Books and Writing

This has been the first full week back at work after the summer holidays and so I wanted to check in with everyone. The weather has been rather hot for Autumn but I can definitely see a change in pace. This season is always busiest for me and I have to find time to squeeze in some quality writing and editing.

After sending back my first edit of my forthcoming YA book entitled ‘Being Watched,’ it seems like a good time to recommend a book.

Ten Things About Writing

During lockdown last year, Joanne Harris put together a really helpful guide for writers. ‘Ten Things About Writing’ has collections of top ten tips for going through different parts of the writing process. From developing characters to editing the first draft, this book is inspiring and easy to access.

You may already know that Joanne is one of my favourite authors whose books I have been reading for over twenty years. Her insights into the writing process are brilliant!

She has, for example, a chapter of ten aspects of what she calls ‘Detailing’ which outlines how to write about pain, the weather and scents, amongst other things. She also talks about food, which is one of her recurring themes in her French books, such as Chocolat.

If you want some useful tips on how to write and like to see the process broken down into manageable steps, look no further. This wise and fascinating book is just for you.

Below is an affiliate link to this book. My feelings about this book are entirely my own but if you buy the book using this link I will get a small kickback, at no extra charge to yourself.

Ten Things About Writing by Joanne Harris

If you like this kind of article then perhaps consider following my blog for similar content. For another post about Joanne Harris’ work click here.

What Kind Of Writer Are You?

The other day I got you to reflect a little on what type of reader you are and today I want to examine your writing habits. Have a look at the six questions below and I will include my own answers next to each one. Let’s compare answers.

Are you a reflective writer or an impulsive one?

Do you plan everything in great detail or fly by the seat of your pants?

Whether you write on paper or type on a screen, every writer finds their own way to capture their ideas and conjure up incredible stories. It would be fun to take a moment and reflect upon how we as individuals write and perhaps consider how others choose to do so at the same time.

Do you write on the go?

1) Do you write with a pen or by typing on a keyboard?

I used to be a pen and paper guy but these days I type everything on my iPad. If I’m busy or tired then I may just type a paragraph or two at a time but at least it saves the work as I go along and I can easily add more detail later or quickly delete a passage if I feel like it. From past experience, I know that writing my ideas on paper can lead to me not being able to make much sense of them later.

2) Do you have a favourite place to write?

I am usually able to write just about anywhere but my absolute favourite place is lying down on the sofa. I like to be comfortable when I’m being creative and most of my best ideas seem to come to the forefront when I am totally relaxed, which usually happens in my living room.

3) Are you an impulsive writer?

Yes is the simple answer. If I am feeling inspired when I’m out and about, then I have to write my ideas down straight away using anything I can get my hands on to make a note of them before they vanish from my brain. Often I text myself a thought so that I can return to it later, developing it into a paragraph when I get home.

4) Do you like to plan your whole narrative in advance?

Many people like to have detailed plans to refer to when writing a story, but I actually prefer making it up as I go along. I love just starting to type and seeing where my imagination will end up. After I have reached the main event in a book, I do start to track through my work to make sure I haven’t missed anyone out. I try not to have secondary characters who don’t have much to do. I’d much prefer that they keep recurring in a story, rather than being in one chapter and never returning.

5) Are you a night writer?

Who isn’t? It fits the stereotype of a struggling writer, kept awake by their incredibly niggling stories that are aching to be told.

In all honesty I find myself writing at all times of the day. If an idea is swirling around in my head then I can’t relax fully until I have found a way to get it recorded, either on my iPad or on a spare piece of paper. I’ve even been known to write on the back of envelopes which still contain unopened mail.

6) Do you have a favourite writing snack? Or is writing your food?

For me, I love to have a cup of tea freshly made, when a I am trying to get into my writing. A couple of ginger biscuits to dip into the hot drink and I am off into another world; the place where fiction unfolds.

Some people say no to eating and drinking whilst on the job but for me writing is a pleasurable activity and so having a few treats while I do it can only make it more enjoyable.

I hope that you found this post fun and had a go at the questions yourself. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to Write a Short Story.

writer working on typewriter in office

Have you ever wanted to write a short story? Maybe you plan to release a collection of short stories on Kindle? Or do you simple enjoy writing short fiction for pleasure? Here is my ‘How To’ that will give you some simple tips to help you along the way.

In my experience, writing short stories can be a very satisfying way of exploring the writing process. Not only is it fun, but it trains your mind to think more carefully about structuring fiction and starts you thinking about the stories that you read more analytically. Take a look at my steps to success and let me know what you think.

  1. Set a seed

    Every story starts with a little nugget of information; an idea. For the purposes of this article, let’s refer to it as a seed. Unlike with a novel, you only really need one fully formed seed to develop a brilliant short story. This can be an event, such as an accident on the way to work, a chance encounter between two potential lovers or a family day out to the zoo.

  2. Add a little compost

    A short story can require some planning, although that’s not always the case. It can still be organic as long as you have certain things in mind. Without all of the extra padding of a larger novel, you are not quite so restricted in fitting into a complex web of plot, setting and character development. You do need some compost though to root that original idea firmly into the ground and enable it to grow.

    A short story still needs one or more of the following:
    * A purpose (to simply make the reader smile or to point to a moral)
    * To have a strong voice (whether written in the first or third person) which is consistent and relatable.
    * An emotional tug (something to involve the reader and draw upon their empathy, thus sustaining their interest).

  3. Watch it grow

    ‘A watched kettle never boils’ they say, but a neglected story never finds an audience either. You need to review your writing regularly and be open to making changes as you go along. Reading it aloud can help you to uncover any parts that might sound too clunky. After all, if it doesn’t read well out loud, it probably won’t hold your audience’s attention for very long.

    Having said that, taking some time away from your writing to do other things can enable you to examine it with fresh eyes and pick out bits that you want to develop or need cutting completely. Editing is a harsh business but you just have to be confident in your own abilities and snip off some of those dead leaves.

  4. Keep it out in the open

    Sometimes you may be tempted to shelve a project quite early on. You may have that initial inspiration for a story and then life takes over and you file it away in a folder on your computer and before long, it’s just a distant memory.

    My advice would be don’t shy away from it. Keep coming back to it, even if only to add a sentence or two. Think about what you like about it so far and what else it really needs to tie up loose ends and bring it to a suitable ending.

  5. Water it

    The most important aspect of writing is editing, especially when you have a first draft. Sometimes the best way to begin with this is to share it with a trusted friend. Pick someone who will take it seriously and give it due consideration. Ask them to discuss it with you or even persuade them to listen to you reading it aloud. Once you have got a feeling for their reaction to it, hopefully they will be able to talk about what they enjoyed the most. Sometimes, without the need for negativity, just being aware of the most appealing sections can help you a great deal with a final edit.

    When somebody else shares the highlights with you, it can be easy to focus on those and make sure they are drawn attention to, sometimes by contracting other content or sidelining it altogether. It makes sense to embellish the good stuff but also make sure the overall story stays true to the message that you want to give. It is your story and you should feel comfortable with the direction it moves in. If you feel concerned that other people are changing that initial seed then hold your horses and stick to your guns.

  6. Put it in the window box for all to see

    The last stage of writing a captivating short story is letting it go. By this, I’m not referring to Frozen, but I’m saying simply put it out there in the big wide world. Short stories may be written for you alone and that’s fine. But if you do want to share your work then go for it. Pop it on your blog or include it in a website that allows you to publish your own work for free, such as Wattpad. Shout about it on social media, perhaps utilising one of the #writerslift opportunities on Twitter or shameless self promo threads.

    Be proud of what you’ve achieved and celebrate your accomplishment (perhaps even open a bottle of bubbly).

    All writing is challenging and takes a lot of effort to complete. So if you have spent time putting together a short work of fiction and have made sure to follow the above steps, you will definitely deserve to celebrate your achievement. I hope that you will begin to love the writing process as much as a I have. You can see some of my favourite short books here:

    If you found this helpful, please drop a comment below and perhaps consider following my blog for similar content.

writer working on typewriter in office
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