Achieving quality through technology

One of the drawbacks of many interactive books is that the story can be sacrificed in favour of the technology. Finding authors who possess the skills to write captivating stories with the required visual dimension can prove problematic. The growth of this field of children's writing has led the major publishing houses to begin seeking new authors for their interactive ranges. This is the first step towards opening up a relatively closed area of writing, so if you have a background in IT and...

Acting the part

Take top hat and tails from the above list. They have a seemingly magical effect on their wearer so that men not exactly renowned for their sartorial elegance suddenly find themselves holding their shoulders back and their stomachs in. Perched at a jaunty angle on their heads, the top hat provides the perfect finishing touch, conveying both style and breeding. The same is true of the full-length ball gown. Ladies who usually dress for comfort in tee shirts and jeans can find themselves...

Attending banquets

Eating and drinking was just as important in the past, if not more so. For the historical novelist, it is vital that you know what food was served and how it was cooked. Finance also rears its ugly head as, whilst the hero and heroine will care nothing for monetary gain, financial status will have enormous implications on any potential marriage plans. In romantic fiction, the background is as important as the plot and accuracy provides an ideal balance for the escapist tale you long to tell.

Avoiding errors

Another great advantage ofproducing a visual aid like this is that errors in the storyline can be detected at a glance. If, for example, you have a character who was killed in Chapter 3 unaccountably turning up in Chapter 5, you can remedy this before you get too far into the book. A written plan allows you to see where each character is at any given moment and to calculate how to move them from and to each location. It also prevents you forgetting any minor characters along the way.

Basing your setting on a familiar location

In order to avoid the distracting 'street map' scenario, an effective alternative is to throw in one or two well-known evocative names. This encourages the reader to use their imagination to fill in the blanks, as demonstrated by the following rewrite of the previous City of London example Leaving the Bank of England, Barnaby made his way from Threadneedle Street towards St Paul's, feeling a flicker of excitement as he read off the historic names of the roads he passed. Old Jewry, Bow Lane,...

Becoming astringer

If you regularly write to the letters page of a newspaper or county magazine about items of importance to the residents in your area, you may be contacted and asked if you will become a 'stringer'. This involves keeping an eye out for snippets of news and views on local issues and phoning them in to the editor. Many regular columnists in specialist magazines begin their writing careers in this way before graduating to their own regular column. Experts who can express themselves clearly and be...

Being small and powerless

The one emotion that is shared by all children is the feeling of powerlessness in the face of adult supremacy. Looking at life through a child's eyes gives you a very different perspective from that of a grown-up. Adults can come and go as they please, buy what they like, eat what they like, do and say what they like and more importantly, they are big and powerful. A child, on the other hand, is small and powerless, subject to the whims and wishes of pretty well anyone bigger than themselves....

Believe what you write

A tongue-in-cheek approach to romantic fiction simply won't work. In order to write convincingly, you must believe in your characters and be prepared to fall helplessly in love with the hero. This doesn't mean you can't bring humour into the story. Providing you are laughing with and not at your characters, you can make them and their situation as amusing as you wish. At the end of the day, however, you have to care whether or not your characters proclaim their love for one another and achieve...

Case Study Bill Takes A Practical Approach

Bill is a businessman in his late forties who travels extensively as part of his job both in the UK and abroad. The father of teenage children, he has had quite a chequered career, serving in the armed forces for a time and then as a prison officer. His past and present occupations have meant that he has learned how to relate to a wide variety of people on vastly different levels from all sectors of society. Consequently, he has developed the ability to predict how people are likely to react in...

Case Study Bob Loves To Shock

Bob is a mature English Literature student. His special interest is horror and his writing is colourful and imaginative. Unfortunately, he is inclined to let his imagination run away with him, filling his stories with so much blood and gore that the shock effect he strives for is lost. Until he can tone down the imagery by taking a more subtle approach, he will fail to achieve his full potential as a horror writer. Horror stories exploit our fears and shock us into facing the thing we believe...

Case Study June Makes Everything All Right

June is a cheerful person in her mid-twenties. The mother of two small children, she has an optimistic outlook on life and this is reflected in her characterisation. Unfortunately, this tendency always to look on the bright side means that her characters often lack depth and realism. She also finds it difficult to bring conflict into her stories, as she likes to make their lives run as smoothly as possible. Until she can overcome her desire to have everyone living happily ever after, her...

Case Study Rachel Demolishes An Office Block

Rachel has the perfect location in mind for the fictional city setting of her historical novel. There is now an office block on the site but, with the aid of some careful research, she unearths sufficient information about the houses which once stood there to create a vividly realistic impression of the layout of city streets at the time in which her story is set. Based on her investigations, she is able to devise her own street map for reference, adapting it to suit the storyline wherever...

Case Study Steve Tries Out His Climbing Skills

Steve's hobby is climbing and he bases his plot development on situations he has encountered as a member of a climbing team. By combining his experiences of climbing different types of terrain, in a variety of weather conditions with his knowledge of teamwork in potentially dangerous situations, he is able to bring his characters vividly to life. As a result, his adventure stories are fast-paced and exciting. MOVING YOUR CHARACTERS AROUND THE ROOM As we saw in the section dealing with reaction...

Combining action and dialogue

As we saw in the previous chapter, characters are not static. They move from place to place, wave their hands around, shrug their shoulders and stamp their feet. Their facial expressions change, they have endearing or irritating mannerisms and their body language can tell you almost as much about them as the way they actually speak. A combination of action and dialogue, as demonstrated in Passage B above, will bring far more realism and life to the characters than a string of 'he she said's.

Confronting writers block

It is arguable whether writers' block actually exists or whether it is simply brought about by the provision of perfect conditions in which to write. Fig. 14 Suggested headings for expenditure record. Fig. 14 Suggested headings for expenditure record. Fig. 15. Suggested headings for income record. Like our fictional characters, we will strive to overcome any obstacle in order to fulfil our ambitions to see our work in print. Remove those obstacles and we immediately yearn for distraction. We...

Confronting your worst nightmare

Horror fiction is based on the principle of confrontation with your worst nightmare and common phobias are used to great effect in both ghost and horror stories. The prospect of spending the night in a haunted house, for example, mercilessly exploits our natural fears of the dark and isolation. Among the spooky sensations and incidents guaranteed to scare us silly are being cut-off from the outside world having supporting characters mysteriously disappearing one by one.

Consulting a specialist

Novels featuring amateur detectives are usually set against specialist backgrounds reflecting areas of their authors' own expertise. Ellis Peters' medieval monk, Brother Cadfael, for example and Jonathan Gash's roguish antiques dealer Love-joy are just two such successful fictional sleuths. In this type of novel, the fascinating backgrounds give rise to sub-plots and back stories which are as gripping to the reader as the crime being solved. If a new specialist amateur sleuth is to break into...

Creating an element of doubt

Picture a scene of contented domesticity. A housewife is tackling the routine chores when the phone rings. Just as she is about to pick up the receiver, it stops. Nothing particularly unusual here, just a wrong number. Unless, of course, the same thing happens continually throughout the day. By the time her husband returns home from work, our housewife is a bundle of nerves. He manages to calm her, putting it down to phone engineers working on the line. That evening they are watching TV when...

Creating Conflict

In order to understand the importance of conflict in a fictional tale, imagine the following scenario A beautiful, titled young lady is about to celebrate her eighteenth birthday. Her wealthy, happily married parents throw a party for her at their stately home. Her adored older brother telephones to let her know that he is bringing his best friend and partner in his successful law firm to the party. The best friend is the handsome heir to a fortune and a vast estate in the country. Their eyes...

Creating Fictional Characters

When interviewing authors plugging their latest book, one of the most frequent questions asked by the presenter is 'Are your characters based on real people ' The answer invariably given is 'Not exactly'. In order to be convincing, fictional characters must ring true. The reader should be able to relate to them and identify with them, but the description needs only to be sufficient to project a recognisable image. After all, as the average reader is unlikely to have met her, there is little...

Devising a storyboard

Putting it on computer gives you the freedom to alter it at will although it does help if the plan is in constant view in storyboard or chart form while you are working. Some authors use wipe-clean boards or self-adhesive notelets which can be moved around and discarded when necessary, whilst others prefer a large sheet of white paper, drafting the plan out in pencil, colour coding, erasing or crossing out items where necessary. Whichever method you select, once you have a plan to which you can...

Digging up the past

Ghostly characters are no different from any other protagonists and should be treated accordingly. You need to dig deep into their past so that their background offers an excellent reason for their current existence. Their past will also explain their attitude to the mortals they encounter. For the mortal characters, whether the ghost is frightening or friendly, the initial meeting must have an element of suspense - a creaking floorboard, sudden icy draught, a slamming door or window.

Discovering new worlds

We now know so much about our own solar system that, if you wish to write about inter-planetary travel, you need to go much further afield. Due to the vast distances involved, you have to find ways of preventing your characters from dying of old age before they reach their destination and there is a number of methods you can use 'warp' speed drives for your spaceship 'hyperspace' - a dimension where distance is reduced to zero a 'generation' starship, i.e. a moving, living colony in space.

Drawing maps

As with any other writing technique, in the hands of a skilled author, the use of this kind of detailed information can become integral to the tone and pace of the book and many writers can and do use it to great effect. The attention to detail award-winning novelist Ruth Rendell pays to the routes taken by her protagonists, emphasises rather than detracts from the atmosphere of her novels. She sometimes takes this one stage further by drawing a map or street plan of a location, as illustrated...

Drawing On Your Own Experiences

One of the first rules a would-be writer learns is to 'write about what you know'. If, however, this rule is taken too literally, few writers would ever gain the requisite knowledge to write an historical romance, murder mystery or science fiction novel. Far more practical is the advice from bestselling author Martina Cole to 'Write about what you know and if you don't know - find out'. You don't need to have lived in a previous century, be a murderer or travel in space to write genre fiction....

Driving Fast Cars And Wearing Fancy Clothes

Romance and glamour go hand in hand and if you intend to write romantic fiction, you need glamorous settings for your stories. Our story is set around the fast-moving background of a television news station. However, the worlds of high fashion, fast cars, thoroughbred horses and sporting champions also feature heavily in this kind of novel. No one wants to read about the love life of a garage mechanic and a secretary. Not, that is, unless the garage mechanic designs and builds revolutionary...

Eating and drinking sensuously

Eating is almost as important as sex in a romantic story. Meals are described in great detail and range from plain but wholesome simple fare to delicately presented gourmet dishes. For example, a romantic ploughman's lunch for two would consist of a fresh, French loaf, deliciously crusty on the outside, the soft, white middle thickly spread with creamy butter. The cheese will be firm and mature, served with a generous helping of tangy, home-made chutney. The whole thing will be washed down with...

Educating young readers

Both non-fiction and storybooks for children offer enormous scope to teach young readers about the world around them. The following is just a taste of what can be covered conservation and ecological issues Bearing in mind the expertise required, the educational book market can be quite difficult to break into. Harcourt Educational Publishers, the UK's leading publisher of educational materials, admits that very few of the hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts they receive each year are accepted....

Examining your motivation

Before you begin to write your life-story, however, it is worth examining exactly what your motives are, so ask yourself the following questions 1. Do I have a fascinating tale to tell 3. Do I need to confront my past in order to move on in my life 4. Do I wish to leave my family a record of my life 5. Do I want to give hope to others 6. Do I want to have my autobiography published

Explaining the inexplicable

Unlike fantasy, which features magical creatures such as goblins and gremlins within parallel worlds and time zones, science fiction explores the concepts and implications of space and time travel, scientific developments and theoretical possibilities. The premise you use need not be proven scientific fact but it must have a factual basis and it must be theoretically possible. Within these constraints, the science fiction writer can approach the genre from a variety of angles exploring the...

Falling for the flaw

The flaw may be physical, perhaps the heroine is a little too short, the hero just an inch or so too tall. Whatever you feel it takes to make them a bit more human than if they were perfectly proportioned. However, a physical flaw, whilst useful, only offers part of the picture. A rounded character will also have an emotional hang-up. Perhaps they are stubborn, proud, impetuous or absent-minded. These are the sort of characteristics that will at first exasperate and subsequently attract one to...

Finding a gap in the market

The majority of successful self-published books are non-fiction and invariably fill a gap in the market. For example, your business may involve travelling around the country but as you work for yourself, your budget may be very tight. Perhaps you have built up a personal directory of B & B establishments offering exceptionally good value for money. So many of your colleagues ask to borrow your directory that you realise it has potential as a saleable commodity. You obtain quotes from local...

Further Reading

Aslib Directory of Information Sources in the UK. 501 Writers' Questions Answered, Nancy Smith, Piatkus. Collins English Dictionary & Thesaurus. Directory of Writers' Circles, available from Oldacre, Hor-derns Park Road, Chapel-en-le-Frith, High Peak, Derbyshire SK23 9SY. Tel (01298) 812305. Email oldacre btinternet.com Encyclopaedia Britannica 2007 Ultimate Reference Suite (PC Mac) CD-Rom. From Pitch to Publication, Everything You Need To Know To Get Your Novel Published, published by...

Giving away the ending

One recurring error that irritates publishers and agents beyond belief is the synopsis which promises wonderful things but finishes with something like 'If you want to know what happens next, you'll have to read the book ' Sadly, they won't. They'll probably just heave a sigh and send your manuscript back in the next available post. Your synopsis is your sales pitch and should contain all your manuscript's strongest points, including details of a satisfactory ending.

Giving yourself permission to write

Due to a common misconception that unless you are a published novelist, you cannot be considered a 'real' writer, novice authors often find it difficult to convince either their nearest and dearest or, indeed, themselves that their desire to write should be taken seriously. However, even the most famous authors had to start somewhere, so don't be put off by outside pressures. Be assured that your writing is more important than cleaning, dusting, gardening or any other similar activity that will...

Going over old ground

The ongoing challenge for programme makers is finding exciting and original storylines and where a long-running soap is concerned, almost everything and anything has already been done. For a script to be considered, you need to be sure that it not only develops existing storylines but also has something fresh to offer a loyal audience. One useful method is to keep abreast of topical issues that can be woven into your scripts. These could be anything from the imminent marriage of a member of the...

Guiding and informing

For would-be travel writers, keen to master what is a highly specialised skill, travel guides such as the Lonely Planet series can be an excellent place to begin. Aimed at the independent, adventurous traveller, these practical guides offer their readers clear, down-to-earth information to support them with their journeys around the globe. At the time of writing, Lonely Planet are looking for authors who can meet the following criteria set out in the guidelines on their website Professional...

Having fun with your hobby

Michael Green is one author who has made a successful career out of the humorous aspect of his hobbies. His Coarse series is required reading for every weekend sailor, rugby player, golfer and amateur actor. With an innate ability to home in on the way the average person will go through hell and high water in the name of their favourite leisure activity, Michael's books keep you laughing from the very first line, as the opening to The Art of Coarse Sailing demonstrates. Every year I swear I...

Heightening Allthe Senses

As we have seen in previous chapters, in order to bring fictional characters to life, it is important to bring all five senses into play. In romantic fiction, these senses are heightened for maximum stimulation. Cars go faster, food tastes better, clothes feel silkier and voices are softer and warmer. Things look better, too. Cars gleam, meals are feasts for the eyes, garments cling in all the right places, hair and eyes shine and flash, skin and muscles are soft or hard to the touch.

Informing the public

Many successful autobiographies do more than tell the author's life-story. They also provide a documentary record ofhistorical incidents and procedures which may have been hidden from the public eye. An autobiography which performs any one of the following functions might well be of interest to an appropriate publisher. Describes a practice which has been concealed from the public, e.g. sending orphanage children to Australia. Details the author's recovery from a potentially life-threatening...

Interacting with one another

In the following extract from the psychological thriller Ladykiller by Martina Cole, a description of serial killer George Markham is given through the eyes of Josephine Denham, a colleague at work 'Mr Markham, have you five minutes to spare ' The voice of Josephine Denham broke into his thoughts. He turned in his seat to see her standing in the doorway, smiling at him. 'Of course, Mrs Denham.' His voice was soft and polite. Josephine Denham turned and walked back to her office. George Markham...

Interruptingummingand aahing

In real life, most people sprinkle their conversations with 'ums' and 'aahs'. They also tend to interrupt the person speaking to them, so that sentences are cut short in mid-flow. If fiction writers were to include this sort of dialogue in their stories, no one would read past the first piece of conversation. In fiction, each character must have their say in their own instantly recognisable voice. In order to produce realistic dialogue, therefore, you have to develop a good ear for listening to...

Joining a writerscircle

Fortunately, help is at hand in the form of writers' circles and websites, conferences, seminars and courses. Your local library should have details of writers' activities in your area and writing organisations will be only too pleased to add your name to their mailing lists. Societies, associations and websites for writers are listed at the end of this book but for some excellent on-the-spot advice, here are some words of wisdom from established writing professionals ' I look for a strong...

Just when you thought it was all over

Depending on the style of the story you are writing, it is sometimes possible to add even more impact to the tale by reviving the monster just long enough for one last attack. The central character has fought and vanquished his foe and is feeling justifiably euphoric. Nothing can harm him now, the town city world is saved and life is rapidly returning to normal. Just when you thought it was all over, however, whatever grisly being is left after our hero has finished with it hauls itself...

Keeping an eye on the media

Perhaps the richest sources of ideas are newspapers, television and radio. Keep your eyes and ears open for the unusual stories and quirky programmes tucked away between the major items. All kinds of things can capture your imagination. For example, a BBC Radio 4 programme about the potentially dull topic of making a will inspired me to write a short story for Bella magazine's 'Mini Mystery' page. The programme highlighted the legal pitfalls facing people who wish to make unusual wills and the...

Killing by accident

Occasionally a victim is killed by accident. They may fall down rickety steps and break their necks, have something heavy fall on them or be locked in the cellar of an empty house. Under these circumstances, they tend to be victims of their own evil plans, having hatched the plot and fallen into their own trap. Occasionally, however, they are innocent, their death leading to untold problems for the character who was instrumental in causing it in the first place. When planning a murder, be...

Laying a false trail

Twisting the tale involves laying a false trail in such a way that any surprise ending is a feasible one. The clues must be double-edged, so that whilst carefully steering the reader in the wrong direction, on closer examination they actually lead to the right one. For example, in our story about Sally Blake, the minute Nick meets Sophie, he appears to be following Route (a) in the chart in Figure 9, ditching Sally in favour of her sister when, in fact, he is actually following Route (b). As...

Letting Off Steam

For the avid newspaper and magazine reader, the temptation to write a learned piece complaining about the state of the nation or the rising price of a pack of frozen peas can be overwhelming. It is tempting to try to emulate controversial comment columns in the hope that a discerning editor will be keen to give pride of place to our words of wisdom. Sadly, this is rarely the case. Comment columns are usually written by staff writers, well-known journalists or political analysts. These are the...

List of illustrations

Suggested format for potted history 34 4. First background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme 39 5. Second background for young, smart anchor-woman for regional news programme 42 6. Map of fictional location 59 7. Plan of obstacles to romance 104 8. Outline for crime novel 122 10. Sample outline for non-fiction book 154 11. Sample chase-up letter 155 12. Sample covering letter 160 13. Sample front sheet 160 14. Suggested headings for...

Losing control

The underlying theme of the scenarios featured above is that of powerlessness. Once a character is trapped in a situation, they must rely heavily on their wits for survival and if they've had those wits frightened out of them, we won't hold out much hope for their chances. Loss of control or free-will is another very powerful theme in ghost and horror stories and includes being under attack from monsters, e.g. werewolves, vampires, zombies etc. being trapped alone with your worst nightmare...

Magazines for writers

The New Writer, POB 60, Cranbrook, KentTN17 2ZR. Tel (01580) 212626. Fax (01580) 212041. Email editor thenewwriter.com Website www.thenewwriter.com Writers Forum, Writers International Ltd., PO Box 3229, Bournemouth BH1 1ZS. Tel (01202) 589828. Fax (01202) 587758. Email editorial writers-forum.com Website www.writers-forum.com Writers' News & Writing Magazine, Fifth Floor, 31-32 Park Row, Leeds LS1 5JD. Tel (0113) 200 2929. Fax (0113) 200 2928. Email derek.hudson writersnews.co.uk Website...

Making up your own location

Making up your own location allows you to design the landscape to suit your own purposes, particularly if it is based on an area with which you are very familiar. It also allows you to deal with any unforeseen hazards constructed in your absence by the town planning department. The odd new road layout, housing or industrial estate can be happily discarded if it obstructs your protagonist's progress or detracts from the planned storyline and if you need to get from A to B in a hurry, you can...

Moving forward in time

It can be surprisingly difficult to move your characters forward from one place and time to the next. For example, when getting them from work to home, unless it is vital to the plot, there is no point in having them walk out of the building, get into their car and giving a blow by blow account of the drive home. Nor is there any need, once they are home, to follow their progress through eating their evening meal, going to bed, then getting up in the morning, leaving the house and driving back...

Offsetting your costs against tax

You can offset the cost of materials such as paper, ink cartridges, postage etc. against tax and, of course, capital expenditure such as PCs, desks and filing cabinets. Keep receipts of everything you purchase and record all your income and expenditure. Suggested formats for recordkeeping are illustrated in Figures 14 and 15. There is a number of useful leaflets available from the Inland Revenue and your tax inspector will be prepared to advise you or you may prefer to engage an accountant....

Paying for prizes

Poets find it especially difficult to find a publishing outlet for their work, so it is not surprising that they can fall victim to unscrupulous advertisers. The prize is publication in an anthology which the so-called 'winners' are invited to purchase for anything from around 12 upwards. Knowing that few writers can resist the opportunity to see their work in print, the competition organisers can be sure of receiving at least one if not more orders from each entrant. The book, if it ever...

Paying for publication

The price for this dubious privilege may start at four figures and can escalate beyond your wildest imagination. Horror stories include tales of people selling their homes and everything they own in order to pay for something that is, as far as the commercial book world is concerned, completely worthless. If you are driven by countless rejections from legitimate publishing houses to investigate the world of the vanity publisher, be aware that 1. their income is derived from being paid to...

Planning your novel

No matter what the genre, you should always draft out a plan or outline which takes the work through from its beginning to its logical end. This helps you to plot both the main theme and any sub-plots or 'back stories' within a flexible framework. As we saw with the plan of obstacles to Sally's romance in Chapter 7, far more is going on than just her love affair with Nick. Each stage of the plot must be set out within the frame of a chapter-by-chapter outline, so that you can see at a glance...

Planting red herrings

Red herrings, unlike twists in the tale, are simply false trails which are designed to lead you down a proverbial blind alley. Each suspect is furnished in turn with an alibi and there is an element of challenge involved whereby the reader is being invited to unravel the mystery. For example, Sally is initially the obvious choice for Mark's murderer but can be eliminated by a helpfully detailed pathologist's report. This leaves us with the standard murder mystery question 'if she didn't kill...

Playing safe

Between the two ends of the scale, the standard guidebook and the one-off adventure, there is an incredibly wide range of topics for the seasoned traveller to write about. Listed below are just a few suggestions travelling throughout pregnancy and with a baby backpackers' guides to a range of countries (series) locations off the beaten track travelling across continents by train bicycle car motorbike etc. With a little imagination and a lot of experience, setting down your travelling tales on...

Plotting And Planning

A plot is simply what happens in a story and plot development depends a great deal on your characterisation. Your characters' reactions to a given situation will have a strong influence on your plot. In a family saga, for example, the story will be centred around one character's relationship with their family and the people they encounter as their tale unfolds. In contrast, crime novels are centred around the solution of the crime so that, whilst it is essential to have a strong protagonist,...

Portraying a multicultural society

Chapter 1 highlighted the importance of writing about what you know, with the proviso that you should not limit yourself purely to your own personal experience. Research plays a vital role in providing background information but research alone is unlikely to adequately equip you with the insight required to create characters from social, sexual, religious or ethnic groups of whom you have only a fleeting knowledge. When you consider that, for some authors, simply attempting to write from the...

Preventing the characters from succeeding

Having created your almost perfect characters and set them against a suitably romantic background, it would be very pleasant to simply sit back and let nature take its course. Sadly, that's the last thing a romantic writer can do. The author's task is to come up with devious ways to prevent the hero and heroine from getting together until the last possible moment. As we have already formed a picture of television newsreader Sally Blake, we can use her as a heroine for our romance. Taking the...

Provoking a reaction

The author leaves us in no doubt that George is most unsavoury and at no time do we feel the slightest bit of sympathy for him. Josephine has, we are sure, every right to dislike him. This impression is reinforced a few lines further on when we see his reaction as Josephine tells him he is to be made redundant. George felt an urge to leap from his chair and slap the supercilious bitch with her painted face, her dyed blonde hair, her fat, wobbling breasts. The dirty stinking slut The dirty whore...

Reading with a writers eye

This book is designed to help you understand how to read with a writer's eye, taking the time to analyse how an author manages to grab your attention and hold it so that you keep on reading through to the end. Your notebook will become a valuable source of reference. Failure to write ideas down can result in you losing them altogether. Committing them to paper helps commit them to memory and stimulate new writing projects. Use the questionnaire in Figure 1 to analyse published examples of your...

Recognising an alien

Aliens, like ghosts, can be hostile or friendly, depending on the tone of the story. Many are humanoid but if they are, they always have one strange characteristic by which they can be identified. Of those that aren't humanoid, hostile aliens tend to be slimy or scaly, whilst friendly ones are usually cuddly and or furry. However, watch out for aliens disguised as earth creatures. These may take the form of insects or small mammals, only revealing their true identity under certain traumatic...

Relating to the right age g roup

Before you attempt to write stories for children, decide which age group you relate to best. Children are as varied in their tastes and interests as adults but whilst there is no limit on the themes you can explore, vocabulary and style is a very different matter. As Margaret Nash, author of many children's books, including the popular 'Class 1' series, explains Plots have to move much faster for children than adults and each chapter should include some particular interest as well as some form...

Seeing your characters in context

Having established that different people have different perceptions, another dimension to characterisation is the context in which your characters are set. Using a TV Presenter from the above list as an example, there are a variety of options open to us, depending on the style, tone and genre of the novel. The character could be a young, attractive ex-sportsman woman, activity gameshow host young anchor-man woman for regional national news programme investigative journalist for consumer...

Seeking reader identification

By now, you may be wondering how such very ordinary, everyday experiences can possibly be relevant to creative writing. Surely writing is all about escapism, original ideas, unusual situations, not about opening a 'Young Saver' bank account Of course, you're right. Originality is a vital ingredient in any piece of writing, fact or fiction, but then so is realism. Without realism, you cannot have reader identification and it is this element that brings your work vividly to life.

Sending letters to editors

The letters page in any publication is an excellent way of letting off steam in print. It can also be a way of earning small amounts of cash or gifts for your writing. If you like the idea of making your voice heard, you stand a better chance of having a letter published if you follow a few simple rules Write clearly and neatly or, if possible, type your letter. Address it to the correct person. Keep it brief and to the point. Make it as topical as possible. Write about something relevant to...

Sending Your Work to a Publisher

Surveys conducted by both the Workers' Educational Association and adult education authorities have shown that over 90 per cent of students enrol on creative writing courses with the intention of learning how to write for publication. Unfortunately, the harsh realities of the publishing world can, for some, come as a terribly cruel shock. Meeting the publisher's requirements Creativity is, of course, a vital ingredient but even the most gifted writer will fail in their bid to achieve...

Setting and Atmosphere

Whenever and wherever your story is set, a thorough knowledge of the period and location about which you are writing is vital. You need to use all the five senses, sight, sound, smell, touch and taste, if you are to convey a feeling of time and place. In the following extract from Susan Moody's novel Husha-Bye, her central character, Harriet, is staying with her grandparents. Opening with the sense of smell and continuing this as an overriding theme throughout the passage, the author skilfully...

Speeding And Slowing The Pace With Vocabulary

Throughout any story, an author has to increase and slow the pace in order to gain the maximum effect. This is achieved by a combination of emotive vocabulary and the length of the words and sentences used. Shortening and lengthening the sentence As a general rule, short words and sentences denote You can also use longer, slower sentences to help build tension as in the following extract from Martina Cole's suspense novel The Ladykiller It was Saturday and George was alone in the house. After...

Standing alone

For short passages, good dialogue will stand alone without any action at all as you can see from the following conversation between a customer and a shop assistant 'I bought this toaster yesterday and it doesn't work properly.' 'I see. What's the problem ' 'It burns the toast.' 'I see. What would you like us to do about it ' 'Give me a replacement of course.' 'I'll have to get clearance from the manager but she's at lunch right now.' 'OK. I'll wait.' There is no problem understanding the...

Standing up for yourself

You may, for example, have been bullied in the past by someone in a position of power, a teacher, employer, parent or spouse. As a result of this experience, bullying behaviour in anyone you encounter will evoke some very strong feelings. These can and should be harnessed and used to great effect by your characters. If you feel strongly about something, so will your characters but unless you believe implicitly that they will react in a certain way, then your portrayal will be unrealistic.

Stopping and starting

You simply stop at the end of one piece of action and start up again at the next. For example She picked up her handbag and walked briskly to the door, 'See you tomorrow then,' she nodded curtly in my direction, 'I'll see myself out.' She arrived promptly at nine the next morning. Once again, there are key phrases that are helpful in moving It wasn't until much later that It was to be years, not days, before they would meet again. Less than an hour had passed...

Striking a balance

Another problem with using a well-known location is that of striking the balance between instant recognition and distracting realism. The following passage details the progress of a character through the City of London. Leaving the Bank of England, Barnaby made his way to St Paul's Cathedral. He followed the route from Threadneedle Street to Cheapside, passing St Mildred's and Grocer's Hall Courts, Old Jewry, Ironmonger Lane and King Street on his right and Bucklersbury, Queen Street, Bow Lane...

Submitting an application to be an author

Tell exactly what you can offer Lonely Planet. Tell about your travel experience. Are you interested in a certain part of the world, or a particular Lonely Planet series Do you have an idea for a brand new book or series Do you want to write a new guidebook or update an existing one New authors are generally given a small project for their first contract and then take on bigger assignments from there.' You will need to send a CV and details of your published...

Submitting userfriendly manuscripts

One of the first questions students on my creative writing courses ask is 'Do I have to type my manuscript ' Handwritten manuscripts are almost always returned unread so, if you want to be published, your manuscript must be typewritten in double-line spacing on one side only of A4-sized white paper. The equipment you use is a matter of personal preference but if you intend writing for mainstream magazines or newspapers on a regular, professional basis, then being user-friendly takes on a whole...

Syndicating your work

Many writers try their luck abroad and a reputable syndication agent can lighten the load considerably. They will sell your manuscript to as many markets as possible all over the world, keep a record of sales and save you both legwork and heavy postage costs. In return, of course, they will take a percentage, so before you hand over your manuscripts, make sure the terms are agreed in advance and in writing. Reputable syndication agencies are listed in The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

Taking a free trip

Magazines use travel articles to inform their readers about holidays which will best suit them, so some of the points that should be included are whether the location is suitable for families whether it is noisy or quiet what sort of nightlife it offers what the food is like, cost and availability places to visit and their accessibility in relation to the resort how to get there - a choice of methods is useful the cost of travel and accommodation - again, a selection should be given. Whilst...

Testing for realism

Whilst stereotyping can be a useful method of characterisation, be aware that different people have different perceptions. If you belong to a writers' circle or class, the following group exercise is a useful one 1. Write a selection of job titles such as teacher, plumber, TV presenter, sculptor, nurse etc, on pieces of paper then distribute them among the group, allocating the same job title to two members at a time, e.g. if there are 8 group members, 2 will have teacher, 2 plumber and so on....

Thinking positively

There is no reason why emotions should be negative. Positive attitudes work every bit as well as negative ones and enthusiasm always comes over in an author's work. It may be a lifestyle, an ideal, a sport or a certain type of person but whatever your passion, you can convey it very effectively through the character you write about and add realistic backgrounds to your stories at the same time. Writing as I do for the women's magazine market, my characters' attitudes and opinions reflect my own...

Travelling light

Travel books are a very different kettle of fish. They range from guidebooks produced by tourist boards to exciting tales of daring-do. The intrepid traveller who crosses deserts, scales mountains and shoots rapids equipped with little more than a change of underwear, a toothbrush and a blunt penknife will clearly have a fascinating tale to tell. It is, however, worth bearing in mind that, more often than not, our canny explorer already has a publishing contract signed and sealed before the toe...

Using slang

Slang dates very quickly so that a contemporary piece of fiction, liberally sprinkled with buzz words from up-to-the-minute speech, will appear quaint and odd in a few years' time. Slang is, however, an invaluable method ofconveying period. For example, can you date the following phrases 1. She thinks she's the cat's pyjamas. 2. Right-on man - that's groovy. The characters' ages play a large part in the use of slang. Different generations have their own slang languages and as we have seen, the...

Visualising Backgrounds

Whether it is a thriller, romance, lifestyle or detective story, your character has to behave in a realistic and believable way. In order to do this, they must be seen to be the sort of person who would opt for the course of action you have in mind for them. In her novel, Hush-a-Bye, author Susan Moody draws vivid word-pictures of her characters, all the while giving hints that their upbringing and backgrounds will have a profound influence on how they will react in the future. In the following...

Wearing Different Clothes And Costumes

The costumes your characters wear do much more than just set the scene. Among other things, they set the age, nationality and occupation of a character give an insight into the character's personality evoke reader identification. To help you relate to the way a character would move and respond in various situations, imagine how you react when you are wearing clothes designed for a specific purpose. If you have ever worn one or more of the following outfits, for example, how did you feel and how...

Weathering the storm

Whether hot, cold, wet or dry, one thing you have to remember is not to overdo climatic conditions. The following passage illustrates this point It had been raining hard for days. Water streamed from the gutters of every roof, pouring down windows, along pavements, running in fast moving rivulets along each road. Underneath the streets, torrents of water gushed and gurgled beneath the feet of the people hurrying along the shiny, wet pavements, pushing and shoving one another in their haste to...

Where Do You Get Your Ideas

Having made the decision to write, the next step is finding something to write about. Watch how people behave in everyday situations, jotting down ideas in your notebook as they occur to you. The next time you go to the supermarket, for example, observe the behaviour of the other customers. Take a few seconds to chat to the checkout girl or the assistant who packs your shopping. Listen not only to the words they say but to how they say them. If you commute to work, use your journey time to...

Whispering sweet nothings

Whilst tender pillow-talk has its place, all the concerns, heartache, soul-searching and nerves that are part and parcel of forming a new relationship must be reflected in the dialogue. If every conversation is dripping with sugary sweet declarations of love, it will not only sound unrealistic but also be utterly boring. In order to convey heightened sexual attraction between two characters, there must be an element of tension in the dialogue. In novelist Patricia Burns' First World War saga,...

Writing About What You Know

As we saw in the previous chapter, one of the first pieces of advice any would-be writer learns is to write about what you know. This can be interpreted as anything from factual articles about a hobby, profession or skill to writing your lifestory. You can be sure that everyone has experience in one area or another that will be of interest to someone else. CASE STUDY VAL EXPRESSES HER OPINIONS Val is a forceful lady in her mid-fifties. She writes clearly and expresses herself well on paper. She...

Writing as an insider

Conversely, inside knowledge is one of the greatest writing strengths you possess. The more you can draw on a background and culture you know inside out for your settings and characters, the more vividly realistic your stories will become. We will be looking at political correctness in the chapter on children's writing but always bear in mind that without depth of personality, your characters will be cliched and cardboard. It is essential, therefore, when building characters, that you can...

Writing Aurally And Visually

Having developed your watching and listening skills, it can nevertheless be quite difficult to set them down on paper. More often than not, a phrase that sounded wonderful in your head looks dull and lifeless when it hits the page. Later in the book, we will be looking at ways of bringing your writing to life and obtaining that vital ingredient, reader identification. You will learn how to stimulate the reader's senses so that they identify with the people being portrayed, see and hear the...

Writing for Children

For many novice writers, the desire to write for children springs from their enjoyment in making up stories for their own offspring. Despite the influence of television and computers, bedtime in a comfortingly large number of families is still synonymous with storytime. Parents still enjoy reading to their children, as they were read to when they were small and will jump at the chance to dig out their old favourites and introduce them to a brand new audience. Sometimes, however, the stories...

Writing For Established Tv Characters

If it is your intention to write scripts for television, opportunities are opening up for people to write episodes ofprime-time soaps and drama series. More often than not, these programmes are team-written and production companies are always on the lookout for fresh talent to come up with new and innovative ideas. In order to stand a chance of being successful, your dialogue must be right for the characters that appear week in and week out on these shows. Therefore, it is vital to choose a...

Writing Picture Books

Picture books present a whole new set of challenges. The pictures may perform a variety of functions, depending on the type of book. They can tell the entire story without any text at all provide an interactive dimension provide an educational element add to the tone (humorous, frightening, exciting etc.) In picture books for the very young, it should be possible for the child to understand what is happening purely from the pictures alone. Moving up in age, the illustrations should complement...

What Is Creative Writing

When I first wrote this book, the term 'creative writer' conjured up an image of the artistic amateur. Few of the students who joined my classes had any idea what creative writing was or understood the workings of the publishing industry. Things have changed dramatically in the intervening years and now, when each new course begins, I find that most of my students are extremely knowledgeable about the business of writing. They will have seen writing competitions featured on television, heard...

Jumping to the wrong conclusion

By drafting a plan of obstacles to the couple's romance, as shown in Figure 7, we can see at a glance how they will fit into the storyline. One of the most effective obstacles is the romantic hero and heroine's unerring talent for jumping to the wrong conclusion, as shown in Frame 5. Sally's relationship with married Mark is rocky. Sally tells Mark they are finished. She meets Nick, a new cameraman. Nick asks her out. She refuses. Mark offers her promotion on condition that she continues their...

Publishing made easy

It is worth noting that the combination of desk-top publishing and the Internet has brought about a major change to the image of self-publishing. Rather than cope with organising the production and marketing of your book yourself, you may be tempted by the many advertisements for self-publishing companies in the writing press and on the Internet. In addition to publishing, the services on offer range from critiquing, editing, design and publicity to marketing and Internet sales through their...

Writing Realistic Dialogue

Dialogue is the bearer of information, plot and characterisation. It performs a number of vital functions for the fiction writer creates conflict, tension and suspense explains what happened in the past conveys the thoughts of the characters. Perhaps most importantly of all, dialogue between your characters brings them to life in a way that no other writing technique can. Until a character speaks, all their thoughts and emotions are portrayed through someone else's eyes, i.e. the narrator's....

Beauty in the eye of the beholder

It is tempting to depict your heroine as exquisitely beautiful -shining hair, immaculate complexion and a figure any woman would die for. Equally, you might initially portray your hero as a picture of masculinity. Tall and handsome, with a head of thick, luxuriant hair and of muscular, athletic build. They both look and sound wonderful, have warm, caring dispositions and to all intents and purposes, are perfect. Too perfect. We ordinary mortals know we haven't a chance with people like this....