Linda’s Blog for July

So, we’ve reached the halfway point of the year – where have all those months gone? Lockdown, rules, regulations and restrictions have probably taken care of most of them and only now are we beginning to venture out, meeting old friends, gradually getting back into old routines. So, I’m going to suggest, that now is a good time for reflection and experimentation.

Did you make some Writing Resolutions back in January? If so, take a look at them now and see how you have got on. Important point here: do not judge yourself too harshly if you haven’t been able to complete some of them. The past six months have been difficult, for so many reasons. But, having had a look at the ones you set six months ago, set some more now – for the next six months.

You can, of course, set yourself the same Resolutions, the same writing targets as before. But I’m going to suggest that it would be a good idea to come up with some completely NEW targets, perhaps some that may be a little surprising or unusual or “definitely not me”!

I’ve just started a six-week course on Writing a Psychological Thriller. It’s being run by Curtis Brown, the Literary Agents. I’d never really thought of writing a psychological thriller before, as I always thought my interests lay with historical fiction. But I’ve always enjoyed reading thrillers. So, when I saw this course on offer, I thought, “Why not?”

So far, I’m really pleased. The course is interesting, challenging and friendly. There’s plenty to read each week, plus videos from the main course leader (a well-known published writer of the genre), plus exercises to do, some of which are posted in a forum for comments from the other participants.

At this stage, I don’t know if I shall write a psychological thriller. But learning something new about writing, plus the discipline of weekly reading and writing, plus giving and receiving feedback are all things I welcome and which I happily recommend for all writers. We must not allow our craft to stagnate.

So, a few ideas:

  1. There are quite a number of free Author Talks on Zoom. Even the ones emanating from the US are at reasonable times over here in Europe and the UK. And my local bookshop has kept up with an impressive number of their popular talks on Zoom.
  2. Various organisations run completely Free Courses, such as the Open University and Udemy. And watch out for free courses run by Literary Agencies – well worth the time.
  3. If you don’t usually, enter a Competition or two.
  4. Try reading a novel that is of a completely different genre to your usual choices.
  5. Again, if it’s not usually your thing, try writing a poem or daily haiku.

My final suggestion this month is to try something you haven’t done before – and I’m not talking about writing. Try something completely and utterly new: it could be a sport, a new walking route, inviting friends in for a coffee morning in the garden, joining a club, volunteering, or taking up a new craft. Last weekend, I went on a one-day Leather Workshop, quite probably influenced by that lovely lady on The Repair Shop. If you’d like to read more about my most enjoyable day, making this bag, click here.

Another new experience: I recently bought a lawnmower – not the most exciting of purchases! When it arrived, it was clear that it had to be assembled – something I wasn’t expecting. It took me two hours, in the sun, to put this thing together and four times I so nearly got on the phone to ask for help. I did it, in the end, on my own. Now I have a lovely and lovingly mown lawn, all of my own making. Who knows? The experience may even work its way into a psychological thriller!

This month’s Workshop is on the subject of the UNRELIABLE NARRATOR. Go to the menu at the top of the page.

I shall be taking a bit of a summer break now, planning to be back here on October 1st.

Have a good summer.

Happy Writing.

Linda

Linda’s Blog for June

A writing thought came to me as I was gardening a couple of weeks ago. It probably happens to you too, or when you’re out for a walk, or washing up, or hoovering. Your physical self is engaged in an easy, repetitive activity, leaving your mind free to wander.

My gardening thought was: “Why do I always start weeding a particular flower bed in the same corner every time?”

One answer I came up with was that it’s the bit nearest the house so that anyone looking out – mostly me – can see that I’ve done some weeding! Then, a few days later, (because of the rain and not being in a weeding mood) I go back to do some more, notice that the first cleared bit has a few new weeds in it and start there – again!

The writing equivalent? Well, that’s something that I’ve heard a lot of writers suffer from – rewriting and rewriting and rewriting the opening to a story.

Please feel free to blame me! I know I’ve written about how important the opening of your story is: protagonist, problem, in media res, no backstory etc etc. So, the inclination is to try and get that opening as perfect as possible.

Don’t!

Agonising over the first few sentences is not worth the effort – at this stage. Get the rest of the story written and then come back to the beginning. You might well find that you need to change it anyway, because of how the story has panned out, so all the agonising would be time wasted!

With novels, it’s often only once you have finished the story that you can really identify what needs to go in the first chapter. I’ve heard tales of writers being told by agents or editors “Your story really starts at Chapter 4”! Not what you want to hear if you’ve been slaving over those first three chapters!

How to start your story is something you can mull over whenever you have a few spare minutes: in a queue, on a journey, on a walk, on waking up, in the bath. Just make sure you are either very good at remembering what you’ve just thought of, or you have a notebook or recording app close at hand!

Thank you to everyone who’s bought my book A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction.  I haven’t been able to do much personal publicity in the past few weeks but, as pandemic restrictions are lifted, I’m hoping to get out and about a bit more.

Thank you, too, to those of you who’ve written to say how useful you are finding the book. Could I ask a favour, please? If you could add your comments to the Amazon page, it would be really helpful. Thank you.

I’ve been working on the follow-up book. I haven’t got a title as yet (suggestions are welcome) and I hope that will be published later this year.

Last month’s Workshop on Deep Point of View generated the most comments I’ve had on any of my recent workshops – thank you. It’s always pleasing, of course, when you receive positive feedback but, more importantly, it tells me I’m choosing writing topics that are proving useful. One writer has requested a workshop on Endings – so that’s the topic this month. Click here. And there’s a quiz, too, this month, on famous book endings. Click here.

Happy writing!

Linda

Linda’s blog for May

Thank you to the writers who have joined in the workshops over the past three months. I hope they’ve been useful. There’s a new one on the Workshop page (click here), so please have a go and send in one of the exercises.

One of the things I’ve noticed recently is how much we rely or used to rely on facial expressions. With masks on, it’s so different! I find myself smiling behind my mask and then realising that whoever I’m speaking to can’t see the smile. If you’re having a conversation, then the context will probably indicate a smile. And it’s so true that you can smile through your eyes – they seem to crease up and twinkle when you smile. Have you noticed?

But quick, casual smiles are lost. I bumped, not hard, into someone else’s trolley in the supermarket this week. I immediately said sorry and smiled but it clearly didn’t get through because I got a “watch where you’re going” retort! If he’d seen me smile, I think that would have softened the very gentle blow!

Obviously the best medium for facial expressions is on film. Some actors are quite brilliant at not having to say anything as it’s all on their face. As writers, we have to describe the look. So, next time you’re writing dialogue, pause, and have a think. Does your character need to speak? Or can their words be better illustrated through their facial expression? Show not tell.

Here’s a link to a post that shows how to read faces even with masks on. I didn’t do too well on the quiz but the illustrations of emotions behind masks are quite interesting.

And just a reminder that my book A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction is available. Click here.

I’ll be back at the beginning of June with another blog and maybe a workshop too. In the meantime, I hope you can enjoy the sunny weather and the gradual relaxation of Covid rules.

Happy writing!

Linda

Photo by Courtney Coles on Unsplash

Linda’s April blog

Last month, one of my writing prompts was The End is in Sight. And I hope that we may be getting back to something like our “normal” lives in the next few months. Spring is definitely on the way, which helps. I enjoyed a lovely walk along the local canal recently and I came across an intriguing bystander: you’ll find the picture on the Prompts page – there are stories there, I know!

I received three stories this week in response to my Time workshop last month. If you’d like to comment on any of them, please do send me an email.

This month’s Workshop looks at an advanced writing technique known as Deep Point of View. You have to really get to know your main character and then make sure your reader gets close to them too. Click here for the Workshop.

My book A Beginner’s Guide to Writing Fiction has been on sale for a few weeks now and I’ve received some good feedback. But I’m just as happy to hear if you feel I’m missing anything, or you just don’t agree with me! Discussion is always good!
A writing friend suggested that a ring-bound copy would be useful as she likes to have it open on her desk while she’s writing – and it’s easier to keep a ring-bound book open. So true! Details here.

At the beginning of the year, I said I’d try three Workshops and then have a break. So next month, there’ll be a blog and prompts and more if I have the time. I really would like to hear from you so please drop me an email letsgetwriting@aol.com

Happy Writing

Linda

Linda’s blog for March

Welcome back and welcome to the second of the three workshops I’ve planned to get you back into writing in 2021.

  • Thank you to all those who have written to tell me that last month’s workshop on Setting and the prompts helped in getting them going again.
  • I’ve had several writers send in their writing for me to look at. I loved reading their stories – both inspired by prompts from the workshop. You’ll find them on the new page on this website Your Stories.
  • If you are used to attending a class, then the workshops should get you back into a routine.
  • You don’t have to write about any of the topics I’ve set: if you’re inspired with another idea, then that’s great. It’s GETTING WRITING again that counts.

The topic I’ve chosen for this month’s workshop is TIME.

Click here to go to the Workshop 2 page.

Of course, the big news this month for me is that my book A Beginners Guide to Writing Fiction has now been published on Amazon. A huge Thank you to my beta-readers (B, J, M & C) who read and proof-read the book for me and gave me their thoughts on covers.

Click here.

A lesson in Zooming

Probably like many of you during the recent lockdowns, I took the opportunity of signing up for a writing lesson on Zoom. It was free, run by a recognised writing website and, luckily, at a time that suited both English and American audiences.

When the meeting started, there were 500+ participants: within fifteen minutes, that was up to 1200. We, the audience, were not seen and not heard (thank goodness!) but we could add comments in a box that everyone could see.

The speaker was a young, personable lady who clearly knew what she was talking about, her words supplemented by a series of slides containing bullet points of her script.

There were two problems, as far as I was concerned:

  1. She spoke far too quickly. Now, I know (and you probably do too) that I am getting on a bit. But even allowing for that, I felt that she galloped through her script, not allowing nearly enough time for her information to be either absorbed or taken down in notes. And she had a habit of tailing off the ends of her sentences.
  2. She didn’t give enough, if any, examples of what she was trying to convey. For example, once her initial talk was over, she introduced some brainstorming exercises, and the audience was invited respond with comments in the chat column.
    One exercise was to come up with a character’s traits. She didn’t explain what traits were, and the comments from the thousand+ audience varied from red-haired to is cheating on her husband. I have my own ideas about what constitutes a character’s traits (quirks and tics, mainly) and I didn’t feel these fitted the bill. But, of course, there was no right or wrong, just enthusiasm for everyone’s contributions.

So, would I attend another Zoom writing class? Probably. I enjoyed the “lecture”, and I did some of the brainstorming exercises. I’d like to watch a few more to see how the speakers and formats differ and what I get out of each one. And just to let you know, I could access the whole 1½ hours the next day to see what I’d missed, or even to watch the whole thing when I wanted to, without the audience participation.

If you’ve taken part in Zoom classes, I’d love to hear what you thought of them. If you have recommendations, I’ll happily pass them on through this website.

There are more prompts this month, plus the Workshop and Your Stories. Happy Reading but, more importantly, Happy Writing!

Linda

Welcome back!

January 25th

Hello Writers

It’s good to make contact with you all once more.

I hope you’ve stayed safe and well during the lockdowns and tier restrictions here in Britain and worldwide. It’s been a strange time, hasn’t it?

I’ve heard that many writers have found it quite difficult to keep writing, despite having more time than usual at home. Others have managed to keep going – writing short stories, chapters of a novel, travel articles, entering competitions and NANOWRIMO. And, of course, there have been the ubiquitous Zoom meetings! Some love ‘em, others not.

Don’t judge

We’re all different, so please don’t judge yourselves or your writing output against others.

Many of you have told me that you need the motivation of a class, a group, prompts, or a writing buddy to keep going. Perhaps this year we’ll be able to get back to face-to-face meetings at some point. I know I’m looking forward to the lively discussions, lots of laughter and really wonderful homework stories from my writing groups.

So, I thought it a good time to resume my blogs and I hope there’ll be something in the coming months to interest you on this website.

Workshop

One idea I’d like to try out is to post a “workshop” each month.

This will follow the pattern of some of the classes I run:

  • A warm-up exercise
  • An article on a writing topic
  • An exercise on the topic
  • Sometimes a quiz

I’ll try it out for the next three months and I’d love you to let me know what you think.

If you want to send the exercise in to me, for a paragraph of feedback (completely free), then I’d love to hear from you. And if you want it posted on this site, I’d love to do that as well.

Click here for the new Workshop page.

Happy Writing!

Linda

Thank you to Toa Heftiba through Unsplash for the photo