Category Archives: Plot

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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The Day the World Stopped #JFK51

Tomorrow marks the 51st anniversary of that fateful day in Dallas when John F Kennedy was assassinated. Today, the Friday, is the actual day of the week, 12.30pm.

 

kennedy for president buttonjpg

From website: LINK

With the Zapruder tapes, it remains one of, if not THE, most watched and most studied murders captured on film. The very public nature of it and the conjecture that came from it, puts it up there as one of the most iconic moments in history and it sits in the top ten list of conspiracy theories; being labelled THE quintessential conspiracy theory.

Why it captured my imagination the way it did and hence became integral to my novel, I don’t know. It hit me one day what other news stories are overshadowed when something as big as this impacts on our lives. That concept inspired our On This Day short story collection at Bridge House and some later works of mine. And of course is the premise of While No One Was Watching; Eleanor Boone goes missing from the grassy knoll at that exact moment.

I know I have talked about it here before, about the role of fact in fiction, but it continues to fascinate me and I am itching to recapture that sense of time and place, as I did for Lydia and the American civil rights movement when I revisit Colourblind. This was one of my training novels and one I really want to dive back into. I know it has something.

It’s a year on since we marked the 50th anniversary with my big launch event on Canvey, a day I remember so well and so fondly, having already celebrated its release and started to get some great reaction to it with my lovely friends in North Wales as well. And it marked the start of Lydia coming into her own when I started to give readings in her voice.

And a year on, some 60 reviews later (virtually all 5 star or 4 star) and reasonable  sales (not anywhere near the figures reached with the big presses but respectable never the less) I am still plugging away. And I still hold the dream alive that one day While No One Was Watching makes it onto the BIG screen. Keep dreaming they say and I always will. Come on!

I will mark tomorrow in WHSmith in Southend-on-Sea signing books with my stars and stripes bunting and tablecloth and I might even have some candy to share! Please come and see me if you live local and consider a signed novel (£8.99 so less than a tenner!) for a Christmas present! My mission is to outdo my afternoon in Liverpool and again SELL all my books but we have more! Come on Southend –prove you can do it! Help the local lass!

And of course if you can’t make it, I have signed copies for £12 on my website if you are in the UK! It would cost more if shipping elsewhere! http://www.debzhobbs-wyatt.co.uk/Pages/BuySignedCopies.aspx

The book is on Amazon too as you know! So please add it to your lists. And what a pertinent weekend to buy it, right?

Amazon.co.uk: LINK

Amazon.com: LINK

My Goodreads Giveaway finishes Sunday so if you haven’t had a go yet — please do! LINK

I was also in the local paper yesterday so as soon as I have a copy I will also post that here!

Have a lovely weekend.

I will leave you with my book trailer again for those who haven’t seen it, or want to see it again and my poster.

 

Have a peaceful one.

Signing again!

Signing again!

RIP JFK

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Getting to grips with plot

You know of all the novels I’ve written (well 4 of them anyway!) the hardest to get right is the one that was never a short story first, so there is a lesson in there for sure. Isle of Pelicans has had many incarnations from creepy thriller to more literary character based novel (something to do with feedback from an Arvon course!), to something historical  to fast paced psychological thriller and now back to creepy thriller (but still fast paced). I think it’s because there were too many threads to it and all the characters were shouting with hands in the air to be head character — a real game of push and pull inside my head!

This past week has been spent agonising and making notes about what it wants to be and this time I am revisiting it it needs to decide once and for all. I like what I have but it’s too convoluted. So I decided to go back to basics by asking the following:

1. What do I want this novel to say about life?

2. What inspired me in the first place to write this novel?

3. What is the key question the novel poses?

Sounds easy but it wasn’t because it had all become too complex and we find ourselves trapped inside our own writing, bound by rules we created only we don’t see it. So we think ah no but we can’t change that because of this. When we created this so why not ‘uncreate’ it. It’s taking the killing your darlings thing to the nth degree because once we give plot a structure and form and even one that seems to hold together, it becomes much harder to take it apart — but it is true, as I have said here before — deconstruct to reconstruct. And so I did and yesterday I think I see what it needs based on the above three questions.  Sorry Darlings — it’s dog eat dog and maybe my bumbling professor recovering from a breakdown and fretting over rings on wood if you don’t use a coaster just needs to be in a whole other novel.

It’s a weird and wonderful writerly life that’s for sure. And I’M GOING BACK IN …

Isle of Pelicans plot finds new shape

Isle of Pelicans plot finds new shape

 

 

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‘Trying to write a story without structure is like trying to invent an airplane without wings’

Yeah it’s a long title and one I plucked out of a book on writing, to be precise Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brookes. *recommended*

He says that no matter how you get there — be it with lot of plotting or through what arises organically through drafting, and whether you know it and think about it as you write or have  natural instinct for what works, structure is essential. Without it the house falls down or the plane doesn’t fly. And even if the architecture is lavish, akin to great writing, beautiful narrative, without structure you have no story. Right? I’ve said that before.

Like a natural law of the universe.

So let’s see writers if he has something new to say …

If the structure isn’t right, he claims, then you fill find it impossible to sell your work — yeah that’s what he says. He says that while experimental structures are interesting, keep the for the lit class not the novel or screenplay you’re trying to sell!

What he talks about is the adaptation of the three-act structure we see in plays — but it’s what we call the 4-part model, and for those who have worked with me professionally you’re recognise this more like the story arc I provide for those struggling with the plot.

Brookes talks about how every story in the world needs to adhere to this structure or it is doomed to fail and this is what I say about the story arc. It’s the same thing essentially but he visualises it as four boxes — these contain the scenes and what happens  to the hero in each box is the result of evolution in a sense, growing — anticipation — foreplay — sex — climax :to use his more crude analogy.

But what he says that I think is important is that what happens in box 1 in the set-up when we meet the character is developed in box 2 and box 2 needs box 1 and box 3 needs box 2 etc. So it is like a child growing. But what does this mean in real terms?

Box 1: Set-up — establishes everything that will follow. It introduces the protagonist and its single mission is to lay the premise, to foreground the key conflict of the story. And only hint at the antagonism in the plot (what do I keep saying? Don’t burden the set-up with too much back story! Lay the foundations!)

The function of Box 1 is: to set-up the plot by creating stakes, back-story and character empathy, while foreshadowing the oncoming conflict.

While you will most likely have the first inciting incident, this is what will foreground the big major plot point. Brookes warns that establishing the conflict too early does not allow time to establish the back-story. I see this when I critique and while I love it when we start right in the action and this is a device that’s fine, you still need to back-track in places as you will see to explain it and sometimes this device, unless handled with skill does not work as well as it should.

The more we understand and empathise with the hero the more we root and invest our time wanting to go with them on the journey, so you need to set-up, but you also don’t need to overdo the back-story so it’s a balance.

Box 1 ends with the reader now engaged and understanding the hero and takes us to the edge of the threshold, the stakes are now raised to the point of no return. So now we have the first major plot point (not to be confused with the first inciting incident which may coincide or may be part of the set-up) — now the story truly begins.

Got all this?

Have I hooked you? This is what Box 1 does (akin to the first 25% of the story) — have a look at how this can be applied to your own writing or the books you’re reading.

And I will resume with the next part tomorrow!

I will get it next week! Second edition!

I will get it next week! Second edition!

 

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Seeking page-turnability …

One of the things I tell readers I work with is you decide when your reader pauses. You set the pacing.

Creating the kind of book that really grabs has always been one of my missions. There are so many stories and so many novels where I falter, am not as gripped as I ought to be and any excuse to put the book down, go make a coffee can lose your reader. But how do you keep those pages turning and stop that happening?

Clearly you need a good plot, one that keeps moving and this means not overloading it with filler. By this I mean too much back story, complicated sub-plots that do not tie into the main plot, extraneous detail. Readers will see through this and it will turn them off. So this means you have to really tighten your plot so it all feels credible and it moves the story onwards. Anything that can be removed without the main plot tumbling probably can be removed full stop.

It’s the function of the second BIG edit where you address issue sf plot, characters that don’t need to be there, filler etc.

And also think about narrative devices, teasers that end  chapters and have you read the next chapter right away!

The validation comes with the kinds of comments I am getting with reviews about like not being able to put the book down I say a big “PHEW” . You can get there, but you have to be brutal when you edit and tight with your plot and your devices.

Well that’s it for now, have a wonderful day. I am now trying to resolve some plot issues with the current novel… means a lot of note jotting and rocking in my chair … now there’s an image for you … complete with cats too! In fact I am feeling like a real writer! And what a wonderful way to spend the day!

Writer

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It’s beginning to look a lot like a book tour

Well kind of.

I apologise that all my posts have been about me and my book! I will post more writing tips soon.  Not intended as an ego trip — honest!

So I visited the writing group that meet at the library on Canvey Island yesterday and had a lovely chat. I did feel as if I was suddenly important with my special glass and special water! It’s just me — honest! We talked all things writing and books, getting into some technical things about writing narrative and I did a short reading as well. The library is still waiting for their copies of my novel to come in, although Doreen who runs the group had her copy and came to the launch last week. What a lovely group, I love meeting writers!

After that we headed on over to Maldon where I finally got to meet the lovely Sarah Banhan who I’ve been chatting to for ages on Facebook (we met through mutual friends). We met ‘for real’ at Costa and then headed to the Saint FM studio at Plume School where I was an author on Writer’s Block. It was a whole hour of chatting about books and writing and it flew by, as Sarah said it would. Sarah is a writer herself as well as offering mentoring and writing services to writers and businesses. She really puts you at ease, not that I seem to get nervous about these things these days (which surprises me) and it really was just a lovely chat. Lots of mentions of the novel and also my work with Born Free and the nitty-gritty of writing and publishing.

I don’t think I’ve had so many things lined up on the social calendar with leg one being Bangor events, leg two in Essex but now over as tomorrow I head back for the third leg another Bangor tour and then back this way and trying to line up more events here! So exciting! I need to get further afield too so seeing what I can arrange! Well I will be in LA in March of course!

The main thing now for a debut novelist like me is the importance of word of mouth and trying to create a bit of a buzz about this book. So if you loved it, please spread the word and keep those reviews coming!

So as I sort out some admin things that need doing this morning and try to write as well, before tomorrow, I will leave you with am image from the radio studio! Even if I do look like a big fat bloater! Ah well.

No blog tomorrow as I will be getting ready to travel so see you in North Wales on Friday!

On Saint FM Nov 26th 2013

On Saint FM Nov 26th 2013

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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

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