Sunday 30 March 2014

What it's Really Like to Write a Serial

I have finished the final instalment of my PF serial and I thought it might be interesting for others to read about how I have found the experience.

As most of you know, I write short stories for magazines but up until a few months ago, had written nothing longer than 4000 words. Well, one of my goals for last year, was to write a serial - actually write one not just talk about it. So you can imagine how pleased I was when the editor I work with at PF said that he thought I was ready to try something longer. The only problem was, I didn't have any ideas - not for anything longer anyway. The more I though about it, the more the ideas eluded me. Then one day, I was writing a short story and it just seemed to get longer and longer and I realised there was too much story to tell in even a longer short story.

The problem was, I needed to send in a synopsis of the whole thing - aaagh! I don't plan - never have - but this time I knew I would have to. What I did was to do as much research as I could (my story is set in WW2) and make each factual event into a scene around which my characters could revolve. I then used a fantastic mind-mapping tool called Total Recall (you can read my blog post about it here) to group these into instalments.

The idea was to write a three instalment serial but by the time I had finished it had grown to five!

So what have I learnt about writing a PF serial.

  • Scenes can be much more detailed than in short stories.
  • You can have more that one POV (three or four). Pick your three strongest characters and tell the story through them but let your main character shine through.
  • Scenes with minor characters don't have to be written from a particular viewpoint.  
  • Keep the pace up throughout and end each instalment with exciting cliffhangers.
  • Weigh your story more towards your female characters.
  • Work closely with your editor and take their advice - they know their readers much better that you do!

I know I have mentioned it before, but if you are thinking of having a go at writing serials yourself, you should have a read of Cara Cooper's posts on the subject here. It was reading these that made me get off my backside and do it!

I've enjoyed writing my serial and will be sad to not be living with my characters any more but never mind, I've written and subbed the first instalment of a new one... so who knows?

Sunday 23 March 2014

Rejected? Don't be Sad, Don't be Mad... Be a Winner!

Why be miserable when you can turn adversity into a win! Just tell me why you should be the winner of my rejection T-shirt this month and you can wear it with pride. (I know it's only a virtual T-shirt but who cares - you can put it pride of place on your blog or show it off on Facebook!)


Okay - so I am going to have to ask Tracy for the Rejection T-shirt back again (not that she needs it as she's a very successful lady) after the lovely postman delivered two rejections from FF onto my doorstep on consecutive days, proving that it's 'that time of the month again' if you'll excuse the expression. The big clear out.

Now I'm always happy to share my successes with you on my blog but it's important for new writers to see that even those whose names appear often in magazines and competition wins, or even have a book to their name, have to suffer their fair share of rejection.

I take comfort in the fact that I know that I'm not the only one: magazine buddies Patsy, Viv and even the formidable Jo Styles have had their share this week - so if you are one of the unlucky ones, you are in good company.

It's hard to pick yourself up and carry on when you see the rejections piling up (whether its on your doorstep or that dreaded email from Maureen) especially if you are a new writer and of course I'm not just talking about magazine rejections - what about those competition entries that come to nothing.

Julie Philips has written a good article about what to do if you've had a lot of rejection recently so have a look at it, but not... I say not... before you have entered my competition.

Let's make rejection fun - tell me your sob story now... then we can all feel better about our own!

Thursday 20 March 2014

The Courting Cake - Read My Story in The People's Friend

Research is something I didn't know I was going to enjoy so much.

When I first started writing for magazines, my stories were contemporary and always about things I knew something about. As I began writing more, I found that my ideas were coming from all different sources. My story in this week's People's Friend is called The Courting Cake and the idea behind it came from The Great British Bake Off.

In one episode they mentioned that The Courting Cake is a cross between a Victoria sponge and a shortbread and is filled with strawberries and fresh cream. It was traditionally baked by single girls in Lancashire, in order to impress a boy they were interested in.

I thought this sounded fascinating, so researched it some more and found that it was just one part of a Northern courtship ritual. In the past, young men and women, from industrial Northern towns such as Manchester, were inevitably segregated with many of the women employed in the cotton mills and the men in the mining industry.This resulted in certain areas of the city becoming designated 'promenading' streets.

One example was Oldham Street in Manchester, known as the Monkey rank, where single young people would walk up and down until they caught someones eye.

In the town of Chorley, Market Street became known as 'The Drag' and it had a 'tanner' a side of the road where office girls and clerks would walk and a 'tuppence-ha'penny' one for the factory workers.

Having found out about these rituals, I knew a story line would quickly come and the result was, 'The Courting Cake' which follows three generations of Lancashire women who have all won the hearts of their men through their baking.

My daughter works in Manchester and I asked her what Oldham street is like now. "Full of clubs," she said. I picture the girls catching the eye of the buys at the bar... nothing much has changed!

Wednesday 12 March 2014

A win, a Pamper and a Two Stories

The last week has been very eventful - in a good way. On Thursday evening the choir I belong to, Cantatrice, entered into two classes at the Worthing Music Festival and guess what... we won both.
All 75 of us sat with our mouths open when we heard the results, as the choirs we were up against were all excellent. It was a fantastic evening and it was a great opportunity to hear other choirs sing. The only thing that was rather disconcerting was that there wasn't enough room on the raised blocks for everyone - so I was stuck up there (the only second soprano) amongst a block of altos while the rest of the sopranos were on the flat stage.
The next lovely thing I did was have a spa day with my youngest daughter who had come down from Manchester. It was her birthday present and we went to the Alexandra House Hotel near East Grinstead. Wow! What pampering! I had to force myself to stay awake during the facial as it was so relaxing. It was a great mum and daughter bonding time.
This week started well, with a story in the weekly People's Friend called, 'Someone to Lean On'. The lovely illustration for my story is by Richard Eraut.
I also have a story in the monthly special called, 'Still Waters Run Deep'. The illustration is by my favourite artist, Andre Leonard, who has illustrated many of my stories.

The inspiration behind 'Still Waters' is fascinating and I shall tell you about it in my next post.

Finally both Helen Yendall in her Writing Magazine article and The People's Friend on their website refer to me as Writer Wendy Clarke - maybe now I can believe it!

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Why Everyone Needs a Writing Buddy

You know how it is when someone asks what you do and, when you tell them, you get a variation on these answers:

"Have you written a novel yet?"
"How much money do you make?"
"I suppose you'll be writing your own Fifty Shades then."

That's people you don't know.

Your friends might ask a few polite questions such as, "So how's the writing going?" but if you answer more than, "Fine," you can see their eyes start to glaze over.

Of course I can't blame them. If I ask my husband how his day has been, I'm more interested in whether Nigel has seen the badger in his garden again or whether Tom has managed to sell his house yet than whether the new flow meter is working properly. I have to remember that not everyone is interested in writing in the same way that not everyone is interested in engineering.

This is why we all need a writing buddy. I'm not talking about someone who will share and critique your work (although many writing buddies like to do this) but someone who knows where you're coming from; who understands the joys of a sale or competition win along with the frustration of the rejection; who you can share writing news and information with you and talk about all those things that would bore other people silly.

I'm lucky in that I've got Tracy. We met first through our blogs and then in 'real life' a year ago for teacakes in our local café. We've met up every month since for writerly chat.

This morning we talked about our last month's writing goals and whether we've achieved them, the merits (or not) of writing holidays, writers on Facebook, competitions, loss of writing confidence, experiences of womags, merits (or not) of Scrivener, whether it's possible to write a novel without a plan......
We also set new targets for this month.

The two hours we spend in the café are invaluable... and the teacakes delicious!

I urge everyone to get themselves a writing buddy if they haven't already got one.