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Daily Archives: November 20, 2012

Guest post: Fiction Writing: Finding Inspiration within Real Events by Barbara Jolie

Tonight’s guest blog post, on the topic of taking inspiration from our surroundings, is brought to you by Barbara Jolie.

Fiction Writing: Finding Inspiration within Real Events

For many, one of the most difficult aspects of writing fiction is finding inspiration. Fiction writing requires a careful balance between writing stories and ideas that are fantastic and magical, while also being believable and approachable. Finding ways to create stories, plots, and characters that demonstrate your creativity, but are also relatable to the average reader can be a challenge. That being said, almost all authors will agree that some aspects of their fictional writing consist of aspects from their actual lives. Whether it is merely a character or an aspect of a character that is inspired by someone you know or it’s an entire plotline that feels very familiar, we pull inspiration from events that actually happen a lot of the time. This doesn’t make our writing any less fictional. It is these real events and real people that help inspire our writing and enable us to write pieces that feel familiar even among the fantastic.

At one point or another in every author’s career inspiration becomes a challenge. Struggling with finding a writing subject, moving a plot forward, or developing a character can be one of the most difficult aspects of writing. It’s easy to feel defeated when inspiration fails us. Don’t give up hope. Of course, there will be times of struggle and times of success in any pursuit. If you find yourself struggling to find a writing topic or you just don’t feel inspired by what you’ve already started working on, take these thoughts into consideration.

The best way to write something that you really believe in is to write about what you know. To some degree this means that you are writing from your own experience. Now, this is not to say that you have to write a memoir or a non-fiction piece; it just means that you need to draw from your own personal experiences and stories. Some of the most engaging pieces draw from real life events. Creating characters that truly feel familiar to readers usually involves writing off of someone you actually know. The character does not have to resemble that person exactly by any means, but you can draw things from that person to place in your character. Even just taking a situation that you or someone you know has dealt with and building your characters responses to that situation from a true event can help to inspire a truly meaningful reading (and writing) experience.

Many writers draw from their own experiences to perpetuate their craft. Take, for example, one of the most prolific and celebrated authors of our modern age Joan Didion. Didion has written within the fiction genre, non-fiction genre, plays, screenplays, and essays. Her work is critically acclaimed and draws inspiration from numerous events and characters within her real life. Her memoir The Year of Magical Thinking and her most recent piece Blue Nights examine elements of her family life and the circumstances of her husband and daughter’s deaths. These books (though not fiction) demonstrate how unfamiliar scenes can be made accessible through familiar feelings and character responses. Both novels spend much of their immediate plots sitting in hospital rooms, exploring doctor’s discussions, and examining medical terms. Didion draws on her experience with illness, hospitals, and eventually death to illuminate the very human feeling of grief, helplessness, and loss.

Think about your own personal experiences and what you can draw from them. Of course, many times we insert aspects of our actual lives into our fictional writing without even really realizing it. This is what writing is all about. But, if you find yourself struggling to really make a character or scene feel real and accessible to the reader, consider your own life. Think about college roommates, important life events, walking the line at graduation, studying the first subject in college that really inspired you—these aspects of your own life can help you create scenes and characters that come alive. To some degree or another, you have to place yourself in your craft. Think of how you or the people around you would react when they are placed in the situation that your characters are placed in. Even if your characters aren’t college students or lying in a hospital bed, those feelings, emotions, and responses you have in those situations may translate well to your character’s situation.

As fiction writers, we can gain from these moments of self-exploration the significance of human emotion in our writing. Even if the setting or plotline is completely unfamiliar (as a college dorm room scene may be for some of us or a fairy kingdom is for all of us), it is the underlying human emotion evoked within our writing that makes a story successful.

That was great, thank you, Barbara!

Barbara Jolie is a full time freelance writer and blogger for onlineclasses.org. She writes about advantages of online classes and is particularly interested in writing and language education. If you have any questions email Barbara at barbara.jolie876@gmail.com.

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If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please”.

The blog interviews return as normal tomorrow morning with memoirist Candy Marie Bridges – the five hundred and fifty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.

** NEW!! You can now subscribe to this blog on your Kindle / Kindle app!

See http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B008E88JN0

or http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008E88JN0 for outside the UK **

You can sign up to receive these blog posts daily or weekly so you don’t miss anything. You can contact me and find me on the internetview my Books (including my debut novel!) and I also have a blog creation / maintenance service especially for, but not limited to, writers.

Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are fortnightly episodes, usually released on Sundays, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in blog, ideas, tips, writing

 

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Reader feedback wanted and offered

** LIST UPDATED 15 DEC 2012 – CLICK HERE FOR LATEST LIST **

Can you offer an author FREE feedback? Would you like to receive that feedback?

I came up with the idea for this page during a mini-break at a ‘pitch to the panel’ event at the Festival of Romance, Bedford, mid-November 2012. I know there are many writers out there who, for one reason or another, don’t have enough (or any!) readers / writers willing to give them FREE feedback on their works-in-progress so they can make it as good as it can be before they submit it. Could you give that feedback? Would you like that feedback?

NB. You can be on both lists – it doesn’t have to be one or the other. 🙂

** Because almost everyone has contact details against their name, I shall leave it that you contact each other. Obviously any enquiries I receive will be passed on but I would ask that you visit this page from time-to-time to check whether I have added anyone who is willing to read your genre or that an author is looking for feedback that you offer. Thank you again everyone for taking part. I hope to build this page into a really valuable (if not monetary!) resource for all concerned. **

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READERS (see below for readers offering feedback)

  • Do you like reading novels, short stories, non-fiction or poetry (anything else?) and are willing to give free, honest feedback?
  • Can you read them quickly (within a month)?

I’m looking to list first readers on this page (below) so please either email me or leave a comment below (and I’ll paste it into this page) with the following information…

  • Your name:
  • Your email address: (via me if preferred)
  • Your website (if you have one, if not I can design you one!):
  • Genre preferred:
  • Format (novel, short stories, poetry, non-fiction):
  • Maximum length of work to be read (___,000 words / ___ lines for poetry):
  • Lead time preferred (ideally no more than a month please):
  • Do you write? (yes/no):
  • Any other relevant information:

Thank you so much in advance. Writers can never have too many first readers and feedback more than “that’s good” (or otherwise) is invaluable to us and you get a free read!

NB. Don’t be under pressure to give a lengthy, detailed feedback (but it would be great if you could). You’re doing this for free so just what you can would be so gratefully appreciated. 🙂 You can discuss this directly with the other author.

Readers listed here (alphabetically for now)…(note the ‘at’ in the email address should read @, with no spaces, but formatted like that to try and avoid them getting spammed! If you click on the links they should work OK)

  • Aaron Fuller (email c/o Morgen): Genre preferred: anything except romance! Novel synopsis and individual chapters only, not whole ones! Otherwise any. Max count: 10,000 words. Lead time: 2 weeks. Do you write? Yes. Thank you, Aaron!
  • Aaron Roark (aaronroark9 at gmail.com): Aaron is a writer (listed below) who would also like to give feedback, preferably fantasy or horror (no non-fiction or romance). He needs at least two weeks lead time depending on the length of the work. (50,000 words max). Thank you, Aaron!
  • Claire Maycock (formerly Marriott) (claire at nibenon.com, new blog coming soon at www.clairemaycock.com) Genres: non-fiction (home, garden, crafts, personal development), fiction (historical). No maximum length. Lead time to be agreed on receipt of file but will typically be three to four weeks. Do you write? Yes. Thank you, Claire!
  • David Ferretti (edf at wildblue.net): I write crossover fantasy (no cursing/sex). I have two finished manuscripts of my trilogy; the first is edited and has been read by several beta readers that caused me to make changes. I am the only person to read the second. I will be glad to exchange finished manuscripts with anyone who writes in the same genre. My manuscript is 119,000 words long and readers have told me that it is a fast read. If your manuscript runs <120,000 words then give me two weeks to review it. Greater length manuscripts will take a little bit longer. I prefer Microsoft Word docx or doc files. Thank you, David!
  • Elaine Spires (hello at elainespires.co.uk / www.ElaineSpires.co.uk): Genre preferred: all except sci-fi, horror and poetry. Do you write? Yes (several plays, a TV series, three books, presently working on fourth). Thank you, Elaine!
  • Hersilia Press publisher Ilaria (ilaria) Meliconi (info at hersilia-press.co.uk / http://www.hersilia-press.co.uk) is willing to offer feedback on crime novels but timescale dependent on existing workload. Grazie Ilaria!
  • James Munroe (MunroJim at twitter.example.com): I will read any novel set in the medieval period, and if it is good, post a review on MedievalMysteries.com, or otherwise send a brief critique direct to the author by email. Thank you, James!
  • Jeanne E. Rogers (echidna at gmail.com / http://warriorechidna.blogspot.co.uk/p/contact-me.html): I really like this idea, Morgen, with an ‘e.’ I would like to participate on both sides of this coin. I am a writer of middle grade fantasy, focusing on highlighting endangered animals in my stories. I would like to read fantasy, not necessarily for young people (timescale dependent upon workload – please enquire first), and I would like to have my new book, which is not complete at this point, read for some thoughts / opinions. Thanks so much! Thank you, Jean!
  • Kay Millward (kay.millward at yahoo.co.uk / http://www.kay-millward.com/contact-us.php): Any genre. Feedback usually within the month. Do you write? Yes.
  • Laurence French (laurencefrench92 at yahoo.co.uk): Hi, I’d be happy to read other authors’ works and give them feedback. I’m a published author in the UK (fiction and non-fiction), as well as having a number of articles published. I like all genres and, if the author wishes, I can do a complete proofread of their work as well. I would have to charge for that though as I work freelance. Otherwise I’m willing to read and give a critique, with suggestions and constructive comments. Thank you, Laurence!
  • Morgen Bailey (morgen@morgenbailey.com / https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/red-pen-critique): short stories (any family-friendly fiction genre) up to 3,000 words or novel extracts of a similar length (with synopsis) for this blog’s Red Pen Critique slot, although the story / extract are posted on the blog so only be happy with that before offering me your writing. 🙂
  • Nikki Dudley (nikkisdudley at hotmail.co.uk / http://ellipsisandnovels.blogspot.com / https://twitter.com/nikkidudley20): I would like to go on both lists please! As a reader, I am interested in mystery, thrillers, crime, young adult and general fiction. I am happy to read most lengths but lets say not over 100k. I can get back in a month, maybe less. I write fiction and poetry myself. I also co-edit an online magazine. As a writer, I am writing a young adult dystopian novel set in the future. It centres around natural energy. It is around 90k words. Just looking for general f/b. Can give more info on contact. Thanks! Thank you, Nikki!
  • Ralph Scott (info at credittheedit.com / http://www.credittheedit.com) If it might accent the above, the staff at Credit The Edit, LLC provides detailed, complementary Test Edits on up to five pages of almost any fiction or nonfiction manuscript. Though five pages does not allow for the examination of everything that is solid or is in need of an overhaul in an author’s manuscript, it’s quite impressive just how much those five pages reveal about the merits and hurdles of the project. So feel free to tap us at least for that. That’s very kind of you, thank you, Ralph.
  • Rebeccah Giltrow (rgiltrow at gmail.com / http://rebeccahgiltrow.blogspot.co.uk): Any sort of fiction (novel, short story, poetry, script/play, lyric). Max. length: 50,000 words for prose, any number of lines for poetry. Lead time: 3-4 weeks. Do you write? Yes. Thank you, Rebeccah!
  • Robin Greene (bodicea77 at yahoo.com). Genre preferred: Fiction, anything except romance. Format: Novels or short stories. Max length: 80,000 words. Lead time preferred: about a month, probably less. Do you write? (yes/no): some have said that, yes. 🙂 Thank you, Robin!

Websites where authors can put their work online for feedback include Authonomy (known as HarperCollins’ unofficial slush pile), YouWriteOn – with these two you have to critique to be critiqued, ABC TalesAbsolute WriteChaptereadCritiquecircleFiction PressFigment (aimed at teens), ScribdWebookWorthy of PublishingWritersWriters’ CafeStoryLane (more about you than your fiction) and Wattpad (I’m on the latter two). Ken Weene recommends http://authorsinfo.com and http://cowbird.com.

I also have a list of reviewers on this blog’s Reviews page. I offer feedback on short stories or novel chapters on my blog’s Red Pen Critique page going live (the story / extract then my feedback) every Sunday evening. 🙂

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WRITERS (see below for writers wanting feedback)

Are you looking for free feedback? If so, please either email me or leave a comment below (and I’ll paste it into this page) with the following information…

  • Your name:
  • Your email address:
  • Your website (if you have one, if not I can design you one!):
  • Title of your item:
  • Genre of your item:
  • Format (novel, short stories, poetry, non-fiction):
  • Word count (___,000 words / ___ lines for poetry):
  • Brief synopsis of item (50 words max!):
  • NB. Please list items separately if wanting feedback on more than one.
  • When you need the feedback by:
  • Any other relevant information:

Thank you and good luck with your works-in-progress! Please remember that the readers will be offering to do this for free so feedback will be as detailed (or otherwise) as their time allows.

Writers listed here… (note the ‘at’ in the email address should read @, with no spaces, but formatted like that to try and avoid them getting spammed! If you click on the links they should work OK)

  • Aaron Roark (aaronroark9 at gmail.com): My book is called The High Grass. It’s a horror story. Only the first chapter is complete, but it will be a novel. About 1100 words. Synopsis: It’s the story of a fifteen year old boy named Jimmy. He lives on a farm in north Texas with his mother and father. The farm is adjacent to a large field that no one owns where the grass is about five feet high (hence the title). There is something evil in the field that is after Jimmy. I would also like to give feedback. Need at least two weeks lead time depending on the length of the work. (50,000 words max). Thank you, Aaron.
  • David Ferretti (edf at wildblue.net): I write crossover fantasy (no cursing/sex). I have two finished manuscripts of my trilogy; the first is edited and has been read by several beta readers that caused me to make changes. I am the only person to read the second. I will be glad to exchange finished manuscripts with anyone who writes in the same genre. My manuscript is 119,000 words long and readers have told me that it is a fast read. If your manuscript runs <120,000 words then give me two weeks to review it. Greater length manuscripts will take a little bit longer. I prefer Microsoft Word docx or doc files. Thank you, David.
  • Ethan Holmes (ethanholmes-at-ethanholmes.com / http://www.ethanholmes.com): I certainly wouldn’t mind some feedback or reviews. I have five titles ranging from short story collections to science fiction to my latest title which turned out to be a self-help book I didn’t know was going to be one. You can visit my site and tell me which one(s) you would like to read. Thank you, Ethan.
  • Gary Showalter (gary at garyshowalter.com / http://www.garyshowalter.com): A Primer on Roses (gardening, rose care). Non-fiction. 53 pages. Rose care – from choosing a location to plant, how they grow, how to prune, how to select tools, etc. Feedback wanted: as soon as possible. Additional information: “The pamphlet is available on Amazon now, but feedback is always welcome and changes will be made where necessary, based on feedback, with credit provided for valuable feedback. I will send a PDF file with the text to first readers.” Thank you, Gary.
  • Gina Charles (ginacharles at earthlink.net / http://ginacharles.com). Title of item: Shift Happens, A Laypersons Guide To Awakening. Genre of item: Self-help. Format: non-fiction. Word Count: 31,289. Brief Synopsis: Know that you already have all the tools you need to experience that shift into a more peaceful, abundant, and enjoyable life. Shift Happens lights the way on the journey back to Self. Feedback: At earliest convenience.
  • Jason Fink (jasonfink88 at yahoo.com): Jasmine Cowl and the Salagi Talking Stick (contemporary fantasy novel, first of a potential seven-book series). 78,000 words. Jasmine Cowl is p*ssed.  Fifteen years ago, the African American woman and her friends saved the world.  Stuck in a boring life, even though she works for the CIA… the other one.  Saddled with family, a job, and the PTA, she’s found something new. Disgruntled gnomes & talking islands force themselves into Jasmine’s life while she hunts for a powerful wand.  She’s fighting for more than the world. This time she’s fighting for her kids. Feedback wanted: no real timeframe, finished it up about 3 months back. Any other relevant information: Thanks for taking a look – I’d like to know if it’s an ok read, or if it’s… not. Honesty is always appreciated! Thank you, Jason.
  • Jeanne E. Rogers (http://warriorechidna.blogspot.co.uk/p/contact-me.html): I really like this idea, Morgen, with an ‘e.’ I would like to participate on both sides of this coin. I am a writer of middle grade fantasy, focusing on highlighting endangered animals in my stories. I would like to read fantasy, not necessarily for young people, and I would like to have my new book, which is not complete at this point, read for some thoughts / opinions. Thanks so much! Thank you, Jean!
  • Kenny Johnston (alwayssmilingthroughthetears at gmail.com): Always Smiling Through the Tears (biography / memoir) 111,000 words. Synopsis: In October, 2010, Kenny put 2 nooses round his neck in the garden shed. Twice. This is his story, a story of a broken home, mixed race children, racism, adversity and heartbreak. Suicide is all too common in our broken society, and here you see it revealed from the inside, to find what actually drives somebody to the point where the pain of death is seen as preferable to the pain in life. Kenny says, “For those, who provide feedback/reviews, I will post a free copy of the book, signed by me, if they like!” Thank you, Kenny.
  • Lae Monier (laemonie at aim.com / http://laemonie.wordpress.com): Wanted (psychological crime). Novel (67,147 words). Feedback wanted: two weeks from the time they get the WIPThank you, Lae.
  • Laurence French (laurencefrench92 at yahoo.co.uk): ‘Waiting for Dark’ (war / personal relationships). Novel. 80,000 words. Synopsis: A severely injured soldier from WW1 is looked after by a French nurse who takes him back to the battlefield at Ypres to lay the ghosts of his past and to rid him of the guilt he feels about the loss of his pals. No specific timeframe. Thank you, Laurence!
  • Nikki Dudley (nikkisdudley at hotmail.co.uk / http://ellipsisandnovels.blogspot.com / https://twitter.com/nikkidudley20): I would like to go on both lists please! As a reader, I am interested in mystery, thrillers, crime, young adult and general fiction. I am happy to read most lengths but lets say not over 100k. I can get back in a month, maybe less. I write fiction and poetry myself. I also co-edit an online magazine. As a writer, I am writing a young adult dystopian novel set in the future. It centres around natural energy. It is around 90k words. Just looking for general f/b. Can give more info on contact. Thanks! Thank you, Nikki!
  • Robin Greene (bodicea77 at yahoo.com): Nothing Good From Secrets (“women’s fiction, I guess”). 🙂 Novel (c. 79,000 words). Synopsis: Carys’ best friend PamLynn is keeping something from her. She goes through finding out PamLynn’s father has Alzheimers, that her mother has been having her followed, and that the man she thought was her father isn’t her biological father. PamLynn is more than a friend, she’s actually her sister. Blurb: (I think) Not everyone who loves you tells you the truth. Carys’ best friend has a secret. Her mother has a huge secret. Carys even has one of her own. How does a near 40 year old woman, who wants a successful career, to live a few of her dreams, oh yes and someone to share all that with, help her friends, understand her mother, and most of all help herself? When you need the feedback by: Not in a huge rush, but as soon as possibleThank you, Robin.

Websites where authors can put their work online for feedback include Authonomy (known as HarperCollins’ unofficial slush pile), YouWriteOn – with these two you have to critique to be critiqued, ABC TalesAbsolute WriteChaptereadCritiquecircleFiction PressFigment (aimed at teens), ScribdWebookWorthy of PublishingWritersWriters’ CafeStoryLane (more about you than your fiction) and Wattpad (I’m on both). Ken Weene recommends http://authorsinfo.com and http://cowbird.com.

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