Saturday, 31 October 2009

Researching that novel

Tell Me a Story - tips

Does the idea of research throw you into a fluster?

Okay, so you’ve dreamed up a breathtaking idea for a mystery. You've decided you’ll have a young English girl swept off her feet by a French aristocrat whom she bumps into accidentally and who obviously has something to hide. You can’t be bothered with all that crap about planning and plotting, you know exactly where to begin. You’ll get your main characters in conversation right away when they meet on a train from London to Glasgow.

You're in heaven

You rush right in, hot ideas spilling into the word processor. You're filled with utmost assurance. The dialogue will be a cauldron of interesting little snippets that are sure to captivate the readers. You’ll bring in your hero’s French background, how he came to be on the London train, her experience in learning some new job that you’re bound to think of in a few minutes, and every bit of it will be full of interesting detail.

Oh, oh!

At this point, you come to a stop, yet you haven’t typed more than a couple of pages. You become conscious that you don’t know these characters. Their lives are a blank; you know absolutely nothing about them or their lifestyles. Is there even a train from London to Glasgow? If so what times does it run? Someone will pick up on it if you get it wrong.

As empty as an empty can

The whole of your mystery will be just as empty if you don’t know pertinent facts. You must find out all about your characters and their backgrounds before you begin. You must know about their families and friends, you must know their likes and dislikes. Research means no more than that, yet the thought of it can throw beginners into as big a panic as the idea of writing a synopsis.

Even if you’re familiar with a place, a job, a building, you still need to do a little research. Unless you have a super-human memory, you’ll find your knowledge of even quite familiar things will play tricks with you.

Research can be as unpretentious or as convoluted as you care to make it. Just make sure you get out there and do it.

Who needs writers agents?
Book writing tips - A Perceptive Notebook

Friday, 30 October 2009

Identity theft

Tell Me a Story - warning identity theft.

I feel an idiot. Last night I was well and truly hooked by local phishermen.... or in this case someone pretending to be someone I knew.

My identity was briefly stolen - my personna robbed - someone took my place. Some unknown piece of shit stole my name and passed themself off as me. I feel abnormally angry.

Phishing and chips

I'm perhaps one of the lucky ones. No money was involved this time - at least none I'm aware of. My credit cards are intact, my bank balance remains healthy - but my identity was still taken. I am violated.

The cause.... I opened a DM (direct message) on Twitter from a trusted follower, and it advised me to follow a link that I 'just had to see'. That's what ultimately let me down - I was too damn nosey - I had to find out what was going on - so I suppose it was my own fault. That's what these vile shits understand - people's weaknesses. They're expert psychologists.

Identity theft

When I clicked the link I received a message telling me that Twitter was over capacity. Now as all Twitter users will know, this a common enough happening - except this time it also flashed up that I needed to re-enter my Twitter name and password. It wasn't quite the same format as usual but close enough not to ring any warning bells - I entered my password and bingo....

Immediately, some, if not all, of my followers received strange DM's that I can only hope were legal. I pray no one had anything pornographic.

I was lucky enough to have people warn me fairly soon afterwards that something odd was taking place. I followed advice and changed my password - which hopefully put a stop to it - but how much damage was done - to my reputation if nothing else? That's what identity theft does, it robs you of confidence, it makes you question what else in your life has been affected - or damaged.

Reputations take forever to build and can be destroyed in seconds - I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that any collateral is minimal. I hope my friends remain just that - friends. I hope they realise it wasn't me sending out the spam.

So take heed of my circumstance and be warned. Be careful how and when you let your password out - it's frighteningly easy to get trapped. It all seemed so logical, so normal that I was fooled. There are some evil bastards out there..... It could have been much worse than this.

Who needs writers agents?
Book writing tips - A Perceptive Notebook

Friday, 23 October 2009

National Hispanic Awareness Month - Living In Spain

Tell Me a Story

I LOVE living in Spain. As an Ex-pat from England, I'm maybe uniquely placed to comment on what it's like to live in Spain. Sometimes pictures speak better than words. Maureen Sabina has been looking at the photos around Jalon and Moraira and is interested in what my own villa looks like - so here goes -

I've taken a few snaps around the garden and here they are. Hope they meet with your approval - I love the place - but then again I am rather biased.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

National Hispanic Awareness month - Around Moraira

Tell Me a Story

As promised, for those living in the New World here are some more photos to remind them of their origins in the Old World of Spain. This time I've featured Moraira. A picturesque resort close to Jalón - featured in the novel Without Reproach.

National Hispanic Awareness month

Monday, 12 October 2009

National Hispanic Awareness month - Around Jalon

Tell Me a Story - National Hispanic Awareness month

Novels and in fact ANYTHING to do with Spain seem to be in the public interest at the moment.

I've been asked to give an indication of what it's like around Jalon, do I have pictures. A couple of readers wanted to understand where Without Reproach was set and what the scenery was like. So here goes. Here's a flavour of rural Spain - nothing like the high-rise Costas you might be familiar with.

Let your mind go free, live with Eduardo, experience his country understand his rugged domain.

I'll publish some more pictures over the next few blog posts. Hope you got a flavour of this big country for your National Hispanic Awareness month. And for those of you living in the New World, hope you like what you see of the Old.

Who needs writers agents?
Book writing tips - A Perceptive Notebook

Monday, 5 October 2009

Do writers go to college

Tell Me a Story - question time .

AJ, Do writers need to go to college? I mean people who write books. Not technical writers or journalists or anything. I'm talking about the author of a fantasy series, a book full of laughter, a tragedy, a romance, a thriller, whatever. If so, what kind of degree do you need to be one?

Hi Demi. Some universities certainly offer courses on creative writing, but a degree isn't necessary to be a successful writer. I do actually have a degree, but it isn't related to media in any way, so it doesn't count.

All skills have to be learned.
As my interest in writing deepened I realized that I needed to understand the principles involved, so I studied numerous books on creative writing. I also completed a correspondence course on writing.
Very few people are born with the ability to put a coherent story together. Everyone has to learn, either by years of experience and disappointement, or by studying what has gone on before and proved to be successful. Remember, any skill worth it's salt has to be learned. If every man-jack could write, would it really be worthwhile doing?
Artists don't just pick up brushes and paint successfully; they study for years. Sculptors, musicians, dancers and actors are the same. Why should any sane person think it's different for writers?

All artists are craftsmen. Not all craftsmen are artists.
Writing is a craft. Like all crafts it can be learned, but an apprenticeship has to be served. To turn that craft into an art that readers will take seriously takes something extra - and that is what keeps writers striving - the search for that extra dimension. This can only come when you thoroughly understand the principles involved.

Formal tuition.
Admittedly some writers don't go down the path of FORMAL training, instead they 'teach' themselves through years of reading and attempting to write. Don't be fooled by tales of 'overnight' success - generally it involves years of closet writing before the 'magical' discovery.
Formal tuition cuts those years down, you get to understand the why and wherefore of what you're doing, and if you participate in a course, you have a guiding hand too - feedback is a very important element of writing.

A different slant.
If you’re interested in studying, you should at least search for modern books on the writing craft. There are numerous available to choose from. As with everything, it's down to personal preference which book will suit you best, so maybe purchasing one or two will be preferable. I had about three on the go at once, at one time, each taking a different slant and emphasis, but each good in it's own right.

Good luck with it Demi. Hope it all goes your way..

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The forward motion of verbs

Tell Me a Story .

I've just found this quote and I think it sums up a lot about writing style. It neatly encompasses one of my pet rants. In my opinion, a number of published writers would do well to take note.

Forward motion in any piece of writing is carried by verbs.

Verbs are the action words of the language and the most important. Turn to any passage on any page of a successful novel and notice the high percentage of verbs. Beginning writers always use too many adjectives and adverbs and generally use too many dependent clauses. Count your words and words of verbal force (like that word “force” I just used).


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Holidays in Alicante - the Hidden Spain
Lens Coating - What Everybody Ought to Know