Writing achievements and support

Today I received something very special in the post–my own copy of The Single Feather by R.F. Hunt!

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This is certain to be a terrific, thought-provoking read. Ruth and I both took novel writing classes at writingclasses.co.uk. It was there we got to know each other, albeit virtually, and to encourage each other with our writing. It was also there that we became friends with Katrina Hart, author of soon to be published fantasy ebook, Finding Destiny, which you can read about here: http://www.pilrigpress.co.uk/books.html .

When we became friends, starting a virtual writers’ circle of sorts, we were all beginners, now three years later, we are all published or soon to be published novelists. This is due in large part to determination, persevering at our writing and editing even when it felt like it was time to give up. Speaking for myself, it was writing friendships such as I have with Ruth and Katie which helped me through the difficult times, when writing felt impossible, as though I would never get anywhere with it. Writing is hard and it’s difficult to maintain self-belief in your project through hundreds of pages, which makes having the support of other writers who will support you with your ‘crazy ideas’ all the more important.

So…hip, hip hooray and three cheers for Ruth!

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I can’t wait to read The Single Feather!

Speaking of writerly support, I would be remiss to not mention how grateful I am for the support of Marianne Wheelaghan, whose writing classes assisted me tremendously on my writing journey. Her new murder mystery novel, Killer Shoeshine, is coming out soon with Pilrig Press, Here’s a photo of her previous novels, The Blue Suitcase (historical fiction) and Food of Ghosts (the first of the DS Louisa Townsend series), both are available from Pilrig Press and both are excellent reads: http://www.pilrigpress.co.uk/books.html

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Also, Anne Hamilton assisted Ruth, Katie and I greatly both as a teacher as well as in the preparation of our manuscripts and with much needed mentoring in my case. She is the author of the intelligent, humorous and thought provoking travel book, A Blonde Bengali Wife, about her journeys in Bangladesh, which you can buy here (all profits go to the charity Bhola’s Children): http://www.ll-publications.com/nonfiction.html Here’s a photo of it’s lovely cover:

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So a big thank you to all the wonderful, inspiring and helpful writers in my life! I can’t wait to read all of your books when they come out!

Are you a writer, and if so, have you found having the support and encouragement of friends or a writers group valuable to your own writing practice? Looking back on your own writing journey, what are the milestones which stand out to you and how do you think you managed to arrive at each? I’d love to hear your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

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Short stories vs Novels: Which do you write?

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Every writer of fiction has been asked at some point if they are a writer of novels or of short stories. So, which are you?

When I began writing I set out to mostly write short stories. Why? Because they’re short, and, I figured, there are lots of magazines which publish short stories, and that should make my job as a writer easier. Right? Wrong!

No matter how short the story, it won’t be a satisfying read without a well-rounded protagonist, an interesting plot and a strong climax. And trying to fit all of these elements into just a few thousand words (sometimes even less these days with the advent of flash fiction) is no easy feat.

In a novel you have more space to flesh out your characters and storyline, you have room to manoeuvre, so to speak.

Or do you?

These days with novels, if it’s not getting a reader’s attention straight away, they’ll put it down. I’ve always wanted to do a survey of present day novels and compare them to the novels of previous times (say, the 1940’s) to see how they compare. Is it true that we have to be punchier now, or is it just a sense of nostalgia making us believe this?

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A different audience

Many short stories are read online, in magazines or anthologies whereas novels must stand alone. If a reader isn’t sure about your book they won’t buy it, but a short story might be stumbled upon in an anthology and read almost by mistake. Novels require a considerable commitment on the part of the reader in terms of the time they take to read. If they don’t like your characters, or where your plot is going, they won’t invest that time.

Of course, not all short stories are published in magazines, some of them are published as collections, like these.

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Although several of the stories originally appeared in literary magazines such as The New Yorker.

Short stories which turn into novels and vice-versa

When I began writing about the main character of The Forest King’s Daughter, it was in a short story. From there I went on to write more short stories about her and this progressed until I knew she needed a novel. I know some writers who do this in reverse, writing a series of short stories based on their novel’s protagonist after they’ve written the novel. Whichever way round it is, I think character driven fiction is important. If a character wants to take you someplace else, maybe somewhere new where you’re not sure if you’re comfortable going—follow them! It’s our only hope as writers, to follow our ideas through to the end, to explore all possibilities and to discover what we can achieve.

So, which are you? And do you think it’s necessary to specialise in one form or the other? If you’re a novelist, do you ever dabble in short stories? And if you’re a short story writer, have you ever attempted a novel? I’d love to hear your thoughts!