Friday, 4 January 2019

Latest articles in Writing Magazine

That's another month gone and it's only the 4th of January!

No, you haven't tumbled through a time-warp portal and lost a couple of weeks. Just letting you know that February's edition of Writing Magazine is hitting the shelves and airwaves about now.

Included are my monthly Beginners article - 'Its All in the Mind', dealing with the simple fact that nothing lurking in your brain, even a scrap of an idea, is a wasted thought... as long as you get it down on paper. In fact it's very often a catalyst for other thoughts and ideas currently on the boil, because one can often be linked to another.

I call these extra thoughts add-ons, because that's what they are. They're often propelled by something you're working on or even a vague notion you've come up with. As such, they're potential gold-dust so don't let them go to waste.

This month's New Author profile is on Emma Morgan, whose debut novel 'A Love Story for Bewildered Girls' (great title!) is published by Viking on 7th February. Emma was on a mentoring scheme run by Penguin Books, and it has certainly paid off for her.


Monday, 10 December 2018

Latest article in Writing Magazine

January's edition of Writing Magazine includes my latest 'Beginners' article - 'Size Doesn't Matter'.

Now before you sneeze coffee through your ears, this isn't what you think.

It's about the idea put forward in a recent interview by a male author (not the lady on the front of this cover) that only serious issues are worth bothering writing about; the idea that anything which might appear 'small beer' simply isn't worth entertaining - or what he went on to suggest, 'Isn't worth wasting three years of my life on'.

This won't apply to everyone, I suggest, because we all have different idea of what is or is not small beer.

And long may that continue. Diversity in reading is essential, as it should be in writing, and it would be lamentable if any new writer was put off doing what they wanted to do merely because someone more experienced suggested it wasn't worthwhile.

Which is the whole idea behind this column. Beginners, get your mojo, whatever it is!



Friday, 2 November 2018

Latest articles in Writing Magazine

My latest 'Beginners' piece in December's edition of Writing Magazine is called 'Setting the Scenery'.

Illustrating the part that this non-speaking character plays in storytelling, using the everyday elements of weather, light, people, buildings, traffic - essentially, all the things which go on around us unremarked and mostly unremarkable in our lives - helps build a believable backdrop, creating depth and colour on which the characters and actions will stand out.

As a reminder of the part our climate can play in describing a scene with real feeling, take photos to remind yourself of how people react and move in extremes of weather.


The new author profiled this month is Catherine Fearns - - whose debut novel 'Reprobation' was published in October by Crooked Cat Books.

With an intriguing cast of characters, featuring a Calvinist nun, a death metal band lead guitarist and a Scouse (Liverpool) detective on his first murder case, set against a theme of predestination, this is no ordinary crime novel.


Friday, 7 September 2018

My new articles in Writing Magazine

Early details of  October's edition of Writing Magazine include my latest 'Beginners' piece, 'Just Jump'.

Not an invitation to go to the nearest bridge but more an encouragement to write something. Anything.

The hardest part of being a writer is to start. Whether for the first time or the hundredth, putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and seeing the first few words appear before you can be a bit of a push.

It's not unlike taking the first plunge into cold water. Hesitant you will be, but the sooner you kick off, the sooner that tremulous beginning is over. After that, all you have to do is keep swimming - or, in our case, writing. And as soon as you begin, you'll find the rest becomes a lot easier.

In short, don't think about it or dream about it - just do it. You'll feel a lot better, I promise.


Also included is this month's New Author Profile. The author under the spotlight is Jean Levy, with her debut novel 'What Was Lost' (The Dome Press).

A psychological thriller dealing with themes of love, friendship and suspicion set against a woman's fight to recover traumatically repressed memories, the idea began as an MA project six years ago, and blossomed into a full-blown novel.

'What Was Lost' - available from The Dome Press and Amazon.


Monday, 20 August 2018

My review of 'All the Hidden Truths'

If you're looking for a stunning read with a very timely topic (school shootings), then 'All the Hidden Truths' by Claire Askew is the book for you.

What's more, it's a debut, which lifts it even further in my view, because it's so well-written, pacey and full of tension... and the villain is someone you can really loathe. Well, I did, anyway.

To read the full review, go to the SHOTS website - - and prepare for your socks to be blown off.

'All the Hidden Truths' - Out now:


Thursday, 9 August 2018

New Beginners articles in Writing Magazine

Storytelling 101

Either August was late or September is early. I blame the gloriously hot summer.

Either way, here we are already looking at the September edition of Writing Magazine, and my latest 'Beginners' piece.

I decided to refer back to basics in building a story. And that deals with Storyline, Facts, Editing and Dialogue. Of course there's more to it than that, but if you have these basics covered, you're well on your way.

Tell a story, fill it with interesting facts, make sure your characters' dialogue sounds right (for them and the period) and edit the heck out of it to make it right.

Above all, enjoy doing it. If you have fun writing, you won't want to do anything else.


Sunday, 5 August 2018

Writing for Beginners (42)

Bring on a Stand-by

Some new neighbours moved in recently down the street. Nothing extraordinary about that; people move in and out all the time. However, for what should have been something of a non-event, excitement-wise, there has been a fair bit of activity on the village grapevine ever since they showed up and kicked the agent’s board into the long grass.
Quite apart from the usual gossip at the shop, where information is traded like pork futures, along with eggs, papers and Mrs Green’s farmyard honey, there has been much chat about what these newcomers are up to. Speculation is rife about ‘shrouded’ deliveries (bricks and cement powder wrapped in clingfilm to prevent damp) and the arrival of ‘certain equipment’ (grinders, tile cutters and saw benches, mostly). And let’s not forget the blue Portaloo in the front garden, which has raised more than a few eyebrows.
Depending on who you listen to, this perfectly innocent looking family of 2 + 2 and a dog, are (a) converting the house into a doomsday survivalist bunker, or (b) creating a marijuana factory complete with giant fans and drying kilns, and anyone walking past it to the post box each day will get as high as kites on the fumes.
Actually, all they have done, God bless ‘em, is to make our lives a little more interesting by bringing a whole new dynamic to what is normally a quiet – some say unchanging - community.
And if you are in a similar position with your current writing project, I would heartily recommend you try introducing a new, walk-on character or two, to spice things up.
I mentioned before the ‘bring on a man with a gun’ device, when you need to give the reader a jolt. This advice – attributed to Raymond Chandler – is merely a way of introducing a burst of tension and/or danger and violence. (Well, it would, wouldn’t it?)
However, not everyone writes stories where a man with a gun would be realistic. But most writers get to a stodgy bit occasionally, where things get a little… uninspired, shall we say. I know I do.
Introducing a new (unarmed) character is less dramatic, but it can be a useful way of changing the pace in a subtle way, and even leading to you bringing a different tone to the people he or she meets up with.
Let us assume you have to a scene with your main character at home, preparing to go out to an important meeting. (It doesn’t matter what the scene is, I’m merely plucking an example out of the ideas box). Your problem is, you aren’t sure where to go next. You may well have an idea leading up to the meeting, but you might feel that it doesn’t link up in a coherent fashion, or is too big a jump in the storyline.
A way round this is to parachute in an entirely new character, purely at random, and see what happens.
Cue a phone call or a knock at the door. What might the caller/visitor want? A cup of sugar? A lift into town? Is it an old friend passing by? Or the postman with an important letter? You choose.
Whatever it is, you can use the new arrival as a way of ‘lifting’ the scene by injecting some unplanned activity or event. You might decide on a neighbour offering your main character a lift, allowing you to explain in dialogue between them a little more about what is going on and what emotions or concerns your main character is feeling. Using this as a jumping-off point, you might develop an extra strand to your storyline, where your character struggles to hide a secret from this nosy neighbour, adding to the tension. The possibilities are endless.
Remember, the newcomer can be as fleeting or as permanent as you wish, a walk-on part or a stayer. As long as they serve a useful purpose. It’s your story, after all, and you can do whatever you want. God-like? You betcha.
Whoever their status or role, their arrival does not have to change the story in a big way. It’s a device, pure and simple. What it should do is to give you a fresh perspective at a time when maybe your storyline is getting bogged down, and inject a whole new line of thought.
There are a few points to consider when bringing in someone new, no matter how briefly. What effect could they have on the scene? What could be the reactions to this newcomer, and how might it impact on the story? Could this introduction change certain events, thereby altering the flow of your story? Might the newcomer – as happened to me once – grow from a planned walk-on part only, to become a vital part of the story? And the main one is, can the new character add an extra exciting element to the plot and your writing? 


·        Choose a character at random and bring them in. Then think about the action and reaction.
·        Think of them as a catalyst to something - anything - even in a small way.
·        Use them to spur your main character(s) into thinking or acting in a way which adds extra vim or surprise to the story.
·        Make sure they ‘fit’ the scene, no matter how briefly, and don’t appear as a cut-and-paste job.
This article was taken from my book 'Write On! - the Writer's Help Book' - (Accent Press) - available in p/b and ebook.