Monthly Archives: July 2011

Forthcoming / ongoing writing competitions and submission opportunities

Below are details of a few more forthcoming / ongoing competitions and submission opportunities…

Coast to Coast runs poetry (50 lines max) and short story (2000 words max) monthly competition with deadline of 25th– the top four stories and eight poems are published in an anthology (presumably yearly). Post to Flat 1, 9 Wellington Street, Liverpool L22 8QL (Contact Maurice James 07780 642086).

Dark Tales Short Story runs quarterly competitions (31st January, 30th April, 31st July and 31st October). See or e-mail queries to lists ongoing competitions of which there are 50 each month! You can submit poetry and/or short stories free of charge for cash prizes! It’s an American site which sounds like fantasy but also have categories of sci-fi, humour, mystery, war, horror, non-fiction, children and ‘others’. They make their money by advertisers and membership (from $2.80 per month). Work listed is reviewed and you can review other people’s work…sounds like fun.

The Writing magazine runs a monthly competition –  see their website for full details. lists Words Magazine short story competitions for 2011 and their guidelines.

Bi-monthly magazine ‘Kudos’ is a great source for competition and submission information. More details from

Write Link also lists forthcoming competitions – click on the following link for more details has a list of a variety of forthcoming competitions.

Should you be a gardener ‘Home Farmer’ magazine is looking for submissions, especially those of a traditional nature. Contact: Home Farmer, The Good Life Press Ltd, PO Box 536, Preston PR2 9ZY (or e-mail Their website is

‘Still Crazy’ has opportunities for writers aged 50+ – see for more details.

For more useful stuff – take a look at this blogs ‘Useful info.‘ page.

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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in competitions, submissions


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UK-based writing events and courses

There are many festivals held in Cheltenham and lists them all.

Liars’ League run a series of short fiction readings held at ‘The Lamb’ pub in Lambs Conduit Street, London on the second Tuesday of every month. Authors write, but the stories are read by actors. It costs two pounds to get in, and everyone is welcome. Contributions (each evening has a theme) are also welcome. The downside is that contributors have to live in London but it may still be worth a visit should you be in the area. See their ‘myspace’ website page for more details (

The South Bank Centre has ongoing events and their ‘Literature and spoken word’ website page is is the English Tourist Board’s site – do take a look at their forthcoming events.

Women’s magazine writer Joanna Barnden hosts a variety of courses around the UK – see

The Writers’ News magazine runs home-study courses. For a free prospectus phone 0113 200 2917,, or see do weekend and 5-day courses on the Isle of Wight. Courses include screenwriting, poetry, novels and story analysis. Prices from £120 to £290 residential or cheaper for non-residents! Contact 01983 407772 (e-mail courses / weekend retreats. Weekend courses run from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon and cost just under £200 inc. accommodation. Polstead Lodge is a small, comfortable guest house in a quiet, historic part of Suffolk (just 15 minutes from Colchester).  Polstead, in Constable country, was the location of the infamous Red Barn murder of Maria Marten, made into a Victorian melodrama.  Maria’s house and that of her murderer, William Corder, can still be seen in the village.  Groups are limited to 4 maximum, so each writer gets individual attention as well as group tutorials and discussions.  All Liberato courses include a written manuscript critique as well as one-to-one sessions really get to grips with the nitty-gritty of each participant’s writing.

Please note: No responsibility can be taken for the content of any linked sites or the accuracy or views expressed therein, and competitions that do not run etc. This post is for information only.

For more useful stuff like this – see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page.

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Posted by on July 30, 2011 in events, recommendations


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Useful writing info. (competitions & submissions etc.): Short stories

Every fortnight I provide my writing group with handouts of useful stuff like competitions to enter, websites to visit etc. and I thought I’d share them with you. Here are the short story-related ones (see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page for more)…


  • A free entry monthly short story competition: winners are published in one of our collections of short stories – details see
  • has two new competitions: “The first is free to enter and is titled ‘Summer Loving’. This is for fiction 500 to 1000 words, with three £10 prizes and the deadline is 31st July. The other is an open themed fiction competition. 3000 word limit and the prizes are £100, £50 and £25 as well as the shortlisted stories to be published on our site. This one costs £4 to enter (deadline is 31st August).”
  • has a deadline of 1st August. 500 words maximum. £5 fee.
  • The Manchester Fiction Prize 2011 will award a cash prize of £10,000 to the writer of the best short story of up to 3,000 words, open internationally to both new and established writers aged 16 or over. The story can be on any subject, and written in any style, but must be fiction and new work, not previously published, or submitted for consideration elsewhere during this competition. See for details. The deadline for entries is 5pm (UK time) on Friday 12th August 2011.
  • For Books’ Sake and Pulp Press:
competition to find the best pulp fiction written by women.
Deadline 15th August.
  • New Eastbourne Writers 2nd National Short Story Competition.
Theme: Lucky Break. Maximum Length: 1500 words
Prizes: £100, £50 and £25; website publication of winning entries
Fee: £5 per entry/£7 for two.
Closing date 27th August. Judge: Vanessa Gebbie (who I met recently at Winchester)
  • provides details of the Aesthetica Magazine’s artwork/photography, fiction and poetry comp; deadline 31st August.
  • The Write Place Open Short Story Competition
also has a closing date of 31st August. Submit: Short story, open themed, 1,500 words max.  Fee £4.50 per entry, (optional one page critique £4.50) Prizes: 1st £100, 2nd £75, 3rd, £50.  Entries to Francesca Burgess, 34 Capelands, New Ash Green, Longfield, Kent, DA3 8LG. Make cheques payable to ‘The Write Place’. 
More information at or email
  • Once every quarter, CheerReader has a short story competition. The maximum story length is 2500 words, and you can write about any subject genre you like, but it has to be amusing, witty, funny, or whatever other word you may care to choose. See for full details. The next deadline is 31st August.
  • The Wellington Town Council Short Story Competition 2011 is open to all. Max 4,500 words. Closing date 31st August. Entry fee £3, prizes £150, £100, £75. – go to the home page and scroll down for rules and entry form.
  • – see above (31st August).
  • The Short Story website is designed to showcase the best short stories from around the world. The idea is simple. Submit your story and you will automatically enter The Short Story competition. First prize: £300, second prize: £150, third prize: £50. The winners will be published on the website ( Deadline for submissions 15th September.
  • Short story competition: First Prize £500 (approx. 812 US$; 573€) Second Prize £150 (approx. 244 US$; 172€) Third Prize £50 (approx. 81 US$; 57€) Winners and shortlisted stories will be published in an anthology. Our short Story judge is Paul McDonald. Closing date: 30th September and costs £7.50 (12.50 US$; 9€) to enter. Details
  • 1st October is the deadline for Prizes are £500, £250 and £125. Entry fee £5. Max 3,000 words.
  • 28th October is the deadline for although you can submit any time. Entry is free and prizes vary from £100 to £500. Thanks Denny for the info.


  • Bound Off is a great free podcast that pays $20 per short story accepted which you can either record yourself or they would have an actor/actress to do it (I think it would be great to hear someone else read my story). I’ve submitted (and been rejected) a couple of times but they only take 2-3 stories a month so think it’s just a case of keeping going. They used to take submissions by email but now have to be sent via the website and not until after the summer (1st September). Bound Off’s website is
  • I had an email from Patrick Hollander of the Hollander Literary Agency to say they are looking for short stories of any genre to pass on to publishers. Submission by email only please to 1. Use Word.doc format only. 2. Maximum 25 pages. 3. Name & Address, email address, Title, Genre should appear on the front page. 4. The story should finish with the words – End of story. 5. Please allow 12 weeks for us to read submissions. 6. No communication will be entered in to unless we feel there is potential in the story but we will offer advice where we feel it is needed. 7. Communication will be to the email shown on Page 1 of the submission. Thank you for your attention to this matter.” It sounds genuine but you may wish to tread carefully nonetheless.
  • Iota welcomes submissions of short fiction in any genre, including life writing and memoir. “Please send short stories of between 2000 and 6000 words. All stories must be the original work of the author. We accept translations as long as they are identified as such. All work must be typed and double spaced. Please also send proposals (150 words) for features or essays. We also accept new fiction, biography and life writing for review, and copies should be sent to the Fiction Reviews Editor at the address below. Please email submissions and proposals to” Closing date for submissions to the third fiction & non-fiction issue is 31st July (and I assume every four months thereafter). See
  • Paraxis is a new online publisher of short stories. We relish fiction with elements of the strange, uncanny or fantastic. We will be featuring new stories, reprints, artwork and essays.
  • Shortbread is an online community of short story readers and writers, free to join. See
  • Short Story Submission Guidelines for The Fiction Desk can be found at


  • Me and My Short Stories – Harper Collins Digital Director Scott Pack (who I pitched to in February 2011 and was lovely) :) reviews short story collections at:
  • The Short Review – each monthly issue of the short review brings you original reviews of new, not-quite-so-new and classic collections and anthologies, written by reviewers many of whom are also short story writers themselves and who love short fiction.
  • On 25th March 2011, short story writer Sally Quilford created Anti-Conning Writers Day, in which she highlighted the pitfalls and scams that part new (and not so new) writers from their hard-earned cash. You can read Sally’s views on dodgy agents, publishers, competitions and writing services by visiting (which is well worth a visit anyway) and clicking on the Anti-Conning Writers Day link at the top of the page.
  • The New Writer’s Prose & Poetry Prizes 2009 judge Vanessa Gebbie (who I met recently at Winchester) appears in the latest list of 12 of the best British short story writers – see
  • is a 500-1000 word site that is free to subscribe / read, free to submit to (, although they’re currently closed while wading through their slushpile). Payment is via donations with 60% going to the author and 40% going to the site so there’s no way of knowing how much (if anything) you’d earn but another opportunity perhaps.

For more information like this (not just this genre) – see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page.


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Useful writing info. (competitions & submissions etc.): Poetry

Every fortnight I provide my writing group with handouts of useful stuff like competitions to enter, websites to visit etc. and I thought I’d share them with you. Here are the poetry-related ones (see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page for more)…


  • The Poetry Book Society is one of the casualties of the Arts Council cuts, losing the £111,000 it received this year. The Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy is clearly angry: “This news goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting. The PBS was established by T S Eliot in 1953 and is one of poetry’s most sacred churches with an influence and reach far beyond its membership. This fatal cut is a national shame and a scandal and I urge everyone who cares about poetry to join the PBS as a matter of urgency.” You can sign a petition to Save the PBS here:


  • Free to enter, Alfred C. Carey Prize in Spoken Word Poetry, top prize: $300 The deadline is 15th August.
  • Lorca Translation Competition – Writers are invited to submit an original translation of a Lorca poem of their own choice. The winner will receive £500 and the runner-up £200; a pamphlet will be published of short-listed entries. Entries must be of unpublished verse translations of poems by Lorca into English. The maximum length is 80 lines. You may enter as many poems as you wish, accompanied by the appropriate entry fee. The entry fee is £5.00 for the first poem; £3.00 each for second or additional entries. Writers under 21 years old can enter free of charge. Closing date 19th August 2011 (a very good date – my birthday :)), the 75th anniversary of Lorca’s death (oh, maybe not). Details from
  • Delhi London Poetry Foundation: 
free to enter international competition in English and themed.
Closing date 21st August.
Top prize £1000 + publication.
  • The Aesthetica Creative Works Competition has three sections: Art & Photography, Poetry and Fiction. Winners and finalists are published in the Aesthetica Creative Works Annual. Winners of each category receive £500 prize money plus other prizes. Entry to the Creative Works Competition is £10. The entry fee allows the submission of 2 images, 2 poems or 2 short stories. The deadline for submissions is 31st August. The guidelines for submission can be found online at
  • Check out all the current UK poetry competitions at




  • MyOwnVerse is a network to share and discover poetry:
  • Active indie publisher Indigo Dreams Publishing have recently released several poetry collections including Fixing Things by Roger Elkin, A Slither of Air by Alison Lock and Whale Language: Songs of Iona by Angela Locke. They have also published Roselle Angwin’s novel Imago after the previous publisher went into receivership. Imago’s outline: It starts out innocently enough: a late summer party on a Devon riverbank, a full moon. But two things happen as a result of that night: Annie’s husband is killed, and the ‘accident’ jolts her into a 700-year-old ‘memory’ that will take her to the Pyrenees and the inferno at the heart of the Cathar inquisition, into a turbulent love affair, and towards another encounter with death. Details of all of these and more at They also have an exciting future list which includes collections from Char March and Ann Pilling.

For more information like this (not just this genre) – see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page.


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Useful writing info. (competitions & submissions etc.): Novels

Every fortnight I provide my writing group with handouts of useful stuff like competitions to enter, websites to visit etc. and I thought I’d share them with you. Here are the novel-related ones (see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page for more)…


  • Earlyworks Press Memoir & Journalism Competition:
a story from your or your family’s experience or a journalistic piece on a current event or issue in the news. Max 2000 words.
Closing date 30th August.
Fee: £5 per entry. 
Prize: 1st £100, 2nd £50 runners up £10
Email entry and PayPal payment via the website or entry fees as cheques (made out to Kay Green) with paper copy to Earlyworks Press, Creative Media Centre, 45 Robertson Street, Hastings Sussex TN34 1HL.
Don’t forget to include contact details, inc. email if possible. Their website is
  • Nemesis Publishing 
Free to enter debut novel competition
Closing date 14th August – see
  • has a 1st September. First 10,000 words of novel. £20 fee.


  • Independent publisher Indigo Dreams are always on the lookout for quality work and are particularly seeking novels and non-fiction with a USP (unique selling point). Full details of how to submit at
  • Rickshaw Publishing is “on the hunt for quality submissions to entertain and enthral our in-house team. So all you unpublished wordsmiths out there: fire up you Interweb machines, read our submissions policy and get sending. We’re looking for authors that show bags of potential – without necessarily having a finished book – but please think how to give your projects the best chance of getting picked up.”
  • Creative Print’s Unpublished Fiction Authors Print Ready Competition ends on the last day of the month in which that genre appears: AUGUST 2011 Women’s Fiction, SEPTEMBER 2011 Crime, OCTOBER 2011 Humorous and Comical, NOVEMBER 2011 Novellas (any genre), DECEMBER 2011 Young Adult & Teen Fiction, JANUARY 2012 Science Fiction, FEBRUARY 2012 Historical and Mythological, MARCH 2012 Westerns, APRIL 2012 Horror and the Supernatural. This is a genuine, no fee competition that stretches over 12 months. Each month a different genre; each month a winner. Winners are offered a contract, paid royalties, and receive full promotion and marketing strategies. This is not a competition with prizes. There is no entry fee. Only Print Ready novels of genuine merit will be chosen. Your book could be a winner. Full details of rules, genres and how to submit, on our website In my opinion this sounds like a calendar-led slushpile but I may be wrong.

For more information like this (not just this genre) – see this blog’s ‘Useful Info.‘ page.


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Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 016 (Dec 2010) – historical

The sixteenth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 6th December 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first fifteenth episodes (see for earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, erotica and ‘writing rules’. This episode had a focus on historical fiction and the classics.


Wikipedia’s section on historical novels ( explains that the historical novel “a novel that has as its setting a period of history and that attempts to convey the spirit, manners, and social conditions of a past age with realistic detail and fidelity (which is in some cases only apparent fidelity) to historical fact. The work may deal with actual historical personages…or it may contain a mixture of fictional and historical characters”. Historical fiction may centre on historical or on fictional characters, but usually represents an honest attempt based on considerable research (or at least serious reading) to tell a story set in the historical past as understood by the author’s contemporaries. Those historical settings may not stand up to the enhanced knowledge of later historians.

Wikipedia also has sections on historical whodunnit (Ellis Peters’ Cadfael and Umberto Eco’s ‘The Name of the Rose’ are prime examples), historical romance (Georgette Heyer’s regency-set books are usually in this category…Mills & Boon also have a ‘regency’ series), alternative history (‘alternate history literature asks the question, “What if history had developed differently?” Most works in this genre are based in real historical events, yet feature social, geopolitical, or industrial circumstances that developed differently than our own. While to some extent all fiction can be described as “alternate history,” the subgenre proper comprises fiction in which a change or point of divergence occurs in the past that causes human society to develop in a way that is distinct from our own’) and historical fantasy (many of which are set overseas, Guy Gavriel’s books are set in Renaissance Italy, Byzantine Greece, Moorish Spain, Medieval Occitania and Viking England).

Examples of historical novels are Kate Mosse’s ‘Labyrinth’ which was written in 2005 but set in both the middle ages and present-day France. Likewise, Philippa Gregory’s 2002 novel ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ (made into a film in 2008) was about 16th Century Henry VIII’s complicated love life. Kazuo Ishiguro’s 1989 novel ‘The Remains of the Day’ was set in 1956 with 1930s flashbacks and many of crime writer Sally Spedding’s books are set in present day and in historically darker times. Closer to home, Judith Allnatt’s first novel ‘A mile of river’ was set in 1970s England. So, the bottom line is that a historical novel doesn’t have to be set centuries ago but just not in the present day. Be careful though…things change so quickly (especially products) that you have to be careful about getting your facts right.

Classics are historical to us but they were written about the, then, present times. These include works by Jane Austen, who in just four years wrote Sense and Sensibility (1811), Pride and Prejudice (1813), Mansfield Park (1814) and Emma (1815). Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were both published after her death in 1817, and she died before completing her last, eventually titled Sanditon.

  • is packed with adaptations, list of characters, plot etc. Many classic novels are made into television series or films and often many times over – Jane Eyre was made into 8 silent movies, 6 musicals and nearly 20 TV/movie versions!
  • And who can forget (if they’ve seen the film) Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy (which, coincidentally, the Daily Mail gave away on DVD recently…as part of a series of 12 classic films)?
  • Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella ‘Christmas Carol’ has been made into over 70 stage, radio and tv adaptations (
  • Going back a bit is Shakespeare (1564-1616). Regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and he was certainly prolific…38 plays and many poems including 154 sonnets.
  • Going back even further are classic classics! Typing in ‘classical fiction’ in Wikipedia’s search and you get…Greek fiction! There’s a link on this page which takes you to ancient literature ( which goes back to 24thc B.C.!

Modern day classics…. how recent can a classic be? I know I harp on about Wikipedia but it’s a fantastic site. Their ‘modernist literature’ page ( lists Virginia Woolf, T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, H.D., Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, James Joyce, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Franz Kafka, Robert Musil, Joseph Conrad, Andrei Bely, W. B. Yeats, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Luigi Pirandello, D. H. Lawrence, Katherine Mansfield, Jaroslav Hašek, Samuel Beckett, Menno ter Braak, Marcel Proust, Mikhail Bulgakov, Robert Frost and Boris Pasternak as modern classic authors. Postmodern literature is used to describe certain tendencies in post-World War II literature and details are found on

Hints & tips

The book ‘Writing historical fiction’ by Rhona Martin explains that “there are many different kinds of historical novel – the family saga, the romance, the nostalgia novel, the adventure story, the ‘straight’ historical and many different ways of approaching them. But however you may choose to handle your theme it is essential that the novel is well-constructed and believable, with a strong sense of period and a storyline which keeps the reader turning the pages.” Rhona’s book includes the:

  • process of researching…my copy of Rhona’s book is dated 1988 so there is no mention of the internet. However there are other tips. Rhona said that research is like an iceberg…only the tip must show but the rest of it lurks invisibly under water has to be there to support it. If it isn’t, the whole thing sinks and your effort will be wasted. Don’t worry about over researching. If you don’t use a piece of research in one book or story, it could be used in another piece. How do you decide what is or isn’t relevant? Ask yourself if it carries the story further; if it doesn’t it is better left out. Research can include anything for instance clothing – what colours were available to the man in the street? Historically, dyes were extremely expensive to make and were the traditional colours of royalty. Pre-internet, Rhona suggests going to the library or museums or buying books on the era that you writing about. She also mentions that many universities and other educational bodies offer weekend seminars on history. You can also, of course, watch films of the period which comes in handy with…
  • effective use of dialogue and language…no-one in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is going to say “yeah, innit” and in the 16th/17th centuries, land-owners were likely to use a language different to their farmhands and men to women. Whilst only men could legally own money, the girl of independent spirit could only let off steam behind the scenes and had get her own way by underhand methods.
  • the ‘structuring and crafting of your work’ section includes ‘the opening’, ‘keeping the pages turning’, ‘structure and working methods’, ‘bringing it to life’ and ‘getting it right’.

There are hints and tips in Rhona’s book from leading historical novelists including Rosemary Sutcliff (Wikipedia’s page is a very interesting article/biography about this English author), Winston Graham OBE ( most famous for his Poldark series and Jean Plaidy ( – born Eleanor Alice Burford) who had sold 14 million books by the time of her death (1993 – at sea, somewhere between Greece and Egypt!). Eleanor chose to use various names because of the differences in subject matter between her book – under the pen name ‘Victoria Holt’, she sold 56 million books(!) and 3 million as ‘Philippa Carr’. Rhona also touches on the categories within the genre, namely: romance, hot historical/bodice ripper, blockbuster (250,000 words), big adventure, family saga, straight historical and the nostalgia novel. She also goes through the whole getting published route. Thereafter is what to do if you get rejected but more positively, follows the subjects of sequels and writing full time.


  • ‘Writing historical fiction’ by Rhona Martin (mentioned above) by A&C Black is part of a series. Other titles include ‘Writing Crime Fiction’ by HRF Keating, ‘Writing a Thriller’ by Andre Jute, ‘Writing Science Fiction’ by Christopher Evans, ‘Writing for radio’ by Rosemary Horstmann, ‘Research for Writers’ by Ann Hoffman and ‘Word power – a guide to creative writing’ by Julian Birkett.
  • ‘Bernard Cornwell’ ( has written nearly 50 novels, most of them about his character Richard Sharpe (played by on TV by British actor Sean Bean). He says, and Rhona agrees, when writing historical fiction, one main thing to be careful of is to write in the manner of the time, especially with dialogue. This is where research comes in. Unless you read a lot of historical fiction, you need to ensure that everything you write fits into the era. I remember one of my school play competitions, Oscar Wilde’s ‘The Importance of Being Ernest’ (which is set in the late 1800s), where we came second because the judge said that one of our actors was wearing a digital watch! I know it’s not the same as writing but you still need to check and double-check for inaccuracies. Again, this is where an Editor or Agent would come into play but you still want to get it as accurate as you can before getting to the submission stage.
  • Needless to say there are hundreds of history reference books on the market, these include ‘The strange laws of Old England’ by Nigel Cawthorne, Hutchinson’s Pocket ‘Chronology of World Events’, Faber’s ‘Book of London’ and Philip’s and Brockhampton’s books of ‘World History’ and then there’s ‘The English Family 1450-1700’ by Ralph A Houlbrooke (published by Longman).


  • sells books, audiobooks and DVDs from many eras including topics of general history, pre & ancient history, AD-1100AD, Medieval, 16thc, 17thc, 18thc, 19thc, 20thc, World War 1, WW2, military history, genealogy, natural history and even crime & investigation!
  • also sells historical books by author and title.
  • The Historical Novel Society ( claims to be ‘the best place to find out about new historical fiction’. The Society, formed in 1997, promotes all aspects of historical fiction and provides support and opportunities for new writers, information for students, booksellers and librarians and is a community for authors*, readers, agents and publishers. *Clicking on the website’s ‘authors’ link takes you to a list of over 150 authors registered with the site – including the Jacqui Bennett Writers Bureau (mentioned in handout 7) and ‘Historical Romance UK’ which is a blog ( for lovers of historical romance and written by HR authors. In case you’re wondering what a ‘blog’ is exactly (and that included me at the time!) Wikipedia explains…” A blog (an abridgment of the term web log) is a website, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. “Blog” can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketchblog, videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting) are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging which consists of blogs with very short posts. As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. With the advent of video blogging, the word ‘blog’ has taken on an even looser meaning of media where the subject expresses opinions or simply about something.”
  • contains a comprehensive list of historical fiction authors including Colleen McCulloch (of the Thorn Birds fame), Bernard Cornwell, Philippa Gregory, Patrick O’Brien and more. The home page is rather messy but probably only because it’s packed with so much information!
  • details a guide to the best historical novels and tales and many are downloadable from this site free of charge. Project Gutenberg is a collection of spoken books which have been compiled by voluntary narrators. Their site is
  • BBC’s history section ( which “is dedicated to bringing history to life, for the casual browser and the total enthusiast. Experience history through animations, games, movies and virtual tours, or delve into more than 450 feature articles by leading writers.” It includes topics on ancient history (Anglo Saxons, Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, Ancient India, British Prehistory etc.), British History (Normans, Tudors, Abolition, Victorians etc), World Wars (one and two) and Recent History (Sept 11, Falklands, Northern Ireland and Iraq). It also has an ‘on this day’ section where you revisit historical events on the current day or select particular days/months. Their ‘Resources’ section includes listings on history TV and radio programmes, interactive content, British timeline (chronological summaries of key events) as well as an A-Z on historic figures (selected short biographies) and history for kids pages. Finally, their ‘Practical History’ area has details on archaeology, family history and history trails. That should keep you going for a while!
  • is another book selling site and claims to be “the preeminent internet publisher of literature, reference and verse providing students, researchers and intellectually curious with unlimited access to books and information on the web, free of charge”.


Here I give you a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts picked from my Twitter page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Take a modern story, one you’ve written or know well, but set the characters in a certain time in history – how would they cope? Would they know about the era? How would the people around them react to them?
  • Do the same for a classical or historical story and set the characters in present day – how would they react; to modern technology, for instance?

And today’s sentence starts…

1. The stretch limo pulled into the gravel drive…

2. “Safety is our number one priority, Mr Houdini.”

3. George had been waiting for an opportunity like this for years…

4. Clark’s hand quivered as he touched her skin…

5. “Please don’t leave,” Rhoda begged her…

6. “Could you be any colder?” Ryan growled…

7. Andy pulled at his ear lobe…

The podcast concluded with News & Feedback, On This Day in History and two Fibonacci poems.  I first heard about Fibonacci in one of Judith Allnatt’s ( tutorials and, whilst I don’’t write much poetry, it’s one that even I don’t find too taxing. As good old Wikipedia’s page ( explains it’s based on a mathematical sequence where the first two Fibonacci numbers are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two, i.e. the sequence starts 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and so on. The poems are based on the numbers as syllables, but obviously you can’t have a word with zero syllables so it would start at 1. Here are two examples…

  • Slug / snail / spider / inch by inch / they crawl over me / until I scream “please let me out!”
  • Pete / the / dragon / had a cold / As he sneezed the flames / faltered at the back of his throat

That’s it. Thanks for getting this far – a list of the other transcripts and summaries can be found at


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Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 015 (Nov 2010) – mixed topics inc. writing rules

The fifteenth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 29th November 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first fourteen episodes (see earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit, and erotica. This episode was a mixed bag.

Hints & tips

W. Somerset Maugham once said that there are three rules for good writing but no-one knows what they are. I think there are more than that and have come up with a few. To use a cliché (I’ll be mentioning them again later), I’ve only scratched the surface so will be passing along other gems from time to time.

  • This sounds really obvious but a short story or novel should have a start, middle and end. I was one of the judges on a local short story competition recently and one of the fifty stories I judged only had a middle. Whilst it should have been disqualified before it reached me, it lost some major points (I start at 10 and work downwards; although two of the stories I judged got the full 10/10) for not sticking to that golden rule.
  • The basic premise of a good story is that you have a character who wants something, or to achieve something, and there is an obstacle in his or her way. It’s often described as a three-act play (of course not necessarily in a play format). First of all you have your set-up (the location and characters), then the confrontation / obstacle and finally the resolution. And most importantly the character must have learnt something by the end. Even in the gentler stories, such as those found in People’s Friend magazine, the obstacle can’t have been removed by someone else, otherwise the story falls flat. The character can have help but he or she must have learnt by what’s happened. This also means that there doesn’t to just be one obstacle in his or her way – there is likely to be for a short story but in a novel, or film, there are usually two major obstacles. Taking Sleepless in Seattle as a classic example, apart from the geographical distance between Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks’ characters, Meg’s already engaged and Tom’s met someone that his son disapproves of so Tom’s son takes it upon himself to get him together with Meg, which we know will ultimately happen but if it was just a case of the two of them getting on a plane, it would be a less interesting and much quicker movie. The film was actually inspired by An Affair to Remember which had many similarities except for Deborah Kerr’s accident being the added complication stopping her meeting the lovely Cary Grant.
  • Have a mix of dialogue and description – long patches of description can put some readers off (including me). One of my poets, Pat M, loves narrative but I sigh at a chunk of text and tend to skim through it, so you won’t necessarily win whatever you do but it’ll vary the pace of your writing; quick dialogue interspersed with slower passages of description.
  • Genuine dialogue is the most realistic but don’t overdo the ums and ers. It has to sound realistic and your characters can have quirks but too many and it’ll become annoying.
  • Vary your sentence lengths – short sentences increase pace but too many and it’ll get tiring. Like description, longer sentences slow the pace and a mix of both is highly recommended.
  • Don’t overdo the ‘he/she said’ – if you’ve got two people speaking you don’t need to label every line of dialogue. Every sixth or thereabouts should do it, or you could find other ways of indicating who’s saying what, for instance have a character mention the other person’s name or mention what the person is doing, like… Eve jumped off the sofa. “Hold on, Frank!”
  • Equally you want to avoid having too many adverbs. You don’t have to say “Oh no!” she said frustratingly. We know by what she’s saying that she’s frustrated.
  • Don’t try to be too clever in the words you use. A good story can be simply told – a strong character- or plot-based story is much more rewarding than one with overly flowery language.
  • Show don’t tell – this is a phrase you’ve probably heard before but it’s a major tip. The best way to explain it is, for example, ‘She was angry.’ is tell (where the narrator is telling the reader how the character feels) but ‘She slammed her fist onto the counter.’ shows us that she was angry.
  • Something that isn’t talked about so often is ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’, or ‘active’ and ‘passive’. An example of indirect would be ‘her arm was broken by the fall’ – this is where something happens to a character rather than a direct action such as ‘she broke her arm falling off the sofa’ and a reader is going to feel more empathy with the character if it happens to him/her.
  • I’ve mentioned the five senses before. You should automatically have sight (what’s happening), sound (dialogue) and touch (unless your characters aren’t carrying anything, holding hands etc) but you may well not have smell and taste. Unless your character is eating something, taste may be a sense that isn’t going to be included because it’s not appropriate, and that’s fine, but wherever your characters are there are going to be smells so it would add another dimension for the reader to include this.
  • Colours. It’s amazing how many short stories I’ve read, and have written over the years, that don’t mention colour. Don’t go mad saying a character has brown hair while wearing a black dress and walking to her blue car but a splash of colour here and there does again add to the reader’s visualisation of a scene, although you want to leave something to their imagination.
  • Avoid repetition wherever possibly unless you are reiterating or explaining something, for example to say ‘Sarah saw the car pull in to the drive. The car was dirty.’ You would want to say something like ‘Sarah saw the car pull in to the drive and noticed how dirty it was.’ Or it would have more impact with something like ‘Sarah saw the dirty car pull in to the drive and watched the man put on a balaclava’, although of course it depends where your story is going but just her noticing that a car is dirty isn’t newsworthy but emphasising the car, using repetition’ by saying something like ‘Sarah saw the car pull in to the drive. It was the sort of car that was non-descript; silver, dirty, average size, but Sarah felt there was nothing ordinary about this one.’
  • Also sets of three work well. Unless you’re specifically listing something then having three items or descriptions work better than two. Of course you could have said that the non-descript car was silver and dirty but it doesn’t seem to flow as well, unless you avoid using it in list form and use the description as an adverb: a dirty silver car which would be fine.
  • Always use distinctive names. You don’t have to use unusual names but ideally avoid the same starting letter, for instance having a John, Joe and Joseph in the same story is likely to get very confusing.
  • Be concise. In short stories and flash fiction every word counts. In novels you can ‘waffle’ a bit (which is probably why I like writing them) but it still has to be related to the story or ‘move it along’ (i.e. it has to be going somewhere to warrant being in it). Whilst you won’t be able to match the likes of Ernest Hemingway’s 6-word story (For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn) and unless it’s for a competition, you probably wouldn’t want or need to. But look at your story paragaph by paragraph or line by line and if a story can manage perfectly well without it, then it can come out. Don’t throw anything of any substance away though – unless it’s particularly specific you could probably use it elsewhere. The great thing about computers is that you can have varying versions of the same document so if you thought something had to go but then you realise that it’s key, you can go back to an earlier version and retrieve it.
  • As well as chopping out sections that may not be appropriate, there may be stronger ways of saying something, for instance instead of saying ‘hit hard’, ‘thumped’ would not only be more concise but it’s also a great example of an onomatopoeia – which website Wise Geek ( explains is a language technique or device used to create an effect in or for the reader.
  • Also there may be simpler alternatives to words; for instance instead of using ‘go back’ would ‘return’ be better? It may only be losing one word but if you have a word count limit, it may make all the difference.
  • Redraft – first drafts rarely look much like the finished article so don’t worry if it sounds like a load of rubbish. If the story works then that’s brilliant but most writing is a work-in-progress and will need some polishing before it can go anywhere. The chances are that it could be but put it away for a week or a month then look at it again with fresh eyes. Apparently horror writer Dean Koontz polishes each page 25-30 times.
  • Read your piece out loud – you are more likely to hear what is wrong if you do. It also helps to spot that you are consistent with your viewpoint and tense.
  • Podcaster of Packing Heat and erotica novelist Jordan Castillo Price says to avoid “info dumps”. She says that a snappy introduction works really well and gave “Space: A final frontier” as a classic example. The beginning must be a hook and start where the action starts – if the action starts three paragraphs or pages in, chop the beginning completely or feed it in later in the story. It’s very tempting to throw lots of information at the reader so you think they know where they are but letting them get to know a character first and feeding bits they need to know in as they go along, works much better and they’ll retain more of it. Jordan also says there shouldn’t be any more than two adverbs (for example; nervously or happily) per chapter! Whether this is achievable or not is another matter. Also recommended is to avoid the words: very, actually, really, totally, quite, already, fairly and much!
  • Equally, stop where your story feels right to stop. I’ve read some stories (and again written some) where I’ve felt the conclusion is earlier than it ends up being. If all the threads are tied up and the dilemma resolved, the chances are that that’s it.
  • A question sent to Writers’ News Helpline column a while back was from a reader wanting to know how to indicate when someone is shouting. Rather than use capital letters or exclamation marks, columnist Diana Cambridge suggested simply using verbs such as he/she shouted, screamed, shrieked, bellowed, thundered, yelled, barked brayed or boomed. So, plenty of choice.
  • If a story isn’t working, is it because you’ve got it in the wrong point of view? If you’re on a computer create another copy of the document then take a particularly meaty chunk of the story and change the point of view. For instance if you’re writing a third person viewpoint story, is it not working because you don’t feel connected with your character or is it because it’s first person and you’re finding it too limited because you can only know what character is thinking about. Or you could try a totally different angle or re-write it in second person viewpoint (Wikipedia’s ‘narrative mode’ page – has more details on second person and I also mentioned it in episode two.
  • If you’re struggling with a particular character, another option would be write a monologue from that person’s point of view. Have them talking about what’s going through their mind. Whilst it may not be relevant to the story you’re doing, it’ll give you an insight into the character. Most writers will have their characters take over and guide the writing and anyone who doesn’t write heard that they’d probably think we were mad and it does all come from our subconscious but it is amazing how and what actually comes out so if you know anyone who doesn’t write but may have the slightest inclination to do so, I’d heartily recommend it.
  • If the point of view in your story is fine, is the tense the best one for it? For instance if you’re using past tense and it seems too disconnected, would it feel more realistic in present tense. Even if it’s a historically-based story, there’s no reason why it can’t be set in the present tense. Or if you story is set in the present tense, you might find the tight timeframe too intense and wish to plan to story over a longer period of time.
  • These two seem like quite drastic changes but if something’s not working it may take you longer battling on as it is than taking a look at what might be making it stick.
  • Try a twist ending. Some publications such as The People’s Friend that I mentioned earlier, don’t like twist endings but generally they are incredibly popular but which in turn means that writers need to find cleverer ways of fooling the reader into thinking one thing where in fact the complete opposite happens – but with clues peppered in along the way; easier said than done? Most definitely. But they’ve been around for years. Roald Dahl was a master at twists – hence the popularity of his Tales of the Unexpected.
  • They say to write about what you know. I volunteered recently at last weekend’s Chorleywood Literature Festival (and have recorded a review of it which I hope to release in the next few days) and one of the authors I met there was said in one of her reader discussion groups that she doesn’t write about her life because she deems it not interesting enough but she does write about her experiences so you never know when something that might appear mundane at the time could end up being fodder for a story you write in the future.
  • However well you know a topic though it’s likely you are still going to have to do some research and we’re really lucky that we have the internet to get information from. Whilst it won’t give you the feel of a place, it’s perfect for checking odd facts that either you’ve forgotten or where were missing that one final ingredient that will make your story authentic. If it’s not accurate, there are bound to be readers who will know and let you know! That said, even the most famous of authors have had people writing to them to point out inaccuracies so you can only do the best you can do.
  • Formatting – in the UK most guidelines request a double-spaced, single-sided manuscript in Times New Roman font size 12. This obviously can vary but one thing I hadn’t realised until I started submitting was that the first paragraph of a story, chapter or section, is NOT indented but the rest of the section are. Where you have dialogue to start, the first person’s speech wouldn’t be indented but the other person’s would be. And remember that where different characters are talking or creating action, their text should be in different paragraphs.
  • Again, this is probably stating the obvious, but take a notepad and pen with you wherever you go. Neither has to be anything fancy but how annoying is it when you think of something brilliant then have nothing to jot it down with and have forgotten it by the time you get somewhere to make a note of it. I keep a mini pad and pen in each jacket and bag I own just to be sure. Then at night, I keep my mobile handy so that if I think of something, I don’t have to switch the light on, just type it in the diary or jotter sections or record it into the Dictaphone – most mobiles have them; even my five year old Nikon compact camera does.
  • One of the most important, and again probably obvious, things to say is that you should enjoy writing story. If it’s boring you, the chances are that you readers will be bored too. If you’ve been working on a piece for too long a period of time, put it away (unless you have a deadline to stick to) for a few days, move on to something else and then come back to it when it’s a little less familiar. This may sound bizarre but if you also have a character who’s bored or a story where nothing happens then this will easily turn the reader off.


Here I normally give you a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts picked from my Twitter page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project. However, this time I’ve thrown a few more in…

  • Try looking around the room for inspiration. Pick six words at random and see if they will make a story. Either that or have the actual words included in your story; the quirkier the better.
  • Pick one of those words and set a timer for 10 minutes. You may only get a piece of flash-fiction length out of it but you may be surprised where it can take you. If you have time, set a reminder at a certain time every day and do a series of 10 minutes exercises. Even if it only lasts a week, it may spur you on to keep writing, and however you get on, you’ll have had more written than if you’d not done it at all.
  • Take a look at a story you’ve finished (old or otherwise) and check that it has all five senses.
  • Write down a list of clichés that you know and see if you can find unique alternatives – is a great example of existing clichés.
  • Sites for example similes are (as clear as mud… for example) and metaphors ( – he was an ox of a man); see if you can come up with original alternatives (better ones than those in other words)!
  • A lot of writers talk about ‘What if?’ Stories work well when a new angle is looked at. Take an ordinary situation and think ‘what if’, perhaps with a quirky twist, and there’s a great book by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter called ‘What if? – writing exercises for fiction writers’ which Amazon’s UK store, as an example has from £1.53 plus postage & packaging, or $3.95 in the US store.
  • I went to a writing workshop with novelist Toby Litt at the Chorleywood Literary Festival a few days ago and he got us to write down three objects, four names, three places (countries) and three emotions then said we had to cross out one object, one name, one place and an emotion and see whether what we had left would make a story. Apparently that was one of fellow novelist Ali Smith’s ideas so thanks to both of them for that. The majority of the workshop focused on dialogue which I mentioned near the beginning of this episode but also asked us to write down a portable object that we’ve always wanted but had never owned. On reflection I would have said an iPhone but at the time I couldn’t think of anything and came up with a pain-free back. I know it technically broke the rules but it did get me writing. We then had to think of a place that we could never go back to and I thought of my father’s first camera and art shop which was later made into a house so whilst I could physically go back to the location, I could never step inside the shop again. We were also asked to create a character of someone in disguise so I thought of a con man posing to be someone he wasn’t.

And today’s sentence starts…

1. As she/he put the flower on the grave…

2. Ethel and Hilda were best friends until…

3. Spring was Anne’s favourite season because she…

4. Craig lifted the veil and gasped…

5. With just 100 yards to go, Bertie…

6. “Come on, I can’t wait forever.” Kim tapped her foot repeatedly.

7. Amicability was not was Marline had planned…

The podcast concluded with News & Feedback, On This Day in History and a 60-worder called ‘Dating heaven’:

The Brington Advertiser’s lonely hearts advert read ‘gentle giant 40s sought for romantic picnics and cinema visits by petite blonde late 30s, reply to PO Box 147′. Eve waited for over a week for replies to trickle in but by the second week she’d had fifty. She sifted through them and found her ideal man, Adam…a match made in heaven!


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Today’s sentence starts at Twitter’s @sentencestarts

I have two writing-related Twitter profiles, the main one being and the other is, the latter of which does what it says ‘on the tin’. Here are the beginnings posted today (to do with as you wish):

1559. I try not to get upset… (first person)

1560. You try and smile… (second person)

1561. Kathy realised too late that the slide was made for a child-size bottom… (third person)

1562. The message looked ominous… (you can use any pov)

1563. As I pick up the… (first person)

1564. He clearly isn’t taking you seriously… (second person)

1565. As Clarence slapped the paint / glue on the… (third person)

1566. It had been a dare but… (you can use any pov)

1567. We’re all here aren’t we (first person plural)

1568. You know it’s a hard life… (second person)

1569. Blake gasped as the… (third person)

1570. Striding past the shop window… (you can use any pov)

Each set of four contains for different points of view so if you are weaker at one than the others, you may like to try these first. One of my favourites is the second-person point of view which is rarely used and not particularly commercially welcomed. It’s where the narrator is talking to the reader (you) rather than talking about him / herself or another person and I’d recommend anyone who’s not tried it before to do so. It may take a bit of getting used to but hopefully it’ll grow on you as much as it did me. :)

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in sentencestarts, tips, Twitter


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Podcast: Bailey’s Writing Tips – Episode 035 (25th July 2011)

Episode 35 of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released today and is available from iTunes, Google’s Feedburner, Podbean (when it catches up), Podcasters (which takes even longer!) or Podcast Alley (which doesn’t list the episodes but will let you subscribe) where you can subscribe or just listen).

I’d not covered poetry for quite a while so I thought I’d do it for this episode which culminates in a poetry freebie. Websites mentioned were:

Poetry – general,,,

Hints & Tips,,


  • Using the five sense (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch) look around wherever you are in now and write a poem about it;
  • Flick through a magazine and find a picture of a place that you like the look of and write a poem about it.

And the seven sentence starts picked from my Twitter page were:

1.    It was the news they’d all been waiting for…

2.    The girls giggled as the picture looked like…

3.    “Just press the left-hand side into the…”

4.    Counting sheep didn’t help…

5.    “What will you do if he’s there?”…

6.    Benson breathed in and stepped up to the microphone…

7.    The proud parents sat in the audience…


The podcast then culminated in News & Feedback, On This Day In History then…

Fiction Freebie

The last item of each weekly podcast is a piece of fiction – either flash or poetry and this week’s is an autobiographical poem I wrote about five years ago called ‘Three Quarters of a Whole’ which you can read in full on my website’s ‘What I do’ and blog’s ‘My writing’ pages.

And that was it for this week’s episode. Thank you for reading this page and especially if it then entices you to go and listen (and better still, subscribe). If you have any feedback or areas you’d like covered in the hints & tips podcasts, you can email me at or visit the website for the links mentioned in these podcasts, links to the blog, my two Twitter profiles and Facebook page, as well as other writing-related information. And I look forward to bringing you the next episode.


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Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 014 (Nov 2010) – erotica

The fourteenth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 15th November 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first thirteen episodes (see earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting, comedy, romance and chick lit. This episode talked about erotica.

Hints & Tips

Erotic fiction is the name given to fiction that deals with sex or sexual themes, generally in a more literary or serious way than the fiction seen in pornographic magazines and sometimes including elements of satire or social criticism. Such works have frequently been banned by the authorities.

  • ‘Black Lace’ has produced 100+ erotic novels, selling over 2 million copies. Virgin and Hodder Headline, publish 9 erotic titles monthly between them; smaller presses usually publish one a month.  There is less competition in this market than romance or crime so more likelihood of having your erotic novel accepted!
  • Guild of Erotic Writers’ website lists just one writer of erotic fiction – Susan Van Scoyoc who is based in Essex but unfortunately clicking on the link to her page says that her website is currently unavailable. Apart from artists, other members include models, life models, photographers, sculptures, bodycasters and jewellers. You can keep up-to-date with their events page (

Pamela Roachford’s ‘Writing Erotic Fiction’ (one of the ‘How to’ series) advises:

  • Erotic writing has three main attributes: 1. The writing is heavily based around the senses; 2. The aim of the book or story is to make the reader feel turned on; 3. The scenes contain action which is sexually explicit. An erotic book for predominantly female or mixed audience is heavily based around the senses. This means that it should be richly textured in the way that things taste and smell and sound, as well as in descriptions of how things look and feel.  It’s important that your audience feels as though they’re experiencing exactly what your lead characters experience, and can identify with your characters.  Because the whole point of the erotic novel is to make the reader feel turned on, your goal is to contain sexually explicit scenes, written and structured in a way that makes them part of the plot.  The erotic writing steers clear of three things – crudeness, coyness in the sex scenes and overuse of humorous interludes.
  • It’s often said that romantic and erotic novels are written to a formula.  Romantic novels: boy meets girl, the attraction is mutual (whether they admit it or not at the start), something comes between them (e.g. another character or their jobs), the conflict is resolved, and they live happily ever after. Erotic novels: boy meets girl, they have lots of sex with each other and different people, and everyone is happy.
  • Always use the past tense – he did etc. – and third person narrative (he and she, rather than I or we).
  • An erotic novel must be a good read, which arouses the reader through scenes of explicit sexual action. Your editor will expect around 50% of the action in your erotic novel to be sexually explicit, and to the first sex scene to start within the first 10 or so pages, by the end of the first chapter at the latest. That’s not to say that you can’t have plot: just that the plot has to be it inextricably linked to an erotic theme.
  • What should you include in a sex scene?  The golden rule is to write about things you enjoy, that way your enjoyment is likely to be transmitted to the reader, who will in turn enjoy reading what you’ve written.
  • You’re writing an explicit sex scene. Talk about your characters bodily parts, including their genital areas and erogenous zones. How does the texture and colour of their skin change, depending on which area is being touched and how aroused are your characters? What about body temperature? What is the interplay of muscles under the skin look like? How do they touch each other, and what kind of rhythm and pressure do they use? Unless you’re an expert or gynaecologist, it is advisable to buy a good anatomy book or sex manual. ‘The Joy of Sex’ by Alex Comfort is particularly good for source material and has been around for years, or there’s the Kama Sutra!
  • As well as describing the physical actions in the sex scene, describe what one of your characters is thinking and feeling. Again, use only one person’s viewpoint. Don’t forget taste and sense of hearing as well as touch and sight.  What about the feel of clothing or the surface on which your characters are making love? Whether it’s silk sheets, Persian carpets, a lawn, beach, big pile of autumn leaves-what does it feel like?  What does the surface sound like against the character’s skin?  Are there any particular scents in the air?
  • What should you avoid in the sex scene?  The golden rule is very similar to that of what to include. Don’t write about anything that you find personally distasteful, because your reader will be turned off. But today the area is common to all the major publishers: under age sex, non consensual sex, libel (by all means say that your character looks like a famous actor, but don’t say that your character is the actor, and enjoys being tied up and ravished in the middle of Harrods!), incest, bestiality etc.
  • Sometimes there’s a titillating shock value in having your characters use crude language.  However, if one of your characters continually uses a crude expression, it’s boring, rather than erotic.  Make sure you are (pleasantly) rude, but not crude.
  • Read! Notice how other writers describe their characters’ sexual actions/feelings, then use that as a starting point of your own work (without plagiarising; keep to your own style).

Same-sex writing

  • Although Jake Arnott ( – who I met at March’s Oundle Literary Festival – writes thrillers, he was ranked one of Britain’s 100 most influential gay and lesbian people in 2005. His first novel ‘The Long Firm’ was published in 1999 and tells of Harry Starks, a homosexual East End gangster in the 1960s based on the Kray twins. A notable feature is that the story is told from five different points of view. It was later serialised on BBC television starring Derek Jacobi, Phil Daniels and Mark Strong, and broadcast in July 2004.
  • Gay pulp fiction refers to printed works, primarily fiction, that include references to male homosexuality, specifically male gay sex, and that are cheaply produced, typically in paperback books made of wood pulp paper; lesbian pulp fiction is similar work about women ( People often use the term to refer to the “classic” gay pulps that were produced before about 1970, but it may also be used to refer to more recent gay erotica or pornography in book or magazine form.
  • – again I make reference to Wikipedia. It’s a great site (updated by the public) which has pretty much everything on everything! This page details the history behind lesbian fiction including such works as ‘Orlando: a biography’ by Virginia Woolf, Patricia Highsmith’s (under the penname of Clare Morgan) ‘Price of salt’ and the 1998 novel ‘Tipping the velvet’ by Sarah Waters (made into a BBC three-episode drama in 2002 starring ‘Ashes to Ashes’ actress Keeley Hawes).


  • ‘The Burning Pen’ by M. Christian is a book about sex writers on sex writing.  It says that from the beginning of time, erotic art has played an enormous role in how history views cultures and societies.  Unfortunately, scant attention has been paid to the artists themselves, leaving a hole in the study of how erotica reflects the society on which it is created.  In this groundbreaking work, contemporary writers of erotica, reflect on how their work originates, how their sexuality shaped their words, and how their words have affected their sexuality. ‘The burning pen’ is an exploration of writers’ souls, sexuality, and sensual creativity. The book includes a dozen essays on the art of erotic writing by renowned authors. Each essay is accompanied by the writer’s favourite erotic story – used to highlight his or her unique style and voice as well as demonstrated wildly diverse approaches to sexuality and language.
  • ‘The joy of writing sex – a guide fiction writers’ by Elizabeth Benedict is a guide to writing convincing sex scenes and its lessons teach the craft of writing fiction as a whole. Elizabeth Benedict explores issues of the first time, married sex, adultery and more. This book takes into account the changes in sexual attitude in recent years and there are examples of the best contemporary fiction and interviews with some of the most acclaimed young writers including Jeanette Winterson!
  • Melcher Media publish a series of waterproof books including their ‘Aqua erotica’ range, usually containing a dozen or so stories, designed to be read whilst in the bath, on the beach or by the pool. I have three.
  • There is also a section on erotica in Sue Moorcroft’s how-to-guide ‘Love writing’ – I interviewed Sue recently (released as a 2-part special episode podcast) and again links to her website are on mine.
  • Another series of books is the ‘how-to’ books.  I have a few, including ‘Writing erotic fiction’ by Pamela Roachford. The book includes topics such as ‘getting started’, ‘putting it into words’, ‘structuring the novel’, ‘developing your characters’, ‘developing your setting’, ‘writing the sex scene’, ‘finding sources for ideas’, ‘submitting your manuscript’, ‘learning from experience’, ‘after acceptance – what now?’.
  • The Observer newspaper has published a few thin non-fiction books on topics including Space, Art and the one I’m going to mention, ‘The Body’! Needless to say it’s useful when writing romance, and especially erotica, to know your way round the human body. I’ve heard a few podcast comments where someone has praised the story but highlighted inaccuracies with detail. In theory this is where your Editor would come in but really you’d want be professional and do as much of the groundwork yourself as you could or if you’re self-publishing you’re your own editor! I digress. The Observer Book of the Body is just 112 pages long but packed with fascinating information from the dissection (not literally!) of a sneeze, hiccup, yawn, laugh (apparently we laugh an average of 15 times per day and we use more facial muscles to frown than we do to smile or laugh so that’s a good excuse to be happy J) and blush (which was considered an attractive trait in the 18th and 19th centuries), old wives’ tales, major skeletal bone names and even how much a limb can be insured for! Ken Dodd’s teeth are insured for £4M while David Beckham’s legs and feet, at the time of publication, were worth a cool £33.6M! Appropriate sections from a writing point of view include:
  • The Erotic Print Society (0207 736 5800, e-mail publish erotic literature and accept unsolicited manuscripts (synopsis and first chapter). See their website for details.
  • There are also plenty of same-sex novels (some mentioned above) and collections of short stories. These include ‘Penguin book of Lesbian Short Stories’ and ‘New Penguin Book of Gay Short Stories’. lists gay mags available.
  • Finally, I couldn’t cover erotica handout without mentioning Ann Summers. Apart from underwear, toys etc. Ann Summers sell books and I have one (bought from a car boot sale last month!) called ‘Uncovered – erotic confessions’ (picture on final page). Sub-headings include ‘tools of the trade’, ‘close encounters’, ‘les-be-friends’, ‘sex on the beach’ and ‘obey me’…not a book for the faint-hearted!
  • ‘Body of evidence – a brief history of sex guides’ details ‘Ars Amatoria’ by Ovide (dated 2BC-2AD), the ‘Karma Sutra’ by Vatsyayana (c.100-199AD), ‘On sex’ and ‘On Unnatural sex’ by Thomas Aquinas from his Summa Theologica (1265-1274), ‘Sammy Tubbs the Boy Doctor, and Sponsie the Troublesome Monkey’ by Dr EB Foote (1874) – a children’s book which features detailed line drawings of the genitals and semi-explicit guide to sex and one of the first positive representations of an interracial kiss in literature! The next book mentioned is the famous ‘The Joy of Sex’ by Alex Comfort (1972). Although it was originally released as a parody on the existing ‘Joy of Cooking’ with its contents reading like a menu of positions, it was a no-holds-barred guide which paved the way for the proliferation of sex manuals produced thereafter.
  • Body language expert Peter Collett explains the five telltale signs of flirting – expressive facial movements (men love women with an animated face; it sends two clear signals – she understands my feelings and she can manipulate her face with great skill and therefore she will skilfully look after the children!), spherical contours (men like a woman’s chest, backside, shoulders…no surprises there!), vulnerability (men like women who expose their neck and wrists – vulnerable parts where the blood flows!), childishness (men also need to be childish to show that they have some variability, that brings out the mother in the girl!) and smiling/joking (smiling men show they’re not threatening but tell jokes to show they are dominant)!
  • The ‘Sense and sensitivity’ pages explain how the five senses work. As mentioned in previous notes, try and consider all five senses when writing a story. By describing places and what someone looks like (just having the colour of something helps with the imagery) etc. you capture sight, what someone is eating and how it tastes (depending on whether the story is written from their first person or third person/omniscient viewpoints…I’ll be covering viewpoints in August) is obviously the sense of taste. Touch is vital for writing a romantic story. It is unlikely that two characters would be intimate without touching. For a good story to work, the reader must be able to imagine what is happening and describing how your character feels when they have their first kiss with a new partner is magic! Interesting fact from this section include…every cm2 of skin has c. 200 pain receptors, 15 pressure receptors and 6 for cold and one for warmth. The least sensitive part of the body is the middle of the back and the most sensitive are the hands (17,000 receptors in each hand!), lips (not surprisingly), face, neck, tongue, fingertips and feet. The tongue is very receptive to pain (which is why biting your tongue hurts) but not so good at sensing hot or cold. Human’s thermal pain threshold is 45oC. Smell is often described by fresh bread/coffee (popular with house viewings!), cut grass etc. but try and make the smell in your story unusual. Humans can detect seven primary odours – camphoric (mothballs), musky (perfume), roses (flowers), minty (chewing gum), ethereal (cleaning fluid), pungent (vinegar) and putrid (rotting eggs). All other smells are a combination of these and the average nose can distinguish up to 10,000 variations (wine experts’ noses may have more!). Our noses contain 40 million receptor cells, dogs have 1 billion (which is why they say that dogs prefer to smell you before hearing you…which is certainly true for mine…especially if I’ve been shopping!). Hearing is the final sense and is where dialogue comes in. Obviously there are other sounds such as the screeching of car brakes or slamming of doors. Again, be original where you can.

So, you don’t have to look far for inspiration!


Here I give you a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Write a romantic or scene between a woman and her new boss; and/or
  • a romantic short story between two people of the same gender (or species!)
  • then continue each story by writing an erotic scene as the characters get to know each other better.

And today’s sentence starts…

1.    The mist enveloped Sophia like…

2.    “Please, just stop crying.” Miss Denton pleaded…

3.    Jill hadn’t accounted for gravity…

4.    With only two days to go, Brian…

5.    Jason felt for the gun in his pocket…

6.    Boston had never looked so beautiful…

7.    Lewis reeled from the paper cut…

On this day in history

This episode came out on 22nd November so I won’t list all the related events but one was:



Lincoln was elected to Congress in 1846 Kennedy was elected to Congress in 1946
He was elected President in 1860 He was elected President in 1960
His wife lost a child while living in the White House His wife lost a child while living in the White House
He was directly concerned with Civil Rights He was directly concerned with Civil Rights
Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy who told him not to go to the theater Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln who told him not to go to Dallas
Lincoln was shot in the back of the head in the presence of his wife Kennedy was shot in the back of the head in the presence of his wife
Lincoln shot in the Ford Theatre Kennedy shot in a Lincoln, made by Ford
He was shot on a Friday He was shot on a Friday
The assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was known by three names, comprised of fifteen letters The assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was known by three names, comprised of fifteen letters
Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and fled to a warehouse Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and fled to a theater
Booth was killed before being brought to trial Oswald was killed before being brought to trial
There were theories that Booth was part of a greater conspiracy There were theories that Oswald was part of a greater conspiracy
Lincoln’s successor was Andrew Johnson, born in 1808 Kennedy’s successor was Lyndon Johnson, born in 1908

Flash Fiction

The last item of each podcast is a piece of fiction – either flash or poetry and episode 14’s was a not exactly erotic 60-worder called ‘Jack of all trades’: Jack was a local superstar. He could do anything anyone wanted; plumbing, electrics, carpentry; you name it, he could turn his hand to it. But one day Ethel Miller caught him out. He’d worked for her often… before her mind started to go. Answering the door naked, there was nothing he was going to do for her that day!

I hope you enjoyed this episode and that some of the links will be useful for you. You can find other transcriptions of my podcast here.

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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in ideas, podcast, tips, Twitter


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Transcription of BWT podcast 013 – romance and chick lit

The thirteenth episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 15th November 2010 and the content has never been shared in print other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first twelve episodes (see earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting and comedy. This episode talked about romance, chick lit etc.

  • Probably the most famous (and prolific) romance writer was Dame Barbara Cartland who wrote 723 novels over a span of 77 years…no wonder she had five secretaries! Princess Diana’s step-grandmother (little fact of the day if you didn’t know it), Barbara died in May 2000 aged 98!
  • Again probably the biggest name in romance publishing is Mills & Boon. They have a great ‘Information for Aspiring Authors’ page ( I have one of their annuals (as far as I know they produced just two; 2007 and 2008 which is a shame as it could have been possible outlet for short story submissions! Another publisher is Choc Lit which Sue Moorcroft writes for (see my website for a two-part interview I did with her recently).
  • CHICK LIT…’Chick lit’, Wikipedia, amongst other sites, explains is a genre of fiction written for and marketed to young women, especially single, working women in their twenties and thirties. Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary is an early example and similar titles regularly topped bestseller lists, spawning the creation of imprints devoted entirely to the genre. Chick lit features hip, stylish female protagonists (usually in urban settings) and follows their love lives and struggles for professional success (often in the publishing, advertising, public relations or fashion industry). The books usually feature an airy, irreverent tone and frank sexual themes. The genre spawned Candace Bushnell’s ‘Sex and the City’ and its accompanying television series. Variations have developed to appeal to specific audiences, such as “Chica Lit,” (aimed at American Latinas), Christian Chick Lit, ‘Matron Lit’ (or ‘Hen Lit’) which Wikipedia says has “older female characters as protagonists. Subjects are often romantic in nature, and heroines are usually between the ages of 45 and 65.
  • Probably the most difficult thing about writing romance is to be original. Whilst boy meets girl is common for Mills & Boon, each story still has to be unique and the characters still need their challenges. Most stories have been already told, a new idea is fairly rare. Romeo & Juliet is probably the most well known of these and on which the play ‘West Side Story’ was based.
  • The Romantic Novelist’s Association (the RNA) says that “Romance is the most popular genre of fiction. According to our research, more than ninety per cent of all readers like to see a bit of romance in the books they read—men as well as women.” The RNA was formed in 1960 to promote romantic fiction and to encourage good writing and now represents more than 700 writers, agents, editors and other publishing professionals.


Here I give you a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts picked from my Twitter page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Pick two characters from a TV programme and write a romantic dialogue between them;
  • Buy a national or local paper, look at their lonely hearts column and pick two characters, writing a scene of their first date. While you’re looking at the classified section look at the births, marriages and deaths column, and you may find this useful as a source of names (although you split the first name from the surname though to avoid using real names).
  • Real-life situations can also inspire. This could be anything from your office computer going wrong, and an engineer coming to fix it, to being trapped in a lift with an incredibly attractive man or woman (although the latter is rather clichéd). What are the romantic (or even erotic – I’ll be covering erotica next week) possibilities of those situations?  What kind of events would happen with that kind of backdrop? Other options are visiting new places, whether it’s somewhere as mundane as an optician or perhaps starting evening classes in a foreign language – think of its potential as a romantic or erotic setting. What could happen? But do try thinking of less likely scenarios.

And today’s sentence starts…

1.     Felicity’s daughter was forever telling her to switch off the …

2.     As a small business, Heald’s Nursery was struggling… (kindergarten or garden centre?)…

3.     The dealer’s phone rang and stopped, then rang again… (what kind of dealer?)…

4.     The (ice/sugar) cube melted slowly as Reece stirred the spoon …

5.     Lose his balance and Paulo would lose everything …

6.     No-one had brought/given Dora flowers before …

7.     If Allie stood still long enough she might just get away with it …


  • Richard Joseph’s book ‘Bestsellers – top writers tell how’ includes biographies about, and interviews with, various authors. Romance writers include Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jilly Cooper, Barbara Cartland, Dora Saint (who wrote as ‘Miss Read’) and Catherine Cookson (although she prefers to be referred to as a ‘social history’ writer). Tips include “write the story you want then leave it for a while, look at it again and all your mistakes will come out of the page and hit you.” (courtesy of Catherine Cookson) and “keep a diary because we all forget things so quickly…keep your sentences short, use as much colour as possible” (Jilly Cooper).
  • A book, which may at first sight may be an unusual guide for writing romance, is the Daily Telegraph’s ‘Chin up girls – a book of women’s obituaries’. ‘Chin up girls’ covers ‘heroines’ (great for romance!), ‘trailblazers’, ‘battleaxes’, ‘sportswomen’, ‘matriarchs and muses’, ‘adventuresses’, ‘bluestockings’, ‘entertainers’, ‘writers and artists’ (including Angela Carter, Mary Wesley…who  started writing aged 70! and Tom Ripley creator Patricia Highsmith) and finally ‘low-life and the afterlife’. I suggest this (or other obituary books…the Daily Telegraph do a few) as they summarise someone’s life in a few pages…great inspiration for characters. Another book which may come in handy for characters is Parragon’s ‘1000 great lives’, a 518 page book crammed with biographies including Winston Churchill, Edgar Allen Poe, Horacio Nelson, Mozart, Karl Marx, William Shakespeare and Madonna.
  • The subject of heroines leads me nicely on to light-hearted book ‘The Action Heroine’s Handbook’. It tells you how to do “dozens of TV and movie skills” including ‘how to win a high-speed chase in high heels and bustier’, ‘navigate a roomful of laser beams’, ‘fend off the undead’, ‘profile a serial killer’, ‘land a failing helicopter’ and ‘outrun a fireball’…you never know when your character might need any of these!
  • Jilly, Frederick Forsyth, Barbara Cartland, Arthur Hailey, Barbara Taylor Bradford were all journalists before becoming writers. Barbara Taylor Bradford says that “it’s (being a journalist) not an automatic passport to fame and fortune…but the wide range of subject matter and discipline required provide not only the confidence to write but also that other vital ingredient…experience.” She adds “Basic writing ability is not enough. A would-be novelist must also observe what I call the five ‘Ds’: Desire – to want to write more than do anything else; Drive – the drive to get started; Determination – the will to continue whatever the stumbling blocks and difficulties encountered along the way; Discipline – to write every day regardless of mood; Dedication – dedication to the project until the very last page is finished.”
  • It’s said that Barbara Cartland read 20-30 novels (mostly historical) for every novel she wrote – as she wrote a book a month she can’t have done much else but read! The basic format of Barbara Cartland’s books are described as “such sex as there is, is left until the last page, and is then expressed in emotional terms, and only when the hero has married his love one”! Barbara says “I never specifically describe the sex act because it’s such a bore laid bare. It makes readers wonder if they’re normal if they don’t have sex upside down, swinging from a chandelier. So I’m their escape, their fairy tale. I give them the glamour, the beautiful clothes and the marvellous attentive men they are starved of.”


  • I mentioned the Romantic Novelists’ Association earlier and their website is Their ‘What is Romantic Fiction’ page is says that “The trouble with trying to define a romantic novel is that there are so many sub-genres. The words ‘romantic novel’ cover an amazing variety. It’s like stepping-stone into the most beautiful old English country garden, a hollyhock here, a cowslip there, different, but each perfect in its own way. Many writers, even those who have just won an award for Romantic writing, deny that they write romantic fiction. So how does one decide that a novel, a story is romantic? The dictionary defines romantic as “characterised by or suggestive of Romance, imaginative, visionary, remote from experience.” Romance, apart from being “the vernacular language of old France” is defined as “a prose tale with scenes and incidents remote from everyday life…”
  • American-based is a site ‘where the Book Tarts talk love, laughter, laundry and the mysteries of writing life’ and is full of information for writers. They have a really interesting page on Male Romance Novels – I’ll put the link on this episode’s page on my website.

I have a submission opportunity for you: ‘Still Crazy’ ( seeks submissions by writers 50+ or by writers of any age if the subject matter portrays people over 50. Short stories and non-fiction of ideally up to 2,500 words (although they will consider up to 3,500 words) and poetry of up to 30 lines. Their submissions page ( provides full details and although you won’t get paid but you will receive a free copy of the magazine so, although it won’t make you rich, it’ll make you a little more famous. They publish twice a year (January and July) with respective submission cut-off dates of mid-May and mid-November.

I also include quotes in my writing group’s handout and Cathy Carlyle is quoted as saying… ‘Love is an electric blanket with somebody else in control of the switch’.

Flash fiction

The last item of each podcast is a piece of fiction – either flash or poetry and this week’s is a 60-worder simply titled ‘Sam and Claire’: Sam was the love of her life. They met in North London and were inseparable. Claire loved his deep brown eyes and he loved her inexhaustible playfulness. She made him wonderful meals, he protected her. “Come on Sam, let’s go for a walk!” He gazed up at her, barked and wagged his scruffy tail. He knew he’d be happy here.

I hope you enjoyed this episode and that some of the links will be useful for you. You can find other transcriptions of my podcast here.


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Transcription of Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 012 (Nov 2010) – writing comedy

The twelfth episode of my Bailey’s Writing Tips audio podcast was released on 8th November 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website so I hope you find this information useful. In the first eleven episodes (see earlier blog posts in the ‘podcast’ category), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories, novels, writing for children, scriptwriting then a mixed bag. This episode talked about comedy, starting with the following hints and tips:

- Humour is tricky because, like most art-related work, what one person likes, another may dislike…or in this case may or may not laugh at. Don’t be put off though as it should be as enjoyable to write as to listen to (OK, harder work but do give it a go!). Coronation Street is soon going to be celebrating its 50th Anniversary (I was at their 35th sitting next to Alf Roberts actor Bryan Moseley at lunch, but that’s another story). Coronation Street can be hilarious with ‘Benny Hill’ type sketches (one example that springs to mind was Tyrone/Molly’s disastrous burger van venture that ends up on fire so they drive it into a pond!). Eastenders, although mostly seriously (sometimes depressing), has the occasional light-hearted sketch and it’s lovely to see Alfie and Kat back as they’ve had a few opportunities in the past to lighten the mood. Sketch shows are very popular, from Lenny Henry impressions to comedy series such as ‘Men Behaving Badly’ or ‘Black Books’ (if you’ve not seen the episode with Bill Bailey playing the piano – you’ve missed a treat). Most reflect real life, though obviously with the routine or mundane aspects removed. I’ve mentioned the BBC’s writersroom website before and it also has example comedy scripts (

- Back in 2006 British TV station Channel 4 ran a poll of top 20 sitcoms and Frasier was 1st followed by Fawlty Towers, Seinfield and Porridge. Dad’s Army was 7th then Blackadder, Spaced, The Office and Father Ted. In fact only 6 of the Top 20 were American. The BBC ran a similar poll and Only Fools & Horses came out on top. Two OF&H sketches are often re-played on TV…the one where Del leans against the bar (you can see it at You Tube or and the other where Del, Rodney and Uncle Albert have been commissioned to clean a stately home’s chandeliers ( In case you don’t know them, I won’t spoil the outcome for you but suffice to say that there was little dialogue and the sketches worked mainly due to visual action (another favourite of mine is Morecambe & Wise’s ‘Patricia the Stripper’ breakfast scene – One sketch that works due mainly to dialogue is The Two Ronnies’ Fork handles ( You can find classic and modern clips from the British Comedy Classics site. Their home page ( has five example clips and a comprehensive search facility.

- Wikipedia’s situation comedy (sitcom) section ( is packed with information and explains sitcom as follows: “As opposed to ‘stand-up’ comedy, or the telling of jokes, the situation comedy has a storyline plot and is more or less comedic drama. The comedies of Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Shakespeare and Moliere in post-Renaissance Europe were essentially situation comedies. The essence of the current, modern situation comedy on television is that the characters remain in the same situation from episode to episode. The situation is usually that of a family, workplace, or a group of friends. The term was adopted to distinguish sitcom from other comedy formats: sketch comedy, which generally featured new characters and situations each outing, or the humorous monologue or dialogue, which did not feature characters. Often these other formats were presented within a variety format mixed with musical performances, as in Vaudeville. The emerging medium of radio allowed audiences to return to programs, which allowed programs to return to the same characters and situations each episode and expect audiences to be familiar with them. Thus, while the humor in sitcoms varies, it is usually character-driven, which may result in running gags during the series. Due to the need to retain the same situation over many episodes, in many sitcoms characters remained largely static. Events of individual episodes typically resolve themselves by the end, and are rarely mentioned in subsequent episodes. This episodic nature is mirrored in many dramas as well, but there are also many sitcoms that feature story arcs across many episodes, where the characters and situations slowly change over the course of their run.”


In this section of the topic podcasts, I give provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts picked from my Twitter page; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

- Humour is notoriously difficult to write especially because what one person finds funny another person may not, so write a passage of dialogue, of if you can a whole piece, where the people can’t see eye to eye but it works out OK in the end.

- Try taking a normally-dark location, for instance, a cemetery or church, but make it light-hearted. Maybe one of the characters is trying to take another character’s mind off the seriousness of the situation.

And today’s sentence starts…

1. My mind is working overtime…

2. There was no mistaking the sound of…

3. Noel couldn’t help it…

4. As the monk lifted up his hood…

5. Sophie sank to her knees and…

6. You had plenty of sleep but you still feel tired… (second person)

7. He wasn’t exactly what Joan had been looking for in a companion…


- An search for ‘writing comedy’ found nearly 2,500 books including one I have, sixth on their list, entitled ‘Writing Comedy’ by Ronald Wolfe published by Robert Hale.

- Needless to say the internet is swamped with comedy writing sites and one I found via a Google search for ‘writing comedy’ was

- There’s also a very interest article in the Guardian newspaper’s archive from September 2008 ( by Richard Herring, David Mitchell and Robert Webb; the latter two hailing from ‘That Mitchell & Webb Look’ comedy show (

- One of the other Google links took me to Southampton’s Solent University which has just started a BA (Hons) in Comedy – Writing & Performance, a 3-year full time course.

- E-How’s ‘How to Write Comedy’ page ( is great and again I’ll put the link on this episode’s page on my website. It provides a list of things you’ll need (joke books, spiral notebooks and pens – simple enough) alongside 11 instructions: Keep in mind that good stand-up comedy writers are neither anointed by God nor born into it; they just write a lot. All you need to do it is a pen and some paper. Steal time; compose jokes in your head while you’re stuck in traffic or shaving. Write with a person in mind. Get into their pattern of speaking. Duplicate the person’s style, but use different topics or subject matter. Do this for many different performers. Don’t show anyone your work until you think it’s terrific. Research and analyze topics that interest you. Ask questions about your topic. Understand that a joke occurs at the intersection of two ideas. Connect ideas that go together or are wildly opposite. Manipulate your audience. Take them down a particular road and then surprise them with something else. Pull the rug out from under your audience. Employ good timing so that they don’t step on the rug too early or get on it and then get off before you’ve had a chance to deliver the humour. Respect your audience at the same time; they are your bread and butter.

- There are loads more comedy writing pages at and doing a ‘comedy’ search on e-how’s home page brings up 6 pages of links!

- There’s a great called which is packed with details of over 900 British TV comedy programmes, actors and actresses, DVD releases and more.

Flash fiction

The last item of each topic podcast is a piece of fiction – either flash or poetry – and episode 12’s was a monologue called ‘Unfunny Ha Ha’:

“Marcia do this, do that.” I’m fed up with it. It’s not called DIY for nothing. But that’s all he’s good for. I sometimes wonder why I married him but then I see his smile. I look at him standing by the car and I melt like an ice cube in Barbados. Not that I’d know, never taken me further than Barnsley and that was a holiday never to be forgotten – for all the wrong reasons. Two weeks, caravan, wettest summer since 1842. Say no more. At least I have that to be grateful for. His lack of utterances. Just looks at me with those big green eyes and, well… aforementioned ice cube puddle all over again. And he does make me laugh. His wit, sharp as a plastic knife but some people can be too clever, can’t they? Genuine. And kind.

I think I’m too hard on him. It’s not his fault. Wasn’t his fault. Wasn’t looking where he was going, the driver of the car that hit him. Dropped a CD on the floor, the lad had said. So now all I have is the pictures. Dotted around the house like a Dalmatian. My favourite’s the one in the study, by my desk. Took it when he wasn’t looking so he isn’t laughing, isn’t smiling but it’s the real him. My Harold. I still talk to him. “Ha” I say. That’s short for Harold. He didn’t like Harold and can’t say I blame him. I say “Ha, make me laugh.” And I swear I can see his lips curl.

I hope you enjoyed this episode and that some of the links will be useful for you. You can find other transcriptions of my podcast here.


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A big “thank you” – 6,000 blog visits since 31.03.11

I’d just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has visited (and especially those who have revisited) this blog since I started it at the end of March.

I really enjoy posting and more recently (mid-June) ‘meeting’ all the authors who have volunteered to lay themselves (and their photographs) bare for the world to see… yes, literally. To name just a few I’ve had western, crime and horror writers from the UK, paranormal romance from Spain, historicalites (or should that be historicalitesses) from Australia, biographers and scriptwriters from the US, and children’s / YA from Canada and receiving new enquiries enabling me to keep posting at least one interview a day.

So my thanks go not only to the readers but also to the contributors. Without them (‘you’ if you’re reading this and have taken part) this really wouldn’t be the blog it is today without you. For as long as there are authors who’d like to take part I’ll gladly keep going because not only do I love the initial contact but look forward to reading all about you… and then adding my comments as if we were sitting chatting in front of the fire (which believe me, despite being 22nd July, I could do with right now).

In addition to the interviews I shall keep posting competition information, hints and tips, pieces of flash fiction (some poetry, although this is not my strong point – feedback always welcome in that regard!) and other websites to visit.

If you’d like to get in touch for whatever writing-related reason my email address is and if you’d like to take a look at my website ( then you’d be very welcome. Oh, and the 100th blog interview (19th August) with be with me so if there’s anything you’d like to know about me feel free to ask.

Thank you again, from the bottom of my clichéd heart. :)

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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in blog


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Today’s sentence starts

Here are today’s beginnings to do with as you wish:

1539. I can’t get a signal… (first person)

1540.  It looks blurred but you can’t be sure…. (second person)

1541. As he tapped out the message… (third person)

1542. It was the best meal… (you can use any pov)

1543. I recognise him from the plane… (first person)

1544. You’re dying for a cigarette… (second person)

1545. Damien really did like to cut a short story long… (third person)

1546. Digging into the bowl of… (you can use any pov)

1547. I’m surprised at how many people… (first person)

1548. You try to be careful… (second person)

1549. As Tyson dashed across the squash court… (third person)

1550. The workforce laid down their tools… (you can use any pov)

1551. I try and make small talk… (first person)

1552. You know it’s the right thing… (second person)

1553. Chloe looked at the yellowed walls and ceiling… (third person)

1554. There was a cold draught… (you can use any pov)

1555. It’s the squeaking I can’t stand… (first person)

1556. You look bored but… (second person)

1557. Stefan stuck his tongue out like a three year old… (third person)

1558. It wasn’t going to make a millionaire out of… (you can use any pov)

Each set of four contains for different points of view so if you are weaker at one than the others, you may like to try these first. One of my favourites is the second-person point of view which is rarely used and not particularly commercially welcomed. It’s where the narrator is talking to the reader (you) rather than talking about him / herself or another person and I’d recommend anyone who’s not tried it before to do so. It may take a bit of getting used to but hopefully it’ll grow on you as much as it did me. :) You can read more starts here.

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Posted by on July 22, 2011 in ideas, sentencestarts, Twitter, writing


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Double entendres – the power of words

Emails from my editor, Rachel, usually mean work so I was especially delighted to receive the following (sensitive eyes please look away)…

Sentences in letters written to UK Housing Associations
1. It’s the dogs’ mess that I find hard to swallow.
2. I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off.
3. I wish to complain that my father burnt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage.
4. And their 18 year old son is continually banging his balls against my fence.
5. I wish to report that tiles are missing from the outside toilet roof. I think it was bad wind the other day that blew them off.
6. My lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?
7. I am writing on behalf of my sink, which is coming away from the wall.
8. Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant.
9. I request permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen.
10. 50% of the walls are damp, 50% have crumbling plaster, and 50% are plain filthy.
11. I am still having problems with smoke in my new drawers.
12. The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared.
13. Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink.
14. Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now is in three pieces.
15. I want to complain about the farmer across the road. Every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it’s now getting too much for me.
16. The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous.
17. Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third. So please send someone round to do something about it.
18. I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would you please do something about the noise made by the man on top of me every night.
19. Please send a man with the right tool to finish the job and satisfy my wife.
20. I have had the clerk of works down on the floor six times but I still have no satisfaction.
21. This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broken and we can’t get BBC2.
22. My bush is really overgrown round the front and my back passage has fungus growing in it.
23. He’s got this huge tool that vibrates the whole house and I just can’t take it anymore.

If you see an advert below this text it’s appeared of its own accord – nothing to do with me and I’m not getting paid for it! Apologies if it’s annoying (although at the moment it’s The Adjustment Bureau which actually was a very good film) but I’ve only just found out that WordPress put these things on from time to time to “pay the bils” which is fair enough because so many blogs (including this one) are free for the blog owner to run. If I see them popping up too often then I’ll look into paying to get them removed. Thank you for visiting this page and my site and I hope you enjoy exploring it.


Posted by on July 19, 2011 in non-fiction



Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast 32 – interview with crime writer Sally Spedding

My interview with crime writer/tutor Sally Spedding recorded at the July 2011 Winchester Writers’ Conference was released as special episode 32 today, Monday 18th July. Depending on how you’d like to listen to (e.g. iTunes, Google Feedburner, Podbean etc… or if you feel so inclined to subscribe that would be fantastic) – there are links on the left-hand ‘Where to find me’ menu. Below are the questions asked:

- Can you please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

- You write poetry, novels and short stories, often the darker the better, do you know why you ended up in this end of the spectrum and do you write ‘light and fluffy’?

- What have you had published to-date? Can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?

- How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?

- What is your experience of writing competitions?

- Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?

- Are your books available as eBooks? If so what was your experience of that process? And do you read eBooks?

- What was your first acceptance and is being accepted still a thrill?

- How do you deal with rejections?

- Do you manage to write every day? What’s the most you’ve written in a day?

- Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?

- How much of your stories do you plot?

- Do you have different characters in each book? Do you bring any of the minor characters back in other books?

- You live in Wales and France – do you write about those countries because you know them well?

- Who do you first show your work to? Do you still paint?

- Because you’ve written so much do you find that your writing is tight in the first draft?

- Re. word count… some of your books are quite large, does word count matter?

- You write mostly in third person, is that a viewpoint you favour?

- Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?

- What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life?

- If anything, what has been your biggest surprise about writing?

- What advice would you give aspiring writers?

- What do you like to read?

- You’re on Facebook and Twitter – how is it all going?

- What do you think the future holds for a writer?

- Is there anything else you’d like to mention?

Sally’s website is and she’s also on Twitter and Facebook. Sally mentions her publisher Sparkling Books who are also on Twitter.


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