Monday, 20 December 2010

Spot The Difference

For this week's blog posting, I want you to take a look at both of these pictures.

The first image, with the blue sky, was taken in February 2009. The second image was taken last weekend. (Don't panic - the snow has thawed at least once between  when these pictures were taken!)

I enjoy photography because it's possible to take two pictures of the same scene and get two completely different images. Despite being different pictures, both of them contain many of the same features:

  • snow
  • sheep in the field
  • a bare tree
  • fences denoting field boundaries

We can achieve the same effect with our writing too. When writing an article, it's often necessary to carry out some research. Invariably, we collect a lot of information and where many beginner-writers go wrong is that they think they have to include all of their research in their article. They don't. When you analyse your target publication, you should get to know the reader and then write your article using the research you've uncovered that will be of interest to them.

Targeting your writing this way, means that it is possible to get more than one article from each 'idea' depending upon the facts and information you include within your piece. Many of those pieces will contain similar pieces of information - in the same way that my two images above contain similar features, but because I've looked at those scenes from a different angle, they've produced two very different photos. Tackling your writing in the same way can produce two very different articles as well.

In my local neck of the woods, there is a 24-hour walking challenge called the Long Mynd Hike. (I haven't done it by the way - at 50-miles in 24-hours, it's a little too pressurised for my kind of walking.) But, I have written about it. For a local county magazine, I focused in on the history behind the event, and how it has grown into one of the biggest walking events in the Midlands. For a hiking magazine, I decided to concentrate on the walking challenge itself (the route includes climbing a total height of over 8,000 feet - that's the same as climbing Ben Nevis - the UK's highest mountain - twice).

Many of the features within the articles were the same. I included similar quotes from the organisers in both pieces, I mentioned how the hike came about in both features, and I also included the finishing times of the fastest completers in both articles. (The fastest people achieve all 50 miles, and 8,000 feet of climbing in less than 9 hours!) But despite these common features, they were very different articles.

So, next time your write an article, take a step back and look at all of the information in front of you. If you were to focus in on a different area, could you write another one, two, three or four articles from your research? In some ways, writing an article is no different to taking a picture. In both cases, we select the scene we're going to focus on and then create our masterpiece.

If you live in one of the countries which seems to shut down over the Christmas period (assuming the snow doesn't achieve this first) why not take some time out to review some of your previously written material and look for a different picture? It could help you get your writing off to great start in 2011!

Good luck.

Your Vote Counts - Update
Those of you who have followed my blog for some time now, may remember an appeal I put out on behalf of a student of mine, John Price, whose writing group, Rising Brook Writers had applied for grant funding to buy some computer equipment to enable them to create a regular newsletter for their housebound members. It was possible for the public to send a text message to support the grant application. (See for more info). Well, I'm delighted to say that they were successful and the group has gone from strength to strength. So much so, that they recently produced their own novel 'Fair Deal'.

As John explains, "The story is built up week by week during the group’s workshops and through an on-line bulletin that enables those who can’t get to meetings to also contribute. The process has been variously described as like pegging out washing on a line or completing a jigsaw puzzle when the picture on the box keeps changing. As contributors email their pieces to the editor, the story gradually comes together in chunks of around 500 words with each piece being shuffled forwards and backwards to achieve the best fit."

"The latest tale of mayhem is Fare Deal, a farce that features, in the best Carry On tradition, an ill-fated wedding between an Old-Labour family and the local aristocracy, a vicar with a liking for fairy costumes, unscrupulous rival cab companies, and Vera and Gloria supplementing their pensions at Big Bertha’s ‘personal services’ establishment. Farce is a difficult genre even for the most experienced writers but the absurdity of this unfolding catastrophe is guaranteed to stretch your chuckle muscles."

It is what I call, great British farce, which is right up my street, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. It's clear to see that everyone in the group enjoyed writing it and is well worth a read.

Copies can be obtained from Rising Brook Writers (Box WB), Rising Brook Library, Merrey Road, Stafford ST17 9LX, in return for a donation of £6.00 per copy, which also covers postage and packing. Cheques should be made payable to ‘Rising Brook Writers’.


And before I go, I'd like to congratulate Amshan KumaAmshan.

And on that note, it's time for me to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, wherever you are.


Monday, 13 December 2010

And The Winner Is ....

Well, I have to say, I was a little taken aback when I discovered that I had 57 entries to judge in my mini-competition to win a copy of Kate Walker's 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance. What a romantic lot you are! Or perhaps that should be, what a lot of hopeful, romantic writers you are!

I loved the diversity of stories; they weren't just about romantic love between humans, but also the unconditional love between a human and a pet, unrequited love of a first teenage crush, and even the calorie-hogging love of chocolate!

But, let's get on with the show. In true Oscar-winning style, first, I shall announce the nominations - those who made it to my final four. They are:

  • Helen Lowry
  • Carina Barnett
  • Rob Innis
  • Maria Perry Mohan
Now I've made those four people nervous, and the television camera has focused on their anticipatory faces (probably as they practise their smiling-whilst-accept-defeat-graciously faces) let's move to the nitty-gritty.

My thumb slips under the envelope flap (it's a gold one, of course - the envelope, not my thumb) and together with my index finger, pulls out the card with the winning name.

And the winner is....
(Scroll down ...)

(keep scrolling...)

(and a little more scrolling ....)


(Everyone in the auditorium are on their feet.)

Congratulations Carina, your copy of Kate Walker's book is in the post to you. And here is her winning entry.

He is next in line at my till. I feel his eyes on me and fumble as I pack Mrs Johnson's shopping. I am aware only of him. Waiting. As I reach to scan his Chianti, our fingers touch, his tanned and slender. I picture them entwined in my own and colour floods into my face. When I look up, his eyes smile into mine. The lashes are thick and dark and I have a sudden, vivid vision of them white with age. I somehow know that when they are, I will still be gazing into them.

So, once again, congratulations to Carina, and thank you to everyone who took the time to enter. I'm tempted to run another competition in the future!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Free Short Story Anthology

Writers Abroad, is for Ex-pat, English speaking writers who live away from their 'natural' country. To celebrate National Short Story Week (November 22nd to 28th 2010), they've written and produced an anthology of short stories.

A PDF version of the anthology can be downloaded, free of charge from the group's website at or, if you prefer a hard copy, one can be ordered directly from at

With a foreword by fellow WB tutor, Lorraine Mace, there's a mixture of stories, all with the theme of living abroad. It's well worth a read!

And thanks to those of you who have already sent me a submission for my competition to win a copy of Kate Walker's book, 12 Point Guide to Writing Romance - see my previous post I'm looking forward to judging this. The closing date for entries is this Friday, 10th December.

Good luck!