Posts Tagged ‘ short story ’

2016’s Writing Progress

Novels
2016 went quickly and slowly at the same time as I slugged through the editing and rewrites for my fantasy book, While I Slept. By the end of December 2016 I had finished the rewrite based on feedback from beta readers in the summer.

The book is now with a fresh group of beta readers for round two. I’m hoping the changes will be less severe this time around so I can get on with production. I’d really like to get this book out there soon since I’ve been talking about it for years – literally. I don’t want my novel production schedule to turn into a George R R Martin scale of a problem.

On the plus side, I’ve learned a lot about character arcs and story structure during the rewriting process. I feel better prepared to face another novel and the things I’ve learned should help me finish the first draft of the second book with fewer errors. Fingers crossed!

Short Stories
In terms of short stories, this year has gone well. I was invited to submit to two collections edited by Matty-Bob Cash. Both were horror themed.

The first horror collection Death By Chocolate was out in March by KnightWatch Press and centres on the theme of chocolate. Who knows – if you have a weak stomach, it might help you make it through the joys of detox January!

Death By Chocolate Book Cover

If you’re interested, check it out:
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2gqhim2
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2hn7Ty0

The second horror collection 12Days Anthology was out in December from Burdizzo Books and all its proceeds go to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. It can also be said to have a loose chocolate theme as the collection had a count down in the form of twelve short stories based on the 12 days of Christmas. One was released each day in the run up to release, from 12 drummers drumming to a partridge in a pear tree. The final collected kindle and paperback editions are bursting at the seams with stories based on Christmas Carols and Songs.

12Days Anthology Book Cover

If you had a difficult holiday season and want to read about someone that likely had a worse time than you (and give to charity at the same time), this is the book for you.
Amazon US: http://amzn.to/2hSuMaV
Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/2jbN8sI

Looking to 2017…
A few projects are in the works for me in 2017. I’ll check in with you once I’m cleared to release details.

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Computer problems and Writing success

After a week long struggle, my computer has bitten the electronic biscuit as it no longer registers the existence of the hard drive. Thankfully, most my important data is backed up on the external drive I asked for at Christmas. Feeling slightly psychic!

Included in those files, is a story I sent away to Almond Press  a couple of months ago. It is now in the top three of 178 stories submitted to them and one of the fifteen due to be included in their collection. I shall update once it’s all done and am looking forward to the publication of the judge’s comments! Those should be a good eye-opener into the process and how well I and others really faired.

So, some good news to balance the negative – Karma!! And remember kids…always back up your data – stories especially – even if it’s just by email. You never know when your hard drive will go poof.

What a start to 2013!

Fish or Beef? Family and Taste.

We all know family changes us. There’s the big nature/nurture argument to go with it. What if our ancestry, our genes, does too?

The three pictures of forests spread throughout this post, for example, show the diversity of life even within one snapshot of forest. Place effects story and lives so much. Don’t forget if your story is based in cold climates to make it snow in winter or in wet climates to have swampy areas etc. Think about how these climates affect lifestyles, too; do they swim, canoe, ski, snowboard, travel, hitch-hike, rock climb?

Place is more important than you think. I read a book last year: Who’s your city? by Richard Florida. The idea is that certain qualities in people such as creativeness, liberalism, traditional etc will draw people to certain areas where these qualities are popular and centralised. It makes for an interesting read and some videos can be found online that talk about it. I read it as a: where should I live? Where would I like?

These qualities, if in the wrong amounts for your character, can, of course, create a lot of great tension in a piece. It’s worth experimenting with!

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Many families don’t know much of their history, at least not beyond grandparents. This can be where you find out who you really are. I’m not plugging any ancestry sites – usually the best information is on site anyway – but perhaps there are some places you can get started.

Personally, I know my grandfather was Latvian. I’ve looked into their culture, their way of life, and realised a lot of it I’d picked up without ever going there. From an incredibly young age I’ve loved anything pickled and vinegary. I thought, and still do think, that it is sweet. In Latvia dishes like sauerkraut and verrry vinegary fish are common place.

I also love potatoes and prefer chicken to beef. I also absolutely love fish. A lot of these things are popular or usual in Latvia, too.

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Perhaps it would be useful to get into your own histories to find a story. I’m thinking of writing a novel based in Latvia so perhaps there is a whole story of injustice, love or adventure hiding in your past too, whatever origin you may have.

If not, at least this might give you ideas about how to portray characters from other cultures: often they’ll pick up some, if not all, of the likes and taste, even if they never lived there.

“Hello, Sir. Nice day, isn’t it?” *Character*

Character is a tricky thing to get right. If you get it spot on, it should be seamless, natural.

Dialogue is often the biggest facilitator of character.

Perhaps the first sentence is a little like this guy?

The title to this post, for instance, would imply a formal individual – the sentence uses formal language and is essentially small talk. It also leans toward implying a man over a woman – the speech is to the point. The pause before “Sir” indicated by the comma suggests something else: anger or the idea they are not quite happy deferring to the listener. It’s amazing how much you can give away casually in speech. Try reading things aloud, with punctuation, to spot things.

A girl may be more likely to phrase the sentence this way: “Hello Sir! Don’t you think it’s a lovely day?”

How about this one for a woman?

Both of these sentences are obviously high class when looking at word choice. This one seems more feminine because the world gets more layers of feeling than “good” “bad” and “crap”. Also, the exclamation point indicates an excitement or happiness about a very banal subject that most men don’t seem to have. She also asks for more validation than a man would with “don’t you think”. I’ve never heard a man phrase it that way.

Now, a lower class male may instead say: “Good day, ain’t it, eh Sir?”

Or this one for a worker?

The sentence structure here has dissolved. It’s less proper and there also seems to be no problem with the address of “Sir”.

However, there are other ways to impart character than dialogue. Narration and actions laced through it are also great ways but they are often done badly.

Many starting out writers will overload readers with information. (The colour of their shirt, eyes, hair, skin, shoes, necklace). Most of this is unnecessary: a big dollop of information all at once is normally never good. Information needs to be dispensed slowly throughout a piece of writing. The appearance of a character beyond small amounts of info (well dressed, shabby, ruffled, sporty etc) isn’t needed and is no substitute for character. Even the things I have mentioned here can be shown in setting. For instance, they may have a messy house with cheap goods littered about and no TV or they could have a treadmill and weights by the window.

If you show character well enough, a reader should be able to fill in the blanks – just give them the stuff that is unchangable, necessary or central to the plot and only if  you don’t show it elsewhere. Always, always, wonder if it is worth showing in other ways, too.

Good narrative manages this balancing act well. For example:

Thomas sat straight up in the wing back chair, a ruffle of hair over one eye. He jerked it free and took a large sip of red wine, savouring the taste before the swallow.

This is much better than, for instance:

Thomas sat in a wing back chair, old and patterned like wallpaper – the repetitive kind. He had dark mahogany, curly hair and often moved it to the side before drinking more wine. His ice blue eyes and porcelain skin made a great contrast to the drink.

This has much less character and implies less about the man. It tells us more about him, yes, but these facts aren’t all necessary. It’s pretty clunky, too. In a story, this would slow down the plot and bring a reader to a halt. Keep that story moving!

Hopefully this has given you a bit of an insight into how I do character. Please let me know what you think!

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