Friday, 31 October 2014

Writing for Children - Tip 20 #writetip

Many of the tips so far have been devoted to emphasising the importance of dialogue in writing for children, but uninterrupted dialogue can be as boring as non-stop narrative.

Dialogue should be broken up occasionally by short passages of narrative, called beats.

Tip 20 – Using Narrative Beats

The beats change the rhythm of the words on the page, adding visual appeal. They can be shown as action, gesticulation or internal monologue, and they have some very important roles to play in making the story more interesting.

Use the beat to describe something or someone

“What are you doing, you revolting child?”

Aunt Valentyna towered above him, red eyes glaring, jet-black hair standing on end, her ruby lips curled into a snarl.

“Well, I’m waiting. What is that thing?”

(Vlad the Inhaler)

Use it to add to the characterization of the speaker

Miska offered to go home with them. “I could explain what happened,” she said.

“No!” gasped Bill and Jacqui.

Miska watched them walk away. Oh gringalums, she thought. I’ve done it again. Every planet we land on, whenever I try to help, I get my friends in trouble.

“I’m sorry,” she called after them.

(Miska Messes Up)

You can also use the beat to change the subject or direction of the conversation

“We’d better get them up to the castle and tell someone,” said Harry, pushing his hair out of his eyes, trying to think straight.

“Come – ”

But then, from beyond their range of vision, they heard a yelping, a whining: a dog in pain …
“Sirius,” Harry muttered, staring into the darkness.

(Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Novel Competition #amwriting

The Flash 500 Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competition closes in under two days! You only have until midnight (UK time) on the 31st October to get those entries in.

As well as the chance of winning a first prize of £500 or a runner-up prize of £200, there is always a possibility of Crooked Cat Publishing asking to see the full of your manuscript.

That’s what happened to Vanessa Couchman last year. Although she wasn’t the winner or runner-up, she was one of four entrants invited to submit completed novels. You can read her account of how she gained her publishing deal here.

Here’s wishing all entrants the very best of luck.

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Getting to know … Barbara Scott Emmett @BSE_Writer

What genre would you say your novels fall into, or do they defy classification?
Apart from one crime novel, my work probably falls into the category of general fiction with a metaphysical aspect. My first novel, The Man with the Horn, is about a woman fascinated by the demigod Dionysos. The book loosely follows the myth of Dionysos but in a modern setting.

My next book The Land Beyond Goodbye, features Australian aboriginal magic and what might be called an epiphany experienced by the protagonist—the awareness that there is more to life than is at first obvious.

My latest novel, Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion, similarly references the epiphanic force, on this occasion brought about by a Rimbaldian derangement of the senses and hypnotism.

What made you choose that genre?
I am fascinated by the mystical experience, whether brought about through drugs, fasting, religious fervour, hypnotic states, asceticism or otherwise. This fascination often (though not always) leads to my writing being classed as ‘metaphysical’.  My interest in the mystic state is non-denominational and I attribute no religious aspect to it and, though I know personally that it can be experienced, I cannot be sure it is real in any meaningful sense. I therefore continue to explore it in its various forms.

I tried writing a thriller – Don’t Look Down – but I’m not entirely satisfied with how it turned out. I find it difficult to stick to genre constraints as I tend to wander off into strange byways. I’m just not self-disciplined enough, I suppose.

How long does it take you to write a book?
Absolutely ages! I wish I could write quickly but as far as novels are concerned it’s a slow-going process for me. I have to feel my way into it and then write many thousands of words which will eventually be ditched, in order to extract the actual book that I hope is hidden somewhere in amongst them all. It’s like chipping away at a block of stone and hoping to find the statue inside.

What is your work schedule like when you're writing?
Once I get going, I try to write at least something each day even if it’s only a paragraph. I also spend far too much time researching and reading around my subject as a way of not getting on with it. Somehow a book always manages to come out of it – but I’m frequently astonished that I have managed to write so much. I wouldn’t advise anyone to hold their breath waiting for my books!

Where do you get your ideas for your books?
Sometimes it’s a place – Australia, France, Germany or wherever that I feel I want to write about and ideas will come out of what I know of that place. Sometimes it’s a passion – Rimbaud, mysticism, Dionysos – that I want to explore. Usually it’s a combination of place and passion. I also like writing flawed characters – there aren’t really any heroes or heroines in my books. I like writing about ordinary people who have somehow wandered into extraordinary circumstances.

When did you write your first book and how old were you?
My very first novel was called Lucifer’s Gift and it has long since been shredded and wiped from memory (both electronic and human).  I wrote it in my mid-thirties – half a lifetime ago. I occasionally think I might take the ideas for that novel (a young man having a nervous breakdown who chats with a rather urbane devil) and rewrite it completely anew – but I don’t know if I ever will.

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
These days I’m very much involved in upcycling old furniture. I have either painted or d├ęcoupaged just about everything in my house that will stand still long enough and now I’m getting commissions to do things for other people. I suspect it’s because I haven’t yet got fully started on my next novel and my creativity has to get out somehow.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I’m not a planner and like to let the writing come naturally so I’m often surprised at the turns a story will take of its own accord. I’m also frequently surprised when I read things over after a break – sometimes I don’t even recall writing particular passages. Creativity in general always amazes me: where does it come from? how do we make it happen? I still don’t know the answer – I only know it always does happen, eventually!

How many books have you written?
I’ve written more books than I’ve published – six full novels and three unfinished ones. The four I’ve published are The Man with the Horn, The Land Beyond Goodbye, Don’t Look Down and my latest, Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion. I’ve also published a book of short stories, Drowning: Four Short Stories, and a book of quirky poetry, Wasps & Scorpions: Luv Pomes and Other Lies.

Which is your favourite and why?
My favourite is always the one I’ve just written! However, I do believe Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion is my best book yet. I can’t say it’s perfect because nothing ever is but I put as much effort as I could into writing the best book I was capable of at the time. It also has a claim to be my favourite because it is centred around a missing manuscript by the French Symbolist poet, Rimbaud. Like Andrea in the novel, I’m a bit of a Rimbaud fanatic.

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I don’t know that I had any particular ambitions as a child – I just wanted to grow up as quickly as possible to find out what would happen.  I was always interested in writing and probably knew I would write in one form or another but I didn’t know it was possible for me to be ‘a writer’. I just wanted to grow up and have adventures – which I did. I exercised my pen writing home about them (heavily censored, of course!) and realised I had a natural skill that I could develop.

What are you working on now?
I have made a tentative start on a new novel but I haven’t yet fully found the way in to it. At the moment I am simply doing background research (in between painting furniture) and playing around with characters and situations to see what gels. I don’t like to talk too much about new projects as that tends to kill them off, so all I can say is that it may be about two poets who lived 800 years apart and a dead man on a beach.

After many years travelling the globe, Barbara Scott Emmett now lives back in her home town of Newcastle upon Tyne. She writes in a room overlooking the river where she can enjoy the sight of colourful sailing dinghies, party boats, kittiwakes and dark clouds rolling in from the sea.

She lives with her husband Sandy, aka crime writer Jimmy Bain, and their cat Gizzie.

She has previously published three novels, a short story collection and a book of poetry. Her latest novel Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion was published in 2014 in association with Triskele Books.

Purchase links for all books can be found at Pentalpha Publishing Edinburgh

The ebooks of both Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion and The Land Beyond Goodbye will be available at the promotional price of .99c / 77p on 1st & 2nd November as part of the Awesome Indies Website Relaunch.

Twitter: @BSE_Writer

Published Books:
Delirium: The Rimbaud Delusion (Paperback and ebook)
The Man with the Horn  (Paperback – ebook available soon)

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

On @carolJhedges Pink Sofa

As you know, most Wednesdays I have a guest on here – and today will be no exception – but I thought I’d mention that I occasionally also get invited out to play.

Recently I was fortunate enough to spend time on the celebrated Pink Sofa hosted by the incredibly talented Carol Hedges (author of too many titles to mention here – visit her site for the list).

Carol asked me to talk about something dear to my heart, which is encouraging children to read. My post for her covers what happened the first couple of times I stood up in front of a hall full of children to read sections of Vlad the Inhaler to them.

It was terrifying. Click here to find out why.

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions

Friday, 24 October 2014

Writing for Children - Tip 19 #writetip

Your novel needs to be made up of a series of big moments, called story points, joined together by slightly quieter sections.

Tip 19 – Pause and Take a Deep Breath

Let’s say your young hero has just foiled an attempt to kidnap his alien friend who has special powers. Good guys want his friend to save the earth; bad guys want to use him to take over the world. The kidnap attempt and the hero’s actions in foiling it are a story point; your readers will now need a short break before the next story point.

It’s a good idea to allow a pause and deep breath before sending the hero, and your readers, off on the next part of the adventure.

This way of playing cat and mouse with the readers heightens the tension and keeps them on the edge of their seats. Because the story goes up and down like a roller coaster, your readers will never be able to anticipate what happens next.

Some ways to use story points

  • Throw in surprises and take your hero off in a totally unexpected direction.
  • Have the reader feel that all is well, only to find danger coming from an unlikely source.
  • Keep the readers guessing. Drip feed little bits of information that make your readers wonder if all is as it seems.
  • Have them desperate to find out what happens next by leaving your heroine in the middle of a story point and then going to a part of the story that is nothing to do with the crisis you’ve just described.
  • Pose a mystery. Give enough information for your readers to know something mysterious is afoot, but not enough for them to know what it is.

Critique Service for Writers
Flash 500 Home Page: Flash Fiction, Humour Verse
and Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis Competitions