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 Issue #88

Free Writers' Newsletter

July 27, 2010  

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Writing from the heart
By Anne Jones

She’s one of Britain’s best-selling authors and a respected complimentary healer, but Anne Jones’ journey into the literary world has not been easy. In the last of a series of articles for firstwriter.com, she examines the importance of writing from the heart.

“I know I have a book in me somewhere”. How many times have I heard those words, often after the third glass of Shiraz between the starter and main when I have shared my interest in writing to whoever will listen. At this point the conversation often dwindles as a faraway look shows a distant vision playing out as the would-be author collects their Booker prize! Sometimes they have a real interest and start to bombard me with questions on how to actually find that hidden book and get it published.

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In my view your passion will take you a long way down the line as it is the most important ingredient and driving force to get you over the many hurdles awaiting along the path to reach publication. 

Firstly you need to choose your subject. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, choose your subject with care and select something you know really well. Of course, you can investigate and research for background to build your story but the basis and flow of your book will come across stronger if you know your subject well. This is particularly true of your first book which will act as a training process. 

Always write with passion; when you write from the heart the force and energy behind your words will come through to your reader, hopefully lighting a similar fire within them too. Greg Mortenson’s book Three Cups of Tea describes his quest to build schools for girls in Northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. I could feel his passion and commitment radiating from every page and his words have inspired me to greater efforts with my own charity work in Africa. How exciting it is to read books that light our fire! You can achieve this through memoirs, documentaries, guides or novels as long as you share your feelings either directly or through your 
characters. 

An added advantage is that you accomplish much in a short time when you write with passion and from your heart. This is almost like channelling the content from your bank of experience onto paper. All my books have been based on this premise and I can write a book in weeks once I get started. 

Once you have chosen your subject you are off the starting block, you just have to get writing. The journey will not be easy – that is for sure – but here are some ways that you can bring your heart into your work which can make it an enjoyable and rewarding experience with, hopefully, a successful outcome. 

Nonfiction

Write from your heart

  • Be honest – even if this goes against you. People warm to you if you put yourself down a little, so share your mistakes as well as successes. Open up and give a little of yourself and share your inner feelings when you can.
  • Whenever it’s appropriate, give examples of your experiences and other people’s stories or anecdotes as case studies. This will give your book authenticity. Readers love to hear of other people going through similar challenges to their own and gain inspiration when they read how they have overcome or managed them. 

Some tips on style

  • Full pages of uninterrupted text can be daunting so break it up into manageable sized bites with subheadings and include illustrations or pictures if you can. In Greg Mortenson’s second book, Stones for Schools, he included photographs of many of the characters and school locations, and he included a number of maps of the region, this made it easy to empathise with the people and their achievements. 
  • Writing in the first person gives a stronger message. My books are guides for self development so I use “YOU” to create a bond and connection by speaking directly to my reader.
  • Keep your descriptions and explanations simple without being patronising. Nobody wants to wade through pages of complex and difficult to understand prose to get a message. Visualise your reader and hold them in your mind as you write. I think of my step daughter and my sister in law and direct all my explanations to them. 
  • Before you start you will need a detailed synopsis and plan – otherwise, take it from me, you will be into rewrites. Publishers like chapters of more or less the same size. I make a note of the case studies and main features for each chapter – this preparation definitely makes the writing so much easier. 

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Fiction

  • Try to set your story in a location that you know well otherwise you may lose validity. It is hard to keep a sense of reality when the story line moves to a foreign location and descriptions often just do not ring true. I have just read a book by Harlan Coban who I rate highly as a writer and story teller, however, the book lost its authenticity with his cockney speak and he misused slang and local idioms e.g. when describing London taxis he referred to hansom cabs rather than black cabs. Be careful of clichés with local landmarks, e.g. referring to the Eiffel Tower or Tower of London, so be more subtle. Even if you have memories of your story location you will find it an advantage to visit the setting to refresh your knowledge and feel for the place. My novel is based in Egypt and although I have travelled the Nile twice I am going again this summer to ensure I “get it right”.
  • You need to do a lot of preparation before you start. Characters need full life stories even though you may not need all the information it will help to bring the character to life in your own mind. 
  • The more detailed your synopsis the easier it will be to write the first draft. I prepared my novel with a scene by scene run through just as though I was watching a movie. This helped me get a feel of the movement of the story.
  • In your first run through or draft I wouldn’t worry about the details of punctuation or choosing the exact word for this will slow down and disrupt the flow of your story. Get it down and revise and edit it afterwards. 

Never be daunted or feel that no one would be interested in your story – if it’s well written with passion and verve it stands a good chance of getting into print and even if you cannot find an agent or publisher you can self publish and leave a legacy – a bit of you in print – for your grandchildren!

Anne Jones is the author of five bestselling books including Heal Yourself, Healing Negative Energies, The Ripple Effect, Opening Your Heart, and The Soul Connection. For more information about Anne and her titles, go to www.annejones.org 

My path to publication
By Amanda Sington-Williams

Whilst writing the first draft of my novel I won an award from The Royal Literary Fund which provided me with a mentor. This was a tremendous boost to my confidence as the award was very competitive. I’d never embarked on a novel before and writing it was a steep learning curve. I thought that having won this award that I would easily get it published, but in fact it took me two years and a fine collection of rejection letters before I found an independent publisher who took me on very quickly. 

Throughout my search for a publisher firstwriter.com was an invaluable resource, and I located many of the agents I sent my work to via this source. Five agents that I located through firstwriter.com asked for the full manuscript. Even though they all rejected me, they each gave me valuable feedback. I have also had my short stories published and all of the magazines and publishers were found through firstwriter.com

Writing a novel is hard enough, but trying to get published can be a truly demoralising business. I just kept going and I would advise any other writer to do the same. I think firstwriter.com is actually the best writing resource there is as far as websites go. I particularly like the way firstwriter.com allow their members to have control over which alerts they receive. And through the links on firstwriter.com I have contacted Romance Writers United, who are going to write a review of my novel. 

The Eloquence of Desire 
Set in the 1950s and located in London and Colonial Malaysia, The Eloquence of Desire focuses on the social constraints of the 1950s and how they influenced family relationships. George and his wife Dorothy are re-located to Malaysia after an affair is discovered between George and his boss’s daughter, Emma, but George cannot forget her. Malaysia was involved in a civil war; George inadvertently becomes involved with the insurgency. Susan, their daughter, discovers the truth about her parents’ relationship and starts to self-harm as her way of coping. 

About the author 
Amanda Sington-Williams grew up in Cambridge and Liverpool. She has lived in Japan, Spain and Australia and has travelled extensively. She now lives in Brighton. Many of her short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies. She has an MA in Creative Writing and Authorship from Sussex University. For this novel she won an award from the Royal Literary Fund. She has nearly completed her second novel and teaches Novel Writing in Brighton.

The Eloquence of Desire is available from Amazon, The Book Despository, direct from the publishers at www.sparklingbooks.com or all good book shops. 

Visit Amanda's website at www.amandasingtonwilliams.co.uk   

Click here for great value writing classes!

Fish prize winners announced

Well-known Irish Poet Catherine Phil MacCarthy is the winner of the 2010 annual Fish Poetry Prize, judged this year by Matthew Sweeney. The prize includes €1,000 and publication in the 2010 Fish Anthology. Chosen from a field of just under a thousand poems, all of which were read by the judge, “Limbo” deals with the heartbreaking theme of stillbirth in rural Ireland. In his Introduction to the Anthology Matthew Sweeney writes “the poem deals with an old subject in a very sure-footed, contemporary manner – understated, and because of that, packing a powerful emotional charge.”

Catherine Phil MacCarthy read “Limbo” at the launch of the Fish Anthology at the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry on July 7. She was accompanied by Jane Camens, the first Australian writer to win the Fish Short Story Prize since it started in 1994. Zoe Sinclair from England, winner of the Flash Fiction Prize, and others whose stories and poems were selected for the Anthology, coming from both sides of the Atlantic to attend this annual event.

The Fish Short Story Prize was judged by novelist Ronan Bennett. It is worth €3,000 to the winner, while second place receives €300 and a week-long residency at Anam Cara Artists’ and Writers’ Retreat at Eyeries in West Cork.

The Fish One-Page Prize was judged this year by poet John Hegley and writer and comic Simon Munnery, who resorted to reading the shortlist to a pub audience in Luton to help determine the winners. This is a surprisingly difficult genre to master, though the shortness of it attracts many to try – 1,500 on this occasion. Fish Publishing has begun online courses in Flash Fiction on www.fishpublishing.com . 

Blinking Cursor

Blinking Cursor's Concise Guide to Poetry is now available. It's a handy go-to guide for when you need a quick reference. It investigates the different aspects of writing poetry, the tools famous poets use, and how we can use these to improve our own work. You can download it is a free PDF or purchase it as a hard copy from Lulu.com. It will also be available on Amazon.com at a later date. Click here for more information.

Submissions are still being accepted for Blinking Cursor Time Snippets. This will be much like the regular magazine, but it will contain nonfiction only. Submissions can be anything nonfiction – articles, essays, reviews, opinion pieces; as long as it's factually correct, you can submit it. Submissions should be kept to a 1,000 word maximum and only send three submissions. For full submission guidelines, click here.

Submissions are also being accepted for The Blank Page Handbook. This will contain hints and tips about writing, and submissions are being sought from writers. Tips could be about spelling and grammar, formatting, editing, creating believable characters, writing poetry, finding inspiration, anything! Just keep them short – a couple of sentences or a paragraph, not a page or more. Click here for full submission guidelines. 

 

Canadian Tales of the Fantastic Short Story Competition

First place pays $500. Second place pays $150 and the third pays $100. Ten Honourable mention prizes of $25.00 will also be awarded. All winning entries will be published by Red Tuque Books in the upcoming anthology, Canadian Tales Of The Fantastic. Deadline: December 31, 2010.

For more details go to www.redtuquebooks.ca  

For over 100 short story contests please click here

 

The 2011 Vilcek Prizes in Literature

The 2011 Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature guidelines and application forms are now available at http://www.vilcek.org/print/prizes_creative_promise.php. No entry fee.

The awards are for non-American-born writers of poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction who are living and working in the United States, age 38 and under; one $25,000 prize, plus four $5000 prizes.

There is also a $100,000 Vilcek Literature Prize for one non-American-born writer of poetry, fiction or creative nonfiction who is living and working in the United States., no age restriction, but there is no application process for this prize.

For over 190 other writing contests, click here

 

Resources for writers at firstwriter.com

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