How to write short stories/novellas

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short storiesShort stories seem to be making a comeback both from existing writers (see Hilary Mantel’s The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher) as well as the unexpected (like the actor Jesse Eisenberg). They are obviously very different to novels, as explained wonderfully by Jane Gardem here:

“A novel is a trek home from the desert, sometimes a journey you wish you had never started. Exhausting and humbling, just occasionally wonderful. But a short story can come from a deeper part of the cave. In a novel you make preparations. You lay in for a siege, carrying a flickering lantern. For a short story you need to carry a blow-lamp for a building site.”

If you want to write short stories and don’t know where to start, here’s a quick guide:Continue Reading

How to prep for creating realistic characters

home 9Nathan Bransford recently blogged about how to flesh out a character, listing three really important aspects of the preparation process: how it’s absolutely essential to understand what your characters want; how you really need to know their history; and how you should imagine your character at each part of their day (the choices they make, how they eat, where they go, what they think, etc.)

It got me thinking about how much work is actually involved in fleshing out characters and how much preparation you need to do in order for the characters to really come off the page. There is a great video on the BBC Writers Room here about the processes that very well-known authors use to do this. Some have to answer 50 questions about each character before they start and others find their characters come to them through a very physical process – talking out loud, walking around the room, etc. Above all, they talk about how essential it is to put themselves in their characters position.

The conclusion? Well, it’s nothing we didn’t know before but it’s worth reminding ourselves before we jump into the writing process too quickly that we really need to do a great deal of prep, probably before we start, on who each of our main characters are and secondly, we need to do a great deal of work.

Better get to it then…


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Guide to self-publishing, part 4: strategy and timeline

bbc postThere are lots of different strategies you can use to self-publish your book and different things work for different people. It’s worth saying that what works for a historical fantasy novel might not work for a YA crime thriller so the strategy I’ve proposed in this 4-part guide to self-pubbing might need to be modified on an author by author basis.* This is the final part in this series, but as it involves your overall strategy, the intention is that all four posts are part of a circular process (you need a strategy and timeline in order to prepare and market your book, etc.). Having followed what others are doing, there are some generalisations that I’ve taken that I think might work across the board:

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How to write great science fiction/dystopian novels

dystopian 2Two things I’ve read recently got me thinking about how to write great science fiction/dystopian novels (as well as reading through the glut of YA novels in this genre). The first was a great guest post in Writer’s Digest by Roderick Vincent (author of The Cause) on how to write dystopian fiction (and you know how I feel about Writer’s Digest – lots of marketing emails and not much great content…).Continue Reading

10 tips for a clean manuscript

photo (2)Here’s a great article on the Books & Such blog about any last minute checks you need to do to your submission regarding common grammar mistakes. It’s a good checklist (one of many!) which can be found on the blog here. I’ve attached the full article below.Continue Reading

Page one – what to include?

cropped-wordle.jpgAs my agent reminded me, a first page has to do so many things, e.g. set the time and place, introduce the main character, set up their motivations/dreams/desires, start the action, allude to where the book is going, etc. It’s one of the hardest things to do, although thankfully it’s possible to do the best revision of the first few pages at the end of the writing process, when you can pull everything together. There are some useful tools to help.Continue Reading