This month learn how to give different points of view, get that novel off the ground with our useful planning top tips, read about what other students are up to, see if you can find a use for the useful websites and be inspired.
Hello again and welcome to the May issue.
THE WRITERS BUREAU
||“I decided that this was the year to take myself seriously as a writer. I have been getting bits and pieces published, but felt I’d reached an invisible wall. I wanted to start to earn from my writing and widen my readership, but didn’t know how to approach bigger publications professionally.
“Enter the Writers Bureau. I’d seen them advertised for years in the Sunday supplements. When I looked into the course this January I thought – “money-back guarantee – there’s nothing to lose.” £270 was the same as I’d earned from five years worth of getting my work published on my own!
“Fast forward three months.
“My tutor’s feedback to my third assignment: “If I were Take a Break's editor, I would find this piece of yours irresistible." Well they did! I just got a call from them. So that’ll be £150. For 300 words. Chi-ching!
“I specialise in writing about pregnancy and birth. I’ve always been nervous about interviewing. After reading the interview booklet for the course, I came across the e-mail address of Dr Michel Odent, the doctor who introduced water birth in the 1970s. So I bit the bullet and e-mailed him asking for an interview. He responded positively within 24 hours. I interviewed him by phone and sold that article to the Irish Examiner for £180. Chi –ching!
“So that's my course fee earned back and it's been less than three months.
I currently have another five pieces out with different markets being considered, worth nearly £700. Things are really on a roll. I’m making money, getting my writing published and am able to fit it around being full-time mum.
“The advice from The Writers Bureau has boosted my professional knowledge immensely: familiarising me with the jargon of journalism; knowing what editors are looking for; knowing how to analyse markets; broadening where I consider getting published and what I can write.
“The practical advice on how to organise my writing life and where to source information has been invaluable.”
Lucy Pearce, Ireland
Here’s Lucy’s Bio:
Lucy Pearce is a free-spirited, freelance writer based in County Cork, Ireland. She specialises in writing about pregnancy, birth and parenting. She is a full-time mum to her children aged three and one.
Since January she has been on the editorial team for Juno, a natural family magazine.
She also has a column in Juno called Dreaming Aloud. She is a regular contributor to Modern Mum magazine and the Feel Good supplement in The Irish Examiner.
She has just designed her own website as a link to her work for editors and readers. She’d love you to go there and take part in her research on experiences of the supernatural and spiritual for an upcoming article. http://www.dreamingaloud.net/
|“I started the Writers Bureau Comprehensive Writing Course in 2005 after giving up my job and relocating from Surrey to the Scottish west coast. I needed a new challenge and encouraged by my husband I took the plunge. I found the tutor's comments and support very encouraging and the first few assignments went well.
“My first paid item was a tip published in 2006. Since then, I have had a series of five articles on 'Jade: The Imperial Gem' published in Deposits Magazine. Six karate articles to accompany photos in Lochaber News. Three paid articles on herbs, spices and garlic in Home and Country, the Scottish Women's Rural Institutes magazine. Other paid work has included four reader's letters in women's magazines and five more tips, also published in women's magazines.
“I'm just starting on assignment 15 and I am enjoying the fiction section of the course. It wasn't easy to get the rusty imagination going again, but I am getting the hang of it. I have several children's picture book proposals out with suitable publishers and I am optimistic that one of them will take me seriously one day! I have lots of ideas buzzing about in my head and these will keep me busy for a while to come. I am continuing to enjoy the rest of the course and intend to finish the remaining assignments as time allows.
“My one tip for any student on a writing course would be to always have a pen, notepad and if possible a camera, with you when you are out and about. I've found that inspiration can strike at any time and it's important to be able to note it down or the idea will vanish. A photo or two to accompany it also makes your idea more marketable.”
Sonja McLachlan, UK
Here are the Deposits Magazine website http://www.depositsmag.com/
and the Scottish Women's Rural Institute website http://www.swri.org.uk/
Thanks, as always, to Lucy and Sonja for sharing their inspirational stories with us. If you would like a prospectus for the Comprehensive Creative Writing course please email us here with your full name and postal address.
Or, to share your success stories with others, just send an email to email@example.com with 'Success Story' in the subject line.
For up-to-date market information, Freelance Market News is invaluable.
Issued 11 times a year it's packed with information on markets in Britain and around the globe, plus you get all the latest news and views on the publishing world.
Every subscription comes with FREE membership of The Association of Freelance Writers. Your membership also entitles you to discounts on books and competitions, a free appraisal worth over £30 and a Membership Card which confirms your status as a Freelance Writer.
FREE sample copies are available to view at the website, along with more details about the magazine and how you can subscribe.
Learn how to choose the best digital camera for you in this two part series with how to submit your photographs coming in August.
Please remember there is no issue of FMN in the month of July!
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Points of View
by Heather Cooke
Points of View? No, not the British TV show that invited our comments on BBC programmes. Nothing to do with opinion, although it does refer to someone’s “take” on a situation… perspective, viewpoint, point of view (sometimes shortened to POV) is vital to a writer, especially (but not exclusively) a writer of fiction.
There are no hard and fast rules, but what are the different approaches in fiction and why might we want to use them? Consider the following examples:
Here the scene is merely observed:
On a balmy moonlit night in late May, a woman sat alone on a park bench. She didn’t appear to see the man approaching until it was too late.
As his shadow fell across her she looked up. “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?” she demanded.
Now we’re allowed inside the two characters’ heads:
How warm it is tonight for May, Jenny thought, settling back on the park bench. Other people should try this! But then, she mused, she wouldn’t get the solitude she craved. Bill walked towards her, sure she hadn’t spotted him despite the moonlight, but his shadow gave him away. His heart sank as she looked up and scowled.
“Oh, it’s you. What do you want?” she demanded.
In the following version, readers are taken inside Jenny’s head only:
How warm it was that night for May! And the park bench wasn’t as hard as I’d expected. I thought briefly that other people should try sitting there after dark, but then realised that would ruin the solitude I craved.
Suddenly a shadow blotted out the moonlight and I looked up to find Bill standing next to me. “Oh, it’s you. What do you want?” I demanded.
First or Third Person
The final example was written in the first person (“I”) which in itself ensures a strong single viewpoint. To achieve a similar effect in third person (“s/he”) material, try writing it in the first person to begin with and then changing the pronouns! That way you can’t include any material that the “I” character couldn’t see or otherwise experience.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Each of these approaches can be useful, but each has its downside, too.
Universal viewpoint is often effective in a short prologue to a novel, whetting the appetite of readers without revealing too much. In the main body of a story or novel, though, it distances the readers from what’s going on. If that’s your intention, fine – there’s a place for that, especially in literary fiction. In popular, commercial fiction, however, you’ll probably want the readers to identify strongly with your characters.
Multiple viewpoint allows readers to identify with several characters, but can be confusing when used in the same scene. We can’t read other people’s thoughts in real life, so it seems strange to be taken from one head to another in fiction. This approach should therefore be used with care, but it allows you to reveal information to your readers that the main character doesn’t know.
Single viewpoint is the most effective approach to ensure that readers identify strongly with a character, helping us to feel as if we’re living through the action with him or her – almost as them. One disadvantage is that it can be difficult to show things the viewpoint character doesn’t see. Difficult - but not impossible. You can show the protagonist seeing, hearing or feeling something without realising its significance – clues that careful readers can pick up even if the main character doesn’t.
In a very short story, there isn’t usually room for more than one viewpoint, unless you switch right at the end to reveal a twist… especially useful if you’ve just killed off your main character! Longer stories (over 2,000 words) can sometimes support two viewpoints, if used for a reason. You might want to show the very different ways that each of those two characters views the same situation, for dramatic or humorous effect.
In novels, two parallel viewpoints can work well: crime fiction can be approached from both the detective’s and the criminal’s point of view, in turn. Alternating viewpoints are often effective when two different periods or locations are being used.
In some category (or “formula”) fiction, such as specific series of romantic novels, single viewpoint (usually in the third person) is a requirement stipulated by the publisher. These tend to be short books of around 50,000 words. Longer novels can certainly support several viewpoints if used for a reason. You will almost certainly have one major character whose story you’re essentially telling – the person who grows, learns, develops as a result of what’s happening. But the viewpoint of other people can help to shed light on this person’s character.
Naturally you’ll want to use the main character’s viewpoint, alone or among others, so you need to know whose story you’re telling. It’s unusual these days for the viewpoint character to be simply a narrator, a mere observer rather than a key player.
Whose viewpoint to use may well depend on who you’re writing for. In a short story for a women’s magazine, it’s often wise to use a female protagonist. Often, but not always. As ever, careful study of the target market will show you if the main character is sometimes a man, and in what kind of story, with what kind of message. If the person’s gender has no real bearing on the storyline or theme, using a woman’s viewpoint will probably be best when writing for women readers. Similarly, male readers usually find it easier to identify with a male protagonist.
There’s rarely any justification for using the viewpoint of someone who plays no significant role in the story or novel, or who appears in just one scene. There are other ways of delivering the thoughts of such minor players. What people say and do can give us a reasonable idea of what someone is thinking in real life, and the same applies in fiction. How much can be conveyed by a raised eyebrow or a raised voice!
Single personal viewpoint, at least within individual scenes, is usually the most effective approach. But that’s only my point of view…
Heather Cooke is a Writers Bureau tutor, teaching both fiction and non-fiction. She has had hundreds of articles and stories published in markets ranging from Chat to the Church Times, as well as three novels. She is also a priest in the Church of England.
Ten Top Tips for planning a novel
1. Action, dramatic high points and conflict – these are what you are aiming for in your novel, no matter what genre you are writing in.
2. Decide on a setting and period. Do you know enough about it to write authoritatively – or can you find out? And what genre is it going to be – romance, crime, thriller, horror, sci-fi?
3. Make sure there is enough ‘meat’ to sustain a full length novel and that you’re not just trying to pad-out a short story.
4. Plan your novel before you start. Know your story line and prepare a detailed synopsis showing all the major characters and how they interact. This will keep you on course and give you an overview, showing you how much additional research you need to do and allowing you to plan where any subplots will feature.
5. But, if something starts to go awry or a new subplot develops naturally as you are writing, don’t be afraid to make changes. Your synopsis is not set in stone.
6. Make sure you have a beginning, middle and an end. The beginning leads readers into the heart of the drama and forms the foundation on which the story is built. It should grab their attention. The middle is where you should develop your theme, revealing more about the characters and building up the tension. Don’t let it flag. The end is the final act in the drama. Not every problem needs to be solved but make sure the main conflict has been resolved. A happy ending isn’t obligatory but it is more satisfying for your reader if you at least end on an upbeat note.
7. You must plan your chapters so that they end on a note of tension or contain a ‘hook’ that will ensure that your reader wants to turn the page or start the next chapter.
8. When your synopsis is complete check for continuity blunders – are there bluebells in the woods in November, have any of your characters aged prematurely or changed from a blonde to a brunette without the help of hair colourant?
9. Three good ways of adding more texture to your plot are: flashbacks (where you show an event in the past that has direct relevance to what’s happening to one of your main characters in the present); foreshadowing (planting information in the reader’s mind – facts which don’t seem significant at the time but which will be vital later in the story) and subplots. Subplots usually run alongside the main plotline allowing minor characters to have their own mini-dramas or giving you the opportunity to inject a little humour.
10. Coincidence. A certain amount is acceptable in a novel – readers suspend their disbelief and appreciate that any piece of fiction will depend on a certain number of twists of fate. But don’t overdo it, or they will start to feel cheated.
According to “Red Dwarf” writer Rob Grant, comedy science fiction is a very ‘underpopulated’ field. If you are interested in knowing more about this rare genre here’s Rob’s Top 10 of science fiction comedy novels. You could then go to SFX - ‘the Earths greatest SF and fantasy magazine’- to see what kinds of science fiction books are out there at the moment. This site should provide you with all kinds of inspiration. If you want an introduction to science fiction radio dramas you should check out Science Fiction Radio Theatre. You can listen to radio dramas without any subscription fee and it features a plethora of famous authors.
If you think that this really could be your genre then you might want to submit some of your work for peer review on Great Writing’s comedy forum. In their words, “The idea behind Great Writing is simple; sign up, submit a piece of creative writing, and allow others to offer advice and constructive criticism”, which will enable you to cut your teeth on some sympathetic fellow scribes. If you then want to have your work assessed on a more professional basis Comedy Script Doctor is a good place to start. It also contains comedy writing book reviews and tips.
Remember, if you run a website that you think may be of use to our readers, let me know. If I like it, I’ll publish a link to it giving you a free plug. What could be better than that?
Could you write an article about ...
|1st Nov. 1993
||The European Union is established with the ratification of the Masstricht
|2nd Nov. 1950
||Irish-born Novel Laureat, activist and writer, George Bernard Shaw dies aged 94.
|4th Nov. 1918
||One of the finest modern war poets, Wilfred Owen, is gunned down and killed a week before the end of World War I. See below for a superb example of his work.
|5th Nov. 1688
||William of Orange lands 40,000 troops at Torbay, Devon and claims the British throne from James II in the time known as the Glorious Revolution.
|Russian composer Tchaikovsky dies, officially, as a result of cholera, however, suicide is thought to be the true cause.
|7th Nov. 1879
||Russian Marxist, revolutionary and theorist Leon Trotsky is born in Kherson Province in the Ukraine.
|8th Nov. 1793
||The now world famous Louvre opens as a public museum in Paris.
|9th Nov. 1989
||The Berlin wall comes down.|
||Remembrance Day in the Commonwealth of Nations and some European countries. This day remembers military and civilian victims in time of war.
12th Nov. 1840
|French sculptor Auguste Rodin is born in Paris.
||Childrens day, India.|
|15th Nov. 1708
||William Pitt the Elder is born in Westminster.|
|18th Nov. 1978
||Jonestown, Guyana sees a mass suicide involving 900 followers of the Peoples Temple.
The Man in The Iron Mask, a French political prisoner, dies at the Bastille in Paris.
|21st Nov. 1995
||The Dayton peace accord is signed in Dayton, Ohio ending the Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian war.
|22nd Nov. 1869
||The fastest clipper ever built, the Cutty Sark, is launched in Dumbarton, Scotland.
|24th Nov. 1632
||Dutch Jewish philosopher, Baruch Spinoza, is born in Amsterdam.|
||Thanksgiving Day in the USA and Puerto Rico.|
|27th Nov. 1940
||Martial arts expert Lee Yuen Kam, better known as Bruce Lee, is born in San Francisco.
|28th Nov. 1757
||William Blake, English poet engraver and painter born in London.|
||St Andrew’s Day – the official national day of Scotland.|
Next month we have expert advice from Simon Whaley on how to put forward the perfect pitch, Ten Top Tips on characterisation plus more useful websites and inspiration.
Here’s my solution for those of you wanting to rest the grey cells for a while. Linkfest (www.onemorelevel.com/game/linkfest) is a version of Mahjong with a twist.
And finally, this is considered to be the most famous, and in my opinion, quite chilling, poem of World War I by Wilfred Owen.
Dulce Et Decorum Est
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.
GAS! Gas! Quick, boys! An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
If you like this poem as much as I do and wish you could write one as moving perhaps you should consider our poetry writing course. You don’t need to have done any previous poetry writing – we will teach you how to get started, help you improve and show you how to find markets for your work. Just think of it – critics may be describing one of your poems as the best known in the 21st Century!
If you found something of use to you in this issue please pass the word on to all your writer friends – and even those who don’t! You never know, you might inspire them to take it up. They can sign up here.
See you next month.
P.S. Don’t forget the
THE WRITERS BUREAU, SEVENDALE HOUSE, 7 DALE STREET,
MANCHESTER, M1 1JB, ENGLAND.
“I’m currently working on my fourth book, have been paid for my writing by at least 15 different magazines, and now earn half my income from writing – all thanks to The Writers Bureau’s course."
Sarah Plater - Writers Bureau Writer of the Year 2017