How to make a short story work – ‘Tea Time’ (Steampunk)

So how do you make s short story work? Well you don’t have a lot of time, so you really need to get straight on with the story, and it has to go somewhere and do something quick, and yet still leave the customer satisfied.

So something a little different, which I think is a perfect example of how to make a short story work 🙂

I have dabbled a little in the short story area, and although I naturally gravitate towards writing something much longer, I love the simplicity of a well rounded short story such as this steampunk example above 🙂

You always get something different out of a film and a book. Would this work as a book? Yes, I think it would. But, it does work so perfectly in the medium chosen that it is hard to imagine how it could or would work as a book. Part of it’s appeal is the theatrical costumes and over-the-top flamboyance that comes with steampunk. But most stories can be transfered i.e. you could say swop the country, era, or genre and the story would work in each in its own way. But, I really think streampunk is a winner in this case.

Changing the location, and or genre, can add a whole new perspective to exactly the same tale. For example what do you think if we set ‘Tea Time’ on a council estate in Leeds? Or an intergalactic space station? The possibilities can produce a lot of fun ideas, and grabbing a story from one genre and dropping it into another one is a great way to generate story ideas.

The art of writing – learning to share

As a person who spent 20 years writing without another soul seeing it, I think its fair to say I am a self-proclaimed expert on the difficulty of sharing.

I think this is probably something many writers struggle with at first. That transition from our innermost thoughts being just that, to allowing them exposure to the light of day and the critical assessment of others.

It’s daunting, I get that. Really, I do.

10410610_931654273528561_2198993264378937219_n Why do you need to share? Why do you write?

This is the first question you need to answer before you go any further. If you have no aspirations to publish or simply love to write but have no desire to do anything more, then you should feel no burden or need to share. For a lot of my twenty years writing I was exactly this, happy to write, no burning need for it to go anywhere or be seen by anyone

I guess I got to a point where I felt, why not do something more? Why not let it out there? See what happens?

Yes, I did want to publish. Yes , I did want the satisfaction of sharing what I had done, and hopefully someone (even one person) saying yes, this work resonates with me.

You will never became a michelin star chief if you don’t let people taste your food.

A friendly first

There are two ways that I know of in making this first step. The first is to find a ‘friendly’, someone you know and trust to be gentle, but who at the same time, will provide some valuable feedback on your work. That’s a big ask, and not everyone is this person. So take you time, choose carefully and be brave. Critique Partners

The second way is to share anonymously. Wattpad for example. There are plenty of other great sites where you can put your work up for feedback from the masses. And the best thing is – you don’t need to tell anyone if you don’t want to!

An editor

There are all kind of editing options out there. Developmental editing for example will assist in story structure, copy editing for grammar and punctuation, or proof reading if the story is almost there and you need a final check. Editing v Proofreading

Generally, this is a service you need to pay. I used a copy editor but she also offered some amazing insights into my story in regards to areas I may need to explain further or adjust. I learnt an insane amount by having my story professionally edited.

Receiving feedback with grace

You don’t always need to dip your hand in your pocket though. Beta readers and/or sites like wattpad are full of avid readers who are more than happy to tell you what they think. This can be invaluable, but, you need to be mindful that they are not all master writers, and not all their advice needs to be taken. I would say that generally when someone gives you advice you just know if it’s something valid and valuable or not. I usually read it, let it sink in, and then read it again a little later. You can pickup some amazing nuggets even from what may at first seem like a very negative review.

10945022_933085073368785_9184225261499281719_nI think I am pretty good at receiving feedback now, an age thing maybe. I find that I actively want the input, just tell me straight and don’t sugar coat it. The last thing I want is someone being too subtle and me coming away thinking a passage is great when it’s not.

Without feedback you will never learn or improve

This is the truth of it. Yes, reading books about writing techniques, blogs, and online articles are all very helpful, and there is no doubt they will be able to help you to improve. But! There is really no substitute for ‘just doing’ and receiving feedback. In my opinion this is the only true way to learn and grow.

I spend a lot of my day helping people improve the quality of their work in a field which I am now the expert (no, it’s not writing, I wish it was). I give them guidelines to read before they start, but encourage them to jump into ‘doing’ as soon as possible, Then I encourage them to let met me review it with them asap, and then send them off to do it again. Each time I review they make less mistakes. Each time I review I offer new insights into my suggested changes and explain why. It’s a well proven pattern and in a short period of time there are almost no errors. Their work quickly becomes quality, and they don’t need  my insights any more.

This is a wonderful feeling as a teacher. And a proven training technique. We don’t often learn by reading something once, or even twice, and we don’t learn without any feedback at all. Just imagine trying to learn to play the violin without a teacher to guide you! Learning is an iterative process, which by definition means you have to do it more than once.

The concept of receiving feedback is part of our earliest childhood and follows us throughout our life.

So what’s holding you back?

BiXiMA-CUAEk3DtSource https://twitter.com/tomgauld/status/443008838791213056

If you are anything like me, and you struggle with the very idea of sharing, ask yourself why you write and if you are ready for feedback.

A few encouraging words can provide a world of motivation!

So, if you haven’t shared before, why not jump in. You might be pleasantly surprised 🙂

 

Divided Serenity out now on all Amazon stores, and free with Kindle Unlimited.

Divided Serenity Book Cover

What do listen to when you write?

quiet

Being quiet

I am guessing not everyone will share my sentiments, but for me, there is great comfort in being quiet. I write best when I am sitting in my little pod office, with the lovely view of trees, and…absolute quiet.

My husband is incredibly noisy, so this does present some problems on occasion! But on the whole, when I am writing, I am left alone in this noiseless state. I do deviate occasionally, but more on that below…

E.B. White “I never listen to music when I’m working.”

Background chatter

I am a self aware introvert. I accept this is what I am. That said, this desire for silence is a little extreme even amongst the introvert brigade. I was recently reading a book on introverts. The aptly named ‘Quiet’ by Susan Cain, a great read btw. In it, she talks about her writing routine, and she actually found it productive to sit in a coffee shop to work on her book. The background chatter, and the unobtrusive presece of people helped her to focus. For her, too much isolation was actually a bad thing.

Block-rocking beats

The concept of writing anything of worth while listening to pop music is beyond my comprehension. But, E.L. James found Will.I.Am blasting in the background an inspiration when tackling her ‘naughty’ scenes!

Classics anyone?

Classic music can create a powerful mood in a movie, but what about when we write? I do have a few pieces that I enjoy occasionally, when I want to create a pull in a particular emotional direction. I am definitely not alone in this one.

In an interview Edmund White, the writer of award-winning fiction, biographies and memoirs, said he liked to write to chamber music by Debussy, especially the cello sonata.

Non classical music without words 

This is probably one of my favourite deviations from silence. I love things with a good beat if I am writing an action scene. It’s a great tool for visualisation! I picture the scene unfolding as the track plays, and repeat until I get it right.

And playing fast music when writing can definitely speed up your word count! Those fingers can’t help but try to keep up!

So, what do you write to?

Thoughts, suggestions? Have I missed any obvious ones? What do you like to write to?

 

 

Book names – decisions, decisions!

If you haven’t already read my post on naming characters Character names – decisions, decisions! Then just to bring you up to speed, I now seem to have developed a bit of a naming problem in general. While there are a lot of characters in your book, and so the task of naming them is multiplied by many, your book title is the window to your work, and so is just as, if not more, important.

I have been writing my current book, off and on, for ten years. I have a huge number of WIP projects, so I used to jump about a bit until I most recently decided to get my shuffle on, and actually publish one of them.

So my book has been called THE WALL, for ever, because, well, everything sort of centres around the wall. However, while working on my pitch, this long standing title has been exposed to new people. That new audience has provided some feedback, which has made me question it’s merit. The book name is very important. It’s the first thing your audience is exposed to, and it conjures up an instant mental image.

Humans are creatures of association. How many people love the sound of a name, but won’t use it for their kids, simply because it reminds them of someone else who is horrid! I used to love the name Clarissa, until I read the book Clarissa, and after I was scarred for life. Which is tragic, because I still think it’s a beautiful name, but now I have this unpleasant connection that is hard to shake off.

So it seems the first thing that springs to mind with THE WALL is Pink Floyd!

For goodness sake, how old is that song? Still, it is what it is, and if even a percentage of people go off on a tangent when they pick up my book, then I think it’s time for change.

So, to put what follows in to context. In case you don’t already know I live in Australia. And I often have text conversations of an evening with my 90 year old, flight-sim playing, father who lives in the UK.

Here we are, discussing my recent name change from The Wall to The Technological God…I’m the blue 🙂

talk 1talk 2talk 3talk 6

What motivates you to write?

What motivates you?

My first reaction to this question was a little bit erm, I’m not sure. I just really, really want <Insert your desire here> . I have described myself as a little bit of a life drifter in the past. I have a great life, and I am very happy with what I have achieved, but do I really set myself a course? Or have I just acidented upon what and where I am?

Was I really motivated?

My thoughts drifted (yes, there’s that word again) off to the usual things that people talk of when they refer to positive motivation. Commonly mentioned things include money, fame, recognition from peers, perhaps the satisfaction you feel from helping others, or even a determination to find a cure for a disease. I realised that what motivates people is the vision of the end goal. That these ideas of motivation were all end goals, places we want to be physically, mentally, and spiritually.

“People are often motivated by the vision of the end goal.”

Ok, I kind of like that. I’m a writer, I love visualisation, I could get lost in visualisation!

Yep, better stop there, otherwise you can fall into the trap of spending so much time and effort visualising where you want to be that you never actually get there!

dream

So many people want things, but they are not prepared to put in the effort to get there. You want that great body, but do you get up early to exercise everyday? You want to be a hot shot lawyer, but are you prepared to study, and work the long hard hours to achieve this dream?

Achieving is sometimes about giving something else up. Motivation is the thing that makes it easy to give up x in order to get y. Working long hours doesn’t feel hard when each hour takes you closer to your dream. Not only does putting in the effort not feel like a burden, you actually enjoy it!

So, we have a dream, we are motivated to put the hard graft in to achieve it. We are mentally prepared to give up our time, comforts, donuts (donuts can be hard), to turn our vision into reality.

what

Now we are just missing one vital step…A plan to get us there.

Part 3 coming soon – Achieving your dreams by setting goals