The Write Way To Connect

Hi folks.

So you still want to write? (you mad impetuous fools *chuckles)

What exciting times we live in, when the opportunities for writers is so huge, huger than it’s ever been, huger than the hugest thing you can think of…

Blogging. Fiction. Travel. Educational. Analyst. Content. Legal. Finance. Freelance. Journalism. Technical. Copy-writing. Marketing. Ghost-writing. Et cetera, et cetera.

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

Why are you writing? (Been here before haven’t we?!) What are you writing? Plan your working days and promotional days. Who is your audience?

And when you’ve written your stuff, you need to get it ‘out there’. You need a client, a market – an audience!

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What happened when Bob and George didn’t plan their outfits!

A lot of writers today have blogs or web pages to self-promote. What, you thought that would be done for you?!

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

Assuming you managed to get your thing written… And assuming someone was interested enough to publish it… It doesn’t mean they will promote it for you…You have to do some of this yourself (unless of course you are lucky enough to get a contract like some woman called Joanne Rowling!)

I’ve mentioned Google Digital Garage before. Get yourself over there and pick up some hints and tips. If you already have a blog, then check out – Your Long-term Social Media Plan.

Also, to help you plan – your posts, your writing schedule, whatever, Kate at Small Paper Things, has created a digital and printable calendar for bloggers to help get organised. Just click on the plus sign next to the words Google Calendar at bottom right corner of screen.

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

And when you have posted, printed, published your lovingly crafted stuff, keep on top of it. Revisit it, no not every day, don’t overwhelm people, back off! And it isn’t a cactus either, watering twice a year won’t cut the mustard!  Social media is a two-way conversation, so keep the conversation going, pay a visit every other day (I would recommend) to wherever it is you like to ply your wares.

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“I say, is this The Twitter? I want to tell you about some tosh I have written.”

You probably already have at least one account on a social media site – use it to promote and connect with other like-minded idiots, I mean creative types!

If you have more than one social media site, then connect them all up; it is made really easy to share stuff from platform to platform.

Remember…

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Despite what Hugo Gernsback said – Writers do NOT write in isolation!

WHY? WHAT? PLAN! AUDIENCE! CONNECT!

Now go get ’em tiger!

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Book Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Genre: Fiction, Humour
Pub Date: 2017
Publisher: HarperCollins
Length: 400 pages (PB)
Paperback: £8.99

Synopsis

Eleanor Oliphant has worked in the same office for nine years. Believing she has ‘met’ the love of her life; musician Johnnie Lomond, she resolves to make a project out of winning him over, before ever meeting him.

Eleanor forms a kind of friendship with the office’s IT guy; Raymond via an accident they both observe. Eleanor reveals a little about her past relationships, boyfriend and mother, during their now regular lunchtime meetings.

After a potentially disastrous event, Raymond ends up taking care of Eleanor, thus setting her on the road to recovery.

Eleanor Oliphant struggles with social skills and appropriate responses to pretty much everything and everyone she encounters. She has never, for example, bought a women’s magazine before, but, “I’d worked out that they were the most reliable and accessible source of the information that I needed.” Her life is carefully timetabled, from the Wednesday phone calls from Mummy, to the food she eats for her evening meal. She drinks a large amount of vodka at weekends and has visits from a Social Worker.


I found myself right from the outset, trying to work out if Eleanor had suffered from a past trauma, or if she was a high functioning Autistic. Her attitude to colleagues and people in general is akin to how some people with Autism maintain a distance from others; reluctance to engage in office banter, avoidance of touching other people and such-like. She always has her shopper with her and wears the same clothes to work daily, she even has just two pairs of shoes; practical, comfortable; Velcroed.

Writers, when starting out in the craft, are often advised to open the first chapter with a bang, to create a hook for the reader, grab the publishers interest – but – I didn’t feel any of this when I read the introductory paragraphs. Even the fact that she had her interview with a black eye did not intrigue me. Only after pages 4 to 6, when Eleanor explains her weekly routine; “I usually have pasta with pesto and salad – one pan and one plate.” and a tiny glimpse into her childhood, did I think that there was something more to this than meets the eye.

I’m glad I stuck with it. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine gives the reader an outsiders view of the world – haven’t we all felt a little like ignoring those around us? It is both funny and touching. The reason and mystery Eleanor is alone is made clear very gradually, drop by drop, and poses the question, how vital is human interaction? When she thanks the hairdresser for making her ‘shiny’, I had a lump in my throat. 

Is Eleanor Oliphant Completely Fine? Do read it and decide for yourself!

This is Gail Honeyman’s début novel, for which she won the Costa First Novel Award 2017, it feels like the work of a more experienced writer.

I’m giving Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine 4 stars

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So You Want To Be A Fiction Writer?

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Where to Begin –

Stop Prevaricating. Easier said than done, I hear you cry. Been there, done that. I have dabbled on and off throughout my whole life (mostly off B.D – before daughter). Then an amazing thing happened, my daughter came of an age in which she mirrored back to me my own criticisms, persuasions, acronyms. She was constantly told as a child to ‘have a go’, ‘just try it’ and ‘just go for it’. I ended my dabbling when she told me to “Carpe diem. You keep telling me, now this is me telling you.” So I did.

Writers are always telling would-be-writers to ‘just write’! I’m going to try and persuade you not to!!!!

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot,” Stephen King says in his book ‘On Writing‘. Do you already do this? If not, why not? How can you possibly expect to write if you are a stranger to literature in the first place?

I cannot tell you how many times I have been speaking to other people and they say, “Oh, I was good at writing stories in school...” or when I painted:- “I got a B in my art ‘O’ Level, I reckon I could do that...” Really? So why aren’t you doing it? Because you were, or are still, ‘good at something’ is not a qualification for being that thing. You have to WANT to be it. To be a fiction writer, you have to BE CREATIVE! If you aren’t, there is nothing wrong in that, just don’t kid yourself that you can.

In a previous blog I wrote that Writing is like keeping an allotment, in which I was quite helpful (I thought), and kind (for me), about planning, editing and so forth. Now I’m telling you that writing is like rolling around in pig-swill for a huge portion of the time. Where to start? What to write? What’s my style? How do I deal with writers block? How do I resolve this conflict between characters? What’s the difference between Show & Tell? Where do ideas come from? Who will read it? Will I be successful?! I’m not giving answers to any of those questions, why? Because I’m a bitch? No (well, partially), but if you are asking these questions BEFORE you begin your shiny new writing journey – I would seriously question whether this is the right choice for you.

By the way, there is no limit on what age you can begin writing; it may be that you have spent your life working, bringing up a family, and now you’re free to follow your dream. You’re a pressure cooker that has been ‘on hold’ for decades – time to release the flood!

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Who are you Writing For?

And why are you writing? This may sound a bit odd, but people write for different reasons:- for fun, as catharsis, as a way to better understand the world, to escape from the world, for money, a natural progression from previous creative activity, or from journalistic based role, because it’s an itch that needs to be scratched. Whatever the reason, be honest. If you think you’re going to make money from being a story-teller, think again; the successful ones we hear about are few and far between.

Stop trying to please others – write for yourself. Some authors advocate writing the kind of stuff you’d like to read yourself; well if you can’t please yourself with what you’ve written, how can you expect anyone else to enjoy it?

Do you know how many new books get published each year? In the UK in 2017, it reached 4.8 billion! Is your effort going to be picked up amongst all those? If you knew you would NEVER get published, would you still want to write? If the answer is an emphatic ‘no’, read no further, just stop right now and go and watch TV.

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Isolation –

We all know writing can be a lonely gig. Hmm, did I say lonely? I’m never lonely – I may work alone, but lonely; never. You have to want to be alone for extremely long periods. For example, you have to world build if you want to write sci-fi, that takes some serious – and I mean serious – inside-my-own-head time. You have to be prepared to miss social events – and not care.

Disconnect yourself from what you might call ‘reality’ and create your own – but be able to re-surface into ‘normality’ and function well. “I have never yielded to reality.” said Philip K. Dick.

Fiction writers spend a lot of time inside their own heads, we stare into space mulling over scenes, dissecting dialogue and listening in on other people’s conversations! Get away from everyone, lock yourself in a quiet place and work.

You do not need to attend conferences on writing to become a writer. All you need is… writing implements of whatever kind you prefer – laptop, iPad, pen and paper, quill, chisel and stone.

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 Let’s Get Critical –

I have read some shit in my time, seriously, there seem to be people who think that whatever they write is worth the time and attention of readers. I have come across horrendous grammatical errors, uncorrected spelling mistakes, and just plain awful stories. Humans, it seems to me, have become less self critical in recent years, the advent of social media and self-publishing sites has led to an abundance of dilute word vomit.

Prepare for failure and criticism. If you are going to ask other people to read your work, then expect criticism; I do. In fact I welcome constructive criticism – without constant practice and critical feedback, I may do the writing equivalent of jogging on the spot.

This goes back to those people who said, ‘Oh, I was good at writing stories in school‘. So what? I won the  100 metres for my school for 5 consecutive years; doesn’t mean I was ever going to be an Olympic runner! If you want to put your writing out there, get a tough skin!

Practise description. Please! I have read stories where – 1. The scene is not described; to the extent that it was unclear if it was indoors or outside. 2. The number of people involved in a conversation was muddled. 3. A different character’s name was used who shouldn’t have even been included!

Also, it must be credible. You can set your story any where, any time, whatever, it can have pink flying elephants – as long as there is a reason for pink flying elephants, then it will work – don’t think because you have a ker-azy idea that it will make you the next Ian Banks or Hunter S. Thompson. Far from it.

As previously stated, Writing is hard work. It may, in fact, be harder than the ‘day job’ I/you do. Why? Because it is all about you – you come up with the ideas, you do the actual work, you put in the hours; it requires self-discipline. Be honest, are you prepared to be that person?

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Never Stop Learning –

So, you wrote your first short story and your friends think it’s great. Is that it then? All you ever wanted has been achieved? Okay, make way for the stalwarts who are still with me.

Just because your best mate says it’s good – DOES NOT MAKE IT SO – and it does not mean you have reached the pinnacle of your (potential) writing career. Keep going, write another, write some more, keep going, and again…

Readers are greedy for more, the audience constantly needs feeding. But that does not mean you have to keep churning out the same old crap. If you want to be a real writer, you must NEVER think you have learnt everything you need to know. Down that path lies mediocrity and complacency, “Nothing is more hostile to art than a culture of complacency.” says Dr. Joseph Suglia.

Expand your reading, try something you may never have read previously; it can be anything, it doesn’t have to be other people’s fiction. Read about coal mines in South America, find out about about farmers markets in Namibia, read about your local area, learn a new language, read about the average number of piglets in a litter (it’s an average of 10-12 ,if you want to know), whatever you do – READ.

I had to learn American just like a foreign language. To learn it I had to study and analyse it. As a result, when I use slang . . . I do it deliberately.” Raymond Chandler.

If I haven’t put you off and you accept all/most/some of what I’ve said, and the urge to expel a creative nugget is wriggling in your belly, bravo!

Now go and write!

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*The author accepts no responsibility for broken hearts or dreams.

*The author does not proclaim to be an expert on the above topic, just a weary reader.

 

Book Review: The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman by Robin Gregory

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The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman. Robin Gregory

Genre: Fiction. YA. Historical.
Pub Date: 1 November 2015
Publisher: Price World Publishing
Length: 294 pages
Paperback : £11.00

Synopsis

Early 1900s, Western America. A lonely, disabled boy with a nasty temper and uncontrolled mystical powers, Moojie is taken by his father to his grandfather’s wilderness farm. There, Moojie meets an otherworldly clan of outcasts that he wants to join. Following a series of misadventures–magical and mystical–he is summoned by the call to a great destiny … if only he can survive one last terrifying trial.

https://www.amazon.com/Improbable-Wonders-Moojie-Littleman/dp/1942545002

 

I was surprised to learn that this book was published over 2 years ago; it seems to be suddenly everywhere I look online.

Although touted as Y.A, I found it to be an engaging and beautiful story – Set in late 19th early 20th century. Moojie Littleman is a foundling who is adopted by childless couple; Henry and Kate Littleman. Moojie is written across the babes forehead, and so the name sticks.

The name is an interesting choice, it is no accident that the name Moojie (and its variant spellings) can mean – an ethnic slur in India, particularly about a Muslim. For Kabbalists it is about optimism, being friendly and likeable, other sources say it means ‘gift from God’. Knowing just this gives a foothold into this world created by Robin Gregory. A world of hard men; of Scottish, Irish and European origins, who live hard lives in the dust-blown, western edge of the earthquake riddled coastal town of San Miguel de las Gaviotas.

As Moojie grows to an age when certain stages in development should be met, it becomes clear that he is not like other children. For starters he is disabled. This physical disability is not named, but reads like cerebral palsy. Moojie does not, or cannot, speak; until much later. He has tantrums that create havoc and can be said to be spoilt by his doting mother; Kate. An interesting character herself, his mother introduces Moojie to the magical world of books – science, history, Odysseus. She sees in Moojie something no-one else can, a special quality that she attempts to nurture.

Then tragedy strikes. Moojie’s world falls apart after his beloved mother’s death and he is packed off to live with a cranky grandfather. He has to toughen up, the threat of being sent away to a boys home hangs over him for years. He is alone, feels unloved and without a sense of belonging.

Enter the Light-Eaters. A strange ‘tribe’ or ‘clan’ of people who live in the hills beyond grandfather’s goat farm. They are not like the locals, they are dark-skinned, dark-haired and viewed with suspicion by the townsfolk, who call them ‘Hostiles’. We are not told if they are Native American, they can speak any language they want, and there is a heavy emphasis on Eastern philosophy and spirituality. A curious group who each have lessons for Moojie; even painful ones, who reveal a little about themselves drop by drop; where are they from exactly? How old, actually, is Babylonia, the ‘girl’ whom Moojie falls for?

Moojie’s desperate desire to belong; to find a family, leads him on a journey of self-development. It is, in essence, a story of self-discovery and spirituality. Moojie’s disability is no excuse or reason for self-limitation, Moojie must learn how to give, how to forgive and how to accept.

This is a curious story, I was quite entranced from the start with the magical elements entwined in amongst the mundane – and isn’t that the point? Gregory has a light touch, poetic adjectives fill the spaces between the daily activities, is an easy read and has a positive message without being cloying. It can be read by the young as a tale of wonder and magic, and by adults as a tale of the human condition, for after all, aren’t we all Moojie Littleman?

 

I am giving The Improbable Wonders Of Moojie Littleman

5 Stars

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Edit, Compile, Publish???

I am currently editing and compiling a series of my own short stories.

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No! No more editing, I can’t take it anymore!

They were begun in 2014, when I first became involved in the world of Steampunk, and continued until 2016. Initially posted on a, now closed, blog the first story having been published in a Steampunk magazine also, I have decided to compile them all into one volume.

The stories are based on the characters that my daughter and I assumed as part of the ‘costume’ for events, gatherings and annual Asylum Festival. These events involve people from all over the country, and in the case of The Asylum Festival, the world, dressing up in faux Victorian clothing; often hybridised from various literary characters, films, Industrial mechanisms and so forth.

This is not ‘serious’ literature – and was never meant to be; more a romp through various countries and continents with varying degrees of success. Lucy Lockhart and Theodora Doppler are a pair of adventurers, aka thieves, who collect treasures ostensibly for the Royal Society in London; think Harry Flashman crossed with Indiana Jones in female form! It is pulp fiction (no, not the film), in the style of the penny dreadfulsdime novels, and short-fiction magazines of the 19th century

The issue I have is that over the course of a writing career – especially at the beginning, one’s style and skill changes and grows – the earliest pieces reflect this, and can be seen as the development of these skills.

But do I publish? Of course, no actual publishing house is going to want to publish a set of stories about a philandering, thieving, amoral, (sometimes murdering), woman, set in an alternate 19th century, so it will be a self-published project – if it happens!

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Pulped fiction

Book Review: Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery
Pub Date: 9 Nov. 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson
Length: 288 pages
Hardback: £12.99

Synopsis

Abby Williams returns to the small town where she grew up. Now working as a successful environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has been tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town’s economic heart. Abby begins to find strange connections to a decade-old scandal involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

As Abby attempts to find out what happened to Kaycee, troubling memories begin to resurface and she begins to doubt her own observations.”

Krysten Ritter, star of American TV shows such as Jessica Jones and Don’t Trust The B**** in Apartment 23, has published her début novel, Bonfire. I have to admit I had mixed emotions; unsure whether this actor, who I have been a fan of for some years, would be skilled enough to pull off a novel ( I think it was J G Ballard who said one shouldn’t not write a full length novel for a first outing). Bonfire has been described as being ‘dark, disturbing and compulsively readable’ amongst the blurb.


I found the writing to be mature, I don’t know why I was surprised, but I was. Ritter keeps the writing tight and moving along at a fair pace. The protagonist, Abby Williams, is deftly portrayed, she has a strong voice and reminded me a little of a cross between the two characters Ritter has played in the aforementioned shows; intelligent, forthright and possibly a little bit sexy. Other characters are portrayed well with sparse use of adjectives, yet we get to see them clearly.

Abby has tried hard to move away from the memories of her home-town. Memories dominated by the popular girl Kaycee Mitchell, memories of her bullying, of becoming her friend, of Kaycee’s clique of hangers on, like the appalling Misha, and ultimately the illness that gripped Kaycee and the others. To Abby, there is a connection between the illnesses and Optimal Plastics and she sets out to prove it.

Bonfire is dark and compulsive reading, but the disturbing not so much for me. I found myself thinking of The Virgin Suicides (1993), Mean Girls and a little Twin Peaks. So, not hugely original or with a shocking or surprising outcome. Maybe because I am British, but I found it quite difficult to relate to many of the characters; do high school students really behave like that in USA?! And I simply could not get my head around the idea that school-age Abby wanted to be friends with such a bitch! But maybe I’m not the target audience.

Although there are a couple of close moments between the protagonist and other character, there is no reason why this cannot be read by those aged 16 years.

I’m giving Bonfire 3 stars

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The ‘E’ Word or, I Thought I’d Finished But…

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“Did you say the e word?!”

I finished writing my story today, HURRAH! Yes, the one I was doing for NaNoWriMo, that I did not complete in the time-frame; 1st to 30th November.

But now I have to edit it,BOO!

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The joy of editing…

I cannot tell you how much I despise editing. The story was planned – first time I have done that, researched, written and completed.

The idea has been expulsed from my mind and body, like giving birth, or squeezing a particularly juicy spot. I do not really want to spend time poking and fiddling around with the after-stuff. And yet I cannot afford an editors fee – I know some out there who say, they only charge so much per thousand words, but free is the affordable amount for me.

When I was a visual artist, I made a quick pencil sketch of my idea, transferred the image to canvas, and painted it – done. I used acrylics because, firstly I couldn’t handle oils and secondly, acrylic paints dry so quickly, you can pack it up (for no-one to ever look at again!) a day later.

Writing is a bit like sex, the more you talk about it, the less I reckon you’re doing it. If I plan too much, or discuss too much, or overwork the idea, then I lose interest. For me, the excitement in writing lies in what will happen as I travel along this journey with my characters, and when we have reached the end I don’t want to go pouring over what might or might not have been.

Editing gets in the way of me starting my next story; I nearly always have two or three; even four ideas bubbling away at once.

Editing is like waiting for three hours at the airport for your bags after returning from holiday – feels like wasting time, but that’s your stuff.

Editing is like doing the washing up after a fat, fulfilling meal – takes the shine off it.

Editing is like having to write the envelopes after the Christmas cards are written – boring.

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“I said back off! I don’t want to edit my story.”

Revisiting the NaNaWriMo site is helpful, to a degree. There’s congratulations and praise; regardless of whether a writer reached 50,000 words or not. For the NaNo team, it’s the taking part that matters, that effort was made, and creativity happened. But what they do have is a link to help people like me – 5 Quick Editing Wins for December. Thanks NaNo Team (Katharine Gripp and co)

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Buddy the Elf

So, I am off to edit now, wish me luck. To misquote the heroic Captain Oates, “I’m going in and I might be some time.”

Have a good weekend everyone.