Two photos today. Both secured from a free photo site and on the first page of my search for images of 'creative writing'. I thought they were both rather lovely, but ever so slightly not anything to do with creative writing.
Unless you want to be metaphorical...
In which case, the small image is, in my mind, the flash competition entries. Have you written yours yet? Only 250 words and a whole month before the closing date. Go HERE
The beautiful and burgeoning cloud below is how my mind is currently feeling about The Exeter Story Prize competition. It's for a story of up to ten thousand words. I have yet to put the details up on the site - soon, promise! The closing date won't be until next April so there's a while to go. By then, the winner of the 2014 Exeter Novel Prize will already have been announced. Could it be you? Go HERE
If you want to give yourself the best chance with any competition, whether it's one of ours or not, then do your homework. So many times during judging do we come across great ideas and talent but the story can't win because of poor execution or a major error resulting of just not knowing! Read the previous winners. Go to a writing class or group. Read a creative writing text book (oh, how can I not give The Creative Writing Student's Handbook a plug here?), or at the very least, get someone else to read your story, if possible someone who writes too or knows more than your nearest and dearest.
If you're reasonably local you might like Friday Writers. Go HERE for more info about the course.
Happy writing and don't forget - you can't win if you don't enter!
The CreativeWritingMatters Catalogue
Today we are celebrating at HQ. After a lot of work, consultation and yet more work, we have published our textbook, The Creative Writing Student's Handbook on Kindle.
Cat Walks has been out in the world for a few weeks and we were thrilled that it reached No 5 in the best seller list - in the Cats category. It's worth remembering that there are 2,711,905 titles on Kindle as of two minutes ago, so to be in the top hundred of anything is fantastic.
Now we have all fingers and toes crossed for The Creative Writing Student's Handbook. Obviously, we would like to sell well, but what we really want is for all students of creative writing to find it helpful. For a teacher, the greatest validation of his or her work, is when a student gets in touch to tell you of their competition or publishing success.
You do not need to own a Kindle in order to download our books. If you have a desktop, laptop, iPad or smart phone of almost any sort, you can download the Kindle app free from Amazon. It's very straightforward and will open the door of a huge virtual library that weighs the same as your device.
The Creative Writing Student's Handbook is £1.95. To purchase please click on the cover or go HERE
Cat Walks is priced at £1.02. Please click on the cover or go HERE to purchase.
Our flashy cover
Hooray! It's here! Well, nearly. Please come back on February 1st for a look at the interior. But for now, here's the first glimpse of a book I have been working on with the estimable Margaret James.
I met Margaret some years ago, when I joined Exeter Writers and we soon discovered our shared enjoyment of teaching creative writing.
We both have had the huge pleasure of seeing our students achieve publication, win or be shortlisted for prizes. They have become confident, articulate writers who have learned to use their own special talents to their maximum potential.
And we have learnt from them. This book is not yet set. It is our intention to post chapter instalments each month with a view to getting good feedback. In time we hope to produce the most useful creative writing handbook there is.
It will have a special page of its own HERE (password protected until Feb 1st).
Thank you lovely students. We couldn't have done this without you!
Anyone seen the traveling lemon lately?
Do you recognise that chap on the right? He looks a bit like - no, an awful lot like - Benedict Cumberbatch dressed as a pilot. An airline Captain actually.
Yes, Cabin Pressure is back on Radio 4 for a fourth series and I am a happy bunny. It's written by the chap on the far left, the daft Arthur in the series, but in real life, John Finnemore. I'm writing this blog as a result of reading an interview with him on the Radio Times website. Go HERE. I think it's funny (the bit about the frog) but that's not the reason I'm linking to it. What we get is insight into how he works. Obviously, he's a clever, well educated chap with a sense of humour but he hasn't given up looking, learning and asking questions about his writing. I love the fact he watches TV comedies with a notebook to hand. In particular, take in the section where he talks about plotting and character: the twin pillars of successful writing.
There's also a link on that page to the iPlayer site and the first programme in series 4. I was one of the seventeen thousand applicants for two hundred tickets to the recording. Needless to say, I didn't get any. Some things in this life are a matter of chance and that's all there is to it. Being a successful writer requires chance but more than that, determination. Before that that though, we have to write, keep writing, experiment, fail, cry, learn, write more. We can do this by ourselves but it's often quicker and much more fun together.
Check out Courses HERE and Workshops HERE
ps For Cabin Pressure fans, I only have one more thing to say: 'Yellow car!'
I haven't read this, but I know what it is. Do you?
Last Saturday's Guardian included a feature - HERE - about the best-selling books of 2012. The top three for most of the year were The Amorous Adventures of Anastasia by Ms E L James. No, wait...that's not right. You know, don't you? Who doesn't? After all, Ms James surpassed J K Rowlings record earnings of over £40 million in a single year way back in August. Gosh. That's a colossal lots of books sold.
Perhaps (and let's hope) it's a blip. The world isn't really seeking more sadomasochistic love stories, is it? The article suggests not.
Sex, however, isn't going away. One of the reasons I asked Jane Holland to give a workshop for CreativeWritingMatters is that during my teaching and competition-judging career I have read a considerable amount of writing about sex that is inappropriate, shocking, hilarious, or absent altogether. Worse, is the, this goes here, that goes there, Biology text book writing. Eeek! It's a tricky subject.
Perhaps a lace hankie might be the most erotic thing in your book? Or a pair of handcuffs, if you're Ms E L James. Do you want to write Mills and Boon Spice (sensual and sexual stories for discerning women) or erotic stories to upload onto the Kindle Store. Perhaps you want to avoid anything overt altogether, but are your characters to remain celibate throughout your book?
Go HERE for more info about the Writing About Sex workshop.
I'm arranging another short story course and also a course for writers wishing to take their work to the next level. More info soon!
Here's to a Happy and Rewarding 2013!
Click to enlarge
I'm wondering if the collective noun for writers could be a 'lunch'. I'm sure there have been other suggestions and maybe there is even an official term. I'd love to know what it was.
Here is the South West Chapter of the Romantic Novelists' Association about to tuck into a very good lunch at the City Gate in Exeter. Writing is for the most part an extremely solitary occupation but once writers leave their caves, much jolly socialising takes place. In fact, it's fair to say, they make up for lost time.
I (third nearest, left) went to see The Hobbit afterwards with Su Bristow (nearest left) and Margaret James (next to Su). A formative book of my childhood, when thinking about it, I am straight back in the classroom sitting cross-legged on the floor during story time. I wondered how on earth they would make three films out of a shorter and slighter book than Lord of the Rings, but I can see it will be fine. I was thrilled to be back in Middle-Earth. New Zealand, Howard Shore's score, the casting - all fab. The battles are too long but hey, they'll please the majority of the audience.
I've been woefully bad at writing Christmas cards, so if anyone reading this feels aggrieved that I haven't sent them one, I do apologise!
Dartmouth in December
Yesterday couldn't have been more beautiful for my trip down to Dartmouth. I was delighted to have been asked to lead a workshop by the good writing folk of the town and we had, in my opinion, a very fruitful and enjoyable time. I talked too much as usual and went on too long, but they didn't seem to mind. Thanks to Lindsay for hosting and dropping me off in Totnes, which has hardly changed at all since I was a student at Dartington many decades ago.
My tea-shop of choice back then is still there and didn't disappoint. It features in my latest novel too. I imaged my happy couple sitting at the table by the window and chomping through large slices of Devon apple cake. Except Beth wasn't that happy. She knew that the love of her life had an unopened letter in his pocket that might change the course of their future together. Oh dear. Will we ever find out? I hope so, and still have all my fingers and toes crossed that my novel will be published one day.
If you write about a relationship, sooner or later, your lovers will probably want to have sex. They will! Honestly! They usually do it more than once as well. And if not that couple, then another. Of course, you might decide that you don't want to provide your reader with intimate details but what is enough? What is merely embarrassing or laughable? Jane Holland, until recently Executive Editor for Embrace Books, will be leading a workshop on writing about sex for CreativeWritingMatters on February 2nd. Go HERE
There's only one place left on my short story course beginning on January 11th. It's booked up really quickly! Go HERE if you would like that last place.
PS. It would be really brilliant if you clicked on the Twitter or Facebook 'like' button. Thank you!
I'm writing this with a Lemsip in the mug on my desk instead of the usual tea. My voice has almost disappeared bar an occasional croak. Fun for my class this morning; they all had to pay special attention.
There's lots of common writing ailments that we all suffer from and unlike physical illness that present obvious symptoms, they can often present with nothing more than a feeling of disenchantment or malaise. Something's not right but without diagnosis, how do you know what remedy to take?
You can see where I'm going with this.
It's a sweet coincidence that I'm ill at the same time as suggesting to all of you out there with writing ailments that you should come along to the writer's surgery. Think of Sophie and myself as literary Lemsips.
Go HERE for more information.
There was something about the comfortable posture of this cat and the way she was outlined against the wall that demanded a photo. Besides the title of this blog pinged into my mind there and then. But should it have been 'a hot bin lid'? Hmm. Titles are very serendipitous and it's worth keeping a title alarm ticking all the time. A passing comment or a headline can lead to a title. They can arise out of a story or provide the impulse to write one. They signpost the reader to the content. Sometimes the title can be the best thing about a story, rather like this cat perched on top of lots of rubbish. If she hadn't been there, I wouldn't have taken the photo.
Perhaps finding a title isn't your problem but deciding where to begin your story is. I've cropped this photo because it had too much wall and not enough cat to begin with. It can be the same with writing. What should go and what should stay? Sometimes advice from a professional is required.
We can help! Check out the Writer's Surgery HERE.
Read Margaret's Blog