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Tips for Short Story Writers

March 7th, 2021

First, thanks to Theresa for last week’s post. I think many writers are intrigued by the idea of ghostwriting as they have friends, or know people, who they feel they could collaborate with to produce a great book. But, they’re not sure how to go about it.

They wonder what will happen if they get part way through and then the subject changes their mind?m What if they write the story that they’ve been told and then find that the subject disagrees with the slant they’ve put on it? What if they are refused permission to use facts and incidents that would  make it  more interesting? Does what they are being told lead to a legal minefield? Should they get agreement from a publisher before they begin or hope that a contract will be forthcoming on completion? And, not least, how will any profits be split? Read the rest of this entry »




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Busting Ghostwriting

February 27th, 2021

I’m often asked what it means to be a ghostwriter. There isn’t a straightforward answer to this question because the process works differently depending on my relationship with the person I am writing for.

I first fell into ghostwriting by accident, helping a friend who wanted to tell his story. We audio-recorded around twelve hours of him speaking; me prompting his account with questions when I needed more detail or couldn’t ‘see’ clearly what he was describing. I carefully transcribed his words, and then gradually shaped and whittled them into his narrative.

The hardest part about working like this is that people don’t naturally tell stories in the way that they would be written – particularly in terms of structure. I spent many hours organising the order of the anecdotes he told, working to create a coherent and compelling narrative. I used a ‘strike-through’ technique with the transcripts: scoring out text on the page so that it was never deleted but I could easily see which material had already been used. Read the rest of this entry »




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Student Of The Year 2021

February 22nd, 2021

It’s great that the winners of this year’s competition have now been announced and their stories are available to read on our website.

First the overall winner, Theresa Gooda – what diverse writing skills! She writes articles, short stories, poems and is also a ghost writer. (We’ll be hearing more about this from Theresa in her guest post next week.) She’s studied both our Comprehensive Creative Writing Course and our Art of Writing Poetry Course and she’s putting  the skills she’s learned in each to good use.

Next for the runners-up. Simon Miller has done something that many people only dream of – he’s broken into writing for radio, podcasts and TV. Humour is a notoriously difficult concept to sell but he seems to be going from strength to strength. Read the rest of this entry »




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Listening to the Characters In Your Head

February 13th, 2021

This week I want to take a look at the use of dialect  – or alternative forms of English – in your fiction.  I’ve chosen this topic because I’ve just read two books that demonstrate how this can be done in a masterful way. (More about these, and others, later.)

On the whole, our advice on dialect is simple – avoid it. If you have people talking in impenetrable  accents readers outside that particular group will struggle to understand what the characters are saying. If you use it in dialogue, readers won’t know what many of the regional slang words mean and within a page or two will give up, go away and read something more accessible. Publishers are aware of this and it may limit your book’s appeal to them.

It’s far easier if you merely mention that a character spoke in, say, a Geordie accent and let the reader do the hard work for you. Most readers know what North East speech sounds like and will subconsciously hear the dialogue as being spoken in that accent. Read the rest of this entry »




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Do Clichés Deserve The Bad Press They Get?

February 5th, 2021

First, thanks to Sharon for last week’s post. She’s absolutely right – you don’t need to be recognised as an ‘expert’ to offer valuable advice to other writers. You just need a lively mind, good ideas, an understanding of how the writing world works and, of course, empathy and the desire to help.

This week’s post is going to be something  of a rag bag because I’ve been reading lots of interesting bits and pieces over the past few days.

First up is a piece I read in the Sunday Times by Stig Abell about clichés. One fact that was included in the article was fascinating: “It (the word cliché) comes from the past participle of the French verb ‘clicher’, meaning ‘to click’. It is printers’ jargon for a stereotype – a printing plate that allowed a single page of type to be reproduced endlessly – derived from the noise it made slotting into place.” The plate gradually got worn down after much usage – just as a cliché is a phrase repeated so often its meaning gets degraded! Read the rest of this entry »




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