Tagged with "writing"
ANNUAL REVIEW
Category: Writing
Tags: Writing goals planning taking stock

ANNUAL REVIEW

As we all race around, trying to finish projects at work or home as well as prepare for the festivities of the most important (at least for most of us…) holidays of the year, there is not much time or space for sitting back and relaxing. As of today, the final pre-Christmas week is upon us and panic sets in. It’s at this point that I begin looking forward to the days between the holidays, when the pressure of Christmas expectations has been lifted and I can kick back, read a bit, watch some good films and maybe even have enough leisure to reflect on the accomplishments – or lack of same – during the year just coming to a close.

                As writers, many of us are able to work at our own pace, not necessarily held to account by large corporations and their deadlines. Unless of course, you happen to be one of the lucky few among us who have climbed bestseller lists and do have to produce those manuscripts to a schedule. If so, congratulations on your success. You don’t need to read any more of this!

However, for one such as I, an apprentice writer eager to learn and develop my skills, taking the time to perform my own personal annual review, as happens in real, live day-jobs, is a worthwhile undertaking. How many stories did I write, revise or edit this past year? How many made it into print? Did I submit pieces to any contests or lit magazines? Which of the goals that I bravely set down for myself in January of this year actually came to fruition or are at least works-in-progress? Of course, this assumes I actually did some planning in the previous January.

                As luck would have it, a new January is just two weeks away, offering us a new opportunity to set goals, if we haven’t been doing this previously. It can only help if I, as a semi-professional wordsmith, set down on paper some targets at which to aim. This doesn’t have to be a solemn contract with myself – unless I want it to be. But a modicum of pressure can help concentrate the mind. Maybe it’s less intimidating to think of this goal-setting as a to-do list that will keep me busy and out of trouble all year. Another way of thinking of it is as a roadmap. Traveling is always easier if I know the direction I need to go and what I expect to find at the end of the journey.

                Merry Christmas to all and may the New Year bring many opportunities for you to show off your word prowess!

Make "Em Laugh Tags: writing humour

 

MAKE ‘EM LAUGH

 

First thing in the morning I check the news headlines. Death and destruction dominate. There’s not much to smile about. No wonder humour is highly prized by readers, competition judges and editors. Something that makes people happy is always welcomed.

            So how can you inject some humour into your writing? Below are a few ways, by no means an exhaustive list, but something may strike a cord.      

Exaggeration – make something worse than it really is.

Take for example Christmas. Everybody knows the neighbour who starts with a Christmas tree in the garden and then collects all sorts of lights and ornaments that flash and glow until his house is covered in glitz and there is no chance of anyone sleeping as it is brighter than day.

            I’ve sold a couple of stories to magazines that exaggerate the mishaps of families on Christmas Day, from a power cut so the meal can’t be cooked to the family getting drunk and biting the tops of the chocolate liqueurs to suck out the fillings. Use your own family situations and exaggerate them to create an amusing situation — the barbeque no one can get lit, getting lost on a hike, the car breaking down…

Incompatible – something is unexpected and not what we would perceive as normal.

             In the same way as a punch line of a joke, incompatibility often works because it leads to one expectation but gives us another. You can read a short (50 word) story of mine here that uses this technique https://onthepremises.com/minis/mini_39/.

            In her novel, Faith Fox, Jane Gardam’s character of an elderly lady is taken out for a meal, not to the restaurant she is accustomed to, but a fast food chain. She comments on all the little details, like the food coming in cardboard packages, queuing up to order and the sachets of sauces. None of it makes sense to her, but she find she quite enjoys it.

Self-deprecating – be modest or even critical of yourself in order to invoke humour.

Alan Bennett is a master of this technique. From his diaries: “I’m sent a copy of Waterstones’ Literary Diary which records birthdays of various contemporary figures. I turn to my own… first British self-service launderette opened.”

Metaphors and similies – choose comparisons that make people giggle.

I have a copy of the novel Crocodile Soup by Julia Darling. The story is crammed full of interesting similies and metaphors, which make me smile each time I read it. “Talking to Jean was like trying to converse with a weather vane. She swung in all directions…”

Irony – using words that would normally signify the opposite meaning to underline the truth.

Bill Bryson’s travel books ripple with irony. Take the following example: “They were having a festival of litter when I arrived…”

Finally your characters dialogue can be used to humorous effect, showing up their own personality and possibly causing problems. In Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding, her character Mark Darcy admits, possibly too honestly, “I don't think you're an idiot at all. I mean, there are elements of the ridiculous about you.”

But, be wary of confusing humour with insult. Mocking risks alienating your reader. But do humour well and you’ll be the popular with editors and readers alike.

Any tips for injecting humour into your work?

What are you favourite humorous novels/short stories and how do they make humour work?

 

Early Words
Category: Writing
Tags: Writers Abroad writing ex-pat writers first books

Following on from Sue’s excellent post last week about what inspired us to write, I decided to look at our first reading experiences. I’m guessing that we all learned to read – or were read to – before we learned to write? That was certainly my experience.

I owe my early love of books and reading to my mother, who was an avid reader herself. Every night, when I was tucked up in bed, she read me a story. That was one of my favourite moments of the day. Like all children, I especially liked the stories I already knew by heart and I would say the words out loud when she came to them. (‘“Pooh,” said Sir Guy of Gisbourne.’)

It’s too far back for me to remember the very early picture books. My earliest memories are of the Ladybird books. They were little hardback books, both fiction and non-fiction. All were written as an illustrated story. The ones I particularly remember are the classic fairy tales, the Crusades, Robin Hood, What to Look for in Winter and What to Look for in Summer.

I was delighted to learn that the Ladybird books are still published under the Penguin imprint. But they are no longer in their original format. The company was founded in 1867 by Henry Wills when he opened a bookshop in Loughborough. In 1914, the company first published its range of children’s books, using a ladybird logo. The first ladybird with open wings was replaced by the classic closed-wing Ladybird logo in the 1950s.

You can see some of the old-style covers on this website, which is dedicated to the Ladybird books. 

I graduated from those to a set of Newnes Encyclopaedias with red leather binding and gold-tooled lettering. My favourite volume contained the Greek, Roman and Norse myths, to which I returned time and again. And, joy of joy, I discovered dinosaurs, an abiding passion during my childhood.

From there, my tastes veered towards the supernatural. I loved the idea of a parallel world to ours, peopled by strange, and sometimes menacing beings. Books that greatly influenced me included:

  • The Borrowers, tiny people who lived in the wainscot and “borrowed” things like empty cotton reels to make stools;
  • The Forest of Boland Light Railway, by a mysterious “B.B.”, in which a community of elves living in a forest construct a railway line to transport them from their village to their silver mines; and
  • Alan Garner’s The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath.

I must have been a rather whimsical child, but oh to recapture that “land of lost content.”

What were your first reading experiences?    

 

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The House at Zaronza
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Out of Control
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The Duke's Shadow
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Foreign & Far Away
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Enchantment
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Conversations with S. Teri O'Type
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Break Out
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Deadly Pursuit
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The Calling
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Big Book of New Short Horror
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Tiger of Talmare
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