Saturday, 21 December 2013

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Monday, 16 December 2013

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Monday, 2 December 2013

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Which writers have you learnt the most from? Which of those wonderful wordy folk inspire you? Personally, I'd have to say Mary Shelley, Stephen King and Neil Gaiman. Benison O'Reilly cites Charlotte Bronte as her literary example in What Charlotte Bronte Taught Me About Writing on the Write It Sideways website.

This is the last Tuesday Choice Words until 2014.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Presents All Round

I'm getting very excited about Christmas this year. I don't know what it is but I can feel the kid in me taking over. I catch myself humming festive songs (my children tell me off while my husband practises his power of selective hearing) and musing over recipes for the day. Most of all, I am ridiculously giddy about giving presents this year. 

So I thought I would share my giddiness a little further. For the first twenty four days of December, you will find an advent calendar on my blog. On each of those days, I will post a short piece of writing advice, just a snippet so as not to distract you from your own festive preparations.

It's only a handful of days until December. See you then.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Yesterday, I introduced my character Frank to you but it's a rare occasion when I share my novel and talk about it to anyone. I think that's because the idea, although planned out, is still fermenting in my head. Do you talk about your novel? Steven Pressfield suggests that you shouldn't. Find out why in his article - Don't Talk About It.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Supporting Cast

Frank has been a character in my novel since the first draft but he's not one of the main cast. He's there in the background, as the first suggestion of a world of magic, as a picker of locks, but mainly as a friendly bridge between two worlds. I've always had a soft spot for him with his gawky frame and cheeky smile but he has remained ever elusive until a couple of weeks ago when I came across a photograph of Rhys Ifans.

For those of you who don't know, Rhys Ifans is a wonderful Welsh actor seen in Dancing at Lughnasa, Little Nicky, several of the Harry Potter films and more recently, The Amazing Spider-Man, to name but a few.

With Ifans' voice in my ear, Frank comes to life. The playwright in me loves a lyrical accent and Frank's dialogue now reflects those Welsh tones.

I have plenty of work for him to do and now I can envisage him clearly.

Dancing at Lughnasa
Little Nicky
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The Amazing Spider-Man

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

My life is hectic at the moment. There seems to be a lot to fit in and as usual my writing time suffers. Most autumn nights have found me scooting between children's bedtimes and working on my novel. I am nothing, if not adaptable.

How to pace a story so that it hooks the reader is an interesting article from Nail Your Novel, that leads you through the process of creating a novel your reader won't want to put down.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Photo Inspiration for November

This is another photo from my family albums, from the late 1940s or early 1950s. My grandfather Alfred stands on the farthest left hand side. I always thought he had characterful eyebrows. 

I have no idea what this meeting of gentlemen is about. Is it a presentation of awards? What is the circular raised item in the middle? What is the general mood and what do the varying expressions (some smiling, some not) indicate? Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

After yesterday's blog post about whether we should have an understanding of why a villain is bad (their background), I'm still in a quandary over my own 'monster'. In the novel I'm working on, Jared is what they call 'damaged goods'. His mother was a drug addict and he spent a lot of time living on the streets. My quandary is that I can't decide whether it would add anything to the novel for the reader to know his back story, or if I do reveal his upbringing, how much of it to include. Will it move the story along?

The Other Side of the Story offers up many fascinating and incredibly useful articles on a regular basis and this one - 5 Steps to Better Characters Arcs - is no exception. It may well come in useful in making my decision about Jared.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Who will be the next monster?

I've discussed the idea of monsters previously in my article, Loving the Monster, and the recent Hallowe'en season has got me thinking about it all over again.

It seems to me that most of the fictional monsters and villains we meet through books, films and TV these days are generally created in a way that we can understand their crimes or brutal approach. For instance, in the novel, The Warm Bodies (and subsequent film) by Isaac Marion, we find a zombie who grows tired of his life of noshing human flesh and seeks something more, well, human. He wants to fall in love and have experiences beyond his condition.

In Dexter, the character of the title is a serial killer who appears to take delight in his gruesome murders but only slaughters criminals who have escaped justice.

Time and again, the actions of fictional monsters and villains can be explained away but what happened to having a baddie who was just bad? I miss that.

We need more thoroughly evil characters like Freddie Krueger, the Hitcher, the Candyman and Pennywise from Stephen King's It. I don't want to sympathise with a monster or a villain. I want them to scare me and endanger the characters I'm rooting for.

What about you? Do you like to understand the monster or would you rather be scared witless by an unrelenting villain?

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

It's half term holiday here and I've crept out of bed early (although not as early as I normally get up during term time) to have a little peace before my family rise. Being an only child, I had a lot of me time, usually spent reading or imagining. It's nice to carve out a little occasional quiet solitude for myself nowadays, and just be.

Sometimes the torrent of writing advice available online and in books can be too much which is why I found this article, Oblique Stategies for Authors by Stephen Blackmore, incredibly useful and inspiring too.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Stepping into your spotlight

How do you promote yourself online? Or do you? For a long time, my online presence was purely the website for my murder mystery script writing business - no blog or Facebook page, just the website itself.

What this prevented me from sharing, however, was the people behind the business - the personality of myself and my co-writers. My existing clients knew who I was through our communications but anyone coming fresh to the website had no idea. There was no connection and hence no reason to choose our scripts over anybody else's.

That changed when  I set up a blog for Murdering the Text. Suddenly I could talk about why our plays and ways of operating would suit customers over other companies. I could chat to my customers, share our and their successes, and let them know of new scripts and so on. This created a whole fresh level of communication.

What I also took from the new blog was the realisation that I wanted to share more about my writing in general so I set up this blog, Fi's Magical Writing Haven .

Since that time, I have set up a Facebook page for Murdering The Text and for me as a writer. Each of those identities also has a  Twitter account and a Google+ account. I have a more personal Tumblr blog and an page too. Then there's my Linked In account.

Now, that all sounds like a lot of places to maintain but using Facebook and Twitter linking apps mean that a lot of posts are automated. A level of commitment is required to maintain all of these but I don't let it over power me. I have a manageable amount of time set aside each week, no more than two hours in total, to upkeep my online presence. I find this works well.

Some authors stick to a website only while others embrace a whole range of online networking opportunities. It's a  very personal thing - choosing where you want to appear, how much time you want to spend on your online presence and what exactly you want to reveal about yourself. There is a whole host of information out there on how to market oneself online but it has to come down to this. What suits you? If you find that juggling a blog, Facebook page, Twitter etc are taking you away from your writing too much, then perhaps it's time to reconsider your approach.

What do you think? How do you cope with your online spotlight?

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

It was my seventh wedding anniversary yesterday. We had a romantic evening in (well, as romantic as it can be when you're trying to settle a child in bed) - meal cooked by my husband, a bottle of bubbly and Captain Corelli's Mandolin on the TV - bliss. The champagne hangover I suffered this morning wasn't so blissful, which is why this post is later in the day than usual. Be kind to me - I'm feeling fragile.

As my life is so often a juggling act (children, work, some kind of social life), I sometimes struggle to meet my writing goals so I was delighted to discover a free online tool to help me keep up my progress - Pacemaker. Choose your word count, intensity level and weekend writing plans and this program will create a customised writing schedule for you. I started to use it the day I found it and have to say that it's proving incredibly useful.

Choosing a different shelf

I was a reader long before I was a writer. As an only child to older parents, I was allowed to read whatever book, out of the many crammed shelves in our home, took my fancy. I read thrillers, fairytales, history, plays, poetry - making no differentiation between genre or form.

As a writer now, I continue to read. I don't just read what I write though (plays, murder mysteries, fantasy). I do my best to stretch my reading choices to other less familiar genres too. This is what I've read over the last six months.

The Rose Labyrinth by Titania Hardie

I came to Titania Hardie through her books on witchcraft. She has a very calm writing voice so I was excited to buy her first adult fiction book. The Rose Labyrinth is a historical mystery featuring Elizabethan spies and geniuses, a family legacy and the long, hot summer of 2003.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

This non fiction book discusses Campbell's theory of the journey of the archetypal hero as found in many world mythologies. I've found the journey of the hero to be incredibly helpful in plotting my current novel and I'll use it for future novels too.

The Elusive Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy

This historical adventure is set in 1793 and is an old favourite that I return to every so often. Sir Percy Blakeney is a dashing hero (the Scarlet Pimpernel) and his wife Marguerite is as clever and brave as always.

What have you been reading? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

It's a bitterly cold morning but the sky is a wonder of gold, lilac and pink. Not a bad way to start the day. When you're feeling down, I think it's always a good idea to look up (literally).

One of my writing inspirations is Neil Gaiman - his unusual imaginings and his diversity in writing covering comic books, novels, children's books, films and now a game - so I was delighted to come across this podcast, Neil Gaiman's Advice to Aspiring Writers on brain pickings.

Another writer I love to listen to (and read the books of too of course) is Steven Pressfield. As part of the launch of his latest writing advice  book, The Authentic Swing (which I'll be reviewing here soon) is this Q&A podcast, Ask Me Anything.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Photo Inspiration for October

We are several weeks into autumn and the weather has turned cold where I live. My garden, however, refuses to obey the call of this season and is still decked in flowers that were meant to bloom in the summer. My daughter is a child of nature, especially hunting out insects (or mini beasts as she calls them). The many butterflies that visited our garden this summer have gone but we found these two caterpillars in amongst our flowers a couple of days ago. It seems to me that they are outside of their normal time.

The concept of someone or thing being outside their normal time or setting is used again and again in stories - the stranger, the time traveller, the alien. It probably stems from the time centuries ago when we kept to our tribe and outsiders were seen as dangerous.

What does the idea of 'other', of an individual outside the time or place they originated in, mean to you? Are they good or bad or something in between? Is the story about them or the reaction of other people towards them? What does 'other' mean to you?

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

I'm currently working on the third draft of my novel - rewrite, tinker, expand, delete - and I'm actually finding it more difficult than producing the original draft. Thankfully writer Chuck Wendig has come to my rescue with his article 25 Steps to Edit the Unmerciful Suck out of your Story.

And finally, Benedict Cumberbatch says...

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Fresh Blood

I've recently finished a new murder mystery play called Thoroughly Murdered Millie. Set in the 1920s, rich young widow Millie Harper-Smythe shocks her family (and the staff) with her plans for the future. Her stepchildren will lose their home, William the butler has no choice but to emigrate and who knows what she has in mind for the gardener? Can anyone stop her?

You can find this play over on the Murdering The Text website. Have a look.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Tuesday Choice Words

Woken at 5.26 am by my neighbour whistling loudly at her dogs for about quarter of an hour, I am now yawning my way through the morning.

Don't Die at the End! from Writerly Life discusses a similar lack of energy on the part of authors when they reach the stage of sending off their manuscripts to agents and publishers. It discusses how to shift our energy and keep going.