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Day 12: 30 Days of Blogging – Story, Part 2

Posted on : 12-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Days 11 and 12 of my 30 day blogging journey have been two parts of a story. Through the next day or so, I will then be editing the story. To read the first part of the story, go to day 11.

Cliff erosion by Clare Wilkinson on flickr CCHere is the concluding part:

Story so far:

Janice, the estate agent, is showing Joseph, a potential buyer, round an old house on a hill when he has a funny turn. Janice takes him through to the kitchen to find some water.

He followed her through an interconnecting door and found himself in the kitchen. It was old-fashioned with wooden Quaker doors and a quarry tiled floor, but it had a comforting feeling. Janice perched him on a high stool while she ran the water to find him a drink. He looked out of the patio doors which overlooked the garden. The grass was high and uncut, the garden looked unruly and unkempt. He thought of his ancient petrol mower. That lawn just might be the death of it.

Janice was looking at him with her bright blue eyes. “Feeling better?” she asked.

He nodded but it was unconvincing.

“Forgive me, it’s been a long journey.”

She nodded in return. “ You have family in the area?

“Once I did. They have probably all moved away now. I do have childhood memories of this place – it was the old house on the hill even then…”

Janice nodded once more, not really sure how to respond. She decided to move on. “Shall we look at the other reception room?”

Joseph followed her through and there was no incident. He went upstairs and found the bedrooms made up as though they were expecting a guest. He felt slightly unnerved as though he were being watched. The sun began to dip lower.

The smallest room had obviously been a child’s bedroom. He stopped by the toys, covered with dust and arranged higgledy piggledy on the the shelves. He looked at the book shelf: ‘Little Women’ and ‘Anne of Green Gables’, old books with leather binding and that old book smell.

“Would you like to go outside?” asked Janice as they came down the stairs.

Joseph said that he would.

Out in the back wilderness, a crazy paving path led away from the house and disappeared into the undergrowth.

“How far back does it go?” he asked. It was impossible to see the back fence.

“About 100 foot,” answered Janice. She was ready to get back to the office, her feet were killing her and it was definitely time for a cup of coffee. “Is there anything else you would like to see?” she asked politely, praying the answer would be ‘no’.

“I would like one more look round,” answered Joseph. “I will be fine on my own. I will see you in a couple of minutes.”

Muttering under her breath, Janice left the house. Joseph took a deep breath and walked back to the first reception room. It took him a moment to locate the photograph, but suddenly, there it was. Peggy beamed out at him from a faded colour washed photo. She was a lot younger than he remembered, wearing a bright bow in her hair and one of her front teeth was missing. Joseph grabbed a corner of the dresser as his head swam again.

The solid wood pulled him back from the memories. He thought of himself and Peggy running along the beach, shouting with the sheer joy of being alive. He remembered the delight of the warm sun on his back, the sand between his toes, the coldness of the sea when you dared to venture in for the first time.

Other memories crowded in. Peggy, a little older, playing hide and seek among the dunes. It was a game that she had been particularly good at. On this one day, unfortunately she had been too good.

The sand had given way and Peggy had been carried to the bottom of the cliff. Her head had hit a rock. She had been declared dead at the scene. Joseph had met another girl, married and after 30 years of marriage, had recently lost her to cancer. It had reminded him of the loss of his youth and he had come back to remember her.

Joseph sighed and stood up. He headed to the front door where the estate agent was waiting in the car. He had thought of buying the place, doing it up and giving it a new lease of life, but he knew that there were too many ghosts waiting for him in there. As he left, he thought he heard a seagull shout. It sounded like, “Joe! Joe!”

Joseph left and knew that he would never be able to return. He had said goodbye.

You may have had a different idea of how the story ended. Let me know in the comments.

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Day 11: 30 Day Blogging Challenge: A Story, Part 1

Posted on : 11-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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The Old House on the Hill

The estate agent turned the key in the lock. The key was large, wrought iron and it took her two goes to turn it. The heavy lock clicked open. The woman, smart and professional, pushed open the door. It swept two months of mail to one side as it opened.

Lincombe Barn, Downend, Bristol 1968 by Robert Cutts on flickr CCJanice Jones, the estate agent, stood to one side to let the elderly gentleman inside. He didn’t look like a typical buyer, but the form had said that he was a cash buyer and customers like that had to be offered only the best. The late afternoon sun threw coloured panels on the tile floor as they entered the house. Apart from the mail, the house looked almost as though it were still in use. Joseph felt the warmth as he stood in the hallway, getting his bearings. The estate agent was still in full professional mode.

“ The property is double-fronted,” she explained. You have the main reception room through there, and the kitchen and second dinning room through the other side. Upstairs…”

“Three bedrooms, thank you, I have read the particulars,” Joseph said.

Janice pursed her lips, then thought of the commission. “Where would you like to start?”

Joseph took a step towards the main reception room. “How about in here?’

He led the way and walked into the room. The lounge was facing the sea with high ceilings and carved plaster. The wallpaper was faded but had clearly once been an expensive pattern. The furniture was covered in dust sheets and the rugs were looking a little threadbare, but he could see that once the house had been loved.

“The furniture can come as part of the house,” said Janice, “but if you decided not to take it on, the current owners are happy to pay for two skips to remove the rubbish.”

Joseph eyed an old oak dresser and bureau. It was beautiful furniture, but he doubted that he would have a need for it. He took two steps towards the back of the room and suddenly his head swam. It felt as though he had suddenly transferred to another time, another place. He heard children’s laughter, a woman shouting then the sound of crying.

“Mr. Lawrence?”

He turned and jumped.

From being near the door, Janice was suddenly right behind him.

“You gave me a fright.”

“Sorry, but you looked as though you might faint. The colour drained from your face. What is it?”

Joseph couldn’t answer her. The experience had left him shaken.

“I don’t know,” he said, “perhaps the heat…”

“Come through to the back,” said Janice, “it’s cooler.”

This is what I have done with the writing prompt that was published yesterday. It is the first part of a story. It is a first draft. The second part will be published tomorrow. If you like the beginning of the story, you are welcome to guess how it ends. Don’t forget to post links to your own stories from the writing prompts.

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Day 10 30 Day Blogging Challenge – Writing Prompts

Posted on : 11-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Old house on a hill by Rennett StoweA writing prompt is something that is designed to spark a story or poem in you. There are ideas all around us everyday, but it is important to tune your brain up in order to notice them. Writing is almost like a muscle – the more you use it, the better you get.

Today’s blog post is a writing prompt. Use the picture to spark a story, a poem, a piece of flash fiction, a song or whatever you want to write. If you do, then let me know in the comments. My writing will be posted here tomorrow.

Pick the one that speaks to you best:

Either:

The House on the Cliff

or

A girl sits on a cliff top all afternoon, staring out to sea. Who is the girl and what is her story?

or

A note is left tied to a bench on a cliff that overlooks the sea. What is the note and what is the story behind it?

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30 Day Blogging Challenge: Day 9 Book Review: Writer Time Management Book by Kathleen McGurl

Posted on : 10-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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I interviewed author Kathleen McGurl on my website last year. She has written hundreds of short stories and moved into writing full novels in the past few years. Her website is interesting and talks about her writing life, and among the books she has written, there is a time management book called, Give up Ironing – a Writer’s Guide to Time Management.

The number 1 reason people give for not writing is that they don’t have time. Kathleen has taken note of this and written a short time management book, so that excuse does not get in the way of reading this book. Her aim is to show would-be writers that if writing is important enough to them then it is possible to find time to write. Her first section talks about freeing up time to write and encourages the reader to look at what they do with their time and decide their priorities.

The second section deals with making the most of your writing time, encouraging good preparation and ensuring that when you find time to write, you are able to do so. There is nothing worse than finding that you have half an hour to write, then finding that you are unable to decide what you want to write. These days, you can find yourself turning to social media or constantly checking emails rather than settling down to write. Personally, if I’m trying to get things done, then I find it best to turn off the notifications. Kathleen suggests ways to maintain your discipline to ensure that your writing time is used just for writing rather than other things.

Her final section talks about motivating yourself to write. She suggests ways to help yourself make the most of each writing session and ways to treat yourself when you have achieved what you have set out to achieve. She covers finding time to exercise which is essential as writing is such a sedentary activity and the importance of finding time for your family as well as reading which is so important for a writer. As you may be able to gather from the title of the book, however, Kathleen does not consider ironing as a vital activity that she should be doing instead of writing, in fact she is quite happy to give it up and makes here opinions quite clear. Finally she does emphasise that not all her tips will work for everybody.

Give up Ironing is a very readable self-help book for writers. It is full of good advice, short and to the point and written by someone who has a full-time job and a family but who is managing to write as a career. I would recommend it for people who want to find more time to write and who may feel that they need a push to get their fledgling author career off the ground. Kathleen herself is very approachable and down-to-earth and her website is well worth checking out too.

Note: The image above is an affiliate link.

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Day 8: 30 Day Blogging Challenge Review Week 1

Posted on : 08-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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To dos by Courtney Dirks courtneyrian.com by flickr ccI have blogged for 7 days straight and it’s been tough, but I’ve managed it. It’s been an interesting experience so far and I have learned a lot. I began this challenge by working out some idea of the kinds of posts that I could do for the blog. My posts, however have gone in a completely different direction to the one I anticipated.

5 Things I have Learned:

  1. That I found writing standard copywriting posts boring (Day 2). I have found it far more interesting to follow my passion and write about writing stories, although this is the topic I have less experience in!
  2. That I don’t want to be just another ‘how to write’ blog, but I want to write about the things that I find interesting – plays on words and character names.
  3. That I can find time to sit down and write a blog post a day, but that Saturdays may be tough to fulfil because the family are around to distract me!
  4. That if you look for blog post ideas, they will come!
  5. That I like getting little badges for blog posts!

5 Things that I am going to do this week:

  1. Write 7 blog posts
  2. Play with an editorial calendar to try and get some order into my posts
  3. Try out more of Sarah’s email suggestions
  4. Find some new and interesting topics to blog about
  5. Get my 14 day badge

I have been impressed with the quality of the supporting emails and the friendliness of others who are also on their own blogging journey. It’s a great place to jump-start your blog.

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My Top 10 Fictional Villains

Posted on : 07-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Half Moon IMG_2140s by Phuket@photographer.net on Flickr CCWe love to hate the villains in the fiction we read and in the films that we watch. These days, villains can be multi-faceted and are not necessarily all evil. Here is my top 10 villains:

10. Lucius Malfoy – I love Malfoy senior’s name from the Harry Potter books. Lucius is reminiscent of Lucifer while Mal is French for ‘bad’ which gives you some indication of his character.

9. Wackford Squeers in Nicholas Nickleby. Squeers is the headmaster of the school Dotheboys Hall in the story. He is mean and cruel as his name would seem to suggest.

8. The white witch in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is all the more evil for her beauty. She also has a fiendish penchant for plots – the fact that it is always winter in Narnia but never Christmas is diabolical. She does have some great garden statues, though.

7. Captain Hook from JM Barrie’s Peter Pan is more like a pantomime villain (oh no he’s not, oh yes he is!) than an evil mastermind, but he does have to put up with marauding children. He also has a terrifying nemesis himself in the crocodile that appears whenever he is least expecting it. At least the wrist watch inside it means he can hear it coming.

6. The Child-Catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was all the more scary by the portrayal brought to life on the screen by Robert Helpmann whose evil looks have brought nightmares to generations of children.

5. Ebenezer Scrooge has a great name that suggests mean with money and miserly. Sure enough, early on in the novel, we see him begrudging his clerk extra firewood to heat the office and expecting him to come into work during the Christmas season.

4. Voldemort in the Harry Potter series has a very sinister name, and it makes it more evil when people are afraid to say his name, referring to him instead as ‘he who shall not be named’. His gang, the Death-eaters are also villains that strike fear into the wizard’s hearts.

3. Ursula the sea witch in The Little Mermaid is evil in the extreme. Not content with tricking the little mermaid into exchanging her voice for a pair of legs, she then changes the game when it looks like she is going to lose. Not a very nice person.

2. Miss Trunchbull – Matilda isn’t cowed by Miss Trunchbull, but she’s the only one. Miss Trunchbull makes small children quiver in their shoes as she shouts at them and shuts them in the chokey. This is not a woman who will get teacher of the year award.

1.Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter is the most evil creation I know. Her love of fluffy kittens and the colour pink contrasts sharply with her vindictive nature and her influence on Harry is far worse than that of Voldemort as she has full access to him in school. She is a bully of the worst kind and I consider one of the worst villains in literature.

This is my list of fictional villains and it has been hard to keep it to 10. What would your list look like and who is your all-time villain? Post them in the comments below.

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Great Hero Character Names

Posted on : 07-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Hero text effect by Alan KlimNaming characters can be very problematic as an author. Some of the cleverest names have come from the author playing with words and enabling the name to reflect the character. Here are some of my favourites and why I like them so much.

Heroes of stories don’t always have heroic names. Harry Potter immediately comes to mind – a plain ordinary name for an extraordinary boy. LM Montgomery made much of her heroine’s name – Anne of Green Gables insisted on her name being spelt ‘Anne-with-an-e’ as plain ‘Ann’ was too ordinary. Oliver Twist, the orphan who dared to ask for more by Charles Dickens: that name suggests that his life is not going to be simple, but might have many twists. Eleanor and Marianne Dashwood of Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, have names that suit themselves. Eleanor has a normal, sensible name while her sister has a poetic name which suits her personality.

Some characters are named after their characteristics such as Beauty in Beauty and the Beast. The March sisters in Little Women have normal names, but their surname suggests the wartime that they live in and that their father daily faces. Cinderella is traditionally named because she is always sweeping up the cinders, but it is also a quite pretty name. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan is clever because his name is actually Greek – Perseus – but it is shortened to reflect modern times. The stories are based on Greek heroes of mythology so the main protagonist’s name is appropriate. The characters of Wind in the Willows actually run a little against type. Ratty is a good friend to Toad, who, although silly is never anything more than that. Badger does indeed conjure up a name that reflects sense.

Pip in Great Expectations is short for Philip Perrip, a great name. Catcher in the Rye has Scout which is a really cool name for a girl. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has Charlie Bucket which somehow reflects the poverty of his situation. Sherlock Holmes is such an unusual name, which has gone down into popular culture as the name of the greatest detective ever – you almost forget he is fictional. By contrast, his sidekick Dr Watson has a solid and sensible name.

Feel free to leave your favourite character’s name in the comments. There are many more great ones out there.

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Day 5 – Embarrassing Writing – Need to Keep My Work Secret

Posted on : 05-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Embarrassed by Sarebear (smilie) on Flickr ccI want to talk about something that I touched on yesterday in more detail today and that subject is: embarrassing writing. It’s something that I suffer from quite a lot. I am probably going to find that it is just me, and that everyone else is loud and proud about the fact they write, but I have always tended to keep it a secret.

I enjoy writing, I feel compelled to write, particularly when I have had a really great idea that I just have to get down, but when it comes to actually sitting there, notebook open and pen out, then I just have to hide it – I am embarrassed to write!

It’s crazy really, I have great feedback from clients – they all appreciate my work and like what I do. I have written for all kinds of people from all walks of life and written well, but I don’t like to let my family see me write. Perhaps it’s because there I feel there is something else I should be doing, perhaps because I feel that my writing is silly, that no one could possibly want to read it and that it should be locked away in a cupboard somewhere and I should throw away the key.

However the longer I am in this, the more I feel that I am being silly to feel embarrassed about getting involved in a new writing project. I need to learn to let go a little more and be upfront about who I am and that person is a writer.

So, if you can identify with this and you too feel embarrassed to let friends and family know you write, here are some tips that are beginning to help me overcome this problem:

  • Don’t put off your writing. Make notes on your phone or tablet, buy a notebook or whatever else it takes to get writing but start writing today.
  • Pack a notebook or tablet for your holidays. Reading is one of these holiday pleasures and so is writing. Take the things you will need away with you to write.
  • Find a time when you can talk to your partner about it. They expect gaming time, don’t they? Well it makes it a fair swap if you tell them that you need writing time too!
  • Expect to be a little selfish. The thing about writing is that it is a solo activity, so you will need time to yourself. Send the kids out to play with their friends, the husband out to darts night and the girlfriend out for the night, then enjoy the peace and quiet and write.
  • The next time you feel like hiding your writing, bring it out into the open. Just mention it casually and hope that your partner takes their cue from you. Partners can keep secrets from each other (I’m thinking shopping habits here) but if writing is that important to you, then you will want their support.
  • You don’t have to share everything with everyone. When you’re a business owner, then you will want as many people as possible to know about your writing, but when you are just starting out as an aspiring author, then only let the people know who you want to know.

This is something I have struggled with in the past as a writer. I am beginning to be able to talk to my family a little about what I am doing and learning to negotiate writing time, but there are days when I would prefer not to talk about it.

Comment below if you understand what I mean about ‘embarrassing writing’ or not! Then I shall know whether I am truly alone and should just go back to my hidey hole.

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Day 4 (30 Day Blogging Challenge) Plot Your Novel

Posted on : 04-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Plot Bunny?

Plot Bunny?

There are several schools of thought when it comes to plotting out a novel. The first one is: don’t plot your novel!

For some people, the very act of sitting down and working out what the story is going to be about and the twists and turns of the novel takes away from the experience of writing it. Some people enjoy seeing where the mood takes them and writing when the muse strikes. I have to say men that I have tried this style of plotting myself. I had been thinking about my idea for a while, allowing it to ferment, before sitting down and writing it down in roughly 1,666 word chunks. That is roughly the word count you need to make each night if you are to succeed at NaNoWriMo, the challenge that asks you to write a 50,000 word novel in a month.

Because the amount of words I wanted to achieve each night was fairly structured, I found it reasonably ok to make the target, sometimes less and sometimes more. I tried to leave my story in a place where I could come back the next night and pick it straight up. I had thought about the characters for a number of months so I knew them fairly well, but there was no real attempt to plot the novel.

It did not work so well. I managed to complete NaNoWriMo, but I am not happy with the result. It did not work as well as it could – there is no coherence and a lack of development within the plot. I am reasonably happy with the characters, the setting and the dialogue, but the novel shows that I had only a vague idea of where it was going when I sat down and began to write it.

I have had other attempts to write a novel, but they have just not stayed the course. So when it came to my latest idea, I was looking for a way to plot my novel that could give me a firmer foundation on which to work. Here were my top contenders:

  1. Rachel Aaron/Rachel Bach – Rachel writes science fiction and fantasy world books and her blog is very thorough when describing how she comes to plot a book. I really enjoyed this blog post on plotting and thought it was very good advice.
  2. Simon Haynes also has a great article on plotting a novel. He explains the difference between how he plotted and how his novel turned out. He also writes software to help writers. You can read about Simon and his books at Spacejock.

  3. Lisa Gardiner has also produced an interesting article on how to plot a novel. She likes to make sure that everything is well-researched and that she has the whole novel outlined before beginning to write. Again, she offers some  good tips in ‘Plotting the Novel or the Real Reasons Writers are Neurotic”.

  4. The She’s Novel blog explains how to take a plot bunny – a novel writing idea that just won’t go away – and turn it into a fully-fledged novel outline.

  5. The Snowflake Method. The snowflake method builds your novel plot up sentence by sentence. You start with a sentence that sums up your plot, then you expand on it, then you build up information on your main characters and what happens in the story. Randy Ingerson has written the article and some software to go with it. This is a very detailed explanation on how to plot a novel step by step.

This is just a snapshot of the kinds of resources that are on the web, so if you have a ‘plot bunny’ hanging around your head, why not check out some plotting resources and see if you can capture that critter on paper!

In the interests of clarity, there are no affiliate links in this article, and all opinions are my own.

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Five Tips to Finding your Freelance Writing Style

Posted on : 03-02-2016 | By : admin | In : 30 Blog Writing Challenge

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Busy Day by Debra Roby on Flickr CC“A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.” Richard Bach

The internet has opened up a lot of opportunity to writers to earn money from freelance writing. The beauty of freelance is that you don’t have to give up your day job and dive straight in, but that you can use your spare time to explore freelance writing to see if it is for you. One of the most important things you can do is to learn about your freelance writing style. This takes a little persistence and practice, so here are some tips to help you.

  1. Find time to write. Keep notebooks in lots of different places so that you always have something on hand to write on, or use the notes on your phone. This is even better if you are able to sync your notes with your computer because then they will be backed up and you can work on them some more. Even 10 minutes can be productive if you come to it ready to write.
  2. Write about what interests you. Write about an interesting event that has struck you or an interesting news story. Sometimes just a news headline can be enough to spark that creativity. Or you can write a description of an interesting character and put them in a story.
  3. Read. Find out about writing styles. Learning how to structure your work is very important in freelance writing. Read up about how to write headlines and the differences between blog posts and articles. Look up different types of blog posts and work on examples of each type. Practise writing articles. When I began to write, I started by submitting content to a number of websites which would edit the articles before they went up. This was a great way to learn how to do things right.
  4. Follow some writers who seem to be doing things right. You can learn a lot from other people. Be wary of bold claims from some people who just seem to be after your money, but there are some excellent freelance writers out there who give really worthwhile advice. You will also probably be able to follow them on Facebook and Twitter. You can get yourself known to them by commenting on their blog and asking questions. These people can offer a lot of experience and you can learn a lot.
  5. Take your time to learn about freelance writing. If you are interested in building up a career in it, then it is worth spending the effort to research it and find out more. There are some good email courses available but always check out reviews before committing to buying a course.
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