Tackling the issue

Boat ride, toesEver noticed that during November more men than usual are suddenly sporting upper-lip fluff? It’s all down to Movember, a charity that raises funds and awareness for and of prostate cancer and testicular cancer.

James in poolA while back my hubla, James, fought, and won, a battle with testicular cancer. 

Two years ago I wrote a feature about it for Women’s World magazine, which they have kindly agreed to allow me to re-publish here. Continue reading

Why join a writers’ group?

cr Christopher North, www.oldolivepress.com

cr Christopher North, www.oldolivepress.com

Are you a member of a writers’ group? I spent last night with one of the two I belong to and it reminded me of all the reasons why I find them so helpful, so I thought I’d share them here!

1. Fire up your synapses

Writing is, for the most part, a very solitary business, spent almost entirely inside your own head. It can refresh the synapses to get out and hear the voices of people you haven’t created!

2. See your writing through a stranger’s eyes

It’s almost impossible to see your own work objectively, so having your work read by other people, who understand what you’re trying to achieve, is vital, not only for picking up typos (which sometimes seem to breed on the page when you’re not looking!) but for noticing plot discrepancies and asking thorny questions. The fact you know the character inside out makes it difficult to always know when elements of your story are unclear. Her unwillingness to enter that aviary could seem strange if you didn’t know she was once attacked by a seagull, so a line of explanation might be needed.

Denver Horse Sculpture3. Help your writing to develop

Have your work critiqued in a writing group can help you to identify your weaknesses, and gradually master them. If people consistently point out the same flaws in your writing, take the opportunity to think about why they keep happening, address and eliminate them. Likewise, if certain parts of your writing, your dialogue or descriptive passages for instance, are often praised, make use of those skills whenever appropriate to the piece you are working on.

Working with other writers can also help you to refine your work to better express your ideas – and more successfully take your concepts from your mind onto the page.

4. Learn about opportunities

Meeting with other writers provides the chance to hear about opportunities for writers, from writing competitions and literary magazine to submit to, to recommended courses and resources (such as this website!

Old man at Cheetham's library, Manchester5. Boost your morale

Hearing praise about your work is far less useful than criticism, but naturally more enjoyable! Hoard the good things people say about your writing to replay when doubt sets in. Rejection is part of the writer’s job, but that doesn’t make it any easier, so treasure the positive criticism to lessen the blow of the negative.

6. Know you’re not alone!

Non-writers find it hard to grasp the ups and downs of being a writer, so finding a group of likeminded folks to commiserate with over your setbacks and celebrate your triumphs with is invaluable!

Where to find writers’ groups

  1. Join a writing course. Many regular ones have affiliated writing groups you can join, or you can suggest to the writers you meet on the course that you continue to meet once it finishes.
  2. Libraries and collages advertise writing courses held on their premises.
  3. Parish magazines are a great place to find details of writing groups – or, if you decide to start one, advertise for members!
  4. The National Association of Writer’s Groups provides information on writing events and groups to join across the UK.
  5. If you can’t find a group in your area that meets at a convenient time, why not join an online writing group you can attend whenever and from wherever suits you?

Feel free to add details of your writers’ group in the comment box for this post!


How to write flash fiction that echoes

Award-winning short fiction and flash fiction writer Vanessa Gebbie offers advice on how to write crackling flash fiction that sells.

What is a flash? It is something of a short short story. It is sometimes a prose poem. It is always a moment with echoes. It can be very very hard to get right. It shares attributes with poetry, and with short story and yet is neither.

Fireworks © JDarley

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Are You NaNoWriMo-ing?

Graf von Faber Castell Anello Ivory RollerballSo we’re already a week into NaNoWriMo 2012 (National Novel Writing Month). How’s it been going for you?

I love the concept of these 30 word-packed days, of wannabe writers across the world hunched over laptops scrabbling for inspiration.

I know plenty of writers this enforced period of productivity really suits. For some folks it seems to be the ideal way to stoke up ideas and get them to catch alight on the page.

I also know that, personally, it doesn’t work for me. My plotlines and characters need time and space to breathe and grow.

I do find myself wondering how many of the 30-day booklings end up becoming fully-fledged novels, and how many of those make it from Macbooks to bookshelves. But just the thought of all that writing going on brings a glow to my heart.

So if you’re taking part, I’ll raise a glass (or rather, a mug of coffee) to you. Keep it up!

Thinking of boarding the NaNoWriMo wagon? Visit www.nanowrimo.org.

Madeira – Island of Romance

View from Monte Palace Tropical Gardens, MadeiraA longer version of this feature was originally published by Portugal Magazine in 2007.

Much loved by British holidaymakers, Madeira is an island of exotic flowers, friendly locals, and more than its fair share of luxury hotels. An evocative, mountainous landscape is a constant reminder of the Madeira’s volcanic origins, while the Atlantic Ocean is visible from every terrace and balcony. Reputedly first discovered by an eloping couple shipwrecked on its shores, the island whispers legends from its valleys to its peaks, making it the ideal location for a romantic holiday.

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