Friday 19 April 2013

Guest Post - Della Galton

Today, I would like to welcome the lovely Della Galton to my blog. Mention the name and it is impossible not to think of her wonderful magazine stories but Della is also a novelist,  and a  journalist; not to mention the agony aunt for Writers’ Forum. She has been writing and getting published for over twenty-five years (so I guess she must have started when she was five!) When she is not writing she enjoys walking her dogs in the beautiful Dorset countryside where she lives. Her hobby is repairing old cottages, which is lucky as hers is falling down.

Della is talking to us today about her transition from short story writing to novels but before she gives us her words of wisdom, I couldn't resist asking her a few sneaky questions.

Wendy: What is the biggest writing mistake you have made?

Della:  My biggest writing mistake was not keeping a copy of the very first story I ever sold - not even a copy on the computer :(

Wendy: What is your top tip for a new writer?

Della:  If you want to sell, especially digitally, get into social media: blog, Facebook, Twitter and anything else you can think of and have a marketing plan - it really does work. (If you're really, really new and you haven't got as far as being published, then just write what you love, write with passion and write from the heart.) Oh and join a writing class with a good tutor who knows what is being published now.

Wendy: Finally, Della - as a writer, is there anything that you would have done differently?

Della:  What I'd have done differently is I'd never have shown agents or publishers work that wasn't complete - because as a consequence of doing this I have two half finished novels - I was put off writing them - and a half finished novel is useless. At least you can edit and rewrite a finished one.

Brilliant. Now for the proper writerly stuff - over to you!

Moving On – Short Story to Novel

I began my writing career with short stories, as many writers do. I remember being told by my tutor at the time that short stories were a good place to start. I could learn the skills and techniques of creative writing, and, if ever I wanted to write something longer, having a background of short story writing would stand me in good stead.

            I think she was right. It’s as true today as it ever was that whatever writing you do, whether it’s writing letters, non-fiction, a blog, or even writing a personal diary, the act of putting words on paper will help you to hone and develop your skills.

            However, writing a novel was not just about, as I had once thought, producing more words! Although that is, of course, one of the things you have to do. There are several other differences.

Pace was the thing I found hardest to get right when I began to write longer fiction.

So how does pace differ in short and long fiction?

A short story unfolds faster than a novel does – right? Well, yes, but it’s not quite as simple as that. There are some very fast-paced novels out there and there are some very leisurely paced short stories. Maybe the easiest way to show pace is via some examples. And where better to start than the first page?

The first page

Here is a direct comparison between the first page (approx 300 words) of a short story and the first page (approx 300 words of a novel)

The first page of a short story

On One Knee (published in Woman’s Weekly)

“The thing is, Kay, you see – er – the thing is…”

       She’d never seen him so nervous. “Spit it out, George.” She grinned encouragingly, but it didn’t seem to help.

       He shifted his chair back, but it caught on the carpet and juddered so that he jolted the white-clothed table between them and she had to grab her glass of wine to stop it toppling over

       “Well, you know I really like you.”

       “Yes.” What was he doing? She’d thought he was going to excuse himself, but instead he seemed to be disappearing under the table.

       “And I think you like me too.”

       His voice was strangely muffled. She peered across at the space he’d vacated. He seemed to be grappling for something on the floor. Had he dropped his fork?

       Suddenly he surfaced, his glasses were askew, but he’d obviously found what he was looking for.

       “We rub along pretty well together,” he went on, “And we’ve been going out for quite a while now.”

       Three months wasn’t quite a while. Not in her book it wasn’t. She’d actually been trying to cool things down a bit – he was a nice guy, but they didn’t have quite as much in common as she’d thought.

       Oh no. She had a sudden flash of foreboding. Surely he wasn’t about to… He couldn’t be… Now he was edging along the carpet on his knees towards her. His trousers made a shuffling sound, but it was probably exaggerated because the rest of the restaurant had gone so quiet.

       “I’d like you to be my wife. I want to marry you, Kay. I think we’re good together…”

       The restaurant drew in its collective breath. He had heat in his cheeks. His ineptness made him seem extra vulnerable, extra gawky.

This story begins in dialogue, in the middle of a conversation, in fact. It’s clear from the outset what’s happening. The title is a bit of a clue! The setting is a restaurant although it doesn’t matter where. George is proposing to a less than keen Kay. The style is gentle humour.

       The story bounds along in dialogue. The main hook being is she going to say yes or no? I think we know the answer to that already. Although this could be the beginning of a novel, it’s not so likely to be a novel; it’s a little too brief, a little too linear, a little too lightweight.

The first page of a novel

Ice and a Slice - Chapter One

The first thing she noticed was the tinny metallic taste in her mouth. And then came the thirst. The thirst was so bad it had got into her dreams and forced her awake. No, not awake, aware – a slowly growing awareness which was coming, sense by sense.

Like sound. She could hear an echoey blur of footsteps and voices, which rolled in and out of her head. Closer by, something electronic beeped. Beep, beep, beep – steady and rhythmic – beep, beep beep.

Where was she? She opened her eyes and was hit by a wall of light. She shut them swiftly. She felt as though she was made of crystal, cool and brittle. She was a thin glass person who could be shattered by the slightest touch.

After a while she tried opening her eyes again. This time the room swam in various shades of light, but she managed to squint long enough to focus. To her left was a tall metal stand with a clear bag of fluid clipped to the top. To her right was some kind of machine, which seemed to be the source of the beeping. Close to her cheek was the edge of a thin blue woven sheet, but it felt more like a tablecloth than a sheet. She shifted a little to get away from its roughness and her head spun.

“So you’re awake then?” A blurred face leaned over her. She made out red lipstick, a thin line of a nose, kind eyes.

“Drink?” she gasped.

This is very different. It is not immediately clear where our main character is – we are deeply in her viewpoint and she doesn’t know where she is, so the reader learns of her surroundings slowly, as she becomes aware of them herself. By the end of the first page we can work out that she’s in intensive care in hospital, but this only brings up more questions. Who is she? Why is she there? What is the matter with her?

            This is how it should be with a novel. Each question you answer should raise further questions.

If you would like to find out what happens to SJ, my main character, and how this story develops, Ice and a Slice is available on Amazon for kindle enabled devices. Price: £1.94, Click here for further details.

If you’re interested in learning more about the difference between short stories and novels please check out my full length book on the subject, Moving On – Short Story to Novel – a Step by Step Guide, Price £1.97. Click here for further details. (Also available in paperback). Click here for details.

Thank you for reading.

Thanks Della for taking time out of your busy schedule to guest on my blog. If you haven't read 'Ice and a Slice' yet please do - it's a really good read (although it might make you think twice before opening that bottle of wine!)


  1. Looking forward to reading Della's new book, she's an excellent writer and a fabulous trainer, I've been on one of her short story courses. Thanks Wendy for the opportunity to hear more from her.

    1. Yes do read it - I really enjoyed it. I wish I was a bit closer so I could do one of Della's courses.

  2. Great post, Della and Wendy :-) What a shame you haven't got a copy of that first story, Della :-( x

    1. It is a shame isn't it Teresa. I think Della should write it again!

  3. What an excellent post and such good advice. Thanks, Della, and thanks Wendy for inviting Della to be your guest!

  4. Such an informative post! And I loved your brief interview too! I have both of Della's how-to-write books and refer to them all the time! Edith :)

  5. Thanks, both - a great post. I've been gradually moving from short stories to novels over the last couple of years and it is a difficult but interesting transition. Della's book definitely made it easier.

    1. I haven't attempted it yet Kath - maybe one day.

  6. Thanks Wendy and Della. I enjoyed the post and visiting the blog. I have Della's how to write books on Kindle, and am writing a novel so the tips are very helpful. I attended one of Della's courses at Swanwick a few years ago, and it's always good to see her again.

  7. Thanks for such a great post Della and Wendy. :-) I think I'm going to have to wander over to amazon now to get Ice and a Slice!

  8. Yes do read it Anne - it's very thought provoking.

  9. Thank you Della and Wendy - great post (as always!). I have Della's Moving On and plan to lock myself away and read this before I start re-working the novel. Also hope Della is leading a workshop at Swanwick in summer...

    1. Good idea Tracy. I'm afraid I don't know about the Swanwich question and Della has an eye injury and isn't supposed to use the computer so I don't know if she'll be able to reply to that.

  10. What a great post, thanks Wendy and Della.
    A belated Happy Birthday to you, Wendy and also congratulations on the People's Friend story!

    1. Thank you and thanks for the birthday wishes.