Your First Impression

I’ve been able to tie these in together, which is always lovely. Today’s daily prompt was: Impression

Over the last few months I’ve been considering how my blog looks and I decided it was time to make it more user friendly and easier to navigate and that most important – first impression of anyone brave enough to wander into my corner of the internet…
So you may have noticed a few little changes popping up on this site. I’ve been scouring the available wordpress formats for a while, for something a bit more user friendly. To have all of my blog posts in identifiable sections for ease of navigation, so you wouldn’t have to scroll through loads and loads of text to find the posts you’re interested in.

Here they are – Writing Advice & Stories

I think, with the addition of some pages that this has now been achieved! There will be more pages to follow  focused on writing competitions and the results from some of those and compiling all of my research into publishing options.

I’ve also updated my page on ‘Reading’ and hope to add a few more books to the list of recommendations.

Finally, I’ve create a snazzy new facebook page, please come and join me! at Fibi Jeeves!

Happy Reading!

Novel Writing – Starting Somewhere

Writing a longer piece of fiction can feel like setting off on an unchartered ocean. I’ve hopefully compiled a few ideas to stop you feeling Adrift

So, you want to write a story? Not just any story, but the book you feel you’ve wanted to write for years? I would like to say I only have one piece of advice, but then this blog and series of posts with helpful hints and ideas would be arbitrary. So, this is perhaps the most important thing to piece of information. You can do it! What are you doing reading this blog, go write! – Wait, please don’t go! I have advice!

If you are writing an extended story, a novel, an epic ten-part series, or even a novella, you will probably recognise the push and pull of the paragraph above. If not, you’ll soon get used to it. From writing novels, or attempting to, I’ve found that I develop a love/hate relationship with the projects I’m undertaking. On the one hand, they’re just so darned exciting! On the other…when will it end?! Will all the effort even be worth it? What if no one likes it, what if no one except your mum ever reads it? What if you cannot be the next JK Rowling? Despair! Then fall back in love with the words, the story, your characters and the setting again and it’s the worst relationship ever.

This is going to be a series of blog posts about writing that book, or novel. It’s going to cover topics such as getting started, planning, characterisation, world building, editing and include writing prompts and a whole host of goodies. I hope you’ll join me for the ride and perhaps I can even provide something that will be helpful.

Now, I’ve written out a plan about planning – ironic. Yet, what I’m going to base this first post on, is Getting Started.

Now, before you open the cans labelled, ‘self-doubt’ and ‘crushing despair’ that I think writers tend to carry; as with any good relationship, it may be time to set some boundaries with your writing project.

Now, this isn’t, in any way, supposed to limit the scope of your project, and there will be a long discussion about ‘too much planning’ in my next post on this theme. However, I’ve learnt to set myself a few goals when it comes to approaching a new project. If you’re about to launch into yours, (or maybe you’ve already started?) are you able to answer the following questions?

  1. Who is your intended audience?

Child or Adult fiction? Young Adult or New Adult? Steam-punk lovers, or die hard sword and sorcery epic fantasy fans?

  1. What size project are you aiming for?

Is this going to be a gorgeous and concise piece of prose and a short story? What about a poem? Or does it need more space to breathe and could thrive as a novella (under 50,000 words -ish) or is it going to be a full- blown novel? If you’re thinking about publication, then as a rough guide for a debut novelist, you might want to aim for less than 90,000 words. Although, this doesn’t apply to all genres.

  1. If no one other than your mum reads it, is that okay?

Writing to complete a project takes a lot of investment. The most important thing that any of us has, is our time. If you’re going to invest several months of your time on this beautiful planet, hacking away at your keyboard, and wondering where the letter ‘N’ vanished off to (seriously, where has it gone?!) Then are you going to be alright if it isn’t a storming success?

There are a few lessons that I remember very clearly from creative writing courses and one of them is this. Write what you would love to read. This is probably going to dictate who your audience is as well. I love reading YA Fantasy, historical romance, sword and sorcery, old-fashioned crime fiction and children’s literature. What I end up writing is a strange mixture of those components.

At the end of the day, if I’m going to be living in the world I’m writing, it must be enticing – for me at least. Even if not for anyone else. There will be enough days when I don’t want to open the project document and get to work, so I aim to make the project as interesting as possible for myself. When you love something, it’s easier to be passionate about it and keep slugging away. It’s also easier for others to become excited about your enthusiasm and volunteer their own time to read your story.

If you’ve followed the rule of ‘write what you’d want to read’ and you’re pleased with the result; the chances are that you’ve created something where others can share your excitement.

  1. What is the question?

Stories need a question and they need it fast. Your reader will skim the first lines and decide if they’re going to follow you on this journey. To entice them down the rabbit hole, they need an initial question. Now, many stories will diverge brilliantly from the path I’ll set out now, but the way I approach a new project, is to work out the first question.

The first hurdle is the first paragraph. Why should they bother getting to the end? Therefore, it needs to be something intriguing enough to propel the reader into the first page. Then the first page pushes them into the first chapter… and we’ll get to chapter breakdowns in another post.

Now for some examples:

There was once, in the country of Alifbay, a sad city, the saddest of cities, a city so ruinously sad that it had forgotten its name. – Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Isn’t that incredible?! This is the opening from Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which by the way, is a wonderful story. The first line! Now look at the questions we’re forced to ask. 1, what is a sad city? 2, what is the name of the city? 3, will the city find happiness? There are three immediate questions in 26 words and they’re enough to tempt me on…

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.  – Stephen King, The Gunslinger

Four questions in the opening twelve words. 1, who is the man in black? 2, who is the gunslinger? 3, will the gunslinger catch the man in black? 4, Do I want that to happen? Eeeek, I don’t know so I better keep reading!

  1. Don’t worry

Now I’ve raised all the talk about questions, I’m going to tell you step aside from any worry it’s created. The sudden surge of ‘am I asking a question in the first line? Is this a good enough question? What is a question?!’ Because this is just the beginning and the most important thing, is to just get writing. Make your start, aim for a question and forge ahead. After all, you’ve got forever to edit and to bring that opening sequence up to what you want it to be – but what you cannot do, is edit a blank screen.

I hope that this has been useful!  Let me know your favourite openings to novels, or even what you’re working on. I might even share the current opening of The Poisoned Well… I was so pleased that I managed to find a question that could carry the rest of the story along with it.

Happy Writing

Fibi

With a little help from my friends…

I hate missing deadlines, and I definitely dropped a few last week!

Despite my determination to blog twice a week that has certainly been falling by the wayside. However, as I said in my latest blog, I’ve got to stop beating myself up and just get started again.  I’ve also missed my deadline for the cover reveal, which is a real shame. This due to a few things, firstly, I realised a few weeks ago that the intended release for The Poisoned Well was going to be pushed back. I was toying with the idea of forwarding a few different covers and holding a vote for your favourite one. In the end, I’ve taken the last minute decision to follow my own instincts with the design – although it didn’t leave me much time to finalise the tiny details.

So, here are the things I’ve learnt this week about attempting to write with an aim to self-publish.

  1. Be more realistic with timeframes.

Then you won’t feel like you’ve failed when you meet those arbitrary targets. It’s great to have a goal, but as with anything, the goals are probably going to be stretched and setback. I don’t know of any house build that has even come in on time, and I have watched a lot of Grand Designs.

  1. When the times are going to slip – be open and honest.

Then you get to move on and shake off some of the guilt. It’s hard to complete anything with that big old cloud hanging over your shoulders.

  1. Gotta’ keep writing.

I missed some targets…but I’ve still got a manuscript to finish. I’ve just got to keep going and slowly, but surely, my goal is coming closer! I had 12,000 words and now I have more than 24,000! My intention is a manuscript of 50,000 words –ish. At the moment I can imagine the story has got enough legs to reach between 50,000-60,000 which is exciting!

So here we go, I don’t have a cover to reveal just yet, but it’s on its way. What I do have is gorgeous piece of fan art based on the original design – so exciting and I hope that you like it! Thank you Hollie for drawing this for me, I love it!

Without a little Collaboration this beautiful picture would not exist, and nor would the forthcoming cover 🙂

Happy Writing!

Fibi

Just One

None

No words to grace the page or screen in several days.

Well, that’s not strictly true but my blog has been a quieter adventure. With the bank holiday and a trip away to gorgeous Norfolk, I’m afraid I’ve not been in my usual pre-emptive ability to post. I’m still writing though.

I returned to The Poisoned Well this afternoon and I completed my words. I still have my goals and my desire to write for them.

It feels that way sometimes though, as if writing is all or nothing. I’ve discussed this in previous posts but it is so important to keep writing, something, every day. After returning from a bank holiday it would be easy to set the novel aside and just think, maybe tomorrow. Or perhaps the day after that…and then suddenly its three months later and you’re returning to pick up old threads of a long-forgotten project.

My advice for breaking past that stop?  Do it fast.

Set yourself a goal of what you can realistically write each day. For me it should be 500 words. Some days I write 1000 and some days its 2000. On those days I feel like a boss, a might word warrior who is mere weeks away from conquering the world!

It’s the other days that are harder, when I’m sat looking at the screen with no words written for my project. 500 words can seem like a marathon. Especially after a break. If it’s been a few days since you last added to your novel, or current writing project, remember. Don’t be so hard on yourself. It might take a couple of days to get back into the rhythm.

After a break, adjust your aim. If your usual goal is 500 words, then try for 250, or failing that 100.

The next day, increase your target. 100 to 250, 250 to 500 and then allow yourself to feel satisfied. We’re our own worst critics and it’s easy to start thinking about the negatives. ‘Oh, I didn’t hit 500 words today,’ – you know what, that’s okay. You’ll do it tomorrow.

One day your word contribution might be none. That’s alright. Just make sure the next day that it’s some. (Or even just one.)

You have to jump to fly

I was recently lucky enough to visit New Zealand for a month. My goodness, there are probably a thousand stories that I could tell about the beautiful islands that make it up, and it is certainly influencing my current writing. In response to today’s daily prompt: Zip

Please find a short piece below 🙂

It started off in the rain, and thunder in the distance. Peering out of the hotel room, doubtful. Was it a good idea to zipline – with metal, in a lightning storm? A quick confirmation came through, the thunder had passed and the lines were safe…even if they were a bit damp. It was the tour guides who apologised for the rain, and we laughed. We’re English, rain we can handle. Downpour experts.

The van bounced along to the centre and we were given the thickest, most rain proof trousers and jacket I’ve ever seen. Weighed down a helmet and harness were added and we bundled back into the van.

A trek beneath drippy trees and damp-wood walkways, listening out for the sound of native birdlife. The birds were perhaps more sensible than we; hiding, watching from their nests beneath the ferns. Laughing, probably.

Not afraid of heights, I said. Totally ‘OK’ with climbing up a ladder to a platform. We huddle between the chest high railings and listen with over-eager ears to the demonstration, and the rules; do not, under any circumstances unclip your safety line! Also don’t try jumping from great height to the ground, it’s terrible for your health.

Because I was totally okay and not at all afraid of heights, you others go first and you wait, lingering at the back with the rain dripping. Cosy in your own cocoon of waterproof clothes. They tell you how high you are, and you instantly want to forget. You step up to the launch pad. Gear checked. Hat secured. Lines clipped. Now all you have to do, is walk down two steps and learn how to fly.

Totally okay with heights. You grin through gritted teeth and cling to the railing. Totally okay. First step, second.

Just here? You want me to just…drop off this platform a mere twenty metres from the ground and just…just zip….right.

Better get it over with. You perch, lift your legs and then you soar. Flying. Whizzing through the trees with the hiss of metal on wet line. Leaves rustle and a pigeon startles from the ferns beneath, hooting as it flees.

You land, heart pounding in your throat on the second platform and join the conga shuffle around the giant Rimu. Tallest tree in the forest? Highest starting point for the zip-line? Awsome…

This is who we traveled with: Canopy Tours– they were lovely people. I found the activity in the Rough Guide and myself and Mr Lovely were so excited to join in the fun. An amazing morning!

 

Roses stretch like weeds

In a response to today’s daily prompt I incorporated the word Spike into my flash fiction challenge.

This is the final contribution to my series of seasonal flash-fictions of 99 words each!.

A thousand petals like fallen snow, gather on the ground. The sun peers through growing buds until the rain blasts the ground, the fades. Bright skies return and the tarmac steams. Blackbirds chatter at the cat as she crouches, patiently, hopeful that the grass gives camouflage to her black and white fur. The roses have stretched like weeds against the garden fence, thorns that cover the stems in belligerent spikes. The cat sinks further, nose and tail extended.  The garden is growing, bursting forth; but she remains still. Nose twitching, eyes narrowed on target. A sparrow hops towards her.

I have to admit that I’ve really been struggling with this image as there are so many clichés that just felt unavoidable. The challenge was meant to explore the seasons in slightly different ways and give a unique texture or taste to them.

Please find the further three contributions below; but which piece is which? Leave me a message and let me know if you’ve managed to work them all out!

One:

The sky is a tapestry of falling rain and threads of smoke. Leaves drift in slow spirals between heavy drops. Grey puddles spill off the path and into sodden grass, tramped with muddy boots and wellingtons. Water gurgles in the roadside drains and steals away with sycamore seeds. Conker shells burst, shining chestnut nestled between layers of bronze, amber and fading green. Interwoven clouds in faded lines and jagged blue tears. Pale sunlight peers through the cracks and paints the tarmac gold. The umbrella snaps to attention, stolen from a desperate grasp, whipped up, away, lost to the tapestry.

Two:

Spires of bright fuchsia sway. Scattered bursts of buttercup, daisies and dandelions dance on the meadow. Waves of long grass whisper and break on the fence line. The thump and trundle of an antique tractor approaches, rumbling over hard-baked earth. The driver bounces from window to window over the dips and furrows of the ancient field. A blast of Heart FM twists across the boundary. Bare toes wriggle on the fresh-clipped lawn. Wide-eyes fixed on cracked blue paint. Pigtails and tiny fingers stick in fresh varnish. The metallic beast makes a slow spin, grumbling, puffing, ready for the next charge.

Three:

I love it when the air smells like ice. Dark green pine sways between barren branches and then mountains rise behind. Cars crunch salt, engines purring. It’s an experience, negotiating ice in six-inch heels; challenge accepted.  Coffee cup clutched tight to my chest. The bitter taste of rising steam is mellowed with double cream. Hat pulled low on burning ears and sunglasses paint the sky in gentler hues; lines of pink and gold across frozen blue. There’s another flurry on the horizon. Feet slip without warning. The ground is harder than it looks and less forgiving. Must buy boots.

Four: 

A thousand petals like fallen snow, gather on the ground. The sun peers through growing buds until the rain blasts the ground, the fades. Bright skies return and the tarmac steams. Blackbirds chatter at the cat as she crouches, patiently, hopeful that the grass gives camouflage to her black and white fur. The roses have stretched like weeds against the garden fence, thorns that cover the stems in belligerent spikes. The cat sinks further, nose and tail extended.  The garden is growing, bursting forth; but she remains still. Nose twitching, eyes narrowed on target. A sparrow hops towards her.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Fibi

An Alternate Reality

I love it when an plan comes together. I’ve always been very fortunate to have a loving family and generous friends. Minus a few scary hours, in Montreal, I’ve always had a safe place to sleep. Even if it was in a tent…with bears in the nearby woods.

Recently however, I entered a flash-fiction contest  at Third Word and won. I was delighted, because the project intends to help homelessness. So here it is, a shock to the system. A Jolt of today’s daily prompt.

I asked the lovely Helena, who is running the competition, and what had prompted it’s creation, and this is the response I received:

I, the founder of The Third Word Press, had the idea late one night.  It was the culmination and drawing together of various passions – to run my own project, to support the homeless and a love of literature and writing.  I had designed and submitted my first project for funding whilst in Sri Lanka, in the aftermath of the conflict; it was a peace building project through dialogue based around photography.  I did not get the funding, and left the country a short while later but the idea of running a project remained.  Upon returning to the UK, I started work at a photography CIC, a relatively new organisation running projects with disadvantaged individuals, where I observed the workings, struggles and strategies of setting up and running projects based upon a passion for the arts with charitable bent.  I’m not sure when I started to want to work with homeless people, but it quickly became the group for whom I wanted to provide relief, and designed a project to lead craft making sessions with them, another passion of mine, to make sellable items.  Having set up the organisation, and in the process of applying for funding, I came across a selection of short stories I had written some years ago (I had more recently moved to writing screenplays) and I discovered that I wanted to do something with them, to get them published would have been the ideal, so I wrote to a number of publishers.  Unintentionally, one of the publishers I wrote to was a self-publishing outfit, and they, quite predictably, showed support for my work, but I was not inclined to proceed with them.  Frustrated, I was convinced that I was by no stretch alone in wanting to see my work in some medium that went beyond my Word documents, and I thought of drawing together like-minded individuals to publish works collectively.  Publishing these works in mini books appealed to my love of all things dinky, and such a medium would be novel, suit shorter works, and, in a flash, I saw would also be something that homeless people could market without being overly burdened (physically), something that could engage them, share glimmers of imagination and other worlds.  I went to sleep very happy that night.
So far, we’ve received up to 17 stories a day, from all over the world, it has been incredibly exciting to wake up and discover new literary gems every morning.  We’ve got enough high quality stories to proceed with the first edition, but are following up a number of contacts and applying for funding (which takes 10 weeks to be processed) before we compile the first edition.  We have our fingers tightly crossed for the funding, but with strong support from our authors, we can irrespectively proceed with a smaller edition.  Our winners to date have shown huge support and willingness to help us market the books across their networks once they are available to buy online and this is hugely stimulating.  We should have the first edition available by the end of the summer, and look forward to it!
It’s been difficult to select winners, we’ve been amused, tugged, surprised by the works, we feel that our initiative nurtures the belief that everyone has a story.
It’s my intention to enter the competition again and I would encourage everyone else to join me. It’s only 80 words! Imagine how much fun you can have with an 80 word story!
Thank you to Helena for answering my questions with such enthusiasm.
Sometimes it takes a jolt, to help us see beyond the realms of our own worlds.