Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Show, Don't Tell

When the writing bug first bit me, I developed a feverish search for information about how to write. I enrolled at master classes at The London Book Fair, attended a workshops at Harper Collins, joined writing groups, a book club, bought how-to books, attended writing workshops and started to read more fiction. I realise that no amount of books or workshops can teach new writers how to find a passion for writing, but it's possible to learn techniques and rules.

But surely rules are meant for a classroom full of hyperactive, unruly children? Surely writers are free to unleash their creative talents in any way they choose?

The answer is, yes, they can. But they'll stand a much better chance when submitting their work to competitions or agents, if some writing rules are adhered to. Manuscripts won't be dismissed without the adjudicator or agent even finishing the first page.

Some rules are basic. Submit in a clear font, double spacing, no gaps between paragraphs, indent paragraphs and the first line of dialogue. Writers know these rules like it's second nature. The rule which has always fascinated me, and which I'm still striving to perfect, is show, don't tell.

It can be a bit tricky, but the simple way to put this rule into action, is to think that telling is from the author's point of view and that showing is from the character's point of view.

Eek! I suppose I should give an example next!


The fair was in town. Emily and Sam walked amongst the bustling crowds holding hands. Emily was excited about the rides but Sam was more interested in the mechanics of the event. They decided to take a ride on the big wheel.


"I love the fair," sighed Emily. "It reminds me of being a little girl. Mmm! Those toffee apples smell amazing." She grasped Sam's hand. "Come on, let's go on the big wheel, it's my favourite."
"Hang on a minute," called Sam, inhaling deeply. "Take a look at this generator. I much prefer the smell of oil and petrol."

Okay a simple show and tell and I'm sure we all agree that we don't fancy a trip to the fair with Sam! To sum up, telling is similar to watching a film. The words (the camera) are telling the audience what is happening. It is giving information regardless of who is present, or even if no one is present. Showing is seeing things from your characters' perspective. It's showing their viewpoint and experiences. We are inside their head, so to speak.

Even though I understand the show and tell rule, I'm sometimes caught out whilst editing my work and notice a paragraph that slows the action down. And it's usually a telling piece!

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Liebster Blog Award

Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, and the award is given to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. I was delighted to receive my award from the lovely and talented Janice Horton.

Janice has written a wonderful debut novel entitled, Bagpipes & Bullshot. Her second book, Reaching for the Stars, is due for publication on 14th December 2011. Janice is a talented writer, a lovely lady and a great supporter of fellow writers and their blog posts. I only wished I lived closer so that we could share a natter and a coffee occasionally! Thank you very much for my award Janice.

If you receive the award, you should:

1. Thank the giver and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
2. Reveal your top five picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.
4. Hope that the people you’ve sent the award to forward it to their five favourite bloggers and keep it going!

This is the nice side of a chain letter. It’s always good to be appreciated and too often we are all quick to criticise and slow to praise. So here are some virtual pats on the back to five of my favourite bloggers.

Maria Smith is a talented writer of dark fiction and as you read this, is probably tapping away on the keyboard as she's taking part in this year's NaNoWriMo. I first met Maria on twitter and have since shared several cups of coffee and slices of cake with her in different Nottingham cafes. Maria is always just a click away to offer support, ideas and great conversation.

Rosemary Gemmell is another great supporter. Rosemary doesn't just click to follow your blog and rarely visits again. She always drops by and leaves a cheerful comment and I'm always delighted to see her name on my posts. Rosemary's debut novel is called, Dangerous Deceit and was published in May 2011. She is a freelance writer of short stories and articles in UK magazines.

Kay is a short story writer who decided to establish a reading group. Having read Kay's blog, I'm delighted to hear that it very successful with many members attending. Kay is a lovely twitter friend who regularly keeps in touch.

Pam Mcllroy is a delightful lady who runs the book club I attend. (At Broadway Cinema, Nottingham) She is a readaholic who is always ready to chat with a ready smile - just don't eat rice pudding near her!

Megan Taylor is a warm friendly, talented writer. I first met her at Nottingham Writers' Studio and have listened to her read extracts from her books several times. She is visiting Pam's Broadway Book Club tomorrow evening as we're discussing The Dawning. (24th Nov) Megan's books are How We Were Lost and The Dawning.

I would recommend these lovely ladies' blogs if you're not already following them. They'll put a smile on your face and teach you a thing or two as well!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

California 2011

Those of you who follow my blog, will know the traumas I've had with my computer. Sadly this delayed my holiday blog, but here it is at last. I still don't like my new computer much. As I type this post, the font size has decided to expand.(Probably just following suit with my stomach!) I can only cross my fingers that it looks normal to you!

Firstly, I'd like to introduce you to my younger sister, Jennifer. Jennifer moved to America many years ago. She first visited California to work as a nanny but loved the life (and weather) and decided to stay. Jen also met her husband Alex over there. I miss her very much and often wondered what it'd be like to have spent all these years meeting her in town or popping in for a coffee to each other's houses. Instead, we spend some lovely holidays together and catch up with our families' lives. These are her two daughters, Natasha and Rachel - my gorgeous nieces. I hadn't seen Jen for five years before this holiday, so it was well overdue. We were welcomed with open arms by our American family and spent a memorable and delightful holiday with them all.

This is Alex, my brother-in-law. He's a gifted motobike mechanic and jeweller. With him is my handsome nephew, Nicholas.

One of my favourite places is only 1.3 acres and five minutes away from my sister's house. It's the Japanese Water Garden set in the local university's campus. The immaculate gardens are breath-taking, along with lush mature trees, bridges, huge koi carp and sparkling waterfalls. Many people choose to get married here, but it's also used as a setting for parties, memorial services and receptions.

The pier and beautiful sands of Seal Beach.

There are some gorgeous beaches along the Californian coast. We visited the beaches closest to Long Beach, where my sister lives. The beach below is called Laguna Beach, which as you can see, is idyllic.

Of course I couldn't go to California without visiting Disneyland. Here I am in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle. I saw Mickey and Minnie but they were very busy having photographs taken with little children and I felt too silly to get in the queue! Sadly Pirates of the Carribean was closed for refurbishment but my daughter Rosanna and I screamed loundly on many other rides!

We visited San Francisco for a three day tour. Most of the buildings were new or modern due to the 1906 earthquake. Many of the lovely Georgian houses were destroyed and replaced with stronger building to withstand further acts of God.
We walked for miles along the many piers along Fisherman's Wharf. Sea lions lounged whilst basking in the sun and pelicans flew their gangly bodies over the roof tops, no doubt keeping a greedy eye on the fishermen's catches of the day!
Having shopped, eaten clam chowder in bread bowls and taken a boat trip, I just had to hang off one of the trams!

I'd been told that we were lucky to see even a small part of The Golden Gate Bridge in September, as thick mists descend and hover over the bridge. I was delighted to get a glimpse of it, as it's a sight that was on my 'to-see bucket list'.

This is Alcatraz. Despite only being a tourist attraction these days, it still had a palpable aura of fear and desperation about it. I suppose the atmospheric mist which was descending helped the goose bumps to prickle my skin as we passed the island. I'm sure there are ghosts of remorseful prisioners still walking the corridors!

We took a boat trip to Sausalito on the Northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. It's a residential community for wealthy and artistic Americans. We ate over-looking the bay and the iconic bridge. Afterwards we sauntered in and out of lots of lovely little shops before boarding the boat back to our hotel.

We drove up the Hollywood hills to find the iconic sign. It was a very hot day as we climbed passed signs which warned of snakes in the area! It was worth it though. I love this photograph of us all. From left to right are, my daughter Rosanna, niece Natasha, sister Jennifer, my mum, me and my niece Rachel.

Finally I'll end with Johnny Depp. Sadly he couldn't make it to Hollywood that day, so I had to make do with his stand-in dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow! I did find his star on the walk of fame and also his prints in front of the Chinese Theatre.