Moving Blog

Published August 16, 2012 by ltwilton

Hi to any followers!

I have been working hard on my new wordpress.org blog and I am almost ready to move. The site is up but there are a few more graphics issues I need to sort out.

I’ve been able to transfer all of my posts but not all of my comments in the end (I think I am missing those from the writemotivation post as I did that one manually). If you are interested in following my blog I would really appreciate it!

The new web address is http://ltwilton.com

I hope you join me over there!

My very first set of #writemotivation goals.

Published August 11, 2012 by ltwilton

#writemotivation

Finally! I am at the stage of writing my goals for #writemotivation, and boy, do I need them. It’s been very easy to do the bare minimum lately (or get caught on twitter for aaaaaaages) so I hereby give myself a kick up the ass.

Here are the goals for the rest of the month of August:

1)      Finish the mystery story and submit.

2)      Enter at least one writing competition.

3)      Complete non-fiction writing task 1.

4)      Write at least 3 more chapters of Lily.

5)      Start sci-fi project 1.

6)      Complete at least one blog entry per week.

Now that may sound pretty vague to you, but it’s a lot of work. I think I can cross off a few of those, if not all of them but I might need to give myself a daily target too, to make it all a bit more manageable.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately learning about writing and about social networking. It’s the social networking part that’s killing me at the moment. I just don’t think I’m doing it right yet as it seems to be taking up a lot of time.

I’m also trying to transfer my blog from a wordpress.com to a wordpress.org account and that is causing me some minor headaches.

I think I’ll put a goal for the blog transfer on there for September.

OK. Now to spend less time online, and more time writing!Image

My first guest post!

Published August 10, 2012 by ltwilton

I finally got my finger out and did a guest post for someone else! It is on the blog of the adorable @safireblade and can be found on the following link:

Awesomeguestpostlink!

I’m also very pleased to announce that my good friend Karina Buchanan will be doing an imminent guest post for me here on romance writing (something I think I would be terrible at). Watch this space, I’ll be posting it here soon.

#Writemotivation and the #IWSG

Published August 1, 2012 by ltwilton

Egads! I’m back!

It feels like forever since I posted anything but, here goes.

I just got married two days ago, so things have been mega hectic to say the least. This isn’t my attempt at making a rubbish excuse but I hereby forgive myself right now anyway.

But the news is this: I found some amazing online projects that have been created by people to form supportive writing groups.

One is #writemotivation and the other is the Insecure Writers’ Support Group – #IWSG

The first can be found on the following blog: The Scribble Muse and the second on Alex J. Cavanaugh‘s blog.

I may be too late to properly join this week/month’s goal setting but I signed up for the blog hop.

My current mood about this is very excited! I’ll post back with goals and to let you know how I get along.

How do I write a mystery story?

Published July 23, 2012 by ltwilton

Ugh… This has been the noise mostly coming out of my mouth in the past few days as I have been trying to write my mystery story.

Don’t get me wrong. I have all the components to make it work and the ideas are there but I just can’t seem to shake the idea that it’s all too obvious. I have a murder, I have several suspects, I have clues and I have the characters but it feels forced to me somehow and that isn’t how I usually write.

I haven’t started writing the prose yet – I’ve been spending days writing timelines, character studies and pinpointing when clues should appear but the longer I spend on this, the weaker it seems to me. I might be being overly critical but I can’t be sure until the finished product arrives. I don’t normally write like this (I tend to just start writing and then get to the end, leave it and then edit), so I think the process is just feeling really foreign.

So, any writers out there; do you have any gems of advice for writing mystery stories? Or should I just write it and see how it turns out?Image

I found the following advice on a website called poewar.com on a post called 10 tips for writing your mystery novel.

I think the first piece of advice might be the key. I’m just going to start and see what happens.

Written By Bob Sassone

I’ve always loved a mystery. And not just books either. Along with my well-worn copies of mystery novels by Chandler, Block, and the Macdonalds (Ross and John D.), I also treasure my videos of old “Columbo” and “Magnum, P.I.” episodes, and I always stop to watch “Murder, She Wrote” whenever I’m on the couch, channel surfing. Though I think that she’s around when so many murders occur, that she is either the world’s greatest amateur detective, or the most cunning serial killer in history.

So, for my first novel, the natural choice for me was to write a mystery. Of course, starting any large piece of writing like a novel can be frightening. It can even paralyze you, as you look at the blank screen (or blank piece of paper in your Royal typewriter) and think, “I have to come up with around 70,000 or so words?!” I know that before I started my first novel, I thought that I wasn’t up to the task, that novels were something that “other,” “real” writers did.

But I eventually started. Though I don’t pretend to know all the answers (I believe a writer should never stop learning), by reading all the how-to books, reading a few hundred mystery novels, and talking to a few other mystery writers as well, I think I can help you, too. This isn’t a definitive guide, but it will certainly help you as it helped me. Little by little, the entire process begins to make sense, becomes less daunting, and, believe it or not, becomes more fun.

Tip #1: Just start the novel.

That’s the big secret. You have to actually start the book, even if you don’t know where it’s going or what’s going to happen.

Tip #2: A good, clean, correctly formatted manuscript is essential.

Of course, this is true for all writing, whether it’s a novel, an article, or a recipe column for your local advertiser. But for novels, it’s especially true. Double-space your manuscript. 10 or 12 point type. White laser or inkjet paper (not onionskin or paper that smudges easily). Send it loose in a manuscript box (unless the agent or publisher asks for just a chapter or two, in which case you can go the paper clip route). Word count in the upper right hand corner of the title page, title and author centered, page numbers in the upper right hand corner of the other pages. Spell the editor/publisher’s name correctly. And, please, no jelly stains or fingerprints.

I’ve been an editor, and if a writer handed in something in the wrong format or didn’t spell my name correctly or addressed it in a general way, I immediately threw it away without reading it. And enjoyed doing so. There’s no excuse for that.

Tip #3: Outline your plot.

Many mystery writers (including myself) do not work from an outline for the entire novel, but I find it helps if I at least jot down a skeleton-like structure of various scenes and transitions. They will probably change as the book goes along, but at least you’ll have a base to work from.

Tip #4: First person or third? Whatever you want.

This is always the big debate, isn’t it? Which viewpoint to use? It’s especially debated in mystery circles. Most mysteries are written in the first person, though the downsides are obvious: your hero has to be present on every page, the reader has to collect clues and realize things at the same time as the hero, and the constant use of the word “I” may put some readers off (though I’ve never bought that argument – mystery readers know the format of the genre and eat up first person mysteries).

Third person advantages are many: you can get into the minds of various characters, and you can have scenes where the hero is not involved. I chose first person for my first mystery, because it’s what I write in for my essays, humor columns, and some of my non-fiction. First person comes naturally to all of us, so many first mysteries are written this way. Though at some point you will want to write your next novel or short story in the third person.

As for multi-viewpoint, don’t even try that with your first mystery.

Tip #5: Create good characters, not just two-dimensional stick figures to propel the plot.

To create characters, I’m one for the old trick of creating little descriptions of each character: height, weight, job, hobbies, personality, work history, demeanor, friends, hangouts, hang-ups, etc. It gives you a good idea of what to do with your characters. Be consistent with the way the character talks and how he reacts to events in the book. And don’t give similar names to your characters, like Bill and Bob and Bret. Don’t confuse the reader.

Tip #6: To write good dialogue, don’t listen to people talking to each other.

Dialogue on the page doesn’t sound like real-life dialogue. Real-life dialogue is boring, filled with mistakes, and “tells” much too much. And be careful of “he said.” It breaks up the rhythm of the dialogue, especially if it’s repeated too often.

Typical real life dialogue:

Joe: “Hey Ed, how are you?” Ed: “Fine, what’s up?” Joe: “Great. How’s your job going?” Ed: “It’s OK. But I’m looking for something else that pays more.” Joe: “Yeah, me too. What type of job are you looking for?” Ed: “I don’t know.” Joe: “Me either.” Ed: “Wanna go get something to eat.” Joe: “That sounds good.” Ed: “Where do you want to go?” Joe: “I don’t know…what time is it?”

Zzzzzzzzzzzzz. Dialogue on the written page has to involve more action, not only in the dialogue itself but in the descriptive paragraphs or narrative that should be inserted somewhere into the above conversation. Don’t let dialogue go on too long without breaking it up.

Tip #7: The best way to learn how to write a mystery? Read them.

In fact, devour as many as you can. Learn from the masters: Lawrence Block, Ross Macdonald, Raymond Chandler, Sue Grafton, James Ellroy, Steven Womack, Robert Crais, Jeremiah Healy, Donald Westlake. In fact, I’ll go one step further: I think it’s good to read ALL types of novels, not just in your genre. Good writing is good writing.

Tip #8: Write every day. Get a routine. Stick with it.

If you are a writer who writes every single day, whether in a journal, a notebook, or for clients, then you are way ahead of the person who wants to write a novel but doesn’t have the discipline. Many people see a writing career as “flexible” and “spontaneous” and “idealistic,” and all the other arty stuff. They don’t want to be forced to write for a certain number of pages or hours a day. But if you get a daily routine (for me it’s the early morning, when the world is quieter and I can get things done), you’ll see your writing increase and improve. If you write a page or two a day, you’ll be surprised how fast you can finish the first draft of your novel (and, believe me, that first draft will not be your finished product).

Tip #9: Don’t edit as you write.

It just gets in the way of the flow and energy of your writing, especially with a long piece of fiction like a novel. Save all the editing for the next day, where you can edit the previous day’s prose. Not only will you get more done, you’ll FEEL as if you’re getting more done. Get that first draft done, and you won’t find the editing and revision to be too much of a chore. Besides, when people ask you if your book is done, you can give them the old, “yeah, I just have to edit it a little more,” and you won’t be lying!


Tip #10: Some cliches are true, like the one that says, “writing is rewriting.”

Nothing you read, whether it’s a mystery novel, a humor column, an investigative piece, or a short story, is published exactly as it was written the first time. There’s a lot of revision and editing that is done. I used to dread revision, but now I look at it as a way to really clean up messy, unclear, or repetitive prose.

Of course, the steps above are just 10 ways to help you do what you ultimately have to do, which is to actually write the book. When you get right down to it, the best advice comes from Robert B. Parker, author of the Spenser books, when he was asked for his advice on writing and submitting a mystery novel:

“Write it and send it in.”

Bob Sassone is a contributor to The Boston Herald and Ironminds (http://www.ironminds.com), and has written for Salon, McSweeney’s, Tripod, iUniverse, Compuserve, North Shore Magazine, and other publications. A book of columns and essays will be released later this year, as will his first novel. Web site: http://www.bobsassone.com.

Flash fiction challenge

Published July 19, 2012 by ltwilton

So, I decided to get involved in a flash fiction challenge set by Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com. The challenge this week was to write a story with the beginning sentence: “The noticed android walks past a wondering chamber.”

The second requirement was to keep the word count below 1000. The deadline is tomorrow so I thought I’d better be quick. Here is my attempt:

Arrogance of an android.

The noticed android walks past the wondering chamber. Inside, Lara is frantically trying to finish the sequence of wondering but noticing the android distracts her and she loses grip of the wonder. Hopeless and desperate, she places her hands on the panels once again.

“Start! Goddamn it! Start!”

The wondering machine whirrs as it reboots but the android is already cutting a hole through the metal door. Lara’s face strains as the influx of information enters her head. She wills it to enter her long-term memory, her subconscious, so that when they put her under again she might regain control quicker next time.

“I… Will…. Remember….!”

Images flash before her eyes -future, present, past. She could not tell. She sees the human race fighting against the machines, the capture, the enslavement. She sees the memory suppressors, the deadened eyes of the afflicted, the lines of workers mining for metal, the occasional break for freedom and subsequent failure. But one image lingers. It is enough to give her hope. She sees escape, a group of humans on the outside, rebuilding, preparing, strengthening. As she falls to the ground and loses consciousness, a faint smile creeps over her lips.

“Remember hope.”

The android walks silently across to where she lies. His face is so human, his synthetic blonde hair neatly trimmed to frame his features. No wonder the humans were taken by surprise in the beginning. It was hard to tell friend or foe.  He pauses for a moment, studying her face, cocking his head to the side as if able to wonder. After his brief hesitation he injects her with sedative and hoists her up onto his long, back and carries her out the door.

They pass through the dark, empty corridors, the air dampened by the proximity of underground streams on the way to the maintenance chamber.  When they reach the large, silver door the android pauses to swipe his hand across the entry reader and the door slides open.

He places Lara on the table and waits.

When Lara wakes up, she realises she has been strapped to the medical table. She struggles in vain but the restraints are too tight. “Nnggh!!”

The android approaches.

“What is your… name?” he asks, monotone, emotionless.

“Why should I tell you? Why do you care?”

“I do not care.  I wish to know, however. This may be of use to us.”

“What do you want?”

“How did you reach the wondering chamber? How did you find out about its whereabouts?”

Lara had not known that the room was called a wondering chamber. She had learned about it over time, hiding the fact that she had regained some of her consciousness, her ability to reason and to make choices. She had pretended to be just like all the others and had explored the tunnels little by little over the course of a few months. She did not want to tell the android any of this. She had only been able to get as far as she did because they had underestimated her. They thought they had complete control, but she had slipped through. Now she just hoped,no, she knew, that others would slip through. She had seen it.

“Why do you need the wondering chamber?” she asks the android, avoiding his question.

He smiles at her, as if regarding a petulant child. “Such things are beyond the understanding of humans.”

Lara looks at him, studying his face. His face is expressionless but then… a flicker.

“You call it a wondering chamber,” she says, “but why would you need it?”

“We do not need it, foolish human.”

“But you’re so logical. You wouldn’t build something you didn’t need.”

Once again she sees a flicker of something in his face. What did she see? Anger? Arrogance? Impatience? No. Jealousy. What she sees is a hint of jealousy. Lara’s face lights up with realisation.

“You want to be like us. But there is something missing; the ability to imagine, to wonder. You think you have beaten us but you won’t because you don’t have what we have. And despite your best efforts you can’t get it. It bothers you –  no- it’s killing you! And you know we’ll keep going until we break free. You won’t ever be able to break us down. You can’t kill our hope!”

Slap! She cries out. The android stands over her, ready to strike her again, but instead reaches for the memory suppressor. He cranks it up to maximum, places the headpiece over her head and presses the start button. Lara screams in agony until it is finally done. The android lifts the headpiece and looks at her face carefully. Lara is staring into the nothingness, stripped of her former passion, her determination, her consciousness. He releases the restraints.

“Get up,” he commands her.

Lara lifts herself off the table and stands, facing the door, awaiting her next instruction.

“Join the others in the holding chamber.”

Lara walks towards the door, away from the android, a faint smile creeping across her mouth. Next time, she would know what to do.

(850 words)

-Recognising your weakness as a writer.

Published July 18, 2012 by ltwilton

I’ve been feeling quite good about the fact that I have recognised my biggest weakness in my own writing. That means, I figure, that I can work hard to improve on that aspect of my work. After that, I can identify another aspect and work on that and so on and so forth.

It’s sometimes easier said than done to be able to fish out your own weakness. This is where the help of well-meaning others comes in. (Those of you who are putting themselves out there on the internet will know why I included the well-meaning part.) You have to be careful about taking the advice of every Tom, Dick and Harry from the internet, however, as not everyone has the best intentions, or indeed the knowledge to give you good advice.

I’ve realised that EVERYONE (almost) wants to be a writer and have had conversations a bit like this:

“I really liked your story.”

“Thanks.”

“Do you want some feedback?”

“Yeah, that would be cool. Go ahead.”

“Well, the story was set over too long a time period. And the characters need to be more minimal. And the setting needs work. Oh, and your vocabulary.”

“So, you didn’t like the setting, the characters, the time period and the words I used?”

“That’s about it.”

“What did you like?”

“Er….”

My point is this: choose who you listen to. Make sure they mean you well and make sure they know what they’re talking about, otherwise you could end up confused. Now maybe all those things did need working on, but it does no good whatsoever to tear someone’s first attempts apart completely. You can tell when someone is giving you good advice because they will tend to focus on one or two aspects and they will suggest real, concrete things you can try to improve. (Oh, and they can usually spell.)

By the way, you want to know the advice the person in question gave me to improve? “Read more.” OK.

So, back to my own realisation.

My major weakness at this time is……… descriptions! Argh!

Yep, my descriptions need a lot of work. This has been a problem that I was semi-aware of to start with because I know I have a fear of sounding too wordy or condescending in my writing. I also don’t want it to sound contrived or like I’m trying too hard. So, unfortunately, as you’ll see if you read any of my work, my descriptions are far too boring, flat and one-dimensional.

How am I going to fix this, I hear you ask? I’m going to practise, practise, practise! First off I’m just going to try to describe places I visit near to where I live. I’m going to try to involve more of the senses and I’m going to try to relate descriptions more to how my character is feeling. I’m not going to sit with a thesaurus for every sentence I write but I might try to use a few new words each time I sit down to do a session.

I wrote a description of a market in Bristol. It’s my first attempt at better descriptions. When I read it back I didn’t think it was particularly good but it is a start. Here it is:

The edge of the market sits on the corner of High Street where a series of traffic lights dutifully stops the bustling traffic in a slow and endless rhythm. A few market stalls sit on the corner inviting us to venture down into Corn Street and towards the main section of trade. Tourists wander past the jewellery stalls pausing to lift an item or to enquire about prices whilst immune, busy Bristolians walk briskly past as if the stalls were no longer visible. One of the market sellers stands behind his stall smoking and looking despondent, waiting for someone to approach his wares with even a vague interest. As we approach the lanes, the number of market browsers increases and we have to weave our way through them, absent-mindedly touching our bags as a precaution. As we approach the narrow passageway a medley of smells draws us in, welcoming us warmly and enticing us this way and that, towards freshly fried chicken, curried goat or vegetarian tarts. Steam rises urgently from a hot pan whilst meat sizzles and spits amongst rich spices and aromatic herbs. Crescendos of laughter rise and fall amidst an underlying hum of chatter and conversation. People sharing food and company sit at tables outside cafés whilst more perusers carefully amble down the narrow pathway taking the time to study each window, stall and menu. We turn to the left to enter the enclosed market hall, through the open gates and up the steps under light shining through Victorian glass supported by metal frames. The noise becomes louder; a gaggle of voices bouncing off the walls, surrounding our ears, increasing in intensity. There are bigger crowds here and stalls are packed into lines on every side. The air smells thick and warm with notes of incense and perfume. We shuffle our way through, unable to converse, unable to relax, until we reach the other side.

I definitely don’t love it but, what do you think?

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