Category Archives: Literary Fiction

Short Journeys

I have talked about short stories before and how important they have been to me on this journey to become ‘real writer’… that makes me think of Pinocchio I want to be a real boy… 

I think, all too often, we tend to overlook the short story form, assuming that the real success and I guess therefore the real creativity and even the real money is to be made from the novel that becomes the bestseller that becomes the Hollywood blockbuster… and so on. But short stories have also been made into movies you know. And besides, not all short stories want to grow up to be movies, do they?

I always talk about how I ‘cut my teeth’ as a writer working on the short form, and how important this was for me in terms of developing my style and honing my craft and I have spurts now of still writing short stories and sending them out. When I did that earlier this year I had three successes and two of those placements has resulted in a publication; one of which is now available to pre-order, I was runner-up! So I thought I would share a short extract of that as a teaser with some links…

Thinking in Circles

In order to understand something, we must exist outside it.
We are all made of numbers.
Aged 13, Size 8 shoes, Form 5, the 14.35.
We are all on a journey to somewhere from somewhere else with
our eyes half-closed.
And sometimes we get stuck.

You are standing there. Head tucked down; reminds me of a
penguin. The strap of your big blue school bag cuts across your blazer
and it’s as if there’s a thread attaching your head to your shoes. Not
shiny new shoes. These are scuffed, end of term Clark’s one-size-too-small
shoes; they didn’t buy new shoes. Because of what happened
over the summer.
It’s the thing – the thing no one will want to talk about – but they
will talk about it. They’ll whisper. They’ll pretend they’re not talking
about it.
People say bad news is always better when it happens to
somebody else but even when it happens to somebody else,
sometimes it’s happening to you.
You shuffle last year’s shoes to the front; to the desk you used
last year. And the year before. And the year before that. Soon they’ll
all come in and sit where they always sit and nobody will ask. But
they’ll all know.

They’ll all know because it was in the Echo. It was in the Echo
over the summer. Shock had filled up the kitchen: a line of uttered
Oh Gods.
In the sound you were sure you heard something break.
Not like a snap. Not like an ornament shattering into a million
pieces. Not like that. And not like the jolt of something stopping
suddenly, because that happens all at once. This was like a slow
unpicking along the seams.
It happened because of what happened over the summer. It
happened to your dad when he went quietly mad and your nan had to
move in.
It was in the Echo. Everyone knows. About the thing – not your
dad going quietly mad, or your nan moving in. About the thing. The
thing that happened over the summer.

The train left London at 14.35. The name on the front said
Southend Victoria…

© Debz Hobbs-Wyatt 2017, With Our Eyes Open, Published by Bausse Books October 15 2017

The book is available now for pre-order as an eBook and a paper version will follow in tine for Christmas! I will share the link again!

With Our Eyes Open

Order me…

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When To Delete {Editing Tips}

 

editing

All I can say is: be ruthless when it comes to anything that’s — clunky (awkward), redundant, superfluous, extraneous, clichéd, telling, overdone…

When it comes to having a nice fluidity to your narrative you have to ensure you remove things that simply don’t need to be there, simple! Take them out and if it still works then you are on the right track. Some writers think they have to say it in unique and interesting ways. While, to some extent, that might be true it can, if you work too hard, really feel forced. Then it simply doesn’t work! I have seen some wonderful metaphors and similes lost in a crowd of metaphors and similes! The trick is to use such devices sparingly and in just the right place. This gives them power. Got it?

 

Here are just a few things to ponder… I will talk about filler and the things you can lose from the actual story tomorrow!

  • Description — this is important for allowing the reader to really ‘see inside the moment’, to visualise it as you intended them to, but they don’t need every single detail drawn in for them — just enough and perhaps more importantly to create the right mood, or tone, perhaps, even, to create the right sense of danger if you are leading them to the edge of a cliff face, for example. Sparing, yet vivid wins the day! So it really does come down to how you use your words and which ones. And if in a moment of great tension then whatever you do don’t stop to admire the view, make the description an active part of the movement itself. Look at how other writers do it!

……………………………………………………………………………….

  • Look at things like attributions; the ‘he said/she said’ in dialogue. You will find that a lot of the time you can remove these as long as you can stay with the flow of the conversation. Better to show some body language so we know who said it. And don’t write  ‘they paused’ — create the pause with an action! None of us stop and pause, well not really! Lose adverbs that are redundant if we can see how something is done or said. Lose different words for said when said is just fine (I have talked about this before!) Punchy and sharp!

……………………………………………………………………………….

  • Lose clichés as these are considered to be lazy prose! The tears streamed down the face… ugh! How about she dabbed her cheeks or some other more interesting way to show she was crying!

……………………………………………………………………………….

  • Telling tags: These tell why something is done or said when it’s usually obvious! She stopped the man to ask the time because she was worried she was late. Telling! If we see her rush and ask the time as she rushes we can see it, it’s shown! See what I mean?

……………………………………………………………………………….

  • Lose ‘that’ and ‘very’ and ‘just’: a lot of the time … see some of my deliberate crossings out. Also see the use of italics when I think the word is more functional so I left it in…  The way that he said it made her smile; he was just so angry (more active?); she was very jealous (though better to show this through actions… right?) Also think about some of the adverbs we overuse! Like ‘suddenly‘… So often there is no other way to interpret the action so lose it and just show the action!

……………………………………………………………………………….

  • Pleonasms: nodding the headshrugging the shoulders; thinking in the mind… Where else? Get the idea?!!!

……………………………………………………………………………….

The message here is very simple: if you can lose it, lose it. That way the writing becomes sharper! 🙂 Only repeat expressions or use words that are less functional in a sentence when part of character voice and there is a difference as I will show you later in the week!

Happy Tuesdaying!

5e3d161f9093134762cfbc96928654db--every-tuesday-good-morning-tuesday

 

 

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Being a Writer :)

Logo Leicester Writes

 

Well, it looks set to be a busy second half of the year, with short stories to appear in no less than four new collections!

It starts this weekend when Mum and I will be travelling to Leicester to be part of The Leicester Writes Literary Festival! The winners’ anthology from their competition will be launched tomorrow and if anyone fancies it you can still get tickets! Here’s the link:

Winners’ Anthology Launch

I will be reading from my story We Went There. This is a new one of mine about a woman taking her dad, who suffers from dementia, to a home when she uncovers a secret… is he who she thought he was? Is she? And now she knows what will she do?

As I have so often said, writing does not have to be a lonely experience. But of course, a huge part of it is sitting alone in front of your keyboard tap-tap-tapping away! Successes are something to be celebrated since we all know how hard it is to have them, and so when you get the chance to celebrate them alongside other writers then you must!

I will be in good company with the other writers including winner C G Menon and second place Siobhan Logan, me as a humble third place 🙂 Also joined by highly commended Lynne E Blackwood and worthy runners-up: Karl Quiqley, Jack Wedgebury, Katherine Hetzel, Asha Krishna, Matthew Rhodes, Bev Haddon 🙂

Read what the judges had to say about the stories here: LINK

Judges were: writers Rebecca Burns, Divya Ghelani, Nina Stibbe, and Grace Haddon as well as bookseller, Debbie James.

It is a real honour to be part of this line-up and to have my story published by Dahlia Publishing, and edited by fellow writer and friend: Richard Sheehan. Can’t wait to meet everyone and celebrate our success! The book looks great; I have seen the proof and will read as many of the stories as I can before the event tomorrow!

We set off in the morning (so no Blog tomorrow) and then celebrate tomorrow night at the event, home Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait!

 

Leicster Writes

Do come along if you can… I will blog about it next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

WHOO!

 

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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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Character-driven

One of the key differences between literary and mainstream commercial fiction is in the handling of character. Interestingly my short stories tend to be literary and these are the ones that have won or been short listed in big competitions. My novels; the more ‘thriller-ish’ mysteries tend to be more plot-driven although I have to say I believe so strongly in voice and character, it’s hard to divorce the two.

I realised as I was working on Dotty yesterday how much character plays the central role in this and Chutney; both set in fictitious suburbs of London and both very much about dispelling stereotype. We live in a very cosmopolitan world now and, like it or not, what was British and what might have once defined us as British has changed. We need to embrace that. This is why both stories while with British voices; these come from different cultures. In fact Runner Bean Billy talks about people labelling him as a ‘paki’ at school or ‘Indian’ and he says repeatedly “I am British. I  was born in East London!” George is a Russian immigrant, in fact it’s only Emma who is white ‘typical’ British… except she is less so than both of them!

In Dotty, we meet Giles (so named because there were no other council estate sons with such a posh name and his mum was a fan of the cartoonist) but there is another reason, and he is not as British as his name suggests. He and has not left his home since 1985. While the three main characters are white British, not all of the people on Church Lane are; in fact it is quite a mixed bag. But none of them, I hope, stereotypes. I see our role as writer, or my role anyway, as taking these people and these lives and painting a realistic, funny, sad and insightful look at life now — I hope these books are a reflection of who we are now and how we live now.

I also came to a realisation yesterday that these unconnected novels (apart from both being set in London suburbs) are part of a series of three; the final one being darker but all have a connection of sorts but each an entirely different entity. I often work with writers who write series and of the things I have to remind them of is that the stories must stand alone.

So why this series, which is very different to While No One Was Watching (except that was really about character, right and breaking boundaries in colour)? Well,  it seems important to write about these people. Their lives are playing out in interesting ways begging for their stories to be told… so why not? Let’s hope they find a home with a BIG publisher, eh?  It’s what they’re begging me for: they certainly are characters with strong voices.

Have a great day.

GOOD THINGS

 

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Finding Your Rhythm With the Short Story Form

 

Click to go to website

The pitter patter pitter patter pitter patter is back,  rain dancing on conservatory windows; tapping thoughts gently into my head as I begin another week.

I will be blogging this week about my experiences at the London Short Story Festival which has got all sorts of creative urges, urging. It is no secret my feelings and love of the good short story; a good literary, makes you think, changes something you feel about the world short story. I was treated to plenty of those by some incredible writers on Saturday and I can’t wait to do it again next year. I love this idea of daring to be bold, of using the short story form as a playground for experimenting creatively, something I have always seen it as. For me, it begins with a short story.

Short stories are different things to different people and come in many forms. For me they find a rhythm inside me and once I start writing a new one they grab me and hold me down until I write and rewrite and keep on writing until it is as near to perfection I can find; if perfection is ever truly attainable. But it’s in that search I find my bliss.

After listening to a fabulously talented panel of writers May-Lan Tan , Laura Van den Berg and Jon McGregor talk to the also highly talented Paul McVeigh about the short story and people they read I have more books to buy. It’s like my appetite has suddenly been whetted again and I think I know what my next project after Chutney needs to be, some short stories, possibly getting together a collection. I want to experiment with the form and challenge myself again. And who knows I now want to talk and be a guest at the London Short Story Festival.

I wasn’t a guest but was close to it as we saw the launch of a collection I have a new story in at the event.

It was also wonderful meeting fellow Unthologists as Saturday also saw the release of Unthology 7. These collections are a unique and interesting place to showcase what can be done in the short form. Unthank Books have now published me twice and I fully intend to submit again.

One thing I did listen to with great interest over my day at the festival was the rhythm of language and I heard some writers talk about how they used music for mood as they wrote sometimes. I only ever did this with one story interestingly; one I have yet to write in a form I want but I will. It’s about a woman finding, after all these years, the brother whose hand she let go of when she went to Auschwitz. Music plays a big part in that story because she survived because of her musicality; she played for the officers. In fact I remember having to write a memory of her playing the ‘Radetsky March’ as her best friend plodded past with heavy footsteps to the gas chambers; and she knew she had to keep playing. Keep playing. Don’t stop. Just keep playing. It wasn’t that I listened to that music, my own heart beat made that inside me, no I listened to the score of Harmony, the Manilow musical about the Comedienne Harmonists as Germany drew closer to the holocaust and there are some songs in that that evoke something powerful and enabled me to find that dark place and sustain it as I wrote. I know when I return to that story the music will instantly take me back to that place.

I liked to play in that story with the musicality, which I will revisit. Language has its own rhythm and can be explored in a musical way and I want to do more of that experimentation. When I edit it’s quite hard to explain to people the need to use rhythm but it’s in listening to other great writers, we find that rhythm and I believe that’s where you will find your true voice.

What I find interesting as well as using music as place, is using music for establishing character; I would love to use that device overtly in some form, how characters represent a certain piece of music. I think this is something that can helped deepen characterisation.

Recommendation for today:  Laura Van den Berg. I was so moved by the new story  she read on Saturday I have to try out her collections, and she has just released her first novel.

 

The way

 

Isle

 

Find Me

 

Find on Amazon

 

Tomorrow I am talking more about the short story and differences between America and the UK in how the short story form is used as a platform to debut new writers…

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Opening Windows With The Short Story Form

After some twenty short stories being published in collections since 2008, the biggest feeling of accomplishment came when my debut novel While No One Was Watching was finally published in 2013, nine years and one MA after deciding to be a serious writer. It was  finally something all in my name and the thing I had been working towards. But it would not have happened without the short story. This is why I have a lot to thank it for and why I still write short stories; although fewer now, there are still some out there trying their luck and still ideas I can’t wait to develop.

The short story form for me is this perfect thing; if you get the voice right; deepen the characters enough and capture life in those few words you can shape the story into something that didn’t exist before — and within a relatively short space of time. It’s incredibly satisfying.

I am probably most proud of three short stories (so far including the one I’ve just written, right?) — the first one ever to be good enough to be published in 2008 and that was Jigsaw. I was in the middle of working on a novel (with a lot to learn about writing) when this child’s voice entered my head and I was compelled to write it. I was nothing like anything I’d written before and I was thrilled when Bridge House Publishing (who I didn’t work for back then) chose it and it inspired the cover. What a feeling that was.

A string of success later (and rejections naturally) I wrote something while studying for my MA, but not as an assignment as an experiment in contemporary story-telling and that was The Theory Of Circles, which I have talked about here before. The faceless/genderless voyeur social media obsessed narrator in a story reporting on the goings-on on a crescent in a nameless place; but reading backward the way you scroll blogs. But of course, I had to make certain it still flowed forward for the reader in terms of story. Quite a challenge. I knew conventional publishers and competitions would pass on it but had been seeing a lot about innovative short story publisher Unthank Books. So I targeted them and waited.That wait was rewarded and the story was published in Unthology 3 back in 2012. I was even more thrilled when the publisher nominated the story for the prestigious US Pushcart Prize.

So more short story successes later ( a few short lists and anthology acceptances), between the novel writing and I saw Learning to Fly win the Bath Short Story Award; another young voice, but an important theme, coping with grief but with humour.  This story, with some autobiographical elements, is one I was so proud of — so did the dance when it won! I celebrated that night at a Bon Jovi concert and wow. They even had a tea-party in my honour in Bath (not Bon Jovi!) but the lovely ladies at the Bath Short Story Award.

Of course amongst these stories are some yet to find homes and others that made it onto prestigious short lists that I hope will find homes: namely Mirror Image that I long to adapt into a novel (short listed in the Aeon Prize in 2010) and Chutney that was short listed in the Commonwealth Short Story Prize 2013 and is the current work in progress having been adapted into a novel.

While No One Was Watching as you may also know was adapted from a short story.

So it’s clear how important short story writing has been for me, in three key ways: the first in teaching me how to write, to experiment, to develop and to grow (and you learn faster and get the satisfaction faster with this shorter form). The second  being that some short stories get bigger and inspire development into a novel. And thirdly, the more I write them, it seems the more the ideas fall from the sky. So ideas seem to be around me all the time and some get scribbled on bits of note paper… and when I am between drafts of novels beg to be written. Once I finish Chutney I plan to write a few more.

When I was thinking about moving back to my home town over the past two or three years I wrote ny first short story set on Canvey Island about a group pf friends meeting at Canvey sea wall after the wake of one of their friends, Adam. I called it Open Windows; which has more than one meaning, but the main theme is making the time for people while you still can. Something happened to Adam when he was thirteen and he got stuck. He is the real boy who never grew up.

The story was selected for another Unthank books Unthology and I got to hold a hot off the press copy in my hands yesterday! Don’t you love the smell of fresh ink! This book is officially released on June 20th. There will be copies at the London Short Story Festival Unthology event that I plan to pop along to and say hi to the lovely Ashley and Robin. And its official launch event is June 25th in Norwich where I, and others, will be giving readings.

While this might be something like publication success number 20, or 21 (which is an odd but humbling thing and to lose count!), and it might be that we all strive for that next novel success (and trust me I do) but we must never negate any success, and to be alongside such a calibre of writers in Unthology 7 is indeed a thing to feel very humble about and feel very grateful for. I am immensely proud to be in another of their collections. Thanks for choosing it Unthank Books.

I will post a small excerpt of Open Windows tomorrow.

Wave your banner BIG and PROUD for the short story form, and thank the publishers for keeping the stories out there…

Happy Wednesday folks!

I hope to invite some of the other unthologists onto the blog to talk about their writing and their stories, so watch this space… and there will be photos and a post about the launch of course!

Unthology 7 coverOrder from Amazon, release date June 20…

Yay!

Yay!

 

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