Category Archives: Winning

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!

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  • 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!

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  • 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!

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  • 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?

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  • 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!

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

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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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Count your blessings

I saw something on Facebook that said get a glass jar and every time something good happens write it down and fold the paper and put it in the jar. I think this is a wonderful way to think in a positive way and focus the mind to think about good things and not bad ones. I think I could count many blessings every day; that I get to do what I love, that I write lists and do everything on them; that I have the most wonderful friends, a great family, a man who tells me every day how much he loves me. I think we must all think that way.

This week as I look at it in review I have subbed Chutney with a new synopsis; finished an edit and have the report to write today, fitted in three gym classes yesterday, helped someone pass the next level of their PT course by being their guinea pig in a training session the day before, set up a JustGiving page for our gym challenge and met the lady from the charity, got banners, T-shirts and balloons and arranged a visit to the hospice; arranged to see my best mate Sunday as a pre-birthday lunch and plans with a couple of friends for lunch next week. Hopefully my poorly man will be well enough to take me out Saturday but if not then we will have to postpone the birthday celebration until he is well… that will stretch it out, right?

If we can see the good and the positive and not the negative side of life, which we all know is there, we will see that counting our blessings is a wonderful way to live and imagine the joy we will have reading those little notes in that glass jar this time next year.

That is all, have a wonderful weekend everyone… 

jar2

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The Winner Mentality

Since I started going to a gym my life has completely changed, and no doubt for the better.

When I met Malcolm Brown  it changed even more.  As a bodybuilding champion when he was young, and I mean a British Bodybuilding Champion with over twenty wins to get there, this is a whole new world to me and one I am only beginning to understand. He now works as a personal trainer and yoga instructor, but he still helps people (in fact he has trained champions) but he doesn’t compete now.

So when Malcolm was asked to hold a seminar at one of the big gyms he works for in London (Intensity) he was a little apprehensive, having not talked at something like that for many years. I told him how I had spoken a few times now about my writer’s journey and if you’re talking about what you know, it always works, just have a plan to guide you and see where it takes you.

When I give talks, as I will be doing again towards the end of the year to the U3A on Canvey, one of the things I have found is that when you talk about the hard work it takes to achieve the dream, people will always be inspired. We need someone to relate to and whatever your dream, someone who says I NEVER gave up, no matter what, is an inspiration in any field. It’s truly humbling to feel that something you’ve achieved is inspiring to someone else, right? All the more so if those people want to be where you are. And that message rang loud and clear yesterday in London. Malcolm had done what so many people there wanted to do.

We heard Malcolm speak about his own journey to become a winner (I think you become a winner long before you hold the prize, right?) and what an inspiration it was. It doesn’t matter if you appreciate bodybuilding as a sport or not (it’s a lot more scientific than I ever realised!) what stands out is the hard work involved. You have to admire the tenacity and the drive, and what I was so impressed about was what an inspiration he was to all those younger people who stood and listened and watched. Also it’s the real people stuff. There stood a man, who said it as it was. Who said that his sport saved him from trouble because where he grew up in Tilbury wasn’t easy and he is sure if he hadn’t found his sport and known what he wanted from a young age he would have ended up in trouble, prison even. He is a regular guy who lived the dream and proof that anyone can do it. His dream started in a garage with a few weights. He describes himself as a loner on a mission. When home life isn’t all it might be, his escape was his home-made gym. It’s a story of hardship and fight, and his inspiration was an Arnie poster. There is something humbling about that image, right? I see it now, in a film. Maybe there’s a memoir waiting to be told.

In the second part, Malcolm walked us around the gym and demonstrated some of the exercises and there is no doubt that people left with a wealth of new knowledge. In fact as Ben, another very successful champion, said at the end, he is certain what Malcolm did and said has changed the way people will now train.

I was so honoured to be there and see that other side of him. Truly inspirational. So writers, take heed:

  • The winner’s mentality needs to be in place long before you sign that first publishing deal.
  • You have to want to win no matter what and be prepared to focus only on that dream with a focussed and determined mindset.
  • And above all: never give up.

But take heed, and Malcolm has this in spades, be humble. Be prepared to stand up and talk about your journey and where you came from in a way that will inspire and hence drive others with the same dream.  Do it with dignity and heart and share your wisdom. Winners never stop being winners and I was so proud of my man yesterday. We hope to do a similar seminar at one of the other gyms he works at. And anyone who lives close by should come. It’s inspiring.

That is all. Have a wonderful Monday. Choose to be WINNER.

 

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Malcolm Brown EFBB Champion 1987, Intensity Gym, London, May 22 2016

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Inspiring young people

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Not like that, like this…

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In awe of the champion…

 

Check out Malcolm’s Facebook Page if you want to know more or book him for some PT or even a seminar! LINK

 

 

 

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Little boosts to confidence

It can be a very insecure life being a writer, especially before you start to see your work accepted.

But even when you do, if you’re like me you keep moving the goal posts and challenging yourself.

So when you have a new story accepted or published, as happened last week with Open Windows, and a writer who you greatly respect says something really complimentary (someone whose work really sits up there in the short story field) you think, wow. Really? And then you think: phew.

There are so many of us out there trying to get validation with our work, so every little comment or nice review makes a massive difference. Writing is basically something you sit and do alone and so as a writer you do sometimes think: okay great this is really working and other times you think, this is pants. That’s being a writer, that’s also very much part of process. First drafts of anything have those pants moments but the more your chisel and refine your work, you more you come to know when it is working.

Working as an editor also helps and I think one of the things I can see has really developed the more I work with writers, is being able to look at people’s plots and shapes of stories. I think getting up close and finding issues with the plot is fundamental to those big second drafts, and often we just don’t see the issues when we get too close. Story analysis is something I seem to have refined more and more as  a skill to try to help other writers, and to help my own writing of course: it’s the who, why, where, what does the protagonist want, what’s at stake and who or what is standing his way that might sound fundamental but actually make the difference between something really working or it not working as it should. Being able to pin down what’s not working and might be stopping an author getting work accepted is a vital component of my work, so I am also learning and looking for new ways to ensure this is achieved in my editing work.

Getting up close to the nitty-gritty nuts and bolts stuff once we have looked at story shape and character motivation is actually the easier part usually to put right, those clunky phrases, out of context metaphors, clichés, telling etc.

I do care about the process and my clients, so if, as happened recently with a client, it seemed they had not quite grasped something important that I felt was essential for their novel to work, I couldn’t relax until I had I arranged a call to talk about it. I feel as if I am nurturing something very personal and so it has to be right, and handled right. Your stories are after all your babies, right? So come into my world and I will be mindful of that. I think it helps that I am a writer too.

But even when you have a reasonable grasp of all of this, it still can be isolating, so when someone appreciates your work, take the compliment and let it boost your day.

Or week.

Or forever.

Have a great day everyone.

Compliments

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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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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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