WHERE SHOULD SF BE GOING - Death Rays
WRITING SF AND THE ART OF MOUNTAIN CLIMBING - Death Rays
WE ARE JUST STATISTICS - Vector 115
HINTS OF FAILURE - Focus 4
AN INVETERATE ITCH - Focus 6
AUGURIES OF INNOCENCE - Focus 11
BARSOOM REVISITED - Dark Horizons 30
GIVING DEEP THOUGHT TO SUBMARINES - Navy News
HOW THEY FILLED CORNUCOPIA - Navy News
LIGHT OF AGES PAST - Northern Gas World
SHEDDING LIGHT ON A VICTORIAN LIGHT SHEDDER - Gas World
WHALES FOR THE KILLING - Neptune Magazine
HAVE A BASH! - The Writer
THREE VIEWS OF SWANWICK - The Writer
THE LONG AND THE SHORT OF IT - The Writer
NOW, HOLD ON! - The Writer
HAMPSHIRE, COUNTY OF ENCHANTMENT AND MYSTERY - Hampshire Telegraph
RED STILL WAITS... - Hampshire magazine
A VISIT TO SOUTH GEORGIA - Centurion Magazine
OCTOBER IN ANDALUSIA - Centurion Magazine
A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS - Centurion Magazine
MASTER OF HIS OWN GROTTO - Writers' Forum
A MARTIAN ODYSSEY - The Coastal Press
FAMILY TRADITION - The Coastal Press
THE INSTRUMENT - The Coastal Press
RELIC HUNTER - TV SERIES - Telmicro Levante Magazine #14
THE OLD WEST AND SPAIN - The Coastal Press - October 2007
HERCULES - the Legendary Journeys - TV SERIES - Telmicro Levante Magazine #15
FRUIT OF THE WISE - Bananas - Telmicro Levante Magazine #15
ASH TREE GROVE OF WINE - Freixnet - The Olive Press #32
ON A PINNACLE - Guadalest - Telmicro Levante Magazine #16
ZEST APPEAL - Oranges - Telmicro Levante Magazine #17
A SHOWER OF WINE - Rioja - Telmicro Levante Magazine #18
A HOLY JUNGLE - Great mosque of Cordoba - Telmicro Levante Magazine #19
WE SHALL NOT SLEEP - Remembrance Day - Telmicro Levante Magazine #20
BRUSH WITH FAME - Goya - The Coastal Press March 2008
WRITE NOW! - Part 1 - The Coastal Press March 2008
WRITE NOW! - Part 2:Beginnings - The Coastal Press April 2008
APRIL DAYS - 5, 15 & 26 April in history - The Coastal Press April 2008
BACK IN THE SADDLE - Ray Foster, western writer - Writers' Forum (#84 Aug 2008)
EDITING AS A BLOOD SPORT - Writing Magazine (September 2008)
A GROVE OF WINE - Siesta Time #1 (October 2008)
LIVE FOR THE MUSIC - The New Coastal Press (August 2009)
HER MUSIC LIVES ON - The New Coastal Press (September 2009) Obituary
PERSEVERANCE PARKER - The New Coastal Press (December 2009)
A MODEL RETIREMENT - The New Coastal Press (June 2010)
THE WEST WILL RISE AGAIN - Writers' News (November 2010)
TOO TOUGH TO DIE - The Coastal Press (December 2010)
THE NAVY LARK UP THE KHYBER - Under the Queen's Colours (2012)
ABOUT WRITING (2014)Pen and Plot webzine
BACKWARDS-MY FIRST WESTERN (2019) NOVEL JOURNEY by Scott Harris
MAVERICK (2019) 52 TV shows
Portsmouth Post articles - 2003-2007
2003: July MAKE A DIFFERENCE - fostering; LEARNING LINKS SPREADS RIPPLES THROUGH EDUCATION POOL; FRIENDS, ROMANS, COUNTRYMEN! - Roman re-enactment enthusiasts; August STRONGER THAN ALL THE HOSTS OF ERROR - Citizens Advice Bureau; September PHYSICIAN, HEAL THYSELF - psychic healer; MORE THAN A 'GET OUT OF JAIL' CARD - Community service; WALKING THE TIGHTROPE - Simon Woodroffe; October THEIR NAME IS LEGION - Remembrance Day; HEAVENLY HUNKS - Nude calendar; DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE; PORTSMOUTH AROUND THE WORLD - New Hampshire, USA; SO YOU REMEMBER IT WELL? - Gigi film/musical; November BE INSPIRED, B... IN SPAIN - Property purchase advertorial; PORTSMOUTH AROUND THE WORLD - Virginia, USA; December EMSWORTH CHINA QUEEN HAS IT ALL FIGURED; ESCAPE TO THE SUN - Property purchase advertorial; CHRISTMAS SALVATION - Salvation Army;
2004: February GOING SOUTH - Emigrating to Spain; March THE MOST UNKINDEST CUT OF ALL - Julius Caesar; SOUTH TO THE COSTA BLANCA - Final part of emigration to Spain; MOTHER'S DAY; PORTSMOUTH AROUND THE WORLD - Ohio, USA; April FOR ST GEORGE AND ENGLAND - St George around the world; PORTSMOUTH AROUND THE WORLD - Dominica; POMPEY THE GREAT Part 1 - Roman emperor's life story; TRADITION AND FAMILY - the Torres wine family; May MAY DAYS; THREE DAYS IN MAY; POMPEY THE GREAT Part 2 A PLACE OF MANY ASH TREES - Freixenet history; LADY GODIVA; June TWO DAYS IN JUNE; POMPEY THE GREAT Part 3; CITY OF WINE - Jumilla, Spain; July POMPEY THE GREAT Part 4; TWO DAYS IN JULY; August AN AUGUST MONTH - more linked dates in history; September AVAST, ME HEARTIES - AUTUMN'S HERE! - more dates; MY LOCAL, THE WYVERN Lee on the Solent; SOUTHERN WRITERS - Jane Austen; October THE MONTH OF GHOSTS, GHOULS AND... SAINTS - more dates; SOUTHERN WRITERS - Rudyard Kipling; November SOUTHERN WRITERS - John Galsworthy; EVEN SUCH IS TIME - three dates in November; EARTH MOVERS - earthquakes; December DAYS OF THE GREAT AND THE GOOD... AND THE VERY BAD - three dates in December; SOUTHERN WRITERS - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle;
2005: January WELCOME TO WINTER/COLDMONTH - January; AH, NO, THE YEARS, THE YEARS - four dates in January; February A MONTH OF APES, SHEEP... AND SWEDES TOO - three dates in February; March MARCH AWAY DAYS - four days in March; April MINCEMEAT, HAILSTONES - AND COINS - four dates in April; May MAY'S DAYS - three dates in May; June GUADALEST - travel feature; AND, IN THE SIXTH MONTH... - four days in June; July ICONS & IDOLS - three days in July; August WHY PEOPLE LIVE LONGER -looking after your body; MARS, MYTHS - AND WAR! - four days in August; COLOUR IT ORANGE - about oranges; SOUTHERN WRITERS - Thomas Hardy; September JUMBO DATES - three dates in September; SOUTHERN WRITERS - Shelley; October FAR AND WIDE - three days in Octber; November MAKE A DATE - four dates in November; RECLAIM YOUR STREETS - anti-social behaviour; December A SURFEIT OF DATES - three dates in December; FROND OF DATES - the history of dates, the edible sort;
2006: January MASTER OF THE WORLD - Jules Verne; THE BOUNTY OF LIFE - three dates in January; February OF BLOOD AND MUD - three dates in February; March WISE MEN AND WEISZ WOMAN - three dates in March; April DAYS OF LOVE & HORROR... - three dates in April; May STARS, WARS - AND THE WORLD - three dates in May; June WOLVES, WAR AND WOE - three dates in June; July PAST, LAST AND FAST - three dates in July; August BOOM, LOOM AND DOOM - three dates in August; September RIPPERS, RACKETS AND ROCKETS - four dates in September; November/December DEATH, SPIES AND TAXES - three dates in December;
2007: January/February SAINTS, STARS AND SINNERS - three dates in February; March/April MIDWITCH,METROPOLIS AND MUSIC - four dates in March; May/June KATE, CAT AND COMBAT - three dates in May; August/September MOGULS, MARATHONS AND MURDER - three dates in August; October/November KINGS, DUKES AND DUCHESSES - three dates in November.
(published in The Coastal Press, March 2008)
Although primarily aimed at aspiring writers of fiction, a fair proportion of the guidelines are also applicable to those who prefer non-fiction, say, writing articles for magazines. And I suspect that readers generally will glean considerable insight into the process of writing a book, article or film as the series progresses.
Simply because you can read and string words together to form a sentence doesn't make you a writer. Writing, whether fiction or non-fiction, is a craft and has to be learned. There is no quick fix or correct way to go about writing. As Somerset Maugham said, 'There are three rules for writing a novel; unfortunately, nobody knows what they are.' Up to a point, he was joking; however, there are plenty of rules how not to write a novel or short story and we'll get to those in due course. In essence, these articles will offer short-cuts to getting it right.
In this introduction I'll give you a brief overview of my writing experience and the kind of subjects that I will be covering in the coming weeks.
I've been writing for over 40 years, though most of that period it was in my spare time as novelists and freelance writers usually have to have a day-job otherwise they'd starve. Unless you work for a publication or other firm who pays you to produce the written word, you're going to be freelance, whether sending out articles, stories or film scripts, and that means you're writing on spec. You don't actually know that you will get paid for the work you do.
I've sold over 70 short stories and countless articles and five novels, and edited several magazines. My published stories have ranged from espionage, science fiction, fantasy, horror, ghost and adventure. Even romance, with 'I deceived my husband'.
Based on my writing success, I was asked to become a Writing Tutor for a Correspondence Course organisation but I had to decline as my naval career was in conflict. In my spare time I also acted as a literary agent, proof-reading and offering guidance on new authors' work. I'm particularly proud that client Dorothy Cavaye placed with the publisher Librario her historical novel set in Jamaica, Scotland and the Dominican Republic, Need a Body Cry? Before moving to Spain I was a sub-editor on a monthly magazine.
Last year I was joint runner-up in the prestigious Harry Bowling Prize with the first chapters of a thriller, Pain Wears No Mask, which is soon to be published by Libros International, who have recently published Anita Bond's novel, Savages and Saints. Last year I won 3rd prize in Category 1 of the 'Torrevieja. Another Look' international writing competition.
Also last year I sold two western novels to Robert Hale, the first already sold out; the second, Last Chance Saloon will be out in the Spring. Until its recent demise, I regularly contributed articles and stories to the UK full-colour magazine Portsmouth & District Post and have written regularly for this magazine and briefly for the weekly Telmicro Levante Magazine in Spain. That's enough about me and my writing credentials.
George Bernard Shaw said that 'if you don't write for publication, there is little point in writing at all.' In as many words he was saying what Samuel Johnson said a long time earlier - that 'no man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money.' Neither is strictly true, of course. Writing can be therapy and help through catharsis. You can write for any number of reasons. But if you're going to take your writing seriously and you want your words to be read and enjoyed, you need to persevere and learn, writing virtually every day. Generally, the more you write, the better you become.
Some of the subjects that will be covered in future issues are: beginnings, the middle, endings, editing, dialogue, vernacular, plot, characterisation, theme, point of view, show and tell, scene setting, description, narrative flow, pace, visual imagery, the senses, style, foreshadowing, symbolism, reading, reading aloud, research, editing, spelling, apostrophes, world building, idea sources, structure, internal logic, genre fiction, general fiction, market research, writing resources, the basics, presentation, the synopsis, submission of work, rejection and re-writing.
If you've always wanted to write but haven't found the time, the time is now. Write now. Join me here as we get writing. Write now.Next month. Beginnings
(published in The Coastal Press, April 2008)
So you want to be a published writer? Well, don't think that you can say something original. It has all been said before. But there are original ways of saying it.
Interestingly, W Somerset Maugham said '...the only absolutely original creation I can think of is Don Quixote.'
Both beginners and readers often ask 'How do you start?' How isn't as important as just sitting there and doing it; as they say, apply bum to seat and write. Anthony Burgess said: 'I start at the beginning, go on to the end, then stop.' While Mickey Spillane commented: 'I write the ending first. Nobody reads a book to get to the middle.'
A writer has to read to understand story structure, whether in a novel or a short story. Many stories begin half-way through then you get the beginning as a flashback or through memories or character disclosure. Ideally, you should start at a dramatic high-point, though not the most dramatic high-point. You leave that for the end. The most important thing is to pull the reader into your story. Because if you don't, then you're likely to lose the reader. The reader only has to close the book, after all. There are plenty of books out there, all vying for readers. The writer has to grab the reader so that once involved in the book's world and characters, the reader won't let go until the end.
There are countless stories and articles in magazines seeking the reader's attention. People only have a limited time to devote to reading. They will cherry-pick what interests them. The same goes for books in shops. A browser will look at the cover, perhaps the blurb on the back and maybe the first page. If that first page doesn't grab the browser's interest, the book is replaced on the shelf. The words you've sweated over for days or weeks or even years, even if they get published, may only merit an initial sixty seconds of consideration from a book-buyer. Make those first words count, make them say, 'You're going to enjoy this book and love the characters and marvel at the plot.' Easier said than done, true.
What kind of hook can you employ? That depends on your story. The story's theme, place and characters can all pull the reader in.
Raise a question in the reader's mind. A question that demands an answer, which means having to read on to find out. That question can be literal, from the mouth of a character, or hinted at by the narrative, suggesting that everything is not what it seems.
Starting a story with characters speaking is a good idea, as the reader gains a great deal through speech, the character reveals himself by the way he talks, there's interaction between people, and there's even a hint of eavesdropping in the character's world.
Two classic beginnings spring to mind, one from a novel, the other from a short story.
'It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.' from 'Nineteen Eighty-four', George Orwell. To begin with it seems as though we're getting a boring weather report then we're brought up short by the significance of the clocks striking not twelve, but thirteen. 'What on earth is going on?' we ask and read on to find out more.
'As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.' from 'The Metamorphosis', Franz Kafka. Clearly, it must be a fantasy, but it demands the reader's attention as we learn about Gregor's nightmarish feelings of isolation and sacrifice.
Not surprisingly, both authors have contributed words to the English language, such as Orwellian, Big Brother, Kafkaesque, for example.
Of course you're not always going to manage to seduce the reader in the first sentence. But you should be trying to use every one of those early words and paragraphs to intrigue the reader, to pique her interest.
Yes, you're bound to find published examples where the beginnings are bland or even quite ordinary. Usually, these are written by established writers who can indulge themselves because they have a ready readership. Dickens began 'A Tale of Two Cities' with a philosophical viewpoint about the times of the French Revolution and started 'Bleak House' with an atmospheric description of fog. Don't fall into the trap of thinking that because a famous author does things his way, you can emulate him. You're fresh, new and unpublished and need every trick in the book to get noticed. That means writing a good beginning that quickly hooks the reader.
Don't sit in front of a blank sheet of paper, though, just because you can't think of a good beginning. Get the story or first chapter written. The beginning can always be changed and improved afterwards. Often, in fact, the first chapter is consigned to the waste-paper basket. But without that start, the rest would not have followed.