Category Archives: writer

Flash Fiction 1

Hello Dear Reader

Flash Fiction 1

Over the few weeks, I have challenged myself to write something called flash fiction. This is sort of shorter version of a short story. Although, some would argue that many pieces are short stories. The current definition of flash fiction is from 50 words to 300 and possibly up to 1000 words.

I took up the challenge and produced three pieces. It took me a time to sort them out and one may not be as good as I wished. One has been entered into a competition, it has the same chance as anyone else’s. I can’t show that one for obvious reasons.

So how do you write flash fiction? Here are some points;

How to write flash fiction:

Start in the middle.

Don’t use too many characters.

Make sure the ending isn’t at the end.

Sweat your title.

Make your last line ring like a bell.

Write long, then go short.

David Gaffney, Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction, The Guardian

So you see, it’s unlike other forms of writing. Then again, there so many forms of writing, just like music, photography or art. So I offer my first two flash fiction pieces. Follow the link and enjoy.

Alien Landscape/Forgiveness.

Tagline; “When one word can mean 1000’s”

 

Writing Weekend Part 2

Hello Dear Reader

Writing Weekend Part 2

Hopefully, you will have read Part 1, it makes sense of course in case there is some startling revelation of catastrophic news. Rest assured, there is nothing but reading Part 1 helps. I may never know if you have but it’s a comfort to think you will have.

Writing festivals are often packed as you only have a few days to work with. For me, it was only two days sadly. It’s never two days as well you know since people won’t be awake all night. Maybe one festival they will. Having completed the workshop, it was time to prepare for two interview sessions, the first with Mark Gatiss. A brief lunch, walk around and then of to the York opera house, a traditional old theater in the heart of the town.

It would be impossible to cover everything that was mentioned in the talks. I doubt I could transcribe it all and there would be a flatness in just reading the words. Understanding what interests a writer and how they write helps others see what they can do to further their own writing. Most writers I have discovered, seem to write from an early age, I did myself making up simple stories. Sometimes it starts with reading a favourite subject that makes one think.

League of a Gentleman

The event was well attended by fans from across the spectrum. I was very aware of the work Mark Gatiss had been involved with, but for me, it was discovering why or what he liked about writing that was interesting.  To open the talk, they played a sketch from League of Gentleman. A very deadpan Mark Gatiss in the role of a cave guide. This is dark comedy at its best, written perfectly and delivered in that droll, uninterested style. To write that and both produce laughs and not laugh is very difficult. You can’t help but laugh as it is just the polar opposite of slapstick. That was the gift of this writing, to write so bleak, it is seriously funny.

Carry on enjoying

Horror and ghost stories both film and television seemed the background for Mark Gatiss and one film, in particular, stood out for me, Carry on Screaming. This is my favourite Carry On film, I know it so well. Why? For me, it is one of the best-scripted films, well acted, a good cast including Harry H Corbett who stepped in for Sid James at the last moment. It is a huge nod to Hammer but most of all had two Doctor Who elements. A mention by name and of course Jon Pertwee.

It is clear that writing is very time-consuming. Many people never see the whole writing process, from an idea through to the completed work. Part of the talk touched on that process given that one idea alone had taken two years. Of course, Mark Gatiss was not just working on one project at a time. There was the assumption given the body of work completed that anything would be taken up. It is not always the case even for someone like Mark Gatiss. That was quite interesting as it shows all writers have the same problems.

 

One other passion of his, are ghost stories. I myself I have written a couple. To bring the right amount of horror, scare the reader or viewer just enough takes a fine balance. Building up those dark feelings, as you are drawn in, then the shock. The shock does not need to be harsh. Mark Gatiss has a real understanding of this, in what he has produced. He also laments the lack of this on television these days. Children are no longer properly scared, adults don’t always see good horror. As for mine, now I know I need to both finish them and write more. I might even be able to turn them into scripts. After his talk, I like many others had the chance for an autograph and a brief chat. Mark was genuinely interested in people and I was able to tell my Jon Pertwee story to him.

Around another world

So talk one completed, booked signed photography snapped. A chance to grab a bite to eat and ready for the third event. Again, an interview this time with Micheal Palin. Now I am a Monty Python fan. I know the Parrot sketch. I can sing (badly) a number of their songs. What I was looking for here was why and again what drove Micheal Palin to write. It was really simple. Just like Mark Gatiss, the drive to write came from a shared love of words. The chance to put his sketches on in a university environment gave the opportunity to test the waters, so to speak. He certainly found his dead parrot and more than a number of naughty Brian’s.

The other element here was his diary. You might think this is an odd source of information but if you really think about it, a diary is sometimes shorthand for ideas. Micheal Palin started his diary to remember events, ideas and was what you could consider the blog of its time. It has not gone out of fashion, just replaced by technology. It is something all writers I suspect should carry to hand. It does not need to be a diary in that traditional sense but a notebook or series of them.

The talk centered on a few points in Micheal Palin’s career, notably the Life of Brian, Ripping Yarns, Time Bandits, and his travel series. In each one, the love of writing was intricately involved. There was also one other interest to me briefly mentioned, Jabberwocky. That is one of those long complex poems, where some words are nonsense. I would have liked a little more about how that was constructed from poem to script.

To be able to tell a story well requires an understanding of characters, plot, surrounds and all. One might think there was no ‘plot’ in Around the World in 80 Days for example. However, the plot was very clear, reproduce the travel of a fictional character from a book. Now although there was a book, this was no fictional trip so that itself created other issues. How to write about 5 days sitting on a sailboat, make it interesting, exciting and yet not repeat the same lines, is difficult. While there was the time to write, maybe there was also the time to catch up?

 

Again the talk finished all too soon and there was the chance to get an autograph. I purchased a copy of poems by Micheal Palin to study. As I have been told, you have to read to be able to write. With the second book signed, it signaled the end of a very productive day. It gave me many ideas to work on, the thought that you can write what ever you wish and that the only thing stopping writing is yourself.

Having completed the second of these blogs it just shows what writing can do. I have three more poems to complete, a short story to edit and my sci-fi novel to re-edit (again). I also want to combine my love of photography with poems and short stories to produce another book. All can be done, but all would have to compete in this growing ocean of literature.

The York Literature festival was brief for me but very enjoyable. I would do the same again given the opportunity. I do have one more writing event to try, that of a weekend retreat, where all you do is write. Maybe that’s my next step? With my camera of course. Thank you all involved making my brief visit a joy.

Tagline: ‘Carry on Doctor, Who needs to get Around the World’

 

Passing QC

Hello Dear Reader

Passing QC

An odd title one might think but something of a challenge for me these past few days. QC in this instance means Quality Control. I have decided to offer some of my photographs to a website, take part in my first photographic competition, complete a written guide and write a screenplay. All of these take time of course and juggling of what comes first.

The competition was relatively straight forward given I had three pictures (that in itself was mad) to just print and frame. Underestimate a task I think is the possible downfall of almost all failed attempts. I know now differently. Just getting the printing completed was a task in itself and then frames. Well, happy to say I completed that task and handed them in. Whether or not I get selected is now just one of those things. I will be disappointed if I don’t but I have three of my photographs framed and I know what to do next time. Still, does not mean I will get selected. There are hundreds of photographers out there all doing the same.

It is the same case for writing, blogging, music or whatever. Likewise, trying to get pictures available for sale is just as hard. Again I hit those two words QC. Now, I have to admit that in this instance QC is meaningful as it helped me consider how I was taking a picture. After all many never move away from automatic and never show their pictures to others. That is fine. I realized I had to refine my pictures. This, in turn, made me review what I was considering and helped me solve a few problems. I have now successfully had three pictures admitted to the website.

Quality Control, for me, used to mean something different. However, now it is a means of helping me, at least, understand how to improve not just my photographs but my writing as well. The term QC, might not be explicit in writing as such, but it is there in terms of editing and revision. You can say that editing and revision also is in the production of photographs. Each person or website has their level of QC which you need to reach in order to pass to the next level, so to speak. Even passing QC does not mean you will get noticed, just you end up in that sea of offerings.

Doing this has raised my own levels of QC which is no bad thing. It means I hope my writing, blogging, and photography will improve again. That in itself will give me the chance to stand out just that bit more.

Tagline: ‘I am ready for my photo now Mr. DeMille – ISO 100, f8, 1/35’

 

My Writing Process

Hello All

My Writing Process

I recently posted a blog about my first e-book, Zen and The Art of Timetabling. Many have asked me about the process involved, in order to publish my book.

At first, I thought that was very easy to write. But then I tried to remember what my process actually was. I realised, to be honest, my process was very haphazard. In fact, I can learn from my chaos.

As I said before, I started the book more as rules and then kept going. I had no real process at the start, just writing. I suspect that is how many of us begin, just writing. The process started after I realised I had more than just a report, but not where I might have ended. After my first rough draft, the process began by mapping out what chapters I might need. This helped me construct the book and allowed me to focus on a variety of topics and subjects. Mind-mapping is key to any book I feel, it allows you to track characters, subject matter, scenes and more. Mine did not have characters as such, yet still needed that part.

Once I had completed the full first draft (I was unsure of how many times I would do this loop), I had on my hands a ‘product’. Again, looking back it is hard to describe anything I did next as a process. But I feel people can use my experience as the foundations of a process.

Here are some of the things I looked into after I finished my first draft;

Looked into editors and proof-readers

Looked into publishers

Looked into self-publishing

Looked at computer publishing software

Looked at sites such as Amazons KDP, Smashwords etc

Listed pros and cons of the above

Made notes on various companies based on information from the Internet, writing magazines and the Writers Artist Yearbook.

Set out my needs based on the above (what did I want?)

Set a budget

Get quotes

Make my decision

That is not what many would recognise as a process, however, it formed I guess the basis of my process when I look back. Being my first book, I did not have any idea about where this would take me. I know now I can do this a lot better given the experience. If I was to map out a process it would look something like this;

  • The Idea
    • Which idea are you going to write about?
  • The Synopsis
    • This gives you the scope, creates the boundaries and can be used later
  • The Map
    • This shows you the paths, the characters, places and let’s you time travel. It can be as simple as the chapter headings as I used. I added a brief note which made it simple to expand or move information as needed.
  • The Draft
    • Sounds obvious and it is. It’s the place at which you decided to go forward, rewrite (you will edit later) or maybe save for another day.
  • The publication route
    • So you now have reached the point where you want to publish. The list I mentioned I would say is a one-time in-depth deal. You can do that before you write. What this point means is are you self-publishing or finding a publisher.
  • The Edit
    • I know I am stating the obvious but you can either do this yourself or spend some money and get a professional independent view. I did the latter and it proved to me I had something worth publishing. You will revisit this a few times.
  • The Publisher
    • If you pick self-publishing there are two routes here; you do all the work or you go to a company that will publish you. This is different from a publisher. You can just create a Word or Scriber document and place it onto the web. You may get something from it or not. You won’t have an ISBN, maybe a cover, maybe some web presence. That’s your choice. If however, you pick a self-publishing company, they can help get you an ISBN, create a cover, place your book in the right spots. With the company I used YPS, I retained all rights both as the author and publisher. My book sits in the British Library (very proud) and I have a presence on the web.
  • The Marketing plan
    • Just getting your book into Amazon or YPS Bookstore is one thing. You need a plan to sell it, push it to people, social media, a web site and whether you want hard copies or e-book.

I guess I could write a book on how I wrote the book. It feels like I have written so much more since I completed this. Yet I still am unsure of a fool-proof process that I used. What I have detailed is my best remembrance of all I did. There were hundreds of hours spent re-editing, checking proofs, approving covers, writing my biography and synopsis. Even writing this and something for two magazines has taken time.

Would I do this again? Yes. Have I learnt what to do better next time? Yes. Would I encourage anyone with a book in mind to try this? Yes.

I hope this helps.

Zen and The Art of Timetabling

Hello Dear Reader

Zen and The Art of Timetabling

It started off as a small paper all about what I thought should be the rules regarding timetabling. As a writer, or at the time I would say amateur one, I had could have just stopped there, the rules. Something made me write more. I wanted to explain, understand and I suppose help others in the same field.

To write a book is not easy. It takes a lot of time, effort and the beating of many demons. You do have to have a lot of self-belief because no-one can really help you. They can support you, they can listen and often ignore the annoying rants. You can ask for help. People will read your work and then there comes that odd moment when the possible book has that chance to be a real book.

Timetable_Image

That in itself brings expectations from many sources. But just writing the book is not the be all or end of it all. Many can write, but how many can actual push to that final line and publish? To consider that part, to let your work become subjected to all can be very daunting.

I had to make the decision not only to complete the first part of finishing the book but to then expose my work to the world. I don’t think any author really finishes a book. Each time I re-read it, I found something else I might have wanted to change. I then had to find a way to publish it. I could have easily just pushed it out using a simple rough document style. But I decided to go that one step further.

It was a long process with a very rewarding conclusion. I published my first book. Not only is it published but it also sits in the British Library. I am very proud of what I have achieved. To be perfectly honest I was excited once I saw the finished product. Now I can say I have written the book on timetabling.

Zen and The Art of Timetabling has been published and is available from many outlets. (Even that is exciting as one of them is Amazon). Will I be the next Wil Shakespeare or Douglas Adams (my favourite), I have no idea and to be honest at this point I am not sure it has bothered me. I just know I have done it.

Zen and The Art of Timetabling the ebook available to buy here.

Tagline: ‘Publish and be happy’