The short story – cut to the bone

13 07 2014

I love a good short story. I dabble with them but never overly seriously, never competitively. I see them as an excellent way to practise the art of writing small. If you want a novel to read well you should write it as a short story is, one with a word limit. Cut every extraneous word, slice them to the bone. Flowery prose is fine if intentional but lazy writing is just that.

sometimes you have to slice the fruit as well as the meat?!

sometimes you have to slice the fruit as well as the meat?!

My blogs are quite flowery. I don’t slice them as thinly as I do my fiction, don’t spend the hours honing. It’s nice occasionally just to write, cast a single eye over it for obvious errors, then release to the four winds. Typos happen, using which instead of that, practise instead of practice (US readers won’t understand this one), me and I and has and have etc etc etc

But the short story takes a bloody great chainsaw to that. This blog would probably be summed up as “His short stories are better” but that doesn’t give the meat, the fat, the gristle, the wart on the chin with hairs coming out.

I was never into short story competitions but see them cropping up more and more. Read about the HG Wells Festival in Folkestone the other day (https://twitter.com/HGWellsfestival) . Not my geographical patch but the name caught my eye as it would any writer. I don’t think I’ll enter but I have suggested to a few of my mentees they consider it. Interrupt their novel writing and have a crack at something different. “Perhaps write a story whilst populating the head of one of your characters”, I said.

What kind of short story would Robert Langham, Harry Potter or even Han Solo write? Symbols, wands and blasters.

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Quirks in your writing – what do you always include?

16 05 2014

Clive Cussler appears in each of his Dirk Pitt novels. Somewhere, for at most a page or two, a silver haired gent appears in the narrative and says or does something a bit helpful to the hero before never being seen again. It’s nice, a kind of magic in each novel. Something to watch for. Something you know is coming and you wonder how he will weave himself into the world this time.

Hitchcock loved a cameo in his films, and what will be world be if the next reboot of Star Trek doesn’t rely on one flash of light that shows a Spock moment somewhere. If we ever lose Nimoy I expect CGI will be fired up with pointy-ears a-plenty and he’ll save every one of us.

Do you have a gimmick? Something you always put into your writing which makes you smile as you type. It may be you do it just for yourself and if anyone noticed you’d deny it. Perhaps you set it as a challenge for your readers in the know.

It’s strange but it’s true that, for me, in stories if not in blogs, it is not complete until I have a Queen lyric or two somewhere in the crazy paving. Perhaps in the dialogue, perhaps in prose. Somewhere Freddie, Roger, Brian and John live again





First books – how autobiographical are they?

16 08 2013

First books are autobiographical.

This is something I have always known, both intellectually and anecdotally. The proof sits on the shelves of any bookseller. First novels are where authors pour their naked souls only to edit and rewrite to take some bits back, hide themselves away again, disguise and disfigure to bring new heroes and villains to life.

I have often wondered if I re-read the first novels of each of my series, would I see different facets of the creative mind in each heroine. Does Mrs Vintner hide more darkness than Penny B? Will Mischa give people a view of my lightness of spirit at times?

Or…

Or is the first novel which no-one sees the one where you are most naked? We all have that first book – it may not be finished – it may never have fully left your mind– but we authors all have the first embarrassing secret text where we gave too much and could not edit it enough to hide our true selves from the readers

To quote some advice given in my latest work:

“This is your first novel. There are always autobiographical elements. Don’t worry about it, there has to be. But if you don’t give Mischa her own face, her own voice, she will assume the readers know her as well as you know yourself. You, the writer, are just recording her actions, her thoughts – not your own – no matter how similar you might think she is.”