Daily Archives: April 1, 2011

This is me, by the way…

Fiction writer, podcaster, writing group host

Here's one that Adrian Teal made earlier

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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in writing


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Extract from podcast episode 1 (August 2010) – fiction freebie / feedback

At the end of each hints & tips episodes, I read out a piece of poetry or flash fiction and the first week’s was a 60-worder of mine that was published in Woman’s Weekly back in 2006 as ‘Payback’. They stopped taking flash fiction shortly afterwards… was it something I said?

  • “Deep Pan 12-inch Hawaiian, delivered please.” Alex was starving. Moving house, he’d skipped lunch. He thought of his ex-girlfriend, Jane, and sighed. Landing a high-powered job had gone to her head and she’d kicked him out of her flat. His doorbell rang. He got his money and opened the door. The delivery driver, horrified, dropped the pizza. Alex smiled. “Hello Jane.”

If you get a chance to listen to the podcasts and have any feedback or areas you’d like covered, you can email me at and/or visit the website for the links mentioned in all the podcasts released to-date, as well as other writing-related information.

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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in podcast, short stories, writing


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Extract from podcast episode 1 (August 2010) – recommendations

If you’re new to podcasts you might like to check out my favourites: The Book Show, Grammar Girl, I Should Be Writing, Litopia, Pen on Fire, Writers & Company, Writers on Writing, Writing Excuses, The Writing Cast, The Writing Show and On The Page (the latter recently moved to a subscription podcast although you still get the first 15 minutes free) – all available from the iTunes podcast store and their websites directly.

Some of you will have heard of NaNoWriMo which stands for National Novel Writing Month. It takes place every November and the idea is to write at least 50,000 words in the 30 days. It’s been going 11 years now and thousands of people have ‘won’. Whilst you don’t actually win anything as such, you do have a chunk of a manuscript at the end – OK so it may not be Shakespeare but it’s yours to polish, buff and shine until it’s ready to go somewhere. I did it for the first time in 2008 and had a 53,000-word first-draft lad-lit. I enjoyed the experience so much that I started another novel the following January finishing the 46,000-word first draft in the October, just in time for NaNoWriMo 2009, during which I wrote a 117,000-word chick lit which I’ve since edited four times and has just gone off to agents. I also wrote a script in April this year in conjunction with their sister website – and whilst it didn’t inspire me to switch to scriptwriting, it was an interesting exercise and I quite like the story that came out of it so I may well turn that into a novel, although not for NaNo this year as one rule is to not have written a word before 1st November so I won’t cheat. (I ended up writing 51,300 Nov 2010 and have a lot of adding/editing to do to it!)

Other websites I’d recommend include, which includes information on markets, competitions and writing-related links and which I mentioned a moment ago. is a great site for getting critique. For every story or novel extract you read and give feedback on, you get a credit so someone else can read your story or novel extract. The critique I had was invaluable for the novel I’ve just sent off and a story I’ve submitted to a competition.

The Writers & Artists Yearbook (W&AY), Writers Handbook and the Writers’ Market are three must-have books for writers. They contain industry contact names and addresses as well as tips by established authors. My favourite is the W&AY which I buy every year and I get updated versions of the others every other year. They are published yearly and the 2011 editions are now available around the £10 to £15 mark, depending on where you buy them from.

I would also recommend buying or subscribing to writing magazines. Sister magazines Writing and Writers News are monthly and whilst, Writing Magazine is available in the shops (chain stores such as WH Smiths sell it or you can order it from your local newsagent) Writers News is subscription only and they are cheaper when bought as a package directly. Another monthly available over the counter or by subscription is Writers’ Forum. All three of these have competitions; Writing and Writers News have themes and deadlines whereas Writers Forum has an open theme and non-specific rolling deadline. One of my former tutors, short story writer and novelist Sue Moorcroft is the Writers Forum short story judge and her website is For fans of historical fiction and poetry, do take a look at another of my tutor’s websites, – her first novel, A Mile of River, set in the scorching summer of 1976, was Radio 5 Book Review’s Book of the Month in April 2008 and she shared the radio stage with one of my favourite authors, Will Self. Sadly Simon Mayo no longer hosts the podcast but I would recommend the Radio 3 ‘Arts & Ideas’ and Radio 4’s ‘Books & Authors’ with Sky Arts presenter Mariella Frostrup. Other writing magazines include quarterly Mslexia which is a magazine for women writers only, although I know they do have male subscribers. Another is New Writer which as the name would imply, is targeted at new writers. It’s been going for more than 100 issues was bi-monthly but changed to quarterly a while ago.

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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in podcast, recommendations, writing


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Extract from podcast episode 1 (August 2010) – ideas

In this section of the podcast I provide a couple of ways of getting story ideas as well as some sentence starts picked at random from my http:\\\sentencestarts page.

  • Newspapers are a wonderful source of inspiration. Many books have been written about major true stories but it’s the weird and wonderful that I like. My second novel is inspired by a true story.
  • Word webs are great way of kickstarting a story. They look like a spider’s web with a key word in the middle and various strands from the outside. One keyword I’ve used in class is ‘merry’ whose offshoots ranged from Christmas-themed or having too much to drink, to synonyms such as happy (which in turn lead to birthday and then card), rhyming words such as ‘ferry’ which had Brian (the lead singer from Roxy Music) and Across the Mersey. Then there are antonyms such as ‘unhappy’ leading to, in our case, lonely and then to The Beatles song Eleanor Rigby. The idea of writing a word web is to get the mind working but you can also use aspects of the associated words produced; for instance, using ‘merry’ as the original inspiration you could write a story about a Christmas Party featuring a couple called Eleanor and Brian who are talking about (or taking) a ferry trip as a birthday present.

In the podcasts I started with three sentence beginnings (which you can obviously use anywhere in a story) but then, because it’s a weekly podcast, upped it to seven a while later. These were episode 1’s…

  • Sam felt the bullet rip the material…
  • The door was plain other than one word carved carelessly into it…
  • Ellis turned the corner and gasped…
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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in ideas, podcast, writing


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Extract from podcast episode 1 (August 2010) – hints & tips

As I have limited space on the pages of my website ( I thought I’d give tasters of what was included in the episodes I post… here’s an extract from episode 1…

W Somerset Maugham once said that there are three rules for writing but no-one knows what they are. Here are three I’ve come across…

  • ’show not tell’ – you may well have heard of this and probably know what is meant by it but it’s something I have to remember when doing edits. Basically, tell is to be avoided and show is what you’re aiming for. An example of ‘tell’ would be ‘he felt angry’ – where you’re telling the reader how a character is feeling but you really want to ‘show’ the emotions, for instance where he or she slams a door, or thumps down a fist. Although we’ve all had emotions of feeling angry, a good story lets readers use their imagination and it’s easier to imagine an action;
  • ‘the five senses’ – most stories thrive on sight (what’s happening) and sound (dialogue) but don’t forget the other three senses: taste, touch and smell. Is something that your character’s looking at, or touching, rough or smooth? What are the smells wherever he or she is? Taste is less likely to happen but it’s an added bonus if it does, of course only if it fits with the story. Also throwing in a colour every now adds a bit more depth.
  • ‘repetition’ – this is one of my bugbears. You want to avoid using the same word twice close together (with the exception obviously of basics such as ‘the’ and ‘and’ etc.) for example: ‘Oliver reached an opening in the woods. The woods seemed haunting.’ Apart from the second sentence being a ‘tell’ it would be more atmospheric to say ‘As he reached an opening in the woods, Oliver gasped as he heard branches breaking behind him. He swung round and…’ and the rest is for you to imagine or, if you’d like to, continue with. Also changing the beginning avoids having too many sentences starting with a character’s name – something I’m more conscious of these days.
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Posted by on April 1, 2011 in podcast, tips, writing


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