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How to get startesd,

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& create a solid
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Learn from


Study the short story masters

Katie Ffordes style and technique
How to write reportage


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26/09/2016 16:45









How to get started,

enjoy new styles
& create a solid
foundation for
your novel


Win a 5-day
trip to



The 1m-a-year

Learn from


Study the short story masters

Katie Ffordes style and technique
How to write reportage


9 770964 916259

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26/09/2016 10:47

Published by
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Publisher: Janet Davison

Dear Reader

Faced with a blank page, or the prospect of finally giving in to your urges
and putting your work out there for the world to see, many of us struggle
one way or another to get started with writing. But theres nothing to it.
Theres no magic formula. You just start.
Strip away all the psychological obstacles and there really is nothing
stopping you, and one of the best things about being your writer is that
you truly are in charge of your own projects, but a little planning can go a
long way to help you build walls, instead of running headlong into them. If
youre struggling to get started, Patsy Collins encourages you this month
to just get on with it (p12), and Simon Hall offers valuable advice on casting
your net wide to find the writing style and approach that suits you (p14),


worth considering by all of us, however experienced, to find new ideas

and approaches. Further down the writing line (or for the very ambitious
beginners!), James McCreet helps you lay a solid foundation for your novel

Editor: Jonathan Telfer


(p16) and Simon Whaley explores how, when and why to get an agent (p28).

Assistant editor: Tina Jackson


do bear in mind a much more widespread problem than the fear of getting

Senior designer: Nathan Ward



So dont delay. Get off the starting line and well help you to The End. But
started: you wont want to stop.

Jonathan Telfer

And thats the only writing-related problem we cant help you with.

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has been writing since

1985. Over a long career,
he has had several hundred
articles published in a wide
variety of magazines, and is
the author of twelve books
that span fiction and nonfiction genres. His recent
PhD examined the effects
of technology on modern
life. Having concluded his
business interests, he now
writes full time.

writes short stories for

magazines including Womans
Weekly, My Weekly, The
Weekly News, The Peoples
Friend, Best, Yours and Take A
Break Fiction Feast. She also
writes short non-fiction pieces,
mostly real-life or nostalgia
inspired, and on writing-related
subjects, and teaches writing to
adults in a number of different
settings. Her website is:

is a crime fiction author

and a BBC Television news
correspondent. His novels are
about a TV reporter who covers
crimes. He has contributed
short stories to a range of
magazines and is also a tutor
in creative writing, teaching
at writers schools such as
Swanwick, Fishguard and
Winchester, on cruise ships
and overseas. His website is:

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Email submissions preferred. All mss must be typewritten and accompanied by a sae for return.
Copyright Warners Group Publications plc. ISSN 0964-9166
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should make sensible enquiries themselves before sending money or incurring substantial costs in sending manuscripts or other material. Take particular care when responding to
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documentation and be willing for their names to be disclosed.

p3 Editor's letter.indd 3


26/09/2016 16:46


In this issue ...


61 250 in cash prizes and

publication in or latest subscriberonly short story competitions

ON THE COVER 30 Beat the bestsellers

The style and technique of Katie Fforde

44 Shelf life: Dinah Jefferies

The bestselling novelist shares her five favourite reads


74 Crime file: Laura McHugh

Setting is vital for the mystery author

23 Beginners: Burning up with ideas A radical

clear-out can be just the thing to generate fresh ideas

86 Author profile: Robert Bryndza

The million-selling WM subscriber discusses whats
behind the success of his thrillers

24 Writing life: Unplugged Check out these hardware

and software options for distraction-free writing

108 My writing day: Victoria Fox

The bestselling bonkbuster author conjures sultry
scenarios as an antidote to domesticity

34 Talk it over: Food for thought

Bad eating habits and snacking are constant risks for home
writers, so follow our advice to stay healthy in body and mind

38 Get writing: And now for something

completely different Step back to see things in a


different way and reinvigorate your writing

46 Writing life:
Hell is other people
Some writers groups
are better than others
but most (hopefully!)
manage to avoid what
Lora Bishop found at
her local session

Teaching himself the process from scratch,

Adam Croft has grown to be one of the
UKs most successful self-publishers

10 Grumpy Old Bookman
Our champion of wired writing is delighted to discover something
of a renaissance in the world of printed literary magazines
12 From the other side of the desk
Its time writers took off the rose-tinted spectacles, says literary
agent Piers Blofeld
28 The business of writing: Agent attraction
Attracting an agent can be the start of a long business relationship,
so learn more about the wooing process

110 Notes from the margin

Researching online romance puts our columnist in a
murderous mood


78 Technology for writers: Write your own adventure

A runaway success in the early days of home computing, the
text-based adventure game is enjoying a resurgence on modern
mobile devices. Heres how to get started

p4 contents.indd 4

21 A publishing deal with The Book

Guild and a 1,000 advance in our
exclusive competition

39 500 in cash prizes and

publication in our latest open short
story competitions

26 How I got published

Debut childrens author Martin Stewart



27 A place at Iceland Writers Retreat

including flights and accommodation
worth 1,500

11 On writing: William Golding

See page 11

88 Your essential
monthly round-up of
competitions, paying
markets, opportunities
to get into print and
publishing industry news

26/09/2016 11:37

page 11



St rtionugt

12 The starting line

How to get yourself off to a great start as a writer

14 Pick and mix

Help yourself at the writers buffet and find the flavour
that most suits you
16 Novel foundations
Start solidly or your story will collapse later, says James
McCreet, revealing the planning process of his current


48 Under the microscope
The first 300 words of a readers
manuscript are subjected to a
forensic micro-critique

70 Writing for children:

Mistakes to avoid
Part two of our mini-series
looks at how not to scupper
your childrens book with its
submission package

50 Fiction focus:
The big picture
Planning an epic? Then you need
to start thinking on a grand scale


76 Fantastic realms:
Feel the fear
Understand how fear works
to keep readers on the edge of
their seats

68 Short story masterclass:

The masters point of view
Handle narrative viewpoint
in your fiction by learning
from the best

ON THE COVER 72 Feature writing: The front line

Writing reportage requires dedication and rock-solid
narrative skills
83 Going to market
85 Research tips: Take note
Make your research easier with note-taking software

Back soon!


32 Get away from
your desk
Forthcoming events to
inspire your writing life

103 Travel writing know-how


42 Poetry winners:
Read the winning entries in our Midsummer Nights Dream
poetry competition
64 Poetry workshop: Skeletons in the cupboard
Explore two poems one classic, one sent by a reader that
illustrate the power of the dramatic monologue

36 Pen pushers:
What you dont say
Try these exercises to discover
that what you leave out of your
writing can be as effective as
what you put in

65 Poetry workout
Pay careful attention to how your punctuation affects your poetry

37 Train your brain:

Red editing pen

59 Circles roundup:
Game, set and match
Playing board games can enhance
group members writing skills

66 Poetry from A-Z

An alphabetic guide through the language of poetry

40 Competition winner:
Read the winning entry in our
crime story competition

62 Competition winner
Read the winning entry in our
nostalgia writing competition

52 Subscriber spotlight
WM subscribers share their publishing success stories
58 Circles roundup
Writing groups share their interests and activities
67 Time shift
Shifting her setting by just a decade brought subscriber Fiona
Veitch Smiths historical crime novels to life

6 Miscellany

81 Computer clinic

8 Letters

82 Helpline
Your writing problems solved

22 Editorial calendar
35 Novel ideas
80 Writers web watch

p4 contents.indd 5

Game, set
and match


26/09/2016 11:37




Comedy quibbles, the best baddies, romance reimagined, dark days and
denining drive... serious matters weighed up in the wide world of writing

Drive to work

Ben Myers, of the New Statesman, reviewing DBC

Pierres Release the Bats: Writing Your Way Out of It,
referred to the age-old question: can creative writing
be taught?
He continued: To which the answer is invariably:
well, yes, probably, a bit, to wildly varying degrees of
success. To dismiss academic degrees, residential writing courses
and writing guides outright is to deny budding writers from all
social backgrounds a chance to have a go. Nevertheless, the best
a teacher can do is inspire and encourage, or add finesse to any
existing talent. Because the real work takes place alone in rooms,
day after day, month after month, driven largely by delusional
desire a point DBC Pierre notes here. No one is born a writer:
rather, you are shaped by experience, stimulus, ambition. You
cant teach hunger.
Nor is writing a science to be broken down to simple formulas, which can
render how to write books problematic. The only fixed factor is that the
novelist crawls to his or her desk to play God. Words are their weapons to
be deployed in deadly combinations, and the imagination remains a largely
unexplored planet, through which the writer wanders, treading a thin line
between brilliant and batshit mental.

Figures of speech

p6 Miscellany.indd 6

Tartan Noir
spreads its
Is Scotlands obsession with dark
comedy and dourness turning into an
international phenomenon?
David Manderson, of the University of the West of
Scotland, who has co-authored the book The Glass Half
Full with Scottish director Eleanor Yule seems to think so.
Pamela Paterson of The Scotsman reported that David
Manderson has now started a new study on how the world is
becoming more downbeat.
The creative writing lecturer, said: We see this side of the
Scottish psyche almost every day, from comedies such as Still
Game, Limmy and Rab C Nesbitt and films like Filth and
Trainspotting, to our prolific Tartan Noir output from the likes of
Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride and Christopher Brookmyre
And its not just here. Nordic Noir is more popular than
ever. Hollywoods films and heroes are getting darker and its
increasingly hard for anyone who wants to have a cheery
drama or series commissioned for television.

Mammys boys beat Dads Army?

The people who run the BBC dont know
what makes ordinary people laugh, claimed
Christopher Stevens of the Daily Mail when
Mrs Browns Boys was voted the best British
comedy of the 21st century.
Apparently its the finest comedy we now
have to offer the world: Brendan OCarroll,
dragged up in a wig and cardie, spitting
F-words while a crowd of extras mutter
Yes Mammyand No Mammy.
He invited comparison with real
ensemble comedy, such as Dads Army,
where every personality was distinct.
Almost fifty years after the show first
screened, we still think of these characters
as archetypes everybody knows someone
as pompous as Captain Mainwaring, or as
miserable as Private Frazer.
Christopher wrote: Were still here,
laughing at the classics, gobbling up boxsets
of everything from Monty Python to One
Foot In The Grave, Citizen Smith to Father

Ted. British comedy writers didnt leave

us behind modern comedy writers had
veered off in terrible directions. Were just
waiting for them to find their bearings
and come back to us.
He recalled that Only Fools And Horses,
written by John Sullivan, ran for more than
twenty years, and this year marks the sixtieth
anniversary of the first real British TV
sitcom, Hancocks Half Hour.

26/09/2016 09:37


Baddies are
good for you
Online bookseller The Book People
surveyed 1,003 UK mums and
dads and found that 33 percent
would steer clear of buying books
containing frightening characters
for their children.
A fifth of parents found the
Wicked Witch of the West from L
Frank Baums The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as the
scariest of their childhood, with the Child Catcher
from Ian Flemings Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang in
second place. (Although it didnt escape comment
in Miscellany Manors that the Child Catcher was
Roald Dahls creation for the film and does not
appear in the book.)
Third was the Big Bad Wolf, in his grandmotherswallowing Little Red Riding Hood incarnation,
fourth the Grand High Witch from Roald Dahls
The Witches and fifth, and fifth Cruella de Vil, from
Dodie Smiths The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
But psychologist Emma Kenny said: Being
frightened by a book helps forge resilience, adding:
The world can be a scary place children will get
into situations where theyre told off by teachers, or
fall out with friends. Knowing how to confront fear
is a good thing.
Children are often
being wrapped up in
cotton wool. Risk and
fear are something we
need in childhood. We
know that people who
take risks, in the long
term, do better than
those who dont.

Reimagining romance
They have been called patriarchal and formulaic, but an
academic is making the case for Mills & Boon romances to
be considered as feminist work, revealed Mark Brown, arts
correspondent in the Guardian.
Val Derbyshire, a doctoral researcher at Sheffield, had
said: It is such a shame that they have been so vilified,
and that people treat them as trash and the black sheep
of the literary family. There really is literary value in them,
which is why I continue to read them.
She added: They are definitely not anti-feminist. These are novels written primarily
by women, for women why would they set out to insult their target audience? It
doesnt make any sense. Instead, they are largely stories of feminist triumph, with the
brooding male hero often forced to acknowledge his sexism and change his ways.
Mills & Boon was created in 1908 by Gerald Mills and
Charles Boon, who made romance its principal concern in
the 1930s, and went on to publish thousands of easy-reading
novels. The company recently announced a fun series of
humour books, celebrating the sisterhood from A to Z
with a knowing wink.
Taking their cue from the hugely popular Ladybirds for
Grown-Ups, the Mills & Boon Modern Girls Guides will
contain vital advice every woman needs to survive the
modern world on topics such as drunk Ebay-ing, office
fridge etiquette and explaining your job to your parents.
They bring together nostalgic black and white archive photographs of 20th
century women with witty 21st century commentary from a
dynamic writing duo under the pen-name Ada Adverse.
Priced at 6.99 each, the Mills & Boon Modern Girls
Guide to Working 9 to 5 and The Mills & Boon Modern
Girls Guide to Happy Hour will be published on 3
November, with two further titles, The Mills & Boon
Modern Girls Guide to Helping Yourself and The Mills &
Boon Modern Girls Guide to Happy Endings published on
29 December and 26 January respectively.

p6 Miscellany.indd 7


26/09/2016 09:38



We want to hear your news and views on the writing world, your advice for fellow writers
and dont forget to tell us what you would like to see featured in a future issue...
Write to: Letters to the editor, Writing Magazine, Warners
Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds
LS1 5JD; email: (Include your
name and address when emailing letters. Ensure all

My Mother always said I wouldnt be told
anything. She was referring to my inability to
follow instruction. Thankfully Ive reached an
age where I realise I dont actually know it all
and Im willing to listen.
When I came across Ian Ayriss practical
advice (WM, Oct) I followed his step-by-step
instructions to find my inner voice.
Im overwhelmed by the amount of short story
ideas Ive produced as a result. The only problem
I have is the inner voice I uncovered sounds a lot
like my Mothers.
Stalham, Norfolk

The star letter each month

earns a copy of the Writers
& Artists Yearbook 2017,
courtesy of Bloomsbury,

Its past one oclock in the morning and
Melanie Napthines tale (WM, Oct) had me
scared witless. As a avid reader of horror and the
paranormal, it takes a lot to make the hairs on
the back of my neck stand up, but this one did it.
Although not stated, we know the unspeakable
horror the protagonist is about to discover as
the story ends. Stephen King could
not have done it better.
Crowthorne, Berkshire


p8 Letters.indd 8

letters, a maximum of 250 words, are exclusive to Writing

Magazine. Letters may be edited.)
When referring to previous articles/letters, please state
month of publication and page number.

Last time I had a baby, I cancelled my subscription
to Writing Magazine, reasoning that I simply would
not have the time or energy for reading let alone
writing. I felt deprived, missed the magazine terribly
and hardly did any writing. Ive just had another
baby and this time Ive kept the subscription.
Before I had children, I was too much of a perfectionist. I mistakenly believed
that there was one proper way to write and that if you couldnt find it you would
never be any good. The brilliant idea in my head would fall flat and sprawl
flaccidly across the paper, frustrating my attempts at translation. I suffered from
a paralysis, a fear of writing it wrong. Now, I feel quite blas when it comes to
writing. I think, I will give it a go, I will experiment. I will write the same idea
three different ways and see which works best, and then I will keep rewriting.
I think of WM as my trusty writing companion. Whenever I am working on
something it is there whispering away in my ear, keep on writing keep on
reading kill your darlings, and so I do. Most importantly, it reminds me that
where there is a will there is a way. Finding time to write will never be easy but
at the same time it will never be impossible either.
Upper Swainswick, Somerset

Feelgood festival
Thank you so much for the article about writing conferences and festivals in the
September 2016 issue.
On a whim, after reading the article, I bought a ticket for NAWGFest and had
a fantastic time. As a newbie, and knowing nobody else there, I may have been
a bit overkeen. I collected loads of recommendations for books/videos/resources/
retreats, entered the mini tale competition, volunteered for an exciting collaborative
writing project thats taking place next year, got asked to write two articles for the
NAWG online magazine, joined two writers groups, read out one of my stories
to the assembled masses after the gala dinner and got hypnotised to unlock my
unconscious creativity.
It was fantastic to spend time with other writers, exchanging experiences and
encouragement, and having other people really understand what Im going through
with my writing. The conference was incredibly well organised by the tireless
committee, and all the workshops I attended were both entertaining and informative.
I have come home re-enthused, re-motivated, and with a ton of projects, ideas
and opportunities to explore.
Enfield, Middlesex

26/09/2016 09:44


What an inspirational edition the October issue of WM
was. As a disabled author myself (I have Aspergers
Syndrome), it was interesting to read articles by others
who are also disabled, especially Robert Laing, who
has Aspergers too. All these authors have made me
determined to carry on with my writing and to try to
write about my own disability again in non-fiction as
well as in fiction. So thank you authors.
London SE23

The power of
Robert Laing couldnt
find articles that spoke
to him
directly on living with Aspergers,
so he decided to write
them and help
others in the process


s writers, we are always being

problem child, as difficult,
told to write about what
as lazy, as
others, that there was (and
stubborn and unable to process
still is) a
even the lost generation
of Aspies, out there,
simplest of instructions.
good and bad. Use things
some of whom may still, even
youve seen on TV, in the
now, need
street, in your
help to come to terms with
minds eye. Use things youve
An insiders voice
their own
felt. Use
apparent differences from
things youve heard people
I had never seen an article,
their peer
say, both in
written by an groups, their
friends, their families and
context and out. Every writing
insider, for the parents who
are so sick,
society in general. A generation
I have been to, every writing
fed up, angry and frustrated
by their
in making that step from just
I have read, every writer I
children, because everyone
have spoken
elses children getting by
to moving on and making
with, they have all, at some
could do things so easily and
so simply.
said essentially the same thing
with the world. I
For their own, everything
to me
such a
also thought back on a lot
in the
write from the heart, about
of the wellsight stand
effort. I wanted
your own refused to let losing his
to show
intentioned, but incomprehensible
personal experience.
The debut
the mechanics
It may be about
of Aspergers from
to me, help Id been given
his dreams, he tells the
something really deep, intense
of pursuing
inside, help them ease the
friction in my formative
years by friends, family,
personal, you dont know
if there is a
that they
teachers, support workers
market for it, but you have
may, unknowingly or not,
and colleagues.
got to get
be causing
I wanted to show those people
this thing right out from inside
show them and their child
or and
you. a
to give us advice that would
review to a real agent
I wanted to write.
have the
ne might
path instead.
I wanted
be a writer?
to get my
So why the desire to
intended effect and to avoid
the ability
voice heard. I waswriter
SoofI adecided
making the
sense to write these articles.
a brand
It came mostly out
same mistakes again.
new paying market.
I felt
forgets the rules
that the
to spell
time was right to show
I feltor
I had
paid find
of frustration. I just
Mistakes such as giving advice
my dues long enough
others why my own, self-developed
of punctuation
in the
that I considered
the lines of watch what youre
T Hamarket.
E BU S I N E S Sdoing-freepublished.
coping strategies, such as
F W R I T Imany
N G books
it huge obstacle to getting
writing down
to people and expecting the
completely satisfying.
I decided
my feelings new good and
whose debut
Aspie to
use my
But nottoMark
Asperger was
bad, had
and Broken brings aboth
Syndrome asprocedural
Mistakes such
their intended advice
had seen
police a hook. IBurned
to the crime
lots year.
as explaining a whole task
duo of detectives had
this of
articles for thosebyworking
seemed to fail.
in one go
a More importantly,
published Sphere in
and not picking up on the
genre, tasked withI needed
people with
vital tools was
fact that
to showhisthem why this may
losingI these
had seen
burned inside
we were not following them
colleagues death,have
of articles written
and did,
only part ofby
in fact, need the respective
car on the sea frontThere
than me, Im
on how
have learned
over the past
by the professional
be broken down just a little
to cope with
of writing has investigation ten years,
an explosion in the field
so thethe
I found
Mistakes such as giving the
standards department.
lots of those interesting
of research
of Aspergers
same advice
My issue with
difficulties in theand
doesnt wantliterature.
time and again, when it hadnt
is that the forcethat
to read. But,editing,
the they
field itself is in danger of
them seemed to
and none of too.
the first time. Show them
reputation damaged
really speakBut
livesofin Southendhow this had
to me
anotherwith expert (and,
But theres
made me feel. Show them
might uncover.sometimes,
age (38, since you
why certain
his wife, Debbie, certainly
not so expert)
on-Sea with
opinions and
things werent working and
strand to the storyline,
in the way
I needed
the voice
to get
even more
an article
of the Aspie
fromwas, I felt, in
girl released
of my
importantly the things that
vulnerable young
generation (those
being a fulldanger of
who his
is trying
of pursuing
born of
in the
would work, in their place.
the care system Iwho
late 1970s and would
knew her were
losingofhis eyesight in
best other people out
time writer. have
the death ofthere
just before the turn
there, to whom I had to reach
creative writing
to get this,
I sent it out
2002, he of
he admits.
out, in
in the short term,process,
friend, Alice.order
An article for someone
I reasoned, but,
course at the
to let them
an advanced
haveknow that they were
followed by who
had been
to agents first,ifand only had
The two police
they read on, they will
hewith disabilities
thought of when growing
are not)
I am
now agent saw
the alone.
up as a
Open University,
miss. My
views about
getting at and then, as one
very different
Whaley chats to two
writersI needed
result, beinfarit not to dismiss
prove, disability
writinga business.
to myself andinfluences
passed with distinction.
character of the dead man,
able to help the Aspie
in their and
the courses I wrote poetry,
lives.asked me to
26 OCTOBERDuring
it entirely
explains Mark, but as they
My now agent saw
life writing, radio plays and
submit something else.
uncover the
enough in it not to
stories, and had one short
What about the
his death, their views change,
runnerit won
fter the spectacle
online after
of the
so different.
p26 Aspergers.indd 26 published
insight to
I firmly
physical writing process?
dismiss it entirely andDisability
us an
which gives
book actually
a competition.
laptop with
that the
I only began to write when
short stories
reader which
writer and
a wannabe
a screen
is how
me to11:04
something else. the MonSter
all, it took
physicaltwelve you deal
text to speech.
play. Inathletes
a where
lifes obstacles.
his wife is
his writing,
retire far
too young from
to complete.
show the world
the internet
Meg an
to her help.
This makes
a silly-hours
job. So it
what theyre
Not allabout writingas her MonSter, describes
has some
the location to
and allows me to type
generally because she
be fair
to say thatthen edits
Dont get hung uphas multiple sclerosis (MS),

are physical,
me, then I imagine or re-imagine
is the root of all my
At some
Prince Harry
too many.
on during
a condition
on doing
make it suitable for
of thewhen
I sit down to write.
result Itohave
the scene
written a
years recent
to step out
have Games,
but of
correcting things
nervous system.
you will
lucky in the submissions
very bodys
I was The
lot aboutincluding
disability, but Ive which
submitofyour workimmune
with a disability
a range
and spelling,
system attacks the
had fiction and factual losing
challenges on a daily basis.
coating surrounding the nerve
forgotten since
seem to on
other subjects behind
Yet those determined enough will find fibres, which can interrupt
for the detail
sight. And published
in a
ways to overcome them, and thats just
the messages
I have a friend who used
TIPS along
TOP travelling
of magazines.
MS is
as true for writers with disabilities
as it
those nerve fibres between the
DCI in the Essex Major
work as a part
of my life,
is for Paralympic sport stars. Having a
brain and the rest of the body.
and he kindly verifies
it doesnt
disability need
not aprevent
It can even cause damage to three or
procedural authenticity.
for in
Meg has also
to read your work. (Choose
people the
being a writer,
or force
give up
nerve fibres themselves.
nextlifebook, as yet untitled,
writing, but itfour
will be
the honest).
of governmental
What this means is thatgoes
is onshe
which is how
to write The
had many Megsathealth
you run your Ifwriting
isnt working and
on a day use.
to day basis, with some
it in a drawer
Nolanit was
or put
out born
and identity, and
days being worse than others.
writers ideas,
the book filled a gap
hing journey can be very
cerebral palsy and, despite
only being
The writing-to-publis
means her approach to her writing
available in 2017.
Grow a thick skin.
shed foundshould
in the be
able to move his
head and
business changes from day to day.
to the
I wanted to write the book I
on to write poetry and novels. His
Everything takes more effort than it
would have liked to read when I first
childhood memoir, Under the Eye of the used to. It randomly messes with
experienced weird symptoms and had
Clock, won the Whitbread Book
of the
physical abilities and steals my energy,
to cope with other peoples reactions
86 OCTOBER 2016
Year Award in 1987.
so I have to manage my resources
to my changed status. At that time,
carefully. The sheer unpredictability
there were a lot of misery memoirs
Lifes hurdles
by disabled people and medical texts
p86 Author Profile.indd
Meg Kingston,
author of The
simplest task.
about illness, but none of these were
MonSter and the Rainbow: Memoir
One of the most debilitating symptoms
written to be readable, and none
of a Disability (
of MS is fatigue, which not only affects
told me what I wanted to know.
megmonster), points out that every
the physical body, but can make thinking
Since publication of The MonSter,
writer has challenges in their life, not
and, therefore, being creative, extremely
I have had grateful feedback from
just those with physical disabilities.
challenging. Despite this, Meg has gone
people with various chronic medical
All writers have hurdles to overcome.
on to develop a flourishing writing
conditions, from medical professionals
A chronic health problem doesnt
business. Shes a successful independent
and people who just wanted to know
need to stop you writing. I have a
author, her short stories have won
more about life at wheelchair height.
MonSter, while other people have
competitions, and shes also contributed
Meg is now in discussions with her
kids, different health issues, elderly
to publications such as the New Scientist
local health board about ways in which
parents, demanding jobs, all of which
and the Radio Times. Ironically, much of
her book can help medical students get
steal your precious writing time. All
this may not have happened if it hadnt
a wider understanding of the condition
writers know how life has a habit of
been for her MS condition, which forced
and the day-to-day impact it has on
ruining their plans. A disability isnt
her to re-evaluate her life.
those diagnosed with it.

R P R O Fyou
UseOexperiences both


Occasionally an article appears in WM that simply lifts

one up. I refer to Octobers New Author Profile. I had
never imagined that blind writers even existed!
Here we have Mark Hardie, whose devoted wife
acts as his eyes, carrying out research for him, etc.
And theres me regularly moaning about this and that regarding my
hitherto unfinished novel, and especially getting the seemingly neverending
research completed.
This man is an inspiration to us all to simply keep plodding on regardless.
I shall cut out the article, pin it above my computer and every time I feel
grumpy or fed up, I shall look up at it and remind myself how lucky we
writers are who have no disabilities.
Swindon, Wiltshire


p46 Business of Writing.indd 46



22/08/2016 11:13

As someone with a disability I enjoyed the article Conquering

Challenges (WM Oct).
In my thirties I suffered significant hearing loss. I should
have been in the prime of my life, propelling my career (in
finance) forward and working towards being a manager.
Instead I struggled to take simple telephone messages,
couldnt take part in let alone lead meetings and my
boss called me gormless.
The prospect of not being able to continue working
gave me the impetus I needed to start writing. I signed up
for WM and after a few hits, but plenty of misses, I saw a
request from Pen & Sword for people to write books for
the Your Towns and Cities in the Great War series. My
hearing means Ill never be able to interview someone for
an article, or join a writing group, but I can write about
something I love history. I pitched Pen & Sword and my
book Isle of Man in the Great War was published in 2015.
Since then Ive had a few other articles published, given
a talk at a local WI and somehow managed to do a book
signing catching someones name is always difficult if you
cant hear correctly. I have also been asked why I wrote the
book. There are various answers to that, but the real reason is
simple. I admire people who write they are not gormless.
Inadvertently, WM gave me my self-respect back. Thank you.
Onchan, Isle of Man






ENTER over
200 competitions
WIN 570,000
in writing prize

Spring from that very first completion I entered is printed

right there in it.
So, have you already left that competition special on the shelf?
Thought, whats the point? Itll never be me...
Ignore that little voice. Go grab it! Start writing! With a little
perseverance, yes, you (really, honestly) can do it!
Edinburgh EH11

SEE your
work in print


Comp.indd 1

You (really, honestly) can do it!

In April, I sat with my Writing Magazine Competition
Special. My plan? Enter at least one competition every month for a
year. For the first week or two, I dilly-dallied. Procrastinated. The
comp special almost ended up in the recycling bin many times.
But I persevered. My first piece was to for the Win Your Way to
Swanwick competition. Despite a broken printers best attempt to
thwart me, and a last-minute dash to the post box, my story made it
in just before the deadline. The thrill of submitting, then expectantly
waiting in hope for the results, felt like a prize in itself. So month
after month, I returned to my Writing Magazine competition
supplement, reminded myself of the deadlines, and persevered with
my novels and stories.
Six months later: I dash to the nearest Waterstones, and grab
Writing Magazine Competition Special off the shelf. The 2017
competition listings magazine proclaiming you can do it!
is already my new bible. Ive circled and starred numerous
competitions. The difference this time? My own prizewinning story







family histories

p8 Letters.indd 9


Self-publishing a book is cheaper

and easier than you think


From design
to distribution

Its clearly not desirable that all competition entries are published in a
costly anthology bought only by the contributors (Talk It Over, WM, Oct).
However, of the 200-plus competitions listed in WMs Competition Special
2017, only a small number are free (and many of these have criteria as to
who can enter see also Wendy Dranfields letter in the same issue). All
the other competitions listed in the Special have fees, ranging from 3
to over 30. A writer could easily spend 40 on only four submissions
and have nothing to show for it. Its easy to see the temptation to spend
the same amount and have the pleasure of seeing ones work published.
Entry fees have become ubiquitous and prohibitive.
Banchory, Kincardineshire


Tel: 01904 431213
YPS are recommended by the
Writers and Artists YearbookNOVEMBER 2016

26/09/2016 09:44


Litmags live on

Michael Allen may be a champion of wired writing, but hes pleased to

discover something of a renaissance in the world of printed literary magazines

n the library of a quiet country

hotel I recently found something
that I had thought was extinct. That
something was a literary magazine.
The term literary magazine is a loose
one, but generally speaking it means a
small printed booklet, published on a
monthly or quarterly basis, featuring
book reviews, articles about writers and
about the arts generally, and perhaps
most important from a writers point of
view short stories. There were never
very many of these magazines, and I
thought that they had died out long
since. But apparently not.
The title of my newly discovered
magazine is Slightly Foxed. (Foxing is
an antiquarian booksellers term for the
kind of brown age spots which appear
on the pages of an old book.)
Slightly Foxed is a quarterly; the
subscription rate is 40, or 10 for a
single issue; so it aint cheap. The issue
which I saw was the fiftieth, so it has
been around a while. The contents
consist mainly of short articles about
books, many of them published years
ago, but ones which the reviewers think
are well worth our renewed attention.
Slightly Foxed has a website (naturally),
but its submissions page makes no
mention of short stories; so its probably
no good sending your latest in for
consideration. Nevertheless, an article
published in this relatively upmarket
journal might well be a good way to
publicise a new book of your own, or to
catch the eye of an agent or publisher.
A few days after my visit to the
country hotel, and quite by coincidence,
I received an email newsletter from an
organisation called ShortStops. (Just
Google the name.) This describes itself
as getting excited about short stories in
the UK and Ireland in print, online
and live. And guess what it also refers
to the ever-growing listings of literary
magazines that publish short stories. So
apparently the literary magazine, in one
form or another, is still alive and well.

JULY 2015

p10 Grumpy.indd 10

The ShortStops list of such

magazines runs to about 150, usefully
classified as to print, ezine, paying, and
so forth. This is a valuable list, and if
youre looking for somewhere to get
your story into the public eye, it could
take you some time to sort through the
150 possibilities.
Personally I just investigated
a few at random. I began
with Albedo One, listed
as print, paying. This
turns out to be Irelands
longest-running and
foremost magazine of
the Fantastic. But you
dont have to be Irish
to appear in it. Stories,
reviews and interviews.
Published between two and
three times a year.
Ambit I do remember hearing
about before, years ago, and in fact it
was founded in 1959. It is said to be
put together entirely from unsolicited
submissions in poetry and short fiction.
But they issue a warning: Due to the
amount of submissions we receive, we
are only able to print about 1 to 3% of
the work that comes in.
Third in my random choices, I come
to Brittle Star Magazine. This is a print
magazine which, for almost fifteen
years, has been publishing scintillating
short stories, poetry and articles from
new and early-career writers. No
mention of payment.
Speaking of payment, I also noticed
that Shooter Literary Magazine takes
the view that Far too many magazines
and literary journals pay their
contributors nothing Even a small
amount of money provides significant
encouragement for emerging writers
and artists.
Well, I think we would all agree
with that. But the history of magazines
suggests that its a hard trick to pull off.
In fact, my unexpected re-introduction
to the small literary magazines of this

world brings to mind my oft-repeated

dictum that, if you wish to spend your
life working among books, the best
background to have is a substantial
private income.
In the 19th century, things were
different: the literary magazine could
reasonably claim to be a power in the
land. The Strand magazine, for
instance, which was published
monthly between 1891 and
1950, had a circulation of
about 500,000 per issue,
and stayed at that level
until 1930; the regular
appearance of Sherlock
Holmes stories no doubt
helped. Another well-known
journal of the same type was
Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine,
which ran from 1817 to 1980.
In Victorian times, Blackwoods often
published horror fiction, and this is
regarded as having been an important
influence on the Bront sisters and
Charles Dickens, among others.
However, with the advent of
cinema and radio, the readers of such
commercially successful magazines soon
found other forms of entertainment.
The circulation figures for these oncepopular magazines began to dwindle,
and by the 1920s and 30s writers were
complaining that the short story was
unwanted, unprinted, and unwed.
Argosy, for example, one of the last
monthly magazines to publish nothing
but short stories and serials, finally gave
up the ghost in 1974.
But the last ten years have seen
significant improvements in printing
technology. And this, plus the search
facilities of the internet, may perhaps
have made it possible for readers to
find writers who produce their kind
of story. The old-fashioned print
magazine might become financially
viable again; and writers might even
get paid worthwhile fees. But breath
should not be held.

Apparently the
literary magazine,
in one form or
another, is alive
and well.

26/09/2016 09:45


On writing

From the


Tony Rossiter
explores great
words from
great writers

Its time writers took off the rose-tinted

spectacles, says agent Piers Blofeld

Novelists do not write, as

birds sing, by the push of
nature. It is part of the job
that there should be much
routine and some daily stuff
on the level of carpentry.


f you want to become a published novelist or, indeed, any

other kind of writer you need to work at it, and that means
some kind of writing routine. Exactly what that is, is for you
to decide. What suits me may not suit you and vice versa. Its
an individual thing. The important thing is to establish a routine of
some kind and, importantly, to stick to it. Thats the key.
William Goldings carpentry probably means, above all,
editing and rewriting. Many novelists like to begin a writing
stint by going over and editing what they have written the
previous day. But even if you do that, unless youre a genius,
further editing and rewriting will be needed. Some writers find it
difficult to press on to chapter two until they have made chapter
one as perfect as they can. But many others find that its much
better to get the whole thing down, from beginning to end,
before they begin any serious editing or rewriting. Completing
a first draft, however imperfect it is, can give you a strong sense
of achievement. That can set you up to take a fresh look at the
whole thing and to begin serious editing.
A writing routine should ideally involve doing some writing
every day. If youre holding down a full-time job, thats not easy,
especially if you have family commitments. It might involve
getting up extra-early and writing before you set off for work
(thats how I wrote my first book). If you commute by train, you
might be able to write as you travel to work. If you have a lunchbreak, that might give you a little writing time. Or you might be
able to work when you get home in the evening or well into
the night, if thats what suits you. If, try as you may, you simply
cant find any time to write during the week, a few hours of
uninterrupted writing at the weekend might be the answer.
Experiment and find out, by trial and error, what writing
routine works best. Then stick to it, come hell or high water.
Like many other things that are worth doing, writing is 10%
inspiration and 90% perspiration.

recent survey tells us that the most desired profession

amongst young people in the UK is that of writer. Aside
from the fact that I am not quite sure that writer really
qualifies as a profession (after all what qualifications are
required?) it always rather amazes me the degree to which
people see being a writer through rose-tinted spectacles.
In my job I am sharply aware of the truth in the adage that
everyone has a book in them. No dinner party is safe from
that special glint in someones eye when they discover I am
a literary agent. Sheil Land, the agency I work for, receives
hundreds of submissions a week from people pursuing the
dream of being a published author.
I realise there are many terrible jobs in the world. Even
being a literary agent, which on the whole I count myself
extremely fortunate to be, has many, many moments of
frustration and boredom, but being a writer is a long way
from being a piece of cake.
Most aspiring writers dont really look much beyond that
magical goal of getting published. But for the majority of
writers who do have several published works under their
belt and who can justifiably call themselves professional,
life as a writer is a whole lot tougher and more gruelling
than most people realise.
Yes, they dont have unpleasant bosses to deal with, but
the flipside of not having anyone to tell you what to do is
that very often there is no one to tell you if you are making a
terrible mistake. Writing is lonely, not just because when you
are writing you are living very much in your own head, but
also because there is no one to tell you that an idea that you
think is brilliant in fact stinks the place up.
It is also a treadmill. For most authors the expectation is
that they write a book a year and a book that is markedly
similar to what they have written before: you cant suddenly
veer into historical fiction or crime if youve been writing
romance or science fiction.
And then, having written your latest novel theres generally
little time to reflect: you are then thrust by your publishers
straight into promoting your previous one a book you may
have become heartily sick of yanked from your comfy solitude
into the limelight of radio studios and literary festival stages.
Above all writing has an attrition rate that can make
working as a Premier League football manager seem positively
benign and supportive. But as long as there are JK Rowlings in
this world I dont suppose anyone will listen to me. I just wish
I represented one of them.

p11 on writing / Piers.indd 11

JULY 2015


26/09/2016 09:47

S out

The starting line

Get yourself off to a great start as a writer, with advice from Patsy Collins

The absolute basics

To get started as a writer you really
only need two things. The first is a
way to record your words. Paper is
the traditional medium to receive our
prose or poetry and a pen is ideal for
getting the words onto it. Fortunately
both of these are widely available and
not too expensive.
The other thing you need is
enough interest to give it a go. You
have that. Okay, thats really just
an assumption on my part, but Im
right, arent I? Excellent; youre all
set to start! Get the draft of the short
story or opening chapter of your
novel down and proudly tell people
youre a writer.
But it cant be that simple, can it?
I hear you ask. (Im a writer so its
okay for me to hear voices, even the
imagined voices of readers for an article
Im still in the process of writing.)
Dont I need a fancy desk, creative
writing MA, to be able to spell, have
an obliging muse and encyclopaedic
knowledge, not to mention first-hand
experience of everything I might want
to write about and industry contacts
and a quiet office and lots of free time
and a style guide and an agent...?
No. You dont. Some of those
things might come in useful once
youre writing and submitting work,
but to get started you really only
need a way to record your words and
be willing to have a go.

The exceptions
All right, maybe it isnt always
quite that simple. There are people
who cant physically write by hand
or simply prefer another method.
If thats you, perhaps youll type
instead. Maybe youll use technology


p12 get started.indd 12

which converts spoken words into

a computer document, or dictate
into a device so the words can be
typed up later. You might need a
sophisticated system which converts
eye movements into words (Professor
Stephen Hawking has written several
books using this method.) They all
amount to the same thing a way to
capture your thoughts so that you, or
others, may access them later.
If you already have something
which works, use that. A cheap
pen and scrap paper or almost
obsolete technology wont show in
the finished product. Neither will
gold plate or the latest gadget. The
reader only cares about what youve
written. If you really cant create
so much as a shopping list without
extra equipment then buy or borrow
it, but I suggest starting with the
bare minimum you need in order
to record your words. Until youve
made a start with your writing you
dont know exactly how youll want
to proceed and wont be sure which
method will suit you. Itll take up
time to master new equipment and
meanwhile technology will have
moved on.

Getting going
So now you really are all set. If
you want to be a writer but havent
actually written anything yet, start
now. I mean RIGHT NOW, not
after youve finished reading this
article, or drunk a cup of tea, but
now. It doesnt need to be a lot and
it doesnt need to be any good, but
unless you actually write youll never
become a writer.
Okay, so now youve got started.
(If you havent, read those last three

sentences again.) Perhaps that will

be enough for you. Some people
are perfectly happy jotting down
thoughts as they come and never
doing more with them than to
read them back occasionally. Thats
absolutely fine.
Im now going to make another
wild assumption that youre not
one of those people. Judging from
the fact you read Writing Magazine,
I suspect youd like to improve as a
writer, perhaps have work published,
maybe make money. Thats absolutely
fine too.

Helping yourself
You really will improve just by writing
more. As you transfer thoughts to
the page, youll learn what you enjoy
writing and begin to see where your
strengths are. Often what we think
well want to write isnt the form or
genre we eventually concentrate most
of our efforts on. Many novelists,
for example, began by writing short
stories or with careers as copywriters
or as journalists.
Once you start writing, youll use
up all your most obvious ideas and
be forced to get properly creative.
It seems contradictory, but using
our ideas somehow increases rather
than reduces those we have in stock
for further projects. Holding on to
one until we feel we can really do
it justice simply prevents new ones
forming. Trust me on this. That
brilliant plot youve been carrying
around will not be your only idea,
it probably wont be your best idea,
but it is an excellent place to start.
Get it written.
Its quite likely that once you
begin writing more seriously youll

26/09/2016 09:49


realise you dont know how to do

something. Exactly how should
dialogue be set out? What should we
do if we want to write about events
happening in two different time
periods? Can we keep information
from the reader without cheating, or
perhaps let them know something
our character doesnt?
Being aware of a gap in your
knowledge is the first step in learning
the answer. Experimentation can
help, as can reading well-written,
properly edited books. Writers
often read differently from normal
people. We notice different sentence
structures, uses of tenses and point
of view (POV), how the author
has tackled any issues we ourselves
struggle with. At least we do if we pay
attention. Sometimes well want to
read simply for pleasure. Writers cant
do that; subconsciously well absorb
information on spelling, punctuation
and grammar at the very least.

Further improvements
Useful as writing and reading are,
they can only achieve so much. For
the biggest improvements in our
work well need help in the form
of advice and feedback. Books on
writing can also be very valuable. Be
wary of relying too heavily on old
ones, as some information is liable to
be out of date. I recommend, as you
might expect, the shiny new From
Story Idea To Reader by Patsy Collins
and Rosemary J Kind, which will be
out in time for Christmas. Writing
Magazine is also an excellent source
of information and again its better
to read the most recent copies. A
dictionary is also a good investment.
If you can, take a course or
workshop of some kind. These can
be one-off events for an afternoon
(your local library might offer these
for free or a nominal charge) or a
term of evening classes. You can
sign up for online courses (some are
free), distance learning, as with WMs
Creative Writing Courses, or enrol
yourself at university full time. Just
dont wait to begin writing until your
first homework assignment!
Joining a writing group, either
physically or online, can be hugely
beneficial, if its the right one for you.
Some are great for encouragement
and support, others provide

information, run competitions and

host interesting talks. You might
be lucky and get excellent feedback
on your work, or it could just be
tea and chat. Try a few and stick
with whichever best serves your
needs. A word of caution; writers are
generally nice people and being part
of the group is a pleasant experience
dont join so many theres no time
left for writing.

Next steps
If you intend to successfully offer
work for publication, self-publish
or be placed in competitions then
you will need honest, constructive
criticism which points out the flaws
in your work. A good writing
course will provide some,
but for most writers this
wont be enough. The
most cost-effective
way of obtaining
regular feedback is
to join a critique
group. In theory
this could be a
face-to-face group,
but in practice this
is difficult. Ideally
youll all write in a
similar form and genre.
A group consisting of a
poet, horror novelist, author
of childrens short stories and
someone writing their memoirs
would struggle even if they are all
available at the same time each week.
There are already a number of
established online critique groups
which you could try an internet
search or request on social media will
give you the links. Alternatively set
up your own either as a closed blog
or forum, or by email. Search for
members through social media and
Writing Magazines Talkback forum
(the fantastic group I belong to was
set up this way and has members
in three different countries). You
pay for feedback on your work
by providing it for other group
members. This is far less scary than
it sounds and will help you improve
your own writing.

The fancy desk, quiet ofce

and lots of free time would be
ideal, but you dont need those
at all. I wrote my rst three
novels and hundreds of short
stories at work during lunch
breaks, on the bus and at
the kitchen table.

Beyond the basics

Once youre ready to send work out
then you will need a computer. In
theory you could use a typewriter

p12 get started.indd 13

or word processor, but not being

able to email your work, or use the
internet for research and joining
groups will be a big disadvantage.
Text uses very little memory so the
cheapest machine you can get will do
the job. Youll need software. Many
computers will have Microsoft Word
already, but if they dont you can
buy and install it, or use open source
software such as Open Office (theres
no charge, but users are invited to
make a donation).
But when I asked you about
needing a computer, you said I didnt
and havent you back-tracked a bit
on some of the other stuff too? I can
hear you muttering.
Glad youre still with me! I
said you dont need those
things to get started,
not that they were
all a bad idea.
Of course being
able to spell,
punctuate and
use grammar are
important, but
you can learn as
you go. The muse
will show up if you
put pen to paper
often enough and you
can research anything
you dont know.
The fancy desk, quiet office
and lots of free time would be ideal,
but you dont need those at all. I
wrote my first three novels and
hundreds of short stories at work
during lunch breaks, on the bus and
at the kitchen table. If Id waited
until I had a proper office of my own
to write in... Id still not have written
a single word.
A literary agent might be useful
when it comes to selling your books,
but she cant help until youve
written them. Many writers do
have contacts within the industry,
but often these are made because
the person is a writer rather than
existing beforehand and again they
can only help once you have work
for them to buy or promote.
So, theres no need to wait, I
can just grab a pen and paper and
get started?
Youve got it! Oh good, the voices
are silent now. All I can hear is a pen
gliding across the page.


26/09/2016 09:49

St rtionugt



Help yourself at the writers buffet and find the flavour that most suits you, suggests Simon Hall

he old saying tells you that

travel broadens the mind.
But travel around the world
of writing and it can not
only broaden your mind, it
can enhance your talents and
benefit your pocket, too.
One of the things I love most about
writing is how many different forms
there are. For me, its like being a child in
a huge adventure park.
Getting bored with the dodgems?
Try the rollercoaster!
Getting jaded with writing novels?
How about a short story? Or some
poetry? Or journalism, flash fiction, or
so many other attractions
Im lucky enough to work as a news
correspondent for the BBC, and to have
had seven crime novels published. And
dont get me wrong, Im very grateful for
my good fortune.
But the creative soul is prone to
wandering. So I fancied trying something
new, and got a couple of short stories
published. And turned my first novel
into a play. And then wrote a young
adults book, and then a pantomime, and
now Ive just finished a radio comedy
and a pilot for a TV drama.
Every ride in the adventure park has
been great fun, and hugely fulfilling.
But perhaps more importantly, its
taught me something important about
the writing art.
Each area of writing is
interconnected in some way with the
others, and can feed useful lessons into
your range of work. And the more
you explore, the more you learn about
everything there is in the park, and the
better the writer you become.

Short stories
Arguably, the short story is the best place
to start learning the craft of writing.
Just think for a moment what a strictly
limited word count forces you to do.


p14 Try everything.indd 14

You have to make your characters live,

create a setting and build up a story as
quickly as possible. Not a word can be
wasted, and brevity is a talent which will
serve you well in all other areas of writing.
Short stories also teach you
ruthlessness. There cant be any
extraneous characters, dialogue or
wordsmithing. Get in there, get to the
point, and get on with it.
And no matter that you may have a
hundred times the number of words in
a novel, such discipline will still help
you. Itll keep your story pacey and
tight, your characters lean, and your
settings sharply drawn.
Brevity also feeds well into journalism.
Remember what George Orwell famously
said in one of his rules of writing: if its
possible to cut a word out, always cut it
out. And thats not a bad guide for all
other areas of writing, as well.

What is journalism if not a short story of
fact, rather than fiction?
Try writing an article and stray off
the point. Your editor will be straight
down on you, and not politely. Believe
me, I know.
I started my working life as a
journalist and still enjoy it, a quarter
of a century on. It led me into all the
other areas of writing I now delight in,
it brings a range of insights into the
writing world, and I can strongly
recommend giving it a try.
Because producing articles
for papers, magazines or online
is a highly commercial beast, a
story is only commissioned if an
editor thinks people will be interested.
And that means it gives you a great
understanding of what audiences want.
Thats invaluable when thinking about
writing a novel, screenplay, or short story.
Its far more likely to be published if it
has resonance in society, features some

current hot topic, will get people talking.

Journalism is also useful for teaching
writers about the importance of titles. As
a headline lures the way into a news story,
so does a title for any writing project.
How can you not read stories with
headlines like
(on the 9/11 attacks)
Be they straightforward news to
mark a major story, or something
more mysterious to draw your
attention, headlines and titles are
essential for a writer.
Trying a little journalism can have
other advantages. Research is the
foundation for much of what we do as
writers, and journalism really makes you
understand what a fact is and how to
go about finding it. Its also useful for
learning how to interview people for
material to go in other works.
Another aspect of journalism is its
relentless focus on the opening line.
Youve got to hook the reader from
the start, especially in the internet age.
Theres so much content competing for
attention; if you dont make an instant
impact youll be discarded.
And think how that opening line feeds
into short stories and novels. It tells your
readers immediately that you know what
youre doing, and youre a writer worth
spending time with.
It was the best of times, it was the worst
of times All children, except one, grow
up It was a bright cold day in April and
the clocks were striking thirteen
How can you not go on to read stories
which begin like that?
And perhaps most importantly
It is a truth universally acknowledged
(apologies, Ms Austen) that a writer

26/09/2016 09:52

with a compelling headline or title,

and opening line, has hooked the
reader from the start and is well on
their way to success.

My play, An Unnecessary Murder
was based on my first novel, The TV
Detective, and was an extraordinary
experience. We raised thousands of
pounds for the hospice movement,
a cause which has been very close
to my heart.
But in terms of the writing art, it
certainly taught me about dialogue.
When what the characters are saying is
the mainstay of a play, you have to weigh
each word with care. What does it tell
you about the person and their situation?
Are they powerful or weak, optimistic or
pessimistic, relaxed or stressed?
The clothes a character wears are also
a great insight into their personality.
Imagine two men of similar age, both in
shirts, but one wearing a tie and one not.
In a single glance, youve conveyed
a significant element of character. And
thats something which can be used in all
other areas of writing.
Body language is also fascinating
in a play. Who stands tall and
dominates a scene, and who shrinks
back into the shadows?
See those interactions in your
imagination and they can help you
bring scenes to life in other areas of
your writing.

Probably the most important lesson I
learnt from writing a screen play was the
characters expressions.
Imagine the close up image on TV.
The tic of a pulse in the neck tells
you far more than mere words about
the pressure someone is under. Seeing
small details like that in your mind,
and conveying them in words, can
help create powerful scenes.
Think about the difference between

Each area of writing is

interconnected in some way
with the others, and can
feed useful lessons into
your range of work. And
the more you explore,
the more you learn about
everything else.

a woman who is
impeccably made up
and one whose mascara
has smudged. Whos
cool and in command?
Which are you more
inclined to trust?
Screenplays are also
remarkable in their use of the
art of silence. Sometimes, saying
nothing can say everything.
A man and a woman, having
a romantic dinner in a posh restaurant
on Valentines night and theyre
not talking at all. Hows that
relationship going?
Exploring a silence is a very
worthwhile art to cultivate in many
areas of writing.

When youve had some success with your
writing, why not try teaching? I find it
hugely rewarding, passing on what Ive
learnt and seeing others benefit from it.
The pays not bad, you get to travel
and meet some fascinating people, too.
But on a more selfish level, nothing
makes you think harder about the writing
craft, and forces you to really explore it,
than when you teach.
I took hours working out how I create
characters, make settings feel real, and
construct plots, before I dared stand
at the front of a classroom. And that
experience, and depth of understanding,
can make you a much better all round
writer, whatever your field.

The voice
The voice transcends everything in
writing. How often do you hear the
saying Youve got to find your voice? And
how easy does it sound, compared to
how difficult it actually is?
I found my voice in novels. But you
can discover it in any area of writing.
As a practice, try a short story in the
hard-bitten detective Raymond Chandler
style, then one in more of a Miss Marple

p14 Try everything.indd 15

voice. Or the
opening of a
novel in a wry,
Jane Austen way,
compared to a
more brutal Ernest
Hemingway manner.
And why not have
a go at some poetry?
First in a Ted Hughes,
jagged way, then a John Betjeman
reflective or humorous style.
Imagine a screenplay or play when
the character voice is dominant. What
would James Bond say when presented
with a bar which only serves cheap
lager? Now compare that with the
reaction of Del Boy from Only
Fools and Horses.
Once youre confident in the art
of voice, whether its yours, as the
author, or the attitude you give to your
characters, you can use it in so many
different ways.
The more areas of writing you try,
the more you become adept at adopting
a range of different voices. And thats a
powerful weapon for a writer.

Playing in the adventure park

One of the great advantages of
switching between the rides in the
adventure park of writing is that its so
stimulating. Each new experience keeps
you fresh and can be highly energising.
One other point worth mentioning
is the pricelessness of ideas. Theyre the
very essence of what we do as writers.
Everything stems from that beautiful
moment of creation.
So if youve got a good idea, why
not recycle it? From short story to
novel, then to screenplay, or poem, or
whatever you like.
Doing so can be great for your
abilities, your income, and can
also teach you a remarkable amount
about all the attractions there are to
entertain you in this great playground
called writing.


26/09/2016 09:52

S out


Start solidly, or your story will collapse later, says author and lecturer James McCreet,
revealing the planning process of his current novel-in-progress

ve just started a novel, by which

I mean I have written nothing.
For me, the start of a novel
is the idea. What follows is a
process that allows me to either
reject the idea or write a complete
and effective novel. Im not going
to tell you my idea (because its
really good!) but I thought it might
be interesting to reveal what comes
before the writing.
All of the following elements are
necessary for a workable novel. It
doesnt matter in which order you
gather them its usually a case of
simultaneous accretion but you
do need to feel that each one has
been addressed. Without them,
the novel is likely to fail. I keep an
exercise book with the following
headings and add to them whenever
I think of a new idea. In time, the
exercise book fills and theres enough
material to start.

The germ
Ideas take many forms. It could be a
character, a location, a story premise,
a historical period, a theme... or
a combination. Critically, it must
be something that excites you


p16 Laying foundations.indd 16

something you want to pursue to

the end. My idea concerns two
characters, each representing a
different stage of life and experience.
On meeting, they will learn a lot
from each other. I also have a firm
idea of where the action will take
place and a rough sense of theme.
However, this is not enough to
begin writing a novel. What is the
story that will develop chapter to
chapter? Just two characters limit
your narrative possibilities, especially
if theyre always together. What
shape will the book have in terms
of chronology and structure?

But as I said: two characters limit

your narrative and storytelling
possibilities. We need some
second-tier characters to provide
interaction, tension, conflict, desire,
questions and expectations etc. More
characters mean more interesting
options more people for the reader
to engage with. Who might these
people be? How might they flesh
out the idea we already have? How
might they represent our themes?
Draw a spider diagram with your
two main characters and how others
relate to them.

The characters

Whos telling the story? This most

critical consideration is often
overlooked by first-time novelists,
but getting it wrong can ruin the
book before its even begun. Will
you tell the story as an omniscient
narrator, seeing into each characters
mind? Will one character tell it
from a first-person perspective? Will
each character speak for himself?
Whatever you decide its necessary
to see it from the readers point of
view. Who should the reader be
supporting? Will this person be

Okay, so we have two protagonists,

each one a mirror to the other. Its
now necessary to do a little work on
them. What are their names? What is
their past? What is their motivation?
Why do they meet and do they stay
together? What are their respective
arcs how do they change throughout
the book and what do they learn, if
anything? How does each character
end? Does each character have his own
story, or do they share the same one?
So far, so easy.

Narrative perspective

26/09/2016 09:53


reliable or unreliable, good or bad?

Do you need to maintain an air
of mystery, or are your characters
transparent? Ive opted for one
semi-reliable character speaking
first-person because I want the
reader to see and understand more
than he does.

Structure and shape

A number of things can dictate the
structure of your novel. Genre is
one. Crime/thriller and romance
tend to have quite standard forms
that are easy to follow. Sometimes
your overall idea is a classic
storytelling model such as the
quest, the mystery, the challenge,
the journey. Choice of story might
dictate shape, or character might be
the primary driver it all depends
on your original idea.
My idea is a classic road-trip so
the structure will be a movement
from place to place throughout the
book. There will be a start and a
destination. Each place will have
some kind of significance as we go
along while also providing a change
of scenery for the reader. Knowing
this, I can begin to think in terms of
how many places Id like to visit and
why those places might be relevant.

Research notes
The broad location of my story
was part of the idea, as was the
selection of characters. However,
Im going to need much more detail
to write chapters about these places
and people. My research entails
Googling a few maps and sketching
out the route of my road-trip,
learning a few things abut each
place. At this stage, I dont need to
do the full research I can quickly
search for smaller details once Ive
begun writing. What I need now
is sufficient detail to influence
character and story: more ideas to
build my germ of an idea.
I started with some assumptions
about my main characters. Now
I need to check a few details in
order to bolster chronologies
and backstories. They need to be
believable, so Ive already made a
few notes that should convince a
reader when my people are first
introduced. Again, I can gather
more later if necessary.

Desirable scenes
This category can be extremely
useful once we get to plotting.
As I collect my lists of characters,
locations, arcs, themes and other
research, I inevitably begin to
visualise scenes. Wouldnt it be
great if A did this to B? What if I
put them both here and made them
do this? If you gather enough such
scenes, they sometimes coalesce into
nice chunks of storyline and you
can even begin to pencil them into
overall structure. For example, I
already have my final, my mid-point
and my opening scenes. These are
important elements that help me to
conceive the rest of the story.
Desirable scenes are also
ones youd really like to
write. Put your characters
on a paradise beach
at sunset. Put them
into a train crash
or a shoot-out.
When you have a
collection of such
scenes, you know
youll always be
motivated to write
because you know
whats coming and
youre excited for the
reader. Moreover, visualising
these scenes in advance helps
you to flesh out larger storylines.

Your role as author is to

combine your scenes,
characters, locations and
themes in such a way that
something is always
happening and about
to happen

Whats the story?

Ah, the trickiest part. Indeed, its so
tricky that some writers believe its
impossible to conceive a story before
you begin writing. Better to just
start and see where it takes you. This
can be a mistake. A story is designed
to take the reader on a journey, but
the writer is responsible for knowing
the story in advance. When we write
as readers, we often get lost.
Its really not as difficult as people
think. You already have an idea, a
location, characters, scenes, research
and some arcs. These are pieces in a
puzzle that must be completed. The
trick is knowing what ingredients an
effective story must have.
For example, a story must
constantly move and develop,
carrying the reader with it.
Something new has to happen
regularly: new challenges, new
characters, new bits of information.

p16 Laying foundations.indd 17

Each new thing is a crumb in the

trail that the reader fixes on. Or
think of it as steps. If youve hacked
out a rudimentary structure either
chapters or stages consider what
step will feature in each part. At
every step, the reader must be aware
of two things: whats happened so
far, and what might happen next. If
either of these is vague, or if theres
a stretch with too few steps, its
game over.
Stories work (or dont work) based
on age-old techniques that were all
familiar with as readers. Conflict.
Tension. Suspense. Anticipation.
Reversal. Surprise. Its not enough
that your characters simply
exist thats too much like
real life. They have to
be part of a process
that carries them,
challenges them,
motivates them
and subjects
them to
experiences the
reader wants to
empathise with.
Therefore, your
role as author is
to combine your
scenes, characters,
locations and themes in
such a way that something
is always happening and
about to happen. A character is
introduced, is offered a challenge,
accepts it, stumbles, tries harder,
succeeds. A character faces a rival,
reflects on himself, changes his
strategy. A character falls in love, is
vengeful, gives up hope.
Stories grow out of the materials
you gather. The rest is a game of
what if? as you play with the
possibilities. Only today, walking
to the shops, I thought of two
more characters I can add, thus
creating a triangle that will drive
the middle third of my structure.
That goes in the exercise book and
I keep on thinking until Im ready
to start. By then, Ill be itching with
anticipation... or I wont be able to
gather sufficient materials to write
a novel and it wont happen. Thats
the process.
Follow Jamess progress with the
novel in future issues of WM.


26/09/2016 09:53


The 1m
Teaching himself the process from scratch, Adam Croft has
grown to be one of the UKs most successful self-publishers.
Tina Jackson finds out how he did it

dam Croft is living the writers

dream. Hes a bestselling
novelist. He works full-time
as an author. His most recent
standalone novel, Her Last Tomorrow, sold
150,000 copies in twenty weeks and enabled
him to pay off his mortgage. Hes on target
for 1m sales this year.
29-year old Adam is one the UK selfpublishing scenes biggest stars. And it never
really occurred to him to get his work out
there any other way.
I finished my first book in 2010. Id always
wanted to do it, I had an idea and fancied
giving it a go, says Adam. The book was his
debut thriller, Too Close for Comfort. I didnt
know anything about the self-publishing
process at the time. I discovered you could
self-publish so two weeks later I decided to
put the book out myself on KDP. Traditional
publishing was in the back of my mind but
after a couple of weeks I saw the appeal of
self-publishing. Financially it just didnt stack
up. All I wanted was for complete strangers to
find it. I put it up by January 2011 and it was
alright, I got some feedback. So far, so much
like any other self-publishing newbie. But then
something happened.

Mailing list, and knowing what the
long-term gain is. Its not just about
selling a book if I ask you to join the
mailing list you might buy the next four
or five books. Its all about long-term.
On the writing side of things, Ive
got hundreds of books on the craft of
writing, on character development,
constructing a story. I read heavily on



p18 interview.indd 18

story structure, plays, films everything

is a story. Learn your craft not by
paying thousands of pounds to do
a creative writing course taught by
someone who had a book out in 1993
that sold 300 copies and is teaching
you to write like them. Youve got to
find your voice, and write like that. Its
thinking about the long term and taking
it seriously.

Even if you want to go down the

traditional publishing route, you need
the writing skills but you also need the
marketing skills.
You could find yourself with a twobook deal and when that runs out,
no access to your customers. With
traditional publishing the way it is
now, you still have to do a lot of the
marketing yourself.

26/09/2016 12:39


On 1 April I went to look at the sales

and there had been something like 7,000
downloads in a few days, says Adam. I
didnt know why that had happened so it
made me interested in the marketing side.
Between then and 2015, Adam
published eight more books in his two
series, the Knight & Culverhouse crime
thrillers and the Kempston Hardwicke
mysteries. The game-changer, though, was
2015s standalone, Her Last Tomorrow, a
seat-of-your-pants page-turner about the
abduction of a child which lives up to the
tense buildup of its strapline: Could you
murder your wife to save your daughter?
Her Last Tomorrow was probably my
breakthrough because of that hook, says
Adam. So far this year Ive sold 150,000
copies. Its paid my mortgage off and
my wifes been able to leave her job. Its
changed things permanently. This year Im
projecting about 1million sales.
In the wake of its success, Adam
was approached by Thomas & Mercer,
Amazons thriller imprint, which offered
him a lucrative deal for a revised version
of Her Last Tomorrow which will be
published in October. They dont take
submissions, they reach out to people.
We got chatting. I wanted to go with
them because they can take the books
to another level, get in sales, break it in
America. They put their money where
their mouth is and can take the books
to a whole new readership. Its like the
self-publishing world I know but with
the marketing power of the third biggest
company in the world I even used it
today to buy door handles.
The original self-published version is a
lean, mean 45,000 words, but the Thomas
& Mercer edition will have much more in

line with whats expected

of a traditionally
published thriller.
When they
bought the rights
to it they asked
me to do a
rewrite and they
paid me a lot of
money to do it.
Its about 80,000
words, almost double
the length of the
original (45,000 words)
and has the wifes point of
view as well.
But Adam is more than aware
of his strengths as a writer and the
expectations of his readership. I definitely
wanted to keep it lean and stripped down
it was one of the things I wouldnt
move on, its very much my style. The
new version may be longer but its kept
the style. Theres no padding, no fluffing
it out for the sake of it. Ive got the way I
write and what I know the readers like.
He started out as a novelist with the
straightforward aim of writing the kind
of book he read himself. I write what I
like reading. Its what I know and what I
enjoy. I always try to write a book I would
want to read myself. I like books that are
fast-paced, with no fluff. I like mystery
and intrigue and a bit of a puzzle. Twists
and turns, and not knowing who to trust.
One of the hallmarks of his writing is a
very contemporary understanding of how
the internet can be used by both criminals
and investigators. The internet is an area
I know, and it interests me its where
crime gets committed.
Adam was part of the digital media

industry when he started

writing fiction, doing
web design, marketing
and copywriting. A
lot of people have
said Ive had the
success because I
had a background
in marketing but
its not something
I necessarily believe
Id have had a lot of
success five years ago!
I was selling personalised
number plates through search
engines, he laughs.
He has, though, got a sharp business
brain, and an innate understanding that
to be successful, a self-published authors
up-to-date business skills are just as
vital as their ability to write a book. As
a self-published author you need to be
interested in marketing as well as writing.
You have to run a business as well as being
a writer. Its all about business, having a
good product, thinking outside the box.
As an example, in the wake of the
success of the hook of Her Last Tomorrow,
Adam has been thinking of ways to
exploit the potential of a good hook. Ive
been sitting around some nights writing
marketing hooks and advertisements for
books that dont even exist. Perhaps you
can write the marketing hook first! Its
thinking outside the box really. It sounds
a bit cold and clinical but readers want
to be entertained so why not start with a
hook or a grab?
Ideas are vital currency for any writer,
and when your self-published writing
is also your business, a flow of them is
essential. In business you have to come

Often Ill have one story

idea thats stronger than the
others, but if I dont know,
Ill go back to my bank of
ideas. Its only when you start
writing them down you
realise how quickly
they come


p18 interview.indd 19


26/09/2016 09:56


up with ideas my
product is books. I
get ideas from all
over the place. Ill
see a news story,
watch a film, read
a book, come up
with a storyline.
Ive got notebooks
and apps full of
ideas. Often Ill have
one story idea thats
stronger than the others,
but if I dont know, Ill go
back to my bank of ideas. Its
only when you start writing them
down you realise how quickly they come.
Given that Her Last Tomorrow is Adams
breakthrough book, its worth mentioning
that he almost decided not to publish it.
I nearly didnt put Her Last Tomorrow
out, it sat in a drawer for a few months
while I put out two more series books, he
says. But then he discovered how to make
Facebook advertising work for him.
Mark Dawson runs a course called
Facebook Advertising for Authors I
came across that and went on that course.
I started experimenting and doing my
own things with it, and it worked. Big
time. One of the things he learned
was the power of the hook. It was
only really when I discovered Facebook
advertising that I realised the hook was
very important and Her Last Tomorrow
has got a great hook to draw other readers
in. So Facebook advertising gave me the
awareness to put it out there.
These days his Facebook advertising
policy is to speculate to accumulate. I
spend a lot of money on it but I profit
on it every time. I make 50 to 100%
on top. I do a lot of experimentation. I
started off spending about 3 a day and
now I throw money at it 250,000 this
year. There are months when Ive been
spending 1,000 a day. I target users
who like similar books, crime thrillers,

fiction. And I go wider

with it. For instance, I
targeted mothers of
children under the
age of eight who
owned a Kindle.
They might not be
thriller fans but
they might not
be likely to pass
up the opportunity
to find out what
happens when a child
is kidnapped.
Once hes got a reader
interested, his main marketing
tool is his mailing list. My mailing list is
vital, he says. At the end of each book
is an advert for my VIP Club mailing
list and I send people things, and do
giveaways. That gets people in, and I
can mail them and let them know theres
a new book. This way, I can keep in
touch with readers its five figures at
the moment. Its vital to me because
although Amazon has all the information
about who buys the books, I know who
my readers are and I can get in touch
with them.
As a savvy marketeer, other aspects of
online marketing concern him less for
instance, search engine optimisation,
or SEO. Search engines dont work
for books, he says baldly. If people are
searching on Google, its not going to be
for books. People go onto Google looking
for information, nobody Googles for new
books. They go to Amazon, or bookshops,
or friends. Facebook is like friends
people there are in a leisure mode. On
Facebook theyre in a lukewarm buying
mood. Theyre not busy at work, theyre
looking at pictures and cat videos. Theyre
in a social mood receptive. Saying buy
this book wont work but if theres a
strong image and a hook, that might stop
them scrolling through their feed.
Self-publishing and internet

Nobody Googles for new

books. They go to Amazon,
or bookshops, or friends.
Facebook is like friends
people there are in a
leisure mode. On Facebook
theyre in a lukewarm
buying mood.

Always think of long term. Read about
the craft, learn more. Writings something
you can never be an expert at. Youre
always learning and you can never learn
too much.
Never give up. I spent five years just
about paying the bills and I could have
given up, gone out and got pretty much
any job I wanted. I had to remember why I
was writing and follow that dream.



p18 interview.indd 20

Dont forget your business skills. Self

publishers have to be an entrepreneur as
well as a writer. If youre not comfortable
with that youve got two choices really:
you either have to get over it or find a
traditional publisher. Self-publishing is not
the same as vanity publishing. Traditional
publishers are now looking to us to find out
how to do it. Were leading the path at the
moment. You have to be brave theres a
lot of writers and a lot of books out there.

marketing may have changed the

publishing landscape but they are also
new industries that are constantly
changing. Adam still cant explain the
initial spike in sales for Too Close for
Comfort that changed his fortunes. Ive
spent five years trying to work out that
first spike! Things have changed a lot
now and 7,000 sales wouldnt get you
near Number 1. It got a bit of word of
mouth, but to be honest Id told family
and friends, Facebook and Twitter,
but nothing major. But I saw what
happened and it got me into thinking
that this could be quite something.
He has used all his skills as a writer
and businessman to ride the wave that
turned him into a bestseller. When Id
written the first book, I knew I hadnt
really had any experience. I knew it was
less than market length all I wanted
was to publish it, get feedback and get
better at it. Self publishing became
what I knew I was going to do, and in
2011 when the first book started selling
well, rather than using it to get better, it
became a plan in itself.
He is not, though, sitting on his laurels.
I was planning being where I am now
in five or ten years time, but if I get to
Number 5 in the chart, I want to get to
Number 1. If I sell 1,000 books a day, I
want to sell 2,000. Onwards and upwards.
In terms of the turnover and concepts,
I can do 4, 5, 6 books a year without
breaking sweat thats doing 50% writing
and 50% marketing. I always want to
move on to the next story, write more
books, make more sales. I always feel
theres something more to aim for
Im never happy.

26/09/2016 09:56



PLUS 1,000
Want to see your book in print, and net a
tasty advance too? Were giving one lucky
WM reader the chance to win just that in
this exclusive competition.
The winning author will see their book
published in 2017 by our friends at The Book
Guild, and get 1,000 cash, courtesy of the
David St John Thomas Charitable Trust.
Paste each of the five required texts into a single
document (see right) and enter through our


To enter, you must have

a novel manuscript of
60,000-100,000 words
finished and ready to go.
We need to see:
The first chapter
A one-line elevator pitch
or tagline
A 500-word synopsis
of the entire story
A brief account of your
publishing and writing
experience to date
A 500-word plan of any
promotional opportunities
and how you see your book
fitting into the marketplace
The closing date is
31 January 2017. Entry is 5

Writing Magazine and The Book

Guild will pick one winning
book, which will be published by
The Book Guild later in the year,
subject to the winner signing a
contract with The Book Guild.
The Book Guild will provide
a copyedit, cover design, full
text design and layout, one set
of proofs for author to check,
ISBN allocation, bookshop sales
representation, marketing to the
trade and media and distribution
to the book trade for one year.

Good luck!

p21 Competition.indd 21

26/09/2016 16:47

Editorial calendar

Strong forward planning will greatly improve your chances with freelance submissions.
Here are some themes to consider for the coming months.

10 February

n Miller
RCA awarded Glen
the first gold record
selling a million co
Chattanooga Ch
75 years ago

9 February

Wartime soap
rationing began in
Britain 75 years ago.
It ended in 1950.

15 February

The Blue Danube waltz, by Johann

Strauss, was performed for the first
time in Austria 150 years ago

20 February


The Premier League

was founded 25 years ago
replacing the First Division

9 February

Songwriter Carole King will be 75

10 February

Songwriter Roberta Flack will be 80

11 February

, whose
Author and screenwriter Sidney Sheldon
copies, was
18 novels have sold more than 300 mill
born 100 years ago

16 February

Actor June Brown will be 90

20 February

Singer Kurt Cobain would have been

25 February

20 years ago, Scottish

scientists announced that
Dolly the sheep had been
successfully cloned

rk Orange,

Anthony Burgess, author of A Clockwo

was born 100 years ago

Literary anniversary 2019

The first published Just William story, Rice Mould,
appeared in Home magazine, introducing William
Brown, Richmal Comptons much-loved badly
behaved schoolboy,

p22 Editorial calendar.indd 22

22 February

Centenaries in 2019
1 January 2019 will be the

centenary of the birth of JD Salinger,

author of Catcher in the Rye.

17 March will be the centenary

of singer Nat King Cole.

7 May will be the centenary of

Argentine First Lady Eva Pern.

26/09/2016 09:59


There are times when a radical clear-out can be just the thing
to generate fresh ideas, suggests Adrian Magson

ue to a temporary paucity of
decent ideas for a future book
and a feeling that walking
through treacle might be
more productive than staring
at a blank screen, I recently
went in search of something to kick, and
happened on an antidote for this lack of
direction: have a good burn-up.
I dont mean the pedal-to-the-metal,
petrol-head kind of thing impossible
where I live anyway unless in possession
of a death wish. I mean having a clear-out
of all the old paper dross and files which
have been piling up for so many years
theyve taken on the ragged appearance of
the Dead Sea scrolls.
Great, I hear you ask. So youre
having problems? Hows that going to
help me with my writing?
Well (to paraphrase several politicians
of late) Ill tell you. First, to explain
further, the dross of which I speak
included drafts of several novels which
have now been published, a pile of short
fiction and features which ditto and
a whole load of both that never saw the
light of day for reasons mostly to do with
being utter bilge.
Now, I know Ive said in the past that
you should never throw anything away
and I still hold firmly to that. However,
there comes a point at which you have
to kick your little paper birds off the end
of the branch because you know theyll
never fly or words to that effect. But in
doing so, you might just discover some
little pearls of inspiration, as I did.
Having long ago accepted that the
Bodleian would probably turn up their
upper lip at the idea of my crumpled
gems for posterity, much less as mulch
for their garden, I decided to take
some BBQ gel, which is basically
napalm in a bottle, and christen our
newly-bought incinerator, which is
basically a dustbin on legs.

I suppose I should have felt guilty,

sending those hundreds of thousands
of words up in smoke. After all,
they represented many years of work
and hope, hunched over a variety of
computers, including five Harry Tate
spy novels, the Marc Portman thrillers
(three and counting), four Lucas Rocco
novels and a novella, and the dog-eared
manuscript of my latest book, The
Locker, which I hadnt got round to
filing in the back drawer. Thirteenand-a half books and lots of other bits in
all, roughly a million or more words.
But the truth is, my many notations
in the margins, the scattered question
marks and some seriously heavy underscorings and even a few pithy comments
to self in language my mother wouldnt
have endorsed, didnt mean a whole lot.
Not now. They were done and dusted
and taking up space.
What the burn-up did, as I fed the
pages into the top of the incinerator, was
bring back snatches of dialogue, bursts of
action and the names of characters, most
of which Id actually forgotten.
How could I? Id lived, breathed and
dreamed of these imaginary people and
their doings over thousands of days
and nights, so how could I possibly
forget any of them? Well, my only
explanation is that my brain can hold
only so much information at one time,
and each new project is so intensely
focused on the current set of characters,
events and settings, that all previous
works are elbowed out of the door to
make room for the new one.
Oddly, as the pages disappeared into
the flames, I couldnt help but catch
a glimpse of the occasional paragraph
which stuck. (Im sure my neighbour
must have wondered what I was getting
rid of so assiduously. She knows what
I do for a living and has made it clear
that she thinks Im writing from close

and personal experience. In fact, she

once quizzed me about GCHQ and
whether Id ever signed the Official
Secrets Act. Naturally I smiled
enigmatically and said I really couldnt
comment. She wasnt reassured.)
That aside, in the heat and smoke
of the moment, the little snatches that
caught my eye began taking on new
meanings and demanded to be stored
away. Some will undoubtedly be used,
others will drift away like flotsam on the
tide. But culled as they were, without
context or memory, the good ones
began to transform into potential scenes,
characters and dialogue, like a conveyor
belt of fresh ideas for the taking.
One especially useful event, while
stuffing papers into the funnel, came by
way of a police siren drifting over the
hill. It was on a road which by-passes
our hidden-away corner, where even the
wild boar go in pairs. But in the time it
took to go by and fade, it highlighted
for me just how long it takes to burn a
bunch of papers. Ages.
Note to self where getting rid of
incriminating files before the heavy
mob breaks down a characters door
might be a plot point: dont stand there
revisiting old times!
As to the results of my burn-up, I
now have lots of ideas to explore and
turn into something new.

Seen out of context, paragraphs or sentences can open
up to fresh ideas.
Consider whether a snatch of dialogue can be used to
generate something new.
Dont dismiss a sudden flash of inspiration it could be
the best one youll get.
Just because youve used the words before doesnt
mean they cant be transformed for a whole new story.

p23 Beginners.indd 23



26/09/2016 10:01

Clive Brooks



Do you hanker for distraction-free writing but still need text you can edit or submit later?
Clive Brooks guides you through the hardware and software options

heres a text to answer, a long list of tweets to

read and youre trying to keep up with what fifty
or so people are up to on Facebook, because for
some inexplicable reason that you genuinely cant
quite fathom any more, you feel that you really
ought to. Your computer bleeps, bings, bloops and flashes stuff
at you endlessly, and through all this nonsense, youre trying
to settle down quietly to write a first draft of that novel or
magazine article.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesnt have to be like this.
There are alternatives to using that constantly connected

Typewriters are evocative, irresistible and affordable. The vintage
typewriters that repair engineers recommend above all others
for their build quality and longevity are those from the German
manufacturer Olympia. The desktop model to look for is the
SM9, and the best portable is the Traveller Deluxe S. Both are
superbly made, built to last and enjoyable to use. My SM9 on
eBay cost a mere 90, and my virtually unused Traveller Deluxe
was an unbelievable 25!
When you first start using a typewriter, or use one again after
many years, you may be surprised at the long travel of the keys and
the sheer physicality of the machine when compared to computer
keyboards or touching the glass of an iPad. However, after ten
minutes of typing, I think youll begin to appreciate the tactile,
organic nature of imprinting your words onto paper, and recognise
how finely balanced and beautifully designed everything is. Theres
a melody in the sound of the type-bars striking the platen, and in
the ting of the bell when you reach a line end. Its immersive and
somehow satisfying. A typewriter encourages a more considered
approach to writing too. You cant go back and fiddle about with
the words, so you tend to think more carefully about which ones to



p24 Distraction free.indd 24

computer for your writing, but none of them are immediately

obvious, and perhaps you just dont have the time or tenacity
to find them. Thats okay, Ive done it all for you. Read on and
Ill show you how to embark on a very-low cost, enjoyable
and completely distraction-free writing experience that
could transform your writing life. Ill introduce you to some
wonderful writing machines, tell you where you can get yours,
how much (or how little) to pay for them, and explain how they
can dovetail effortlessly into a modern workflow that ends
as opposed to begins with your computer. Unlike modern
computer screens, all of these devices can be properly viewed
outside too.

use. The typewriter

is an enjoyable way
to get fiction first
drafts written. The
temptation to edit is
gone, so youre forced
to just push on.

In years gone by, a
double-spaced typewriter manuscript was edited by hand and then
retyped. Now theres a much easier way to integrate the typewriter into
the modern workflow. What you need is an OCR application. This
is a piece of software that, when presented with a scan or photo of
your printed page, recognises the typed characters and turn them into
editable text that you can open in your word processor. I use the free
DocScanner on my iPad available from the App Store. I use the iPad
camera to photograph the typed page, then let the OCR do its stuff. I
email the resultant text file to myself or save it to Dropbox, then load
it into my word processor for editing. There are free online OCR sites
too. One can be found at

26/09/2016 10:04


Word processors

Just when it looked like the game was

up for typewriters, along comes the
brand new Astrohaus Freewrite. Its
a mechanical keyboard and screen
combination, with the latter taking the
place of your piece of typing paper. The
screen is the same e-ink one used on
the Kindle, and thus performs well in
bright sunlight.
If you feel that buying a real vintage typewriter is a step too far, then the
Freewrite may be just right for you. However, you do need a deeper pocket
this time, because it currently retails for around $600 including import taxes
from America. I personally prefer the real thing, and use my Olympias for all
my fiction first drafts. Astrohaus should be applauded for their back-to-basics
approach to writing. I think we need more of this sort of thing. You can learn
more at

Although most people have probably forgotten, word processors

didnt start life as computer software. They were carefully designed,
standalone machines. Straightforward, distraction-free and
productive. A now-defunct American company called Alphasmart
revised this concept a few years ago, and what they came up with
is a perfect tool for writers, which is now very cheap to buy.
Alphasmarts are chunky, robust keyboard and screen
combinations with built-in word-processors featuring word-count,
spell-check and necessary editing facilities.
There are two Alphasmart devices worth considering. The
first is the Neo, which is the most stripped-down of the two. It
sports a superb keyboard, capable word processor, battery that
lasts almost forever, and text that is saved automatically as you
write. Its the most common one out there secondhand and
its great. The only slight drawback is the screen, which only
allows a few lines of text to be displayed at any one time. My
recommendation is the Alphasmart Dana, which has the same
form factor, but possesses a bigger screen and a useful green
backlight. This one does require you to save your text now and
again, and the most safe and secure way to do so is to a card
inserted into one of the two SD sockets built into the machine.
This model works on the robust old Palm operating system.
Theyre cheap to buy because few people recognise their
benefit in our wired world. I paid 30 for my Neo and
70 for my Dana on eBay. Both are
like new. I use them to write all
my non-fiction drafts, where the
editing is useful. Im writing this
on the Dana now.

Like a real typewriter, there are absolutely no editing facilities. You cant go back
and correct text. Its being marketed as The Worlds First Smart Typewriter.
One of its key features is built-in wifi, which enables text typed onto it to
automatically float away to cloud-based sites such as Dropbox.

Wouldnt it be great if you could have a proper
word processor in your pocket, ready whenever
inspiration strikes and with a proper keyboard that
you can type on? Well, by revisiting the well-loved
Psion range of personal digital assistants, you can.
The enduring legacy of this innovative British
company is the Psion 5MX. Its like a miniature
Alphasmart, but built into a clever clamshell design
that folds up and pops into your pocket. Unlike
anything else of its size, before or since, it has a real keyboard! It features a
word processor thats every bit as good as the Alphasmarts, together with a
handful of other useful built-in applications. One of these is a customisable
database. I use it to store all my ideas for freelance articles. A good Series
5MX can be bought on eBay for 70. They are tough little devices, and the
only problem you may ever encounter, is a fault developing in the internal
flexible cable that connects the screen part of the clamshell to the keyboard.
However, there are several companies out there who specialise in fixing this.
One is who can also supply completely refurbished,
as-new machines. The 5MX is the ultimate carry-with-you writing tool.
Theres a somewhat less well-specified Psion called the Series 5 (as opposed
to 5MX). These are marginally cheaper to buy and more common, but the
MX is the one that I recommend you choose. It has more memory, faster
processor and a better casing.


Astrohaus Freewrite

Both machines are designed to
take knocks and do the task they
were designed for perfectly to
write and edit words. They switch
on and off instantly, and you can
work on up to eight different
documents at the same time by
using the dedicated function buttons at the
top of the keyboard to switch quickly between them.
The batteries last for weeks, and they had an innovative
way of transferring text into a desktop word processor for
final finishing off; all you do is connect the device by USB,
open your computer word processor program, position the
cursor where youd like the text to appear and press Send
on the device. Magically, your text begins whizzing, word by
word, into your computer. It is simple and straightforward.

The desktop software originally used to sync the Psion with a Windows
desktop PC is too elderly to work with new computers, but thats okay,
because your word processor document can be saved in the 5MX onto a
standard compact flash card, which can then be removed and plugged into
your main computer via a 3 card reader. Your text can then be imported
into your favourite desktop word processor for final editing, printing and
distribution. A tiny application called nConvert which is available free from, can easily be installed on the Psion,
enabling the built-in word-processor format to be converted and saved to
the card in the completely compatible rich text format (RTF).

In summary
Although we probably dont like to admit it, checking the
phone, interacting with social media and surfing the web
has collectively become something of an addiction for most
of us. Using these venerable devices to create a distractionfree writing environment may become an addiction too, but
an empowering and productive one. To get the best results,
turn off your phone and disconnect your internet router.
Then settle down with one of these distraction-free devices
and let the writing magic happen. It will...


p24 Distraction free.indd 25


26/09/2016 10:04


How I got
Scottish author Martin
Stewarts debut novel, Riverkeep,
was published by Penguin in April.
Interview by
Dolores Gordon-Smith

lthough the end of my publication journey was very

unusual, it began in a very typical way. Id written a
couple of books that yielded a mixed bag of silence
and blunt rejections. There were scraps of muchneeded encouragement too, but I was honest enough with myself to
recognise that, although I could write, there was something missing
from my work. It was a bit thin, inconsequential a series of events
rather than a compelling narrative. That changed in 2010, for a
couple of reasons.
I had just begun a teaching career, and been surprised to
discover an interest in writing for younger readers. I realised
a more distinct voice was emerging, free from the mimicry of
which I knew I was guilty.
In addition to this, my adored grandfather passed away, and I
found grief staining my pages. Suddenly I had something to write
about, and my work had the depth and consequence it had been
lacking. I wrote a middle grade novel and took it into the big bad

world, joining an SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers &

Illustrators) critique group, attending an event for aspiring authors
at the Edinburgh Book Festival and entering a national competition.
After a long series of rejections, my shortlisting in that competition
helped catch the eye of my agent, Molly Ker Hawn.
So far, so typical.
The atypical part came after a year or so. While the feedback on
my middle grade novel was positive, publishers indicated that the
darkness of its tone might be an issue for younger readers. Did I
have anything else?
So my agent submitted a short story that Id written which Id
based on an article in a newspaper supplement and, amazingly,
Penguin made an offer to turn those 2,000 words into a novel:
Riverkeep. The short story became the first chapter and I followed
the publishers advice stepping a little further away from the
darkness and into the light. Feedback really is always a gift, no
matter how critical!


Shannon Cullen,
publishing director, Penguin
Random House Childrens
Its incredibly rare for us to commission a book from an
unknown author on just 2,000 words, but Martins writing is
so arresting dark, atmospheric and accomplished that the
entire editorial team was seduced. In those few words, which
now form the first chapter of Riverkeep, you could see the
potential for a wonderful story, and Im pleased to say
that our instincts have been more than confirmed.
Martin is a truly talented writer whose writing
not only delivers, but also promises great
things for the future.


Dont be precious. Be honest with yourself. Cut anything

that doesnt work. Accepting that a particular project hasnt
worked is not a defeat it is an exercise in the development
and refinement of your talent and voice in which you should
delight. Each project you set aside takes you a step closer
to the one thatwillwork beautifully. Think of the abandoned
drafts as a Shed of Wonder, to which you can wander and
tinker when in need of inspiration.
Research your submissions to agencies. In the days of
online information you can read their guidelines, discover
the interests of individual agents, and even check out their
Twitter feeds. Use this to tailor your submission to each
agent, explaining why you think they, in particular, might be
interested in your work.


p26 HIGP.indd 26

26/09/2016 10:06

a place at

Heres what last years

winner thought!
Iceland was the perfect setting for a
writers retreat it was impossible not
to be moved by the landscape and the
collective enthusiasm for all things literary
and Id love to go back another time
and explore the country further.
2016 winner Jennifer Moore



including accommodation
AND flights from
the UK
We are offering one lucky reader a chance to explore
Icelands rich cultural heritage and expand their literary
horizons at Iceland Writers Retreat, 5-9 April 2017


Attendance at five small-group workshops, other author
events, and lunches on workshop days
Four nights accommodation in the Icelandair Hotel
Reykjavik Natura, including breakfast
A welcome dinner on the first evening
A literary walking tour of Reykjavik and day-long coach
tour through the Icelandic countryside with a local author
Return flights from the UK
To find out more about what the Retreat offers,
see the website:

To win this fantastic prize just send us up to 500

words of prose or poetry on the theme of Elements.

Enter online at
5 per entry.

The closing date is 2 December and the winner will be notified by 6 January.
You must be over 18 to enter, and available to attend the retreat between 5 and 9 April.
Flights are only available from UK airports.

p27 Iceland.indd 19

Images Roman Gerasymenko



26/09/2016 10:08



Attracting an agent can be the start of a long business relationship.
Simon Whaley flirts with two agents to learn more about the wooing process.

t this time of year many

literary agents are talking
Frankfurt. The Frankfurt
Book Fair is one of the
biggest gatherings of
publishing professionals in the world.
Over 600 agents from more than 300
agencies from over thirty countries
will get together around tables at
its Literary Agent and Scout Fair to
negotiate rights and deals. As Jonny
Geller, literary agent and joint CEO
of agency Curtis Brown, says on the
Frankfurt Book Fair website: The
Frankfurt Book Fair can transform
the hopes and dreams of an author. A
place where a book can go from a local
idea to a global phenomenon.
That doesnt mean that every
writer who secures an agent will find
their book becoming the next global
phenomenon, but when it comes to
the business of writing, having an
agent can open more doors for you.
Most mainstream publishing houses
only accept submissions via agents,
so attracting an agent means your
writing can be put in front of people
you dont have access to on your
own. And then, of course, comes the
negotiating skills that an agent can
bring to the table when a publisher
falls in love with your book.
But theres more to managing
a writers business than trying to
sell the authors work to the best
publisher, and then negotiating the
best deal possible. Kate Nash set up
her literary agency in 2009 (www.


p28 Business of Writing.indd 28

hawks hawks with smartphones,, and shes
obviously so we can advise our
also the author of six romance novels,
authors on not just one book, but
so she understands exactly what
throughout their careers.
an agent can bring to a writers
business. The best agents are
career managers for their authors,
Target agents
she says, guiding and providing
Attracting an agent isnt easy. Theres
strategic advice how an author can
a lot of competition out there, but
achieve a successful author career.
thats the business of writing all over.
We are advocates and champions
Websites like Writers and Artists or
for the authors interests. Before
Agent Hunter (see panel, right) are
even the contract is signed
good starting places when
we are talking to publishers
searching for agents who might
about sales and marketing
be interested in your work. Be
support, book titles and
specific. Dont carpet-bomb
jackets and their author
every agent with your material.
positioning, the things that
We know what its like when
Writers seeking
make the critical difference
we get junk mail through the
to a books success.
post at home, and we all know
sometimes forget
Imogen Howson, an
what we do with it, whereas a
associate agent at Kates
letter that comes addressed to
that an agents
agency, is also a published
us by name gains a little more
main job is not to
author of young adult
attention. Remember, youre
read submissions,
books. Having seen both
trying to engage with people
but to look after
sides of the fence, she
who are already extremely busy.
also sees agents as career
I think writers seeking
their current clients
managers. This often means
representation sometimes
Imogen Howson
investing a lot of time and
forget that an agents main
effort in an author, long
job is not to read submissions,
before a book contract has
but to look after their current
been secured. Before a
clients, says Imogen. Ive seen
manuscript goes out on submission,
writers complaining about agents who
we work editorially with the author
send out form rejections rather than
to make the manuscript as strong as it
providing feedback on submissions,
can be before it hits an editors desk
with no apparent awareness that if an
not fixing typos, but big picture stuff:
agent did that for every submission,
working with the author to strengthen
theyd have no time to actually
characterisation or tighten up plots.
represent their clients!
And we watch genres and trends like
Agents work on a percentage basis,

26/09/2016 10:09


so they dont earn any money reading

submissions. They only earn when
they successfully sell one of their
clients projects.
The best way to attract their
attention is to deliver what they
are looking for. Do some research.
Visit their website. Find out about
the different agents. What are their
personal preferences? Theres no
point sending your non-fiction
book proposal to an agent who loves
romantic fiction. Nor should you send
your young adult fantasy novel to an
agent who states they specialise in cosy
crimes set in 1930s England.

Human beings
Agents are human beings (yes, its
true!), who have their own likes
and dislikes. For an agent to take
us on they have to love our work,
because theyre the ones going into
battle for us, selling our manuscripts
to publishers. Spend some time
identifying agents who enjoy reading
the genre you enjoy writing, and seek
out those with similar interests. This
might seem time consuming, but
consider the business case: its your
writing career. The right agent can
boost your writing business.
When youve identified a shortlist,
look for what they want when it
comes to submissions. Some agencies
have a system all their agents adhere
to, while others allow individual
agents to determine what they wish to
see in an initial submission.
This is another reason for not
carpet-bombing every agent you can
find. Some prefer three chapters and a
synopsis, others want two chapters and
a one-page synopsis, while some want
three chapters with a two-page synopsis
and a paragraph description of the
six main characters. Send something
different to what theyve asked for
and you mark yourself out as a writer
who doesnt do their research properly.
Would you go into business with
someone who couldnt be bothered?
When it comes to submitting,
its not just about the writing, but
your whole business-like approach.
A great submission offers a clear,
simple vision of the book and, of
course, a gripping opening chapter,
says Kate. Also a telephone number
I like to ring writers Im interested
in working with.

Submission sensibilities
Theres a reason why agents are
specific about what they want to see
in a submission. We ask for sample
chapters and a synopsis, Imogen
explains, because the chapters tell
us what the writing is like and the
synopsis tells us what the story is like.
Its very difficult to judge the quality
of a submission if we dont get both
those things. A good submission
provides the correct materials, together
with a query email that has all the
necessary information title, author
name, genre, word count is clearly
worded and doesnt go on for too
long. A great submission provides all
those things together with sample
chapters that hook us immediately
and that make us want to see the
whole book.
Dont email your manuscript to
agencies that only accept postal
submissions. They wont be read.
Agents read submissions at times and
in places convenient to them.

Conference connections
There are other ways to attract an
agent, such as meeting them face to
face. This does not mean camping
outside their offices, but attending
writers conferences and festivals where
agents are also invited. Indeed, some
allow you to pitch your book to agents
in a ten-minute, face-to-face interview.
(Its like speed-dating, but a thousand
times more nerve-wracking.)
There is a cost to attending such
festivals, but remember the businessside of things. Its an investment in
your future. A chance encounter in
the queue at lunch time, or a faceto-face chat at a dedicated meet-theagent session, could be the start of
a long, career-building relationship.
(The cost of the festival event may
also qualify as a tax-deductible
business expense.)
We go to a number of conferences
and writers festivals, says Imogen.
Its important for us to keep up with
whats happening in the publishing
industry, and its nice to meet writers,
editors, and other agents in person.
Although these are the main ways
agents secure their clients, authors
sometimes find themselves agents
through more unusual routes.
Some clients come via personal
recommendation, says Kate. Ive

p28 Business of Writing.indd 29

Although attracting an agent isnt like internet

dating, the internet can make a great starting point.
The following websites offer limited information for
free, but more detailed information to subscribers.
Agent Hunter:
Subscription rates: 5 for one months full access,
12 for six months, 18 for a year. Other benefits,
such as cover letter and synopsis review, are
included in the longer-term subscriptions.
Writers and Artists:
A twelve-month subscription, 19.99, gives you the
ability to search by genre, location or agent name,
and search results can be saved.

just taken on a memoir via a lady my

mother met when on holiday.
Its considered acceptable to send
initial submissions to several agents
at the same time, because waiting
for a response can take weeks, if not
months. Always remember though
that if an agent asks to read your entire
manuscript theyre investing a lot of
time in you, so respect their wishes
if they ask for exclusivity while they
read it all. If you find yourself in the
position where two agents ask to read
your whole manuscript at the same
time, be professional and business-like.
Explain the situation to the first agent
and see what they say. Its only fair
the first agent gets the opportunity to
make a decision on your work first.
There are several busy periods in an
agents year when reading submissions
is not a high priority. Dealing with
all the monies and checking royalty
statements, which all come at once,
says Kate, is one. The two busiest
periods being the start of April and
the start of October.
And large publishing events, such
as the London Book Fair in April and
the Frankfurt Book fair in October
divert agents attentions from their
submission piles for a while. But dont
let all this put you off. Agents do want
to see your work. The best thing in
the world is finding a fabulous book,
says Imogen, and then working with
the author to make it better.
And who knows? Perhaps this time
next year an agent will be at Frankfurt
for you, trying to turn your local idea
into a global phenomenon.


26/09/2016 10:09

The style and technique of



A romantic novelist with a strong feel-good

factor, explored by Tony Rossiter

escribed by one
critic as modernday Austen and by
another as Joanne
Trollope crossed
with Tom Sharpe,
Katie Fforde has written 23 romantic
novels. Old-fashioned romance of the
best sort funny, comforting, said
another critic.
She has been a committee member,
chairman and president of the
Romantic Novelists Association
(RNA), and is founder of the Katie
Fforde Bursary, which consists of a
years subscription to the RNA and a
place at its conference for a writer who
has yet to secure a publishing contract.

How she began

Its the only New Years resolution
Ive ever kept, said Katie Fforde. Her
mother had given her the Christmas
present of a writing kit paper,
dictionaries, thesaurus, Tipp-ex and
she resolved to do what she had been
talking about doing for years: to start
writing a novel. Her mothers present
gave her the kick-start she needed.
Katie Fforde was in her late twenties,
and had a husband and three small
children, by the time she realised that
what she really wanted to do was to
be an author. She and her husband
had run a narrowboat hotel business;
she then worked for five years as a
salad girl in the kitchen of a wholefood shop and caf. She wrote in


p30 beat the best.indd 30

the evenings and during the

summer school holidays, when
she took time off work to look
after her children and to write. She had
a good life before becoming an author,
but once she started writing she realised
what she had been missing. I think
its to do with having an overactive
imagination, she said, and wanting
to communicate (which can be a posh
word for chat!).
After she began writing it took her
eight years to become a published
novelist. Her early books were based on
her own life experiences. Working in a
caf, living on a narrowboat and being
a cleaning lady were all things she
herself had done. In her later novels she
went on to explore different professions
and working environments.

Early novels
Living Dangerously, her first and most
autobiographical novel, was published
in 1995. Its about Polly Cameron,
whos messy, 35, celibate, and lives
happily with her cat and her Rayburn
in a small Gloucestershire town. She
juggles her hectic life, trying to do her
best for everyone. She works in a local
caf, is involved in the save our High
Street campaign, and tries to get her
pottery career started. She dodges the
matchmaking efforts of her friends
and her mother. She doesnt want a
relationship or so she thinks. Her
boss at the Whole Nut caf, Bridget,
is also her best friend, and she and

her partner Alan, with their three

children, are like family to Polly. After
stumbling in and out of a meaningless
relationship, she meets an older man
and her life begins to fall into place.
Living Dangerously is an easy read
with recognisable, down-to-earth
characters and a happy ending two
characteristics of Katies writing.
She worried about the novel because
it was so close to home. If she is
writing about people who might
recognise themselves, she always checks
to make sure they have no objection.
In the case of Living Dangerously one
of the characters, Mac, was based on a
real person: he agreed to be included
provided his real name was used.
Her second novel, The Rose Revived,
made extensive use of Katies reallife experiences as a cleaning lady
and narrowboat owner. The story
revolves around three young women,
May, Harriet and Sally, all in need
of money, who are thrown together
when they join a cleaning agency.
All three are believable and likeable
characters and not too perfect. May,
who has a feisty, winning personality,
is not good at apologising, and
her prickly relationship with Hugh
reminded me of the Elizabeth Bennet/
Mr Darcy relationship in Pride and
Prejudice. Theres a happy ending,
as the financial cloud hanging over
Mays continued ownership of her
narrowboat is removed and all three
heroines find romance.

26/09/2016 12:39

A Summer at Sea
Katie Ffordes most recent novel,
set mainly in the Western Isles of
Scotland, was inspired by her love
of Scotland and the time she and
her husband spent on board a puffer
steam boat in the Crinan Canal. In
A Summer at Sea (2016) Emily, a
midwife with a satisfying career in the
south of England, spends a summer
helping out her pregnant best friend
Rebecca as cook on board her puffer
steam boat just off the Scottish
coast. When Rebecca is about to
give birth and a storm prevents the
ambulance getting through, Emily
has to put her midwifery skills into
practice. Needless to say, theres a
romantic interest, in the shape of
a handsome local doctor, which
gathers force as the story progresses.
Readers who enjoy the feel-good
factor that characterises Katies books
are unlikely to object to the storys
predictable, happy-ever-after, ending.

How she writes

Katie starts her writing day early
5.30am or 6am in summer. She goes
to her desk in dressing gown and
slippers and turns on her computer
and Radio 4. She checks into Twitter
and checks her emails before turning
them off and starting to write. She
usually starts by editing what she has
written the previous day. She aims
at a minimum of 1,000 words a day,
but sometimes manages as many as
2,000. If its going well she will have
completed her 1,000 words before she
begins to get phone calls around 9.30,
but it sometimes takes longer.
After her writing stint is finished, she
typically watches television or goes for
a walk. She has said that she often gets
her best ideas while shes on the move:
I set out with my problem in my
head, I march about and eventually I
find the problem will sort itself out.
Its good if Im not a mile from home
when I get the answer to my plot
because otherwise Ill forget what it
was I wanted to say. Nowadays I keep
my walks close to home so that I can
get back and start writing again.
She says that ideas for books
are everywhere. She has got them
from television programmes, small
advertisements in magazines and
overheard snatches of conversation. She
always chooses to write about subjects

shes really interested in; she enjoys the

research and takes it very seriously. She
loves exploring subjects and activities
she knows little or nothing about. In
the interests of research shes been a
porter in an auction house, a trainee
potter, a furniture restorer, and she has
delved behind the scenes of a dating
agency and even been on a Ray Mears
survival course. All this first-hand
research has enabled her to bring these
activities vividly to life in her books.
Before embarking on a new novel,
Katie first decides on the theme or
subject usually, a profession or an
activity that she wants to make the
focus of the book. She then asks herself
what sort of a person would do that?
and starts to think about her characters.
She believes that a good hero is key,
together with a heroine whom the
readers can recognise and who is
likeable, but not too perfect. After that,
comes the plotting, which she says is
very important. For her, this means
creating a few really romantic scenes.
She has to think about how she can
make the romance angle a bit different,
and this can be difficult. It might, for
example, involve having an old flame,
or someone from the characters past,
make an unexpected or unwelcome
appearance. She rarely knows at the
beginning of a book exactly how it will
end, though she knows there will be a
happy ending.

p30 beat the best.indd 31

Katies three top tips for

aspiring writers are:

Read a lot

She advises reading absolutely anything and everything.

She thinks its almost impossible for anyone who doesnt
read a lot to become a writer and says: You learn more
about writing from reading than you would believe.


Anyone can do it if they want it enough, she says,

believing that perseverance and a refusal to give up is the
key. It took her eight years of dogged, determined, noseto-the-grindstone work before she made the breakthrough
and became a published writer. If youre really determined
and you really want it enough, you will do it, she says,
but you have to want it more than anything.

Listen to criticism

She says its important to learn to distinguish between

helpful and unhelpful criticism: If somebody says, I cant
get into this book because its boring in the beginning,
dont disagree with them but listen. The fact is, people
arent going to want to read it if its not compelling
enough. When it comes to editorial criticism, usually
people are telling the truth and it is best to listen to it.



26/09/2016 10:11

Away from your desk

Get out of your garret for some upcoming activities and places to visit

Its not over in Ilkley

Back soon!

With the Ilkley Literature Festival running until

16 October, theres still time for book lovers
to catch up with favourite authors including
Louis de Bernires and Jacqueline Wilson in the
beautiful surroundings of the Yorkshire Dales.

Get hiorical
in Harrogate
Freedom of expression
Margaret Atwood will be awarded the PEN Pinter Prize 2016, at a ceremony
at The British Library on 13 October. The prize will be shared with an
International Writer of Courage, who will be announced on the night.

Lovers of historical writing will be able to immerse

themselves in the past in the company of stellar
authors including Philippa Gregory, Janina Ramirez
and Tracy Borman, at the Harrogate History Festival
between 20 and 23 October.
Website: http://harrogateinternationalfestivals.

Swing Time for Cambridge

Literary star Zadie Smiths new novel, Swing Time,
is a highlight of the autumn publishing calendar.
Shell be appearing on 22 November at
Lady Mitchell Hall as part of Cambridge Literary
Festival (26-27 November).

Way with words

in Southwold
The Southwold Literature Festival run by Ways
with Words turns the pretty Suffolk seaside resort
into a hotbed of literary talent between 10 and 14
November, with appearances including Salley Vickers,
John Crace, Juliet Barker and John Sutherland.

p32 What's on.indd 32

Book in
for Book Week
Book Week Scotland 2016, a week-long
celebration of all things book-related,
takes place between 21 and 27 November across
Scotland. Scottish poets, authors, playwrights
and storytellers will be bringing a packed events
programme to life in schools, libraries,
community venues and workplaces across
the country. Website:

26/09/2016 10:17




Were different...

Final entries are now invited
for the Fifth Annual Prize

The only writing competition in the world

where the judges are the public

Submissions by 15th January 2017

This competition is the literary

equivalent of the X Factor for novels!

Any writer - New work - 2500 words

For further details, and to
submit your entry, see our website

Will you be our winner?








Deadline 30th November 2016

Find out more at


UK Novel Writing Comp.indd 2

15/08/2016 15:44

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Seeking reliable and realistic advice about your

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experienced professionals?

Matador exhibiting at the

2016 London Book Fair

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p033_wmagnov16.indd 33



23/09/2016 14:38



Bad eating habits and snacking are constant risks

for home writers, so make sure you stay healthy in body
and mind with advice from Jane Wenham-Jones

have recently given up an office job and begun working from home. This has many
advantages, as all freelancers will know, not least that it has given me more time to
try to finish my novel. However, since my paid work also involves writing often to
tight deadlines I find I am spending long hours welded to my computer and seem to
survive on sweet stuff and snack food at my desk rather than having time to eat proper
meals. As a result, I am finding I am tired all the time and also several pounds heavier.
Several women at my writing group admitted cheerfully that theyd put on lots of weight
while writing their books I really do not want this to happen to me! But when I am on
a roll, I just have to keep going and cant stop to start cooking. What do other writers do
about eating healthily while still getting the words down?

ou are not alone,

Emily. I belong to a
Facebook group for
freelancers and when
this subject was
discussed recently, dozens of members
contributed, either empathising with
the problem you outline, or sharing
their own tactics for dealing with it.
Its all too easy to slip into bad
eating habits when glued to ones
desk (I speak as one who has just
consumed three chocolates) but
at the risk of sounding like your
grandmother, good nutrition is


p34 Talk it over /novel ideas.indd 34

crucial, because writing is hard

work, and you will find you lose
concentration, inspiration and
stamina very quickly without it.
Ally Oliver is currently an editor
at Hearst Magazines, but says that
when she was freelance she would
quite often forget to eat altogether.
It would get to about 2.45pm and
Id suddenly have a terrible headache
and feel grumpy, she recalls, and
then Id realise why. This is never a
good state to be in.
Ally continues: Id stuff myself
with carbs at that point because I

was absolutely starving. Not a great

routine to get into...
Indeed it isnt. When you are
constantly reaching for the cake and
biscuits because your blood sugar
has hit rock bottom, thats when the
weight goes on.
And it is true that many writers do
pile on the pounds when writing a book.
I first wrote about the phenomenon
of writers bottom in a how-to book
over a decade ago mainly because I
wanted to amuse myself with a section
called Top Diets for Fat Scribes but
the reaction I got soon convinced me
it was a serious issue. And one worth
addressing early on.
Freelancer Roz Ryan believes in
a proper breakfast she has eggs,
porridge or a super smoothie. Even
if, like me, you cant fancy much first
thing, a nutri-bullet or similar is a
good investment. You can put your
entire five-a-day into one of these
mega-blenders that mulches up all the
good skin and fibre too, and know
that at least youve got your vitamins
and anti-oxidants box ticked. I feel
much more energised on the mornings
after I take five minutes to do this.
After that, forward-planning is key.

26/09/2016 10:23




Maria McCarthy is the (slim!) author

of The Girls Car Handbook and a
prolific freelance journalist, specialising
in motoring. However pressed she
is, she makes sure she eats. For me,
the ideal is to have food pre-prepared
that only needs to be heated up. This
means you get something nutritious
but dont have to break the flow.
Maria makes casseroles in advance
(a slow cooker can be very useful here)
and when she is hyper-busy swears
by what she calls her garden centre
lunches: a jacket potato with salad
and ham or cheese. Potatoes do pretty
much cook themselves and once they
have, if you buy bags of leaves, you
can be ready in moments.
New Zealand based editor Jai
Breitnaur is vegan, so for her the rapid
repast is even more of a challenge, but
she offers this example of a really wellbalanced snack you can put together in
no time: vine tomatoes thinly sliced over
peanut butter on toast. Yes, it absolutely
works, she says. I imagine it does.
Writer and coach-therapist Eve
Menezes Cunningham admits to
occasionally having crisps for dinner (I
can put my hand up to this one too)
but also makes vegetable soup all year
round and has it for lunch.
Soups are a great way of using up
any left-over veg lurking in box or
fridge. If you add chillis this boosts the
metabolism and if you throw a handful
of grated cheese on top, its a bit more
filling and you get some protein too.
Houmous and salad stuffed into
wholemeal pitta bread is another quick
and healthy fix. Pitta keeps well in the
freezer and can be put in the toaster to
warm up. It is quite easy to make too,


p34 Talk it over /novel ideas.indd 35


if you fancy coming over all domestic

goddess when youve finally switched
off for the day.
I would also say: drink lots of water
and dont forget to exercise. Be strict
about sticking to anything you do
regularly such as yoga or tennis. The
time spent will be worth it in terms
of the renewed vigour youll feel in
return and the subsequent surge in
productivity when you do get back to
work. If you dont do anything like
that, perhaps consider it?
If you get stuck on a plot point or
find your paid work isnt flowing, a
brisk march around the block will
not only burn calories, but youll
find the change of scene far more
inspiring than simply sitting and sit
and staring at the screen.
Even when its going well, stop
typing regularly and stretch or walk
around the house or garden. Set a
timer if you have to.
For as we know, its not good for the
body or the eyes to be at a monitor for
hours on end, so perhaps take another
leaf out of Maria McCarthys book.
Maria tries, when possible, to
take a proper break, rather than, as
she puts it, wolf down whatever is
needed to sustain myself and then
get back to my laptop. She looks at a
magazine or listens to music.
Relaxing in this way, will help
digestion and encourage you to eat
more slowly another good strategy
for weight control.
In summary, working from home,
staying fit and not ending up the size
of the house is about creating good
habits. Chocolate, by the way, has
benefits! Enjoy!

Eve Menezes

Jane WenhamJones

Novel Ideas

Dont be
like Joan

Seize the day and dont let

your writing gather dust, says
Lynne Hackles

any years ago I met a lady who had been

in the Land Army during WWII. She
would read her stories out at our writing
group. They should have had a wider audience but
Joan never sent out her work. She didnt think it
was good enough or even interesting. I threatened
to break into her house, steal her work and send it
off on her behalf. Of course, I didnt. The sad thing
is Joan died without ever seeing a word of her work
in print and now those stories are lost forever.
You know what they say about the lottery
youve got to be in it, to win it. Dont be like Joan.
Send your work out into the world. Share it. But,
before you do lets cover a few points.
If you read your story and think thatll do you
can be sure it wont do at all. You are in the wrong
frame of mind to be making important decisions.
Leave it and return after supper, the following
morning, another day. Save it for when you are
fresh again and can look at it with wide eyes.
Then, when youve done a little more rewriting and
editing and say to yourself, thatll do nicely, its
time to send it off.
Maybe you want to seek a second opinion before
you offer your work to a magazine or publisher.
If whoever reads it for you yawns as they read
the first chapter and you tell them, It gets better.
You need to persevere, think again. Why should
they have to? An editor or publishers reader
wont. Its no good having a wonderful article or
brilliantly plotted story if your best work isnt at
the beginning. Correction. If your best work isnt
all the way through.
Keep aiming for perfection. Never believe you
have achieved it.



26/09/2016 10:23


!? PEN



Try these exercises from Lizzie Eneld to discover that what you leave
out of your writing can be as effective as what you put in

heres a phrase, which is overused a lot in academic circles: the

spaces between. When my daughter was applying to university
it seemed that nearly every professor in every discipline was
particularly interested in the spaces between works of art, pieces of
music or lines of poetry.
It became a bit of a family joke so I am slightly loathe to introduce the
phrase here but it is important to consider what you leave out of your
writing as much as what you put in. The omissions can be the things that
stop a piece of writing becoming prosaic and overloaded and engage the
reader, as they use their own imagination to fill in the gaps.
Sometimes, especially when starting out, writers often feel they
need to tell the reader everything. I had a student whose character was
heavily pregnant; she then went through a long and difficult labour and
eventually had the baby. All this was described in great detail but when I
suggested to the writer than she cut the labour scene she asked but will
the reader know how the baby got there?
I assured her they would.
The following exercises are designed to make you think about what you
dont need to put on paper.

ut of the picture
Exercise two: O
ally see the spaces
which you can liter
this exercise
hic novel and for
strip from a
between the
c novel or cartoon
I want you
newspaper or mag
which, again, someth
couple of pages on
ce or two
takes place.
ip and write a senten
2 Look at ea
taking place.
describing what is
e spaces between
has happened in th
3 Now,
arguing. In the next
me two people are
t happened? Write
a on the floor. Wha
scribe this.
short sentence to de
look at them again
es in the frame and
at hints at or
4 Go back to
anything in th th
suggests the omission
work and how
w graphic novelists
e details, which are
them to consider th
ise above
contained, in single
writing in the exerc
5 Finally, go ba
c novel. Draw
as if it were a graphi
and plot the action
within each or
details that will
raph to describe th
write a short parag

p36 pen pushers.indd 36

Exercise one: Pruning your prose

The childbirth example above shows you how its possible
to get to the same place in your writing without going into
huge detail. If the purpose of a particular passage is to show
the horror of childbirth or the stoicism of the mother, then
the labour scene should remain. But, if its simply to say that
a baby has been born then its not necessary.
1 Select a couple of pages of your own writing or a
couple of pages from a book during which some
change takes place.
2 Now take out every other paragraph and read the
passage through.
3 Ask yourself how much of the sense and the detail has
been lost by removing the alternate paragraphs.
4 Now think about what you need to write to replace
what has been lost. Is it another paragraph or a
sentence or two?
5 Having done this, can you also edit the paragraphs you
did not cut in the first place and retain the overall effect?



26/09/2016 10:24


Red Editing Pen

Each month, we give you a few sentences which would all benet from
some careful use of your red editing pen. As writers, and regular readers
of Writing Magazine, you should not nd any of these too difcult. But if
you would welcome a little help, you can always check out Richard Bells
suggested solutions below.
Here are this months examples:

Her meeting with the fiction editor took place quite by chance at Wendys
party, but it proved to be the worse possible influence on her career
leaving her prospects in the shade.


The success of her novel, set in the luxuriant world of fashion, depended
how much the hoped-for reviews would influence readers.
A deadly silence fell over the meeting following a presentation from the
rather geriatric fiction editorial team who pedalled the idea of moving the
list upmarket..


Things happen if they occur by accident, without any

preplanning. But when things are planned in advance
then we say that they take place. So to say that a
meeting took place quite by chance is not correct; it should
be happened (or occurred) quite by chance.
The next point to consider is the use of worse which
is a comparative, while worst is a superlative. It follows
that we can have an influence that was worse than the
previous one (in which case we would be comparing one
influence with another and therefore using a comparative).
But when comparing an influence with all possible
others (as we do in this months sentence one) we need
a superlative and should therefore use the term worst
possible influence.
Shade is good, but shadow is often sinister. Shade is
positive in that it provides protection against too much
sunlight but shadow often casts a more negative degree
of darkness so, at the end of our sentence, we would
perhaps be better to say cast a shadow over her prospects.

Things that are luxuriant are things that grow abundantly.

So you can have luxuriant hair or luxuriant roses.
However, it is things that reflect luxury (such as the world
of fashion) that can be luxurious, and luxurious is therefore
the adjective we should be using in sentence two.
Later in the same sentence we use the word depend.

However, when we use depend we should follow it with

the preposition on (or upon, which is much the same
thing) and our sentence should therefore read: depended
on how much.

We should be careful about the difference between

deadly and deathly. Deadly means causing death, or
capable of causing death (as in deadly weapon). On the
other hand, deathly means suggestive of death, so we can
certainly have a deathly silence or, for example, someone
having a deathly pallor.
So, at the start of sentence three, we should talk about a
deathly silence rather than a deadly silence. Then later in
the same sentence we have the word geriatric which is a
medical term referring to patients suffering from conditions
common among the elderly, but it has now also acquired
a pejorative, insulting meaning. As such it is often applied
to people who are far from elderly in order to suggest that
they are showing symptoms of elderly behaviour. Frankly, it
would be better to describe the editorial team as elderly;
that would convey much the same meaning without
implying any mockery of older folk.
Towards the end of our sentence three, we should
be careful about the difference between pedalled and
peddled. We pedal things such as bicycles whereas
we peddle ideas, such as the idea of moving the
fiction list upmarket.

p37 Red ed pen.indd 37



26/09/2016 10:25





Step back to see things differently and reinvigorate your writing, says Janet Rogers

ook at life differently and

reawaken your senses. As a
writer you may not travel,
wander or get out much and
thats fine if your imagination
is working on full charge. But there
are times when you need to give
yourself a jolt, see things in a different
light, use fresh eyes.
I had that experience recently. Im
not suggesting that you try this but it is
a good way of illustrating what I mean.
We had a problem with our chimney
and the builders came and put up
scaffolding and ladders. After theyd left
on that first day, I climbed the ladders
and eventually ended up on a little
platform next to the chimney.
And although I had lived in the
same house for more than thirty
years, I looked down and felt I was
in a different place. I was up among
the tree tops with the wind swirling
round me in an uninterrupted flow.
I caught glimpses of a life lived, seen
with the eyes of a gull. Suddenly I was
an outsider viewing my surroundings.
It was certainly different from looking
out of a bedroom window.
For a start I had a 360-degree view
and because of the height I could see
much further. I could see the swell
of far hills in the north and, looking
south, I could just make out the sea
through a clump of pines, a dark blue
line where sky met water.
I could see the church across the
road; a churchyard tumbled with
gravestones like a rockery, and in my
mind the pattern of footsteps on the
path where I had carried my new son
to his christening, footsteps where my
daughter had walked on her wedding
day and where the pallbearers carried
my mothers coffin to her grave. All
these thoughts flooded into my mind
because I had climbed a builders
ladder to the roof of my house.
But you dont have to climb ladders
to look at life and the world around
you with fresh eyes. Nor do you have


p38 Get writing.indd 38

to take expensive trips abroad or

have life-changing experiences to give
yourself new sensations.

We saw colours where we didnt know

they existed. Suddenly our world was
bright and alive and we began noticing
different hues and nuances.
Reflections: Look at reflections in
puddles, ponds, rivers and streams.
See how the surface ripples and the
reflected picture changes. Look into the
mirrors in your house, not at your own
reflection but at what you see beyond.
I can see the garden in a mirror in my
sitting room and it changes my view of
the garden. Its as though I am peering
into the garden as an outsider. I am
looking at it from a different angle.
Touch: I can remember one of my
children had to touch everything.
Its how they learn but adults have
lost that child-like curiosity. Feel
the smooth velvet on rose petals, the
rough grain of wood on a fence, the
pine needles on a tree.
Stop and listen: To the sound of the
traffic, the sea, the wind in the trees, the
rain on the windows, a clock chiming.
Swim: Under water, even if its only at
the local swimming pool. Notice the way
people change shape under the water.
Study the mass of bubbles and the light
changing. If you are feeling brave swim
in the sea or in lakes looking under the
water at the weed growth, light, and any
creatures that might be joining you.
Life doesnt have to be the same each
day. Or rather it may well be the same
but you can vary your view of it and
stimulate your senses and write better
as a result.

Simple steps

Simple steps in your everyday life will

give you a different perspective. Lie on
the floor and look up; view the whole
room from a horizontal position. And
dont just restrict yourself to indoors.
Go outside and lie in the garden or on
a park bench. Look at the sky and the
clouds and the trees moving, the birds
flying. See the shape of their wings,
notice the canopies of branches on the
trees and the subtle movement of the
leaves, see the sunlight glinting and
changing shapes and patterns.
Do the same again at night. Take a
ground sheet if the grass is damp. Look
at the stars, the moon and the clouds.
Listen to the night time sounds, owls
screeching and twigs cracking as the
night-time creatures venture out. Smell
the night smells, wood burning, salty
air, city smells, stale fat, car fumes.
Venture out at dawn and watch the
sun rise, listen to the birds waking up,
the seagulls screeching, the blackbirds
singing. Smell the flowers and the
freshness of the new day.

Other filters

Shadows: Well, thats a whole new

experience. I once did a watercolour
painting course and although I was pretty
bad, it taught me a lot about observation
and particularly shadows. I had never
noticed the shadows under the eaves
of houses or under window sills or the
shadows made by plants and trees. All of
a sudden I was seeing life in shadows. My
only concern was what else I had missed
over the years.
Colours: My writing group set itself
the task of going on a colour walk.
We chose a colour and then went out
for a walk, noting everything in that
colour. One member of the group
wasnt able to get out. She stayed in her
house and still found it a revelation.


Sleep in a different bedroom. If you have a spare room,
move in for a while. Its like going on holiday.
Try going outside your house at night and looking in. From
the black exterior you feel like a stranger looking in through
the window at someone elses home.
Take a lesson from children and hang upside down from
the branch of a tree, railings, fences or indoors just by lying
across a couple of chairs with your head hanging down..
Screw up your eyes and see your surroundings with blurred
vision so you only see shapes, dark patches and bright light.

26/09/2016 10:26




Dream of previously unknown possibilities for this
months competition for fantasy and SF stories,
whether that be mythical worlds and creatures
or technology-inspired alternative worlds, past,
present or future.


Your story should be the usual 1,500-1,700

words and the closing date is 14 December.



The winner will receive 200, with 50

for the runner-up, and both stories will
be published in Writing Magazine.
See p107 for entry details, full rules and entry forms.



With its closing date of 14 November, theres

still time to enter last months Flash Fiction
Competition for stories on any theme of up to
500 words. Prizes are as above.
See p107 for more details.

p39 comp.indd 39

26/09/2016 16:49

Crime story



by Elizabeth Tyrrell

overing above my bed

are two figures, grey and
cloudy, speaking through
cotton wool. Ghosts. As I
soon will be.
Did she say cat-creep? The
doctors laugh is muffled. Whats that?
A dance?
You find them in Brighton, Doctor!
Where Mum grew up.
Its faint but I recognise Jennies
posh voice. To my daughter doctors
are like gods. I splutter a laugh.
Mum? Her face blurs and, through
the hospital tang, drifts a whiff of
perfume. That expensive stuff. Whats
the matter?
Thinking I cant hear. Shes been
agitated all day. Something on her mind.
There is. One person missing. All
come to say goodbye except one.
Wheres Muriel?
Im trying to shout but all I produce
is a croaky squeak.
Tell me about cat-creeps, Jennie!
the doctor says.
I can.
Next door to our house was the
cat-creep. I dont know what others
call them but, in Brighton, the flights
of steep steps rising up between
high plastered walls and linking two
roads on a hillside are cat-creeps. The
bakers was at the top. So was the post
office. From up high you could see
descending terraces of houses with
their smoking chimney pots, the trees
changing colour in the park and, far
away, the steam train puffing across
the viaduct to Lewes. We lived on the
street at the bottom. The cat-creep was
our second home, our playground.
Over a hundred steps, Jennie explains.


p40 comp winner.indd 40

Elizabeth Tyrrell has lived in Brighton for most of her

adult life and cant imagine being anywhere else. She has
always enjoyed writing and finds that writing groups, of
which there are many in Brighton, and also magazines are
very helpful for support and feedback. Competitions are a
great motivator. She was an infant teacher for thirty years. You cant
have illusions about yourself when small children are around, she
says, and, not surprisingly, I often write about children.

One hundred and twenty-six I

whisper. Got to get it right. Get
everything right. Before I leave.
Where is she? Wheres Muriel?
Theyre waiting for me to go but
Im not finished. I must remember.
Im two years old and fleeing from
my mother. Dads away at the war so
theres just us two. On hands and knees
Im scrambling up the rough steps of
the cat-creep and dirtying my clean
frock but my mothers too fat to follow.
Theres a baby inside her. My sister.
Susan! A neighbour hears her
screeching. Come here! The neighbour
carries me down. I get a smack but I
forget all about it when my baby sister,
Muriel, arrives that night.
By the time my father has leave
again Im at school. Hand in hand we
trudge up the cat creep to buy bread.
My father uses the steps for counting.
If weve climbed fifty how many more
to go? or Have we stopped on an odd
or an even? Im the best in my class
at mental arithmetic. I never see my
father again.
Muriel and I play out from an early
age. The cat-creep is our special place.
Im in charge, Mum says. We haul our
tin prams to the first landing, spread
out dolls clothes and sit in the sun,
singing to our babies. Some grownups tut as, on their laboured route to
the top, they thread their way through
our bits and pieces. All are more
cheerful when they clatter down again.
They smile fondly at Muriels blonde

curls. Shes the pretty one.

With the end of sweet-rationing
we suck greedily at sickly sweet
lollipops and smear our faces with
tarry liquorice. It tastes like cough
medicine. We sit playing five-stones
till our cold bums ache.
I laugh again. The vague forms
swimming above me respond. Its so
clear in my head but all that comes is
a gurgling sound.
We blow bubbles through a little
metal wand.
My speech is like that now, floating
from my lips trapped in the thick
walls of a bubble. If I could hook the
bubbles to the ground, maybe theyd
pop and my words would be released.
We swap shiny glass beads, we
bounce a ball down the steps once
we hit the vicars wife we have
running races to the top, hauling
ourselves, gasping and panting up the
last few steps by clinging to the rusty
handrail. I always give Muriel a start
but there comes a time when she wont
have it.
Is she?
Not yet, Jennie, shes fantastic!
Hanging on in.
Fantastic? I dont know any more.
We get the dancing bug. We go to
tap classes and the flat areas between
the staircases are our stage. We swing
the steel-capped shoes by their ribbons

26/09/2016 12:38


then shuffle and ball change until

the sky darkens and our watches tell
us its time. Our chalky white shoes
are scuffed and grimy and our mother
shudders when she hears how Muriel
tried to do a Gene Kelly up and down
the bottom steps.
Youll break your ankle, my girl!
A memory floats past which I try to
grab. Have we already said goodbye?
Perhaps she cant come. Wont come.
We fancy ourselves as singers and
attempt harmonies like the Everlys
Dream, dream, dream... One evening
a voice bellows, Those moggies are on
the cat-creep again! and we hear an
answering guffaw. We dont stop.
One evening, as we leaf through
film magazines, we hear shouts and
drumming feet and suddenly theres
a line of boys, slightly older boys, out
for a run, grammar school boys, in
dazzling vests and crisply-laundered
shorts. A flash of white plimsolls and
the unfamiliar, exciting smell of sweaty
male bodies as, to the encouraging
shouts of a red-faced master, they
pound in single file to the top of the
steps. Soon they thump down again.
The one on the end winks. Hello
girls! Hes tall and suntanned with
black curly hair and blue eyes. See
you later, alligator! Im in love.
We look for the runners again but
they dont appear. Then, suddenly,
theres a litter of dog ends and the
landings are spiked with broken green
glass. One or two bottles are lobbed
into our garden. Raucous shouts ring
on the still evening air and there are
mutterings in the street about teddy
boys and glares towards the cat-creep.
Intrigued, we shout goodbye to Mum.
She has a job now and is tired so, as
long as were not too late, shes happy.
Hes there. Andy, with the curly hair.
Hi girls! Smoothly, like the films.
Do you come here often?
His friends not a teddy boy
amongst them laugh. Care for a
ciggy, ladies?
We dont but we soon learn to.
Sucking vigorously at Polos we saunter
home at the end of the evening and
our mother suspects nothing.
We have a swig or two of beer
but we dont like it. Even so it
makes us slither down the steps and
we have to grab the gritty handrail.

Mums asleep and doesnt hear our

giggly homecoming.
We become a group, no pairing
off, just joking, teasing. Even so
I know theres something special
between Andy and me. He flashes
that film-star smile, Alright, Big
Sister? and my heart flutters.
Exams are looming and I have to
revise. So sometimes Muriel goes
alone to meet the boys but I dont
worry. Shes only a little girl, its me
Andy likes. Cold weathers on the way,
she doesnt stay out long
One evening Im returning from a
friends. I pause at the top of the steps
where the branches of a sycamore
sweep across, scratching your face
if youre not careful, but hiding you
from view. Theres a full moon and a
bright lamp-post on the street so I see
the figures quite plainly.
Its Andy and the curly blonde
head snuggled against his shoulder
leaves no doubt who hes with. Theres
an urgency about the way the two
are pushing against each other, hes
clawing at her clothes, reaching and
fumbling in private places.
I shrink into the shadows.
A tumble of frantic thoughts.
Theyll be seen! Its so cold! How
could they?
I knew what it was to have a
broken heart.
I take the long way round. Shes
home first.
That night I stare into the darkness,
remembering, when I close my eyes
and, again, when I open my eyes, that
sight on the steps. I hardly sleep. Mum
feels guilty, says Ive been overdoing the
homework and is specially nice to me.
Muriels oblivious.
The next day it snows and
theres a hard frost. Walking is
treacherous, puddles ice over
To read the judg
and, from our window, we watch
cars slither and spin. I choose my
time and suggest to my sister we
have a walk.
No cat creep! Mum commands. I
reassure her that were going up the

Shes distressed, doctor, My

daughters face looms and recedes.
Is she in pain?
Shouldnt be. He touches my
hand. I wont give her anything more.
It wont be much longer.
Good. I need more time. What
happened that day? Why isnt
Muriel here?
Whos Muriel?
Hes heard me.
Her sister, doctor. Very close they
were. Her and Auntie Mu.
What did I do that day? I was so
angry with her, I know that. And
scared for a little sister playing with
fire. What did I do?
She would have come, Uncle
Andy too, but they cant travel from
Australia these days. Theyre out there
with their son.
Still together. Andy always was a good
chap, wouldnt leave a girl in the lurch.
The doctor takes my hand.
Thats better. See how peaceful she
looks, Jennie?
In her voice I hear my daughters tears.
Muriel always said Mum saved her life?
I believe what Im hearing. I cant
remember but its better to believe.
Auntie fell down the cat creep!
Her voice is fading.
on the coldest day of the year.
She always was headstrong. Just
a bumped head, lucky girl, but
if Mum hadnt got her home as
quickly as she did
Good old Mu. Thats the memory
I want. Its time. I can go.

Runner-up in the Crime Story Competition, whose story is published on www.writers-online., is Jean Burnett, Bristol. Also shortlisted were: Michael Callaghan, Clarkston, East
Renfrewshire; Stephen A Carter, Oregon, Ohio, USA; Abbey-Rose Chivers, Hull, East Riding;
Tony Domaille, Thornbury, Bristol; Susan A Eames, Caher, Co Cork, Ireland; Alan Grant,
Plymouth, Devon; Gladys Gregg, Londonderry, Northern Ireland; Nicola Houseago, Romford;
Ian Houston, Fort William; Ian Tucker, Bristol; Lisa Wilshire, Truro, Cornwall.

p40 comp winner.indd 41

long way to look at the view.

The view is certainly spectacular,
silvery trees, blue sky, flurries of
wheeling birds, but its the steps we
make for. As I expected they are frozen
solid, curving over into a slide of ice,
too thick to see the treads beneath.
The red of the setting sun makes them
seem splashed with blood.
Can you see our school from here?
Gently, I push my sister towards the
steps. Can you see Andys school?



26/09/2016 10:29

Dream spinners
Poetr y

and winners


Judge Alison Chisholm highlights the winners from

our Midsummer Nights Dream competition

great number of entries exhibited

riting a poem for
imaginative leaps that brought the
Shakespeare is a tall
pieces to life. Very few poems had to
order, a bit like baking
be eliminated for avoiding the theme
a cake for Mr Kipling
altogether, and writing about entirely
or giving gardening
different subjects.
advice to Alan Titchmarsh. It was
Perhaps because of the subject of
a fantastic experience, then, to read
this competition, a large majority
the many original, inspiring, witty
of the entries featured traditional
and thought-provoking poems
poetry forms, particularly the
crafted to honour the Bard
sonnet and blank verse. A
400 years after his death.
perfectly executed sonnet,
Maybe the most
terza rima or villanelle
pleasing aspect of the
displays the writers skills
competition was the
Subscribers only
at the highest level; but
way almost every
For 40-line poems inspired
theres always the risk of
poet managed to find
by the Battle of Hastings
error. It was disappointing
something new to say
or Bayeux Tapestry.
that a number of entries
that connected with
close enough to
A Midsummer Nights
See p107 for entry details
traditional forms to indicate
Dream. Some writers
their writers intention, but not
took up the suggestions
quite close enough to deliver the
made when the competition
form with accuracy. Unfortunately
was set. There was a brilliant
there were formal poems with weak
homage to Midsomer Murders, a
rhymes and wobbly metre, and blank
fascinating commentary in the voice
verse pieces with additional feet to
of the changeling boy, and some
the line or inappropriate syllabic
to-ing and fro-ing between Bottom
stress patterns.
and the Donkey.
One way of helping to avoid these
These three child, weaver and
errors is to say the poem aloud. If
donkey were by far the most
you read aloud at every stage, starting
popular characters to explore,
with notes, speaking the first draft
closely followed by Titania and her
and then developing versions, you
retinue. One intriguing idea brought
will have a good chance of noticing
characters from The Tempest into the
hiccups in the rhyme, rhythm and
arena, and several entries quoted from
metre, and so have the opportunity
or listed other plays. A wide breadth
to correct them. If you can get
of imagination was in evidence. A


p42 Poetry winner.indd 42

someone else to read your work

out to you, you have an even better
chance of spotting problems.

First place
Flawless poems shone. The winner
relates directly to A Midsummer
Nights Dream, in the form of an
enhanced cast list with the fun device
of a writers-blocked Bard seeking aid
from the narrator. Every Little Helps
is by Roger Dunn of Dartmouth,
and takes the form of an Elizabethan
(Shakespearean) sonnet.
The first stanza sets the scene by
showing the arrival of the struggling
playwright, and the offer of the three
key words that appear in the plot for
jiggling into the right order and using
as a title. More fascinating, though,
is the list offered in the second
stanza of names to be considered for
the characters. The cast list works
metrically and rhymes beautifully
which comes as a delightful surprise.
The final couplet closes the cast list
and rounds off the content by having
the now happy Shakespeare knowing
how to continue.
Essentially this is a list poem,
in which a good proportion of the
content over a third consists of
nothing more than possible character
names. Its a tribute to the poets
skill that the list is incorporated into
the piece in such a way as to enthral
the reader with this roll call of

26/09/2016 10:31

familiar characters. We find ourselves

making a mental reckoning of them,
noting a couple of omissions, being
reminded of possibly forgotten first
names; there is certainly nothing
tedious in the listing.
An appropriate conversational
note is sustained throughout the
piece, and the direct address to the
playwright has an inclusive quality.
The reader is there, listening in while
writer and friend thrash out ideas for
title and names. Everyday phrases
such as a spot / Of bother and Ive had
a go and scribbled down help to
create this illusion.
The conversational quality is not
compromised by the restrictions
of the form, but reads fluently and
naturally throughout. The masterly
rhyming of woebegone and Oberon
will linger in memory, as will the
final fun rhyme, where Will is
offered a quill.
Perhaps one of the most pleasing
aspects of this poem is the idea of
William Shakespeare as a struggling
human being rather than a remote
idol to be revered. As in the 1998
film Shakespeare in Love, were
presented with a real person in this
poem, and one we can all relate to.
Who has not struggled for a title?
Whos thought up and rejected a
dozen or more names? For the reader
who is also a writer, the premise at
the heart of this poem is irresistible.

Second place
The second prize is awarded to
the writer of a poem that recalls
one of the few names not mentioned
in Every Little Helps. Christine
Ratcliff of Saffron Walden, Essex,
has called her poem The Naming of
Fairies, and introduces us to the sad
plight of Moth.
The first stanza shows the fairys
habitual dream, full of typical
fairyland imagery such as wearing

white, dancing with the breeze,

iridescent dew, and butterflies in
scented bowers. This is the dream.
The reality is in the second stanza,
hovering in the semi-dark even while
Drawn to any tantalising gleam.
The white dress is gone, and the
character describes herself as cool,
dripping grey / Like autumn grief.
The negative images are reinforced
in The saddest song and the
description strange and wild.
In this poem, too, the language has
an immediacy with phrases such as
I fail to see and it calls the tune the
latter almost a clich, but instead a
fine introduction to The saddest song.
The Naming of Fairies is written
in beautifully controlled blank verse,
with its measured pattern of five feet
of an unstressed followed by a stressed
syllable in each of its unrhymed lines.
The only tiny variant in the metre is
the acephalous line, where the initial
unstressed syllable is absent from the
second line of the second stanza. Such
variants are included to make minute
syncopations in the rhythm, and here
it gives the bonus of drawing together
the two alliterative words, dusk and
Drawn. Both of these words make
lengthy use of their monosyllable. The
voice inevitably slows down on them,
providing a strong contrast with the
tripping metre of the first stanza.
The sound of the word when
spoken aloud also adds weight to the
end of the poem. Moth communicates
gloom and implies a downward
inflection. The name is marooned,
alone on the final line like an
afterthought, exactly in keeping with
the poems message.
Both the winners and all the
shortlisted poems prompt their
readers to grasp the nearest copy
of Shakespeares plays and re-read
A Midsummer Nights Dream.
What better recommendation
could there be?

1st prize

Ah, Will! Come in. Sit down. Still in a spot
Of bother with a title for the play?
Youve dream, night and midsummer in the plot,
Just shuffling them around should save the day.
Re: names of characters eluding you;
May I assist? Youre looking woebegone.
Ive had a go and scribbled down a few,
So tell me what you think of Oberon,
Titania, Francis Flute, Demetrius;
Nick Bottom, Robin Starveling, Helena;
Lysander, Peter Quince, Snug, Theseus;
Hippolyta, Egeus, Hermia;
Puck, Fairy, Philostrate and maybe Will!
Its good to see you smiling. Need a quill?

2nd prize

I used to dream that I was dressed in white.
Id dance with every passing, glancing breeze
And casting off the iridescent dew
Id lift my face towards the rising sun
And with my gilded fingers, pollen-dipped,
Call butterflies to bask in scented bowers.
Instead, I hover in the creeping dusk,
Drawn to any tantalising gleam.

Also shortlisted were: Elizabeth Bencze, Norwich, Norfolk; Heather Cook,

Woking, Surrey; Samuel Dunn, Ballycarry, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland; Gillian
Dunstan, Sidmouth, Devon; Caroline Gill, Rushmere St. Andrew, Ipswich;
Elizabeth Horrocks, Wilmslow, Cheshire; Angela Lanyon, Worcester;
Corinne Lawrence, Stockport, Cheshire; Elizabeth Parish, Old Trafford,
Manchester; Margaret Reeves, Llanishen, Cardiff; S. Riley, Wombwell,
Barnsley, Yorkshire; Susan Rogerson, Felixstowe, Suffolk.

You ask whats in a name. Ill tell you this:

It colours what I am cool, dripping grey
Like autumn grief. Im beige before my time.
My name has shaped my life; it calls the tune
The saddest song that holds no note of love.
I fail to see, however strange and wild,
How caring parents ever called their child

p42 Poetry winner.indd 43

26/09/2016 10:31


Shelf life:

The bestselling novelist shares her ve favourite reads
with Judith Spelman

inah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and lived in many countries around the world
before settling in England. She started writing in Spain when, as she explains,
quite a lot of money was lost in the financial crisis of 2008. She and her husband
had to sell up and move back to England to earn money again. She had been
thinking of trying to write a novel but when the money was lost it motivated her
to start. Knowing nothing about writing, she just plunged in, sticking Post-It notes around the
house saying, you will write a bestseller. And she did. Her second novel, The Tea Planters Wife,
became a Sunday Times number one. Her latest novel is The Silk Merchants Daughter and is
already receiving critical acclaim.

Charlotte Bront
The first book Ive chosen is Jane
Eyre. Its a beautiful love story that
deals with the role of women in a
particularly clever way. I love the
way that while she is incredibly
independent she still needs to find
her place in the world and theres
stern, crabby faced Rochester, a
really flawed character wild,
dangerous and to some extent irresistible. She has to find ways to
get the better of him, which she does, partly by teasing him. And
she irritates him in a kind of enjoyable way.
Then there is the whole issue of mad, bad Bertha Mason in
the attic which I suppose is a symbol of female oppression. I love
also the atmosphere of gloomy old Thornfield Manor and also
the terrifying red room at the start when she was incarcerated as
a child. Its all about finding a place in the world and womens
role. I think what appeals to me particularly, regardless of when
it was written, or what time, is that it does deal with social
injustice, particularly when she was at school. Her principles are
very upright: shes very moral, she wont allow bigamy and she will
let the love of her life go rather than do something thats wrong.
We tend to overlook Rochesters flaws because of the strength of
passion between him and Jane.



p44 SHELF LIFE.indd 44

Jenny Stewart


Rachel Joyce
This is nothing like my books. I actually
think Rachel Joyce has magic in her finger
tips. I think that the way she observes
the world is so original and the way she
makes the ordinary characters prove to be
so extraordinary is profoundly moving.
Its a dying womans story of unrequited
love and the companion book to
The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
I loved the chapters set in the hospice
best of all the humour, the jokes, the
warmth as each person gradually died. I
think its about ordinary lives told in an
extraordinary way, focusing on the detail and so inspiring to be able
to offer you so much emotion on the pages. I think again the key to
the story is that we care. We care about Queenie Hennessey, we care
about Harold Fry and his poor wife who didnt know what the hell
was going on. And then theres that awful son! I read it when it first
came out and I shall definitely read it again. Its one of those books
I shall re-read several times.

26/09/2016 10:32


Daphne du Maurier
I read it a couple of times years ago. Rebecca is the dead wife who
haunts the second Mrs de Winter. I love the way that Rebecca is
everywhere in the house and the way that gloomy Mrs Danvers
makes sure it stays that way by manipulating the young nave
narrator who becomes more and more jealous and frightened and
inadequate. Mrs Danvers preys on the second Mrs de Winters
feelings of not being good enough. She manipulates her and
undermines her and almost persuades her to jump to her death. She
is a really terrific female villain, stalking the new Mrs de Winter
throughout the book. She herself is a voice of obsession. She is
absolutely obsessed with Rebecca and she is constantly planting
seeds of doubt. I love the way a character from the past who doesnt
even exist anymore can almost drive a character in the present crazy.
There are so many second wives today and no matter how open-

minded and forward thinking you are,

especially if there is a family with the
previous wife, it can make life very
complicated and tensions can arise. In
Rebeccas case she was supposed to be
incredibly beautiful and throughout the
whole book, in Mrs de Winters eyes
she grows more and more irreplaceable.
I love the twist at the end. All the way
through she is worried that Max really
still loves Rebecca and we discover at the end that he didnt love
Rebecca at all. I like the fact that she doesnt feel she belongs.
And I like the fact that there is a fire at the end which reminds me
of Jane Eyre.


Julia Gregson
The reason I chose this is because it was the first book that made
me think, maybe I could write a book set in the East. I was born
in the East, I know about the East and maybe thats something
I could do. It deals with women going out as part of the fishing
fleet trying to find husbands. You learn something new when you
read it. Its not overwritten, historically. The history moves slowly
and very subtly through the story and it is the story that matters
and I try to do that in my books. With East of the Sun you do
learn something new about how India was during the last days
of the Raj. It shows the wealth as well as the poverty but it also is about women searching
for freedom and love and its about their friendship. It is very much about women in the
time of the Raj. Quite often it is mens stories we hear and it is quite clear that Julia Gregson
is fascinated by India. There is a really vivid depiction of the period and the book explores
female friendship and what home is, what it means and where is home. You really care
about the women. If I dont care about the characters or care enough to want to know what
happened to them, I wont finish reading a book. I dont have time.

Margaret Leroy
I think more than any other novel this book brought home
to me the really awful realities of war. Particularly the raids
by the Luftwaffe. Its the horror of it and the way it can
impact on peoples lives but also the way those lives have to
go on despite everything. More than any book I have ever
read, it really brought it home. I was absolutely there in
those air raids. The story is about a woman who discovers
her own inner strength by becoming an air raid warden
and saving the lives of others. She doesnt start out like
that. Its a heart-rending story. She has a light-hearted affair
with a wealthy man and that is then contrasted against the real love
of someone who is working to save lives. It isnt just the story that is heart-breaking, but it
is the way she writes. Her description is unusual and spellbinding and some people might
find it overwritten but I was spell-bound by the whole book and I read it over two days. It
was a proof copy sent to me by a publisher. I have many sent to me and I cant read every
one but if I read the first page or so and I think I will enjoy reading it, then I do.

p44 SHELF LIFE.indd 45

inah says she is still finding her

writers voice. I think the book I
wrote in Spain was my learning
curve. It has not been published.
I sent it out and it got rejected
but one agent came back to me with pages
of feedback and I wrote back to her and said
I was not sure I wanted to take it on and I
would rather start a new book. I sent her the
new one and within ten days of putting it out
to publishers it had amazing deals.
That was The Separation. I think in
writing that first book, the writing voice
developed and then further developed in
The Separation. I think it develops with each
book. I try to make each one a challenge for
me to write so I am not just repeating the
same book over and over again.
I loved writing The Silk Merchants
Daughter because I went to Vietnam to
research it and it helped me become clear
about the sensory detail. For instance, the
Vietnamese quarter with its houses packed
together and the aroma of charcoal and
ginger and beef noodles. And there is the
colour of the flowers and the silks.
My new book is called Before the Rains. Its
set in Rajasthan and deals with infanticide
and widow burning. It is a love story between
a British photographer and an Indian prince.
Its a truly romantic love story but with a bit
of grit in it, too.



26/09/2016 10:32


is other writers
Some writers groups are better than others, but most (hopefully)
manage to avoid what Lora Bishop found at her local session

ts recently dawned on me that

I havent written anything more
creative than a fake sick note for
my daughters school in some time.
I have tried various ways to increase
creative output; Ive started listening
to classical music, supposedly able
to increase concentration and other
cognitive functions. (Its debatable if
this effect actually exists, but of all the
things to try sticking a few symphonies
and sonatas on YouTube required the
least amount of effort on my part.) Ive
burnt diaries in an attempt to rise out of
the ashes like some gleaming innovative
phoenix. Ive banned television to free
up more writing time. Ive meditated
(napped), written by hand (as opposed
to Word document), written drunk
(any excuse), set up a desk for myself,
hung around coffee shops in my glasses
trying to look all arty and intellectual
with my ring-binder and selection of
HB pencils... and I am still not writing
the way I want.
Lightbulb moment! What I need
is a writing group where I can oil the
somewhat stiff creative cogs. Added
incentives are one evening a week away
from the kids and the huge spider who
recently moved its suitcase into my
daughters dolls house. Feeling positive,
I research some local events. One group
immediately looks promising in that it


p46 Nightmare writing group.indd 46

meets in the function room above a pub.

I go to their Facebook page.
The first post I see is this:
Hi Sir, me have written some poem
that cannot publish due to some
problem that I do not know. You tell
me little bit where I want to approach?
Need help. You help?
I know instantly that I HAVE to go
to that group and sit next to that guy.
(And then write about it for WM. See
how calculating writers have to be?)
The next scheduled meeting is
entitled learn how to best utilise social
media as a writer, something I hardly
need assistance with since poncing
about on social media is probably one
of the main reasons I consistently fail
to hit my writing targets. Nonetheless,
I rope an unsuspecting babysitter into
looking after my offspring and oversized arachnid for the evening. The
group meeting is due to start at 7.30pm.
I decide to give it until 8.30pm and
if its lousy I can slip away to the bar
downstairs, all the time insisting to
myself that Ive given it my best shot.
I walk into the room certain that
everyone in it can hear the violent
churning in my stomach. Being a
newbie is never fun. You are regarded
as an unknown quantity who must
earn the trust and/or respect of already
established group members. (Or am I

over-analysing?) There are about twenty

of us. I look around wondering who
might be the me have written some
poem than cannot publish due to some
problem person. People seem to be
looking at me suspiciously. Everyone
is very casually attired. I feel a bit of a
plonker in my black halter-neck dress
and red sequin shoes. (Well it is a
night out of the house.) I start to crave
alcoholic fortification from downstairs.
Fortunately Diane, the groups
organiser, with whom I have already
exchanged a couple of emails, comes
over and we have a brief chat. Have I
been to a writing group before? Yes,
although it was in 1996 and everyone
there seemed old to my sixteen-year-old
eyes... and the guy running it seemed
only intent on selling his self-published
book entitled How to Write and Publish
Your Book to us all.
I am babbling nervously. Have I
published anything? (I had my first
publication in a national magazine
at the age of eighteen. It was the first
time I had ever submitted a short story
anywhere. I thought it was always
going to be that easy.) Was I writing
something at the moment? (Erm, sort
of, this and that, Im not sure it is
commercially viable...)
Well, says Diane brightly, I hope
we can meet some of your needs this

26/09/2016 10:33


evening. My primary need has already

been met: to get away from the fouryear-old and spider.
Diane claps her hands and I just have
time to grab a coffee from the little table
in the corner before we begin. Diane
welcomes us all and introduces me as
the newbie. Hello Lora, they all chant. It
feels a bit like an AA meeting. The guest
speaker starts dishing out advice. His
recommendations are things like, Fully
research your subject, Consider your
target audience, and Approach agents
that deal with your particular genre.
Have I really forked out bus fare to hear
such obvious stuff? I look around the
room for someone I could roll my eyes
at, but they are all avidly scribbling his
every word down.
Except one blonde woman in a white
leather jacket who looks bored and
glacial. As the guest speaker drones on
and on I am glad not to be at home
trying to get my kid into bed with an
inefficient mixture of threat, bribe and
pleading, but I start to wonder how all
this is supposed to help my writing.
During break, a tall man smelling
strongly of wet dog approaches me.
You look like that dead singer, he says
by way of introduction. And then with
a lick of the lips, I write erotic scifi,
sex with aliens and that sort of stuff.
Although I focus more on the erotic
than the scifi. I know more about sex
than I do about aliens. Looking at him
I find this statement hard to believe.
He doesnt ask what I write, which is
probably a good thing since I dont
want to have the humiliation of telling
him that I have started writing five
novels and never finished any of them;
that I havent had a short story accepted
by a magazine in over a decade and
that I am close, oh so close to citing
letters in the Daily Mail as publication
padding for my writing CV.
Find a partner, Diane calls gaily.
Alien Sex Man looks at me expectantly,
but the glacial blonde in the white jacket
swoops in. Dorothys (she means my
red sequin shoes, sarky cow) with me,
Roger, she says with a dismissive wave
of the hand. Go pair up with Bernie.
Her first words to me are, Are
you published?
No, Im Lora, I say.
She narrows her eyes at me.
I smile sweetly.
Every group will have its dynamics.
Stick a bunch of people together and

of productivity. Its like when I sit

they will play out their natural roles. A
and read my book about the 5:2 diet,
writing group will inevitably contain
whilst mindlessly dipping into a bag
the energy sapper (think Sadness in
of chocolate Brazil nuts and promising
the film Inside Out) who turns every
myself I will start tomorrow.
discussion into a lament of how her
Another problem with writing
husband left her to bring up three kids
groups, says publisher Jane Friedman,
alone and pay off his credit card debt.
is that no-one tells the truth or wants
There is the people pleaser who can only
ever say nice things and will never
find fault with the work of others.
Ever. There is the Egotist who turns
every sentence into a reminder of
how great they are and how the
When another group member has the
world simply is not worthy of their
audacity to suggest a small revision to her
foot-fall. There is the Amazon star
resident bitch sits down with a flounce
rating obsessive and so on. It takes
and spends the rest of the session with
me about three seconds to figure
her arms folded and her eyes massacring
out that icy blonde is the groups
residential bitch.
everyone in the room.
Ive been part of an amazing
writers group for the last two years,
she tells me. We decided early on
that we would only let published
authors join. We didnt want to
waste our valuable time teaching
amateurs how to write. She says the
to hear it. The blonde bitch at
word amateurs the way other people
group has certainly demonstrated
utter the word anthrax.
that. She has shown up seeking
Before I can ask why she is now
only corroboration as to the sheer
wasting her oh-so-valuable time with
brilliance of her work. When that
amateurs at a writing group above a
validation fails to materialise she
pub, Diane has us all shuffling back
becomes as bratty as my four-yearto our seats for the second part of the
old having discovered that she has
session; sharing and discussing our
breaded chicken dippers on her plate
work. When another group member
instead of battered chicken dippers.
has the audacity to suggest a small
(Yes it really does matter apparently.)
revision to her work, residential
Jeff Lyons, founder of Storygeeks,
bitch sits down with a flounce and
a professional editorial services
spends the rest of the session with her
company, believes that input from
arms folded and her eyes massacring
writing group members usually falls
everyone in the room.
into three categories; empty praise,
Diane takes the moment to stress
vicious critique or banal suggestion.
how as writers we must find a way
(eg make the main character a
to welcome criticism, even if we feel it
brunette rather than a blonde.)
is unwarranted.
If you want positive feedback,
Bernie, another writer in the room
Jeff says, call your mother. If
gets impressively irate (his indignant
you want real feedback, call a
spluttering is worth the 3 meeting
professional. Writing groups wont
admission price alone) because his
deliver. There are some that work,
character is labelled as unbelievable
but I believe these to be rare
for escaping the bad guys by creating
Do you share
anomalies. Join a group if you must.
a helicopter from a pair of skis and a
Loras pain, or are Just know that it will take more than
lawnmower engine.
it gives and may leave you feeling
writing groups
On the bus home I try to decide
like you need a shower.
whether or not the evening has been
an essential and
As the bus nears my stop I find
a success. Its gone 10pm. Had I been worthwhile part of
myself pondering the words of Ernest
at home I could have written several
your writing life?
Hemingway. Writing is a lonely life.
hundred words in the time I have
Let us know at
been out. The trouble with writing
letters@writers Organisations for writers palliate the
writers loneliness, but I doubt if they
groups is that sitting and discussing
improve his writing.
how to write gives a false sensation

p46 Nightmare writing group.indd 47



26/09/2016 10:33


Under the


Author and lecturer James McCreet puts a readers first 300 words
under the scrutiny of his forensic criticism

Annie Percik has been writing as long as she

can remember, but this, a fantasy novel set in an
alternative present day without electricity, is her
first attempt at a novel. She likes to run away from
zombies in her spare time. She enjoys Finnish emo
rock music and helps her teddy bear publish his
adventures in his blog. He is much more popular
than she is online.

To The Mana Born1

Abelard knew it was going to be one of those
days when an unexpected mana surge set his
breakfast on fire.2
The Chron-E-Fact3 next to his bed propelled
him into wakefulness4 with its insistent buzzing
and he blearily made his way into the kitchen
in his pyjamas.6Opening the Cool-E-Fact,7 he
was presented with a choice of eggs, or eggs, for
breakfast.8 Only on closing the Cool-E-Facts
door did he notice the piece of paper stuck to it
that read, Go food shopping.9
He was frying his eggs on the Cook-EFact10 when he spotted an ominous blue glow11
emanating from the artefacts interface crystal.12
He reached out a hand13 to disconnect the mana
supply,14 then immediately snatched it back as the
blue light burst outwards, igniting the oil in the
frying pan.15Abelard yelped as droplets of hot
oil spattered across his arm.16He felt a moment
of unreasoning panic,17 before he remembered
the fire blanket he kept attached to the wall
and grabbed it from its holder.18 He threw
the blanket over the pan with one hand while
cutting the mana supply to the Cook-E-Fact
with the other.19
Unfortunately, he couldnt reach the switches
for all his other artefacts as the mana surge raced
around the kitchen, causing multiple interface
crystals to hiss or crackle.20It culminated21 in a
loud bang from the Wash-E-Fact22 in the corner,
along with a thick plume of smoke that quickly
filled the small room.23
Undecided between shutting the door and
opening the window, Abelard didnt manage
either fast enough,24 and the smoke billowed out
into the hallway,25 where it immediately set off
the Alarm-E-Fact in the ceiling.26
Perfect, Abelard muttered to himself as the shrill
siren27 filled the air, setting his teeth on edge.28



p48 microscope.indd 48

Some puns are slyly knowing and

offer added insight. Some are
surprising or deft plays on words.
Some are merely opportunist,
offering little depth or resonance
beyond their immediate gimmick.
Its too early to say which category
this title might belong to, but I
rather suspect its the third one
unless the story turns out to be
concerned somehow with class
entitlement and the landed gentry.

This is a snappy and effective

first line. It sets the tone (wryly
comic) and asks the reader to wonder
briefly how Abelard is able to predict
an unexpected surge. What is mana?
We are obliged to continue reading to
find out.

What is a Chron-E-Fact?
Evidently were in some kind
of science-fiction/fantasy alternative
world. Importantly, the details are
not spelled out. Were able to guess
from the name and the context what
it is. This is good. Its how a writer
engages a reader.

A little overwritten, I think.

The trick to sardonic humour is
keeping it dry and subtle, but this talk
of propelling Abelard is a little too
eager unless hes been literally thrown
across the bed.


Insistent buzzing is a nice

phrase with some apt assonance.

Blearily is a good adverb here,

evoking not only his state of
wakefulness but also his manner and
possibly his gait. The pyjamas are
another deft bit of description. We
dont need to know the colour or
see a fuller portrait of Abelard.
This all we need.

By now, were being educated

in the vocabulary of this world
and we can guess what the device is.
Going well...

Ive been pondering if this

sentence might be punctuated
differently to get more mileage from
the superabundance-of-eggs joke.
There are a few possibilities. Dashes?
Two sentences? No commas? Whats
funnier? (See the rewrite for my
final decision)

Okay, he was bleary-eyed but

does that sufficiently excuse
him for not seeing the note before he
opened the door? Its quite a wordy
sentence and risks another pitfall of
sardonic humour: archness. The urge
towards witty sentence structure can
sometimes be counterproductive
and is the hallmark of much
Pratchett-lite writing.

26/09/2016 10:36






By this stage, weve pretty

much got how these devices
are named and the question arises,
What else do they add to the story?
Repetition threatens to make them less
distinctive or amusing.

Were told that the glow is

ominous, but we have to
take the narrators word for it.
In what sense is it ominous?
Because its uncommon? Because
it prefigures something?


Interface crystal is
another good use of future
terminology in a way that suggests
its entirely normal.


Is it necessary to say it was his

hand? Surely reaching out
suggests a hand?


The context subtly helps us

to further comprehend what
mana might be.

What happens is almost

instantaneous, but
the sentence describing it is quite
lengthy. Try to match the prose
rhythm to the action.
What culminated? Im
assuming the mana surge,
but it took a little grammatical


Is the mention of the

Wash-E-Fact as intriguing
as the initial Chron-E-Fact, or
is it now an increasingly tired
nominative conceit?


Everybody uses the phrase/

clich plume of smoke
but how many people consider
what it actually means? Check the
etymology. A plume is a feather: a
delicate wisp. Wisps tend not to fill
a room. (This is why we dont use
clichs theyre usually meaningless.)





Im presuming he wasnt able

to disconnect the mana, and
Im wondering what form it takes.
Weve heard that it emanates and
now that it bursts, which seems less
like light and more like a gas or liquid.
More clarity needed?
Yelped? Is that literally what
he did? Its a pedantic point,
but Im not sure we need to mention
the droplets if the oil also spattered.
One implies the other. And how about
a new paragraph with this sentence
(for the sake of pace)?


Tautology? Isnt panic, by

definition, unreasoning?

Did he remember it or
see it? A minor point, I
realise, but if hes in the grip of an
unreasoning panic then memory
seems too controlled.


Would the blanket first

require being taken out of
its sleeve and unfolded? Its a bit of
narrative housekeeping that might
be obviated by introducing a more
futuristic solution. Maybe pressing a
button to deploy the Flam-E-Fact?

Rapidity is evidently the

focus here, but once again
the leisurely rhythm of the sentence
(beginning with a subordinate
clause) has the opposite effect.
Smoke always billows.

Chron-E-Fact and Cold-EFact contained etymological

clues as to their function, but AlarmE-Fact is just the normal word with a
suffix. Try to stay consistent.


I like the weary

capitulation of Abelards
reaction, but I submit that all sirens
are shrill. Maybe suggest a more
functional adjective?



If you would
like to submit an
extract of your
work in progress,
send it by email, with
synopsis and a brief biog, to:

p48 microscope.indd 49


to read Jamess suggested

rewrite of this passage

This is a largely effective start to a fantasy/scifi novel. We have a character, Abelard, and we
understand something of his sardonic take on
life. This is subtly and economically implied in
his appearance, behaviour and reactions. Hes
the kind of guy who leaves himself a note and
doesnt read it on time.
We also have an introduction to a world
that is recognisably similar to our own but
also curiously different. Electricity seems to
be called mana and common household
devices have strange but intelligible names.
Again, this is well portrayed in the sense that
the reader is expected to infer the new reality
from clues given. Many writers are afraid to
give their readers enough space to make such
connections, but it works well here.
The issues are minor. Most importantly,
the writing sometimes gets in the way of the
story when sentence structure doesnt support
the scene and its pace. The reader should be
immersed in whats happening rather than
noticing the grammar. If its an action scene,
it should move quickly. If a character is in
jeopardy or concerned, the prose rhythms
should reflect and emphasise this.
At the same time, description needs to be
commensurate with the narration. An action
scene like this needs to move. Wherever
words and phrases can be trimmed to
accentuate pace, this should be done. We
also need precise language not clich or
generic vocabulary. The reader must perceive
immediately and intuitively whats happening.
Later, we can afford more time to appreciate
the fine detail.
One final observation. Though this is an
effective beginning, I do wonder what has
happened in the initial 300 words. A man has
burned some eggs. Some might say that this
is sufficient, but a pedant (like me) might hope
for a flicker of story within the breakfast scene.
What does Abelard plan to do today? What
lies in his future? Why should we read beyond
the smoky kitchen? Its a tough market out
there and some agents are even less patient
than I am. Who knows how many pages
theyll read before they stop?



26/09/2016 16:49





hen you write

fiction, do you like
to confine your
characters to small
domestic interiors
in which they can act out their stories
over relatively short time scales?
Or do you and they need lots of
time as well as plenty of inside and
outside space?
Do you enjoy examining the
minutiae of ordinary daily life?
Or do you have ambitions to write
wide-ranging stories about real or
imagined world events: stories on the
scale of The Lord of the Rings, War and
Peace or Gone with the Wind?
The average epic novel tends to be
big in every respect: timescale, cast of
characters, setting, theme and (often)
actual physical size. Do you feel you
would like to be a modern Michelangelo,
painting the literary expanse of your own
Sistine chapel ceiling?
What makes a story an epic?
The history of when and why
Harry left Megan and settled down
happily with Flora instead is unlikely
to develop into an epic. But the history
of when and why Harry left Megan
and then travelled the world in search
of the meaning of life, met a huge cast
of characters along the way and even
found a few answers to his own as well
as mankinds most frequently asked
questions, might end up being epic


p50 Fiction Focus.indd 50

both in scope and scale.

Originally, an epic was (and still
is) a long narrative poem that deals
with deep and serious subjects such as
the nature of kingship, good and bad
government, and the social, moral,
religious and political obligations we
have to one another.
It asks what happens when the
natural order of things breaks down.
When the English poet Milton was
planning Paradise Lost, a work that
examines the relationship between
the Christian God and mankind, he
said he wanted to justify the ways of
God to men: an epic undertaking if
ever there was one! Paradise Lost is the
story of Lucifers rebellion against God,
his punishment (which was of course
eternal damnation) and his subsequent
revenge (which resulted in the expulsion
of Adam and Eve and therefore of all of
us from the Garden of Eden).
A few years ago, Seamus Heaney
made a free verse translation of the
Anglo-Saxon epic Beowulf, a work
which (according to Amazon) is
about encountering the monstrous,
defeating it, and then having to live on,
physically and psychically exposed, in
that exhausted aftermath.
These days, however, most epics
tend to be in novel rather than poetry
form. But thats fine because lots of
novelists (and Im guessing theyre
mostly the planners among us) enjoy

Planning an epic? Then you need to

start thinking on a grand scale, advises
novelist Margaret James


taking their readers on a heros or

heroines personality-defining journey:
a journey that will change the central
character and probably result in great
changes for other people, too.
Big themes take time to work
themselves out. A more recent epic
battle between good and evil the
one between Harry Potter and
Voldemort took seven volumes to
reach its dramatic conclusion.
When youre thinking about your
own epic, ask yourself what sort of
quest or journey youd like your hero
or heroine to undertake. It should be a
very important one.
What does he or she want?
Maybe nothing at first, and perhaps
your hero or heroine will also be
reluctant to go on any kind of journey?
So now, someone or something might
need to force your central character to act.
What kind of person should be the
hero or heroine of an epic?
Id say any kind: rich or poor,
drawn from the nobility or from the
peasantry. The central characters in
classical epics such as the Iliad and the
Odyssey tended to be aristocrats or even
gods. But today your hero could be a
child, a hobbit or even a rabbit.
Your central character should have
a long way to go and a lot to learn.
The challenge of a daunting or even
an apparently impossible task, like
throwing a ring of power into the

26/09/2016 10:36


I wish
Id known

Novelists tell us what they wished theyd

known right at the start of their careers.
with historical and time-slip novelist

Christina Courtenay

burning heart of a volcano, finding
a permanent new home after a long
and perilous journey, or defeating the
most powerful wizard who ever lived,
should certainly be one of your main
ingredients. Your readers will want
to suffer with your characters, to feel
despair, to be downhearted and to be
challenged, because hardly anyone
values anything that comes too easily.
Does an epic need to be a fantasy?
Not necessarily, although both authors
and central characters often enjoy
being transported to a fantasy world
where they can be liberated from
the general irritations of everyday
21st-century life such as mowing
the lawn or putting out the wheelie
bin. But John Galsworthy set his
own classic five-volume epic The
Forsyte Saga in the real world of
commerce, a world in which his
characters have a lot to learn and
just as much to lose. Harry Potters
life among the Muggles is certainly
grounded in reality.
What if your characters are rabbits,
as in Watership Down, a mediumlength novel that is nevertheless the
story of an epic journey and is set
in the animal kingdom? Richard
Adamss rabbits are real rabbits, but
they also display human traits and
characteristics. So we can relate to
them, and your readers will need to be
able to relate to your own characters

too, whether they are gods, animals

or human beings.
When Adam and Eve were expelled
from the Garden of Eden, they wept.
But then they braced up and decided
to do their best to meet their new
challenge. The characters in your own
epic will need to brace up, too.
As an author, are you epic hero
or heroine material yourself? Well,
something most epic stories have in
common is that they tell us nobody
really knows what they can do until
they are forced to try.

Now try this:

If you want to write an epic

story, ask yourself: what
kind of journey does your
central character need to
make and what difficulties
will he or she encounter?
How will the journey
change this person?

Christinas latest
time-slip novel is
The Velvet Cloak
of Moonlight.

p50 Fiction Focus.indd 51

eres what I wish Id

known when I first
started writing:
Its not enough to be good at
English, grammar and spelling.
I should have gone to talks
and workshops on the craft of
writing fiction before putting
fingers to keyboard, but in my
beginners enthusiasm I just sat
down and wrote without knowing anything
about plot, viewpoint or characterisation.
I needed to read some how-to books on all the different
aspects of writing. I had no idea what head-hopping
was, for example, and I happily hopped along.
Conflict isnt just two people arguing.
Agents and editors dont like gimmicky submissions.
Yes, primrose yellow paper is pretty and will definitely
stand out in a slushpile, but its also likely to make your
submission go straight in the bin.
I wish Id found the Romantic Novelists
Association (and their wonderful New Writers
Scheme) much earlier on my writing journey. Getting
your work critiqued by someone who knows what
theyre talking about is a steep learning curve (and can
be painful!) but its also necessary and very rewarding
the praise you receive can really lift your spirits and
make you want to carry on trying.
I wish Id had friends who were writers right from
the start. Theres nothing better than being able to talk
to someone who knows exactly where youre coming
from. I now have writing buddies to swap critiques/do
brainstorming with and I find all that invaluable.
I didnt know how useful networking can be. Theres
nothing better than actually meeting an agent or editor
in person (or connecting with them on social media)
and finding out what sort of
things they like and whether
you gel as people.
I wish Id known that Id
need lots of chocolate to
fuel my muse.
I wish Id known that I
needed to believe in myself!



26/09/2016 10:37




Share your writing success stories. If you subscribe to Writing Magazine and
would like to feature here, email Tina Jackson,

On the fast track

When I was a kid, I was always
writing stories and putting on
shows and wanted nothing
more than to be an author when
I grew up, writes subscriber
Hollie Hughes.
But things didnt work out quite the
way I planned, and I ended up building
a career in youth work and teaching
instead. It wasnt until I was made
redundant from a lecturing job in 2012
(at the age of 37), that I finally took up
writing again as an adult. I approached writing with an open mind and,
to begin with, just enjoyed experimenting with different forms. I was
lucky enough to get shortlisted in a few competitions (even eventually
winning one in 2014, with my audio drama A Leap of Faith), and this
really helped to boost my confidence and keep me writing. It wasnt
enough to be sure I could make a living from it, but it was enough to tell
me I wasnt completely crazy trying. During this time, I took part in every
writer development opportunity that came my way, and was also busily
pursuing my childhood dream of writing picture books.
I decided I would need an agent if I was going to break through
into this very challenging market and was lucky enough to sign
with Jodie Hodges at United Agents. Not only has Jodie been
amazing in terms of helping me to further develop and improve my
work but she also got me my very first publishing contract, within
just a few weeks of signing me.
Its been a long journey to publication since those first few heady
weeks of signing contracts back in 2014 (picture books take a long time
to make when youre not on The Apprentice!) but I am delighted to say
that my first book The Famishing Vanishing Mahoosive Mammoth
(illustrated by Leigh Hodgkinson) was finally published by Bloomsbury
on 14 July. This was followed by Ninja Nan (illustrated by Natalie
Smillie, and published by Scholastic) on 1
September 2016. I then have a further three
books in the pipeline with Bloomsbury
after that, hopefully publishing one a year
between 2017-2019.
So many good things have happened for
me since I embarked on this journey four
years ago, that I almost cant quite believe it
myself sometimes.



p52 Subscriber news.indd 52

I was beside myself with

excitement when I found
out that my debut novel,
Saving Sophie, was going
to be published by Avon,
HarperCollins, writes
subscriber Sam Carrington.
It was the outcome
Id dreamed of and it all
happened quite fast!
After trying my hand
at short stories and
gaining publication in a
few womens magazines, I
decided to write a novel.
Having worked in the
prison service, and with an interest in psychology, writing
within the crime genre seemed the obvious choice. So, in
January 2014 I began! The novel was completed and sent
off to a handful of agents in November that year. While I
was nervously awaiting feedback, I began writing another
novel a psychological thriller, again with a crime element.
In January 2015 I entered the opening chapters of this new
novel in to the Crime Writers Association Debut Dagger
Award, and was thrilled to be longlisted.
From there, it all went very quickly. I was contacted by
an agent who had read my first manuscript, and, although
she didnt feel she connected with the novel Id submitted,
shed liked my writing style and was interested in seeing any
future writing I did. I emailed back straight away telling her
about my longlisting and she asked to see the manuscript.
Later in the year we had a meeting to discuss it further.
Amazingly, despite it being unfinished, she was confident
enough to sign me!
Over the next few months I finished the novel and
with my agents guidance edited it so that it was ready for
submission to publishers. I was lucky
that Avon loved it and were keen to
get it into the hands of readers as
soon as possible.
The ebook of Saving Sophie is
available now and the paperback will
be published on 15 December 2016.
Im now busy writing my next
novel which is due to be published
in 2017.

26/09/2016 10:43


A writing affair
While I never imagined becoming a writer I have
kept notebooks at various times throughout my
life, writes subscriber Carol Thomas. In 2012
I was taking a break from teaching, dug out a
notebook I felt had the potential to be written
into a story and kept going until 86,000 words,
and two years, later the first draft of Crazy Over
You was complete. Several revisions, a copy
edit and many proofreads later I proudly selfpublished my debut novel through Matador.
Crazy Over You is a contemporary romance. It is an honest
portrayal of one womans reaction to her husbands infidelity, while
also being a story of friendship, family and love.
The novel opens almost two months after Abby Turner has
discovered her husband Simon has had an affair. In the wake of
their separation she feels ashamed of the darkness that sometimes
engulfs her and unwilling to confide in those closest to her. Abby
feels hurt, confused and unable to move forward in the way she had
always imagined she would.
This, for me, was an important starting point. I had read other
great novels on the theme of infidelity but often found the impact
of the affair on the central character tended to be sidelined in order
to progress with the story. In writing Crazy Over You I felt I had
something different to offer; the exploration of Abbys feelings is the
driving force of the plot.
I enjoy writing from real experiences and depicting emotions
people can relate to. Consequently, it has been lovely to hear from
readers who have welcomed the honesty
in Crazy Over You. I have also been
pleased to see reviewers have enjoyed
the humour within the text; especially
as balancing the emotions was a piece of
advice I was lucky enough to get from
Mhairi McFarlane (whose books I love).
My second novel is a work in progress
that I intend to self-publish through
Matador, with a release date of the
coming winter.

Authentic background
Dont retire change your career,
writes subscriber David Hough.
I was determined that the
end of my career as an air traffic
controller would not be the
end of my working life. Instead
of doing a job that paid the
mortgage, I changed to one that
had long been a wishful dream. I
am a dedicated writer. Thirteen
years after (so-called) retirement,
I now have thirty published novels to my credit.
My UK publisher, Cloudberry, has just released two of my
novels in paperback and ebook format. Prestwick is the first
of my Danger in the Sky aviation thrillers. Its set above the
cold waters of the north Atlantic and has already earned some
fantastic reviews. Heathrow is the second in the series. It tells
the story of a terrorist attack on the Heathrow control tower.
These two books are classic examples of an author writing
about what they know. Working as an air traffic controller did
more than pay my mortgage bill, it gave me the knowledge I
needed to write thrillers set against a genuine background.
My American publisher, Whiskey Creek Press, recently
released Bomber Girl. Its a humorous
account of what might have
happened had the south of England
been invaded in 1940. Restricted
to a few airfields in the north and
drastically short of aircrew, the RAF
recruits women to fly
operation missions.
Prestwick, Heathrow
and Bomber Girl are now
available on Amazon.
They can also be found
on my website:


Dont miss your exclusive chance
to feature on our website,


Showcase your book to over 14,000 readers

each month in the Writers Online Subscribers
Showcase. Well give your book its own page, with blurb,
cover and a direct link to your website or an online store.
And if youre a WM subscriber, the service is completely FREE.
See for more details


When youre sending in submissions to appear on those pages, feel free to

send us any additional content you have available. Whether its an interview
video, book trailer, podcast, audio extract or anything else,
well give you as much exposure as we can through our digital edition and
website. As ever, send your details to

p52 Subscriber news.indd 53



26/09/2016 10:43


Love, politics and proofreading

My debut novel, East of Africa, South of India,
is finally published the only way most new/
unknown writers can see their works in print,
writes subscriber Jacques K Lee.
This book has been in incubation for some
ten years before I started writing it seriously
in retirement. Since completing it I must have
re-written and revised it more times than I care
to remember. In the meantime I collected
dozens of rejection slips.
If I may use this as a warning to some new
authors: get another person to read and check
your MS. When youve written a piece and re-read it at least twenty times, you cease
to see what youve written.
Right on the second line of my blurb for all to see is a howler that makes me feel
mortified every time I think of it. At the final proofreading of the cover of my novel,
I changed America to Americans and failed to see that I hadnt amended its to
their. Ive only got myself to blame!
East of Africa, South of India is a fictionalised account of how
the Americans acquire a dependency of Miraucia in the Indian
Ocean (Diego Garcia) with the help of the British. It becomes
Americas latest secret military base. In return Miraucia is
granted independence and the British forcefully remove all its
inhabitants to their former colony.
My main protagonists, Lovena Pillay and Robert Laurent, are
students and lovers in London at the time and vow to go
into politics to fight for the return of the exiled islanders. Back
home and, as MPs, they become arch political rivals until theyre
finally reconciled. But when it comes to fighting for the survival
of the parties, they find that love and politics dont mix.
Its published by Troubador in paperback and ebook.

Aspergers and magical realism

After five years of being an indie
author, I have finally found my
niche; writing childrens fiction about
autistic children meeting magical
worlds, writes subscriber Julie Day.
It all started a few years ago when
I wrote a book for 7-9 year-olds,
calling it Boring Billy and the Strange
Socks. I had an idea that Billy would
do great things because of his socks
at school but no idea why he was
boring. Then I saw the play The
Curious Incident of the Dog in the
Night Time and read the book, and I
knew. Billy has Aspergers Syndrome
so finds it hard to talk to his
classmates, so they think hes boring.
I rewrote it, with memories of my
own primary school days in mind;
I have Aspergers Syndrome, too.
From that story, came the idea for
a series of six books. Then in May
this year I went to a writing retreat


p52 Subscriber news.indd 54

for childrens writers and talked about

what I was working on to a new
friend I met up with to travel there.
She suggested that I put all my stories
under one umbrella. That is what I
am doing, with the whole series and
others I have planned to be called
The Asperkids Series. It has a tagline
of Autism meets magical realism.
I am enjoying writing once more
and having fun with the magical
worlds. I now call myself an Aspie
childrens author.


Finding the right title for a novel can be

really difficult at times, writes subscriber
Dawn Harris.
All writers want something exciting and
noticeable, which I hoped Id managed
with my first two books set in the 1790s,
Letter From A Dead Man, and The Fat
Badger Society. With them, I had the titles
before I started writing. But my third book
remained title-less almost to the point
of sending it to my agent! I referred to
it all along as my 1930s book, it being a
historical mystery thriller set in 1936. I
believe a title should reflect the root cause
of a mystery, and that fact finally gave me
the right title: The Ebenezer Papers.
My agent suggested I should spread my
wings a little and write a book set in a later
historical era, and Ive always been fascinated
by the 1930s. The years before the second
world war offer great opportunities for a
murder mystery. Then, as now, refugees were
fleeing for their lives, and immigration was
a controversial subject. The British Union
of Fascists tried to change the British way
of life by copying Hitlers methods. At the
same time Edward Vlll, whod just become
King, was seriously involved with Mrs.
Simpson, the liner Queen Mary had set off
on her maiden voyage, and unemployment
was causing great poverty and misery. Which
are all part of my story, in which Liddy, the
young widow of air ace Archie York VC is
devastated when her friend, fashion designer
Peter Crawley, is murdered.
The book is available on Amazon
to download (2.33) or as a paperback
(6.97). I have also
just published a second
volume of short stories,
romantic, historical,
mystery, humorous,
entitled The Case of the
Missing Bridegroom for
download at 99p or
paperback 2.99.
Website: www.

26/09/2016 10:43


Adventures of Mrs Seacole

Striking gold
My first novel, Gold Digger,
has been published as an ebook
by Mardibooks, writes subscriber
Susan Benwell.
My initial inspiration for the book
came about when I interviewed a
Welsh gold prospector in Snowdonia
some years ago. The book rattled
around in my computer for ages, but I
just couldnt engage with the characters
while writing it in third person.
So, I started it again, this time writing in first person. I took a
chapter or two along to Jan Moran Neils Creative Ink (Get That
Book Out of You) writing class in Beaconsfield and read it aloud
to the other students.
Their positive reaction encouraged me to rewrite the
book in first person.
Since then, I have joined Haddenham Writers Group,
one of the interest groups at Haddenham U3A. The help and
encouragement of other members has been invaluable, especially
that of David Gregory, who kindly read through and helped to
edit my manuscript.
I have ghost-written two previous, non-fiction, books. A Twitch
in Time was the autobiography of Carry On star Jack Douglas.
Pitkins PA My Life with Sir Norman Wisdom was written on behalf
of Sir Normans ex-personal assistant, Ann Axe.
I can really recommend the services of Mardibooks. I feel
that my writing and confidence has improved so much since
working with Belinda Hunt and her team.

I write historical novels and Can her Glory Ever Fade, my

latest offering, my fifth published, hit the shelves in July,
to coincide with the erection of a statue of my books main
character, Mary Seacole, writes subscriber Jay Margrave.
Mary Seacole is known as that black nurse who went to
the Crimea despite the fact that she was not a nurse. She
was much more interesting than that. And as I learned more
about her, I just knew her story would make a fascinating novel.
I was first introduced to this wonderful Victorian
character through my husbands interest in the Crimean
War. As I read her autobiography, Wonderful adventures of
Mrs Seacole in many lands, and began to research her and the
Victorians in some depth, my interest in her deepened and
the form of the novel grew.
She was a Jamaican who was reviled by some Americans she met on her travels.
Eventually, she became the intimate friend of English royalty, and on the way
travelled in the Panama during the US gold rush, encountering some wonderful
characters, and then fought with British authority to be allowed to go to the
Crimea to set up an establishment to nurse the sick with her herbal remedies and
provide good comforts as she described them.
When she eventually reached the peninsula, she almost single-handedly built
her British hotel, became friends with a Turkish pasha and with many of the
military officers. She was almost drowned in a flash flood which swept away her
first attempt so she had to rebuild, even before her hotel opened. She walked the
streets of Sebastopol after it fell to the British and their allies, nursing sick and
wounded of both sides.
I needed to decide how the story would be told and but I didnt want to write
it from the perspective of an omnipotent narrator. I decided to create my own
character, Horatia, a servant who accompanies Mary throughout her travels.
She was, at first, an innocent naughty child, but grows up to be a true friend
and companion, although she develops a healthy cynicism and comments on
the way Mary sometimes seems nave in her attempts to ingratiate herself into
Victorian English society.


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p52 Subscriber news.indd 55



02/09/2016 09:52

26/09/2016 10:43


Success for Shadow Man

Id always wanted to write
my earliest attempt was a
murder mystery set in ancient
Egypt, written at the tender
age of ten! writes subscriber
Margaret Morton Kirk.
But its only in the last few
years Ive been able to focus
on my ambition, thanks to a
career break and an amazingly
supportive husband.
I started with short stories, and achieved some competition
successes. But my real breakthrough came when I attended a
crime-writing course at Moniack Mhor near Inverness, tutored
by Val McDermid and Louise Welsh. We had to submit
samples of our work prior to the course, and they were both so
encouraging it gave me a massive confidence boost. As a result of
the course, one of my short stories, Still Life, was broadcast on
Radio 4, which really spurred me on to keep writing.
When I heard about the 2016 Good Housekeeping Novel
Competition, the prize on offer sounded amazing substantial
advance, introduction to agent Luigi Bonomi, and publication
by Orion. So I entered an extract of my work-in-progress and
promptly forgot about it. The phone call, months later, to say
I was one of the ten finalists came out of the blue and meant a
last-minute trip to London from my home in Inverness!
After a tour of the Orion offices and a meeting with agent
Luigi Bonomi, the winner was announced during lunch at the
Good Housekeeping Institute. When I heard my name called
out, I couldnt believe it the rest of that day passed in a blur
(though that might have been due to the champagne!).
And now? My long-held dream of publication is becoming a
reality. My debut novel, Shadow Man, is set in Inverness and is
the first in a series featuring ex-Met DI Lukas Mahler. Its due to
be published next summer by Orion.

An edgy romance
August 2106 saw the publication of my novel
Closer by Morning in both ebook and paperback
by Pride Publishing, an imprint of romance
publishers Totally Bound, writes subscriber
Thom Collins.
Its an honour to have my debut romance
novel picked up by such a sensational publisher.
Closer by Morning is an exciting contemporary
thriller set in the North East of England. Dale
Zachery, an American actor, is starring in a new
crime series being filmed in Durham when he
meets local man Matt, a handsome young lawyer.
As Dale and Matt grow closer they are unaware



p52 Subscriber news.indd 56

Writing is powerful magic

Standing beside the Mayor,
book in trembling hand, an
intriguing thought flashes
through my mind: when you
write about magic, does it leap
off the page and into your
life? writes subscriber Yvonne
I take a deep breath.
More than fifty years ago, I sat
entranced, just like you children here
today, listening to an author read a
passage and then talk passionately
about the magical call to adventure
in her new book. Something magical
happened to me that day: her words
leapt straight from the page into my
heart. Instantly I knew my calling: I
was going to be... a writer!
Shortly after this epiphany, I found myself in a dark place. My
mother left home and I was sent away to boarding school. Years
passed. Writing was juggled between marriage and motherhood; a
career as a special needs teacher; a traumatic divorce remarriage.
When will it happen? I wailed each time those perfunctory
computer says No! rejection slips popped through my letterbox.
I felt like the children I wrote about in my stories: scared, shivery
scared! But with magical characters still merrily chatting away inside
my head and the magic jagged through my heart like a crazy tattoo,
I couldnt give up. And with every rejection, the blue ink spell of
determination just seeped in darker and stronger! Until one day,
mysteriously, miraculously, I heard: computer says Yes!
A month has passed since the book launch and my magic carpet
is flying high! This, my first book for children is about a little girl
searching for magic in the world only to discover it beats strong,
resilient and powerful inside her own indomitable heart.
Readers, that little girl, is me.

that they are in danger. A killer is at work in the

city and the murders bear a chilling similarity to
the story Dale is filming.
Ive always had a love for the racy 1970s
novels of Jackie Collins and Harold Robbins.
With this book I wanted to serve up those
traditional elements that I love so much with
a modern twist. Something with glamour,
romance and a bit hit of danger. I live in
Durham, where this novel is set. The city makes
a great backdrop to the story. I have recently
completed my next book, the first novel in a
proposed trilogy and cant wait to get started on
the second instalment.

26/09/2016 10:43

How to Become a
Successful Writer!


By Marian Ashcroft

Rachel Dove I won the 2015 Flirty Fiction Prima

Magazine and Mills and Boon competition. The prize was
500, a three page feature in the magazine and the chance
to work with Mills and Boon on my book.

If youve ever fancied being a writer but dont know

where to start heres the answer. For the past twentyseven years The Writers Bureau has been running a
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Also I have three stories in three anthologies with

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Freephone 0800 856 2008

Please include your name and address



p112_wmagnov16.indd 112


0800 856 2008

The college also provides a whole support system to

novice writers that includes their tutors, their advisors, free
resources and chance to converse with other writing
students on their website.

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Years of

Members of BILD
and ABCC

23/09/2016 10:59



If your writing group would like to feature here, whether you need new members, have an event
to publicise or to suggest tips for other groups, email Tina Jackson,


Balsall Common Writers

First Draft Writers

First Draft
Writers is a social
group in central
writes founder
Emma Robson.
We meet on
the first Thursday
of every month
at 7.30pm in the
fantastic NN Caf, situated in the new Cultural Quarter,
above the gallery and just up the road from the Royal
Derngate Theatre.
Writing can be a lonely pursuit and First Draft has been
founded to try and combat that for Northampton writers.
We meet to get to know each other, share our work, support
each other and chat about all things related to writing. We
are brand new, eclectic and exciting. Currently our attendees
include playwrights, poets, novelists, screen writers and
philosophers; both aspiring and published.
Everyone is welcome, we even have attendees who dont
know if or what they want to write themselves but who
attend in the hopes of becoming inspired. We never fail to
leave completely enthused. We want writers to come and be
comfortable, to get support, chat, relax and hopefully form
exciting friendships and partnerships.
We have high hopes and ambitions to eventually put
together some collaborative projects, competitions and
maybe even enter an anthology in the WM competition!
I founded First Draft with the idea of it being very much
a community group. It was also a somewhat self-interested
move as I needed to give myself a kick to get a project
started and actually sit and write, instead of day dreaming
about what it would be like to be a writer! Im so pleased I
did. There is some amazing creative talent in Northampton
and its an immense source of pleasure to me to be able to
talk to so many talented people so often. Im really looking
forward to seeing what we can do together in the future.
There is no formal membership criteria, we just ask
that writers contribute 3 on the evening to cover the
amazing venue and incidental costs and have a good time.
There is some amazing creative talent in Northampton,
please bring yours!
Details: email:;



p58-59 Circles/Roundup.indd 58

Balsall Common Writers celebrated their fifth birthday at their AGM

with the launch of their second anthology The Sun Dancer, which is
now available on Amazon, writes Anne Santos.
Balsall Common Writers is a progressive group with two sub-groups
for writing prose and a third group for poetry. Many members are now
published authors.
All our groups meet monthly in the evening in various venues. Our
Company of Writers (COW) is a quarterly get-together morning coffee
and discussion group meeting at a local hotel. We are also about to
re-launch our quarterly COW e-newsletter for interested writers along
with a Facebook page.
We welcome new members. For more information view or email me at

Wensleydale Writers
When Wensleydale Writers agreed to help with the production of
their third book, they could have had little idea of what they had let
themselves in for, writes Daphne Clarke.
The ninety-page anthology, Wensleydale in Words, is a collection of
poetry, prose and one playlet centred round the upper Yorkshire
Dales and all the profits from its sale will go to the Herriot Hospice
Homecare based in Northallerton. When we happily agreed to help with
its production, we could not have foreseen what a steep learning curve
we were about to embark on.
The printer, Peter Burradge of Country Press, presented us with the
100 sets of ninety pages to be aligned, folded, checked and put into
groups of four. Then we were shown how to put the groups together,
check them again, glue them and place into the covers which we had
already folded. Peter then put them into the press and, later, at home,
would trim them all carefully. It was fascinating, if exhausting work, but
well worth doing and we feel the book has truly been self-published.
The launch was on 4 July in Leyburn, at which James
Herriots daughter Rosie Page spoke of her father, Alf Wight, and
his great love of the Dales.
Books can be ordered by post from or
01969 640 415 at 5 or 7.50 inc p&p.

26/09/2016 10:44


Game, set
and match

Playing board games can enhance group members writing skills, suggests Julie Phillips

writing group has many

functions. One of these is to serve
as a platform for members ideas
and work, another is to inform
and educate. But one of the main reasons why
your members pitch up meeting after meeting
is because writing can be a solitary occupation
and they like the social aspect of the group.
This month why not encourage this social
aspect by allowing group members to explore
their playful side? The idea of this workshop
is to appeal to your members competitive
and strategic nature. Bring in a selection of
board games this shouldnt be too taxing a
request as most of your members will have a
board game or two lying about their houses.
Set up each game on a separate table in a
different part of the room and ask members
to head for the game that appeals to them
most. Dont worry if a lot of people are
drawn to the same game everyone will have
a chance to play each game if they wish.
When everyone is seated around their
chosen game, ask them to first note
down what it was about that game that
particularly drew them to it. Was it the
layout of the board, the props required, the
number of players, the nature of the game
or something else? Knowing what makes
us want to play a game is key in knowing
what kinds of activities may help us in our
writing. Something analytical, for example,
requiring strategy and concentration,
is helpful when it comes to editing and
polishing our work, whereas something
more artistic or tactile is helpful during the
creative part of the writing process.
Allow members to play the game and
note down what skills they think they are
using as they play. Do they need hand-eye

we become stuck on a plot point or dont

coordination, general knowledge, ability to
decipher codes, a flair for good observation or know how to proceed. Taking a break for
a while and playing a simple game can be
something else? Can they think of strategies
just enough to kick-start our imagination
that might help them win the game or is it
and creativity, giving us the tools to
down to pure chance?
go back and work through our
Once members have played
problematic writing. It can
one game they then move
often give us that eureka
on to the next one and
moment. Thinking about
make similar notes. Once
We learn things
something else can
all games have been
about ourselves and
allow the subconscious
completed, give them
to loosen up neural
time to consider how
others motivation and
pathways that have
they and others played
capabilities, which
become sluggish,
the game were there
allowing us to see
certain advantages that
is important in
possible solutions.
some players had over
writing too.
Playing games within
others? What were peoples
the group also allows
weaknesses and how did
members to get to know each
they overcome them, if they did?
other better and chat about their writing
Did people become hyper-competitive
in an informal way. This often has great,
or was it all light-hearted? How did peoples
unexpected results too as other writers often
personalities affect their game plan?
come up with innovative ways to make
Playing games in this way where
another members writing better, or enable
members are not only having to play the
game but analyse each game and the players is them to look at it in a different way to
excellent for developing and strengthening the come to a better conclusion.
An interesting add-on to this workshop is
skills needed to be a successful writer. For a
to ask members to design their own simple
start, members are having to communicate in
games and play them if resources and time
some way whether that is in a cooperative
manner as a team in order to win the game or allow. Here they are still using their creativity
and imagination but in a different way.
in a deceptive way to throw other players off
Instead of inventing imaginary worlds and
the prize, we learn things about ourselves and
others motivation and capabilities, which is pretend people on paper, they are making
up a game that other writers would want to
important in writing too. The more writers
play. Its also a good idea to leave a few games
know about other people and how they
lying around at each meeting at coffee time so
operate, the more able they are to write
members can have a quick game of something
authentic characters.
in between writing exercises or read arounds
But this isnt the only advantage to
and give their brains time to kick back and
playing games. Sometimes, when we have
re-energise. A change is a good as a rest.
been sitting at our computers, writing away,

p58-59 Circles/Roundup.indd 59



26/09/2016 10:44

The OCA student forums and

Facebook groups are a great place
to meet-up, and Ive found the
tutor guidance invaluable.
Deborah Riccio

of the Arts


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p060_wmagnov16.indd 60

22/09/2016 14:55

Mslexia, the bestselling magazine for women writers,

is inviting submissions on the theme of Guilty
for possible publication.

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Are you a poet or

short story writer? 0191 204 8860
23/09/2016 11:46

26/09/2016 11:42

W sic





s hor

Whether your characters love playing

music or listening to it, or even discover
music for the first time, youll need to
compose a story using music as a key
element for this months competition.
Your word limit is the usual 1,500-1,700
words and the closing date is 14 December.


The winner will receive 100 and publication in

Writing Magazine, with 25 and publication on for the runner-up.
See p107 for entry details,
full rules and entry forms






With its closing date of 14 November, theres still

time to enter last months Mid-Story Sentence
Competition. Your story must include the line:
It didnt fit. Length and prize details are as above.
See p107 for more details


short stor y

by Loretta


hy do I
have uncles
any aunts?
I asked my grandmother one
December afternoon while I was
making Uncle Bobs Christmas card.
Granny Butcher cleared her throat
and folded her arms and when her
chin jutted forward I knew that
whatever she was about to say
would be a revelation.
So there it was. Not for me the
knowledge that my green eyes
were handed down from Uncle
Jimmy or the myriad of freckles
that covered my arms and face were
inherited from Uncle Arthur. When
I had digested the information and
had been sworn to secrecy by my
grandmother, at only six years old I
couldnt understand what all the fuss
was about. My uncles who kept my
mother company while father was
fighting for King and Country during
the Second World War were as dear
to me as any of my blood relatives
and the days they spent at our house
filled me with joy.
On Monday afternoon when my
mother had finished her shift at
Sadlers Soap Factory, Uncle Bob
would be waiting at the gate, his
brown trilby hat in one hand and a
bunch of flowers in the other. Uncle
Jimmy who had lost two fingers in


p62 comp winner.indd 62

Loretta Smith loves writing stories and the

excitement of wondering where her characters
might lead her. Entering this competition was a
great motivator. A retired adult education manager,
she is an active member of two book groups and
a local writing circle in Essex.

France usually came to supper on

Wednesday and on Friday evening
Uncle Arthur would ride up on
his motorcycle to take my mother
dancing at the Palace.
Watching my mother powder her
cheeks and put on her silver dancing
shoes were magical moments for
me but Granny Butcher called it
cavorting and gallivanting. My
grandmothers vocabulary was full of
words that had no meaning to my
young ears but when my mother
rode off on the back of Uncle
Arthurs red motorcycle with her
cheeks glowing and her auburn hair
billowing in the wind it seemed
to me that gallivanting must be a
wonderful thing.
I cant say that Uncle Arthur was
my favourite for all of my uncles
had a special place in my heart. But
when he came back from the Brush
and Bottle on Saturday afternoon he
could spin a yarn that lit a fire in my
fertile imagination.
With the smoke from his pipe
hanging heavy in the air and while

Granny Butcher dozed in front of

the Ideal boiler, Uncle Arthur would
launch into tales of his time spent
below decks in the Merchant Navy.
My grandmother would open one
eye and cluck her tongue whenever
his exuberance let forth a b----- this
or a b----- that and while I embraced
every lurid detail, I dont think my
grandmother believed half of his stories.
I would be surprised if your ship
ever left the Dockyard, she said
looking him straight in the eye.
Uncle Arthur just laughed, winking
at me as he rolled up his sleeve.
Theres the proof me old darlin,
he told her, waving the naked lady
tattoo on his arm in front of her.
Today when I hear the lilt of an
Irish accent I sometimes think of
Uncle Arthur, remembering how
the laughter and light-hearted
banter that echoed around our
tiny kitchen, lessened the fear and
softened the sound of the air raid
siren that was part of our everyday
life in those war torn days.
My grandmother complained

26/09/2016 10:48


regularly about all of my uncles

but I think she had a soft spot for
Uncle Jimmy.
Hows my sweetheart today? he
said to her when he stepped inside
our back door, his dark wavy hair
falling like silk over his forehead.
Get away with you lad, shed
murmur when he caught hold of her
and whirled her around the kitchen
but there was a chuckle in her voice
and her eyes held a sparkle.
My mother thought she was
fond of Uncle Jimmy because he
reminded her of my grandfather.
Granny Butchers husband had died
a long time before I was born and
although there was a photo of him
on the sideboard, I couldnt see any
resemblance to Uncle Jimmy. My
grandmother would never admit
to any favouritism but there was
always an extra slice of meat pie on
Uncle Jimmys plate when he came
to supper.
Uncle Bob, who generally had
a toffee in his pocket for me, had
tried to enlist in the Air Force but
he didnt pass the medical. He had a
weak chest and whatever the weather
he always wore a woollen scarf
around his neck.
Uncle Bob didnt go in for long
conversations but he could draw
lovely pictures of my mother. And
when he played Danny Boy on his
harmonica it was the sweetest sound
I ever heard.
Each of my uncles in their own
way helped shape my early childhood
although Uncle Arthurs lessons in
life were guaranteed to provoke my
grandmothers disapproval.
So now you can add conniving
on the Black Market to your sins,
she muttered when he divulged his
method for obtaining ration free
goods the shopkeeper kept under
the counter.
I didnt know what the Black
Market was then but I remember
how my mothers face used to light
up when Uncle Arthur came in with
those brown paper parcels.
Uncle Jimmy grew up on a farm
and when I rescued a rabbit from a
bombsite, he made a hutch for it in
the back garden. I played with the
rabbit every day until the blast from
an air raid near the Town Hall blew
the hutch away.

We were never far from danger

in those days and on the nights the
Blitz forced us to take refuge in the
outside shelter, while Granny Butcher
prayed for our deliverance, Uncle
Bob wrapped his scarf over my
knees and read me a story from
Gullivers Travels.
One evening while my mother was
curling my hair I asked her which
one of my uncles she liked the most.
Well pet, she said. Uncle Arthur
makes me laugh and Uncle Jimmy is
like a breath of fresh air. Then her
voice grew tender. As for your Uncle
Bob, Im sure that man was born
with romance in his soul.
If my mother favoured one of my
uncles more than another I wasnt
aware of it for she seemed to treat
them all the same, standing up for
them when my grandmother told her
the neighbours were gossiping.
They are my salvation and yours
too and where would we be without
all the little extras they bring in?
Granny Butcher grunted and
tossed her head.
You will come a cropper one
of these days my girl you mark
my words.
I didnt pay much attention to
Granny Butchers predictions of
gloom and disaster. She was
always making them and they
rarely came true. And even
To read the judg
though it was impossible
comments go
to escape from the sights
and sounds of war, my home
remained a happy loving place.
Then one afternoon when I came
home from school the steamed
pudding that usually followed the
cold lamb for supper on Monday
wasnt bubbling on the stove and I
could hear voices coming from inside
our front room.
Is Uncle Bob here? I asked my
grandmother, eager to show him the

Runner-up in the Nostalgia competition, whose story is published on was Nick Primmer, Dunton, Buckinghamshire.
Also shortlisted were: Ed Blundell, Stockport; Gwyneth Box, Warwick; Mark Dorey,
Pontypridd; David Fillingham, Eccleston, Lancashire; Jan Godfrey, Bognor Regis;
Deborah Ritchie, North Berwick, East Lothian; Tracy Turner-Jones, Lewisham, London
SE26; Sue Woodward, Chalus, France.

p62 comp winner.indd 63

drawing I had done in class.

My grandmother shook her head
and put a finger to her lips, and as
the voices down the hall grew
louder my stomach turned, the way
it did when Billy Bracknell next
door chased me down the road with
his catapult.
When the voices died away,
my mother came into the kitchen
dabbing at her eyes and blowing her
nose, followed by my father who
after two years absence I barely
recognised. He swept me up in his
arms and with my face buried in the
rough serge of his army uniform,
I knew something in my life had
changed forever.
That night when my grandmother
brought my cocoa upstairs she sat
on the side of the bed twisting her
apron strings.
That nosey Mrs Fisher two doors
down sent a letter to the authorities
and they have given your father
compassionate, she said.
I wanted to ask what
compassionate meant and why Uncle
Bob hadnt come for supper but I
couldnt. And I didnt see him or
Uncle Jimmy again and Uncle Arthur
only came back for his pyjamas.
My mother gave up her job
at the soap factory and Uncle
Bobs drawings and her silver
dancing shoes were hidden away
in Granny Butchers chest of
drawers. And for a little while
it seemed to me that when my
uncles left us that day the heart
of our house went with them.



26/09/2016 10:48

S keleto ns
in the cu pb oa r d

ramatic monologues allow the poet to assume the character of

another person, creature or even an inanimate object, and to
examine some situation or event through that viewpoint. From
Brownings Porphyrias Lover to Carol Ann Duffys collection
The Worlds Wife, we are shown dramatic scenes unfolding
before our eyes, and drawn into the centre of the action.
Another favourite from Browning is the more subtly described but
no less chilling account of My Last Duchess, and these extracts are taken
from the 56-line poem. In this, readers are drawn into the event with
the direct address of the proud owner showing off his collection.
Thats my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolfs hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.
Willt please you sit and look at her?

The narrator comments on the artists skill, but allows us to wonder

whether the selection of a man of the cloth might be a deliberate
safeguard in view of his wifes over-friendly nature.
She had
A heart how shall I say? too soon made glad,
Too easily impressed; she liked whateer
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.
The duke is also critical of her ranking equally the experiences
and gifts that please her.
She thanked men good! but thanked
Somehow I know not how as if she ranked
My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name
With anybodys gift.
He suggests that even if he were to criticise her, the comments would
fall on deaf ears; and that she is rather too free with her smiles.
Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,
Wheneer I passed her; but who passed without
Much the same smile?
This seals her fate.
This grew; I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands
As if alive.


p64 poetry workshop.indd 64

Alison Chisholm explores two

poems one classic and one sent
by a reader to illustrate the power
of the dramatic monologue

The envoy on the guided tour, brimming with this knowledge, is to be

escorted down to the rest of the party and conversation moves on to
another artefact. We readers have accompanied the duke and his guest,
have wondered about the Last Duchess pleasures and pains, frustration
with her husband, flightiness. We can fill in the blanks and know how
her demise was arranged. We are a part of the poem, we collude with it,
we admire or shudder at the sang-froid of the speaker. The joy of reading
these monologues, also known as persona poems, is equalled by the fun
of writing them, as poet and competition adjudicator Margaret Gleave of
Southport demonstrates opposite.
This poem presents us with another life story, this time one with a
happy ending, and the narrative shows how the character rebels against
convention to carve out the life she wants. There is no control-freak-duke
lurking in the shadows. The heroine is a feisty woman, willing to go
against her fathers wishes despite his extreme reactions in hiring a private
detective to follow her, and she runs away to enjoy the life she wants, fully
accepting that her father will have nothing more to do with her.
As in the Robert Browning poem, we are beckoned into the narrative at
the start, with the careful application of a clich dressed to kill a familiar
saying that would usually be avoided in a poem, but is the perfect phrase
here to suggest familiarity of speech and an intimacy between narrator and
reader. The relationship is cemented with the you know in the third line, and
referenced further on in the poem where we see Youve guessed his thoughts
See I hear you ask among others and, at the end of the account, another
of those familiar expressions, its true that every picture tells a tale. The reader
is gripped by the narrator as surely as the envoy of My Last Duchess was
gripped by the duke. Here, though, the hold may be even tighter. There
is no third person involved; the direct appeal is to the audience, and Great
Aunt Dollys story is told to nobody but the reader.
The immediacy of the imagery of Skeletons is one of its most attractive
facets, with precision of description, relevant references and a strong
evocation of period. The title resonates with the phrase skeletons in the
cupboard, making it an ideal summing-up of the theme; certainly in the
eyes of Great Aunt Dollys father.
Both of these dramatic monologues are written in iambic pentameters,
but not in the same form. The pattern of My Last Duchess is rhyming
couplets, while Skeletons is written in the unrhymed version, blank verse.
Where the former is in formal tone, the subject matter of the latter lends
itself to the more relaxed unrhymed pattern. Both poets have handled
their respective forms with panache, so that in each case the reading is
seamless and full of vitality.
The persona poem plunges the reader directly into the story, and here
we have two amazing stories the tale of an arrogant control freak and his
crime, and the life story of an amazing woman. Either could have been
presented in the form of a short story or even a novel. Both are enhanced by
being shared as poetry.

26/09/2016 10:50



by Margaret Gleave

Inspired by Edward Burras 1930 painting The Snack Bar, pictured right

Thats Great Aunt Dolly, furred and dressed to kill;

grandmother called her bold, a brassy piece.
She ran away, you know, in 1930,
with Fred, who worked behind the bar; see there,
hes slicing ham for railway station rolls.
Youve guessed his thoughts, a plump and juicy slice,
just like my Dollys thighs.
Her Pa forbade
the match; he cut her off without a cent,
refused to see her after they were wed.
Bit of an actress was our Doll; she loved
bright lights on centre stage in music hall.
Just look; her scarlet cupid lips, her eyes,
mascaraed, Mata Hari look-alike;
those shark-like teeth, voracious bites at fame,
her loud-mouthed chunks of jewellery, taloned claws.
They tried to stop her. See that bloke behind?
with horn rimmed glasses, trilby, out-sized mac?
well, hes a private eye employed by Pa
to follow Doll, report to base. He failed;

she had a cunning plan, got clean away.

You see, she knew about the tail, shed seen
him in the bar-room mirror several days
before. She had a mate of similar height,
who, dressed in Dollys clothes, became a decoy.
Pal Ethel crossed the bridge with Mister X
behind, and stepped aboard the Glasgow train.
Voila; Aunt Dolly hid and waited, case
all packed to board the London train at ten
with Fred and that, my dear, is that. What next,
I hear you ask. She did the music halls,
with Gracie Fields and co, and Fred found work
in London hotel bars. They saved and bought
a pub out Dulwich way, and as a treat
when they retired, embarked on world wide cruises
until Fred died of too much food and drink.
Aunt Dolly lived until her ninetieth year
among her picture palace memories, songs
of yesterday, her Bette Davies hats,
her lips like Clara Bow;
well, like they say,
its true that every picture tells a tale.

Poetry workout

Be aware of how punctuation affects your poems, suggests Doris Corti

unctuation is something
often used instinctively
rather than as a
poetic device.
It is, however, something that helps
to control a poem, encompassing
both line units and the music.
It can be omitted and sometimes is
by contemporary poets who may feel
that a poem stands on its own assets
of language and imagery and that
pauses will develop naturally if the
poem is laid out in a given way.
The punctuation in the following
four lines has been selected with care.
Winter has come, stealthily in the night
across cracked paving stones. Frost glints coldly
in early light; the air cuts clean
and all the holly boughs hang heavy under snow.
The long sentence at the start of these
lines needed the comma after the
word come for a breath pause. A full
stop after the word stones divides the

images. The longer pause created

by a semi-colon after the word light
not only allows a breath pause but
emphasises the rhyme with the word
night. A full stop after the word
snow was necessary to show the end
of the line.
When posing a question in your
poems do not forget the essential
question mark and at times
exclamation marks are equally
important. When writing a poem
in a defined rhyming pattern, one
that has to be read at a fast pace, the
necessary punctuation is required,
otherwise readers would arrive
quickly and breathlessly at the
last line.
When you have written your
poem read it aloud and stop when
you come to what appears to be a
natural pause. Ask yourself why is
the pause effective? You may need
to make it obvious to a reader by the
use of a certain punctuation mark.

p64 poetry workshop.indd 65

A device known as enjambment

is when the sense of one stanza line
is run on into the next line without
pause. The subtle use of this device
can add emphasis to a phrase being
read. The idea is to take a reader
by surprise by creating a pause for
effect. If used too often this device
will prove monotonous and its
power will be limited.
Exclamation marks should be used
sparingly in poetry but on occasions
they can be used to define a certain
tone. For example the words you are
not my master! when aided by the
exclamation mark can introduce a
tone of indignation or anger.
Write 14 lines on a rainy day
without using punctuation.
Rewrite using punctuation for
breath pauses and effect.



26/09/2016 10:50


Poetry from


Poet Alison Chisholm guides you through the language of poetry

LITOTES is a figure of speech in
which a positive point is made by a
denial of its opposite. Emily Bront
starts a poem with No coward soul
is mine, implying the opposite of
cowardly with a brave outlook.
Sometimes the effect is created by a
simple double negative, such as not
bad to suggest good.
The device is used to add a touch of
emphasis or irony in poetry, and is also
prevalent in conversation and rhetoric.
A LITTLE WILLIE is a quatrain
that rhymes in two couplets, a a b
b. It tells of the experiences of the
eponymous hero, who suffers all kinds
of disasters.
Little Willie found a mouse,
Hid it safely in the house Then forgot it. Strange to tell,
There reared a sudden dreadful smell.
EXERCISE: Think of a suitable
misdemeanour for Little Willie, and
construct a quatrain based on it.
In LONG MEASURE, a form often
used in hymns, stanzas consist of
quatrains of iambic tetrameter rhyming
x a x a. This is similar to the ballad
stanza, where the same rhyming pattern
is used but the first and third lines have
just three feet rather than four. Long
measure can also rhyme
a b a b, in this case as the longer
version of common metre, where the
same rhyming pattern is used but
again the first and third lines have only
three feet. These examples show the
variants, first with the x a x a rhyme:

Or with the a b a b rhyme:

He guessed that there was something wrong
but knew he couldnt put it right.
He brooded on it all day long
and fretted far into the night.


EXERCISE: Write a poem in either
variant of long metre, using the
example above as a prompt. You
could consider what happened
before this stanza, what happened
after it or both.
The term LOGOPOEIA was
adopted by Ezra Pound to describe
one of three devices used by the
poet to infuse language with extra
meaning. This device is the inclusion
of words that have an additional
resonance beyond their direct
meaning, communicating something
more through other contexts
recognised by the reader.
LONG POEMS cannot be defined
precisely by their number of lines,
although many poets agree that a
poem consisting of more than three
pages should be regarded as long.
Too lengthy for a lyric piece or
short narrative, the long poem
may work as a single epic poem,
or divided into numbered sections
or a sequence of shorter poems. TS
Eliots The Waste Land qualifies as
a long poem, as does Popes The
Rape of the Lock and Basil Buntings
autobiographical piece Briggflatts.

The LUC-BAT is a Vietnamese

verse form, much practised in its
He guessed that there was something wrong home country; although there is a
rather sophisticated pattern of sound
but knew he couldnt put it right.
rules there, its adaptation for use in
He brooded on it through the day
English is based on a simpler pattern.
and fretted far into the night.


p66 Poetry know-how/alphabet.indd 66

The form consists of any number

of lines, alternating between six and
eight syllables per line, with odd
numbered lines having six and even
numbered eight.

Perfect your
poetry with
a WM Creative
Writing course.
See p74

In its slow slide through reed,

over sullen stones, weed, stirred mud,
the villages life blood
whispers secrets that could change lives
if trusting men and wives
knew meaning. Gossip thrives in small
communities, and all
who cheat, play away, fall from grace
are known. The stream can trace
each peccadillo, place blame, seed
discontent. So take heed.
EXERCISE: Take a natural
phenomenon and write a luc-bat
poem (with any number of lines)
ascribing some unexpected quality
to it, such as the water that knows
peoples secrets of this example.
LYRIC POETRY is, perhaps, the
opposite of narrative poetry. While
the story dominates a narrative
piece, in lyric poetry the music of
the language predominates. The
theme suggests thought and emotion
more often than action, a sort of
thinking aloud.
Originally, lyric poetry would
be spoken, chanted or sung to a
background of music, often provided
by the lyre hence the name of the
genre. Today lyric poems may be
introspective, quiet and reflective.
They are not usually very long, and
many are written in the first person,
a good example being WB Yeats The
Lake Isle of Innisfree, that begins I will
arise and go now

26/09/2016 10:51



Shifting her setting by just a decade brought

subscriber Fiona Veitch Smiths
historical crime novels to life.

iona Veitch Smiths

debut historical crime
novel, The Jazz Files, is
on the shortlist for this
years Crime Writers
Association Endeavour
Historical Dagger award, the top gong
for historical crime, mysteries and
thrillers published in the UK.
According to the CWA judging
panel, the first of her 1920s sleuth
series Poppy Denby Investigates,
The Jazz Files, is, like its heroine,
buoyant and stylish but with a core
of steel. Poppy Denby arrives in
London from the north of England
determined to make it as a journalist
and gets her chance when she has
to finish a murdered reporters
investigation into the death of a
suffragette. The Roaring Twenties
are beautifully evoked.
Fionas second book, The Kill Fee
was published in September and
book three is being written. But
initially the series was going to be set
at the end of the Edwardian period.
I originally conceived of Poppy
as a suffragette reporter sleuth, who
would be investigating the death
of another fictional suffragette who
died around the same time as Emily
Wilding Davison, writes Fiona. The
book would be set at the height of the
suffragette movement between 1905
and 1913. However, once I started
writing, I just didnt feel comfortable
in the period. The clothes were
boring, the music was boring and
frankly, my character might have been
feisty but she was downright dowdy.
I felt the same writing her as I did

Getting into character

Fiona in her Poppy
Denby outfit, made on
a period Singer sewing
machine from an original
1920s pattern, with a
1928 Ford Pheaton

playing Sheila Birling in an am-dram

production of An Inspector Calls. But
what I wanted to feel was like I felt
when I played the delightful Maisie
in Ken Russells The Boyfriend. I had
also just started learning to play jazz
clarinet and was listening to music
from the 1920s.
I began to conceive of shifting
my story to the 1920s and having
my main character an inheritor of
the legacy of the suffragettes. The
mystery around the death of the
fictional suffragette is still central to
the novel, but is now investigated as
a cold case, seven years later.
Once I made this shift I
immediately felt an emotional
connection with the character and the
period and the whole thing came
alive. It had taken three months to
write one chapter set in the earlier
period, but once I changed to the
1920s I wrote the whole 90,000
words in six months. Writing
became a joy. I lived and breathed
the period and, Id like to think,
this came through in my writing.
I did a lot of research online as
well as reading non-fiction
books about the period. But
the most important research
for me was what I like to call
the emotional research. I
went down to London for a
few days and walked up and
down Fleet Street, Waterloo
Road and Kings Road key
locations in the novel to
get a feel for the place and
travelled the same routes that
Poppy would travel on bus
and train. I imagined myself

p67 Members single.indd 67

as Poppy and inhabited her character.

I also made some clothes for her
from an original 1920s pattern for
a photo shoot. Wearing those clothes
really helped me feel like I was Poppy
(although Im 23 years older than her!)
I read original newspapers from
1920 in the British Library. Some of
the news stories that appear in the
book were genuine articles from the
time. I also went to the Suffragette
exhibition and fashion exhibit at
the London Museum. Some of the
outfits that Poppy and her friend
Delilah wear in The Jazz Files are
exact replicas of outfits I saw there.
In addition, I researched what was
playing on the theatre scene in 1920
as well as cinema and music. The
songs played in chapter 3 of the book
were all actually played in 1920 and
ones Ive tried to play on the clarinet!
These are small details that most
people wont notice but it creates an
air of authenticity.
I would encourage you to consider
the period you are writing in. Does
it suit you? Do you feel an emotional
connection to it? Why or why not?
Remember, the period can almost
become a character in itself. And
if youre not writing period fiction,
consider the setting of your story
anyway. Where the story happens
gives depth, texture and interest to the
reader. Most readers dont just want
to read a story about what happens
to people (the plot), they want to be
immersed in another world. That may
be of another time, another place or
another set of experiences. Take time
to get that world right, and both you
and your reader will be rewarded.


26/09/2016 10:52

The masters
point of view
Handle narrative viewpoint in your fiction
by learning from the best, with recommended
reads from Helen M Walters

hen we come
to tell a short
story, one of
the first things
we have to
decide is exactly whose story it is. We
need to know whose point of view we
are telling the story from and how. We
can learn a lot from classic short story
writers about how to make the most
of whichever technique we choose.
In this classic short story masterclass
were going to look at two examples
of the first person technique one in
which it is used to give an intimate
glimpse of the viewpoint character
and one in which it is used to
reveal a lot about the life of another
character. Then we are going to
look at third person, telling the story
from one point of view and also from
multiple points of view.
The stories I have chosen are
Cathedral by Raymond Carver,
Mr Know All by Somerset Maugham,
The Cop and The Anthem by O Henry
and Prelude by Katherine Mansfield.
As always, spoilers follow and you will
benefit most if you read the stories
yourself. Read them online at
Choice of point of view makes
a difference to both the feel of a
story and the mechanics of how it is
written. When choosing first person
point of view the main advantage
is that the reader feels very close
to the main character. Telling the
story using I makes the reader feel
that they are experiencing the story
along with the character and is a
good way of letting the reader into the
characters innermost thoughts.

MARCH 20122016

p68 Short stories.indd 68

The power of first-person

In Cathedral, Raymond Carver shows

us a character undergoing an epiphany.
That is why first person is such a good
choice for this story it means the
reader can experience the epiphany
along with the character.
Note that the main character isnt
actually named. I think this is a
deliberate decision by Carver, but it
can be a problem when youre writing
your own first person stories. In
contemporary stories, particularly very
short ones, naming your main character
helps readers to identify with them
better. So, if you are writing in first
person and want the reader to know
your characters name, have another
character address them by name early
on in the story.
Cathedral starts quite slowly, with
back story. Although the back story
is about the main characters wife and
the blind friend who is due to visit her,
through the telling of it we find out a
lot about the protagonist. We discover
he lacks empathy towards their blind
visitor, and seems unable to register him
as fully human. He cannot understand
the mans relationship with his late wife
and refers to him as pathetic.
We also find that he is jealous of
his wifes previous relationships with
other men. He is resentful of his wifes
childhood sweetheart, who got to
her first, and also of the blind man,
Robert, with whom she shares so
much life history.
Because we are in the protagonists
head we cannot know what the other
characters are thinking. But notice how
Carver gives many clues to how the
protagonists wife is feeling in the way

she reacts to him. When he jumps to

conclusions about Roberts wife we see
in both her words and the fact that she
drops a potato she is preparing that
she is agitated with him. We also see
her becoming irritated with him when
he puts the television on, and we learn
that the protagonist feels that when
she compares him to Robert, he comes
off worse. We do not experience any
of these feelings in the womans head,
since we can only be in the mans head.
But we know about them because we
see her through his eyes.
The closing paragraphs of the story
are where the first person narrative
really comes into its own. Robert, who
of course has never seen a cathedral,
asks the protagonist to describe one
to him. In struggling to describe the
cathedral the protagonist comes face to
face with his own limitations as he tries
to compensate for the limitations of the
blind man. Then, as the two men try to
draw a cathedral together, their hands
both on the pencil, the protagonist
feels like his fingers take over so he cant
stop them and he has emotions hes
never had before. As we experience this
intimacy between the two men through
the first person narrative it is as though
we are experiencing it ourselves. That is
the power of first person.

First-person prejudice

In Mr Know All by Somerset Maugham

we find a slightly different use of
first person. We get to know another
character very well through the eyes
of the viewpoint character. The Mr
Know All of the title is Max Kelada
and we learn straightaway that the
viewpoint character dislikes him.

26/09/2016 10:56


In fact, he dislikes him before he

even meets him. This of course tells
us something about the viewpoint
character as well. It tells us that he is
prejudiced and given to jumping to
baseless conclusions about people.
As the story continues we get to know
Max Kelada through the viewpoint
characters eyes. We learn that he is
over-familiar, chatting to people and
imposing his company where it is
not wanted. He is exasperating as he
intrudes on a private card game and
tries to take it over. But, above all, he is
someone who thinks he knows better
than anyone else on any matter under
discussion. So much so that he is called
Mr Know All to his face.
At the end of the story, however,
we see a different side to Mr Kelada.
His judgement over a pearl necklace
is called into question even though
he has declared himself an expert on
pearls. Despite his desire to always
be right, he allows himself to be
mistakenly revealed as being wrong
in order to save the honour of the
woman wearing the pearl necklace.
It is after this that our viewpoint
character realises he has been mistaken
about Mr Kelada. Mr Kelada himself
has not changed, it is the viewpoint
character that has changed through a
process of becoming aware of his own
prejudices. This is a very interesting
use of viewpoint because although the
first person viewpoint is targeted at
showing us a story about Mr Kelada, it
is the viewpoint character who is most
changed by the events of the story.
That is why it feels right that it is told
from his point of view, although on the
surface it is about someone else.

Third-person observation

One of the disadvantages of first person

is that it can be restrictive. In third
person the narrator sits just outside
the character and therefore can offer
a different perspective how big the
difference is depends on how close or
distant the narrator is.
The Cop and The Anthem by O
Henry is an example of a story told in
the third person. The main character
Soapy, like the unnamed protagonist
in Cathedral, undergoes an epiphany
during the story. But we are not
experiencing it from inside his head, we
are experiencing it as an onlooker.
In third person the narrator can

move in and out of the action in a way

that a first person narrator cant. The
story paints a picture of the person and
the events that happen to them and
invites the reader to view it, rather than
entering into it as with first person.
Notice that when we are introduced
to Soapy at the beginning of the
story, it is as though we are standing
and observing him. We see him sitting
on his bench and a leaf falling at his
feet. We also get external commentary
from a narrators voice that is not
Soapy, before being told what is in
Soapys mind. That alteration in
distance is more easily achieved in
third person than first.
Because a voice that is not Soapy
himself is describing the character to
us, we learn things we might not have
learnt had we been inside his head. The
descriptions of his body language are
exquisite and, of course, because he cant
see himself they only work when being
described by a voice outside himself.
Another reason that third person
works well in this story is that it
allows a comic twist to a story that
might otherwise be pitiful. Third
person makes the balance between
pity and humour easier to strike
than it would be in the first.

and we hear from grandmother how

shed previously had a very different
life in Australia. How would we have
known about these things if their points
of view were missing from the story?
The way in which this story has
been told gives us a panoramic view
of the life of the family at a great time
of change. We see different facets and
aspects of the change in a way we
could not have done if the story had
been told from a single point of view.
Of course it is possible to have stories
told from more than one perspective but
with each told in the first person. I dont
know of any classic short stories that use
this technique (do let me know if you
know of any!) but its more widespread
in longer works, and it is a technique
you can use in your own stories. Bear
in mind though that, with multiple
viewpoints, too many in too short a
story can be confusing for the reader.

Other points of view

Read all four
stories at

The omniscient third person

As well as third person stories that stick

with one character, in some classic short
stories the third person is used to tell a
story from multiple viewpoints, as in
Prelude by Katherine Mansfield.
The story is about a family moving
house, and is divided into sections.
We see the action from different
points of view as the story progresses.
At the beginning of the story we
are seeing the action through the eyes
of a child. Therefore we are getting
a perspective which is very different
from an adults. As Kezia explores
the empty house that the family
has just abandoned she notices tiny
details that an adult wouldnt, and is
spooked by the dark in a way that
only a child would be.
We also have sections told
from the point of view of various
other characters, including Kezias
mother, Linda, her father, Stanley,
her grandmother and her Aunt Beryl.
Notice how these viewpoints are crucial
to telling the story as we become privy
to Lindas dreams and Beryls fantasies

p68 Short stories.indd 69

While I was researching this article, I

came across some other, more unusual,
points of view. We Wave And Call
by Jon McGregor is told in second
person. A Rose For Emily by William
Faulkner is told in first person plural,
as the we of a whole village mourns the
passing of Emily. And, finally, For Esme
With Love and Squalor by JD Salinger
sees a swap from first person to third
part way through the story.
These are all quite unusual, but
worth taking a look at if you feel
like experimenting! Who knows,
you might end up with something
really memorable.

Know your POV

These are the crucial issues to bear in

mind for your own stories.
Whatever point of view you
choose, make sure you know
through whose eyes you are telling
the story, and why.
Its fine to change point of view if
the story demands it, but dont do
it in a way that will confuse your
reader or leave them not knowing
which character to empathise with
and therefore not really caring about
any of them.
Only by telling the story from the
right point of view can you ensure
that your reader will experience the
story in the very best way possible
exactly the way you intended.
JULY 2016


26/09/2016 10:56




Youve poured your heart into your childrens book

so dont scupper its chances with your submission
package, says Amy Sparkes

hen you begin writing

for children, it can seem
impossible to know
where to start. Last
month we considered mistakes not
to make when writing your childrens
book; this month we consider pitfalls
to avoid once your story is written,
edited and ready for submission.

Hide your story

If youre happy with your story and
youd like to share it, then act on it.
Finishing a story can be emotionally
draining, especially if it took a while
to write. You might want to take a
break to catch breath but dont let
dust settle on your story or let fear
persuade you its not worth doing
something with, whether that is
traditional publishing, or celebrating
its completion in another way.

Dont make a plan

Focus is helpful for building a writing
career. Where would you like to be
ten years from now? Would you write
for different age groups or a particular
one? Would you cover a wide range of
genres or concentrate on a certain area
of fiction? Would you like an agent?
Or work directly with publishers?
Would you be happy if your work
was published online?

Writing for pleasure

Never feel pressurised to approach
publishers. Stories can be just for
you, or children you know That
doesnt make them less worthwhile.
You could always get copies printed
professionally so you have a wellpresented finished version.
If youre not keen on traditional


p70 children.indd 70

publishing but would like to share

your story, you could place it online.
There are various story websites, such
as where
you can submit work. Always check
terms offered by the website youre
submitting to can you take your
work elsewhere if opportunities arise?
Be aware that publishers and agents
may be reluctant to take on stories
which have already been published
online, so be selective.

Pick publishers and

agents randomly
Its tempting to approach anyone and
everyone but youll save time if you plan
ahead. Your story will then go to the
most suitable place, increasing its chance
of success. The first step is research.
Agents come in all shapes and sizes
they may be independent or part of an
agency. Some agencies only have two
or three agents; others are massive,
working across other industries,
such as acting, music and modelling.
Would you prefer a smaller, personal
agency, or a larger one?
Look at an agents list. Do they
represent authors youve heard of?
Does the agent seem to like the sort
of books you write? Agents need to
champion your book in the publishing
world so its important they are 100%
behind it. They receive thousands
of excellent publish-worthy
submissions but will select the ones
they personally click with.
Do some stalking (dont worry;
quite acceptable here!). Follow agents

and agencies on Twitter. Like what

they tweet? What do they retweet?
Do you think youd get on well? Do
they promote their authors? Google
online and see what comes up. Ask
writer friends. Choosing an agent is
an important, hopefully career-long
decision, so research as much as you
can before approaching.
Similarly, spend time researching
publishers. Do they publish the kind
of books you write? For example, if
they publish humorous, character-led
series and that fits with your book,
then you may have found a home. If
a certain style doesnt appear on their
lists, they may still publish it, but you
may prefer to try elsewhere first.

Submit to one place at a time

You can submit to different publishers
or agents simultaneously, or even
publishers and agents at the same
time. Obviously, prioritise the ones
you feel are more appropriate. Look
through the Childrens Writers &
Artists Yearbook; it is well worth
obtaining an up-to-date copy of
this brilliant resource. (See www. for
information). Publishers and agents
expect multiple submissions so you
dont need to explain. However,
if you do send exclusively to a
publisher or agent, then mention
this in your cover letter. Finally, if
youre submitting to both publishers
and agents simultaneously, then it
is helpful if you tell agents which
publishers you have approached, so
they know where things stand.
To keep tabs on what is where

26/09/2016 10:58


(especially if youre sending more than

one story), create a database of all
submissions and record the responses.
You may find it helpful to send out
in batches of five or ten at a time;
then if one batch doesnt yield results,
you can move onto the next. Then
hopefully, your story will find a home.


This is for your story pitch. Explain the

premise in about a paragraph.
Include the bare bones of the plot but
dont go into detail.
Try to make this intriguing so your
book is more likely to be read.

Ignore submission guidelines

What drives publishers and
agents mad? When they provide
submission guidelines and authors
ignore them. You might think
its worth trying your luck even if
your story doesnt meet submission
requirements. However, even if
your story is fabulous, if you havent
stuck to the guidelines, it will head
for the reject pile.
Check guidelines thoroughly.
Do they accept childrens books?
Of every genre? And rhyming texts?
How do they want submissions as
an attachment or in the body of the
email? Attachments are frequently
treated as spam, so if a publisher or
agent specifies no attachments,
they do mean it, and your email
wont be opened.


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Write an inappropriate
cover letter
Ah, the cover letter. Always fun.
This is difficult to write but worth
spending time on its your
introduction to a publisher or agent.
And first impressions count.
What do they not want to see?
Basically, a long-winded, unclear,
sloppily-produced, standard cover
letter which is a one-size-fits-all
and doesnt communicate all the
information they need. So what do
you include in an ideal cover letter?


Put crucial information about your book here:

title; age group; genre; and word count.
Explain who your potential audience is. Mention
any similar books or authors (especially if these are
connected to the publisher or agent).
Personalise your letter for example, have you
met the agent or attended a talk by them? Why
have you chosen this particular agent or publisher?

them for read

Put everything into

your synopsis
Most submission guidelines request
the first three chapters of your story
and the synopsis. Its natural to want
to include every twist, turn and detail
of your story. However, the maximum
length of a synopsis is usually two
typed A4 sides (check individual
guidelines). Cramming everything in
will result in a long-winded, confusing
synopsis, which probably wont support
your submission.
Before you start, consider the main
points of each chapter. You have a
limited word count, so choose words
carefully. Could you use one word
instead of two? Or add a single, strong
adjective to describe a character to add
colour to your synopsis, with minimal
impact on your word count?

Hit send/receive obsessively

We all do it. We all know its pointless.
By some cruel rule of the universe,
hitting send/receive on your laptop
does not conjure up the email youre
waiting for. Its not easy, but youve
done your best, youve submitted your
story, so let it fly free for a while. Save
your time, your sanity and reduce the
risk of RSI by working on your next
story instead. At least then, when an

p70 children.indd 71

agent or publisher responds, you

have other ideas to offer them.

Take rejection personally

Thank you for your submission,
however we didnt feel it was right for
our list. The heartbreaking words that
most writers hear. Yes, sometimes its the
quality or presentation of the writing. If
a manuscript is repeatedly rejected, wait
a month or so, then revisit your story to
see if it can be improved.
However, if youve researched the
market, read widely, spent time on
your manuscript and had it critiqued
(professionally or informally), thats
probably not the case. So your story is
fabulous, your cover letter is stonking
why have you been rejected?

Personal preference
Agents receive thousands of
submissions, so they prioritise stories
they personally enjoy and connect
with. Publishers too may choose
one book over another, due to taste.
Annoyingly, as rejection letters are
standardised (due to time pressures),
all you hear is not right for our lists
instead of any helpful, non-dreamshattering feedback, such as the story
itself was brilliantly-written but we
prefer funny books.

What fits
Sometimes manuscripts are rejected
purely because its not what they are
looking for at the time. Youve submitted
your funny, young fiction ghost story
but unbeknown to you the publishing
house has just commissioned a funny,
young fiction vampire series. The two
would compete, so they cant accept your
story. But all you hear is, Thank you for
your submission, however

Give up
Its sad when talented writers struggle
to find a home for their work or find
the submission process too gruelling.
The world needs good stories and you
can be the one to write them. Yes, there
are many hurdles to producing a book.
Sometimes its enough of a challenge to
finish writing the wretched thing, let
alone face sending it out into the world.
But do keep going. The reward of seeing
your story in print is worth it. Promise.
Next month, we look at mistakes to
avoid once your book is published.
Good luck!


26/09/2016 10:58

The front line

Immersing readers in breaking news, uncovering behind-the-scenes

drama or illuminating the human condition in depth requires dedication
and rock-solid narrative skills, says Tina Jackson

ast months feature in

this series on colour
writing was something
of a writers summer
holiday for you. This
month its back to school in no
uncertain terms because were going to
look at reportage. As this is considered
the highest and most prestigious form
of feature journalism, occupying a
space between literary non-fiction and
documentary reporting, it is therefore
the most likely form to inspire fear in
newbie feature writers.

What is reportage?
Reportage at its most straightforward
is journalism that gives its reader
an insight into history both in
retrospective, and into history as it is
being made. It has been written by
some of worlds best writers, many but
by no means all working as newspaper
correspondents. It may not have been
written with an eye to being read
years in the future, or contributing
to a reader understanding a historical
moment, but even if its been scribbled
in a notebook on a battlefield, it has
lasting qualities. In 1996 literary
publisher Faber brought out The Faber
Book of Reportage, edited by Professor
John Carey, that includes eyewitness
accounts of the sinking of the Titanic
and WW2 concentration camps. The
Granta Book of Reportage features work
by some of the worlds most famous
writers, including John le Carr,
Germaine Greer, Martha Gellhorn
and Marilynne Robinson. George
Orwells reportage includes Down and


p72 Features.indd 72

Out in Paris and London, Homage

to Catalonia and The Road to Wigan
Pier ie, stone classics. Outstanding
contemporary practitioners include
the Indian novelist Rana Dasgupta
and war reporters Anthony Loyd and
Janine di Giovanni. These are very big
footprints to follow.
That is not, though, to say that
other writers should not walk in their
footsteps, and create work that goes
beyond straightforward journalistic
reporting to combine journalism
with literary qualities. Some of the
more fanciful names for reportage
are literary journalistic essay and
literature of fact. You can do masters
degrees in these subjects. Dont let it
put you off if you want to tackle
big stories in a significant way, know
how to structure a piece of journalism
and want the challenge of a deeper
or more complex writing experience
within the arena of non-fiction, have
developed your own writing style and
are prepared to get your hands dirty
and participate in what youre writing
about, reportage may be for you.
Reportage is harder to pin down
than most hack-for-hire journalism.
Reportage does not necessarily have to
be long-form, but in practice it often
is, and may occupy varying lengths
between an extended story in a colour
supplement to a full-length work of
non-fiction. The writer of reportage
is not breaking news that is the job
of a news story. But it is related to
news, or likely to be at the very least
topical and newsworthy. It is more
of a narrative than a feature article,

although it is related to a feature

and will require a features structure,
with a lead, a narrative incorporating
facts and quotes, and a conclusion.
It is more personal than a feature,
requiring its writer to be present in
the experience, but it will most likely
be written in third, not first, person.
And although reportage stems from
the world of news media, these days
you are as likely to find it in a literary
journal as you are in a newspaper or
current affairs magazine.

Dig yourself in
Reportage immerses the reader in its
subject and allows them to see, and
crucially, understand, the story and its
themes. Last months colour-writing
skills will come in useful, as will as
our previous excursions into news
reporting and feature construction, as
we now take a look at how you might
go about crafting your own long-form
piece of reportage.
First, find your subject, and make
sure its something that you really
want to write about because youre
not just going to spend a lot of time
on it, youre going to get up close
and personal. Reportage subjects
are typically weighty, taking in wars
and momentous social events and
movements. Were not suggesting you
head out to a warzone but consider
carefully whether what you want to
write about has the substance to sustain
an in-depth piece of work. There may
be the perfect story on your doorstep,
in your local area or even within your
own family, but you need to be able to:

26/09/2016 11:01


1) Recognise it as a story. For

instance, at a local level, you might
have a neighbour who spends her
spare time helping out a refuge for
victims of domestic abuse. Over
time, talking to her, you may note
that more and more of the stories
shes telling you involve abuse taking
place online or via social media (read
this for background: http://writ.
rs/2socialmediaabuse). The issue is
in the news but you realise you may
be in a position, as a writer, to tell the
stories of individuals in a way that
makes a reader see the bigger picture
behind the headlines.
2) Have the access you need to be
able to bring it to life for a reader.
Could your friend arrange for you not
just to meet women who have suffered
this kind of abuse, but spend time
with them, get a real insight into what
they have been though, and experience
what their lives are like?
It can help, certainly for a first
excursion into reportage, if the topic
you choose is something close to you
or that you have a deep knowledge of/
interest in. This is for obvious reasons:
you will know what are the potential
stories significantly worth telling
within your subject area. You will
know what is topical and you will have
the insight to be able to write your
reportage with depth and empathy. If
you come to a subject cold, your basic
knowledge of journalism would enable
you to find out the who, why, where,
what, when and how of the matter,
but to go deeper it will help if you
already know where to dig.
You do not need to write about a
war zone, but conflict and injustice
can take place on an epic level even in
the most small-scale of environments.
You may not be embedded in a war
zone but the inside story of sabotage
at your local allotment society might,
in its own small way, provide you with
the material for this kind of writing.
Once you have chosen a topic, you
will need to do these things:
1) Research it. This is fundamental
make sure you have a story, and all
the facts related to it.
2) Think about the themes of your
narrative (we are now in the realms of
the kind of writing that has themes
and narratives).
3) Research it some more. Find out

who you can talk to, and make sure

you can get access. The more access
you can get, the better.
4) Go and live it. Good reportage
requires you to be a participantobserver, not a bystander. If you are
invited, for instance, to spend the
night in the domestic abuse shelter,
do it. If you are writing about the
working conditions of men who repair
motorways at night, be prepared to
spend nights out there with them. If
you are cold and wet, so are they
and you will have a real insight into
what their lives are like.

the story you are telling. You need to

be able to recreate scenes, so you have
to be able to see very clearly what are
the crucial details that will bring the
picture to life for your readers. As
writers, we are very aware of showing,
not telling, and in this context, the
ability to use words to paint a picture
will make all the difference to the
success of your piece. Use details to
reinforce significant elements; create
dramatic scenes so that the reader is
involved and understands why this
story needs to be told.
You will need to be patient, and
tenacious. It is highly unlikely that
you will be able to pop out over the
Writing reportage
weekend and do a bit of reportage.
Think about your aims for the piece,
Youll need to commit to your subject,
and what you want to achieve. Its
and put the time in. But you will also
not an opinion piece, and you arent
need the ability to work fast if you
preaching or using your writing as
need to, and know when to recognise
a soapbox, but if you do it well, it
something significant happening
will reveal and illuminate an aspect
and get the words down.
of lived experience or the human
Above all, remember you are
condition. With that in place,
telling a story. Reportage may be
your research done, your personal
non-fiction but it must be much
experience giving you images and
more than simply factual. This kind
insights to recreate, you can start
of feature writing requires technical
thinking about how to go about
writing skills of course, but most
writing it. Your piece of reportage
importantly, creative and person
will need the framework of a feature
skills. Your greatest assets, as a
article. You will need to introduce
writer of reportage (well take the
your topic, preferably through
Perfect your
basic writing skills for granted,
the use of a startling image that
article writing
in the way you take it as read
projects your reader into the
with a WM C
that a plumber knows how to
scene you are describing.
put in a sink) are informed
Knowledge of how to structure
Writing cours
curiosity, empathy, and the ability
a feature will give you the bones
See p74
to see both tight focus and the
for a reportage piece: it may be a
bigger picture.
longer and more complex piece of
writing but it is still needs to include
a thread a narrative trajectory
that draws the reader through
your narrative. It needs to contain
Think of a subject or topic that could be the basis for
information, quotes, and verifiable
an imaginary piece of reportage you would like to
facts so that the reader has a clear
undertake, and plan a piece of writing around it.
picture of precisely what the story is,
1) Pin down your subject, and then decide how you are
and relevant background to it. It will
going to tell the story. What are the themes you will need
need a conclusion of some kind: you
to draw out? What would you like the piece to achieve?
may be writing about lived experience,
a slice of life, but for the readers
2) Where would you need to go? Who would you need
sake it should be wrapped up into a
to talk to?
story with a beginning, middle and
3) What other research would you need to do?
compelling ending that makes sense of
Write the synopsis for your imaginary reportage piece,
the whole.
showing how you would begin the piece, what your
The most vital elements in your
narrative trajectory would be, and how you would end
piece of reportage are your quotes
it. Demonstrate what the intention or message might
and observations. You need to get
be, and how reading your feature might illuminate
people to talk to you, and have the
something for a reader, or change their perspective on
ability to recognise when they have
an issue.
said something that will impact on

Now try this

p72 Features.indd 73



26/09/2016 11:01



Laura McHugh tells

Chris High how setting takes
on a life of its own in her
atmospheric mysteries

hat do you do when you inherit the house from

which, when you were a child, your younger twin
sisters were abducted, never to be seen again?
This is the intriguing scenario Laura McHugh has created for
her second novel, Arrowood (Century). As with her debut, Weight
of Blood, setting takes on its own character and peripherally
drives the action.
For both The Weight of Blood and Arrowood, the setting was
my starting point, and the characters and plot grew from there,
Laura explains. I write about the places where I grew up, places
Im emotionally attached to. These arent idyllic small towns they
have dark sides. Writing about them is almost therapeutic, a way
of exorcising the demons of my past. Im originally from a small
town in Iowa, tucked between vast cornfields and the Mississippi
River. The town is full of lovely old homes and buildings from the
1800s, including the library. I loved to read as a child, especially
anything with witches,
ghosts, or monsters, and I
always had overdue books
because I didnt want to
return them. Later on, we
moved to a rural area in
the Ozark Mountains that
didnt have a library, so I
started reading the books
my older siblings brought
home from school, and
the stacks of musty old
paperbacks that my mom
had collected from yard
sales. That was how I
got my first exposure to
Agatha Christie, Shirley
Jackson, and many others.
We didnt have the money
to buy many books, but
we were taught their value
early on.

There is also an element of mysticism running through

Arrowood, as the novels narrator, Arden, seeks answers wherever
she can. I am actually a sceptic, but that doesnt keep me from
wanting to believe. I would love to see or sense something that
I cant explain. The first house I lived in had been vacant for
years and was supposedly haunted, but we never experienced
anything strange.

I would love to
see or sense
something that I
cant explain.
Its been a year since Weight of Blood was published. The novel
has been widely acclaimed for its tight prose and deftly drawn
characters. Its been a busy year. I was really thrilled with the
reception Weight of Blood got. Ive also learned a few things since
publication. For one thing, I thought the process of writing the
new book could speed up if I outlined it first, but I found I
dont enjoy writing from an outline. After becoming frustrated, I
switched back to the process I had used for my first book, which
was to figure out the characters motives and desires and then let
the characters guide the story. Thats what works for me. Would
Laura do anything else differently? I feel like my missteps led me
to where I am now, so theres not that much really. I do wish that
I had become involved in the mystery/thriller community before
my first book came out though. There are some great organisations
and conferences that offer mentoring, networking, and support for
debut authors, and I missed out on all of that.
Whats next? I am under contract for two more books with my
US publisher, and Im currently at work on the first of those. The
protagonist is still reeling from her brothers unexpected death when
shes sent to investigate a deadly accident that has torn apart a rural
community. She soon realises that nothing is as it seems.

We can help you

become a better writer


Professional tutors will guide you one-to-one through an inspiring

course tailored to your needs. Choose from:

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Hilary Johnson July UPDATED.indd 1

p74 Crimefile/ex.indd 74

CWC Listing.indd

17/06/2016 09:44
26/09/2016 11:02





p111_wmagnov16.indd 111



23/09/2016 10:58




Understand how fear works to keep your readers on the edge of their seats, says Alex Davis

wo of the finest books

of horror non-fiction
remain undisputably
Stephen Kings On
Writing and Danse
Macabre. Not only are
they penned by an established master
of the form, but they are books that
show a great understanding of what it
is that frightens people. King is a writer
with a superb imagination, but it is
possibly this innate knowledge of how to
exploit human fear that built him such a
successful career.
Now, we cant all be on a par with
Stephen King those sort of long-lasting
bestsellers are almost a phenomenon
but theres a lot to be said for a solid grasp
of what it is that makes people afraid. Its
not as simple a question as it may appear,
and horror in all its forms TV, film,
books is fundamentally designed to play
with your mind, reaching in and forcing
you to feel a sense of dread. So how can
we make the most of this as a writer?


No, Im not referring to the old school

monster movies here, more that there are
some fears that are absolutely common to
all of us. When you go back way back
in human evolution, fear had a particular
purpose: survival. Primitive mankind was
very little about exploration and taking
risks, but safety and sticking to what was
known. The fear of the unknown was a
reflex that would keep early man out of
harms way if theres a chance it could
be dangerous, why explore it?
And in the same vein, one of the
fundamentals of horror is that much of it
explores the unknown. The supernatural,
that question of what happens on the
other side of death, the monstrous, the


p76 Fantasy.indd 76

alien, the otherwordly, all of these things

are crucial to horror. What form these
take varies a great deal, but its important
to keep this thought at the core of your
horror work.


When you track back to where peoples

fears come from, very few of them are
inbuilt or instinctive. Things like a fear
of the dark or isolation have a biological
imperative, but the vast majority of
what we are afraid of is learned. It might
come from a fear reaction from our
parents or someone close to us if we
see an adult feeling terror at something
we believe it to be terrifying. There
may also be childhood traumas or
unpleasant experiences that form our
fears sometimes this can be direct (ie a
spider crawling onto you as a baby could
bring a fear or spiders) while on other
occasions it may be that something
becomes associated with that fear, an
indirect but still powerful avatar of
dread. There are two ways this often gets
employed in horror.
Characters often have buried or
repressed memories from childhood, that
are gradually unveiled as the story wears
on. Present events can sometimes have a
sort of echo with the past, connections
that draw current horror and previous
trauma together.
The lead characters may have children,
whose stories or telling of events are
sometimes not believed (or gradually
come to be believed) the imagination of
a young person can be a powerful thing,
and in horror is often the way that the
unusual or esoteric is written off.
You might also want to consider
other ways of incorporating this into a

horror story for example, telling the

whole or aspects of the story from the
perspective of a child or having a cast
made up of children.


Fear is a fascinating thing, because the

tendency is to feel afraid of something
new. This is something that we will
feel in some small way in all our lives
moving house, changing jobs, entering
a new relationship, even leaving a
relationship all of these are significant
changes that plunge us into the
unknown. Fear is all about us basically
imagining the worst its rare that
these scenarios play out as badly as we
initially think. Its all about whats called
the lizard brain, that part of the brain
intended to keep us safe and protected.
The question thats important to
think of is that the human mind often
perceives threat where there might
be none. Many horror stories have
kept this purely in the imagination
of the characters if they believe that
something is real and true, then that
is adequate cause to fear. Whether it is
actually real or not doesnt really enter
the equation. But its also important
to keep in mind what the perceived
threat is. Its a mistake to think that all
horror characters are afraid of is dying,
although of course that can be a factor!
Characters may be under threat of
transformation, or kidnap
or being trapped, of being
taken to another world or
another dimension do
consider what it is your
character is truly under threat
of and how it will affect their
actions and reactions.

26/09/2016 11:03



To come back to the point of
imagination, whenever we as people feel
a flicker of fear there is a habit to try and
write it off somehow. We hear a noise
outside must be a fox, or a cat, or
something entirely normal. And odds are,
it is. But what if that noise was inside?
A creaking on the stairs? The fear would
doubtless intensify, but the human mind
would once again try to attribute it to
something ordinary, everyday.
Theres a great deal of fear in any
story to be built, step by step, and the
psychological response to something
that would be out of the ordinary,
preternatural or unnatural is simply
denial. Even if your character were
to flat out see a ghost, whilst the fear
would certainly reach a crescendo,
there would still be attempts to write
it off a figment of the imagination,
or even a symptom of some mental
illness we would rather believe that
we were succumbing to some form of
insanity than to accept the existence of
something we cannot explain.


The human fear response ultimately

comes down to one simple tenet fight
or flight. In prehistoric times, had a
caveman or cavewoman been seen
by a mammoth or similar beast he
would have either run away in terror
or lashed out in a (probably rash)
attempt at survival. There is of course
the possibility of being paralysed with
fear, but this is a temporary reaction that
will eventually give way to one or the
other attack or run. How will this play
out for your character? And what are
the circumstances in which they will
have to deal with this instinctive
decision? If they have someone
with them, are they liable to try
and defend them or run, leaving

their companion to fend for themselves?

This could be a very different matter if
its a stranger as opposed to a friend or a
member of their family...

One of the final things that can make
a horror story truly, truly effective is if
your reader can believe it is real, or at
least concede the possibility that it could
happen. This is not an easy thing to do,
and of course there are many people out
there who dislike horror on the grounds
that its simply not believable and
therefore they dont feel any fear reaction.
But that thrill of terror, of unease, is
central to the horror experience its the
same reason we step onto a rollercoaster,
or play a horror computer game. Its a
safe way to enjoy an amalgam of the
adrenaline rush a real-life scary situation
could bring. But you cant totally depend
on the suspension of disbelief to carry
this how can you as a writer make the
situation feel more plausible?
For me, there are two key aspects to
this. First off, the deployment of your
lead character as an everyman that is,
not somebody who lives close to horror
or fear that finds themselves drawn

into an extremely unexpected situation.

The use of everyman is not to imply
your characters should be bland or
generic an all-too-common failing of
horror in TV and movies. However, films
like Ringu and Drag Me To Hell do this
extremely well these are leads that are
simply in the wrong place at the wrong
time. Or, to put it another way, it could
have been anyone. Even you...
Secondly, it is important to remember
that the best horror stories often tie
back to something that once upon a
time would have been common belief.
That concept of what if they were right
is behind many stories about monsters,
witches, ghosts and more besides all of
them things that are part of a common
folklore, a common history, something
we are all aware of in some respect and
share a knowledge of. The idea that we
once believed in something implies
even if in some small degree it could
have been true. Even if they dont go
that far back, you can employ things
like urban legends Candyman, anyone?
to wonderful effect.


There can be an impression that

horror is a simple thing to write,
but I would argue nothing could be
further from the truth. Developing
something to scare readers is as
deep a psychological effect as a
writer could create, and takes
plenty of forethought and
awareness of how we as
a species tick. Done well,
horror fiction can be the most
impactful around, and Ill
bet even the loudest horror
detractors will remember that
story that scared them...

p76 Fantasy.indd 77



26/09/2016 11:04


> your own


> A runaway success in the early days of home

computing, the text-based adventure game is enjoying
a resurgence on modern mobile devices. CHRIS GLITHERO
explains how you can get started


> You enter a room with an

archaic machine in the corner

ake a look at
some of the latest
video games with
their impressive
graphics, complex gameplay and epic
scope, and you could be forgiven
for thinking that simple text-based
adventure games are a forgotten relic
of the digital primordial soup. But
in fact they are alive and well, and
currently experiencing something of a
resurgence thanks to their packaging
as phone apps that can be easily
indulged during the daily commute.
In this article were going to take
a broad overview of how you can
create and share your own textbased adventure game, with no
programming knowledge required.
If youd like to remind
yourself, or you were
unfortunate enough to miss text-based
adventures the first time round, you can
a modern clone of Zork and other classic
online at and you
find the Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy



p78 Tech.indd 78


First we should begin with a quick

reminder of concept. In the homecomputing dawn of the late 1970s and
eighties, text-based adventure games
without graphics were very much de
rigeur due to the relative ease with
which they could be created and ported
across to many different platforms. In
these games, players were presented
with a simple window showing textual
descriptions such as, You are in a
darkened forest facing north, and
in which they could type commands
(ie walk, pick up, look) to progress
through the adventure.
Despite their apparent simplicity,
such games became immensely
popular due to their compelling
storylines and the depth and detail
of the worlds that they thrust players
into. Popular games from this
time include Zork and its sequels,
Adventureland and even a Hitchhikers
Guide to the Galaxy text-based game
written by Douglas Adams himself.
Text-based adventures can also
be described as interactive fiction,

and are the digital equivalent of the

Choose your own adventure books
and similar print series in which the
reader alters the story by choosing the
actions taken by the protagonist.

A resurgent genre
Type text based game into Google
Play or the Apple app store and youll
see there is a veritable cornucopia of
such games, with scenarios ranging
from zombie survival and bleak sci-fi
futures, to fantasy worlds inhabited by
wizards and goblins, and noir-inspired
detective plots. There are a few larger
publishers outputting significant
numbers of games, such as Choice of
Games and Delight games, but the
relative ease with which they can be
created means that there are also plenty
created by indie authors.
Some of these games look a little
more jazzed up than their prehistoric
counterparts, but the basic premise is
the same the player interacts with
and influences the text-based story by
making choices and issuing commands.
Some games use the traditional method
of typed commands, while others
favour a more streamlined multiplechoice prompt system to move the
game forward.
> You see a strange tool

So, maybe you could be the creator

of the next big text-based hit. And on
that note, its time to introduce you to
some of the tools that you can use to
create your masterpiece of interactive
fiction. Here were going to look at
some of those which provide the best
balance between being accessible and
powerful enough to allow you to create
something that will get people hooked
on your creation. And youll be pleased
to know, theyre all free.

Quest is a popular and versatile tool which

can either be used via your web browser
or downloaded to your desktop (on a
Windows computer). The great thing
about Quest is that you dont need to
know any special computing language or
syntax, you can simply use the programs
interface to create rooms for the player
to explore, objects for them to pick up
and manipulate, exits for them to walk
through and so on. Quest also enables
you to choose between creating a text

26/09/2016 11:05


adventure (in which the player has free

rein to explore) and a simpler gamebook
where multiple choices are provided at
the end of each passage of text.

Adrift stands for Adventure

Development & Runner Interactive
Fiction Toolkit, and like many of
the best DIY resources it does exactly
what it says on the tin. Its again
downloadable for Windows and can be
used to play test your own adventures
and those created by other people.
With Adrift you use a series of intuitive
editing windows to create each element
of your text adventure bit by bit, with
dropdown menus making the whole
experience easier to navigate. Take a
look at the popular games section of
the site to get an idea of the kind of
games you can create.

Inform is a very powerful tool for

creating text-based adventures and
is based on the writer creating the
interactive story through use of natural
language (ie to create a room you
would actually type something like, the
armoury is a room). But as its much
more technically involved and requires
you to remember specific syntax, it may
be one for more advanced users and
those with a lot of time to invest.

Similarly to Inform 7, Twine uses a

text-based editing interface to create
your adventure, with links created
between passages of text to create the
paths through which the players will
move through the game. But its a much
simpler and more accessible tool, and
finished stories can be published directly
to html for web posting. Though no
coding knowledge is required, more
advanced users can delve deeper
if they wish, by using things like
JavaScript and css in their Twine
stories. If youd like to get an idea
of some of the results that can be
achieved, take a look at the samples
on the home page.
> This is not a book

The way that you create your text-based

adventure will vary a little depending

on your tool of choice, but there will

be largely be many similarities. There
are also many similarities to writing a
conventional novel or short story, but
there are a number of key differences
which you will encounter during the
writing process.
You will need to constantly create
different versions of events and
outcomes depending on the players
actions. This itself can be a useful
exercise for flexing your creative
muscles and exploring the many
possibilities that lie within one
individual story.
You will need to link these
different versions of the story
together in a logical and
structured way, so that whichever
path the reader chooses, the
narrative makes sense and is
believable within itself.
Its more likely (though not
essential) that youll write in
the second person, creating
the reader themselves as the
protagonist of the story, eg
You try to run down the narrow
corridor, but something catches
your shoe and you tumble
to the ground.
Once youve mastered the basics
of creating your text adventure its
possible to include more in-depth game
mechanics such as experience points for
players to earn and combat sequences,
but in the first instance its a good idea
to keep things simple.

heavily on how long you intend your

adventure game to be, but it should
follow its only natural course, beginning
with an exposition of the world and
characters, creating a rising action
which keeps players interested, plenty
of challenges and events, and eventually
a satisfying climax and resolution to
the plot. If your adventure has separate
narrative strands created by player
choices, you must make sure that this
applies to each one.

When people are reading any kind
of fiction they like to be surprised,
but they also like to know generally
what to expect from the story. While
creating your interactive story, take
care to ensure that your style of writing
remains consistent and doesnt vary
wildly when they make this choice or
that. Consistency will keep people in
your world and eager to play on, random
changes will jar them out of it.

Believable characters

Lifeline, a text-based
game available on
Android and iOS

> You pick up a list of tips

As with any work of fiction, and

unencumbered by the need for graphics
or audio as with other games, the limits
of your setting, your characters and the
things that they do and experience are
restricted only by your own imagination.
As the creator, you have the power to
propel the reader/player into myriad
fantastical worlds and thrilling scenarios.
But for your interactive story to be
successful in capturing their attention
and imagination it will need a number
of things:

Effective pacing
Just as with any other work of fiction,
your text adventure needs to be expertly
paced and plotted to ensure that it keeps
people reading, and playing, right until
the very end. The exact pacing and
rhythm that you implement will depend

p78 Tech.indd 79

This is doubly true if youre writing

in the second person. If the reader
is themselves playing the role of the
protagonist, they wont take kindly
to being forced into making choices
which are illogical, out of character or
even abhorrent.
> You reach the end
of the passage

When youve created your interactive

masterpiece there are many different
ways to get it out there for people to
play. Depending on the platform you
use to create it, you should be able
to publish it on your own website
or on one of the many text-based
adventure repositories out there (see
the web addresses below), either as
a standalone package or as a game
that can be run using one of the free
clients on offer.
> You find a treasure chest

Before you embark on your quest to create a

compelling text-based adventure game, you might
like to check out what other people have done
recently. With that in mind here are a few more
websites that are packed with free games that you
can play, old and new:
The Interactive Fiction Database:



26/09/2016 11:05


Downtime web traffic

riters are not, always,

gifted with sociable
natures, which is
perhaps why they
get so breathless about the community
aspect of social media for writers hey,
weve found some other weirdos who
get it! But even the most introspective
of writers occasionally requires places
where they can bask in the company of
like-minded souls. Sometimes its nice
not to have to talk to them. For those
times, here are a few of our favourite
online hangouts for literary types.
Start with Literary Hub (http://, a one-stop shop for
American writing and writers that has
a great deal of relevance for writers
worldwide see the recent post of
wise, wonderful advice for writers
from Rebecca Solnit if you have any
doubt that the content might not
be relevant to writers this side of
the pond. Every day the site carries
book reviews, literary journalism
and features about the writing life.
It lives up to its name, with content
of interest to a writing community
interested in literary qualities, and is
a calm, energising place to immerse
yourself in the world of words.
In the UK, Litro (www.litro. places the focus more firmly on
emerging creative writers and as well
as showcasing stories, poetry, author
interviews and cultural commentary,
offers opportunities to submit creative
writing and non-fiction. Its lively,
contemporary and relevant for writers


p80 Webbo.indd 80

whats trending and creating waves in

interested in cutting edge social and
the writing and publishing worlds. As
cultural developments and how they
writers, these are your worlds, so use
impact on writers and writing.
the web to keep up to speed on them.
Still hip but with a distinctly
You do not write in a vacuum or a
highbrow slant, literary journal The
bubble, and if you are not keeping up
White Review (www.thewhitereview.
to date with relevant current events
org) publishes a free monthly online
you might like to ask yourself if your
issue alongside the paid-for print
ignorance is blissful or just blinkered.
magazine that includes in-depth
As always though, if the content
cultural commentary and arts
tailored to your particular interests
journalism alongside new creative
doesnt exist, why not think about
writing. This is the place to go
creating your own? A blog is
when you want to feel cerebral,
free, easy to set up, and if you
energised and abreast of the
want to create something
latest cultural thinking,
Even the most
that feels like a writers
particularly on narrative,
introspective of writers
cafe, you dont have to
which is one of The White
write all the posts yourself.
Reviews specialisms.
occasionally requires
Think big and start small.
The last two are British
places where they can
You probably havent got
but were big fans of
the contacts, the technical
internationalism and a
bask in the company of
knowledge and the financial
lot of our online hangouts
like-minded souls.
resources to launch a rival
are US-based. Salons books
to the Huffington Post, but
page (
that doesnt mean you cant create
books/) carries high-quality, topical
something relevant that will be
coverage of books and literary matters.
appreciated by like-minded writers. If
Booklife (, a
there are a few of you who are local,
subsidiary site of Publishers Weekly, is
you could create a blog that shared
a buzzy, site for self-publishing writers
news and information about local
that features up-to-date writing,
writers and local writing activities.
editing, marketing and publishing
Writers with shared interests? What
advice and insights. And we are very
about a specialist genre blog? Populate
fond, at WM Towers, of Mobylives,
it with relevant, appropriate, topical
the blog from Melville House (www.
content, keep it fresh and up to date,, which provides
and make sure everything there is
clever, knowing updates and insights
as good as it can be. If the qualitys
into the book and publishing scene.
good, you never now who might
The content on all three of these sites
come and hang out with you.
is applicable to anyone wanting to see

26/09/2016 11:06



Text formatting and epub layout made easy, by Greta Powell

rom auto-hyphenation through to embedded fonts, this

month we return to the cosmetics of text and page layouts.
What is an optional hyphen and why does it keep randomly
appearing in a document in Microsoft Word, and why are fonts
so often embedded in Microsoft Publisher? And then, how
best to approach the issue of publishing a cover page in Adobe
InDesign for an epub export.

I currently use Microsoft Publisher 2016 for layouts but

recently have been requested to include the fonts inside the
document because apparently some seem to missing. I always
thought the same fonts were on every computer and have no
idea what this means or how to do it. Your help would be much
appreciated in this.

The correct term is embedding and sadly no, not every

computer has the same fonts. For example, Macs have certain
ones and PCs others, which is usually due to licences. Also people
tend to often simply delete fonts from their computers, so missing
fonts can be problematic especially if sending out for professional
print. Although you can only embed TrueType fonts you will be
happy to know that all of Microsoft Publishers are licensed ones.
It makes sense to embed fonts in a document because it ensures
they are always there for both your own use or for any professional
printer. There is a downside of course: the more fonts embedded
in the document, the larger the file size, so you should be quite
selective when embedding.
To do this in Publisher you go to the File tab and click on the
Manage Embedded Fonts box. In the Fonts box you will see the
document fonts list with a licence restriction column telling you
which ones can be embedded and which cant. Just make your
selection by clicking on the Embed button on the bottom right of
the screen then click OK and your font issues should be solved.

For some reason Word 2016 keeps inserting a hyphen into

my writing at the end of some of my sentences which to my
eye looks ugly and I would like to remove it. I have no idea what
it is or why this happening and would appreciate it if you could
explain what is happening and what can be done about it.

This is auto hyphenation and at some point the

automatic option must have been switched on from
Words layout tab. It is an optional hyphen that Word uses
when words break at the end of the line and it is easy to
remove. Make sure that all your text is selected then go to the
Layout tab >Page Setup and click the downward arrow next
to Hyphenation then choose None from the drop down list.
Now you should be able to work without optional hyphens
popping up in the document.


People often get quite confused with some of Microsoft

Publishers terminology and one of the main bones of contention
is in regard to print and publishing. Therefore, it might be useful
to take a quick look at this useful little piece on these issues at

All of my writing work has been done up to now in Microsoft

Word but I would like to bring it across into Microsoft
Publisher to reformat and add some graphics. I have been advised
that copy and paste is the best way to do it. Is that correct or are
there alternative methods?

Its correct that you can copy and paste text directly across
into Microsoft Publisher but you could also take, for want
of a better word, a less messy approach. Microsoft Office is
built to share documents, presentations and spreadsheets in each
application and Publisher is no different to the rest of the suite.
You can actually open the Word file directly in Publisher from the
File tab. Once you start the process it will tell you it is converting
the file then eventually will open up. It comes in quite clean with
the text threading naturally from frame to frame and pages will
also be inserted automatically. You can then apply any styling and
formatting to the text as and when required.

Having just successfully written, laid out and set up my first

epub book in InDesign CS6 to upload to Adobe Digital
Editions, I am a little unsure as to which option I should use with
regard to the page cover. I know what they are and what they do but
Im unsure which to use.

In essence you are creating a graphical cover for your book. If

during the layout process you have designed the first page as a
cover then you would choose the Rasterise First Page option during
the Export process. But if you have, or are proficient in, Adobe
Photoshop or similar software then you might wish to take advantage
of their special effects and filters to produce a high-impact cover. In
the latter case you would opt for the Use Existing Image File option
but it really does depend on your skill and the software you have
available to use.
If you have a few minutes free you might like to cast your eyes over
this page which is quite succinct but full of handy tips, tricks and
things that might be of help to whilst creating your first epub:

If you have a technical query for Greta, please email info@ or contact her via

p81 tech text.indd 81



26/09/2016 11:10



Your writing problems

solved with advice from
Diana Cambridge

Email your queries to Diana (please include home-town details) at: or send them to: Helpline,
Writing Magazine, Warners Group Publications plc, 5th Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD. She will answer as many letters as
she can on the page, but regrets that she cannot enter into individual correspondence. Publication of answers may take several months. Helpline
cannot personally answer queries such as where to offer work, or comment on manuscripts, which you are asked not to send.

This will probably sound hopeless, but I have been working on

a novel for fourteen years. I do in fact have an excellent mentor
and pay her a fee for critiques. She has given me marvellous advice and
encouragement over the years. But the time lapse between her writing to
me and my sending off the next batch is getting longer and longer I seem
to have lost confidence in myself and my ability to finish. In fact I have
drafted an ending, but its the middle which I find almost impossible to
deal with. I cant believe I have been working on this so long and I do
believe in it. I have a demanding day job in a hospice, and used to love my
writing as something I could be absorbed in when I wasnt working. But
now its become almost a burden.
MILES JORDAN, Cheltenham

The best thing is to put your project to one side for a certain period
of time say one month. Often by letting go of a project, ideas will
spring to mind. While youre not concentrating on your novel, your
subconscious will still work for you and ideas will emerge. Why not tell
your mentor that you are taking a short break from the project for a
while? But do give her a date when you will resume the work. When you
do look at it again, have a think about flipping the structure making
the end the middle, or changing the start and finish of the story. These
strategies can often help.

I have worked as a dietician, and often had to create

special diets for special needs, and weight reducing diets.
I would be very interested in doing this for a magazine, and
wondered if you had any suggestions.
MARIE-LOUISE LANE, Sydney, Australia

There could be magazines who might be interested

in a diet agony aunt (look at the weekly womens
magazines) but youd have to do a fair bit of work first. I
think you need to prepare a couple of columns of qs and as,
plus a real case history, and to say you can offer this every
week. With the case history youd need a quote from your
subject, plus a photograph (before and after using your diet
might work well). Once youve prepared your submission, get
ready to send it out to several journals. If one likes the idea,
theyd probably get back to you fairly quickly. Youll also need
to send a picture of you, and a brief biog. All can be done via
email. I think its a very workable idea.

How long is it worth waiting for a response from a daily newspaper? I sent
a comment piece regarding the British reaction to death of celebrities and
politicians: I believe this has become much less restrained than in former decades.
In fact its become mawkish and even cheap, with mourners using Facebook and
Twitter for their condolences. No reply, or acknowledgement. But I think this is
something that will come up again, so can I offer it again?
DEREK HALLAM, Bradford On Avon, Wiltshire

Yes. I think its a good point-of view-topic. What you may have done is
sounded too angry and used language that was too harsh. In an opinion
piece, be restrained and factual, quoting real examples of these mawkish reactions.
Its quite possible to be forceful without being angry. Use your words carefully
and dont use too many adjectives. Let your examples do most of the talking.

Is it necessary to use special computer programmes to write a

novel or a play?
CAROL LONGLEY, Wareham, Dorset

No, a Word document is fine. But you still have to follow

the guidelines of the publisher or competition to whom you
submit. These may include: submitting only in pdf form: submitting
by paper and post: submitting via the competition website: or
submitting by email to a named address. I cannot stress how vital it
is to read the rules!



p82 helpline.indd 82

Ive been looking at short stories on different websites

which offer competitions. My feeling is that they all have
to be inspiring and I find many of the winning stories too
sentimental. Are there competitions which welcome the more
black story?

There are though they tend to be in the minority. Keep

looking at Writers News for news and guidelines on short
story comps. But you may be better off watching out in WN for
publishers who are actively looking for dark fiction for example
Phobos ( who
request weird fiction or Post Mortem Press ( who look for dark science fiction and fantasy. It
does seem that the dark side of fiction is more concerned with
sci-fi. But keep looking out for the noir appeals as they do
emerge from time to time. Make sure you collect WMs regular
supplements on competitions.

26/09/2016 11:11


Im writing a screenplay about a musician who is still alive, but very elderly.
Do I need his permission? I would rather not seek it. Its not that I am writing
anything negative Im not but he has a reputation for not being very cooperative. I
also want to fictionalise some events.

You dont necessarily need his permission: but it would be an asset. If he appears
as a character in your script, thats easier. But if he is the main character, then
its more difficult. You can use anything about him that is in the public domain, and
you can use posters of, for example, newspaper features and headlines about him.
But making him your main character and inventing some material makes you
vulnerable. You are liable for legal action should he choose to take it. Take care in
the fictional material. It should not reflect badly on him. Some writers with strong
material (not negative material, just powerful) may go ahead, reckon the possible legal
costs into their profit should the play be a success. Depending on the financial status of
the musician now, they may also gamble on him not wanting the cost of a legal action.
Most plays about musicians still alive tend to be in the tribute category, yet even that
plaudit may upset their subjects. They may expect some financial reward for providing
the content of the play. They may not; they may be thrilled to be written about. Its a
minefield. Much depends how much you believe in your own material, and how far
you are willing to go to get it out there. Consider making him a character in the play,
and flipping the structure around to enable that.

As a historian and author of a number of factual

popular history books for Amberley Publishing,
Ive recently broken into the fiction market with
MadeGlobal publishers. My first novel, The Colour of
Poison, a whodunit/thriller set in 15th century London, is
selling as well as I might have hoped with a small company
and has received some heartening reviews on Amazon.
MadeGlobal and a number of reviewers are urging me to
write a sequel, continuing the adventures of the main protagonists.
The next novel is well underway but my query is this: since each story is a stand-alone, how
best to reprise their back stories? This was covered in book 1 and I dont want to bore readers
who have read Poison by repeating too much of what occurred then. On the other hand, I
need to inform those who might read book 2 only.
TONI MOUNT, Gravesend, Kent

I suggest you read Patricia Highsmiths Ripley novels, in which she has to briefly reprise
Ripleys background and progress from the original story, The Talented Mr Ripley. She
does this in every Ripley novel.
What you need to do is give readers a good foothold in the new novel, but mesh in the
back story carefully and with economy. You wont bore readers in fact they may well have
forgotten all the details anyway, and welcome the words. Your editor will certainly tell you if
any material needs to be deleted. I would not worry too much about this but rather move on
with your new work.

Im still baffled that ebooks can make a profit for the publisher how is it done?
Because I am thinking of self-publishing my book as an ebook, but I dont think
you can charge very much, can you?
LIAM BLOOMFIELD, Stow on the Wold, Cotswolds

There is divided opinion about ebooks. Clearly they do work for some
publishers, since theyre so popular and here to stay. But its the marketing which
is important: they need to sell in good numbers. On the plus side, if you are selfpublishing all fees paid go straight to you, and theres instant revenue. On the debit
side, you may sell so few that its hardly worthwhile yet you can add more books to
your list and have them all available.

p82 helpline.indd 83

the law

An 18th century economists law

makes a lot of sense for 21st-century
writers, says Patrick Forsyth

ilfredo Pareto was an Italian

economist. Paretos Law, otherwise
known as the 80/20 rule and much
beloved by management gurus, is not strictly
a law, of course, but it has a lesson for writers.
One of its applications is in marketing, so lets
consider this in terms of the writers task of
finding commissions.
There are many different things that can be
done, from combing through this magazines
Writers News section for opportunities to make
new contacts, to following up, and maintaining
contact with, past customers. The rule suggests
that something like 20% of what you do will
produce 80% of the positive results. The ratio
is not exact, of course, but this type of ratio is
common over numbers of activities.
This means that it is very useful to keep clear
records of what works well and less well and
spend time on the 20% of things proven to bring
the greatest amount of results. It also means being
careful not to simply go for doing whatever seems
easiest (or what is least awkward or demands
least work), which equates with operating blind
without a clear record to guide you.
The Pareto approach not only improves
productivity, freeing up more time for actually
writing, and allowing you to get a greater number
of commissions from the least time input. It can
also increase your overall success rate.
Another area that reflects this law is
customers (editors and others): 80% of your
revenue (fees, royalties) will likely come from
20% of your existing/past customers. Another
lesson here is to focus on the 20%, both
because you would notice
their loss disproportionately
and because more from them
is probably easiest to
achieve. One little
ratio: several lessons.


26/09/2016 11:11


JUNE 2016

p084_wmagnov16.indd 84

23/09/2016 14:37


Make your research easier with note-taking software, advises research expert Tarja Moles

hen you do research, its

important to take notes of
what you find so you wont
have to go back to the original
sources at a later point and re-read material
youve already consulted.
Although using a notebook and pen/pencil is a
perfectly good way to take notes, there are times
when note-taking software will speed up your
research process and possibly even make it easier
to decipher your notes afterwards!
These days most libraries and archives allow
the use of laptops, tablets and smartphones
so you have more flexibility over your notetaking options. There are numerous tools to
choose from. Here are three popular ones you
might like to consider:


OneNote belongs to the Microsoft Office family

and its a great information gathering tool. If you
have an Office package on your computer, its
likely you already have OneNote. If you dont
have the software and dont want to buy an Office
package, its also available as a web-based version
that you can use online.
OneNote allows you to write notes, draw,
create tables and insert different kinds of files,
such as pictures, screen clippings, videos and
audio commentaries, onto its pages. If you have a
pen-enabled tablet computer, you can even write
your notes by hand. The pages are organised into
sections (you could think of them as chapters)
within notebooks.
The pages differ from a word-processing
software in that you can write or insert material
anywhere on the page just by positioning your
cursor there. The pages expand to your needs so
you can keep on adding new material and are not
restricted by the page size like you are when using
an ordinary notebook.
If youre working on a research project
with someone else, OneNote allows you to
collaborate with other users. Multiple people

can simultaneously edit the same page online,

as if it were a shared whiteboard.
As you work on OneNote, you dont need to
worry about saving anything as OneNote does
it automatically for you.
You can find out more and try OneNote by


Scrivener is word-processing and projectmanagement software for authors and its strength
lies in helping you plan, outline, compose,
edit, structure and generally manage long and
Evernote is a note-taking, organising
complex documents. If youre using
and archiving app and you can
Scrivener for your writing, it makes
choose whether to use the
sense to use it for note-taking as
free basic service or upgrade
If you think OneNote,
Evernote and Scrivener might
well so you can have all your
to a paid one. Generally
not be suitable for you, there
writing and research notes in
speaking, the basic features
are lots of other options to
one place.
are sufficient for most
choose from. You can find
In addition to text, Scrivener
research projects.
a list of notable note-taking
allows you to file away images,
Evernote is organised
software on
pdf files, videos, sound files
into notebooks which
and webpages. When its time
contain notes (you can
to start writing and this is whats
think of them as pages in a
really wonderful about Scrivener you
notebook). You can write, create
dont need to switch between different screens
tables and to-do lists, insert web clips,
to access your research notes, but you can split
photos and voice memos, and attach files
the screen and have your notes visible in one
onto the notes.
pane while youre getting on with your writing
The snap and insert button allows you to
in another. Also, its drag-and-drop virtual index
take photos on your smartphone/tablet and
cards that you can move around on the corkboard
automatically store them on Evernote.
screen can be enormously useful in keeping your
This is handy when you want to take photos
research notes (and your writing) organised.
of library or archival material as you dont
Scrivener is not free, but considering what it
have to download the images onto your
can offer, the $40 price tag is very reasonable.
computer afterwards.
You can try it for free for thirty days to see
To help you find information within your
if it might suit you. You can download it on
notebooks, Evernote allows you to tag your Once you have
notes. You can also use the search box to find
the software installed, its a good idea to take
what youre after. If youd like to share your
Scriveners interactive tutorial as this is a quick
research findings with other people, this can
and easy way to learn how to use it.
be easily done. You can even chat with people
We are all different and have different kinds
with whom youre collaborating.
of research projects. Depending on what your
As for keeping organised, take advantage of the
research needs are and what kind of software
to-do list function: create a tick-box list and tick
you prefer to use, explore one or more of the
off the tasks as you complete them. You can also
tools mentioned here. You might just find a
set yourself reminders that send you email alerts.
new, more efficient way to take notes.
The basic service allows you to use Evernote

p85 research.indd 85

online only, but if you need to use it offline, you

can take out a subscription at a reasonable price.
You can find out more about Evernote and
sign up on



26/09/2016 11:12


WM subscriber Robert Bryndza tells Margaret James
whats behind the success of his million-selling thrillers

I got sidetracked into going to drama

school and then working as an actor,
he says, adding that one of his first
childhood memories is of his father
telling stories to him and his sister.
So storytelling must be in his blood?
On Saturday and Sunday mornings,
my sister and I would sit at the end of
our parents bed with tea and biscuits
and listen to our father tell stories, he
recalls. But Dad wouldnt read to us
from a book. He made his stories up,
and I thought they were wonderful.
Dads stories were like soap operas.
On the Saturday morning there would
always be a cliffhanger, and on the
Sunday there would be a resolution. I
began to understand the power of
storytelling and I wanted to be a
part of it.
Where did Coco Pinchard
For The Girl in the Ice
come from?
Major Pinchard, moaning
to sell so many copies
I grew up loving the
about his mad wife Coco
and be talked about
much-missed Victoria Wood
and their spoilt son
and, when I was at drama
so much was a
school, our end-of-year show
A few years later, my
shock albeit a
was a farce in which I played
husband suggested I should
wonderful one/
Major Pinchard, a deaf old man
write a novel. So I took all
who had a mad wife called Coco,
those emails as a starting point.
Robert explains. As Major Pinchard,
Coco became a young woman
I wrote a silly invitation to the end-ofin her late thirties, her husband isnt
show party, and when we all graduated
an old major any more, but their son
I continued to write to my friends as
Rosencrantz has stayed spoilt.
I enjoy writing comedy very much,
but I also like to write fiction with
darker themes, which some people find
surprising. I once wrote a darkly comic
play which I took to the Edinburgh
Perseverance is the key. You must write your way to the end of your novel,
Festival, and I was also shortlisted for a
so dont procrastinate. You should try to keep going, even if you feel nothing
BBC Drama Writersroom competition
is making sense. You can always go back and fix things later on. But you
to listen to an
with a pilot script for a gritty drama.
wont know what your novel is about and what you are trying to say until you
extract from
reach that very special milestone: the end!
Was it this initial taste of success
The Night Stalker
that inspired Robert to embark on a
Dont try to follow trends. Develop your own style and voice and have
life of serious crime? Although my
confidence in your own ideas. We are all unique and we all have something
Coco Pinchard books had been quite
to buy the
different to say.
successful, at that point in my writing
book from
life I wasnt well enough known for
When I was starting out as a writer I found Writing Magazine, and I still
changing genre to be a big risk, he
subscribe to it here in Slovakia. At times it was the one thing that spurred
says. So I thought that if I didnt do it
me on to keep going and not to give up.
now, I never would. The strange thing

ritish author Robert Bryndzas

DCI Erika Foster novels The
Girl in the Ice and The Night
Stalker are permanent fixtures
in the bestseller lists, with sales of over
1 million, thousands of glowing reviews
and endorsements from delighted
readers all over the world.
Roberts crime debut The Girl in the
Ice, which sold more than 800,000 copies
in under 37 weeks, is firmly set in the
UK. But American readers loved it so
much that it topped the charts in both
The Wall Street Journal and USA Today.
Nowadays, Roberts huge success as a
crime writer allows him to live his dream
with his husband Jn in a beautiful part
of Slovakia. But he hasnt always written
about serial killers and a feisty female
detective with a fascinating backstory
of her own. He writes lighter fiction
too, his first published novel being a
romantic comedy: The Not So Secret
Emails of Coco Pinchard.
This story inspired a whole series
of contemporary romantic comedies
starring a wonderfully quirky and
engaging heroine whose life one reviewer
on Amazon likened to Last Tango in
Halifax on speed.
Robert has always loved to tell stories.
But I never imagined I could make a
living from writing, so in my twenties




p86 Author Profile.indd 86

26/09/2016 16:52


is that nowadays far more people

know me as a crime writer and
they are surprised to hear I
write contemporary romantic
comedies, too.
The heroine of my crime
novels is DCI Erika Foster, who
is still reeling from the death of
her husband when in The Girl in
the Ice she begins to investigate
the murder of Andrea DouglasBrown, a young socialite whose body
has been found frozen under the ice
in a South London park.
As Erika digs deep into the case, she
realises Andreas influential family is
withholding evidence. She uncovers
a series of murders which link back
to Andrea, and soon Erika is not
only fighting to find the killer but is
also fighting members of the British
establishment, who are desperate to
cover things up.
When I had finished The Girl in
the Ice, I sent it to Bookouture along
with an outline for The Night Stalker,
a second novel starring Erika Foster.
Bookouture accepted The Girl

Dark Water, Roberts

third Erika Foster
novel, will be published
by Bookouture on
20 October

in the Ice and added they

wanted to publish the two
books close together. So of
course I got on with The Night Stalker
straight away.
How closely does Robert identify with
his central characters?
I dont think I could write a
character with whom I couldnt
identify, he says. You dont always have
to like your characters, but you
do need to know what makes
them tick. I dont actually become
my characters, but I carry them
around in my head and, once they
are established, I can very easily
channel their voices.
The process of writing a novel,
from starting the first draft to
polishing off the final edit, usually
takes me around six to eight
months. As for a typical writing
day Id love to be able to roll out
of bed and start writing straight
away, but dog walking comes first!
Jn and I live in Nitra, a beautiful
mediaeval town in Slovakia which has
an abundance of lovely old buildings

and green space, perfect for walking

the dogs. I try to start writing by eight
thirty in the morning, and then I work
through until twelve. I find Im more
productive after lunch, so afternoons
are when I re-work what Ive written in
the morning. I try to write about 2,000
words a day. But, if things are flowing
nicely, I sometimes write more.
My breakthrough moment came
when The Not So Secret Emails of
Coco Pinchard went into the Amazon
UK Kindle Top 100. This was when
I started to hear from readers via
book reviews and messages on social
media, and it was also the first time I
was able to pay the rent with royalties
from my writing.
How do I feel about the success of
the Erika Foster novels? Im amazed,
to be honest. I wrote The Girl in the
Ice in the same way as Id written my
Coco Pinchard novels on the same
computer and with all the same angst
and insecurities. So for The Girl in
the Ice to sell so many copies and be
talked so much was a shock albeit a
wonderful one.

The Bath Childrens
Novel Award
for emerging novelists

Professional Self-Publishing
Self-publishing services
Editing and proofreading
Book cover design
Paperbacks and ebooks
Wholesale distribution
Book marketing
Worldwide Amazon listing
One-to-one support
Author websites and
social media

Prize: 2,000 with an additional

500 shortlist award
Closes: 20th November 2016
Judge: Julia Churchill, literary agent
at AM Heath
To date, three in four shortlisted or
winning writers have accepted offers of
representation from literary agents.

Discuss your next book with Publishing Assistant Rowena Ball

E: T: +44 (0)117 910 5829

Find out more on
Bath.indd 1

p86 Author Profile.indd 87



22/09/2016 09:41

26/09/2016 11:13


Your essential monthly round-up of competitions, paying markets,

opportunities to get into print and publishing industry news.

Love this competition

On 3 November, Sceptre is publishing How
Much the Heart Can Hold: Seven Stories on Love
in hardback. Its a beautifully conceived and
executed anthology that explores seven concepts
of love though short literary fiction by awardwinning authors Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, DW
Wilson, Nikesh Shukla, Donal Ryan, Carys Bray,
Grace McCleen and Bernadine Evaristo.
To celebrate the launch, Sceptre is running
a creative writing competition for an original,
unpublished short story on the theme of love.
The winning writer will be published in the
paperback edition of How Much the Heart Can
Hold, which will appear in June 2017. The writer
whose story is chosen will also receive 150 and a two-hour consultation
about their work with Emma Herdman, senior editor at Sceptre.
Im looking for a story that takes full advantage of the format that
exploits the freedom and embraces the constraints of a short story, said
Emma. And something refreshing, something that surprises me in its
interpretation of the brief.
Another of the judges, literary agent at Aitken Alexander Associates
Lucy Luck, said: Id love to read something that takes me by the eyelashes
and wont let go, that makes my heart feel heavy in my chest, that has
me rooting for him, no her, no them all the way to the end. I want to be
uplifted, down-sized and surprised, though not too much. Id love to come
out of the world on the page with a sigh and the satisfaction of time wellspent. It is a lot to ask but thats what the best of short stories do for me
and I look forward to finding that new confident irrepressible voice.
Chris White, fiction editor at Waterstones, who is also a judge,
said: Primarily, I want to find something which is self-contained
and suited to its form: a true short story, not a truncated novel. Im
looking for something which will make me think, ideally something
which comes at its subject from a slightly different angle. If Im lucky
I hope to find something which will move me and stay with me for a
while after Ive finished.
To enter, email original unpublished short fiction between 5,000 and
10,000 words based on a concept of love. Send text typed in 12pt font,
double-spaced. Include your full name and age.
Entry is free. Each writer may enter only one story.
The competition launches on 3 November and closes on 14 February 2017.
Details: email:;

Write an entry,
plant a tree!
The Magic Oxygen Literary Prize
is inviting entries for MOLP3.
MOLP3 invites entries of short
stories and poems. The theme is
open. All entries must be original and unpublished.
There are prizes in each category of: first,
1,000; second, 300; third, 100, and two highly
commended, 50. The winning and shortlisted entries
(ten per category) will be included in the Magic
Oxygen Literary Prize Anthology.
Concerns for sustainability and the environment
are at the heart of Magic Oxygen Publishing, and
Magic Oxygen will plant a tree for each entry in Bore,
Kenya. Writers entering MOLP3 will be emailed the
GPS coordinates of their tree once the competition
has closed. The entry fees will also help to find the
construction of another classroom at Kundeni Primary
School in the same community.
Short story entries for MOLP3 may be up to 4,000
words, and poems may be up to fifty lines. Type entries
in 12 or 14pt Times New Roman or Arial. Poems
and short stories should have the title in bold on the
top line with the line count (poems) or word count
(stories) beside it. The writers name must not appear
on the manuscript. Postal entries should be typed on
numbered, single sides of A4. Include a separate sheet
with contact details and payment reference, and a
covering letter with contact details and entry title.
There is a fee of 5 per entry, payable by PayPal.
The closing date to enter is 31 December.
Details: MOLP, Magic Oxygen, The Flat,
53 Broad Street, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3QF;

Free and easy to enter

This year, the creative writing competition
run annually by Writers & Artists is
unthemed unlike in previous years, you
can enter any story you like as long as its
for adults and under 2,000 words.
The winner will receive an Arvon
residential creative writing course of their
choice, worth up to 1,000, and their


p88 News.indd 88

story will be published on the Writers

& Artists website.
All entries must be original and
unpublished. Writers must register on
the site to enter the competition. Entry is
free, and writers may enter one story only.
Enter by email, with the subject line
W&A Short Story Competition 2017.

Send the story as a Word document

and include email address and other
contact details in the body of the
submission email.
The closing date is 13 February.
Details: email: competition@; website:

26/09/2016 11:16



Write home

Weidenfeld & Nicolson has a

submission window open for Hometown
Tales, a new series of short books that
feature new voices from regions that are
currently under-represented in the UK book market.
With the launch of Hometown Tales, we hope to open up our
publishing further and actively seek out the many diverse voices
that are not currently being heard across the creative industries, said
Orion Publishing Group MD Katie Espiner.
Each title in the Hometown Tales series will feature work by an
unpublished writer alongside an established author, both writing
about the same place.
Writers who have not previously published a full-length book are
invited to send submissions, approximately 15,000 words, of fiction

Get independently
Entries are now being
accepted for the 2017
International Rubery
Book Award.
The Rubery Book Award,
which is worth 1,500 to
the winner, is given for the
best books by indie writers,
self-published authors and
independent presses.
The winning book is guaranteed to be read
by literary agency MBA and category winners
each get 150.
Both print titles and ebooks are eligible,
and there is no restriction on publication date.
Neither are there any restrictions on genre. Enter
fiction in all genres, young adult, childrens,
biographies, non-fiction, cookery, self-help,
poetry and photography.
Send one print copy of each book being
entered, with a downloaded entry form and
receipt of payment or a cheque. If the entry is
an ebook, send it by email in Word, pdf or mobi
formats. Include the cover in the file. Send the
blurb and the PayPal receipt as separate files.
Copy and paste the entry form into the body of
the submission email.
Multiple entries are accepted from publishers
and authors. There is an entry fee of 35, and
there are also various currency options for
payment. Pay by PayPal, credit or debit card or
cheques made out to Rubery Book Award.
The closing date is 31 March 2017.
Details: The Rubery Book Award,
PO Box 15821, Birmingham B31 9EA;

or non-fiction. All submissions must be

about a place in the UK or Northern Ireland
where the writer was born or has lived. Selfpublished writers may submit.
All submissions should be sent by email
as doc files, on numbered pages, with the authors name and the
title of the piece in a header on each page. Include contact details,
details of any previously published work and not more than 150
words about yourself.
The authors of any submissions accepted by Weidenfeld & Nicolson
will receive a publishing contract, advance and royalties.
The closing date to submit to Hometown Tales is 31 January 2017.
Details: email:; website:

Aeons of time
Albedo One magazine, Irelands leading spec-fic journal, is
accepting entries for the eleventh Aeon Award for short
speculative fiction stories up until the end of November.
The annual competition launches in January each year
and closes on 30 November. The Grand Prize is 2,000
and publication in Albedo One, and there are second and
third prizes of 300 and 200.
Entries may be in any genre of speculative fiction, ie fantasy, sci-fi, horror or
anything in-between or unclassifiable. Stories may be any length up to 10,000
words, and must be original and unpublished.
To enter, paste the story into the body of an email and include your contact
details. Put Aeon Award Submission in the subject line. There is an entry fee
of 7.50 per story, which is payable by PayPal, and entrants should include the
PayPal transaction reference number in their submission email. All entries must be
submitted by email. Writers may enter as many stories as they wish.
The closing date is 30 November.
Details: email:; website:

Animal spirit
Wild Words is inviting entries for its Winter Solstice Writing
Competition, which asks writers to send up to 1,000 words
inspired by the DH Lawrence quotation from The White
Peacock: Be a good animal. True to your animal instinct.
Founded by Bridget Holding, Wild Words holds online
writing courses, retreats and workshops to help writers
reconnect with their instinctual selves through nature-based
writing and storytelling. The winner will receive a free
subscription to a Wild Words online course of their choice. The winning
entry and shortlisted entries may be published on the Wild Words website.
Writers entering the competition may interpret the theme in any way they want.
The prompt line may be present in the work, or simply used as a jumping-off
point. Entries may be poetry, fiction or non-fiction, in any genre, but should be in
the spirit of the Wild Words philosophy.
Entries should be double spaced on numbered pages and typed in 12pt font.
The writers name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a cover letter with
contact details, stating whether the entry is fiction or non-fiction.
Send entries by email. There is a fee of 7 per entry, payable through the online system.
The closing date is 21 December.
Details: email:; website:

p88 News.indd 89



26/09/2016 11:16


Canadian literary
fiction magazine
Lackingtons opens
to submissions
on 5 October
for a themed
issue devoted
to music. Full
details at https://
Richard Bath edits
Scottish Field,
and will consider
illustrated features.
Contact him with
ideas in the first
instance. Payment
is negotiable.
Details: Scottish
Field Magazine,
496 Ferry Road,
Edinburgh EH5 2DL;
website: www.
Rosie Nixon has
become editorin-chief of Hello
weekly magazine.
Website: www.
A Berrylands
Companion is
an independent
lifestyle magazine
delivered free
to homes in
Surbiton and
Tolworth in Surrey.
Details: email:
com; website:
Hearst Magazines
UK has taken over
the publication
account for Jamie
Olivers awardwinning lifestyle
magazine Jamie.
Hearst is also
responsible for
Asda supermarkets
Good Living.
Fun is still an
important part of
writing. I want to
bring pleasure with
everything I write.
Jonathan Franzen



p90 News/FOW.indd 90

Fun for all the family

Claiming to be Americas number one magazine

for families with children aged 3-12, Family Fun
covers a wide variety of topics designed to provide the
information and inspiration for creating unforgettable
family moments and as such perhaps has a relevance
to families around the world. Topics include cooking,
holidays, parties, crafts and learning.
The magazine has over 2m subscribers and is,
always looking for professional freelancers who are
expert in the art of playful, creative parenting, say
guidelines. Content must be fun, family tested,
affordable and uncomplicated.
Child development articles, fiction and poetry are
not wanted. When submitting work your writing style
should be direct, upbeat and personal.
Unsolicited manuscripts are only considered for the
Idea of the Month and Explore travel sections. For
all other sections first submit a query describing the
content, structure and tone of your proposed article.

Be specific and say what

makes your idea unique
and why youre the right
person to write up that idea.
The response time will be
6-8 weeks.
The magazine has several
departments: More Great
Ideas and How We Have
Fun pay $100 for 50-200
words. Each paying $1.25
per word, features are 8503,000 words, Kids in the
Kitchen is 250-500 words and Favorite Things
are 50-200 words.
Payments are also made for ideas: Lets Party pays
$100-$200 for the idea; Healthy Family, pieces of 100300 words, pays $1.25 per word or $100-$200 for the
idea if a staff writer is used; Happy Home pieces of
700 words pay $875 but it is far more common to be
paid $100-$200 for the idea; Explore pieces of 600900 words pay $1.25 per word, $100 for the idea if a
staff writer is used. The Create section covers Make It,
Keepsakes and Treat of the Month and ideas only are
accepted with payment being $200.
Each section has a separate submission email. See the
website for details:

A literary payer
A weekly US literary magazine
aiming to showcase emerging writers
Page and Spine accepts fiction,
poetry, non-fiction, essays, reviews
and due to careful management and
donations is able to pay its writers.
Short stories should be under
3,000 words, 1,000 words for flash,
and for poetry, send no more than
three poems totalling three pages.
Other sections open to
submissions are: Writers Table,
for writing-related essays, book

reviews, and author profiles, all

of no more than 2,000 words;
Reading Lamp, for poetry, topical
essays and non fiction of no more
than 3,000 words; Crumbs, for
witty poems, quips and thoughtprovoking flash fiction of up to
150 words.
Payment is 1 per word for
prose, minimum payment $20,
or $5 for microflash of up to 150
words. Poetry gets $20, quips,
limericks and other short poems

Bookemon go!

$5. All payments are

capped at $30.
Reprints will not be accepted
and submissions will only be
considered between 1 October and
1 June. The response time should
be within two months.
Submit in the body of an email
to: with
Submission in the subject line.

Challenging deities

Chasseurs de livres (Book

hunters) is a game played though
Facebook, inspired by the
popularity of the Pokmon Go
mobile phone app. It already has over 40,000 users and its creator,
Aveline Gregoire, a Belgian primary school headmaster told Reuters
While I was arranging my library, I realised I didnt have enough
space for all my books. Having played Pokmon Go with my kids,
I had the idea of releasing the books into nature.
Essentially, players hide a book they no longer want somewhere
public and post clues, hints and sometimes photos of its location to
the Facebook group. The books are often wrapped in transparent
plastic to protect them from the elements. When someone finds a
book they read it, comment to the group, then release the volume
back into the wild again. Gregoire says he is now investigating a
possible Chasseurs de livres app. Theres no reason to wait for that
while most users are in Belgium anyone can join the Facebook
group and spread the word.

A Murder of
Storytellers is a US
small press which
publishes anthologies
and novels, although
currently closed for
novel submissions.
Needing stories up
to 10,000 words, The
Book of Blasphemous Words is
a weird fiction, horror, and speculative
fiction anthology about humanitys
relationship with its gods.
Make sure to include a synopsis of the
piece in your cover letter. The deadline is
31 October, and response time is
reasonable. Payment is $15 plus a
contributors copy for the usual rights.

26/09/2016 11:19


Challenge yourself
to write about fitness

Outdoor Fitness magazine is aimed at getting outside

and using the natural world as a place to get fit.
Our content is all about making the most
of the outdoor world and the fitness and the
experiences that can be gained in all of its seasons.
Its about challenging yourself, enjoying yourself
and getting fit, said editor John Shepherd.
The idea of challenging yourself is central to
Outdoor Fitness.
We focus primarily on endurance-based
sports, such as triathlon but more so on off-road ones and more extreme
variants, such as the Ben Nevis Braveheart, said John. Cycling too is a
major component and we look to feature cyclocross, sportives, gravel riding
and bike packing for example. Running is another major theme, and again
our coverage is wide and literally off the beaten track compared to other
running titles. In terms of runs, as a baseline we look to feature events in
excess of 10kms. We do cover other outdoor activities, such as open water
swimming, climbing, canyoning, kayaking, canoeing, obstacle course racing
and adventure races for example. The odd adrenaline feature also crops up,
such as paramotoring or skydiving.
Outdoor Fitness aims to target 30-50 year olds. Most, but not all of them,
are male. Guys who have perhaps given up on rugby and football and who
want other challenges that can take them places near or far, said John.
Often this target audience like their gadgets, whether these be expensive
bikes or functional outdoor clothing and camping kit.
As well as the experiential challenge features, each issue of Outdoor
Fitness includes Train, Food and Gear Test sections. These develop on the
requirements that our challenges and events require, said John.
Contributors writing challenge features immerse themselves in the activity
and write about the challenge warts and all, albeit usually positively. Mental
toughness yet enjoying the challenge and getting away from it all are
regular themes, said John. A typical issue will have challenges that people
can do relatively easily, for example, off-road trail runs or mountain bike
rides and those that require more specific prep.
The key for John is that: I think its all about inspiration. Inspiring
people to get out and enjoy the natural world using their fitness and mental
skills. The magazine shows that getting fit is not a sterile activity that has to
be gym-based and that right on our doorsteps are often unexplored places
that are much more stimulating than gyms.
Writers are usually experts in the fields they write about. Having said
that we do have more beginner-friendly ones of people training up for
challenges and then doing them, for example. These are designed to show
what can be achieved in the outdoors.
Challenge articles are between 1,000-2,000 G E T I N S H A P E T H E N A T U R A L W A Y
words and Train and Food section articles
Freelance contributors should have real
experience of the topic that they are to write
about. The Food section uses nutritionists
and dieticians, and its preferred that they are GETWILD
working with endurance-based athletes.
Pitch by email, explaining the challenge,
why its worthwhile, the writers credentials
and whether photography can be provided STRETCH
accompanying imagery is very important to
Outdoor Fitness.
Payment for accepted features is between
175 and 500.
Details: email:;
W W W. O U T D O O R F I T N E S S M

AG . C O M










AUTUMN 2016 4.50


001 OF59 cover v1.indd 1

11/08/2016 15:10

p90 News/FOW.indd 91

Its a Funny
Old World

mojis, those funny little chaps who pop up

in text messages, are starring in a series of
childrens books.
The stories, where familiar emojis such as
Heart Eyes and Pile of Poo appear, examine
social media culture.
They are described as emoj-ional escapades in
Emojitown, and news of their appearance in book form led to
a Twimojo-storm, were told by ardent emoji-ites.
The BBC Radio New Comedy Awards have been good to
comedy gurus such as Lee Mack, Sarah Millican and Peter Kay,
and have raised the profiles of many other funny folk.
Among these are George Lewis (I said to her: Every you
correct me on my grammar I love you a little fewer).
And Sindhu Vee: (My child thinks that if he doesnt say
hashtag before a word I cant hear it.).
The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald is believed
to have become the only local paper to have
been granted the honour of having a toilet
named after it, courtesy of local company
Thomas Crapper, reported the
Holdthefrontpage website.
Crapper has made bathroom fittings
since 1861, a year after the Herald was
first published in the Warwickshire town.
For every Herald pan, worth
395, which is sold, 10 will be donated
to the newspapers nominated charity,
Stratford Cancer and Eye Hospital, as
part of its Spend a penny appeal.
The website reported that Amanda Chalmers, editor, said:
Were only too aware of the jokes and puns we are opening
ourselves up to. and now for the obvious: We all feel
justifiably flushed with success.
From the It Must Be True I read it in the tabloids column
in The Week:
A 91-year-old visitor to a gallery in Germany was questioned
by police after filling in a crossword that was actually an
artwork worth some 67,000. The 1965 piece, by the avantgarde artist Arthur Kopcke, features a partially completed
puzzle and the phrase insert words.
Taking this as an instruction, the woman got out a ballpoint
pen and did exactly that. The Neues Museum in Nuremberg
reported the incident to the police for insurance reasons
but said they knew the woman hadnt meant any harm, and
didnt want her to have sleepless nights about it.
Some of the cleverest use of words come from the editors and
designers who put headlines on feature articles and news stories
in our magazines, newspapers and websites.
Here are a few recent pearlers: Vinyl destination: who is
buying records (the Guardian).
From The Mail on Sunday: Daylight shrubbery! Greenfingered thieves have been stealing plants from Hyde Park and
Kensington Palace Gardens.


26/09/2016 11:19


Pulpcore is a
German magazine
which will pay
20 for first
German electronic
rights to publish
German language
original or reprints,
of speculative
fiction. The editors
are looking for
science fiction,
horror, crime,
mystery, noir,
and weird fiction.
Stories should be
2,000-5,000 words.
should be sent
to pulpcore@ as a
doc attachment.
Website: www.
DIVE magazine
is a digital scuba
magazine edited
by Marion Kutter.
Send her ideas for
illustrated articles
showing divers in
action. Payment is
Details: email:;
website: www.
Motor Cycle
Monthly is free
online and in
dealers, clubs and
bike cafs or you
can get twelve print
issues delivered for
9.99. The editor
is Tony Carter.
Details: email:
New Forest Society
is a monthly
specialist lifestyle
title for the New
Forest area.
Ian Murphy is the
editor in chief.
Website: www.
I enjoy deadlines
they give some
shape to my writing
year. If there were
no deadlines, I
might get lazy.
Ian Rankin



p92 News.indd 92


Salon fitting

Founded in 1995, the

US based was
one of the first entirely
digital news outlets, and
remains consistently
within the 2,000
most popular websites
worldwide. Salon covers
breaking news, politics,
entertainment, culture,
and technology. The site
publishes investigative reporting, commentary, criticism, and
provocative personal essays.
Submit an article or pitches is via email with the words
Editorial Submission in the subject line. Send your enquiry
or submission in plain text in the body of your email. No
attachments, no fiction or poetry. Introduce yourself in your
email, giving your background as a writer and qualifications
for writing the particular story you are submitting. If pitching
rather than submitting, you can include three or four samples
of your writing in the email. You may prefer to include links
to pieces you have written online.
Email your submission or pitch to the appropriate Salon
editor using these addresses:, politics@,,,,, satire@salon.
com, (this last category includes personal
stories, parenting, health and relationships).
Payment varies and is subject to negotiation, but averages 13
per word. Some articles will be paid at a flat rate of $150.
If you do not get a reply within three weeks assume Salon is
not interested in your submission, as due to the volume of emails
the editors are not always able to respond. Read Salon first to get
an idea of the sort of stories which sell:

Interactive intelligence
The New Media Writing Prize 2016 is open for entries.
Now in its seventh year, Bournemouth Universitys
international prize for the most innovative new media
writing now has four categories: the main prize, the
student prize, the Dot Award and new this year, the
Gorkana Journalism Awards.
The main prize and the student prize are
for storytelling written for delivery and reading/
viewing on a Mac, PC, the internet or a handheld device such as a tablet or smartphone. Entries
may be any form of interactive storytelling, ie
novel, poem, documentary or transmedia work
using words, images, film or animation. The
main prize is 1,000 and the student prize is
three months paid internship at Unicorn Training
in Bournemouth. Submit work for the main
prize by 30 November, and for the student prize
by 16 December, by email to entries2016@
The Dot Award is for a literary project created
via the web, blogs, social media etc that could

Write your best

for HE Bates
Writers Group is
inviting entries for the
H.E. Bates Short Story
Competition 2016.
The competition,
which is for short
stories up to 2,000
words on any
theme, has a first
prize of 500, a second prize of 100
and a third prize of 50. There is also a
special prize of 50 for the best story by
a Northamptonshire writer not winning
another prize.
All entries must be original and
unpublished. Writers may enter as many
stories as they like. The story title should
appear at the top of the front page. The
authors name must not appear on the
manuscript. Type stories in double spacing
with a front sheet including all the writers
contact details and the story title. No
entry form is required. Entries may be
sent by post or email.
There is a fee of 6 for the first story and
10 for two, with any further stories being
5 each. Pay this by cheques made out to
N. Hamlyn or by PayPal.
The closing date is 5 December.
Details: Fao Nick Hamlyn,
H.E. Bates Competition, 19 Kingswell
Road, Northampton NN2 6QB;

be completed
by the end of
2016. The prize
is 500 to get
a new project
started. Submit by 30 November to
The Gorkana Journalism Awards are for stories
based on factual material and using innovative
media. Entries must feature new media technologies
and platforms. There are two categories, UK and
international, each with a 500 prize. Submit by 30
November to
All entries should contain an active URL where
work can be accessed, or clear instructions on how to
view the piece. Entrants should include full contact
details and a short autobiography (50-100 words) in
the body of the submission email.
Include the word MAIN, STUDENT, DOT
or JOURNALISM in the subject line of the
submission email.
Entry is free.

26/09/2016 11:21



Prize for London postcodes

The London Short Story Prize is inviting entries of short fiction by
London writers.
The competition, which is run by Spread the Word writer
development agency, has a first prize of 1,000. The winning story will
be published in print and online by Open Pen, and will feature in the
London Story Prize Anthology 2016. Two highly commended entries will
receive a paragraph of feedback from the judges, who are AL Kennedy,
Irenosen Okojie and Juliet Mabey.
The competition is for original, unpublished short stories up to 5,000
words on any theme, by writers resident in London. Writers unsure if
they have a London postcode are asked to check
Stories must be complete, ie must not be extracts from a longer work.
Stories should be typed in double spacing. The writers name must
not appear on the manuscript. Submit all entries through the online
submission system.
Writers may enter as many stories as they like. There is an entry fee of
5 per story, which is payable as part of the online submission system.
The closing date is 18 October.

Flash through the fence

Tears in the Fence independent literary magazine is

inviting entries for its flash fiction competition.
Tears in the Fence publishes twice a year and has
editorial bases in the UK, France and the USA.
The flash fiction competition is for original,
unpublished work up to 400 words. There is a first
prize of 200, a second prize of 150 and a third
prize of 100. The winners, and other highly commended
entries, will be published in Issue 65 of Tears in the Fence.
Entries may be flash fictions on any theme. Send entries as doc or rtf
attachments. The writers name must not appear on the manuscript.
Enter through the online submission system or by post. Postal
entrants should include a covering letter.
Writers may enter as many times as they like, with up to three entries
in each submission. The entry fee is 5 for one, 7.50 for two and 10
for three. The closing date is 19 November.
Details: Tears in the Fence Flash Fiction Competition, Portman
Lodge, Durweston, Blandford Forum, Dorset DT11 0QA; email:; website:

Naturally for parents


A bimonthly magazine with

a main objective to provide
information that empowers
our readers to make changes
and supports them in being
their own experts, The Green
Parent is a green lifestyle and
natural parenting magazine
providing insightful intelligent
journalism covering topics from
babywearing and attachment
parenting to home-education
and alternative medicine.
We like articles that have a
strong point of view and come from the heart, says editor
Melissa Corkhill. Think about the subjects you know well
and those that are under-covered.
To give yourself your best chances you will need to have
read the magazine, or at least be familiar with its topics and
ethos. Topics include breast feeding, alternative education,
natural health and beauty, green travel and eco-house and
garden. As a guide to the ethos of the magazine it limits
advertising content to 25% and does not run advertising
on such products as disposable nappies and electronic or
plastic toys.
It will help if you include photographs and these may be
sent electronically or by post in the form of prints or on a
CD. High resolution images will eventually be needed
Submissions should be 1,500-2,000 words, emailed as a
doc attachment with a short biographical sketch at the end.
Include your contact details in the email. Expect a response
within two months.
Payment rates, payable on publication, are 75 per 1,000
words plus a complimentary voucher copy of the magazine.
Send submissions to:
For full details click on Guidelines PDF on the website:

Manc spec fic subs

For imperfect parents

There are many sensible, useful and
reliable parenting magazines. Then
there are the ones which allow parents
to have their say about the terrors of
parenthood. Scary Mommy started as an
innocent online baby book but quickly
transformed into a vibrant community of
parents, brought together by a common
theme: Parenting doesnt have to be perfect.
Scary Mommy is always in need of well-written pieces and video
clips. The range is wide. Currently submit highly relatable and
general humour material. Lists and short essays (under 900 words)
seem to work best, while personal anecdotes or specific personal
stories do not.
Submit in the body of an email:

Manchester Speculative Fiction is inviting

submissions for its forthcoming anthology,
Revolutions 2.
Submissions should all be speculative
fiction science fiction, horror, fantasy, urban/
contemporary fantasy, dark fantasy, slipstream
connected in some way to Manchester or its
suburbs. Stories are invited between 1,500 and
6,000 words. Writers may submit only one story.
Revolutions 2 will be published in print and ebook formats,
tentatively at the beginning of next year. Accepted authors will each
receive a payment of 15 for their stories.
Send stories by email as doc, docx or rtf files, double spaced, 12pt
Courier or Times New Roman. The subject line of the submission
email should be Submission: [STORY TITLE] [YOUR NAME].
The last date for submissions is 31 December.
Details: email:;

p92 News.indd 93



26/09/2016 11:21


Autocar general
interest motoring
weekly has been
relaunched with
a new look and a
new editor, Matt
Burt. Contact him
with ideas for
illustrated features.
Details: email:
website: www.
The TESS weekly
Scottish education
newspaper is edited
by Neil Munro.
Ideas for relevant
articles and news
items are accepted.
Website: www.
The Visitor, a free
local independent
monthly journal,
covers lifestyle
topics in Somerset.
Articles and letters
are welcomed.
email: info@
thevisitormagazine.; website:
The Housman
Society, devoted
to appreciating
the life and works
of AE Housman,
publishes an
annual journal
and a bi-annual
Membership is
15 per annum.
Details: email:;
The Non-League
Paper covers
the non-league
soccer scene every
Sunday. David
Emery is the
editor in chief.
Details: email:
Write what should
not be forgotten.
Isabel Allende



p94 News/ And another thing.indd 94


Widen your range

Gamut Magazine is a new US subscription-based

website and monthly digital magazine scheduled
to launch on 1 January 2017. Editor-in-chief
Richard Thomas will focus on publishing genrebending, hybrid fiction that utilises the best of genre
and literary voices. Contributors already signed
include Laird Barron, Damien Angelica Walters,
Alyssa Wong and Laura Benedict.
The magazine has been endorsed by Irvine Welsh,
author of Trainspotting, who has offered the opinion
that Gamut will be cool, and it will be out there, right
on the edges of fiction. I cant wait. Similarly, Fight
Club author Chuck Palahniuk, has said: Im excited to
see what Richard Thomas
brings to the game. Gamut
will be the new magazine
not written for the little old
lady in Dubuque.
What Gamut will offer
is new fiction every week,
as well as poetry, original
columns, non-fiction,

artwork, photography and reprints. Gamuts area of

interest is neo-noir, speculative fiction, including fantasy,
science fiction, horror, crime, magical realism, Southern
gothic, and the transgressive. Thomas requests that you
dont submit anything that might be considered classic
within the above genres, nor anything expected. You can
read sample stories and non-fiction from the magazine at
Stories should be 500-5,000 words, non-fiction
1,000-3,000. Payment is 10 per word for original
fiction and non-fiction, $15-$25 per poem.
The editorial team read submissions blind, so it is
important to remove any identifying information from
your work. Include contact details and a short bio in your
cover email. Submissions must be made via the online
form at:
Submissions will be capped at the first 300 per
month. After that check Facebook: www.facebook.
com/gamutmagazine or Twitter @gamutmagazine to
see when submissions reopen.
Details: Gamut, PO Box 964, Mundelein,
IL 60060, USA; email:;

Level pegging for indies in Booker race

Novels from
independent presses
make up half of the
six-strong shortlist
for the Man Booker
Prize 2016.
Announced on
13 September, the 2016 Man
Booker shortlist is: The Sellout,
Paul Beatty (Oneworld); All That
Man Is, David Szaly (Vintage);

His Bloody Project, Graeme Macrae

Burnet (Saraband); Do Not Say We
Have Nothing, Madeleine Thien
(Granta); Hot Milk, Deborah
Levy (Hamish Hamilton); Eileen,
Ottessa Moshfegh (Vintage).
Oneworld, Saraband and
Granta are all independent
publishers. Oneworld also
published last years winner, A
Brief History of Seven Killings,

by Marlon James.
Small Scottish
indie Saraband has
published both of Graeme
Macrae Burnets books, with
His Bloody Project first appearing
in October last year.
The winner of the 50,000 prize
will be announced on 25 October.

A new angle on literary merit

Going underground

The biennial New Angle Prize for Literature is inviting

entries for the 2017 competition.
The 2017 prize is for the best book of literary merit
associated with East Anglia published between 1 January 2015
and 31 December 2016. Eligible works may be fiction,
non-fiction or poetry. The winner will receive 2,000, with
500 for the runner up.
Entries, which should consist of six copies of the title and
a completed entry form (which may be downloaded from the
website), may be submitted by authors or publishers.
In the context of this prize, East Anglia is defined as the
region encompassing North Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk,
Cambridgeshire and the Fens.
Entry is free. The closing date is 3 January 2017.
Details: The New Angle Prize, The Ipswich Reading Room
and Library, 15 Tavern Street, Ipswich IP1 3AA;

The New York subway system

has just completed an eight week
experiment in conjunction with
Penguin Random House.
Subway Reads enabled commuters
to download five free short ebooks
and samples from 175 other Penguin
Random House titles.
If commuters went on to buy one
of the sampled titles the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority took a share
of the revenue. With wifi throughout
the London Underground expect
something similar in the capital soon.

26/09/2016 11:23



Think local, write history

Amberley Publishing publishes over 500 books on

history and heritage per year, making it one of the
most active independent publishers in the UK.
Many of our books are highly illustrated and
cover local history or subjects that appeal to
heritage enthusiasts such
as classic transport or our
industrial past, said publishing director Jon Jackson.
Amberley publishes the well-known Through Time
series as well as a rich variety of titles on non-fiction
history and heritage incorporating subject areas such
as transport, industry, general history, military and
niche specialist interests.
The company was founded in 2008 by an
experienced history publisher who sold his interest
to investors who have owned the company and
supported its growth over the past few years. We focus successfully on
books about history and heritage for the general reader and see lots more
potential for this in the future, said Jon.
Prospective authors can submit proposals for books in Amberleys
existing series, or longer narrative histories and biographies. Have a
good look at our website to see if your book could fit our list. If you
think it might do then our editors will be glad to consider it. We know
our readership well and are looking for books that fit with our existing
publishing. This ranges from short, highly illustrated books on local and
specialist history subjects, to narrative histories and biographies.
Illustrated books are typically 96 pages long and printed in full colour with
around 15,000 words and 180 images. Narrative histories and biographies are
typically 100,000 words long with a section of 30-40 illustrations.
For local history and sport and specialist history (transport, industry,
collectables, pastimes) proposals, send a 1,000-word outline with 4-6
sample images. For general history (biographies and general interest),
send a 3,000 word outline that includes a brief summary of the subject,
your approach to it, a contents list if possible and information about the
likely readership. Send all submissions
by email as Word documents. We
ask authors to source and agree
permission for the images they want
to use, said Jon.
Writers are paid royalties annually.
Details: email: submissions@; website:

Like the sound of this?

Soundwork, which is a not-for-profit online resource for free-to-listen-to
short stories, audio plays, monologues and poems, is inviting entries for
its Short Story Competition.
The winning writer will have their story recorded and posted on the
Soundwork site.
Enter stories, which may have been published/broadcast elsewhere,
up to 2,000 words. The writers name should not appear on the script
itself. Include a cover sheet with name and email address. Send entries
by email as attachments.
Entry is free, and writers may enter as many stories as they like.
The closing date is 31 December.
Details: email:;

Im very fortunate that I began my

writing career proper when I was still
acting, and that means I had to write
wherever I was If I was in Scotland
making a series or somewhere waiting
to catch a plane, thats where I had to
write. And I never lost that. I write in the
country, I write in London. I write in the
House of Lords they give me a little cupboard with a
desk in it, and I can shut the door and write there.
So basically I write when I can.
Julian Fellowes, asked about his writing
habits by Goodreads
I honestly think in order to be a writer,
you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why
are you writing? Why are you here? Lets
think of reverence as awe, as presence in
and openness to the world. The alternative
is that we stultify, we shut down. Think of
those times when youve read prose or poetry
that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting
sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse
into someones soul. All of a sudden everything seems
to fit together or at least to have some meaning for a
moment. This is our goal as writers, I think.
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird:
Some Instructions on Writing and Life
I love happy endings. The late Louis
Malle called me a raunchy moralist, and
thats what I like to be known as. Because
its a great description My biggest
critics are the people who have not read
my books, they dont realise that it is a
story, and its the characters that drive the
books, not the sex. The sex happens because it
happens in life and Im writing about life.
Jackie Collins
Ideas for things come into ones head,
or bits of ideas; you feel theres something
theres some meat on the bone, theres
something there that lures you on. The more
you think about it the more youre led into
this new world and the more of that world you
see. And part of having an idea is having some
Gary Doak/
notion of how you would tell the story
You dont have very much choice in the matter. Writer Pictures
Ideas come, characters suggest themselves, and
the nature of the story and the nature of the
characters dictates how its going to be done.
Michael Frayn

p94 News/ And another thing.indd 95



26/09/2016 11:23


David Singleton
is the editor of
Total Politics.
He will consider
suggestions for
relevant articles
up to 2,200
words. Payment is
website: www.
The Jurassic Coast
Magazine series
of annual lifestyle
visitor magazines
includes Otter
Magazine, Lyme
Magazine, Chesil
Magazine and Exe
Visitor. The editor is
Lucie Simic.
Details: email:
website: www.
The Writers
Study, founded
in 2005, is a fun
group in Dorset
where advice on
markets, agents
and publishers
is shared. It
costs 20 for six
sessions. Contact
Judie Jones at
The Miles Franklin
Literary Award,
Australias most
literature prize,
has been awarded
to AS Patric for
his debut novel,
Black Rock White
City. The award is
given each year to
a novel which is of
the highest literary
merit and presents
Australian life in
any of its phases.
You get ideas from
daydreaming. You
get ideas from being
bored. You get ideas
all the time. The only
difference between
writers and other
people is we notice
when were doing it.
Neil Gaiman



p96 News/Introductions.indd 96

Stirring stories

Since summer, Mocha Memoirs

Press has started publishing its titles
in physical print editions as well as
ebooks. The US small press aims
to publish romance and speculative
novellas and short novels that would
be overlooked by traditional houses.
Publisher and editor-in-chief
Nicole Givens, creator of the SF
detective Cybil Lewis, is looking for
speculative fiction (science fiction, fantasy, horror) and
romance, including steampunk, cyberpunk, diesel punk,

alternate history, weird westerns,

and mash-ups. Stories must be
10,000-50,000 words.
There are four primary
imprints. Dark Mocha Bites for
horror, Steamy Mocha Amour
for romance, Sword & Mocha
for fantasy (including urban and
paranormal), and Sci-Chai for SF.
Espresso Shots are short stories,
8,000-10,000 words which fit into any of the above
areas and sell as 99 ebooks.
Submit a doc or docx attachment by email: with your storys
title and your name in the subject line. Follow the full
guidelines at:
Details: Nicole Givens Kurtz, Publisher/Editor-inChief Mocha Memoirs Press, LLC, 931 South Main
Street, Kernersville, 27284, North Carolina, USA;

Master your mythology

Irish Imbas Books is inviting
international entries for its
Celtic Mythology Short
Story Competition.
The aim of the competition is
to discover the best contemporary
narratives on Gaelic/Celtic
mythology. There is a first prize of
$500, a second prize of $250 and a
third prize of $100, and the winning
stories and up to seven other entries

will be published in Irish Imbas

Celtic Mythology Collection.
To enter, submit original,
unpublished stories in any genre up
to 4,000 words. Celtic mythology
or folklore should be central to
all entries, and Celtic folkloric or
mythological references should be
as accurate as possible.
Each writer may enter up to
three stories. Send stories as Word

Win a residency
in Wales
Stiwdio Maelor artists community in North
Wales has announced a poetry prize, the 2016
Stiwdio Maelor Poetry Competition. The winner
will be given the opportunity to complete a twoweek residency, with gift vouchers from local
businesses, in 2017 or 2018. The competition
will be judged by Australian poet Earl Livings,
who is completing his second residency at
Maelor this year.
Enter original, unpublished poems up to
fifty lines. Type poems in 12pt font in 1.5
spacing. The poets name must not appear on
the manuscript. Include a completed application
form, which can be requested from Stiwdio
Maelor by email. Send poems as a single
Word doc or pdf.
There is an entry form of 10 per poem,
payable by cheques made out to Stiwdio Maelor
or by PayPal. Poets may enter as many poems as
they like. All entries must be submitted by email.
The closing date is 25 November.
Details: email:;

attachments by email. In the

body of the email, include your
contact details, a short biography
(no longer than 300 words) and
the transaction reference of the
PayPay entry fee payment, which
is 7 per story.
The closing date is 10 December.
Details: email:; website:

Appeal to Artificium

New small press Artificium, which aims to showcase

new talent and established writers with its journal
Artificium, novella imprint Signo and anthology
imprint Imprimo, has an open submission window
until 30 November. Writers all over the world are
welcome to submit.
Artificium needs short fiction, 400-10,000 words,
or up to three poems. Payment is 5-30 per piece of
prose, 5-10 per poem.
Signo needs novellas for print and ebook, 15,00050,000 words, in any adult genre. Submit a synopsis
and the first 5,000 words, and expect a response within
8-12 weeks. Payment is through royalties. You can also
submit through the novella competition, which closes
on 30 November. First prize is 350 and publication,
with 100 for the runner-up.
Imprimo urgently needs short stories, 2,000-6,000
words, and poems, up to forty lines, on its next
anthology theme, time, by 30 November. Payment is a
pro rata share of royalties.
Details: email:; website:

26/09/2016 11:24



Writing Magazine presents a selection of outdoors titles currently accepting contributions.

We strongly recommend that you familiarise yourself with their guidelines before submitting
and check websites, where given, for submission details.

Country Walking,
edited by Guy
Proctor and
published by Bauer
Media, is the UKs
bestselling walking
magazine, and covers
walking experiences
throughout the
length and breadth of
Britain. The highly
visual magazine is
aimed at walkers of every level, and includes
routes, reviews, walking advice and features
and interviews with walkers and outdoor
enthusiast. Everything in the magazine
is useful and inspiring, and written in a
friendly, enthusiastic way that encourages
the reader. There are limited opportunities
for freelance writers, and prospective
contributors should contact features editor
Jenny Walters with ideas. Payment varies.
Details: email: jenny.walters@; website:
Lakeland Walker
magazine, edited by
John Manning, is
devoted to walking
in and around
the Lake District.
Published six times
a year, each issue
contains walking
routes suitable for
varying levels of
ability as well as
features and profiles of interest to the
walking community, gear reviews and news
stories. Feature lengths are usually either
800 or 1,500 words. John is happy to hear
from freelancers with relevant knowledge
and ideas, and also from photographers.
Submissions should consist of a wordsand-pictures package. Walking route pieces
must be formatted in house style. New
contributors should contact John by email
with completed articles in the first instance.
Payment varies. Walking route pieces pay
50 for a one-page (under five mile) walk,
and 100 for a DPS (over five miles).
Details: email:;

The Great
Outdoors, edited
by Emily Rodway,
is primarily a hillwalking magazine,
with the emphasis
on mountain
walks and a
particular focus
on Snowdonia,
the Lake District
and the Scottish
Features are between 1,500 and 2,000
words and are largely first-person accounts
of adventurous trips, and the magazine
also includes at least ten walking routes,
which are one-page, 500-word narrative
features in themselves. Emily uses
freelances and asks for word-and pictures
packages. In the first instance, email
ideas with an angle, samples of previous
work and sample images. Payment for
walking routes is 120 and is negotiable
for other contributions.
Details: email: emily.rodway@kelsey.; website:
Trail magazine,
edited by Simon
Ingram, is an
walking guide for
adventurous walkers.
Published thirteen
times a year, its a
sister publication
to Country Walking,
with the focus very
much on exploring
hill and mountain territory in the UK. The
award-winning magazine is dedicated to
giving its readers the best hillwalking and
mountain routes and providing the best
advice on tackling them. Features include
routes, expert advice, inspirational stories
and interviews with leading mountaineers,
reader stories and gear reviews. Trails
content is aimed both at beginners and
experts, and Simon is happy to hear from
knowledgeable freelances with relevant
ideas. Payment varies.
Details: email:;

p96 News/Introductions.indd 97

Trail Running, edited

by Claire Maxted,
is an inspirational
magazine dedicated
to off-road running,
and is aimed both
at road runners
looking for more
exciting adventures
and dedicated trail
runners. Feature
content is split
between fitness and training and routes and
destinations, and each issue includes articles
on gear, training, aspirational races, routes,
nutrition and interviews with elite athletes.
Feature lengths vary and the magazine
is image-heavy. There are freelance
opportunities available, particularly for
interviews, science-led features and some
race features. Send pitches by email
including a coverline, headline, standfirst
and writer credentials. Payment varies.
Details: email:;
Edited by Mary
Creighton, Outdoor
Adventure Guide
covers the full range
of adventurous
outdoor action
breaks and activities,
from camping and
walking to climbing
and kayaking. OAG
only publishes in the
spring and summer
months, and all content is geared towards
making time spent outdoors as exciting and
interesting as possible, whether its creating
imaginative campfire food, tracking down
adrenalin-fuelled adventures or finding
new urban walking trails. Mary accepts
pitches for all of OAGs subject areas (the
main ones are walking, camping, climbing,
bushcraft, cycling and canoeing) and is
particularly keen on interesting or quirky
adventures and up-and-coming outdoor
sports or UK-based sports stories. Send
pitches by email. Payment varies.
Details: email:;



26/09/2016 14:24


Fieldsports editor
Marcus Janssen
will consider article
pitches from writers
with relevant
knowledge and
ideas. Payment is
Details: email:
bgpmedia.; website:
Publishers Weekly
has reported
that the top five
publishers in the
world remained
the same in 2015
as 2014. Topping
the list was the
UK-based Pearson,
with revenue of
$6.635bn. Next were
($5.77bn), RELX
Group ($5.20bn),
Wolters Kluwer
($4.59bn) and
one readers have
actually heard of,
Penguin Random
House, with a
mere $4.05bn.
Marilynne Robinson
has been honoured
with the Richard
C Holbrooke
Award. The author,
celebrated for the
Gilead Trilogy,
was given the
award for her
work in advancing
peace, social
justice and global
The Ngaio Marsh
Award for Best
Crime Novel has
been won by Paul
Cleave for Trust No
One. The judging
panel described
the thriller as
a stunningly
audacious example
of the genre that
functions as a
literary hall of


Warm welcome at Confontation

With a mission to bring new talent to light in the shadows

cast by well known authors, Confrontation Magazine has
been in production for almost fifty years and has eclectic
content of stories, poems, non-fiction and art.
Maximum story lengths are 7,200 words, or 500 for
flash fiction. Genre fiction will be considered if it has
literary merit or transcends or challenges genre. The
quality of the writing and thought or imagination will
in the end be the deciding factor when a submission is
being considered. Payment is $175-$250.
Poetry submissions should be no more than two
pages long and up to six poems may be submitted.
Payment is $75-$100.
Essays and memoirs, 1,500-5,000 words, make up the


Poets on fire
Entries are invited for the Fire River Poets
Open Poetry Competition 2016.
There is a first prize of 200, a second
prize of 100 and a third prize of 75.
Send entries in any style and on any
subject. All entries must be original
and unpublished. Each poet may enter
up to six poems.
Poems may be up to forty lines. Send each
poem on a separate sheet. The poets name
must not appear on the manuscript. Enter
by post or by email. Postal entrants should
include a cover sheet with titles of poems
and the poets name and full contact details.
Email entrants should list their poem titles
and all contact details in the body of the
submission email, and attach each poem as a
separate doc, docx or pdf file.
The entry fee is 4 for one poem, 7
for two, 10 for three and 3 for each
additional poem. Pay by cheques made out
to Fire River Poets or by PayPal. Email
entrants should put their PayPal transaction
reference number in the subject line.
The closing date is 31 October.
Details: Fire River Poets
Poetry Competition 2016,
2 Deane View, Bishops Hull Road,
Taunton TA1 5EG;

I aim to make the

fiction flexible so
that it bends itself
around the facts as
we have them.
Hilary Mantel



p98 News.indd 98

magazines non-fiction content.

Payment is $100-$150.
The reading period runs
from 16 August to 15 April
annually and the response time
should be within 3-4 months.
If you live outside the USA
submissions can be made by email. Include
your postal address in the email and specify if your
submission is poetry, fiction or non fiction. Submit prose
and poetry submissions in different emails.

Fantastic in every sense

Fantasia Divinity Magazine is a new
and unusual magazine publishing
stories across multiple genres, as well
as anthologies.
See the website for details of a
number of anthologies needing
submissions, for winter fantasy,
mythology, horror, fairytales and SF.
Submit stories, 1,000-40,000
words, as an email attachment,
with Submission and story title in the subject line, to
In the body of the email put full contact details, the story
genre, and word count. Flash fiction under 1,000 words can
be pasted into the body of the email. Response time is up to
two weeks. Payment is 0.5 per word.

Beyond the stars

Martian Migraine Press is a small independent Canadian
press with a focus on the weird, unusual and occasionally
transgressive. It likes writing which plays with boundaries.
Short stories are wanted for its anthology, A Breath
from the Sky, due for August 2017, for which you are
asked to consider unusual possession, ie no boring old
demons and exorcisms.
Submit stories, 1,500-7,000 words, or flash under 1,500
words, by email as an rtf or doc file, to submissions@
Put Breath, story title, and name in the subject line.
The deadline is 31 January, 2017. Response time is
within a week. 3Can per word, via Paypal, as well as two
contributor copies of the anthology.

26/09/2016 11:25


A flash start

Design for city life

The Mediated Cities series is produced by

Intellect Books in partnership with Architecture_
Media_Politics_Society (AMPS) and explores the
contemporary city as a hybrid phenomenon of digital
technologies, new media, digital art practices and
physical infrastructure.
It is an inherently interdisciplinary series around
intersecting issues related to the city of today and tomorrow, says series
editor Dr Graham Cairns. Each title within the series focuses on elements
of the city as we experience, design and interact with them through
architecture, visual art, film, urban design, media and community projects.
Intellect was established in 1984 by Masoud Yazdani and Mark Lewis
as an independent academic publisher in the fields of creative practice and
popular culture, publishing scholarly books and journals that exemplify
its mission as publishers of original thinking. It now publishes over ninety
subscription journals and around 60-100 books each year. We aim to
provide a vital space for widening critical debate in new and emerging
subjects, and in this way we differ from other publishers by campaigning
for the author. Intellect has an international marketing, sales and
distribution agreement with the University of Chicago Press. All of our
academic content is double blind peer reviewed, said Graham.
Submissions are being accepted for further titles in the Mediated Cities
series. The editors can see it becoming ever more complex and overlaid
as different people approach the subject with them. For example, by
looking at specific cities or themes such as activist and community uses of
technologies in urban life. The intention is that they will be very varied
titles to portray the scope of this topic.
The editors are looking for submissions that reflect an interdisciplinary
approach to the understanding of cities in the modern context. As such,
essays should reflect upon the dynamic nature of cities as they change in
response to technological factors or mediated representations. We look
forward to reading material that shows how media does not simply reflect
the urban condition but also helps shape and imagine it. The Mediated
Cities series can highlight the unique experience of different cities or the
media attached to them by focusing contributing authors on the critical
themes that matter most.
Send submissions for a book proposal to the Mediated Cities series by
email. A good book for the series will feature challenging, interdisciplinary
thinking, case studies and projected ideas, along with well-referenced
and knowledgeable contributions, said Graham. Try to make the focus
international, or include international scholars and contributors. We ask
for authors and editors to fill out our Author Questionnaire, which can be
downloaded from our website under the Publish With Us tab.
Books are published in print and ebook format. Writers whose works
are published in the Mediated Cities series are paid royalties.
Details: email:

p98 News.indd 99

Now in its fourth year, the Flash 500

Novel Opening Chapter and Synopsis
Competition is inviting entries.
There is a first prize of 500,
and a runner-up prize of 200.
The competition is for opening chapters up
to 3,000 words, which must be original and
unpublished, and a one-page synopsis outlining the
rest of the story. If your first chapter is longer than
3,000 words, send the first 3,000 words only, with
a note explaining that the chapter continues beyond
this point. The competition is open to all novelists,
published and unpublished, but competition entries
must not have been previously published.
The writers name must not appear on the
manuscript. Send entries by email as doc, docx, odt,
rft or pdf files, with separate attachments for the first
chapter and the synopsis. Put Novel Opening in the
email subject line. The body of the submission email
should include the novel title and the writers name
and contact address.
There is an entry fee of 10, payable via PayPal, and
an optional critique may be purchased for 25.
The closing date is 31 October.
Details: email:;

Rialtos first
pamphlet prize
For the first time, The Rialto
poetry magazine is holding an open
pamphlet competition.
The winner of the first prize will
have their pamphlet published in
The Rialtos award-winning series, thirty copies of
their pamphlet, a launch reading and up to 200 in
travel expenses. Ten shortlisted poets will each get
a paragraph of feedback from judge Hannah Lowe,
and the winner and three others will have a poem
published in The Rialto.
To enter, send between 18 and 24 pages of poems.
All poems must be original, and may have been
previously published in magazines and anthologies but
not as a pamphlet or collection.
Type poems in single spacing on single sides of A4
in 12pt font, with a maximum of forty lines per page.
Type each poem on a new page. The pamphlet should
have a title, which must appear on each page. Include
a front page with the title and a list of contents. Send
two copies of the front page if submitting by post, one
including your name and full contact details. Submit
by post or through the online submission system.
There is an entry fee of 22 (16 for subscribers
to The Rialto), payable by PayPal or cheques made
out to The Rialto.
The closing date is 30 November.
Details: The Rialto (Pamphlet Competition),
PO Box 309, Aylsham, NR11 6LN;



26/09/2016 12:37


Squash Player
is a bimonthly
magazine edited by
Ian McKenzie. He
will discuss ideas
for feature articles.
Payment is 75 for
1,000 words.Details:
email: info@;
website: www.
The Society of
Women Writers &
Journalists holds its
Annual Christmas
Tea Party on 6
December at the
National Liberal
Club, London
SW1, from 1.45pm.
Festivities include
a raffle, bring-andbuy, book table
and inspirational
speaker Ginny
Vere Nicholl of the
Feel Good Books
imprint.Tickets are
19.50 (18.50 for
For details, email:
A the 16th Library of
Congress National
Book Festival in
September Stephen
King was honoured
in recognition of
his lifelong work
promoting literacy.
Fiona Wright won
the A$30,000 Kibble
award for Australian
women writers,
for Small Acts of
Disappearance, a
collection of essays
about anorexia.
Olivia Morris
joined Orion as
editor for wellbeing
and lifestyle
imprint Orion
Spring, and Orion
Non-fiction, from
Pan Macmillan,
where she was
an editor for the
Bluebird imprint.
The best creative
writing teachers,
like the best editors,
excel at teaching,
not necessarily
at writing.
Kurt Vonnegut Jr



p100 News/ Zine.indd 100


A burning light in the darkness

Three-Lobed Burning Eye Magazine is a US-based

speculative fiction magazine published each spring
and autumn electronically, with an annual print
anthology. It went on hiatus in 2015-16 but is now
returning to publication.
Editor Andrew S Fuller requires quality speculative
fiction in the vein of horror and dark fantasy, with a
preference for magical realism, fantastique, slipstream,
cross-genre, interstitial, or weird fiction. He will
consider SF, suspense and westerns, though strongly
favours work which contains some speculative element.
Sword and sorcery, hard SF, space opera, and extreme
horror are hard sells.
TLBEM publishes stories which are literary or
pulpy, but not experimental. Originality in character,
narrative and plot are valued, and writers of all

races, cultures, genders, and

orientations are encouraged to
submit. No non-fiction, poetry,
reviews, interviews, memoirs,
fan fiction, serial stories, novel
excerpts, or reprints.
Issues are free to read online, and can be purchased
for download in pdf format. Many stories published in
TLBEM have gone on to be cited as among the best of
their year by star genre editor Ellen Datlow.
The magazine is open to submissions year round.
Stories should be 2,000-7,000 words. Payment is a flat
rate of $100 per story, $30 for flash fiction, 500-1,000
words, plus one contributor copy.
Response time is around ninety days.

Everybody loves
Tchaikovskys spiders

The UKs most prestigious award

for science fiction literature has
been given to Adrian Tchaikovsky
for his epic space opera, Children
of Time. The award, which consists
of an engraved bookend and a
cheque for 2,016, was presented
at a special ceremony at Foyles
bookshop in Londons Charing
Cross Road.
Its come unexpectedly enough
that Im not sure what day it is at
the moment, Adrian told WM the
morning after his win. Then, in a
comment which will resonate with
those who have had the pleasure of
reading Children of Time, he noted
that perhaps his win was A victory
for spiders everywhere?
Tom Hunter, director of the
Clarke Award, said: Children of
Time has a universal scale and
sense of wonder reminiscent of
the novels of Sir Arthur C Clarke
himself, combined with one of the
best science fictional extrapolations
of a not-so-alien species and their
evolving society Ive ever read.
Chair of the judges, Andrew
M Butler, noted that: Choosing
a winner for the Arthur C Clarke
Award doesnt get any easier after
thirty years. The judges were
passionate about all six shortlisted

titles and it was tough

to narrow down to one
book. Adrian Tchaikovskys
Children of Time tells
two parallel stories of the
last survivors of Earth
and the inhabitants of a
terraformed planet it takes the
readers sympathies and phobias,
and plays with them masterfully
on an epic and yet human scale.
Just four days before the
Clarke, science fictions most
celebrated awards, the Hugos, were
presented at the World Science
Fiction Convention in Kansas
City. The ceremony was hosted
by Hugo-winning author Pat
Cadigan, a US writer long resident
in the UK. In the wake of various
controversies generated by the Sad
and Rabid Puppies (as reported
on previously in WM), this years
Hugos proved a resounding
rejection of the Puppy desire to
return the genre to one largely the
purview of white male authors.
The winners were: Best Novel,
The Fifth Season, NK Jemisin;
Best Novella, Binti, Nnedi
Okorafor; Best Novelette, Folding
Beijing, Hao Jingfang, trans Ken
Liu (Uncanny Magazine, Jan-Feb
2015); Best Short Story, Cat

Pictures Please, Naomi Kritzer

(Clarkesworld, Jan 2015); Best
Graphic Story, The Sandman:
Overture, Neil Gaiman, art by
JH Williams III.
The John W Campbell
Award for Best New Writer
was presented to Andy Weir for
The Martian. The film version
of The Martian, screenplay
by Drew Goddard, received
the Hugo for Best Long Form
Dramatic Presentation.

26/09/2016 11:26


Duende is the online literary
journal of the BFA in Writing
programme at Goddard College,
USA. The main zine is published
twice a year but the editorial
team publish original content at the beginning
of every month and online. Work in Duende
must have authenticity and soulfulness,
earthiness and expressiveness, a chill up the
spine. Supply poetry slightly off-kilter and
fiction to make us feel more human and less
alone. Experimental work is welcomed.
Currently it needs writing on the theme
of exodus, poetry, prose, hybrid work, and
visual art from the hearts and minds of those
who are displaced.
Poetry, under 75 lines, is welcome in all
forms, hybrid prose/poetry up to 2,500
words, and prose, up to 7,500 words.
Character-driven stories where things happen
and people change are favoured.
Submit online with a doc, docx or pdf file.
Response time is up to four months.
Fiction on the Web is a UK
zine devoted to short stories.
Editor Charlie Fish calls the
zine a labour of love and he
personally selects and edits
every story. Launched in 1996, Fiction on
the Web has some claim to being one of the
oldest short stories website on the internet.
Short stories, anything from flash fiction to
a novella, are welcomed, particularly funny,
fantastic, futuristic, criminal or real-life
stories. Submit a doc by email:

Waxwing is an unusual
US zine promoting the
tremendous cultural
diversity of contemporary American
literature, alongside international voices
in translation. It needs work from writers
from all cultural identities. They wish to
publish in each issue singular voices
and to hear these voices together, in all
their harmony and dissonance.
It publishes poetry, fiction, essays,
interviews, reviews, art, and music plus
translated literature but is currently only
accepting poetry, fiction, non-fiction,
and translations.
The submission period is 1 August to 1
May. Submit 1-5 poems, one story or or
three short-short stories, online.
Response time is within four months.
There is no payment.
The Vignette Review is all
about short fiction which
is a vignette, that is: A
brief evocative description,
account, or episode. Editor
Abigail Sheaffer wants vignettes which
wed short fiction with fine art for a
sensuous reading experience.
Submissions, 300-900 words, must be
prose, not poetry and not one-sentence-style
flash fiction. Attach a doc or docx with a
brief third-person bio in the cover letter.
Drafthorse is a biannual online publication
of fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry,
visual narrative, and other media art.

There is one editorial theme,

work and no work. Avoid
an emphasis on politics no
soap box rants so think
around the topic and dont
plump for the obvious.
Submissions are welcome Aug-Oct for
the winter issue and Feb-April for the
summer issue. Writers with something
multimedia and way out are as welcome
to submit as those with more orthodox
work. Submit online at: http://drafthorse.
Far Off Places is a UK zine
of creative writing and
illustration from writers
worldwide, with a mission to
make you laugh, ponder, and
wince. It aims for an audience
of readers who wouldnt
ordinarily pick up a literary magazine
by publishing in audio, digital and iOS
Newsstand versions.
See the website for themes and
deadlines. Submit prose, no more than
3,000 words, as short fiction or flash, or
short-form prose and drama. The editors
always love a bit of creative non-fiction
and poetry in any form, of up to 40 lines.
Dont submit more than three poems or
one piece of prose or drama. Attach a
doc or txt file or paste into the body of a
sanely-formatted email, to: submissions@
Response time is within six weeks of
our submission deadline. All submissions
receive feedback.

Science fiction matters

Published every two months, Compelling Science Fiction aims to

find, publish and promote the best science fiction stories and to
support the authors who write them.
We believe that science fiction is important, says editor Joe
Stech. It expands the mind and drives progress through inspiration.
Guidelines say accepted stories will illustrate at least one
interesting concept and clearly explain the science/technology
in the story. Fantasy stories are not published but humour and

positive stories are always welcome and a well-written dystopian

future story wont be dismissed.
Stories should be 1,000-10,000 words. Payment is 6 per word
for first world electronic print and podcast audio rights.
Submit a docx, rtf or txt file by email, with all other
relevant information in the body, to: submissions@

p100 News/ Zine.indd 101



26/09/2016 11:26


The Spark magazine
was founded in
1993 as an ethical
quarterly. Ideas for
articles relating to
positive change
with a link to the
West Country are
welcomed. Payment
is 11p per word.
Details: email:
editor@thespark.; website: www.
Amy Liptrots story
of reconnecting with
her native Orkney
Islands after time in
London, The Outrun,
was the winner
of the Wainwright
Golden Beer prize,
worth 5,000, for the
best UK nature and
travel writing, named
after respected
country writer Alfred
Scottish Book Trust
has created a new
award to be given
annually to one
author or illustrator
and one learning
professional who
have had an inspiring
impact on young
readers in Scotland.
The winners will be
announced at an
evening reception in
June 2017.
UK childrens
book specialists
Egmont Publishing
announced senior
appointments to
its books team:
Sarah Bates is now
commercial director,
books division in
the UK; Ali Dougal
is fiction publishing
director, leading the
team of five editors.
Mandy Sutter won
the New Welsh
Writing Awards
2016 University of
Wales Prize for Travel
Writing for her story
Bush Meat: As My
Mother Told Me, set
in 1960s Nigeria.
As a writer, you
should not judge, you
should understand.
Ernest Hemingway



p102 News/Travel writing.indd 102


One hit wonders

One Story is an award-winning, not-for-profit

literary publisher committed to supporting
the art form of the short story and the
authors who write them. It publishes two
print magazines, One Story and One Teen
Story, each containing just one story. The teen
magazine publishes writing by young writers
as well as adults.
The editor is seeking literary fiction, 3,0008,000 words, on any style and subject. Submit
a pdf, rtf, and txt file using the online submission system.
One Teen Story needs stories, 2,000-4,500 words, with teen
protagonists and about teen experiences like issues of identity,
friendship, family, coming-of-age.
Payment is $500 and 25 contributors copies for first North
American serial rights. For both magazines response time is 4-6
months. The submission period is 1 September until 31 May.

Library records
Since 2005 the Department of Culture,
Media and Sport has recorded public
library usage. It recently reported that
between 2005 and now public library
usage fell by 30%. In 2005/6, the first
year records were kept, 48.2% of the
adult population used a public library
at least once. In the period April 2015 March 2016, the figure was just 33.4%.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest falls
were among those who could most
afford to buy books, with the decline
in the demographic described as urban
prosperity by from 57% to 37%.
Showing that the poorest value libraries
the most, the decline of library use among
those described as hard pressed fell
just 7%, to 33.5%. Currently 72 public
libraries, as well as five mobile libraries,
are facing closure.

Head for the peak

New Zenith Magazine is a new
US fiction magazine which
launched in July. Edited by
David Connell, the title accepts
fiction in all genres except erotica.
Also required are cartoons,
illustrations/illustrated stories and
photography/photo storytelling.
The print edition of New
Zenith is published quarterly, with
a monthly web-only supplement.
Stories should be up to 3,000
words. The deadline for the
winter issue is 15 December,

spring issue, 15 March, etc.

However, material which misses a
deadline may also be considered
for the online version of the title.
Print magazine submissions
should be sent to the editor at
com with New Zenith
Submission in the title
field. Submissions for the
accompanying blog/website
should be sent to Michelle Irby
at mirby@newzenithmagazine.
com. Submissions pasted into the

The Four Quarters Magazine

The Four Quarters Magazine is
published in India by a group of writers
who want to bridge the gap between
the emerging and the established, and
simply celebrate what needs to be read
and seen and heard.
As well as supporting Indian
writers, it welcomes submissions from
around the world. This is an online
biannual magazine with two reading
periods a year, 1 August to
31 October for the winter issue and
1 January to 31 March for the summer issue.
Submit up to six pages of poetry in any form, fiction, nonfiction, experimental writing and memoirs of up to 5,000
words, work in translation and book reviews, 500-1,000
words. Submit a doc or docx file by email:

body of
your email
are preferred,
but rtf or doc
are accepted,
not docx.
Submit up to three stories,
five poems, and five works of
art/illustration simultaneously.
Payment is 2 per word for first
and non-exclusive reprint rights.

Flash Fiction
Brilliant Flash
Fiction is an Irish
zine devoted to flash
fiction which the
editor feels is all
about having fun.
Editor Dawn Lowe
is looking for writing
I havent read before,
stories, not slice of life plotless fiction.
Submit stories under 1,000 words, pasted
into the body and attached as a doc, by
Most genres are accepted. Response time is
within three months.
Website: https://brilliantflashfiction

26/09/2016 11:27







Zitebooks is a independent publisher whose output

proves that being small and staying focussed can
reap dividends. Currently it has just five authors
on its list. One of our writers, Simon Jay, had a
one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe this year;
another, Jacquie Lawrence, has just been shortlisted
for the Polari First Book Prize and is producing a
television adaptation of her book on the web, said
publisher Martin Godleman.
Zitebooks came on the scene less than two years ago. We are a
relatively new independent publisher, forming at the beginning of 2015,
said Martin. We have a small select number of writers whose works we
edit, print, sell and publicise. There is no specified limit to the titles we
will publish each year, but it is ultimately only a handful as we dont want
to dilute the power of our enterprise.
Zitebooks like books with intentions. A book
that excites, informs and does not compromise,
said Martin. Serious writing but not serious
writers. Serious can also be funny, sharp and
even angry, but should always respect and never
lose sight of the informed reader.
Martin is happy to hear from writers who
could be Zitebooks next success story. Think
really hard about why you write and why anyone
should want to publish you. Always have a
focused and unambiguous response to these two
questions, he said.
Hes hoping that Zitebooks will continue its
forward momentum. Depends upon the success of our writers, but upwards
and outwards into space as the position demands...
Prospective Zitebooks authors should send a personal statement, a synopsis
and a chapter or segment (minimum 500 words) by email.
Zitebooks publishes in paperback, ebook and audiobook formats and pays
50% of all profits once costs have been met.
Details: email:; website:

High five for haiku

Presence haiku magazine is inviting entries for the Martin Lucas
Haiku Award 2016.
The competition is for original, unpublished haiku. There is a first
prize of 100, a second prize of 50 and two third prizes of 25. The
winning and commended haiku will all be published in Presence.
Submit all haiku entries on a single sheet including your name and
address, and include the same sheet without name and address details.
Send entries by post or by email.
There is an entry fee of 5 for five haiku, payable by cheques made
out to Presence Magazine or by PayPal.
The closing date is 31 December.
Details: Chris Boultwood, 6 King Street, Chester CH1 2AH;
email:; website:

p102 News/Travel writing.indd 103

A zite of the cherry


Handle with care

Patrick Forsyth considers how the times
we live in affect our travel writing
ong ago I was flying to London from
Dublin when a delay struck: all the
passengers were disembarked and after a
couple of hours re-boarded. Beginning the
departure procedures, the pilot came on the
intercom and apologised: I am so sorry for the delay, he
said, but we had a report that there was a bomb on the
plane. However, we have instigated a thorough search and
I can tell you now that there is no bomb on this plane
or if there is we cant find it.
Really. It was, I think, meant humorously and was long
ago nothing like this would be said these days when
terrorism linked to travel is an ongoing consideration.
In part because I have friends who live there, over the
years I have visited Thailand probably more than any other
country. Recently, well a while back it is difficult to be
truly topical in a monthly column I woke to hear that
there had been bomb explosions in the Thai town of Hua
Hin where my friends live. I suspected that the fact that
the greatly revered King of Thailand has his summer palace
there would help ensure the urgency of any investigation
and clamp down, but nevertheless it set me thinking.
It is simply a fact of life that one of the ways in which
destinations are categorised these days is by any level of
threat, real or apparent. Some of the most iconic places
have become suspect; for instance the interest and holiday
potential of Egypt is manifest, but I for one would
not want to go near it at present. Clearly such has an
effect on travel writing. You may have a unique angle to
write about Egypt, say, but find that an editor rejects it
believing that readers would simply turn the page with a
brief No thank you.
Other places, hopefully including Thailand, experience
more transient incidents and seem to bounce back;
Thailand has many millions of tourists visiting every year
and long term this does not seem set to drop markedly.
Writing about such places may still find a home, but
it may be that you need to include a few words about
possible dangers. Perhaps on no subject must research
be done more carefully: the Foreign Office will give you
the official position and their information is updated
regularly. Some (including tourist offices) may have a
vested interest in playing down any danger and it may
be that an informal word from someone on the ground
will inform what you write. However you do it, an
informed comment may be necessary and make what
you write more relevant.
Its sad that this makes a relevant topic for this column,
but such are the times we live in. Now, enough, I have a
flight to Thailand to catch.



26/09/2016 11:27


Lara Dunn has
succeeded Carolyn
Boyd as editor of
France monthly
magazine. Ideas for
illustrated features
may be considered.
Payment is
Details: email:
website: www.
Dodua Otoo
won Germanys
Ingeborg Bachman
prize worth 21,000
for her short story
Herr Grttrup
Sits Down, about
a scientist who
worked first on the
Nazis V2 rocket,
then on the Soviet
rocket programme
Bath Festivals
appointed Alex
Clark as artistic
director of words
and literature,
The Bookseller
reported. Alex is an
editor and literary
journalist who also
hosts the Vintage
Podcast, a monthly
books podcast with
author interviews
and book news.
Birmingham Press
Club, founded over
150 years ago, has
appointed its first
female chairman
Llewela Bailey, who
hosts BBC Radio
WMs Sunday
Breakfast show and
lectures part-time
at Staffordshire
author Philip
Pullman (His Dark
Materials trilogy),
who attended
secondary school
in Ysgol Ardudwy,
Harlech, is the
inaugural Patron of
Literature Wales.
All literature
is gossip.
Truman Capote



p104 News.indd 104


Explore Wildwood

Wildwood Publishing is an Australian publishing

company which has a different way of looking for
books to publish. It needs fiction, mainly popular
fiction, some more esoteric titles, and some highly
autobiographical fiction.
The editorial team are not after the next bestseller, but
seek to offer windows into places and times you otherwise
wouldnt have had the chance to experience. They believe
books should give readers that imaginary space and place.
Writers anywhere who feel their fiction does provide
that experience are welcome to submit. Titles are
e-published first and, if successful, print editions follow.
Submit by email, with your title and genre in the

subject line,
including a 300word synopsis and a note about which published books
or authors currently in the market place are similar
to the novel submitted. Then attach the first three
chapters or 100 pages as a doc file.
Response time is within one month. Payment is
discussed at contract time, but authors will receive
50% of net profits.

Five line up for story prize

The five-strong shortlist for the

BBC National Short Story Award,
announced on BBC Radio 4s
Front Row on 16 September,
includes a story by double-Booker
winner Hilary Mantel
The shortlist is: Garments,
Tahmima Anam; Morning, Noon &
Night, Claire-Louise Bennett; The
Darkest Place in England, Lavinia
Greenlaw; In a Right State, Hilary
Mantel; Disappearances, KJ Orr.
These short stories catapult you
through distinct lives, sensibilities
and in just a few thousand words,
expand the possibilities of the
form, said judge Ted Hodgkinson,
who is senior programmer for

literature and spoken word at

the Southbank Centre. From
illuminating the telling details in
the everyday, to pitching us into
hidden underworlds that exist
in parallel to our own, these
stories are full of insights,
humour and revelations.
The winner of the prestigious
award will receive 15,000. The
runner-up will get 3,000 and the
other three shortlisted
writers will each get 500.
The BBC National Short Story
is now in its eleventh year. It is
open to UK-resident writers with
a history of previous publication.
Shortlisted writers over the years
have included Zadie Smith,
William Trevor, Rose Tremain, Jon
McGregor and Naomi Alderman.
Every year judging the BBC
National Short Story Award is
a reminder of how much talent,
invention and imagination there

is among the UKs short story

writers, said Di Spiers, books
editor at BBC Radio, who is
one of the judges. Each year
sees new preoccupations in focus
and proves a litmus test for the
state of the short story. This
year is no exception, with stories
ranging across the world but all
investigating human connections
the need for them, the perils when
they are lacking and the joy that
can be found in recognising just
who you are. The five stories this
year are all very different together
they show once again how strong,
vivid and irrepressible short form
fiction can be.
The winner was announced
on 4 October, after WM had gone
to press. Extracts from all five
shortlisted stories are on

Picture the horror

The Creative Competitor is running a seasonal Spine Chilling Fiction
Writing Competition with a Halloween closing date.
There is a first prize of 500, a second prize of 300, a third prize of
200 and a fourth prize of 100.
The competition is for horror stories up to 1,000 words, which may
include reference to the accompanying photograph. All entries must be
original and unpublished. Paste submissions into the body of an email.
There is an entry fee of 3.50 per story, which may be paid by PayPal.
Include the PayPal transaction reference number in the body of the
submission email. Writers may enter as many stories as they like. The
email subject line should read: Spine Chilling Fiction Competition.
The closing date is 31 October.
Details: email:;

26/09/2016 11:30



Snappers delight

Practical Photography is a magazine for anyone whos

passionate about photography and wants to improve
their camera and editing skills, irrespective of their
level of ability and experience. It doesnt matter
whether youve got a DSLR, mirrorless camera,
compact or smartphone everyones welcome, said
editor Ben Hawkins.
Readers are deeply committed to their photography.
Our readers are serious enthusiasts who consider
themselves photographers as opposed to someone
who happens to own a camera. Theyre super creative,
they love to be out and about taking pictures, and are
always looking for the next great photo opportunity.
Every issue of Practical Photography is packed with images, creative projects,
in-depth subject guides, pro interviews, image analysis, Q&As, reviews and much
more, covering anything that might capture a photographers attention. Landscapes,
portraits, wildlife, natural world, still life, macro, sports/action, travel, flash, fine
art, architecture if its a thing, we feature it! Getting out there and doing it is the
single most important thing we encourage, as this is how youll learn and improve,
so we aim to sell the experience and adventure as much as the technique.
Regular features include: Complete subject/technique guides, inspirational
galleries, seasonal projects, motivational columns, entertaining interviews, editing
step-by-steps, in-depth critiques and image analysis, single and group product
tests, Story behind the shot type pages the works.
Practical Photography is the leading title in a competitive international field, and
Ben puts this down to a mixture of quality control and commitment. Its about
passion and attention to detail in equal measures, he said. PP is a magazine made
by photographers for photographers, and everything we do is done to a very high
standard, whether its a how-to feature about off-camera flash or an interview with
Brian May. Our readers really know their onions and the fact that were held in
such high regard in the industry tells me that were getting it right. Only the best
photographs and photographers will do.
All PPs content needs to be insightful, well structured and motivational. The
style and tone is friendly and as jargon-free as possible and word counts vary from
feature to feature, depending on the subject, pagination and layout.
Freelance contributors must be able to offer something above and beyond what
the magazines staffers can. For instance, we dont have time to spend four days in
a wildlife hide waiting for a lesser-spotted woodpecker to swing by, but you might
have, said Ben. And they must be familiar with the magazines style and content in
order to offer something relevant we get so many people contact us saying, Im
great, feature me, which is a real turn-off. Wed much rather you offer us a great
idea for a new technique feature that we may not have thought of.
Prospective writers should be familiar with
the magazine, and a working knowledge of the
subject is an absolute must too. If you dont
understand a technique or style, make sure you
do before you write about it!
Pitch ideas by email. Tell us who you are,
what you do, and what your idea is, and we
can go from there. Two or three lo-res jpgs
illustrating your idea helps us to gauge quality
and visualise how the feature might look.
Payment is negotiable, but PP typically pays
120 per 1,000 words and 120 per DPS pro
rata for images. Rates for complete packages
are agreed in advance.
Details: email:;

p104 News.indd 105



26/09/2016 11:30



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26/09/2016 11:31






The bestselling bonkbuster author

conjures sultry scenarios as an antidote to
domesticity, she tells Lynne Hackles

always admired those big

explosive eighties-style
bonkbusters and relished the
idea that, in these glittering
worlds, my imagination could really
run free, Victoria Fox, whose work
received approval from Jackie Collins,
says. Hollywood Sinners was my
first title, back in 2010. Im now
to listen to an
extract from
six books on, and my latest is The
Santiago Sisters
Santiago Sisters.
Victoria tries to keep to a nine-toTAP HERE to buy the
five routine when possible. So that
book from Audible
Im in sync with real life, she says.
The words dont always come inside
important to just get started.
that window often an idea strikes
On days I have childcare, Ill begin
in the middle of the night, or
at nine and go through until a
on a car journey, or doing
short tea break at eleven. Lunch
the washing up but its
is at one and Ill make sure
What I write when
good to have structure as a
I get half an hour to leave
starting point.
the house, go for a walk,
Im up against it is
I wake around seven, or
clear my head. Then I work
often more readable
whenever my baby does.
through until five, when
than when I have too
Ill go downstairs and make
my husband comes home.
long to agonise.
tea for me and a bottle of
On days when its just my
milk for her. All the while Im
daughter and me, its more
getting her dressed, Im thinking
important than ever to have
about what Im going to write so
those thoughts lined up before I
that when I sit down in front of the
switch on the computer. As soon as
manuscript, Im ready to go. Its that
shes napping, Im there! At lunchtime
first bit thats hardest, breaking the
well head out to see friends, or find
seal on the days word count. Having
somewhere for coffee and play. As an
some pieces in place makes it easier.
author, its nice, while entertaining a
I never look back or get sucked into
one-year-old, to have an intellectual
the tangles of the previous day. Its
pursuit to keep my mind occupied
a glamorous, escapist world that
has nothing to do with nappies or
apricot purees! On these days I can
often be deep into a scene, or on the
I write from a handsome Georgian banker desk.
cusp of a great breakthrough, when
Theres a squishy armchair in the corner, beneath
my daughter will wake up and the
a shelf of my books, UK editions and foreign
bubble is burst. Sometimes Ill jot
translations, spines out, a riot of peacock colour. A
down a few very quick bullet points
pink felt flamingo hat a friend made me wear on my
so that I can return to my train of
hen night peers over Temptation Island. Fleetwood
thought later. I cant get frustrated
Macs darkly tropical cover art for Tango in the Night
is framed on the opposite wall, and a black-and-white
about interruptions with a baby, or
still of Johnny Depp in Cry Baby perches on the book
Id be climbing the walls.
case. Here, I can fantasise about future stories while
Writing a novel is a long, hard slog,
enjoying the stories of others, and celebrating those
a complex journey of twists and turns,
Ive already written.
of dead ends and reverse manoeuvres,




p108 My Writing Day.indd 108

but youve got to get on the road and

stay on it in order to move. What I
write when Im up against it is often
more readable than when I have too
long to agonise over every detail.
I begin a novel with a central idea,
a strong hook to hang it all on. The
Santiago Sisters is a sultry, sinful,
sensational story of sisterly rivalry, the
intense bond between twins Teresa
and Calida and how that has the
power to create and destroy. This
inevitably gives birth to a handful
of main characters, and I let this
outline percolate for a few weeks,
digging into characters motivations
and histories until it starts to feel
more fleshed out. Then I sit down to
sketch out a plot outline.
Im currently hard at work on my
spring 2017 book, a gothic timeslip novel set in Florence, called The
Silent Fountain.
Im organised to the point of being
obsessive. Theres always so much to
do that I need to have a handle on it
cue lots of scribbled lists and red-pen
reminders in the diary. To look at the
piles of paper all over my office, youd
think I winged it, but believe me,
there is a system.
Being an author is a funny
combination of total solitude
followed by a flurry of promotional
activity when a book comes out. Each
summer Ill do a range of signings,
panels and interviews which means I
suddenly have to edit my wardrobe,
get my hair done and finally replace
that pair of black courts with the
heels hanging off. My ultimate
promotion was a judging job I did
for ITVs Lorraine show, alongside
Jackie Collins, my idol. We were
out to discover the next big voice in
romantic fiction and it was amazing
to launch a new writers career, as
well as celebrate a highlight of my
own in meeting the mighty queen of
beach reads.

26/09/2016 16:54


3 NOV!

The Two of Us author
Andy Jones shares
his writing day

Clear out your

Christmas list its
about to get longer as
we recommend our
favourite books of 2016

self-publishing in
print and ebook,
step by step

tells us about the
allure of exploration,
writing a good sex
scene and following up
her international bestseller
The Tenderness of Wolves


into writing
for video

Fighting writers
Writers block?
Theres no such thing!
7 steps to overcome
your invisible obstacles
How to guard against
plagiarism and protect
yourself from accusations

We profile new author

Jules Grant, crime writer Peter
Robinson shares his five favourite
reads and we explore the career of
self-publishing pioneer JL Carr






Call 01778 392482 or visit
p109 next month.indd 109

26/09/2016 11:34


at your profile, my heart melted like

the mechanics of the system.
a Snickers bar in my pocket on a hot
I didnt want to create a situation
summers day. I answered by saying
which would have readers throwing
I had that effect on most men.
the book against the wall in
Unsurprisingly, that was another
disgust because Id made incorrect
one who never followed up.
assumptions about how people made
The last one Im going to share
contact with each other.
with you had far more tenacity.
I decided to use only the free
I think of him as Camper Van
sites because I reasoned that the
Man. Are you famous? was the
type of character I had in
subject header of his
mind wouldnt pay out
email. Inside he said
a monthly fee as
it was fortunate we
that would leave
had connected
too much of a
because he, too,
trail should
One email contained
was a writer.
the police try
what has to be the most
He directed
to track
me to a place
him down.
bizarre chat up line ever.
on the site
You owe me 99c was
where he had
the victims of
the subject heading
placed all his
my characters
journal entries
crimes will all
and invited me to
be women of
respond once Id read
slightly advanced
them all, certain we were a
years and widowed, so I
match made in literary heaven.
could use my own date of birth and
I replied immediately and said,
marital status. I picked out the most
no I wasnt famous and then
flattering photos I could find and
explained why I was on the site.
uploaded them. I had to create a
Within a few minutes he responded
strap line, so I put: Author of crime
by saying if I read his work Id
novels. Be warned I kill people
know he was the one for me.
who upset me, but only on paper.
Once again I repeated my earlier
I wanted to let people know there
assertion that I was only there to
would always be a chance what they
see how the system worked, not
wrote might be used in my work.
to find my soulmate.
Or that I might base a character
Yet again he came back, but
on them. Amazingly, within half
this time he held out the lure of
an hour Id had a few men making
travelling around Europe in his
tentative contact, but there were
camper van. For the third time
others who were either deranged
I told him I was only on the site
or desperate. I mean, who in their
for research purposes, but his skin
right mind would send the following
is obviously thicker than mine
message to a writer? Dis dat hoo
because he completely ignored
U R? I appreciated the addition of
my words and responded as
the punctuation so I knew it was
follows: Once you have travelled
interrogatory, but had no idea what
the question actually was. I answered with me you will see how good life
could be. I am prepared to overlook
with a simple yes which must have
your faults.
been the wrong answer because he
I didnt bother replying and
never sent another message.
blocked him from contacting me
After that came an email
again. Needless to say, Camper Van
containing what has to be the most
Man will be coming to a painful
bizarre chat up line ever. You owe
end in a future novel.
me 99c was the subject heading.
This research has been great fun.
Certainly attention grabbing and
I now know enough to write scenes
intriguing. Hmm, I thought, maybe
for my villain that wont let me
another writer making contact. No
down and Ive got a new character
such luck. The message content
to murder. Dis dat hoo I R?
ran as follows (punctuation and
You betcha!
capitalisation mine): When I looked


Researching online romance puts
Lorraine Mace, as ever, in
murderous mood

ike most writers I spend a fair

amount of time on research.
Sometimes this is gruesome
stuff, such as finding new ways
to kill, or looking into the
horrors of people trafficking.
Fortunately, not all my research is
dark and depressing.
This month I thought Id share
with you the fun Ive had delving
into online dating. In a future book
I intend to have a lowlife villain who
preys on vulnerable older women on
a variety of dating sites. As Id never
dipped so much as a toenail, far
less an entire toe, into such sharkinfested waters, I thought Id better
sign up to a few sites and find out


p110 Notes from the Margin.indd 110

26/09/2016 11:34