strength of this novel was the portrayal of evil through a non-physical manner. The author handled the psychology of evil and portrayed how, when threatened with what people believe to be true, they will and can do things they wouldn’t normally do.  I couldn’t find any weaknesses.

OVERALL IMPRESSION: First time reading work of this author and would definitely read another.


Don't Think Just Write

2 August 2011

Multitasking and the Art of Zen

I like to think that I'm the kind of person who can do more than one thing at any given time. I don't know why, as a child I just could not rub my tummy and pat my head at the same time, why should it be any different now? 
I've been thinking this blog could include the activity of learning, a bit of self development. So one of the things I'm going to try and do over the next few weeks is to post some book analysis on the blog. Since I've started to write more seriously I've found that my approach to reading has altered. I am constantly looking at the way a book has been turned out from cover to the last line and am always trying to put into practice some of the things that work and abandon the bad habits I've picked up on the way. It should be a great way to critique a book from writing perspective (and I will make it clear that the analysis is purely a personal view but hopefully a measured one) and help my writing develop at the same time. Who knows! Only time will tell. Hope to get one done by the end of the week, so watch this space....


So it's now officially the Summer season here in Italy. Tools have been put away, notices have been posted on doors and the beaches will be awash with activity of the passagiata - men, women and children will strut along the shore at various paces and then stand, arms akimbo and slowly turn to follow the sun, a little like the large yellow flowers which fill the fields here at this time of year. I shall be keeping away, too many people and not enough private space for my liking. I'm going to go all Zen like and just breathe in my surroundings...


Couldn't find an appropriate quote for August but I was quite taken with this poem...

"August rushes by like desert rainfall,
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
Expected,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away."
-  Elizabeth Maua Taylor 


Don't Think Just Write

1 July 2011

NATURE KNOWS BEST

But it's a hard lesson to learn. We live in a rural lane occupied by a number of semi-feral cats and every year a litter or two arrive at my door. Luckily I've managed to find all of the kittens - around 10 in all - homes with lovely cat-loving people. However, some litters have been whisked away by the wretched tomcats wanting to have their 'conjugal rights' back - they come in the middle of the night and carry the babies to the woods where they can't be found. Two large guards in the form of white Italian sheepdog have almost put paid to that. 
But this time one wee kitten just lost the will to live. She was a runt, and her two siblings were growing at double the weight she was. We came back one day to find her dead and the mother still cleaning her - strange. But I felt so awful, as if it was something I'd done,  even though I knew it isn't in my gift to give and take life.


As writers though, we can give life to characters (and take it away) and that can be a tricky time too. Nature has no part to play in our creation so we can't blame her, and often I find myself killing off characters with gay abandon. I must have a mean streak somewhere, but most of the time my fellow writers at Writers Abroad will point out the error of my ways and insist that someone survives! We nurture, support and sometimes love and hate our characters with equal measure so no wonder we feel some sort of parental responsibility. Still, I can cope with my fictional creations far easier that I found being a new parent. 


I couldn't find a specific quote for July, but came across this one which seemed to sum things up...



 People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway. 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. 
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.

~Mother Theresa~


Don't Think Just Write

3 June 2011

JUNE MONTHLY MUSE

As you've probably noticed if you are one of the few that actually follow this blog, I have posted since the beginning of last month. It's been a conscious decision. I don't have any excuse. I just set some priorities and this wasn't one of them. As you can see from the Writer in Progress blog I haven't been sat around twiddling my fingers either. 


I've had quite a productive May in many ways as well as having my father over to visit for ten days, so overall I'm quite chuffed with myself. I'm hoping that June will be just as fruitful and it probably will particularly in the garden. June is a busy month if you grow your own vegetables like we do but it is one of the most satisfying achievements I could imagine. It's a little like writing (bear with me here). I start off with little seeds (either from a packet or in my head) and  plant them in the ground or commit pen to paper. Then I dabble with them, make sure they have enough water, talk to them (yes I do!) and when I see the a tiny little shoot breaking through the compost, I just know that something will happen. Sometimes nothing happens, it just dries up and I don't dwell on it, just go on to the next set of sowings, or tend to the larger seedlings. Writing, a little like gardening is best done daily and in short bursts, that way I don't get out of practice or feel the tug on underused muscles. And daily I see progress, sometimes very small and sometimes not for a long time but when it comes to harvesting, the proof is in the pudding so to speak. 
So I'm going to make sure I continue to apply this strategy to both of my passions, with equal zest and hope that the literary harvest is just as tasty!
And I'm into quotes at the moment so here is one for June:


If a June night could talk, it would probably boast that it invented romance.”
Bern Williams

Which actually is quite an apt quote for me and my Man Friday as we celebrate two wedding anniversaries this month, yes two! One on the 11th which is the day of our wedding ceremony in Florence and one on the 21st which is the day we had a humanist blessing back in the UK. Sweet eh?

Don't Think Just Write

3 May 2011

READING MATTERS

As a writer, I know it's important to read, in order to improve my craft. This is not a hard task. I've always loved reading, though my choice and preferred genre has probably moved considerably since the Famous Five series and The Valley of the Dolls. I used to read at the breakfast table, walking to school, helping to dress my younger siblings, and even under the covers by torchlight. 


However, reading as a child and as a reader is a much more satisfying experience than reading as a 'writer'. 
You don't have any of those little voices in your head which insist on looking for rounded characters, distinctive dialogue which don't need speech tags, consistent point of view, showing not telling, plenty of conflict and of course a good old plot to follow. I'm not saying that readers don't notice these things, they do and will make choices based on these elements about whether a book was a 'good and satisfying' read or not. It's just that they don't particularly label  or define their satisfaction or dissatisfaction in detail. Well, not in general anyway. As a writer, learning the craft, I find it so difficult to just sit back and enjoy a story. I'm always deconstructing it to try and uncover why I like a particular character or hate them at first read. Or murmuring into my coffee cup ' that's telling, not showing', or tutting at the scene where numerous 'head hopping' is ruining my concentration. All things, that as a writer, I have to strip down and build up again to ensure that the story is not only technically written well, but has a good chance of pleasing the intended reader.


This tendency I suppose on the one hand must be a good thing, because it shows that I am indeed learning the craft. Maybe one day, it will all become second nature to me and I can return to reading (or not as the case maybe) for the pure pleasure of entering a world of someone else's making.

Don't Think Just Write

21 April 2011

PRODUCTIVE PROCRASTINATION OR JUST ANOTHER EXCUSE?

I've just spent the past couple of days painting. Not in the style of Monet or Rembrandt, I hasten to add. Just walls, kitchen and bathroom walls. I panicked at first, being away from the PC, as once you start these jobs you have to finish, and they seem to have a habit of growing into a full blown spring clean. But actually, on reflection, it's been a good 'writing' time. 


For one thing I've not been distracted by the Internet and my inbox. I read a piece by Lorraine Mace in the latest Writers Magazine last week about the perfection of procrastination on 'writing days'. I think it must be a particular affliction for writers, and unfortunately there isn't a  magical cure. One thing I have learnt though, is to develop a habit of  productive procrastination. Yes, that's right. Productive time wasting. But the fact is you're not. Wasting time that is. If you choose to procrastinate whilst doing something quite banal, it can actually help the writing process.


I probably did more writing in my head, with my tongue sticking out as I edged the window frame than I have done on recent 'writing' days. I sorted out the beginning chapter of my novel in progress, The Promise', something which has alluded me for weeks, I drafted out the outline of a Monday Muse, including the setting and two characters, I had numerous ideas about other potential writing projects, and edited several short story ideas where they had got a bit stuck. So all in all, not a bad time spent. And the kitchen positively sparkles! 
So next time you hit the avoidance phase, why not pick up a brush instead of a pen? Try it - you may be surprised!

Don't Think Just Write

13 April 2011

Writing Competitions - A Case of Win or Lose?

The main aim of our writing group at Writers Abroad is to improve our writing through feedback, encouragement, support and to badger each other to seek publication. Part of this obviously means entering competitions. We've all had a bit of a dry period at the moment and the continual 'non-placement' of our stories can be a little daunting on an individual basis. So what are we doing wrong, if anything? We have quite a robust feedback mechanism which includes: characterisation, plot, dialogue, conflict, showing not telling - all the stuff that together should make a good story and we have an agreement to be honest and constructive.
All of our members have had publication of some sort or another so we know that we sometimes get it right and some members have had novels and novellas published, so we have a rich background to pull on. 


I know that this writing business is a very 'subjective' one and I suppose that's why some writers give up and opt for something which is maybe a bit more dependable. And perhaps my view of some of the 'winning' entries I read are a bit 'sour grapes' but some of them do seem to break all the rules of short story writing which is a little frustrating. 
I've come to the conclusion that there aren't winners or losers in writing competitions but there are only a limited amount of places for stories to be showcased. It's a bit like rolling the dice. That doesn't mean I've written a bad story, just not one that reached out to one or two judges. If my work was read by a whole panel of readers, it might be a different story. So I'm not giving up.
Can't be that certain about my commitment to a daily blog, though! 

Don't Think Just Write

8 April 2011

Distractions and Temptations

Having blogged about my ten most guilty pleasures earlier this week, I missed a post yesterday because I was enjoying one of them ! It wasn't a bag of Maltesers or a bath, because we have neither of them here in Italy and are considered two of my most luxurious luxuries. It wasn't a glass of red whilst cooking (but a glass of rose) or a quick nap after lunch - instead braving the heat to walk Bertie. I didn't sing, watch a film, read a mag or write with a fountain pen and Simon simply refuses to let me buy another bag... 


After a few weeks of - should we, shouldn't we, no we can't - can we? - sort of debate, we decided to add to our little family of animali and now have 9 week old Freya, a Maremma (Italian Sheepdog) puppy who has lived in the field where she was born until yesterday. At the moment she's learning how to climb steps and stairs (barking when she needs a little help) and following our two year old Maremma dog, Bertie, around like a little lamb. She has also been down to say 'hello' to Na, Wilma and Doris our three hens. We've named her after a Norse Goddess of love and beauty - a little like myself... I wish.


Not that I need more distractions but hey, life is for living in the moment which reminds me of a quote by Oscar Wilde (I think) 'I Can Resist Everything But Temptation'.
Now, must get to work on the purchase of a new item for my bag collection. (Poor Si).

Don't Think Just Write

6 April 2011

Inspiration

There are days when we all could do with a bit of a lift, a hand up or an armful of a cuddles.When things look bad we tend to forget the good things and when things are good we never remember the bad. A stumbled across a quote by Winston Churchill and a poem which says it all for me.



The Don't Quit Poem 
Author Unknown

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, 
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill, 
When the funds are low and the debts are high, 
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, 
When care is pressing you down a bit, 
Rest, if you must, but don't you quit.


Life is queer with its twists and turns, 
As every one of us sometimes learns, 
And many a failure turns about, 
When he might have won had he stuck it out; 
Don't give up though the pace seems slow-- 
You may succeed with another blow.


Often the goal is nearer than, 
It seems to a faint and faltering man, 
Often the struggler has given up, 
When he might have captured the victor's cup, 
And he learned too late when the night slipped down, 
How close he was to the golden crown.


Success is failure turned inside out-- 
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, 
And you never can tell how close you are, 
It may be near when it seems so far, 
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit-- 
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.

These are going up on my wall above my desk, so tell me, where do you get your inspiration from and the energy to keep going?



Don't Think Just Write

5 April 2011

Ten Guilty Pleasures



Although writing and my loved one are definitely listed as a pleasure, I can hardly admit that I feel guilty about them. What would life be without a little bit of a guilt trip now and again? These are some of mine - I'm sure there are lots more...



  • Maltesers (or chocolate balls as my granddaughter calls them) as many as I can cram in to my hamster-like cheeks
  • A glass of something red whilst cooking lunch
  • A ten minute snooze following lunch
  • Flicking through a trashy magazine (like Hello) looking at pictures
  • A long, soapy bath ideally by candlelight and with a good book and a tank of hot water for refills
  • Any Elvis Presley film
  • Bags of any kind, preferably leather and made in Italy
  • Fountain pens and inky fingers
  • Puppies and kittens - usually ones that no-one else wants
  • Singing along to 'I will Always Love you' by Whitney Houston (you don't want to be around)
So come on 'fess up. How do you pass your guilty moments?


Don't Think Just Write

4 April 2011

Writing Prompts

Are good for a writers soul. At Writers Abroad we do them regularly - our Monday Muse. The key is to choose a prompt, which can be anything from a first line, an image, a plot scenario and  free write (write without punctuation, following your thoughts) for twenty minutes or 500 words. Sometimes we go over time and word count, but that's not important. Writing without the inner critic helps to free the mind and whilst some of it might not make a lot of sense, many of us have gone on to develop these muses into flash fiction and short stories, some of which have been published.


Here are some of the sites that offer some suggestions for prompts. Why not have a go and free your inner writer, the one who is the most creative... it may look a little like alphabet soup to begin with but I can guarantee you that a nugget of a story will be hiding there somewhere.


Don't Think Just Write

3 April 2011

Mothers Day

Is a little over rated if you ask me, and yes I'm a mother! It seems to me just a way for someone (makers of greeting cards, florists for example) to make more money and often out of small children. Why is it that the price of flowers particularly increase just for this one day? I'm of the thought that everyday could be a 'mothers' day because mothers  don't only mother on one day, its a year long job for the rest of your life. And if it's the only day that a child recognises the efforts made by their mother, it's a pretty poor show.


So even though my darling son has remembered, he also often remembers me throughout the year, by just saying 'thanks' or 'I love you'. Far more meaningful than going along with the crowd. I'd rather he spend the money from today on something which really counts, perhaps on children who no longer have their mothers or mothers who are in need of help in one way or another. That would at least make a difference to someone. 


Don't Think Just Write

2 April 2011

Front Page

If you could be on the front page of any magazine, which would it be? For me it would have to be a writing magazine. I won't choose one here because it feels a bit fatalistic. But to feature on any one of them would be quite a personal scoop. Maybe it would tie in with the publication of the first of a series of historical drama's that I'd been commissioned to writer over the duration of my life - well one has to dream big! Or maybe it would be a series of 'how to' articles from the desk of a published author, a position I hope to have one day.


I don't think I'd like a picture of my phizog though, I take a dreadful picture as my long suffering husband will only tell you. 'Smile naturally' he shouts at me just as the shutter is about to go off rendering a malevolent  grin which only looks good on the face of a comic about dogs with big mouths. No, I'd like the cover of my book on the front page, but then that's another dilemma - who would create such a thing of beauty? I love front covers. A front cover is one of the reasons I would pick up a book in the first instance, I may put it back down again having read the blurb, or the first page, or heaven forbid the last page (a habit I'm trying to break). But a front cover is important. It's like any kind of 'front shop'. It needs to draw your audience in, whoever it maybe. 


So come on, spill the beans, where would you like to flaunt your stuff?


Don't Think Just Write

1 April 2011

Ultimate Blog Challenge

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I've signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge for April, in the hope that it might give me the inspiration to blog for the love of it - rather than it being a chore. I love to write and am at my happiest with pen and paper or in front of the PC, thinking of the right word, the perfect phrase, the succinct sentence. 
However, with blogging, I've stumbled along a bit lately and I've been thinking over some of the reasons why this may have happened. I think there are several things a blog, or a blogger needs:
  • A Passion for what you are writing about
  • So a Theme is probably a good thing
  • The Commitment to blog regularly and consistently
  • Which means that you need to Write well and succinctly
  • To Follow other like-minded blogs and contribute via comments
So, with that in mind, I shall use this month to shape and develop my blog into something I Want to do and hopefully a place where people can come along and enjoy the read...



Don't Think Just Write

22 March 2011

FOREIGN FLAVOURS ANTHOLOGY



Those of you who know me will probably be sick of this call already and it's not even a week since I started the campaign. But anyway, marketing is marketing!


Call For Submissions: Foreign Flavours

  • Theme: Food, drink and cooking from around the world
  • Genre: Fiction and Non Fiction
  • Submissions from ex pats and re pats via the Writers Abroad Site
  • Deadline - 9th September 2011
  • Fee/Prize - No Fee, No Prize but all proceeds from publication will go to The Book Bus Charity

And our foreword this year is being written by acclaimed author (famed for his Ladies No 1 Detective Agency Series), Alexander McCall Smith.


Plenty of time to get those creative muses running...


Don't Think Just Write

17 March 2011

Unification of Italy

Today is a bank holiday in Italy as they celebrate 150 years of unification. There is lots being written here about whether Italy is in fact, united or not. Talk of the North and South divide and the kinds of things that I read about most other countries too. But all I can say is that I celebrate the diverse differences within each region; the landscape; the food; the wine; the local culture and celebrations. All this makes Italy a fabulous, rich and diverse country to live in, despite who's in charge. Who cares? Well, I've never been very political as some of you will know, so I don't claim to know what I'm talking about!


What is quite amazing is the fact the Italian language as we know it is fairly young as this wasn't unified until much later. Even today, many of the older people speak with their traditional regional dialects. Which makes it a little hard for us learning the language!


Anyway, Buon Compleanno Italy! For me this is where I have felt most at home, where I can be who I want to be and a place which inspires me to fulfill my passion - living to write.


Don't Think Just Write

15 March 2011

New Sun Rising - Stories wanted for Japan

My blog today will be dedicated to the latest response for writers and writing to help those suffering from natural disasters. Many of us will have been shocked and saddened by the ongoing devastation in Japan, that seems to put most of our worries into perspective. Like Haiti and Queensland, there is always someone who takes up the challenge to do something by using their craft and that of others. 


Whilst the idea of putting together an anthology for these issues isn't a new one, for those in Japan, this is more than likely a first experience. So prose writers, budding bards, scribblers of manga and fellow bloggers, please visit the site 'New Sun Rising - Stories for Japan', to find out how you can contribute.


Don't Think Just Write

8 March 2011

International Womens Day

Our Mimosa (before the rain and the snow :)
Today is International Womens Day, 8th March. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, women were suppressed and treated unequally as compared to their male counterparts. This caused instability and fuelled the desires and debates amongst women who wanted and fought for change. Today, the celebration has less of a political message, with men in many countries using it as an opportunity to express their love for their women. However, the origins of the day remain and it is still used to raise awareness about the struggles of women throughout the world. I've written an article about here on Suite 101 about its celebration here in Italy.


For me it has another importance, two of my granddaughters were born on this day to two different families. What are the chances of that happening? I hope that they contribute something to the equality of women and that they don't suffer the struggles of many that instigated the celebration of such a day. Of course without struggles like this I suppose things would never change. And of course such a rich source of writing to be had.


Oh, and I'm not a feminist as such, far from it. I believe in the equality of all for their individual talents and expertise, we all have something to offer. So International Mens Day is in November. Watch out for it...

24 February 2011

WHAT IS THE POINT OF BLOGGING?

I've been asking myself the same question about writing today. One of those 'never get off the starting block' days where I had great plans and they all fizzled out into nothing. It's not writers block, I can write, but it's just not coming together. Which got me thinking about my blogs. I try to make sure I do them regularly and for me they are quite cathartic and a good thing to look back on.  I do wonder if they just exist in the ether along with hundreds and thousands of other blogs, gathering a kind of space dust of some kind. 


Maybe it's just me. Maybe its because I write a lot and I write a lot about writing.
Maybe I should try something different. A diversion. 
But then I have enough of those. Tomorrow will be different...


Don't Think Just Write

9 February 2011

WRITING RULES

 Words of Writing Wisdom


'Do it every day. Make a habit of putting your observations into words and gradually this will become instinct. This is the most important rule of all and naturally, I don't follow it '
Geoff Dyer

I like pondering the odd quote or two. Mostly writing quotes, but they could be about anything. It's just words that people have about a particular subject, in this case writing. This one caught my eye because of the last sentence. Writing rules are everywhere;  rules about how much, when, how, who with, what with and what on; but the old adage remains true even for writers. Rules are meant to be broken but also rules are a very personal thing. Rules that work for me, may not for any other writer. In fact I don't have many writing rules, apart from one. That is to read and write - perhaps two rules then.  Writing isn't instinct. 


Writing is tough, writing needs to be worked at and it certainly doesn't come naturally. If it did, everyone would be a winning writer and there wouldn't be any bad writing to compare the good with. At least I feel I'm contributing somehow to the writing process.



Don't Think Just Write

2 February 2011

BOOK REVIEW - THE SNOWMAN

The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
This is not a tale for the faint hearted. If you liked the Stieg Larsson trilogy, you'll probably like this. This is part of the 'Harry Hole' series and the seventh novel by Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo. 
It's a thriller and it's about death and of course about snowmen. I loved it the suspense and the twists and turns which make these Norwegian crime thrillers so readable. And scary!


Harry Hole is a guy you can't help but like despite his problems with communication, relationships and alcohol. He is drawn as the typical tall, lean and blonde Norwegian so I suppose he can't have it all. His preference would be to go solo but as part of a detective squad (many of whom he struggles to get on with) he has to sometimes toe the line. 
The story begins with a strange and mysterious letter from 'the snowman' which takes us on a journey beginning on the day that the first snow falls and leads us to a number of women who have gone missing over a number of years. Harry soon discovers that the snowman in fact is a serial killer and he has now become part of his deadly game. The race is on before he kills again and Harry realises that he is closer to home than first expected.

It's a great story, a page turner and a good old-fashioned scary experience - in fact so scary that as I'd reached the concluding chapter late one night had to wait until next morning to finish it when I felt safer! 
A gifted writer and a great talent, can't wait to read the next. I don't know what it is, but it's a winning formula.


Don't Think Just Write

26 January 2011

WRITING SUCCESS

Never Say Never
Whilst thinking about what to write on my blog this morning, I turned to my desk diary to make a note of the things I needed to do today. It's a Collins diary and there is a note of significance written on each day. For instance yesterday it said 'A group of starlings is called a chattering'. What a useful word to know, especially when you want to describe the noise a group of these bird might make. 


Today's entry was even better and it brought a huge grin to my face. Did you know that the oldest début book published was by a lady called Bertha Wood, aged 100? I have stuck to my wall in front of me a similar story about a 93 year old début novelist but it looked like Bertha pipped this writer to the post. Bertha wrote her memoirs, 'Fresh Air and Fun' to coincide with reaching her grand age. So, if like me, you yearn for publication, don't worry you have plenty of time. Though of course I'd like to reach this particular goal before turning 50, my centenary year seems an age away!


Tomorrows entry is not so inspiring, did you know that you are taller in the morning than in the evening because of gravity? No? Well it doesn't inspire me, but I'm looking forward to the next three hundred and forty entries, who knows what they might bring...

Don't Think Just Write

19 January 2011

AMATEUR OR PROFESSIONAL WRITER

Which One are You?
'I take a certain amount of pride in not being a professional novelist, in apparently being a lifelong amateur. I don't want to be slick.' Jonathan Franzen



This quote touched a nerve this week. I've always believed and still do that I'm a 'Writer in Progress'. I doubt if I'll ever truly learn the full craft of writing, because a little like life, I think that there is always something to learn. Even in these dark winter months (for some of us anyway) when if feels like the muse will never return, if indeed it was ever present, I still learn about writing. Whether it be a tiny point, like when to use an apostrophe (though I  fear I will never get that one cracked) or writing that perfect synopsis, there is always another way. This week I have learnt the true value of dialogue for moving a story on. I experimented with writing a piece which was mainly monologue, inner thoughts, and it showed so clearly how difficult that is. The point of fact is we don't really live our lives through our thoughts, there has to be some interaction to move things on. If I were more literary, maybe it would be different. But I'm not, I'm just a jobbing writer, so I'll stick to what I know works and put what I've learnt into practice.
So I'm happy to be a lifelong amateur for what would there be for me if I knew it all?



Don't Think Just Write

14 January 2011

Book Review - The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
This is a tale told by the author of Tipping the Velvet and Fingersmith, both of which were published as dramas on the TV sometime ago. The Little Stranger couldn't be any more different in terms of theme, pace and it has to be said, sex. The title really intrigued me and continued to do so throughout the book - more of which later. 


The Little Stranger, which is essentially a gothic, ghostly story, is set just after the Second World War. It takes place in Warwickshire, in the decaying country spoils of an upper class family. Hundreds House in fact, could be a character all in its own right, Waters managed to create a place which was so atmospheric that if I closed my eye I could believe I was there, watching the story as it unfolds. 
The main character is Dr Faraday and the theme evolves around his developing relationship with the Ayres family, Hundreds House and its' other 'inhabitant'. Dr Faraday narrates the tale in the first person, which is not an easy task, however, Waters pulls it off admirably and not once did I feel that is was choppy or inconsistent. It flowed well albeit if a little slowly, a criticism I have seen in other reviews. But for me, some stories are meant to be savoured slowly, rather like sucking a toffee until it's small enough to swallow. There is a sense of satisfaction as the delicate flavours are released, bit by bit, until they fill your taste buds, tempting yet just enough. I liked the pace of this book, it suited the unfolding mystery of the fears, misunderstandings and the secrets of a family seen from the outside as rather eccentric and behind the times. The Little Stranger shows the struggles that a nation suffered post war, how it touched not just those with nothing, it affected those who had everything - or so it seemed. 
My only criticism is that the ending is purported to be 'a revelation' by pundits on the cover. For me it wasn't and that was a little disappointing but I would suggest that you make your own mind up as many would disagree. 


Overall a good read with a hint of sinister, enough to make you look behind you every now and again and maybe startle at the odd, unexpected noise. 


Don't Think Just Write

12 January 2011

WRITING RANT

The First of the Year
I've decided to write a regular rant. I'm not sure why, I just think it might do some good to get these things of my chest. Keeping things bottled up inside surely can't be good for you and I for one am more inclined to let it all out! 
As many of you may know, I'm a writer(sounds like a confession but bear with me) but I'm also an ex-pat writer. I along with some other folk in similar positions am a member of a writing community where we write and amongst other things, enter competitions. Now there comes the rub. I am amazed at the number of competitions which exclude writers on two counts. 
Firstly if it is a UK competition (it could be another country but I don't come across others so much) and only UK residents can apply. So without telling some porky pies about my whereabouts I can't submit. I don't understand the reasoning for excluding writers who might not live on this tiny island, thought still are British. Surely it reduces the number of competitors and if a paying competition then also impacts on the profit made or the available prize?
My second niggle concerns those competitions wherever in the world, which only allow postal entries and which usually mean payment by cheque or postal order. These are more common, believe it or not, from my first observation and we are a decade into a new millennieum! All the writing press are talking about the advancement of technology and the impact of e books and here are competitions still working with snails and tablets of stone. Now I'm a Luddite as you know, I like the old pen and paper approach to writing but this is alongside the technology, not instead of it. I don't live in a distant corner of the world, hundreds of miles from civilisation. I don't have a cheque book and neither do I want one. I know the arguments about costs of printing stories and all that blarney but with the increasing costs of postal and bank services I think that excuse is old and invalid. 


So if you are going to run a competition, make it via email (using a Google account where the threat of spam and bulging in-box is eradicated), allow on-line payments (Pay Pal is by far the most secure and easiest) and extend the invite to include us struggling ex-pat writers who are looking (and will pay) for the opportunity to enter writing competitions. 


Don't Think Just Write

5 January 2011

WRITING PLAN

Or Writing Strategy?
It's that time of year when many of us are thinking of the days and months ahead. For a writer this is a crucial time. Writing doesn't just happen as we all know, often at a cost, and a little time spent thinking about what you want to achieve in the next 12 months is time well spent. Many of you may have been caught up in the notion of making 'resolutions' only to let yourself down by the end of January. I've been reading a lot these past few days about why that just doesn't work. I used to be a resolution maker, thinking that the dreams I had on New Years Day were there for the taking. But the trouble was as with all dreams, is they don't just happen. A little like writing. There is nothing wrong with dreaming and if you're just happy with the thoughts then dream away. But if you want things to work, if you want writing success then there's a little bit of work to do and not just this week, for the other 51 weeks too. 


A couple of suggestions struck me when I was thinking about my writing plan this week. The first was about having a strategy, so having a means to an end, rather than thinking about the end. This of course means goals, some small chunks of action that will get you the big dream. I don't know why I'm surprised by this revelation, it's a method I used in my previous life, before I was a writer and it seemed to work then. The trouble is with us writers, we do tend to be a bit dreamy, sucking at the end of our pen, waiting for the muse... and if you're like me and a Pisces, then it's double trouble.
The second thing was about making the goals personal. So putting 'I will' in front of an action is much more active and personal to you that it makes it more obligatory. I know, I know. A lot of this is probably psycho-babble but if it works for you why not? Simon Whaley blogged this week on a similar subject of just getting on with the task in hand, for if you don't 'just do it' - it won't happen. And the results could be quite surprising. 


So whichever way you want to play it, repeat after me...
Don't Think Just Write!