Category Archives: Fiction Clinic

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/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Acceptance, Acknowledging who we are and why we write, Back-story, Being a professional editor, being a successful writer, Being a writer, Believe, Change as a function of character, Character Arc, Character development, Character names, Characterisation, Cliches, Conflict, Copy Editing Quick Note Series, Copy Editing Quick Notes, credibility, Critique, Dialogue, Editing, Exposition, Fiction Clinic, Find a Publisher, Find an Agent, Flashback, Flawed characters, Inspiring Others, Learning to be a writer, Literary Fiction, Live your writing dream, Mainstream Fiction, making money from writing, narrative devices, Never Give Up, Novel writing, Passion for life, Passion for writing, Plot, Point of View, principles in writing, Proofing, Publishing, Publishing Contracts, Reach your potential, Reading, Research, Rules in writing, Securing an agent, Self-Publishing, Story, Story Arc, Story Arcs, Story hooks, Story Shape, Story Structure, Structure, Submission, Subplots, Subtext, Succeeding, Success, The Publishing Priocess, thoughts in fiction, Uncategorized

Friday’s Editing Tips [Formatting]

While formatting will be changed for Kindle and the like, it is good practice to get into a submission-ready standardised way of formatting your work as you write. Then change fonts and spacing if required by whoever you are submitting it to but generally most follow the same basic guidelines.

Here are some tips from a handout I like to share:

A Few Simple Tips For Formatting

 

Always check the guidelines for submission with the publisher or agent. Likewise, always check the rules and the submission guidelines when submitting to a competition or anthology. They will have their own in-house styles and rules. However as a rule of thumb the most preferred formatting is:

  • Times New Roman (Ariel sometimes)
  • 12 point
  • Double Spaced (remove extra space between paragraphs)
  • Double speech marks – although some prefer single (some even say if they want straight or curly!)

(Just make sure you are consistent.)

  • Rugged right (justified leaves gaps in the text) and editors usually prefer this as it appears too uniform otherwise. This is using the ‘align left’ tab not the ‘justify’ tab.

 

Paragraphs

The default tabs in Word are usually fine (sometimes they might ask for certain indents but not usually), set for double spacing (sometimes 1.5) and click box – don’t add extra space between paragraphs for the whole document. Start the piece or a new section to the far left, then indent for new paragraphs. Look at books as this will give you the idea:

e.g.

And so it began.

It was the summer of 1974…

 

Use an indent for a new paragraph or speaker (also includes reaction by a speaker so the reader can easily follow the conversation).

If you change scene, extra line space – no indent.

For a large time gap or point of view change also consider using asterisks for a larger scene break.

 

… She never stayed to hear his reaction. She couldn’t watch the man she loved just walk away. Not today. Not ever.

***

Peter drank. Perhaps not always the best answer but today Peter drank to forget.

 

Here we changed point of view. The formatting tells the editor/reader the switch in point of view was intentional. Again look at the way books do it and be consistent in your text. You will find your own style.

 

Dialogue

Always indent when a new person speaks unless it’s after action:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. “What the hell was that?” he said.

Avoid hanging saids like:

Peter stood and looked along the line of bushes. He said,

“What the hell was that?”

(Move it up onto the same line.)

Again look at books. If you’re given another character’s reaction to what a speaker says start like a new paragraph.

e.g.

“It looks nothing like an alien or a lion,” said Joe blushing.

Peter dug his hands into his pockets and shook his head at Joe.

 

Thoughts are sometimes also expressed like dialogue. This is completely unnecessary for a single viewpoint character narrator when it’s clear it’s all his thoughts (so you can also lose expressions like he thought.) But excursions in a third person narrative to direct first person thoughts or with an omniscient third person narrator it is preferable to use italics. These make it clear it’s thoughts and differentiate from dialogue.

e.g.

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound, like a bird maybe. It put him in mind of a parrot screeching but longer notes, more persistent. Whatever it was it wasn’t going away – (all character thought)

It’s going to get me – (switch to first person direct thought).

Rather than:

He heard it again. Only this time followed by a shrill sound. “Maybe it’s a bird,” he thought. “Maybe like a parrot but more persistent.” He stood back. “Whatever it was,” he thought, “it wasn’t going away. It’s going to get me.”

 

If you get into the habit of using the correct formatting it makes it easier when you submit and it also tells the editor you do know about writing – it’s far more professional. It also shows them you know how to follow rules which is essential if they decide to publish you. It’s surprising how many writers don’t read. Read as much as can not only do you then pick up the right way to format but you also see what works best.

 

Also make sure you use things like hyphens (-) to connect words and en dashes (–) to separate clauses and em dashes (—) for interruptions

Also for ellipses do not use three or more full stops control-alt-period (…) not (…).

 

Make sure you follow the guidelines, so if it says no identifying marks, remove your name from headers and footers. If it asks for page numbers at the bottom, insert them in the footer. If it asks for Ariel font, no indents (The Costa Prize does this!) and saved as a PDF, then do exactly as it asks.

 

Make sure you follow the rules of competitions: themes, word counts, previous submissions etc.

 

Have a great weekend everyone!

Ready to write

Leave a comment

Filed under Acceptance, Being a professional editor, being a successful writer, Being a writer, Believe, Copy Editing Quick Notes, Critique, Dialogue, Editing, Fiction Clinic, Live your writing dream, Living the dream, Proofing, Publishing, Reach your potential, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing

The Glorious City of Bath

Winning the Bath Short Story Award (BSSA) this year has to be one of the big highlights. It knocked my socks off to actually win something and with a story  that had some very personal meaning. It seemed other people got it, it resonated on some level and isn’t that what being a writer is all about? So this is a great feeling when you make that connection. Thanks BSSA for choosing Learning to Fly –– read it here! LINK

Jude, one of the BSSA ladies, also wears another hat, that for Writing Events Bath, so when she knew I work with developing writers and my novel was out this month, she invited me to run a workshop on writing a psychological thriller at the wonderful Mr B’s Bookshop. And I love psychological thrillers, and while While No One Was Watching isn’t exactly that, it is kind of and I call it that if I have to pigeon-hole it and of course it uses many of those devices that tap into the psyche. I  grew up reading and being influenced by such books! So I loved putting this workshop together — a pig in literary mud!

And so last week Mum and I did something we never do, we left Dad in charge of the pooch and took a little trip to Bath, and the Hilton Hotel. And what a treat we had!

This time last week in fact we were  getting ready to set off to the station, although sadly it seems like ages ago now! Want to do it again! Want to do it at lots of hotels and places! Anyone else want to hire me? He he …

The hotel, although not quite as aesthetic to look at as the other Bath buildings, is lovely and central and a very short walk to Mr B’s although we did take a rather convoluted route because the girl at the hotel wasn’t sure! But we found it and around the corner at 3,30 we also found Halls and Woodhouse, the cafe where we were kindly treated to afternoon tea by the lovely ladies from BSSA. So nice to finally put faces to names, I met Jude, Anna and Jane and from Writing Events Bath also Alex.

We had a lovely chat about all things writing and enjoyed the delights of an afternoon tea. Then we relaxed on the sofas before it was time to go to Mr B’s ready for the workshop.

 

Writing Events Bath

Jane (BSSA), Debz (some writer apparently) and Jude (BSSA and Writing Events, Bath)

I had not run this particular workshop before, with a specific genre, but as I pointed out good writing is good writing and many of the things we talked about relate to any genre — good characterisation, motivation for action, sharp narrative etc. However I did focus it on what a psychological thriller is, where it fits in the context of other thrillers and the premise of many of these novels. I will do a blog post about this as I think many would find this interesting.

We had a couple of writing exercises, one writing an opening scene or blurb to see if we could capture the essence of a good psychological thriller. And after the break we wrote a scene with tension, after a discussion of narrative devices.

We finished with a Q&A and I even signed copies of my novel, in fact we ran out of books.

People were lovely and many said it had been very helpful 🙂 I hope that what I showed was that it can be done, we can get published if we work at the craft.

I have sat through many workshops and so I did what I thought I would want from a good workshop, it needs to be two-way, interactive and they needed to know I do know what I’m talking about (most of the time!).  So it helps that I work with lots of writers and I know the common errors! And that my novel was published of course!

I had a lovely time! And am so pleased some of the writers that took part have have found me on Twitter and said they’re enjoying the novel and loved the workshop! Phew!

The following day we did a spot of sightseeing in Bath, the tour bus, the Jane Austen Centre and of course some shopping! Although I bought very little.

A nice meal in the hotel that evening, and  then we relaxed in the room.

The following morning at breakfast, who should walk in but Ade Edmondson, who had been performing with his band in Bath that night. I didn’t disturb his breakfast but I was tempted to ask him if he wanted a copy of my book! I didn’t of course!

So here are some pics guys! I wish I was still there now!

 

Bath Abbey (1)

 

 

Bath Abbey (2)

 

That writer person again, who does she think she is?

That writer person again, who does she think she is?

 

Off to talk to the lovely writing group at Canvey Library this afternoon and you can hear me on Sarah Banham’s show on local radio Saint FM from 7pm, here’s the link: SAINT FM

1 Comment

Filed under 50th Anniversary Kennedy Assassination, 50th anniversary of Kennedy Assassination, a book deal, Acceptance, Bath Short Story Award, Being a professional editor, being a successful writer, Being a writer, Believing, Book Launch, Book Launches, Character Arc, Character development, Characterisation, Conflict in fiction, Conspiracy Novels, Conspiracy Theories, Creating fictional worlds, Critique, Dreaming, ebooks, Editing, Fiction Clinic, finally being signed, Flawed characters, Horror, How to edit opening chapters, I Have A Dream ..., ideas, In the Spotlight, Indentity, JFK50, John F Kennedy, Kennedy, Kennedy Assassination, Learning to be a writer, Living the dream, Loss, Love, MA Creative Writing, Mainstream Fiction, Mentoring, Novel writing, Openings, Pace, Parthian Books, Passion for books, Passion for life, Passion for writing, Plot, principles in writing, Psychological Thriller, Publishing, Publishing Contracts, Reach your potential, Reading, Real events that inspire fiction, Recovering from grief, Rules in writing, Story Arc, Story Arcs, Structure, The Publishing Priocess, The Secret, The Writer's Imagination, time to think, Tone, Truth in Fiction, Truth in Fiction Series, Viewpoint exercises, Voice, While No One Was Watching, Winning, Writing, Writing a Psychological Thriller, writing competitions, Writing Events Bath

It’s Friday!

Well in the absence of anything for Fiction Clinic, and since I am getting ready to head off to Hay, I will keep this short and sweet this morning.

The sun is shining and I am hopeful I won’t need the wellies this weekend! But packing them just in case. Rosie has seen her doggy things go into a bag so is laying in front  as if daring me to even try to leave without her!

I’ve been hearing that they’ve got all the young writers there for the Chris Evans Radio 2 short story comp, wish I’d been there to raise more awareness about the Paws Animal Writing Competition — but imagine if we had that many entries. I think I’d need way more judges. Perhaps it’s good it’s not like that. And the good news is our young authors are published. The contracts went out last week and we have a venue booked in London for the launch of Wild n Free Too! So I will share more details on here. The next competition opens in September.

And talking of competitions I can’t wait to see who won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. I’ve read 4 of the stories on the Granta Site and the last one is on there today. These have all been amazing and deserved winners. I could not compete! Do have a read to see how well written all the stories are. Hard to choose a fav!

And have now almost finished reading the 4th of the 5 books for the Book Prize — but still same favourites.

Will report all about Hay and meeting my publisher after the weekend.

So think of me wandering around the Hay site being all bookish and nerdish! Who needs Glastonbury? Definitely not me although I will be rocking to Bon Jovi next weekend — what a mad life it all is!

Have a great weekend all … and we resume In The Spotlight next week too! Still looking for more authors if anyone wants to nominate themselves or someone else!

It's off to Hay we go!

It’s off to Hay we go! HAY site

1 Comment

Filed under a book deal, Acceptance, being a successful writer, Blogging, Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013, Commonwealth Writers, Dreaming, Fiction Clinic, Hay Festival, In the Spotlight, Indentity, Living the dream, Parthian Books, Passion for life, Passion for music, Passion for writing, Publishing, Reading, Wild n Free Book, Winning, Writing, writing competitions

Being student, being teacher … the editing loop

I’ve spoken before about the concept of paying it forward, how I sometimes find myself giving people good news in my roles for BHP, CafeLit and Paws n Claws and so when I am lucky enough to receive good news it almost feels more earned.

This week I find myself in another odd little loop where in the mornings I’m working on the edits of While No One Was Watching and in the afternoons being the editor.

We all need an editor, that’s what I am really passionate about. I guess I am more clued up than some in terms of editing because of my job so indeed there are not too many edits or suggestions, my work is pretty polished, BUT the ones my lovely editor gave me are indeed valid and make sense. It does make a difference, and especially for those starting out. I so wanted this and I am so delighted to have this kind of one on one line by line copy editing. Having given this to others for so long, I love to have it given back.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with many writers and often get lovely feedback. Only this week the biggish publisher I do a lot of work for sent me a lovely response from an author whose MS I recently worked on and he wants me again! It not only makes me feel fab, but it validates what I do. I am a professional editor since I am paid to do this and it’s my job — but I still don’t think of myself as that! I am an author first. What me? A professional editor? Oh yes — me. How’d that happen? (Am I really, though?)

What I’m saying is the editor. just because it’s another set of ‘trained’ eyes sees what you don’t. And like so many books where the author acknowledges their editor for making the book what it is (I love to read the Acknowledgements section) I will be doing the very same thing. God I’m just excited to be in this position. Can you tell?

So maybe my life is hinged very much on this whole paying it forward thing, I help you, you help me — we all help each other.

And that’s the way it should be.

So to end, and talking of helping, next Friday I am off to Hay, but not till lunchtime so I will be holding Fiction Clinic, and so this is the plan — I will only edit one 500 word piece here on-line on my page so it will be the first that comes and send me something you know isn’t working — maybe you don’t know why. I will use the first one I get, and any others can be saved for another time.

Please email them over before Thursday to writer@debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk.

 

Be Happy

Thanks and have an amazing weekend y’all!

1 Comment

Filed under a book deal, Acceptance, Being a professional editor, Editing, Endings, Fiction Clinic, freelancing, ideas, John F Kennedy, Kennedy, Learning to be a writer, Living the dream, Mentoring, Novel writing, Parthian Books, Passion for life, Passion for writing, Paws n Claws Publishing, Psychological Thriller, Publishing, Reading, The Publishing Priocess, time to think, While No One Was Watching, Winning, Writing

Being happy … wherever you are

… it’s not location, it’s a feeling deep inside …

 

Apologies that there is no Fiction Clinic today, what with being away etc but we will have one next month so do send over your 500 word extracts that you think need a little tlc.

I have returned from the parents home after a nice little break, although I still had a full MS to copy-edit while I was there that I managed to get in the post the day before I left. But it was still a restful time.

I have been thinking about my life as a writer and what that really means. I love living in my little county terrace in North Wales and it feels very ‘writerly’ with the lane and my view of the mountains. I wouldn’t say that actually inspires me to write but it certainly feels like a relaxed and lovely way to live.

My decision to move closer to the parents is to be more part of my family and I think it is the right time. I know living in a bungalow on Canvey Island doesn’t have quite the same ambiance or sound to it, but so what?

When you look at my lovely writing life , I realise all I really need is my laptop, a nice quiet room, my furry children for company and to write. So really does it matter where I live so long as it’s peaceful enough and it will be on Canvey in the part I want to live in. What it does mean is I can walk Rosie over at lunch time to see the parents and I think have more of a social life. And I plan to start the Canvey Island Writing Group as I don’t think they have one. That way I will also immerse myself in the literary life … I’m sure even Canvey has that. And I am now going to be only a 45 minute train ride to London so I might be able to attend more literary events there.

Happiness is more a state of mind and while I am really happy to be here, I also know it’s time to start a new chapter. It has taken me a few years since Lee died to finally find real happiness. Some might say if you’re happy stay where you are. But one thing is missing — being closer to family. And so long as I’m writing and I have my cats and dog with me, why wouldn’t I be happy elsewhere? I will be. It’s a given.

And who knows? Once the bestseller comes I can have a home in the countryside as well! Oh and the one in LA that I always told my realtor friend out there, I would have for premiers of movies made from the novels … well a girl will never stop dreaming. But actually so long as it’s the peaceful space, a laptop and a story in my head — I know I will always be happy. Bestseller or not. It’s not about the money and it never was. It’s about being happy. But a bestseller would be nice, because it means your work is getting recognition.

How about you? What are you imagining? What are your dreams?

Happy weekend everyone.

Next stop?

Next stop? Or maybe a bungalow on Canvey Island is enough for now 🙂

3 Comments

Filed under a book deal, Acceptance, Animals, being a successful writer, Fiction Clinic, Indentity, Learning to be a writer, Literary Fiction, Living the dream, Love, Mentoring, Novel writing, Passion for writing, Publishing, Reading, Winning, Writing

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!

1 Comment

Filed under Back-story, being a successful writer, Character Arc, Characterisation, Conflict, Conflict in fiction, Critique, Dialogue, Editing, Exposition, Fiction Clinic, How to edit opening chapters, ideas, In the Spotlight, Indentity, Learning to be a writer, Living the dream, Mainstream Fiction, making money from writing, Mentor, Mentoring, Novel writing, Openings, Pace, Passion for life, Passion for writing, Point of View, principles in writing, Reading, Rules in writing, Setting, Theme, thoughts in fiction, Voice, Writing