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Category Archives: tips

The 365-day Writer’s Block Workbook Volume 2 is free today!

The second volume of this writer’s guide series – my best selling series – is free today, Tuesday 21st November!

Packed with 1,000 sets of keywords, spread three a day for a year, this volume also has a tip at the end of each week.

You can download the eBook for free (today only) via http://mybook.to/365WBWBVol2 (which links to the Amazon store in your country).

The first week, as an example, is below…

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Guest post: A Change of Setting by Adrian Magson

Today’s guest blog post, on the topic of locations, welcomes back Adrian Magson, this time as part of his blog tour celebrating the release of his latest novel Rocco and the Nightingale. My review of Adrian’s novel will appear here (on my blog) tomorrow and you can read Adrian’s previous post on planning here.

A Change of Setting

After writing a series of five contemporary crime novels set in London, and the first of a spy thriller series, I thought the idea for the Inspector Lucas Rocco crime series, based in Picardie, France, in the 1960s, had come out of left field. But it was probably in there all the time – it simply had to find a way out.

Most of my writing begins as a punt, often based on little more than a nugget; it might work, it might not. Planning a crime series in rural northern France was certainly a punt, although the setting wasn’t. I went to school there, aged ten, in a tiny village that is the basis for Rocco’s home base of Poissons-les-Marais (I changed the real name because it doesn’t sound very French to English ears), so I know the area. I couldn’t speak French and nobody locally spoke English, which was a bit of a challenge, albeit useful for performing a quick learning curve!

I had a good reason for taking an experienced investigator out of Paris and dumping him in a rural setting, because I didn’t want to find myself simply exchanging London city streets for Paris. In any case, France was expanding its policing initiatives at the time, so the idea fitted quite well.

Part of my thinking for Rocco was being aware of the rising popularity in the UK of European-based crime fiction, rather than UK or US-based, and I wanted to tap into that market if I could.

Placing it in the sixties was a challenge technologically (how many times did I want Lucas reaching for his mobile or tapping into the internet!), but it made the research and fact-checking fascinating because France, like the UK, was going through very interesting changes at the time, and I wanted to use a backdrop of historic events of the time on which to hang the story.

In the case of the first in the series – Death on the Marais – that backdrop lay in echoes of France’s Indochina war, in which Rocco and his boss, Commissaire Massin had both served, and which brings to the books an atmosphere of tension between the two men, and similarly the connections between a WW2 resistance fighter and a now highly-placed industrial figure with secrets to hide. In Rocco and the Nightingale, the fifth and latest book, it was the re-emergence of a gangster figure from Algeria’s independence and the rise of a criminal empire based in Paris that formed the backbone, as well as being a revisit of an earlier Rocco title.

Although the area and people are based on personal knowledge, Rocco came fully formed. He’s tall, dark and wears a long coat out of habit, likes English brogues and drives a Citroen Traction Ariane. All this makes him stand out among the locals, where horses are still used for farming and he doesn’t (yet) have running water, but a garden pump that needs priming in cold weather. Part of his struggle from book one is coming to grips with being out ‘among the cowpats’, as a former colleague puts it, and his interaction with the local villagers and villains.

But that was also part of the pleasure in the writing. If it isn’t fun, it’s not worth doing.

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I love it when settings are so vivid and absolutely, writing should be fun. If it isn’t, the reader will know.

Thank you, Adrian.

Adrian is a freelance writer and reviewer, the author of twenty-two crime and spy thrillers, a writer’s help book (at the back of which I get a credit!), a young adult ghost novel and two collections of short fiction.

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Related articles:

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. Guidelines on guest-blogs. There are other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2017 in articles, ebooks, ideas, novels, tips, writing

 

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June’s free 100-word competition is now…. open!

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Story A Day May 2017 – Day 18: A Refusal

Having failed miserably (too much client editing so not complaining) to do Camp NaNoWriMo this year but wanting to do more writing, I decided within ten seconds of receiving the first of thirty-one emails from Brit Julie (who lives in America but times her emails for us here in Blighty) to do Story A Day May this year. I’d done my first back in 2011 then again in 2012 and finally in 2013, with almost a year’s worth of ‘Fifty 5pm Fictions’ Collections in between.

Unlike all the other stories I’ve mentioned, I’m not going to post them on this blog, sorry about that because I need a stock of short stories to submit to competitions or magazines. The pressure’s then off for me to do one a day, on the day, although I’ll try.

I will let you know how I’m getting on though, and I’ll be posting the prompts, so hope you’ll forgive me but if you want to send me the stories you write (no payment, sorry!), then feel free!

So here we are on Day 18 and if you’d like to join in, today’s prompt is:

You can find the original details at http://storyaday.org/20170518-no.

How I’m getting on…

Erm. I started day one but nothing thereafter as I’m doing client (paying) work during the week. I was hoping to catch up this past weekend but I was at a bookshop launch all day Saturday then client editing Sunday as having a day off’ (at my mum’s) on Monday and am swamped for the rest of the week. I did however write the plots for the first five stories last night (writing friends and I meet at our local Starbucks – yummy chai latté – every Tuesday night for a two-hour write-in). I was hoping to catch up with the plots this weekend just gone but I ended up client editing (an autobiography) the whole time. I did a couple on Tuesday evening and will have them all done by the end of the month and to have written at least some of the stories by the end of the month though, with the idea of spacing out my client editing better from now on, although being self employed, I never say “no” to paying work. Do let me know how you get on though.

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Posted by on May 18, 2017 in ideas, short stories, tips, writing

 

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Another book (my 14th!) is born…. my Editing Guide

Yes, my fourteenth title is alive! To-date I have published three novels (a chick lit and two crime novellas), eight collections of short stories, and two writing exercise guides.

My latest book is my ‘Writer’s Guide to Editing Fiction’ which will be available as a paperback (via CreateSpace) and eBook (Smashwords, Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk etc.) and I’m thrilled.

I’ve taken much of the feedback I’ve given my editing clients over the last nine years and put it in this book. Will this mean that you don’t need an editor? Sadly not, but whoever you use (I’d gladly help you and offer a free 1,000-word sample), will be eternally grateful (hopefully!) to receive a more refined novel.

So, more about the book… this is the blurb…

How to polish your novels and short stories – a comprehensive guide including a 170+ tips checklist.

In this book we look at (including some exercises):
– the components of your story;
– points of view;
– tenses;
– the power of three: beginnings, middles, ends
– another power of three: characters, settings, plots
– conflict and pacing
– polishing your writing: 170+ tips for making your writing shine;
– the layout of your book;
– and finally (a summary checklist)…

This book is suitable for…
– Writers of any age and experience;
– Writers of novels and short stories (predominantly – it will help scriptwriters and poets too);
– Writers looking to have their writing taken seriously!

 

 

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Writing Competitions and you… success? near miss? the judge? Let me know!

Hello everyone. I’m Writers’ Forum magazine’s Competitive Edge columnist and I’d love to know whether you have entered any writing competitions (of any type), and have been successful, a runner-up perhaps, or been unsuccessful but have learned from the experience, have advice for other entrants, or maybe you’re a competition judge and have some tips on entering (and funny stories to tell!).

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Today’s online writing groups’ poetry and story exercises: 16th Jan 2017

*** If you enjoy these prompts, or are looking to improve your writing or submit a manuscript, do take a look at my seven online courses… five currently half price and and two FREE! (coupon codes on the online courses page) and / or my Writer’s Block Workbooks… my best-selling eBooks – now available in eBook and paperback format!

Every weekday I post a set of poetry prompts on poetrywritinggroup.wordpress.com and a set of story prompts on the scriptnovel and short story blogs. As you’ll see by the heading numbers, you may have missed a few but the links are listed on the relevant group’s Exercises page so you can always find them there. So here are your poetry and short story exercises…

Poetry Writing Exercises 1043: Monday 16th January

Here are your four poetry exercises for today. If you enjoy these prompts, do take a look at my online courses… six are currently half price (when using the coupon codes on my main blog’s online courses page) and another is FREE!

Time yourself for 15 minutes per exercise, having a break in between each one or move on to the next.  When you’ve finished, do pop over to this blog’s Facebook Group and let everyone know how you got on.

1043-coffee-1076582Below are the four – you can do them in any order.

  1. Keywords: renovate, necklace, training, years, follow
  2. Random: not literally
  3. Picture: what does this inspire?
  4. Monologue Monday: first-person poem about struggling with instructions

Have fun, and if you would like to, do paste your writing in the comment boxes below so we can see how you got on! Remember though that it counts as being published so don’t post anything that you would want to submit elsewhere (where they require unpublished material).

See below for explanations of the prompts, they do vary…

  • Sentence starts = what it says on the tin. You can use it at the beginning of the poem or include it later, and being poetry it doesn’t have to be exact – just be inspired by it.
  • Keywords = the words have to appear in the poem but can be in any order and can be lengthened (e.g. clap to clapping).
  • Single-word prompt = sometimes all it takes is one word to spawn an idea. Sometimes it easy, sometimes hard but invariably fun.
  • Mixed bag = an object, a location, a colour.
  • Picture prompts = nothing other than a picture. What does it conjure up?
  • Title = The title for your piece.
  • Haiku poem= 5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables
  • Random = whatever takes my fancy!

Story Writing Exercises 1047: Monday 16 January

Here are your four story exercises for today. If you enjoy these prompts (or are looking to improve your writing or submit a manuscript), do take a look at my online courses… five are currently half price and the other two are FREE!  (when using coupon codes).

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Posted by on January 16, 2017 in ideas, novels, poetry, short stories, tips, writing

 

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