Monday, 30 November 2015

Guest Post: Holly Martin - Do You Believe?

I love the idea of Santa Claus. As a child, the excitement of going to bed on Christmas Eve was often too much to bear, knowing that this great jolly fellow was travelling across the world giving presents to every little girl and boy. Soon he would be in my house, leaving presents under my tree. It was the stuff of fairy tales; magic, flying reindeer and a sleigh big enough for millions of presents and as children we lapped it up.


I love the lengths parents will go to purely to keep this magic alive for their children. Once, when I was little, I left a note out for Santa on Christmas Eve, along with the obligatory glass of sherry and a carrot, asking Santa to tell me the names of all his reindeer. That night, as everyone settled down for Christmas Eve TV, or ran around in the last minute madness of Christmas meal preparations, my Mum and Dad were ringing round everyone they knew to try to find out the blasted names of some imaginary reindeers. Remember this was pre Google, if you wanted to find something out in them days you went to the library. They managed to get six and told me he didn’t have time to write the other two, there were lots of children to visit after all. Even the handwriting was one that I didn’t recognise. The carrot would be given to the dog to chew on, the sherry, which my Dad hated, would be drunk. And my unwavering belief in Santa Claus continued long after my brother told me it was all rubbish. It continued even after I’d seen my grandparents bring the presents in late one Christmas Eve. When I’d asked the next day why it was them that had brought the presents in and not Santa, they told me that Nan and Granddad were helping Santa to unload his sleigh and I believed it, because I wanted to believe.


I love the variations in the stories parents tell their children too. If the children of the world ever sit down and take notes there would be some gaping discrepancies. We didn’t have an open chimney when I was younger. We had some electric fire but that was OK because Santa had a magic key. We didn’t write letters to Santa, we simply told Mum and Dad what we wanted and they phoned Santa up and placed the order, a little like Argos I imagine.


My friends have an open fire, and every year at the beginning of December, my Goddaughter writes her letter to Santa and they light a fire and throw the letter up the chimney. The first year that Megan was old enough to do this, the letter went up the chimney and came back down a few seconds later only to catch fire on the roaring flames. Megan stared at her letter as it crumpled in the heat and her Mum hugged her and told her that the smoke would take the words to Santa. Of course she accepted it because as a child you trust your parents completely.


But should the belief in magic fade just because we are now older and supposedly wiser? No absolutely not. We all need a bit of magic in our lives. That’s why I love books, because amongst their pages is the ability to transport people to magical worlds with fantastical creatures, to introduce people to rugged heroes and brave heroines, where the impossible is possible and the ordinary is lifted to the extraordinary. With books, we go on journeys to exotic locations, we make friends and we fall in love with characters more real and tangible than a mythical fat man in a red suit.


So give the gift of a book this Christmas, one that transcends the limits of the imagination. Treat yourself to one too, curl up with a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine and believe in magic once more.



Celebrate Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Christmas at Lilac Cottage (http://amzn.to/1Kv0dzO) and Snowflakes on Silver Cove (http://amzn.to/1NS1K9s) are out now.



Follow Holly on Twitter @hollymartin00


Or on her blog http://hollymartinwriter.wordpress.com/

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Mslexia Guest Blogger

I'm absolutely delighted to announce that in the new year I will be taking up a 3 month residency as a guest blogger for Mslexia

At this point I feel I should apologise to anyone who knows me and has already heard this news multiple times in the last few hours.  Usually in a high pitched, sing-song voice whilst I jump up and down.  Common sense and maturity will prevail at some point I promise... But I make no promises as to when that might be.

My guest blog will be looking at the writing process from the slightly different view point of a lyricist with stage fright.

Whilst I write short stories and novels, my love of writing started with writing lyrics. This is still the form I am most passionate, and yet most secretive about.

I'll be looking back at my journey from a disastrous debut performance as a singer songwriter, through years of confining my dreams to secret notebooks, to finally finding the courage to enter a song writing contest. 

I hope that by sharing my experiences I'll shed light on the lessons I’ve learnt and the humorous way I discovered them.  Writing, in any form, requires you to take chances and criticism. I hope that my story can encourage others to be brave (and in key).

I do hope you'll stop by the Mslexia blog and say Hi.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Guest Post: Wendy Clarke - Moving From Short Stories to Novels

Wendy Clarke - Biography

Wendy Clarke is a full time writer of women's fiction. Since starting writing three years ago, she has sold over a hundred short stories and her work regularly appears in national women's magazines such as The People's Friend, Take a Break Fiction Feast and Woman's Weekly. She has also written serials and a number of non-fiction magazine articles. Room in Your Heart and The Last Rose are Wendy’s two collections of short stories. She has just finished her first novel.

Moving on from Short Story to Novel

When lovely Elaina invited me onto her blog, I thought long and hard about what I could write that might be useful or interesting. I thought I could write about my journey to becoming a writer, how to write a magazine story or even just talk about my typical writing day. I soon realised, though, as I sat with my fingers poised over the keyboard, that I’ve covered all these topics before in other guest posts. What I wanted to share was something new.


Most people know me as a magazine writer but not everyone knows that I’ve just finished my debut novel. It’s been a steep learning curve that’s for sure, and it occurred to me that this was what I could talk about – the things I’ve learnt moving from short stories to novels.

Everybody loves a list, including me, so here they are – the five main differences I found between short story and novel:

Length

Okay, I know this sounds rather obvious but when I first started my novel, I hadn’t quite grasped just how much longer 80,000 words was than 2,000. Really, I hadn’t! When I write a story, I finish it and send it off within three days; I live with the characters for a relatively short time and then say goodbye to them. By the time I finished my novel (it took me the best part of a year as I was writing short stories at the same time) and sent it to the first agent, I felt as though I’d married and divorced the entire cast of characters. Novels need stamina that’s for sure… and the novelist needs a lot of TLC during the writing process (well this one did).

Planning

I don’t think I even knew the meaning of this word before I started my novel. I don’t do it – it’s as simple as that. I’ve sold nearly a hundred and fifty stories and I haven’t planned a single one of them so why would I need to do it for a novel? I had my novel idea, I knew my characters, I knew the ending - all I had to do was write it. Simple. Only it wasn’t. By chapter four, I had no idea how I was going to get my characters from where they were to the point where I’d write The End. I had to concede that I would have to have my chapters sketched out, if only loosely, or the characters would be in danger of wandering around aimlessly. So, in order to keep tabs on all the story threads and tighten things up, I bought myself a special book and made myself work out the plot in more detail. It was rather a sketchy plan but it worked for me.

Plot

Which leads me nicely on to difference number three – the plot. Before I started my novel, I thought that the longer length just meant there would be a lot more things going on but I soon realised it’s more subtle than that. Although the overall shape of the story arc is the same, in a novel there will be peaks and troughs. I wasn’t used to that – in a short story there is just a beginning, a climax and a resolution. Troughs? What troughs? Luckily I’m a quick learner. Also my short stories never have subplots – there’s no time for them. If my 80,000 word novel didn’t have subplots, the reader would be snoring after chapter two.

Characters

Sometimes I’m very daring when writing my short stories. I’ll whisper this very quietly… I sometimes have two main characters (and maybe a couple of extras). Usually, though, I stick with one. What a luxury it was then to be able to have not only two main characters but also a cast of thousands (well, all right ten). Not only this, but I was able to explore their lives in a way I never would be able to in a short story. It was like having my own puppet show… I just had to make sure I didn’t get all the strings tangled.

Detail

When writing my novel, I didn’t realise how much I’d enjoy the luxury of being able to immerse myself in a setting, to flesh out a character and linger over a scene. In contrast, short stories have less back story and a faster pace. Any detail of a setting is drip fed into it in order to not slow the pace of the action. In other words, short stories need to make a quicker impact. At first I found this strange… and then I loved it.


So there you have the five differences I encountered when moving from short story to novel. It’s been a challenge – but one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed. I still love short story writing and have no immediate plans to stop but will I write another full length piece? Absolutely!


Which just leaves me to say a big thank you to Elaina for inviting me onto her lovely blog.





Link to my blog: http://wendyswritingnow.blogspot.co.uk/


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/wendy.sargent.376


Twitter: https://twitter.com/WendyClarke99


Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wendy-Clarke/e/B00OW7Z7UU

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Writing Class: My Writing Self

Based on Jorge Luis Borges – “Borges and I”, this week’s task was to consider our relationship with our writing self. 

So let me introduce you to my writing self:

She lives in my head as a constant distraction.  I’m working on spreadsheets while she’s dictating dialogue.  She won’t be hushed or ignored. She requires immediate attention. She’s far more demanding than I would ever dare to be. 

In the end I surrender and scribble down her words.  I know she’ll just keep repeating them until I obey.  Her fear of forgetting a theme or a phrase is more overpowering than my own task at hand.

While I would be content to drift through life in my own little bubble, she watches and listens to everything around her.  She analyses it all, remembers it and stores it away.  Sometime later it’ll re-emerge as a new work of fiction.  It’s origins now completely indistinguishable.

She can put into writing the things that I could never say.  She takes chances that I would never dare to make.  She digs into the past that I would otherwise forget and salvages a memory which she won’t allow me to neglect.

Though she shares my experiences, she’s nothing like me.  She’s more daring and braver, tougher and stronger.  While my practical side is laden down by responsibilities, she’s not afraid to follow her dreams.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Guest Post: Emma Davies - The Wonderful World of Words



This week I'm delighted to welcome Emma Davies, author of Letting In Light and Merry Mistletoe to the blog.  Over to you Emma...


The Wonderful World of Words


Thank you so much for inviting me as a guest to your blog Elaina. It’s always hard to know what to post about, particularly when you have a new book out. You don’t want every post to be a slight variation on the last that people have seen countless times before. So, as we’re now in November and approaching the end of what, for me, has been a very momentous year, I thought I would take the opportunity to share some of my experiences from the year, or, what is essentially things I have learnt about the wonderful world of words.

The first thing I would like to share, in fact I want to underline it in thick black permanent Sharpie is the wonderful people that there are in this world of words. The bookish community has to be one of the most friendly, supportive and generous communities around. Everyone I’ve come across has been unfailingly polite, and hugely encouraging of my fledgling career. They have given of their time unstintingly, their praise copiously and their generosity by the bucket load. We have shared each other’s lows and celebrated each other’s successes, and as someone very much wiser than me said; ‘There’s no point in being jealous of any one else’s success as nobody ever reads just one book. There is room for all of us, and all of our books.’ It’s certainly a sentiment that people seem to have taken to their hearts. And as for book bloggers, well don’t get me started … there’s a whole blog post available for you guys. I know you get free books to read, but seriously you are a very special breed indeed, and it’s enough for me to hope that you know how much you are loved and appreciated.

The second thing I’ve learned, and this is a very personal thing, (but I’m sure experienced by many) is what happens when you open the writing floodgates. Like many, I’ve been writing for years, but it was just that thing I did from time to time, you know a bit of a hobby, like knitting; something I could pick up and put down whenever I wanted. And the reason for this? – Well, I was busy; forging a career, getting married, having babies, etc. etc. etc. but bizarrely throughout all this time I know I always had an accompanying little voice at my shoulder whispering ‘Don’t open the gates, not the whole way, just open them a little bit so that only a trickle can come out, but don’t whatever you do open them the whole way, because if you do … And so I didn’t, I never surrendered myself to my writing because I knew that it would consume me and for one reason or another it just wasn’t the right time to do that. And now it is … and I totally understand why getting dressed, eating, doing the housework, or actually talking to people is suddenly something I have to remind myself to do. It’s a strange kind of twilight zone existence, but one I’ve waited a very long time to experience. In any case my kids think it’s quite cool, but only because I’m not ‘normal’ any more ….

I also love the way my whole perspective on things has changed. I see everything in terms of words on a page; is there a plot in that? Would that make a good setting? and I watch people for character traits far more than is probably good for me, in fact I might get arrested soon … My mind is constantly adrift in a sea of possibilities, but I so enjoy this plotting and planning, this playing with ideas and scenes, the perfect first line, or the plot twist no-one will see coming. This world of words is just so wonderfully big. Impressive words, little words, common words, or downright tongue teasingly good words, but my very favourite words are potential words, for potential words are very powerful words indeed.

Lastly no self-respecting post about things I’ve learnt as a writer would be complete within reference to the one important thing that we all seem to share, and that is our complete fetish for notebooks, or in fact stationery of any sort – seriously, do you want to see the photos? I bet you do …