Category Archives: Exposition

Self Editing: Eveything you need to know

I had planned a post at some point similar to this, but when I read the talented Sharon Zink’s page I decided to share it.

Sharon is an amazing writer and I have had her on my blog. She also does the same job as me in that she offers manuscript appraisals; the same level of detail.

So I decided to share this link because it really is a masterclass in writing and everything on here is exactly the kind of thing I say to clients all the time when I assess their manuscripts…

Take heed fellow scribes!

I am now about to write the homecoming chapter on Pelicans… this is exciting, it’s the final chapter when we reveal the last of the missing pieces… and it’s raining so I am loving the sounds of rain on the roof as I write! The morning goes pitter patter… ❤

Have a wonderful day everyone!

http://sharonzink.com/writing-tips/all-first-drafts-are-sht-so-heres-a-masterclass-on-self-editing/

 

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Further thoughts on back story

What is the function of back story?

Were you paying attention last time?

Many might say that it explains the character, that it’s essential to enable the reader to understand why a character is behaving as he is (motivation). Yes absolutely true. But don’t forget, and this is the crucial bit, it  has to be woven seamlessly into the plot in a way that feels as if it’s almost invisible. The reader imbibes back story as they discover character, notice how they react, behave and through the carefully placed memories that motivate or foreshadow key moments.

And here’s my further thought — could it be said that back story isn’t to provide answers — but to provide questions?

There lies the essence of the good hook — right?

Have a great day.

 

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Engage engage engage …

Hope everyone had a great weekend.

I will keep this short and sweet this morning as I have been updating the Paws Website and am pleased to announce that the next Paws Animal Writing Competition for Children is once again open for entries (link at the end of this email).

I was watching something at the weekend where someone was talking about the need to engage. He was in fact talking about radio and segments of time where you need to wholly engage the listener or you lose them.

The same can be applied to your writing. I am always waving my banner for character voice being the key connection you have to your reader. So it’s not you but the character the reader wants to engage with. And so I got to thinking about this whole process of engagement. How many times have you read something and got distracted, laid the book down, gone to make tea? Sometimes this is you, you’re not really in the mood, but if the writing really does have that grip factor and the story is compelling with a burning question the reader has to know the answer to, perhaps tea can wait, that TV show can wait, just let me get to the end of this chapter … etc. You have all been there. So now ask yourself what about that book, that particular one that had you lost in a fictive dream state for hours, what made you like that? What engaged you?

Now it’s hard to say any one thing that does this, right? So how will you know if you  have woven that magic ingredient into your own writing? Indeed  what is this thing you need? Well I think it’s a combination of knowing how to write well so your narrative is strong, exactly the right words in the right place so they flow like velvet. A voice that’s interesting, not generic, quirky, even odd but odd in an intriguing way, characters I want to invest the next few days of my life with (for a novel) and hopefully ones that will stay with me long after I finish the book. So they need to have something at stake I care about. And then page-turnability so tea turns cold on the table, I can’t put it down, marital relations are strained by the one more chapter thing. Right? Not that I want to be responsible for a breakdown in marital harmony — but then again, if it’s because of my book. Why not?!

Engagement is key and the reason why a lot of books fail is down to the weaknesses in the writer in not knowing how to do that. This is why I sometimes talk about narrative devices and technique. And why rejection should fuel the drive to make your work better. Learn what isn’t working. You can learn a lot from your own reading. Look at how scenes and chapters end, and what about that makes you turn to the start of the next chapter, even though you promised your wife one more chapter. I’ll turn out the light at the end of this one, I promise …

You must think about your reader as you write and remember it’s not just about telling a story, it’s how you tell your story, or should I say SHOW your story, because believe me — you film it and create the tension and narrative drive that way, it will start to have that can’t put down yet engagement. And always think active voice, not passive! Telling, too much exposition, clunky phrasing … and they’re making tea or turning out the light. Maybe better for martial harmony — but …

What kind of writer are you?

More tomorrow and if you know children who write, here’s more about the Paws Competition …

 

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What an editor does …

I love getting up close and personal to other people’s writing — but what I love the most is seeing how suggestions and comments are put into practice and when the final version comes back it is so much better. I feel then that my role is justified.

New writers often ask  what to expect from an editor. Do they change your work? What if you don’t agree? Can you keep it your way?

In simple terms, an editor doesn’t just change your work and write a whole other story the way they’d do it! If they do — sack them! They do offer constructive and useful comments. I would change grammar errors where there is a hard and fast rule ,and I would remove run-on or words I feel are redundant but ONLY in track changes so the author can reverse the change if they disagree. And occasionally, if I think it’s the best way to show it, I will change a sentence to demonstrate  a point — see how this sharpens it, for example — a more hands on approach if I think the writer needs that and more often for a critique than a copy-edit. I tend to favour making suggestions — this is overwritten, consider sharpening — and I might suggest what could be better but leave it to them.

By marking your MS and highlighting the weaknesses it really is the best and fastest way to identify weaknesses in style, plot, narrative etc. I had read a great many books on writing but just reading that you need to show not tell and even with examples you can not always see how that applies to your own writing. So you have to let an editor into that personal creative space.

There are various tell-tale signs of the new writer, and we all do this  when we start to write — head hopping mid scene (often because the writer hasn’t even thought about it), telling rather than showing, overwriting using ‘awkward’ or ‘clunky’ phrasing, adding too much back-story and lifting the reader out of the story, overly long descriptive passages that slow the story, too many adverbs especially after dialogue (it’s telling), telling what’s already shown and use of other forms of repetition to drum home a point (tell the reader only once) and using as any different words for said as they can find!

Now these will all be ironed out as you learn and get feedback and new writers who invest in a professional critique will most certainly find this is a short cut to identifying key weaknesses so by the time they start sending work out it’s good.

If it’s good enough to be accepted or publication another editor will be appointed and you need to trust their judgement.

In my opinion there is no room for divas! Luckily for me this is incredibly rare and by this point the writers know the importance of the editorial process and have long since shed their tiara and  learned to take constructive criticism. They will already know that a good editor or critiquer  is worth their weight in gold. Because, and this is very  much my philosophy,  a critique, a copy-edit, even a proof read is a teaching aid and if you get a good editor you will learn. It’s still you writing it — but an editor makes it stronger — and we all need that guidance. At the end of the day it’s about making your writing as good as it can be. And this should be the goal of the writer and the editor and it has to be the goal of the publisher as he needs to sell the book!

So can you argue with the editor? Insist on not changing things? Of course you can — it’s only one opinion but it has to be remembered it’s a professional and experienced opinion (or it should be if you pay for it) and so you need to think carefully about the advice. But if you did something a certain way for good reason and make a good argument an editor will listen to you and wants you to be happy too.

As someone who has straddled both sides of the proverbial fence, even when I wasn’t so sure there was something wrong with something my editor had questioned —  I looked at it very closely and nearly always made some kind of change to remove any trace of ambiguity. I trusted her and she did make great suggestions.

Don’t be a diva!

Have a great weekend all — out shopping for a new tiara!

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Saying too much …

Getting a first draft down is a voyage of discovery. You are learning about your characters and their desires and conflicts as they steer you through the course of their journeys. And so there is a tendency to tell too much, to use too much back story (or exposition) and what you do is not only pause the action, but you lose any intrigue.

When we first meet someone they don’t tend to tell you their whole life story in the first five minutes (well most don’t!). We learn, we make preliminary judgements (often wrong) and we start to work them out. And that’s what you want to do in your writing. Show the reader enough and then build on that slowly. It’s much more enjoyable for the reader that way. And when you do reveal something put as much of it in the subtext as you can, shown through their actions and words, rather than tell us Mr Graham was a quiet sort; probably because his first wife never let him get a word in but now he’s remarried to a quieter woman he seems to be coming out of his shell.  All of this can be shown and woven like an invisible thread through the story.

A lot of the saying too much comes in early drafts and that’s okay if it’s your way of finding your way, getting acquainted with your character. Later you need to take it out and only show what’s needed when it’s needed (and if the above detail about Mr Graham is completely irrelevant because he’s the butcher who we only meet in the story once then not at all!). When you know the characters inside out, that is often enough to allow you to subtly write only the key features that makes a character seem real without the extraneous detail — as I always say if it doesn’t reveal character, move plot or at some level explore theme — lose it! But knowing all the background is still important to allow you to create real characters. Even Mr Graham with his two-minute cameo when the protagonist goes in to buy meat for her boyfriend (even though she’s veggie and has been since she saw a chicken beheaded on the farm she visited one summer with a friend because their family were big on farms and after the son died by choking on a peanut the family really needed a holiday and since it was her best friend whose brother choked on said peanut she wanted to be supportive but has never eaten meat since she saw that headless chicken) PAUSE for breath, where was I? Oh yeah even if Mr Graham only has a cameo you can still splash him with enough colour to  make him seem real without ANY of his back story unless you want to foreground something needed for plot. Got that? Glad someone has! And while my little back story excursion there isn’t as bad as some I see — trust me I do see them!

So get it down in a first draft if you have to, but then lose it.

The more experienced a writer you become, the less you will do this, even in a first draft.

When I see it, okay not as bad as my example, but when I do, it says amateur. Now that’s fine when I am mentoring or critiquing for a client because that’s the point, I’m teaching and learning at the same time (it’s two-way) — but when I see it in submitted work when I have my publisher hat on, I know this writer needs to work more on developing their craft.

It’s okay — we are all somewhere along that learning line. But get it right when you submit if you are hoping to be accepted for publication, that’s all I’m saying.

Right, back to my new short story …

Have a great day all. Still working on some more In The Spotlights for the Autumn … so watch this space. I also saw some more potential covers for the novel yesterday, one I LOVE in particular — all I will say is it’s very bold. Watch this space as I will reveal it here first.

And the same with characters ...

And the same with characters …

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Style, the rhythm of language and handling dialect …

The more we write the more we develop our own style and our own way of doing it. But it stands to reason we are influenced by genre, target audience, writers we admire and so on and it isn’t always easy to sound distinct and individual. I guess  we tend to aim for a style close to writers we greatly admire. But at the same time we want it to be us and maybe even one day someone will be wanting to write like us — imagine that?

But I tend to think a lot of our style comes without paying too much attention to what influences it. I never set out to write like, let’s say Stephen King, only to invade a character’s head  (which he does well) and create a great story that resonates long after your finish reading it. But we are all the result of experience — so I wonder what influences you? And how much of good and bad habits we pick up form what we read.

I remember when my close friend and business partner talked about this once and she said how reading something bad made her worry it would seep into what she was working on so made sure to read something good too. I do know when I have been reading very literary novels I see some of that voice creeping into my work although I know to curb it if it isn’t right for the book.

It’s impossible I guess not to sound like other writers since there are only so many ways to write but it should never be a goal. Write well is what I say and learn all the time to write better. That way you will find your own style and perhaps it is a composite of lots you’ve encountered but then how can it not be?

I used to read a lot of magaziney stories that all seemed to be very samey — perhaps because they were written for the same audience and they always seemed to have the clichéd twist in the tale at the end. While the stories themselves were okay, I knew personally I needed more out of a story and had to write something that was more than this as well. I have encountered many such pieces in my work as an editor but what I always try to show the writer is that just because these stories can have a predictable ending — doesn’t mean they always have to. And just because some of these stories are ridden with clichés and adverbs (pet peeves) doesn’t mean they always have to.  And I know that while I help the writer stay true to their style — I am sure the story is better and more likely to be accepted. Well strike that I know of at least two instances when it was accepted after we worked on it.

Let me tell you an amusing story. A short story of mine was highly commended in  the Frome Writing Competition a couple of years ago. It was a more literary story and certainly not a women’s magazine genre. It had a very distinct first person narrative. But part of the prize is they will send the story to Woman’s Weekly for you. I did suggest to the judge that it wasn’t really suitable for that I was sure. But she sent it anyhow and of course I am not for one second dissing that magazine — no way. I would be thrilled if one of my stories was published to such a wide audience. But what I meant was you have to write to genre and study the market you write for if you want to break into magazines and what I knew was this story just wasn’t right for that.

And a few months later along comes a rejection from Woman’s Weekly saying how much they loved the story but ‘hey presto’ it wasn’t right. But what made me smile was the suggestion I really should keep writing though as I had talent and should study the market and read lots of their stories so I could write something that fits.

I never have. It isn’t really me. Nothing wrong with the market and I am friends with a number of writers that write for this market and write well I might add. It just isn’t me.

But it did make me think about what we write and why we write and this idea that I often to say to writers I work with, about slipping outside of your comfort zone once in a while. I didn’t and don’t write the kind of stories for these magazines and so won’t really be doing so, but I do advocate experimenting.

By this I mean trying different genres, different voices, perhaps writing a pacey first person monologue with dialect. Now dialect is another one we often get wrong. Ever read a story where the dialect makes it hard to work out what the person is saying? And then left out of character thoughts like it’s only their voice when they speak and not when they think? Me too. Voice for a character narrator is there the whole time for one thing. But more than that — it’s not so much about the dialect but the rhythm of language.

I have a number of stories that use a northern accent, and one in particular that uses a scouse accent because I lived in Liverpool for ten years and  Lee was from Liverpool — so I would say I know it well. But when it  comes to giving readings what I needed to do was not try to put on a scouse accent and fail but capture (I hope!) the rhythm, the feel of it, the way the accent works but without overdoing dialect that makes it hard to read. And my Rats in the Attic story that won Sunpenny Press had a Manchester accent. I think there is art to getting this right and I urge you all to play with the rhythm of language and listen to the way people say things.

I will return to this subject again no doubt, because I thought it might be interesting to discuss the idea of me, a while Essex girl (hell did I admit that!) writing in the head and thoughts of an African American from Dallas. This is exactly what I had to do in While No One Was Watching. I did a lot of research into the African American Vernacular (AAV) and one of the things I have asked my editor is if it’s now overdone. That said I worked closely with an editor at one of the big agents who ‘almost’ signed me who looked closely at this — and she was American but not African American or from Texas. Perhaps this was writing outside of my comfort zone but oddly it didn’t feel that way. Lydia Collins my larger than life psychic just seemed to talk to me … want to hear her … let me see …

Oh maybe at the end to finish the week — tease ain’t I (see she’s invading my thoughts already!).

But given I will be doing readings and my characters are American and she is very distinct — more so than the other narrator, I got to worrying about how to read it without trying to fake an American accent. And since I plan to also have a book signing in LA in March this British girl could make a mess of it in front of my American friends. But perhaps I realised it’s not about trying to be American but in trying to capture the essence of the lingo, the rhythm, much the same way I have with the scouse accent. It’s in what words are used and how questions are asked and in the AAV double negatives etc. But I think this is interesting to talk about.

In this month’s Mslexia,  I read with interest an article about white writers writing black characters. This was more about was it really the white writer’s story to tell. Here they refer to books like  The Help. On an aside this was recommended by the agent mentioned above when I looked at the AAV in my novel — and I loved the book. The only thing about that dialect was it was a generation back from my character so the “I gone get you a fork Missy,” is a little stronger than my character who might say “I gonna get you a fork, Missy.” And in fact  I did use the former when my character quoted her parents. See how much hard work I had to make for myself! LOVE it though. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes — The Help.  I think so long as you do your research and you’re true to the real characters why shouldn’t a white girl write in the head of and tell the story of a black girl or man for that matter. Same way why shouldn’t a black girl write a white man. Is it that different to playing with writing children’s voices, old people’s voices, animal’s voices, changing gender for a voice. I think it’s about good research and good writing. But what do you think?

And part of that is getting the voice right. For me voice is everything and above all it’s what connects you to your reader and makes them become that person.

So I will leave you with Lydia — the first sneak inside one of my characters in While No One Was Watching.

 

This comes when the psychic first meets our reluctant doubting reporter … and previously Lydia talks about knowing something would happen before Kennedy was shot …

 

The reporter, he’s half way towards the door when he stops and turns back. I see the waiter behind the bar look over, like he suddenly thinks the skinny white guy is gonna have a show-down with the big black woman. And he don’t know if he wants to stop it or watch it.

         “I’m right ain’t I? She disappeared and no one saw,” I say.

          “Excuse me?”

          “But I see it now.”

            He wants to walk towards me but he don’t, he stands there next to his son who can’t take his eyes off me. “No one saw because they all lookin’ at something else, right?”

          For a second I see Momma. I was standin’ the kitchen when the cup fell clean out of my hands and smashed into a million pieces on the kitchen tiles. That’s when I knew. My scream woke baby Jimmy. “I told you somethin’ was gonna happen Momma,” I told her. She never said nothin’. Never shouted, never scolded, she just got that brush and cleaned it up while Jimmy cried in the bedroom and I just stood there and watched.

         “It’s happened Momma,” I said.

          She might have said nothin’ but I know she knew it too.

         It was later we heard it official. Henry was the one who told us. Henry who was a whole month older than me and a whole year dumber. Sweet sixteen but nothin’ sweet about him. He came knockin’ on that front door so hard I thought he was gonna knock it right off its hinges. Henry’s momma was workin’ up at the Stamford’s house when she saw it. They were folks that had a TV.

       “The President’s been shot!” Henry said. “Lydia! Kennedy’s been shot.”

          I told them somethin’ bad was gonna happen.

         

“The day the President was shot,” I say and I pick out a couple of quarters and root for more, feeling the stare of that reporter and his son burnin’. But when I look up all I see is the door swingin’ closed. But as it does, I see the boy, he standin’ there with his mouth wide open.

          They gonna call. They gonna call ‘cause they got the cur-i-o-sity, see. We all got it now.

©Debz Hobbs-Wyatt Parthian Books 2013

Have you?

Happy Weekend! 🙂

 

 

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Fiction Clinic … getting up close and personal to a writer’s work …

It’s been a while since we had the clinic so I need to ask people to shout about it more, as I think this exercise is helpful for the writer of the work and those that read it … or that’s certainly the intention.

So this week we have an offering from Susan, a successful short story writer and regularly comments on my Blog. Thanks Susan … and also for allowing your work to be dissected in the public eye. And remember, we all need that other eye to look at our work, and we all make the same kinds of mistakes.

So this is what she submitted:

CHAPTER 1
Magdalene meets Timothy.

From the bushes, Timothy watched the short stocky lady with orange spiky hair. The burns stung his arms through his thin wooly jumper. He’d heard stories of a gypsy witch who lived up on the heath; now he saw for himself. Today was the day he’d run away. Even if he got into trouble, it wouldn’t be as bad as living with the Chorley’s.

The moonlight shone over the smoldering campfire and a barn- owl hooted overhead. Timothy was scared but excited at the same time. She was doing a dance and reciting poetry. The words were muffled, he leaned an inch closer.
“Aarghh, oowwch, help!”
Timothy shouted as he fell headlong into the nettles and brambles.

“What the heck?” Magdalene, startled by Timothy’s ungainly entrance marched across to where he lay buried among the thorny bushes. “You were spying?”
“No, I was just passing, I fell.”
“Just passing through a hedge?”
Timothy lifted his sleeve up to check the scratches. That’s when Magdalene noticed the blotches covering his lower arms.

“What happened to your arm?”
“Nuthink, don’t be nosey, you old witch.” He scrambled to his feet, but they were tangled so badly, he fell back down again.
“You fell through the hedge spying on me. I was doing an important spell. It’s ruined now.”
Timothy kicked at the shrubbery that was entangled around his ankles.
“Magic, do me some magic then, and get rid of two scabby foster parents who treat me like a servant.”

“You could tell me about it?” She gestured for Timothy to come and sit by the fire in her camp.
“Not really. Nobody believes me. They’re the foster parents from hell. They cover it all up, and tell people I’m a boy with special needs, only I’m not.”
Timothy eyed Magdalene with suspicion.
“Come and have some chicken casserole, it’s warmer by the fire. You should clean those cuts. The burns look painful. What happened?”
“I already told you, either him or her, depends what they want me to do. If I don’t do it straight away, or the way they want it doing they stub their cigs on my arms. I‘m not going back there, so don‘t bother trying to talk me into it.”
“No, I won’t.” Magdalene sat on her chair, and lit her white clay pipe. She puffed on the liquorice tobacco in silence.

Magdalene lived in the woods at the top of the heath in the village of Mullsey. She’d used money from the sale of her house to buy a colorful gypsy wagon. It was green, with red and yellow windows.

It hadn’t taken long to find and purchase the wagon. She knew exactly where she wanted to park it. Farmer Harry Denning had taken some convincing, but a few pints in the Flying Horse had sealed the deal. Now he’d got a resident gypsy lady complete with wagon and Brandy Snap the horse as his neighbour.

Lets look at this more closely. The opening does start right in the action with a vivid image of a woman with ‘spikey red hair’ and the sense that Timothy is the watcher. We also learn in the opening paragraph that there’s some kind of mystery, gypsies and that he has run away. So we establish the conflict earlier. and we know what this is going to be about. Good. But this could benefit from some sharpening — especially as this is your hook, and perhaps think of a really intriguing opening line. Have a think on that, one that encompasses the first scene, and the sense of voyeurism. Create  more atmosphere.

At first I wasn’t sure about the line about the burns — but I assume this is deliberately to intrigue? What burns? And there is a sense it might be from the nettles but maybe not … so it is a hook but perhaps later consider having him pull his sleeve down over his arms, or something that signals to the reader this is something more than nettle burns.

Careful with apostrophe ‘Chorley’s’ … Chorleys?

Let’s look at the next paragraph … the scene setting. Good use of fire and moonlight, the owl, you could have added more tension here, where is this place? Can you scene set more as part of the action … but this is the line that lets it down: Timothy was scared but excited at the same time. She was doing a dance and reciting poetry.

Timothy was excited is telling, so try to show him, we have no sense of his age, we assume a child but show how he crouches perhaps, hands bunched, shaking even, breathing hard … create a visual sense of him for the reader that ‘shows’ his fear without telling the reader directly — film it rather than report it. And here we see how it’s easy to confuse with pronouns … you tell us Timothy is scared and then go to she was doing a dance. It might even suggest he is a she. So use this opportunity to show ‘her’ — how is she dancing? ‘Doing a dance’ is very vague and the reader could imagine anything from a river dance to hip hop!  So show it. And rather than say she was reciting poetry, maybe let the reader hear some of what she says?

We have the dialogue next, this can all be on one line …

“Aarghh, oowwch, help!” Timothy shouted as he fell headlong into the nettles and brambles.

Now we have the interaction

“What the heck?” Magdalene, startled by Timothy’s ungainly entrance marched across to where he lay buried among the thorny bushes. “You were spying?”
“No, I was just passing, I fell.”
“Just passing through a hedge?”
Timothy lifted his sleeve up to check the scratches. That’s when Magdalene noticed the blotches covering his lower arms.

Careful with the line Magdalene, startled by Timothy’s ungainly entrance. First of all remember this is in Timothy’s viewpoint as the viewpoint narrator and this sounds like we’ve slipped into her head, same with her seeing his arms — to him she would seem to have noticed the blotches so he reacts? Pulls at his sleeve perhaps? You also you tell the reader she’s startled and since we just saw the action do we need this? Just show her reaction to him, as he sees it. And now we use her name, does he know her name? Remember it’s him narrating? The line that works best for me here is “Just passing through a hedge?” I like the humour of that. And I like the intrigue of the marks on his arm … not just from the nettles.

Take the next section:

What happened to your arm?”
“Nuthink, don’t be nosey, you old witch.” Good we get his voice here.

He scrambled to his feet, but they were tangled so badly, he fell back down again.  Show this more, how did he fall, how did it feel? As if someone thing clasping onto his ankles?

“You fell through the hedge spying on me. I was doing an important spell. It’s ruined now.”
Timothy kicked at the shrubbery that was entangled around his ankles.  This repeats what we know about his ankles so either lose it to try to show it in a different way.

“Magic, do me some magic then, and get rid of two scabby foster parents who treat me like a servant.” This is intriguing. This is now showing why he ran away.

Moving on …

“You could tell me about it?” She gestured for Timothy to come and sit by the fire in her camp. Show her, how did she? What does the camp look like?
“Not really. Nobody believes me. They’re the foster parents from hell. They cover it all up, and tell people I’m a boy with special needs, only I’m not.”
Timothy eyed Magdalene with suspicion. This is an external expression so it feels like a viewpoint slip, how does he know his look is suspicious? Maybe show more of how he feels?
“Come and have some chicken casserole, it’s warmer by the fire. You should clean those cuts. The burns look painful. What happened?” Good she asked the pertinent question

“I already told you, either him or her, depends what they want me to do. If I don’t do it straight away, or the way they want it doing they stub their cigs on my arms. I‘m not going back there, so don‘t bother trying to talk me into it.” Might he be more reluctant to tell his secret, perhaps we need to see that in his body language?
“No, I won’t.” Magdalene sat on her chair, and lit her white clay pipe. She puffed on the liquorice tobacco in silence. Remember viewpoint — how does he know it’s liquorice?

 Magdalene lived in the woods at the top of the heath in the village of Mullsey. She’d used money from the sale of her house to buy a colorful gypsy wagon. It was green, with red and yellow windows.  have we changed viewpoint?

It hadn’t taken long to find and purchase the wagon. She knew exactly where she wanted to park it. Farmer Harry Denning had taken some convincing, but a few pints in the Flying Horse had sealed the deal. Now he’d got a resident gypsy lady complete with wagon and Brandy Snap the horse as his neighbour.

 This last part lifts the reader right out of the action at the point the boy reveals his secret. This is one of the problems of how you use back story or exposition. This detail would be better drip fed into the action. Do we need to know all of this?

Okay so it looks like I have really teased this apart and some of my suggestions might be me making you think, question, you might not agree with them all. But see how you need to really make the opening sharp, avoid telling, create more of a sense of place, show me her through her actions so I get a better sense of her. And make sure you are clear who is telling the story. We tend to avoid the omniscient narrator and focus action through the mind of a viewpoint character as this engages the most. So is this Timothy telling the story of her. See how we head hop in the scene and you really want to avoid that. And be careful with how you use back story. If Timothy is more reluctant to reveal this secret about his abuse, shown through his body language, it will make it more of a secret. he tells her very quickly. And since you tell us he is scared of her, what motivates this action to confide so willingly?

Now it might seem as if I am being really strict here — no, I see what you want this scene to do and there is a big premise for the story that will follow, but you can do a lot more with it by thinking about some of these questions …

I hope this has helped and I hope it’s raised some points that might be relevant to all of you.

Do be brave and send something for next month. I think keeping it at one is better so if I get a few I will choose one …

What do you mean I need to lose the commas?!!

What do you mean I need to lose the commas?!!

The clinic reopens on Friday April 26th

How brave are you?

It can be anon if you prefer!

HAPPY EASTER ONE AND ALL!

I WILL RETURN WITH IN THE SPOTLIGHT WITH THE FAMOUS ALAN GIBBONS ON TUESDAY!

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