Tag Archives: Writers Resources

Truth isn’t Stranger than Fiction: It is Fiction.

The week before last I posted what I termed a “small literary experiment” on this here blog:

(A Life Just Ordinary https://fredamoya.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/a-life-just-ordinary/ ) It may not have appeared to anyone who read my short piece of fiction like an experiment at all. A bog-standard piece of third person narrative describing a character and one incident in her life. Nothing unusual or experimental in that you might say.

Only I lied. A little bit. Because technically it wasn’t a piece of fiction. Some who know me in real life may have  suspected it was not entirely fictitious but this matters not as the main reason for my trying this experiment was to find out how convincingly I could write about my own life in the third person and maybe convince others it was fictional.

The real deal?

I decided to do this after reading two other blogs that week. The first was from Drew Chial where he explored trying to keep his memoirs out of his fiction (read his blog here : http://drewchialauthor.com/2014/01/13/keeping-my-memoir-out-of-my-fiction/ . The second was from Cedrix Clarke who posted an old story of his written when he in his twenties of which he said those who read it would get to know him better ( http://www.cedrixclarke.com/2014/01/the-me-i-used-to-be/ ). Both of these blog posts inspired me to show myself up as the kind of writer I currently am: one who really only knows how to take  real life events and embellish it in the guise of fiction.

Nothing’s ever what it seems.

The story I posted two weeks ago I had actually composed about a year ago and is in fact a memoir from my childhood. I find it incredibly difficult to write completely fictitiously and cannot help bringing memoirs in to all of my writing and I probably don’t try hard enough to not do so. I don’t apologise for this (even though personally I believe this makes me a less accomplished writer than most.) But  I reason as someone who struggles with character writing  who do I know best? Whose thoughts can I delve into most comprehensively? Who’s motivations do I understand above all others? I have a range of experiences and I also have a range of personas (as we all do) which I can draw on for different purposes, both in life and on paper. I believe a variety of my own characteristics pop up in some form or another in most of the characters I write.

Anyway, back to the post “A Life Just Ordinary.” It came from the fact that I have toyed with the idea of writing an autobiography or full memoir for a long time. I probably never will as realistically it’s a hell of a job and it would be slightly narcissistic of me to expect anyone would wish to read it, although some friends in the past have hinted to me that I should write one. (“I don’t want to read your children’s fantasy adventure, but if you write your life story I’ll read it” – which I find bizarre as they know most of it!) They have said this possibly because some interesting stuff has happened to me or possibly because when I recount certain episodes of my life to people I seem able to do it in a way that interests them; usually tongue and cheek; usually with humour.

However if I was to write one I would want to do something different.  I’ve thought about it more in terms of experimenting with how to present one. An anonymous autobiography? As a piece of fiction similar to what Jeanette Winterson did with ‘Oranges are not the Only Fruit’ (although that’s been done before) or perhaps as a series of short fiction pieces? And I have experimented with all of these approaches just for my own writerly fun. I’ve experimented with me as female and male protagonists, dead, alive, first & third person. From this I have  discovered that writing in the third person  is much  easier for me when writing about myself because I feel it allows me to a look on my experiences in a more detached way rather than in an involved way, which can be too emotional.

If I did ever write an autobiography I would probably opt to write it in a series of short stories about a main protagonist who of course would in reality  be me.  The challenge in doing this, as I see it, would be to do it without it being strikingly obvious that the main protagonist was me. if that makes any kind of sense.

The piece I shared two weeks ago was just my way of finding out if I could pull it off. It was by no means a polished piece and I could easily have made Lily a boy and disguised myself further. There were obviously some details made up for the purposes of  fiction as is always necessary when you bring other people in to it, but also in order to make the mundane and ordinary more dramatic. There were a few minor details altered in the piece from the events which actually took place but essentially it was as it happened, interspersed with other memories from other times to help the story.  The feelings and thoughts of Lily, however, were all mine. Or rather my ten year old self’s feelings. Although on re-reading the piece I realise my views, personality and feelings have not changed greatly in nearly 30 years!

Through these experiments  I also want to prove that writing the ordinary, the mundane, the what you know rather than complete fiction often can yield good results. I had some great responses to the piece the other week and the character Lily seemed to go down well. So I think I can take her/me further.

I am a self confessed realist in my writing,, I rarely write anything which has not some element of truth or realism in it. This may seem strange considering I spend a lot of my time writing a fantasy adventure trilogy for children. However, if I consider the story, it is not TOTAL fantasy. The world of the elflings mixes with the human world and there are references to real life events in history. (Yes, it is as odd and weird as it sounds. An epic fantasy adventure with a half historical/ half fantasy world setting. Hmmmm. Selling the novel well here aren’t I?…..

Anyway, I digress. On the subject of writing fiction with an element of truth it is  worth pointing out I also write short 140 character stories/poems on Twitter every Friday. This is part of a fun game created by Amy Good called Friday Phrases. (find out more here:  http://www.amicgood.com/blogs.php?id=103&cid=241 )  Bar one, all of my Friday Phrases so far has been rooted in something which has happened to me. Some have been exaggerations based on one tiny event and twisted in my imagination. Each one has come from either some small, often innocuous, incidental event or at times some huge life altering time  in my life. Maybe one day I’ll reveal more about that. Or perhaps I should work harder on writing real fiction!

Who knows? For me writing is fun, often cathartic. If  other people want to read what I write and enjoy it, well then that’s a bonus.

Every snap shot can tell a story.

As always, Thanks for reading.

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Nothing’s Changed…Everything Changes

Okay so back to blogging about the writing journey after a couple of random Christmas related posts!…

This time last year I was hurtling towards finishing the first draft of Prophecy of Innocence. I’d been working on it for 14 months, in between life – you know how that tends to get in the way. But as 2012 came to a close I was determined I would complete the entire story by January 1st. And I did. (If January 1st is January 3rd, but what’s two days between friends?)

Yes! I’d finished. So now what?

Well someone would have to proof read it obviously. It was perfect (!!!) except, I was sure, for  typos and errors in punctuation and spelling which I’d not be able to spot myself.

Ha ha ha ha ha! How I laugh (and cry) at my stupidity and naivety. I thought I’d have it published by December 2013.  Oh how glad I am that I’m generally the sort of person who is very hard on herself.

You see 2013 has seen nothing, and yet every thing, happen.

Firstly, the book is not published as I had envisaged. People keep asking when it will be, but they don’t understand how complicated this whole business is. How can they?  I didn’t. Until I began to look at how to publish. And it was only at  that point when I started the revision process.

Despite some minor revisions before I was brave enough to allow another human being to see it, I still cringe when I think of the poor people who had the ‘pleasure’ of reading that first rough draft. My mum, who pointed out  my grammar was all over the place and rewrote whole passages for me! Turns out it wasn’t my grammar which was the actual problem. The story didn’t read well simply because I hadn’t learned to show a story instead of tell it. (This I had learned from extensive research on various blogs.) I  also pity the children from the school I teach in who read it and I should apologise to them as they should  only be subjected to high quality texts, not the drivel which was my first draft!

So what have I been doing in 2013? How have things moved on?

Well I am now only days away from completing the final revision of Book 1. (There will be three books in total for the story, there have probably been ten times that many revisions on Book 1!) I would actually be happy now for a publishing house to read it. I know it is a whole lot better than it was. If I were to compare this final draft with the first, I’m not even sure how many of the original sentences would be exactly as they were!

Of course this year I also started this blog and set up a Facebook page which has been a good way of keeping track of the journey and encouraging me to keep on at it, even when there have been  times I felt  like giving up.

I also joined Twitter this year and this has led me to finding a whole group of other writers whose support, advice and general camaraderie has been inspirational and kept me going on this journey. Some of the wonderful people I am in contact with have been kind enough to read some of what I’ve written and given feedback. Twitter has led me to blogs where I have discovered how to self publish and indeed have learned how to write. This time last year I didn’t know how to write! I had no idea how to edit. This year I have moved on a lot.

Of course amid the revision of book 1, I did find some time to write the first 6 chapters of book 2. I say write, I mean draft because I know now from experience I will revise it numerous times. Writing is like chiseling a piece of granite. Ask anyone who writes anything. It’s hard and there’s always a little part you can chip at a bit more to smooth out and improve. I have also started to set up another blog site which will be aimed  more at promoting the book for children when the time comes. Also this year I delved into the world of formatting for self publishing and bought a package. This will be more difficult I feel than the actual writing or rewriting.

As regular visitors to the blog may know, I’ve also entered the first chapter into a writing competition for the opening 2000 words of a  children’s novel. The closing date for this is December 31st. I don’t know if I will receive feedback on my entry – I hope to, even if I should not win.

Finally a few weeks ago I was approached by a small publisher interested in my work. For the moment I have turned down sending in a query letter, for the reasons I gave on one of my previous posts on self publishing. However it was exciting and flattering to be asked, the editor only having read a page on my blog. Who knows I might still pursue the traditional route, but if I do I would like to have Book 2 at least drafted in full.

So what’s the plan of action as 2014 dawns?

1) First I’ll see what happens as a result of the competition. Winning would mean I could afford to get a professional edit done on Book 1 which is what I really would like.

2) I would then like to ask some beta readers to read the final draft and then I’ll edit to meet any given suggestions.

3) Have the final edit professionally  proofread. Again this will cost so being dependent on funds may increase time frame.

4) Format the finished document for publication. (aaaaaaarrrrrghh!)

5) Have my brother complete the cover art for the book. (Employ use of whip for this stage!)

6) Promote through local schools to begin with as well as through this blog, Twitter and the children’s blog I have started on.

7) Publish and continue promoting. (The thing I know least about.)

As we all know though, plans are just that and only offer a general guide. Things change and evolve, much like the book itself. However I really do hope 2014 is the year I finally get this out there. It will be 3 years in the making and I’m guessing letting go of it may be the hardest thing I’ve had to do yet on the project.

Wishing you all the very best for whatever your dreams and goals are for the coming year.

Thanks for reading, and remember you can always ‘Sneak a Peek’ and leave any comments you may have on the start of chapter 1 here right on this site.  I welcome any suggestions for improvement at all times. 🙂

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These Things Take Time

Writing a novel really does take time and so I admire anyone taking part in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo as Twitter users abbreviate it to).

I have to admit until two weeks ago I knew no such event for the month of November existed. November is, after all, the month of speeding towards the inevitability of Christmas. November is renowned in Britain for spending the first few days exploding gunpowder in elaborate firework displays to commemorate some guy who tried to do exactly that to the British Houses of Parliament in 1605. More recently, November has become known as “Movember” whereby men across the land grow a moustache to raise money for awareness of men’s health issues.

But now I discover there is yet more to November. When I started to see #NaNoWriMo on my Twitter feed recently I thought everyone had started speaking robot or had been beamed down from planet Ork. Intrigued, I investigated and discovered NaNoWriMo is an annual event whereby writers write a novel in a month. Yes, that’s what I said. ONE MONTH!

I cannot even for one moment, (or even if I thought about it for a month) fathom how this would be possible, mainly because I am now up to 26 months writing my novel. Just the initial draft took 14 months to write but I would never have been happy to submit that to anyone other than my mother. (Thank goodness she was the only one who saw it in such a rough state. )

11 months on and I am still working on it. (Like I say, these things take time.)

This week I have just reduced the word count of Prophecy Of Innocence Book 1 to just over 71,000 words from 73,000. Not because I needed to reduce the word count at all, simply because I have just slashed out a huge proportion of the first chapter.

What on earth possessed me to do that? you may ask. (Unless you write yourself – in which case you will understand.)

Well the reason is I decided to enter a competition. The competition requires a submission of the opening chapter (or first 2000 words) of an original children’s novel. (http://www.leicesterwriters.org.uk/) This criteria confirmed for me something I already suspected about the opening of my novel; that is some of it is superfluous and unnecessary. Sure it describes the world and some of the setting in detail and although if you read on to the second chapter it all fits and makes sense but as a stand alone it just wasn’t a strong enough opening. Keeping it means a time lapse in the story. An unnecessary time lapse I see now.

It was painful to cut out, I won’t lie. It’s been there in one form or another for over two years, so it was like severing a friendship in many ways. Also it is painful because I really want to keep some of the vivid description but now I am going to have to move it elsewhere which means more editing. Sigh. So you see, I couldn’t write a novel in a month. Clearly I need at least 25, if not more!

I have joked many times this feels like the Never-ending story. Perhaps one day I will be a good enough writer to have an idea for a novel and write it in a month. For now though, I’ll take my time. We’re not quite at journey’s end yet.

Good luck to anyone out there taking part in National Novel Writing Month. You must all be very mad or very talented or both!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

If interested, you can read the first 2000 words of Prophecy of Innocence here on the Sneak a Peek page of my blog. I would be happy and grateful to receive any constructive feedback.

 

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Back on the Write Track

Finally I am back to actually writing.

Yes, gone are the long spring and summer months of editing and formatting… and editing some more. Book 1 of Prophecy of Innocence is now with some of  my beta readers and will be winging its way to a couple more in due course. And so while I await their feedback I am now free to knuckle down to the writing of Book 2.  However this time I am writing with all the knowledge I have acquired over the past year whilst I was editing and so it feels very different this time around.

Firstly it’s extremely refreshing and liberating as I got so used to editing,  I had forgotten what actually creating something from scratch was like! With writing I just get to write the thoughts and main ideas floating round in my head onto the page. It doesn’t matter entirely if they are not in order or what verbs or adjectives I use. It doesn’t matter if I repeat the same word three times because I know I can go back later and change it. With writing I can simply concentrate on creation. Secondly this time round is different as  I am bringing established characters back to life after they have had a little holiday, rather than writing them from scratch. This time I get to build on them and develop their characteristics further. Not only that but this time  I get to unleash some real bad guys;  some really nasty, sinister pieces of work – because Book 1 was all a bit ‘nice’ in many ways. Thirdly this time is different because I feel I am better at writing. I have learned so much that I know this first draft will (hopefully) need a lot less work when I come to edit it than Book 1 did. I know how to show rather than tell for a start!

In other ways Book 2 is proving to be much more challenging. This is not necessarily a negative thing but there are certain aspects I am finding much more difficult and which have given me a bit of a headache. To begin with, I have lost the naivety I had when I was writing Book 1. I hadn’t read any writing blogs 2 years ago when I first started writing. I just wrote. Now I have all this advice and dos and don’ts floating around my head.  Secondly, with Book 1, I was creating a world and building up from a start point.  From a blank page. Now I have to constantly refer back and ensure there is continuity in plot and characters and spelling of all the stupidly ridiculous names I have created in Book 1. (My own fault I shouldn’t have played around with language so much!) Book 2 is also more challenging because I have to keep Book 3 in mind  as well and know where I am heading and how they will link together.  With Book 1 it was only forward looking. With Book 2 I have had to reintroduce characters , bearing in mind that when the books are finally published some readers may have read Book 1 but others will not have and they may read Book 2 first. The challenge here is to write so as to remind readers of the characters and plot of Book 1 without boring them, but also to ensure new readers would have enough information to understand what had gone before. A tricky balancing act.

Despite the challenges though, I am very much enjoying being back to writing. After all, this is the fun part: Creating something new, moulding it from nothing but your own imagination and discovering the unexpected and surprising things the characters do.  Happily, I can keep on this track until Book 1 is returned to me when it will be back to editing and formatting ready for publication.

This writing journey does not happen on a straight path. Oh no. The road to publishing is beset with  many twists, turns and forks in the road. And right now, I am very much enjoying the particular path I am on.

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What I wish I’d known about writing before writing: 8 Handy Tips

Who knew there was so much to writing?

Well not me for one.  Surely you have a creative idea or just something interesting to write about,  then just put one word down on the page after the next, make sure your punctuation and grammar stacks up okay and hey presto! Done.

Of course this is not so.

Since  finishing the first draft of Prophecy of Innocence back in January, I have discovered numerous focuses for editing and I keep finding more. Every time I find a new one, I have to go back  and re edit.

So for any other novice authors out there, here are 8 really useful tips  for writing which I’d wish I’d known before actually writing, complete with links to the original blogs I found help and advice. I hope you find them as useful as I have.

Number 1: That or which?

I never even knew I had a problem with this until it was pointed out to me by a relative who read my story. Apparently I used “that” excessively (over 700 of the blighters in a 70,000 word document)! It was only after having it pointed out to me I could see plainly how dreadful my work sounded (see point 2).  Co-incidentally, shortly afterwards I found the following blog on this very topic. I am now far more enlightened and it was the first error to be subject to my editing axe. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/which-versus-that.aspx

Number 2: Proofreading aloud. 

I have already blogged on this very subject (see Reading Aloud) and perhaps if I had followed the advice to read my manuscript aloud in the first place, I maybe would have spotted the terrible overuse of ‘that’ much sooner. But this tip was part of a wider set of tips on proofreading aimed actually at blogging. Nevertheless the principle remains the same for writing a novel and it works!  http://www.problogger.net/archives/2013/05/22/7-steps-to-proofreading-like-a-pro

Number 3: Verbs.

Ah. To be or not to be? Well I avoid it like the plague where possible because, although I do know the difference between been and being (theoretically) I still never seem to choose the correct one 100% of the time. Or even 75% of the time if I’m really honest. Luckily for me, the entire rest of the world can do this and so anyone who has  read my work for me has spotted any errors in this department!

However the use of strong verbs is always one of the first edits to be done as when I write I just write whatever verb comes into my head first and then I use a thesaurus to search for stronger verbs if they are needed or if I have repeated the same one too much.

http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2013/05/writing-exercise-flexing-your-verbs.html

The main issue I found with verbs was some advice I found on using the past tense. The blog basically stated that wherever you had used  a verb ending in ing replace it with the past tense. Strangely I had peppered many sentences with present tense verbs, thinking I was enhancing the variety of my sentence structures (here comes the teacher in me!) but this very straightforward advice has really improved my story.

Verbs for dialogue are another interesting conundrum. Overuse said and is it boring? Overuse it and are you patronising or distracting your reader? I find writing a children’s book tricky as I feel it is almost my duty to introduce them to an array of interesting verbs. But perhaps this is the teacher in me surfacing again rather than the author. The following blog  touches on this area.

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2012/10/04/dialogue-mistakes

and brings me to the next editing issue:

Number 4: Dialogue.

As the above link demonstrates, writing dialogue is in itself a huge challenge. Personally I prefer it to description which I consider to be my weakness, nevertheless I have edited the dialogue endlessly to ensure it propels the story forward, gives insight to motives and actions of characters and makes sure I have not overused the character’s names either in speech or in dialogue tags. I have had to edit how some characters show their accents or give them a quirk which makes them different in some way. The other elephant in the room when it has come to dialogue is the overuse of adverbs after or preceding speech.

Number 5: Adverbs/Show not Tell/Head hopping and Point of view. 

Once again the teacher in me felt compelled to pepper my story with adverbs. Surely (yes, I have just used an adverb) they make a sentence come to life and enhance the verb we have used? They build a picture in our head don’t they? They show us how a character feels? No they don’t. Well at least not sufficiently enough to allow our writing to come alive.

First of all they encourage telling rather than showing and I discovered eliminating most of the adverbs I had used really forced me into thinking about showing the actions and emotions of characters in more detail  rather than telling the reader about them. Using adverbs also encourages head hopping form one character’s point of view to another which is confusing. I’m not sure I want to be responsible for confusing children when they read my story!  Furthermore, I  read somewhere else that Stephen King avoids the use of adverbs where possible.  Apparently they are the sign of a ‘lazy’ writer. I think they serve their purpose well enough in first draft, but they definitely need to be used wisely and sparingly (no irony intended there).

http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2013/04/28/writing-emotional-wreck

Number 6. Semi colons

Does anyone really know when to use a semi colon? I had used a lot of them. Largely because whenever a green squiggly grammar line appeared on my screen, popping  a semi colon in seemed to eradicate it! So it seems even Word doesn’t know when to use a semi colon. Then I found the following blog. I’m not sure I still fully understand the intricacies of their use but I will be using this to help me edit those pesky punctuation marks. (As well as  ignoring Word’s squiggly green lines!)

http://expertedge.journalexperts.com/2013/06/18/editing-tip-of-the-week-semicolon-usage/

Number 7: Back stories.

All characters have back stories. But do their back stories need to be told explicitly? After having read the blog on the following link, uh oh – here was another mistake I’d made – thankfully, I had not delved in too deep and so the subsequent edit was not as painful to do as others have been. I  personally like back stories told in novels. I like to go back in the story and find out why a character has acted in a certain way but I realise this is something which is very tricky to achieve without stopping the flow of the main plot.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/how-to-weave-backstory-seamlessly-into-your-novel

and finally

Number 8: Self editing.

I thought to myself: “I can’t be cut out for writing a book if I am having to learn all these things and go back and change them and change them again and change them again. Consequently, there have been  so many times I have been ready to give up. Then I read the following blog and immediately felt more positive about the whole process.  Even established authors with editors often edit their own work numerous times first. It was this blog which has helped me to focus on a timeline for editing and proof reading before I begin to delve into the murky waters of self publishing.

http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/2013/06/how-i-self-edit-my-novels-15-steps-from.html

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