Monday, 30 September 2013
Do you follow instructions? I know I do.
The lovely inventor of Wendy's Story Timeline and I had a few days break in the Peak District. We had never stayed in that area before but as my daughter lives in Manchester, we thought it would be a good place to combine seeing her with a few days walking.
We stayed in Castleton - a chocolate boxy type of village which we immediately loved. Our first day saw us stepping out of our farmhouse B&B and walking 9 miles along the ridge of the peaks that surrounded the village.
The second day saw us hobbling up the slopes of a hill in the beautiful area around Dovedale (can you believe we spent an hour looking for the village of Dovedale in order to have a coffee before realising it wasn't a village just an area of dales).
Not being boy scouts or proficient with maps, we followed a walking guide which we'd found in the farmhouse. My husband read out the steps and I followed them dutifully.
Eventually he read the instruction Walk across the field where you will see a gate in a fence. Go through the gate...
So, liking to follow instructions to the letter, and not being able to bring myself just to walk around it, I did just that!
Whenever I do any writing or send anything for publication, I read the guidelines once, twice and then again to make sure. Why give magazines or competition judges reasons to throw your work to one side unnecessarily?
Maybe this is one reason why I came home to find some very happy emails.... five sales to three different magazines. I need to remember days like this when I next have to pull on that rejection T-shirt.
Wednesday, 25 September 2013
I am very lucky to have as my guest post today the lovely Samantha Tonge. If you don't know who she is, just open any People's Friend magazine and you will find one of her wonderful stories there.
Sam has just published an anthology of her short stories through Alfie Dog. It is called Sweet Talk - but I won't say any more about it as I'll let Sam do the sweet talking herself.
Ooh, burnt flapjacks, lovely thank you – nice and chewy!
They are warm, uplifting stories, guaranteed to make you feel good after a hard day. The perfect gift (I like to think, when my marketing cap is on!) for a woman who likes to dip into fiction or take a book travelling – plus they cover a wide variety of settings and themes.
Alfie Dog Fiction's website is here
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
For those of you not already familiar with Wendy's Story Timeline, let me explain (everyone else can skip this part!) A while ago, I was writing a short story set in the present day with flashbacks to WW1. In the story, it was important to know in what year a character might feasibly have married, had a baby, become a grandmother etc. I got into such a muddle (I tried to marry off my lead character when she would have been only eight!) so decided to draw myself a time line to work from. This was time consuming, scrappy and only usable for one story.
When I looked online, I could find timelines but nothing specific to my needs.
These were the things I wanted:
- My character's age to be automatically calculated against each year on the timeline..
- A column to show major events logged against each year
- A column where I could record events in my character's life
- A timeline that could cover any century
- A timeline that could be filled in for my story, saved and a new one started for the next
To go to Wendy's Story Timeline Click here. It should be straightforward to use - after all it was made for me and I'm pretty useless at technology! I have filled in kings and queens and some major events but you can fill in events of your choice.
So what's new? Whilst using the timeline for one of my stories, I knew that I wanted my character to be age 18 at the beginning of WW1 (1914) but unless I used my fingers (I'm not too good at mental arithmetic) I had no idea in which year she would have been born in order to place her on my time line. 'I'll sort it,' said my husband and he set aside a Sunday to solve the problem for me (and you).
The new timeline now has an Date of Birth Calculator. See below for how to use it.
Once you have your character's date of birth, just add it to the timeline and - hey presto - you now have all the information you need.
What else is new? Well, this isn't a new feature, you just might not have realised you could use Wendy's Timeline for this purpose. Instead of putting in your character's date of birth, you can put in a life event such as marriage or date of ascension to the throne. The timeline will then calculate the number of years married or on the throne. This is a good way of finding out anniversary dates for your characters. See below for an example.
If Wendy's Story Timeline is new to you, below are simple instructions for how to use it.
The Timeline is now version 3. This has a slight change to make it easier to select a range of years to view. It also has more character columns.
To download Wendy's Story Timeline V3, Click here.
Friday, 13 September 2013
This is the inspiration behind my story 'So Much for Happy Families', which is my second story published in this month's Fiction Feast..
I married three years ago and inherited three lovely step-children as well as Bad Bonnie. With two girls of my own of similar age to my husband's eldest two, it was never a foregone conclusion that they would get on. However, I am delighted to say that the two families (Including Bonnie and Bobbie) have merged seamlessly.
Recently, the children (ages ranging from 14-26) ganged up on us on us after a family lunch and said we all ought to go on a family holiday... to bond!
I think the term 'over my dead body' might have been uttered by myself and my husband but a seed was sown. What would happen if a family did try to play happy families on holiday?
My story is once again set in Greece but Kate's choice of holiday destination is not to the older children's liking. It is a tale of sibling jealousy and rivalry but by the end of the story, teenager Lilly is forced to re-evaluate her feelings for her own family after her new friend Stephan tells her of his own family tragedy.
Monday, 9 September 2013
- To the person who drove right up my bumper flashing their lights: Yes, I did see you when I pulled out of the side road (it would have been a safe distance if you hadn't been speeding). I also saw you when you carried on tailing me and flashing your lights. Strangely enough, I was still aware that you were annoyed when you over took me blaring your horn... I hope you, and your road rage, enjoyed your day.
- To the dog owners who saw me put my dog on a lead and move off the path away from you and still allowed your four dogs to charge down the hill at Bonnie: What part of my non-verbal and verbal communication did you not understand?
- To the postman who flinched at the glare I gave him as he handed over three stuffed envelopes with my handwriting on: Sorry, Mate... you should know that it is traditional to shoot the messenger.
Friday, 6 September 2013
I have been lucky enough to have two stories published in this month's Fiction feast. Today, in my Inspiration Behind the Story post, I shall talk about how I came to write the first one: Saying Goodbye to Summer.
The title came from a headline for an article (I think about gardening) which caught my eye in a newspaper, last year. I had taught a little girl with the name Summer (only spelt differently) and I couldn't help but think of it as a play on words. Who could Summer be in a story? Why would people be saying goodbye to her? Who was saying goodbye to her?
At the time of thinking about the story, a lot of my friends' children were embarking on their first year at University and were talking about how it would feel when they had gone. 'The empty nest' was a hot topic over our weekly coffee on a Friday. My own daughter had just left for her final year at Cambridge University and although immensely proud of her, after two years I had grown used to her being away and it being just my husband and me (and Bonnie and Bobby) at home.
I decided to write about a woman who instead of feeling bereft when her daughter Summer left home, actually just felt proud and as though she had done a great job as a mother. I knew that this subject had been done to death in magazines and would need a twist. When it came to me, I was really pleased and knew it might give my story the edge over others with the same theme at this time of year.
Of course, as usual, I don't want to tell you what that twist was as it will spoil it for anyone wanting to read it but the moral of this inspiration post is: if you can find a different angle to a well worn theme (sorry to use that term!) you have a better chance of publication. This applies to seasonal stories such as Easter and Christmas or stage of life stories such as graduations, weddings, retirement etc. If any of my readers are new writers hoping to break into the magazine market, I hope this post has been helpful.
Tuesday, 3 September 2013
Another in my 'Inspiration Behind the Story' series. I have a story in this month's Woman's Weekly Fiction Special called The Man Behind the Mask. I am very pleased as it is the story I sold them following my visit to the Woman's Weekly Fiction Workshop in June (a nice quick turnaround from penning the story to publication).
This story is unusual in that it is only 1000 words. I am much more at home writing longer fiction (often around 3000 words) but I had decided to try a short twist in the tail piece for the first time.
The inspiration for my story is something that I saw on a double decker bus on a trip to London. I would tell you what it was but if I do, any of you wanting to read the story will have the ending spoilt. As soon as I saw the 'thing', I knew exactly what I was going to write - in face I wrote it in my head while on the bus and then it was an easy step once I'd got home to type it up. This is so unlike me - I usually have no idea where my story is going to go.
Samantha Tonge on her blog says 'the brain is like any other muscle – the more you use it, the better it is at any particular function' and she is so right. The more I write the more I am finding potential stories in the things I see.
Not much inspiration to share after all but proof that stories can be found anywhere.
A tip for writing 'twist' stories: start with the ending and work backwards. (I can't believe I just said that - it's such an alien concept to me!) If you want help with writing a story with a twist, this book might help you.