Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Getting to Grips With Writing

Tell Me A Story - Creative Writing

AJ, can you help. I have a story hanging around. I know the names of the protagonists and where I want in the story to go - but each time I start to type - it feels wrong, it’s weird. As I begin writing, I lose interest. In a bizarre way I want to write, yet for some reason, I can't.

Thanks for the email. There are a number of things that may help. To start with, if you’re absolutely sure you want to write, nothing should prevent you. Don't let anything get in your way.
  • If you are sincere, you need to beg, buy, or borrow, a couple of text books on creative writing (dare I suggest Just About Write  at only 99 cents from Kindle). All writers need to understand the basics of story-telling. The desire to write may feel like a fire burning into your soul, but unless that fire is fed with the oxygen of skill, those flames will dwindle and die.
  • A text book on creative writing can help you appreciate the why and wherefore of what you're doing – and point you the right direction to help you become productive.
  • Artists of every genre - dancers, painters, musicians, have to study for years before they are able harness their natural gifts. They exhibit talent in the first place of course, but without direction that talent will flounder. Writers are no different.
  • Stop listening to people who are not professionally involved in writing. Friends love offering advice - telling you how good you are - telling you where you're going wrong..... forget it. Friends and family can be too enthusiastic or too critical – they don’t read with a qualified eye.
  • Join an online Writer’s Circle. They're free, friendly, and full of like-minded people - some with years of experience to tap into and take advantage of.
  • Find a local writer's group - mixing with other writers can help your morale. They will offer advice and give a more qualified critique to your work. You'll start feeling like a proper writer - what more could you want?
Hope this helps you on your way a little. Don't give up, don't get dispirited - keep writing and one day it will happen.

Friday, 27 May 2011

The Clan Of The Cave Bear

Tell Me A Story - Review 

The Clan of the Cave Bear (Earth's Children, #1)The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When her parents are killed by an earthquake, 5-year-old Ayla wanders through the forest completely alone. Cold, hungry, and badly injured by a cave lion, the little girl is as good as gone until she is discovered by a group who call themselves the Clan of the Cave Bear. This clan, left homeless by the same disaster, have little interest in the helpless girl who comes from the tribe they refer to as the "Others." Only their medicine woman sees in Ayla a fellow human, worthy of care.

This is a story of Neanderthals and the physically modern Cro-Magnons.

I read it quite a while ago, yet this surprising book persists amongst those on my much loved shelf.

With a few clever brush strokes, Jean M. Auel paints a believable story, with a well-researched backdrop, an absorbing plot, and endearing characters. I can ask for no more in a novel – yet somehow, Clan Of The Cave Bear goes beyond that. Perhaps it strikes some deep ancestral chord. Whatever, I found I couldn’t stop reading it. This probably outshines most other fantasy novels out there.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 26 May 2011

What To Do After A Rejection Slip

Tell Me A Story

So you’ve finished your novel, polished it until it gleams, sent it off, but it’s been rejected. Justifiably you feel hacked off with the system. What are you going to do next?

Well first off, read through the manuscript again to see if there's something you’ve missed. Ask someone you trust to check it over, or if you're feeling wealthy, try sending the first three chapters to a critique service. 

If you’re certain it’s okay, the next step is to send your baby off again - and again, and again, if you have to. A rejection means nothing. Live with it. A rejection is one person's opinion, nothing more. All authors suffer it, even the best. 

Take a look at some of these statistics taken from Online College – it might just give you heart…
  1. William Golding's Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times before becoming published.
  2. Agatha Christie had to wait four years for her first book to be published.
  3. Zane Grey self-published his first book after dozens of rejections.
  4. John Grisham's A Time to Kill was rejected by 16 publishers before finding an agent who eventually rejected him as well.
  5. Richard Hooker, the book that inspired the film and TV show M*A*S*H* was denied by 21 publishers.
  6. Madeline L'Engle's masterpiece A Wrinkle in Time faced rejection 26 times before willing the Newberry Medal.
  7. In one rejection letter, Rudyard Kipling was told he didn’t know how to use the English language.
  8. J.K. Rowling submitted Harry Potter to 12 publishing houses, all of which rejected it.
  9. Before reaching print, Frank Herbert's Dune was rejected 20 times.
  10. Gone With the Wind faced rejection 38 times.
If it happened to these great authors, it can happen to anyone - and believe me, it does. Writing is not for the faint-hearted. Stick at it, and you might just find success. Give up, and you never will...

For an interesting look from the publisher's side read this

The Firm - a review

Tell Me A Story - Review 

The FirmThe Firm by John Grisham

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a well-drawn story that dragged me straight into the central character’s dilemma. I found myself believing this really had taken place, and longed for a successful end to the problem - yet couldn’t see it happening.

The backdrop Grisham uses is excellent, showing the upright customs and principles of Memphis, yet with a substructure of dishonesty and exploitation. John Grisham created a reality from his imagination that left me feeling cold. I found The Firm to be a compelling reading experience, and thoroughly recommend it.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

A Plot is a Plot is a Plot.....

Tell Me A Story - plot

You’re writing your first novel and you're full of anticipation. Your plot sets off with a super concept, which of course is your main conflict - it is isn't it? So, what do you tackle next?

Getting the plot right
  1. Now you must bring about, in the most unaffected way you can, one intriguing setback after another. There must be nothing contrived about the plot. Flukes, misunderstandings, and Acts Of God are NOT allowed in modern writing. 
  2. The challenges in the plot should come in a progression of highs and lows, one sub plot crisscrossing with another.
  3. The most astonishing point of the main plot should not be reached until just before the end of your novel.
  4. Before you reach this ‘astonishing’ point, all sub plots should be resolved. This supreme climax of drama should come about only from the original main conflict.
  5. Combined with, and part of, this ‘astonishing’ point, should be the bleakest moment of the whole story.
  6. At the ‘astonishing’ point, the central characters must appear to be up against an impenetrable barrier, but make sure you don't make this predicament so tortuous there is no way out. Each time you come up with a situation, scrutinize it. Work out how it affects the characters, and the previous and following parts of the plot.
  7. Your reader must be convinced there is no way to resolve the predicament – until suddenly, the plot is disentangled, and the story is over.
  8. Do it quickly. Tie up all loose ends, leave no threads hanging.

      So you’ve written the end. The novel is finally closed.
      Your reader MUST now be satisfied the characters have overcome all problems.

      Readers should feel that your novel was about convincing people, facing plausible problems, who found realistic solutions... If they don't, you're in trouble!

      Sunday, 22 May 2011

      Another Sample Sunday

      Tell Me A Story - TREACHERY

      Sorry to my regular readers, but Sample Sunday is a Twitter hashtag that allows writers to communicate a sample of their books to prospective Twitter readers. This week I've taken a sample from Chapter One of TREACHERY - available from Kindle at 99 cents
      TREACHERY - A Romantic Suspense
      Katrina carefully put down the huge, fragile volume, still open at the page. It was ancient, a tome: a digest of work from times long gone.
      Francine grinned. “So, it might be useful then?”
      “Useful? It’s incredible! I’ve been struggling to do something like this for ages. I can’t believe they cracked it so long ago.”
      Francine settled into her chair. “If you read on, it tells you something about how they do it. It’s all technical stuff. It doesn’t mean a thing to me, but I’m sure you’ll understand it.”
      “I really can’t thank you enough.” Using a tea towel, Katrina carefully twisted the cork from a bottle of Bollinger so that it didn’t pop, tilted Francine’s glass, filled it with froth then filled her own.
      “It’s no problem.” Francine took the glass, held it to the light, watched the bubbles for a moment.
      “Well it means a lot to me. Where on earth did you dig it from?”
      “Aunt Moll. It was amongst the stuff when we cleared the house. She was a hoarder you know, kept anything and everything. There were boxes everywhere. To be honest, I was on the point of throwing it away with other junk, but spotted the samples and thought of you.”
      “I’m glad you did.”
      “I thought to myself, my friend Kat, she might like this… It’s okay then?”
      “It’s more than okay. It’s brill!”
      “Moll used to prattle on when I was a kid, telling me tales about her grandmother… I loved it. You know how kids love stories… daft stuff... I think she had the book from her. I’ve no idea where she had it from though, but I know it’s as old as the hills. You can tell by the look of it can’t you.”
      “I know. It looks as if Moses made it.”
      A sheet of fine paper covered one of the samples. Kat carefully peeled it away, and revealed the delicate fabric beneath. It looked new, as if it had been made yesterday. Childlike, she touched the fabric, letting it hang over her fingers. It clung rather than hung… almost liquid, shimmered in the light.
      “Good then?”
      “Good?” Kat said, “It isn’t good, it’s fantastic! I think something like this would really add wow-factor to my outfits.”
      “I’m sure it would. And just think what it will do for you.”
      Eduardo rubbed his nose.
      A bad sign. Rafael learned a long time ago that when Eduardo rubbed his nose it meant trouble. He said, too hurriedly, “Like I say, nothing can go wrong. I mean; you have to admit I know my stuff. No-one knows the rag-trade better than me.”
      “Don’t they?”
      “You know they don’t. I’m the one. I’m the best… and I’m telling you, it’s like nothing I’ve seen before. Man, this stuff is the finest.”
      “What about balance sheets, market plans, forward projections?”
      Jeez!” Rafael pulled a face. “You’re a hard bitch. Look! These are unknown factors at the moment. It’s a winner though, and I’m sure that…”
      “A winner? And just what do you mean by that?”
      ”I’m telling you. I feel it. Gut instinct says ‘go for it baby’. You know I know my stuff and…”
      Eduardo put up a hand to stop him. “I know you’re asking for a bagful of money, with nothing to back it up. No collateral, no plan, nothing. If the job screws up, if you screw up, what is there? Naff all.”
      “Why are you talking like this?”
      “It won’t be the first time you’ve messed-up.”
      Rafael glared, hardly believing Eduardo was taking this attitude. He said slowly, “Well stuff you!”
      Eduardo shrugged.
      Rafael breathed in deeply. It was slithering away from him. He stared around, suddenly despondent. The office looked out over the busy streets of Valencia. Down there, way below, people scurried, traffic blared, exhausts fumed. Up here, it was calm, peaceful - except for the bile rising between them. On the walls were a couple of original watercolours by some artist whose style he recognized, but crap-knows from where. The office furnishings were sparse; chrome and leather, modern. A calendar hung behind Eduardo, no markings on it. His own calendar was scribbled to high heaven. No wall-charts to be found here, not in this high-tech office, it was paperless, everything on computer, all white, chrome, and damn-all soul.
      What happened if there was a power cut? Would Eduardo’s commerce die? Well stuff Eduardo! He hoped they had a power failure every day.
      He said carefully, “Okay, I might have got a couple of things wrong in the past. Not this time though… Look… Come with me. See for yourself. You’ll change your mind. I know you will.”
      “And what about your Papá?”
      Jeez! Rafael held his breath. When was this mess-up going to end? It was a farce. He knew he must sound desperate, but what else, what other way to do it? He tried to be nonchalant. “Damn Papá!”
      “Isn’t he the one you should be trying to convince? My interests lie in hotels, not clothes. Fashion just isn’t my scene.”
      Rafael’s stomach churned. He didn’t know how to turn the situation around. He wanted to, he badly wanted this thing to happen, but hadn’t a clue how to go about it. He’d been on cloud nine since his discovery and assumed that everything would fall into place. The cloud was drifting away.
      He’d convinced himself that Eduardo would jump at the chance. He hadn’t and Rafael didn’t know what else to do; there was no ‘Plan B’
      He felt a surge of irritation as he watched Eduardo study his fingernails. It was as if this was nothing, instead of the biggest thing to happen in Rafael’s life. He said, “I wanted this to be my scene, my bit. Up until now, I’ve been at Papá’s beck and call. I want to prove to him that I can hack it on my own.”
      “So it’s your way of looking for praise from Papá?”
      “I want to show him I’m worth something.”
      “Don’t you think it’s a little late for that?”
      Rafael stared him out. He eventually said, “Damn you!”
      Eduardo shook his head. “Do you honestly think you can feed me bullshit?”
      “I wouldn’t…”
      “Do you know what I’m thinking? I’m thinking maybe you just want to sneak behind your Papá’s back and steal the show for yourself. You want to set up in competition and…”
      “I wouldn’t…”
      Eduardo raised his hand to silence him. “And you want me to sponsor it.”
      “But it wouldn’t be competition. Don’t you see? It would be a business venture in its own right. Papá doesn’t go for that sort of thing. He likes a quick turnover.”
      “Not from what I understand. He deals in quality stuff. That’s not quick turnover.”
      The problem was, Papá had flatly refused, said it wasn’t worth the effort, said if the company were in such a bad way, the stuff couldn’t be up to much. 
      Rafael took a deep breath, no use telling lies. “Look…” he said. “Papá simply isn’t interested, and you know what he’s like once he’s made his mind up.”
      He stuck his hands in his pockets, walked stiffly to the huge window and stared morosely. He watched Eduardo’s reflection in the window.
      “That says it all then doesn’t it? If he shows no interest, why should I?”
      “You’re not backing me then?”
      Eduardo shook his head. “I guess not.”
      “That’s that, is it?”
      “I guess so.”
      Rafael spun on his heels and walked to the door. He’d show him, he’d show them all. This wasn’t something he was going to let go without a fight. There was a fortune to be made and he was damned if he was going to let anyone else get their hands on it.
      Rafael paused.
      “You're behaving like a complete ass-hole. Put a business plan together. Do it properly, or you'll end on your butt."

      Saturday, 21 May 2011

      Tooth & Nail - a review

      Tell Me A Story - Review

      Tooth and Nail (Inspector Rebus, #3)Tooth and Nail by Ian Rankin

      My rating: 5 of 5 stars

      This is another brilliant story from Rankin – truly one of my favourite authors.

      The story spirals and twists quite ingeniously, with Rankin deceiving readers, like the master magician he is, all the way to the end. He stuns and astounds over and over, until the final, accomplished, and thrilling apogee.

      If you enjoy thrillers, you will love Tooth & Nail.

      View all my reviews

      Friday, 20 May 2011

      Let it Bleed - a review

      Tell Me A Story

      Let It Bleed (Inspector Rebus, #7)Let It Bleed by Ian Rankin

      My rating: 4 of 5 stars

      Another nail-biting book from one of my favourite authors. As always, you become drawn into the dark life that surrounds Rankin's infamous, Inspector Rebus.

      Rankin's stories are always overwrought, always insistent, and always completely electrifying in content. At the centre of them is Rebus, a police detective with bad habits and a large measure of corrosive humour - as human and flawed as the criminals he chases. 

      Rebus has always understood that murder is inspired by passion or greed, but in 'Let It Bleed', when bodies begin to pile up, he recognises that there's nothing simple about it.

      View all my reviews

      Thursday, 19 May 2011

      Finding Balance in Your Story

      Tell Me A Story

      I don't really like saying there are rules to writing, because someone somewhere, will prove me wrong. However, every now and then a convention in writing becomes so accepted that it almost becomes a rule. For instance - All stories must have form and proportion. 

      A plot must have balance. Stories that are in balance are things of beauty, get the balance wrong and they start to feel ugly.
        1. A plot should never consist of continuous desolation and emotional anguish. Readers soon tire of it, they become emotionally exhausted.
        2. Readers should always associate with your characters. Make this connection by ensuring that incidents are feasible for the situation and genre.
        3. The tempo of the story should vary - some scenes must be calmer than others.
        4. After writing a chapter containing a significant episode, give readers time to recover by writing a more leisurely scene - not a boring scene of course, but one with fewer disparities, fewer ups and downs.
        5. Make your story congruent with, yet larger than, life. Everyday life is mostly boring - readers of fiction want entertainment, not a documentary - and they certainly don't want lecturing.
        Give your readers interesting and believable variation and if you're lucky, they’ll give you time.

        Wednesday, 18 May 2011

        Book Promotion Stinks

        Tell Me A Story

        Book promotion - agggh! I hate it. As far as I'm concerned, book promotion stinks. All I want to do is write - I really do NOT want to promote. If I wanted to be a sales person I'd have gone into marketing.

        I'm on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Goodreads - you name it, I'm there trying to get my name and books in people's heads without being too much in their faces... If you know what I mean. I hate being pushy and am too shy to jump in where angels refuse to tread.

        Other kind people are sometimes looking out on my behalf I'm happy to say. At any rate, I had this list handed to me by a kind on-line friend, and thought you might like to share it.

        If you have anything to add, send it along, I'll slip it in - or start a new list if there are sufficient. Trying to promote yourself is damn hard work, and anything that helps, has to be worthwhile. Let's help each other!

        • Blog on http://www.ecademy.com/module.php?mod=club&c=110
        • Submit your site to http://www.dmoz.org/
        • Submit your site to Google, MSN and Yahoo
        • Join several online social networks
        • Join several online communities or discussion groups
        • Add comments to other peoples threads or blogs
        • Submit a blog to your own site
        • Use PPC advertising like Google Adwords
        • Try Ebay
        • Try http://www.elance.com/
        • Advertise on http://www.gumtree.com/
        • Advertise on http://www.craigslist.com/
        • Start your own ezine
        • Start your own web ring
        • Start your own community
        • Write your own e-book
        • Start your own affiliate program
        • Start your own reciprocal link exchange
        • Register for online networking events
        • Create a personal page on yahoo, aol or google
        • Write articles for other people’s ezines
        • Write articles for other people’s websites
        • Submit your articles to article directories
        • Submit your ezine to ezine directories
        • Do ad swaps with your ezine and other ezine owners
        I can't guarantee how effective they are, I don't even know what all of them mean, but at least it's something positive in the bid to publicize your work.
        If any of you find success, let me know and I'll post it - in fact tell me which bit worked best and I'll give it an extra whiz!

        Sunday, 15 May 2011

        Sample Sunday Again

        Tell Me A Story

        This is my effort for  #samplesunday on Twitter - the opening paragraphs from PAST SINS under my pen-name Ellie Jones - a Kindle romantic mystery. I hope my regular readers forgive my indulgance.

        CHAPTER 1

        The face in the mirror reminded her of a bad shave in a cartoon. It was full of nicks and scratches, and visible ends of stitches where flesh had been sewn back together. The trouble was, cartoons were supposed to be funny but this cartoon made her feel like crying… Where had her face gone?
        Apparently, after they’d brought her in she’d remained unconscious for several days - and they said she was lucky… She felt like shit.
        Her shoulder had been pinned together, her head, a tiny metal plate inside. It was true that only a small chunk of swirling dark hair was missing but it made her self-conscious. Her once petite nose was swollen, discolouration fading but noticeable, high cheekbones marred with stitches.
        “You haven’t caught me on a good day,” she said, glancing from the mirror to the woman by her bed. “I could be bitchy.”

        Saturday, 14 May 2011

        Stoke City in Cup Final

        Tell Me A Story - Stoke City

        Hard to believe, but Stoke City - my home-town, as well as home-town to Robbie Williams, is about to fight it out in the FA cup final.

        Stoke on Trent has been famous for many things in the past, not least, high quality tableware, but for Stoke City to be in the FA cup final is quite an incredible achievement. Hopefully the FA cup will soon sit in Stoke City and bring fame from that direction too.

        Sir Stanley Matthews, CBE (1 February 1915 – 23 February 2000) was an English footballer who both started and ended his career at Stoke City. He is often regarded as one of the greatest players of the English game - and would be chuffed to death if he just knew.

        Well done lads - go for it. Up with Stoke City. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you.

        Sunday, 8 May 2011

        Sample Sunday

        Okay so this is my offering for #samplesunday on Twitter - the opening few paragraphs from WITHOUT REPROACH

        CHAPTER 1

        The face in the mirror reminded her of a bad shave in a cartoon. It was full of nicks and scratches, and visible ends of stitches where flesh had been sewn back together. The trouble was, cartoons were supposed to be funny but this cartoon made her feel like crying… Where had her face gone?
        Apparently, after they’d brought her in she’d remained unconscious for several days - and they said she was lucky… She felt like shit.
        Her shoulder had been pinned together, her head, a tiny metal plate inside. It was true that only a small chunk of swirling dark hair was missing but it made her self-conscious. Her once petite nose was swollen, discolouration fading but noticeable, high cheekbones marred with stitches.
        “You haven’t caught me on a good day,” she said, glancing from the mirror to the woman by her bed. “I could be bitchy.”
        “You’ve been a hard person to trace, Jenny. I’ll manage.” The woman proffered her hand. “Maria Santos, abogada.”
        Jenny frowned.
        “You’d probably call me a solicitor back in Britain. A lawyer.”
        “I know what an abogada is. What I don’t understand is why you’ve been tracing me.”
        Jenny took the hand in her good hand as best she could. It hurt her shoulder though, and she wished she hadn’t. She’d almost learned to move without moving, would probably make a good busker when she got out.
        “Sorry! I should have realised. Are you feeling up to this?”
        “I guess so. But I’m still woozy. I’m afraid you’ll have to bear with me.” She put the mirror onto the cabinet by the bed.
        “Say if you want me to leave.”
        “I’m fine. I’ll be okay, just don’t expect too much.”
        The woman undid her attaché case, took out a sheaf of papers and studied them. “I’m afraid red tape in Spain is rather cumbersome. I sometimes wonder if one day we’ll get buried under our own paper work.”
        Jenny became curious and struggled into a sitting position. Denia hospital was far from home and the prospect of company, a treat. The next bed was empty. It had been occupied for a while but the woman was gone, discharged. There’d been hardly anyone to talk to for days. Not that the woman had spoken much, but she’d been a face to look at, someone to share her frustration with.
        “Is it the accident? I wasn’t driving you know. I can’t remember much about it but I wasn’t driving. I’d scrounged a lift after a party.”
        There had been a confusion of red tail-lights, a blocked carriageway, the car jolting, scraping, bucking; nowhere to go before they hit metal. She’d drawn her knees up; instinctively lowered her head; willed her whole being to shrink up her backside. It was sounds she remembered the most; metal screeching, glass splintering, sounds she didn’t want to recall.
        “No, it’s nothing to do with the accident.” Maria shook her head, her eyes all the time on Jenny, perceptive, no sign of emotion. “Okay, so let’s start with your full name.” 

        WITHOUT REPROACH is available from:
        Amazon Kindle USA for $2.99 
        Amazon Kindle UK   for £2.13

        Monday, 2 May 2011

        Fascinating Stories Behind Fairy Tales

        Tell Me a Story

        From Matchacollege.com

        It’s a little disconcerting to know that the real stories behind the fairy tales that made your eyes go all sparkly as a child were originally tales of rape, self-injury and forced abandonment.

        The inspiration behind these stories simply resonated more clearly and relevantly with audiences at the time they were created, and have since been adapted to please our morals and desire for happy endings today. Whether you’re a literature student or just interested in "real-life" accounts behind fictional tales, there are fascinating histories behind your favourite fairy tales.

        To find out more, read the full fascinating article on Matchacollege 


        Looking for a Romantic Suspense