Saturday, 22 June 2019

Writer's Growth

It's National Writing Day on 26th June. A day of inspiring events across the country, and plenty of support via social media for new writers.

I’m the newest member of Hornsea Writers (and I suspect the youngest but shhh, don’t tell the others.) They know the ‘ropes’ of this gig, and we all agree that writing is a never-ending learning curve. Writing is peppered with ambitions, dreams and plenty of naysayers to frustrate you along the way. Knowing where you are, where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve is important if you’re goal orientated. It’s fair to say there’s a goal for any writer: The End.

Re-attending the biannual Newcastle Writing Conference this year reinforced just how much I had grown since I started out on this path. The last time I attended was 2013, I was working on a manuscript and 3 years into a 6 year degree. Bah-ha shiny hopeful me, looking for opportunities, eager to learn and thought I had it all in the bag.

Stop laughing.

Six years after my first visit to Newcastle Writing Conference, the manuscript is complete and another in the final stages. I’ve several stories out in the world. I know there’ll be more. I’m still eager (does that ever go away?) but I’m wiser. I’m aware that I’ll never know it all, yet I’m more confident in my abilities and my strengths.

The Writing Conference had changed too. Gone were the studious tones of Newcastle University. In their place was the professional, creative warmth of hope and positivity. Inspiration mixed with empowerment all day.

Tony Walsh really kicked things off with a passionate performance of poetry that inspired everyone in the room. Other writers discovered how to deal with promotion, or the importance of small presses. I was reminded of things I knew but had lost in the mass of things to do. Some gained their first positive comments or full requests and I shared their stunned joy.

These events can be overwhelming for some people. Social anxiety gets the best of us. That little demon that screeches outrage ‘How dare you believe in yourself.’ gets in the way a lot too. Finding the time, finding the money, finding someone to look after the commitments you have the ‘audacity’ to abandon while you indulge in this little dream. Yes. I’m very good at finding excuses too.
Excuses don’t write anything.

What struck me most was how I could see how I’d developed as an author. I knew why I was there and why I love running the Welcome Event at Edge-Lit as well as the irregular Humber SFF meets: To enable others.

So...are we there yet? No. Yes. Maybe. What do you mean by ‘there’? My ‘there’ was to gain knowledge – so yes.

What did I come away with this time? Clarity, a plan. One that started with my week at a grant funded Arvon retreat, but needed more thought. I didn’t go with impossible expectations. I know where I want to be. The conference gave me the connections, tools and more importantly for me right now the thinking space to figure it out. Hornsea Writers Group plays a part in that thinking space too. It was one of the pieces I needed to achieve a goal. Now it’s all about doing the work. More on that soon…

My advice for anyone on this journey?
Know the place you want to reach. Tailor your time to help you get there. Research and reach out. There will always be rejections to spoil things, so make time for fun too.

Get involved with National Writing Day on the 26th June. Go to a local event. Oh. Don’t forget to write. It doesn’t work without words.

Shellie


Shellie Horst writes science fiction and fantasy. You can follow her on Twitter @millymollymo and find out more on her website www.millymollymo.com

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Finding Story Ideas


Authors are regularly asked about where they get their ideas from. I've heard fans ask it many times at Humber SFF. The answer is more often than not an complex tale that comes back to "I was doing something other than writing."

Many writing workshops and guides offer grids or photographs to get your creativity flowing, but writers looking for story prompts will find plenty on a visit Ferens Art Gallery in Hull to explore the Is This Planet Earth? exhibition, open until July 28th.

The speculative fiction genres are often misunderstood, but there is nothing to fear in the fabulous art curated by Angela Kingston. Stop for refreshments in the cafe while you're there.


The Future Fire published my review of Is This Planet Earth? and you can read it here. Or experience the exhibition in person for free at Ferens Gallery. 

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Under a June Sun


Although the writers in this group blog about life, the universe and everything under the sun, a glance back to June two years ago shows four of them passing on tips both practical and philosophical for better living and crisper writing.

Stuart Aken takes a sideways look at English words and their many nuances. In this particular blog he appropriately explores the word ‘ambiguous’. Click here to read more.

Penny Grubb, in a prescient article (given the recent axing of a human bear-baiting TV programme) unpacks a quote from a famous writer and finds more than meets the eye. Click here to read more.

Linda Acaster reaching the climax of a marathon writing expedition as she writes ‘the end’ on her Torc of Moonlight trilogy, explores the many facets of editing. Click here to read more.

April Taylor takes herself to task as exhaustion sees her sleep for a significant proportion of a much anticipated holiday. Click here to read more.



Saturday, 20 April 2019

Revisiting earlier books


I find it a salutary experience to reread a book that I wrote and published years ago. Things that I would now write differently leap off the page: a sag in this part of the plot, a clumsy bit of speech here, something that would be better reordered there; things I’ve never worried about unduly because there’s nothing to be done.

Or so I thought...

Then plans were proposed to reissue my first three novels as a trilogy in a single book. I wasn’t given much time to tinker, but I immediately got out the toolkit and raised the bonnet to spruce up all three. It was a satisfying experience though oddly like going back in time.



It’s due out later this year.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Writing fiction: the long and the short of it


Explore the nuts and bolts behind the (hopefully) smooth finished product that is the published novel or short story
  • by delving into the mind of the short story writer, analysed in this book by Hornsea Writer, Linda Acaster:




  • or by lifting the bonnet (or the hood – depending which side of the Atlantic you are) on the full-length commercial novel and seeing how the component pieces fit together in this book co-authored by Hornsea Writer, Penny Grubb:



How to be a Fantastic Writer

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Meet more than writers at this holiday extravaganza


The annual extravaganza that is FantastiCon is scheduled for the full weekend of the 17th and 18th August in Cleethorpes at the space-age leisure centre. The focus is on a weekend packed with family activities around games, virtual reality, NERF wars, drone racing, a Mariokart tournament, an aqua assault course... and some Hornsea Writers too.



The event is used as a launch pad for new publications and previous years have seen the launch of sci-fi trilogies from Stuart Aken, crime drama from Penny Grubb and charity anthologies that have included several group members including Elaine Hemingway, Madeleine McDonald, April Taylor and Penny Grubb who all appeared in Dreaming of Steam; Linda Acaster and Stuart Aken in horror anthology 666; Stuart Aken was also invited to contribute to the fantasy and sci-fi collections, Fusion and Synthesis. Penny Grubb was featured in The Dummies’Guide to Serial Killing that was launched last year.

Several Hornsea Writers are regulars at FantastiCon. If you come along and can find a moment between activities and games, please drop by the bookstore and say hello.


Saturday, 30 March 2019

Last Chance Saloon

Crossroads are funny things. There are all kinds of dire supernatural aspects of them in our literature. It has also become part of our language. 'I've come to a crossroads and need to work out where I'm going.' Or someone telling another person they have come to a crossroads and now is make or break.

I read an article about scammers in the self-publishing world of Amazon and Kindle Unlimited a couple of days ago. Horrified does not adequately express my reaction. Here I have been, straining every last muscle to write as perfect a book as I can, while cheats and scammers are making easy money and I make none.

So, I took myself off for a long walk and decided I had come to a crossroads, too. About my life and, more importantly, about my writing.

Read it here: https://authorapriltaylor.blogspot.com

You can read more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Members Useful Self-Help Books

In the last of the short series on the wealth of information offered by members, here's a round-up of their useful self-help titles.


April Taylor was a chartered information professional in a previous life, and she's put her experiences to good use.


This short guide is intended to help solve the problems encountered by novelists researching on the Net. It includes sections on where to search, how to search, evaluating information found, staying safe and within copyright, using images, and a whole host more.





This is one of those no-nonsense guides which does what it says on the cover. It explains terminology used by tutors, the format and appearance of the finished dissertation, how to manipulate software and the likely problems the software will throw up. There is also advice on how to manage your project and your time. Nineteen 4* and 5* reviews can't be wrong.


 
 
Stuart Aken also brings his personal experience to bear, but in a very different context.


Stuart charts his journey, and recovery, giving hope to other sufferers of CFS/ME. There's plenty of practical advice, and a useful list of hyperlinks in the ebook. It is also available as a paperback. A portion of the profits goes to the charity "Action for ME" which he considers was instrumental in pointing him in the right direction. The reviews from other suffers speak for themselves.


Penny Grubb may have been awarded a Dagger from the Crime Writers' Assocation but, wearing her non-dastardly hat, Dr Penny Grubb is a scientist and university lecturer, hence her book titles.


Where’s the best place for a novel to start? How do you tell? How to lift a scene that seems to drag? The included toolkits lead through it all to give the components needed for every stage of writing a novel. 



Having been a part of academia since the 1980s, Penny has helped a vast number of students new to higher education study. Today, a higher proportion come not from sixth forms or after a gap year, but at an older age having worked in industry and with family commitments in tow.

The book, split into easy to negotiate sections, sets out what's needed, and how to upgrade necessary skills sets. It also contains a detailed study of a once notorious case of skewed thinking and manipulative writing that began with Mr J and his green fur coat.

Software Maintenance: Concepts and Practice

An academic best-seller in use in universities around the world. Published in two editions, it has the dubious distinction of appearing on a list of ‘Most pirated books’, which, sadly, means an updated 3rd edition will not be published.

The 2nd edition contains a detailed case study of the once notorious Therac-25 software bugs that visited death and injury on many people over several years.



 
Linda Acaster brings us back to writing creatively with an in-depth view borne of explaining concepts during several years facilitating a teaching course.

Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought To Finished Story

The book is distinguished from many in its field by reproducing ten of the author's short stories, in various genres, and explaining the rationale behind the choices made during the writing of each. Exercises, in the writing of full pieces of fiction, are included.


I'm sure you'll agree, what an interesting lot we are!

Saturday, 23 February 2019

How a random thought can give birth to a series. And there's music, too!

Many writers will tell you tales of how long their first book was in the making. Let's face it, writing anything between 70-120k words is not undertaken lightly, if occasionally wantonly, depending on the genre into which your magnum opus falls.

My first book began as a 'what-if?' idea during the inaugural concert of the 1978 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester. Sandra Browne was singing the part of The Angel in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius. I was part of the chorus, this was my first Three Choirs and inclusion was by invitation only.

The Dream is a fairly regular fixture of Three Choirs and, being by local boy made good, Edward Elgar, it is very special. So special as far as Worcester is concerned that The Elgar Memorial Window is situated close to the pillar Elgar used to lean on to hear the final organ voluntary on Sunday mornings - being a Catholic, he didn't worship in the cathedral.

And this brings us to a very sticky point among musicians and music lovers. Should the 'G' of Gerontius be hard or soft. I know from my reading that Elgar himself always used the hard 'G'. Further research confirms that the hard 'G' was favoured by Vaughan Williams and Adrian Boult among other notable musicians. Hard 'G' it is, then.

But I digress. The book that was eventually, after a gestation period of 30 years, published by Legend Press in 2008, is Dearly Ransomed Soul and provides the first outing for Georgia Pattison. I used the what-if? idea, although for the digital version published in 2016, I changed the identity of the killer, just to add a bit of spice for the reader. 

The full version of how my nosy early-music soprano came into being is here: https://authorapriltaylor.blogspot.com

You can find out more about April Taylor here:

Saturday, 16 February 2019

#Writing and #Editing Tips

Members of Hornsea Writers hold a wealth of information on their individual websites. Last week we turned a spotlight on Stuart Aken and his Resources page which, among other goodies, holds a constantly updated Competitions List.

This week we highlight a wealth of blogposts - 32 in all - from Linda Acaster. Thankfully, she's created an Index Page for easy navigation. Within it can be found:
  • 16 posts on Writing Prompts, including discussions on each aspect;
  •   3 posts on Research: Is it always necessary? Using a "bible", and using character sheets for continuity purposes;
  •   8 posts on what to look for during different types of Edits, including Structural, Content, Line edits and the use of beta readers;
  •   5 posts on writers' mis-uses which can seriously annoy a reader - Don't Mess With The Reader - including Openings, Sense of Place, Categories of Characters, Seeding Information, and Plagiarism.

As well as her Historical, Fantasy and Horror novels, Linda Acaster also has Reading A Writer's Mind: Exploring Short Fiction - First Thought To Finished Story  which, as might be guessed, does what it says on its cover. Jump to HERE for the buy links and to read an excerpt.