Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Stage of revision 7 Is there conflict and tension? Are there peaks and troughs?



 

The role of conflict and tension

It is so often the tension between characters that leads to story in the first place. So tension is a number one driver.  As is a conflict of interests. Often too, the protagonists are conflicted with  their environment. A character may cross the first threshold but may still refuse the call to adventure. There is also that very important conflict between what a character wants and what they need. 

 

Lesson from stage and screen 

It’s useful for novel and short story writer to look at what happens on stage and screen – and even in radio plays. There we find a projection forward. Suggestions are made and the viewer / listener looks out for how that pans out. Will the ghost actually appear to Hamlet? What will he learn from it?  What will he do as a result of seeing the ghost? 

 

Not what but how 

We expect a happy ending usually.  We know the good guy will win in most cases.  Yet seeing how that happens fascinates us. Car chases are welcome.
Can you keep your reader on the edge of their seat? Will any scene make them say, “So what?”?  If it does the latter, get rid of it or change it.
Every so often though the reader needs a break – and so do your characters. They need to regroup, gather their thoughts or reflect a little on what just happened. Or maybe they need to make a plan - albeit one that is going to be thwarted.

A few tricks up your sleeve

There are a couple of tricks that help us to keep the reader engaged:
1.      Have a cliff-hanger  at the end of each chapter
2.      Have one more nasty thing happen just before it all resolves  

 

Practical editing tips

So, what should we be doing in this stage of revision?
Examine each scene carefully. It must do one or several of the following: 
  • Relate to the main conflict
  • Make the reader want to carry on reading
  • Allow a break for the characters to regroup, reflect, rationalise and make further plans
Happy revising! 

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

News 1 Janaury 2020



 

A Happy New Year to You

I’m writing to you on the very first day of the brand new year. Does 2020 have a ring about it?  The days are already feeling a little longer probably because we’ve had some bright sunny ones recently.
I have to confess to not being a fan of New Year’s resolutions. You so often set yourself up for a fall.  However, I do believe in goal setting and this is as good a time of the year as any to set them.
If you’re also a writer do you have a submissions strategy? I have one but I’ve tweaked it slightly recently. Instead of just trying to find a home for what I’ve already written, I’m going to challenge myself to write specifically for some imprints and competitions.     
When I first started writing I used to enter every competition I could find. Whilst completing an MA, being a Head of Modern Languages in a challenging secondary school and having two teenagers at home. How did I manage that? I’m not sure but I did. So it shouldn’t be too difficult to get back into that sort of swing, should it?  

News about my writing

I’m still working 240 X 70, and Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, my non-fiction text about the darker side of children’s literature.
The House of Clementine, the fourth book in my Peace Child series, is now out with beta readers. I’ve completed my normal fourteen edits and I guess there’ll be more when it comes back.    
I’m back to the Schellberg Cycle and am about a third of the way through the first draft of book five The Round Robin. This may be only a working title.
The book of writing prompts is now complete and available here.

    
         

Catalogue of books for children

I’ve added:
Paddington’s Finest Hour by Michael Bond.
Michael Bond carried on writing the Paddington stories right until his death in 2018.  This is the penultimate Paddington collection.  Most people would look upon the Paddington books as classics. The first was written in 1958.  

As with many of the other Paddington books this volume contains several standalone but interconnected stories.  These are presented in short chapters so are ideal for the end of the school day or bedtime stories. 

You can read my full comments here.
I also watched the film Paddington 2 over the Christmas break. I found it absolutely charming.  But is Paddington just for children?      

Current reading recommendation

It’s probably not a coincidence that now my writing is back in the 1940s I’m also reading again more about the 1940s and also fiction set in the 1940s.

I enjoyed most The Children’s War by Juliet Gardiner.  

I found this book totally fascinating, though it’s an awkward book to read in bed.  It is a heavy and wide hardback.

It is actually the official companion to the Imperial war Museum Exhibition of the same name.  There is an interesting blog post about the exhibition here

I have of course researched this era extensively but I was pleased to be reminded of some things I’d forgotten, be assured about some things that I still know and even to find out a few things I’d not known. 

This isn’t a scholarly work but I did buy the book because another academic mentioned it. It is however extremely well researched and gives a lot of factual information.  There are masses of illustrations and also photographs taken at the time. Many of the illustrations are adverts and posters.  When I used the facsimile War Papers for my research I found the advertisements very informative.  They gave much insight as to what life was like back then. The same was true for the illustrations here. 

The other academic who recommended the book did say that many of the first-hand accounts were less reliable as the story-tellers had had too much time to rationalise their experience.   Yes I’ll admit that is normally the case but I actually found it less so here.  The first-hand accounts and the realia gave very similar information. 

Very interesting was a discussion about the General Election just after the war when Churchill was ousted in favour of a Labour government. The Beveridge report in 1942 had promised ‘security to all “from the cradle to the grave” from the ravages of sickness or unemployment’ (200). There was an attack on ‘Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness’ (201).

This is a book I shall dip into time and time again. An absorbing and very easy read.  Find it here.        

Giveaway

This month I’m giving away my collection of short stories Other Ways of Being. Most of these have been published elsewhere before. They are all generally set in other worlds – historical, fantasy or futuristic.  At the moment it’s doing the rounds of my local National Women’s Register group. I read one story from it for our Christmas book group, where we all take a long a Christmas reading. This was a story from the point of view a servant who accompanied one of the wise men on the journey to Bethlehem.  My friends all seem to be enjoying the book - phew!
You can download it and lots of other free materials here.   
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.   
Naturally I welcome reviews.

 

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.
This month I’ve added another post about more posts about Hani Gődde: about the Kriegshilfsdienst – compulsory war work for young German women.
You can read the post here.
I’ve also added two book reviews.  The Children’s War by Juliet Gardiner, mentioned above, gives us some useful information about what it was like in Britain for children during World War II.  Read the full review here.   
I’ve also reviewed Jessica Blair’s Just One More Day. This is an easy read that also gives us much insight about working as a WAAF officer and flying a Lancaster bomber.  Read the full review here.

 

School visits

I’m still promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.      
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:      
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.

 

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   

Opportunities List Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them here. New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  


Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

CaféLit Stories Find these here

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head.   

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

The Young Person’s Library I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site.  Access it here.

Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site.  Find it here.   
Happy reading and writing.