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 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?
The first page
The first page of a short story
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
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.
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!)