Saturday, 16 December 2017

Does Each Element of Your Story Further The Theme?

Whichever theme you choose, all the elements, which make up your story, dialogue, conflict, scenes, etc should be written with the theme in mind.

Your theme should progress the story.

If you find that anything in your story doesn’t progress it, it should be cut when you are in the editing stage.

Before we see an example of elements written with a theme in mind, let’s think of a theme and a story….

The theme is…

‘Arrogance Leads To Humiliation’

Very briefly, this story is about a character that believes he is better than his colleagues.

His goal is to get promoted to a managerial position. What will prevent him from reaching his goal, is the fact that management are aware of his arrogance and they don’t believe, with his attitude, he is the right person to manage the staff.

To meet his goal, the character will take on more work than he can handle. He will do this to prove to management, that he is the right man for the job. But in the end, he will make a grave error and his arrogance will lead him to humiliation.

Now let’s take a look at the elements of this story…


The character’s dialogue will show his arrogance, by the tone of his voice and the words he chooses to express himself.


I will show my character is arrogant by the way I describe him and from how other characters see him.


I will explain what makes him think he is better than everyone else.


I will state his goal and show how it arises from the fact that he believes himself better than everyone else.


The setting is going to be in an office environment. I can show his arrogance through the setting by perhaps describing the contents of his desk (trophies) and his desk area in general (diplomas on the walls.) etc.


The conflict will come from himself. He is the one that creates it by doing and saying things, which create dislike.


The climax is the highest point in my story where the conflict and his arrogance will come to their peak. Here we will see how he tries to overcome the conflict and reach his goal by taking on more work.


I will end my story with my character’s humiliation. He takes on more work and makes an error in judgement. Which not only prevents his promotion but also gets him fired.

My theme here would have run its course.

Does each element of your story further your theme?

© Nick Vernon

Monday, 11 December 2017

Quotes - Stephen King

"Sometimes you have to go on when you don't feel like it, and sometimes you're doing good work when it feels like all you're managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position."

"Fiction writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do - not why it works when it's good, not why it doesn't when it's bad."

"It's hard for me to believe that people who read very little - or not at all in some cases - should presume to write and expect people to like what they have written. Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time - or the tools - to write. Simple as that."

"One of the really bad things you can do to your writing is to dress up the vocabulary, looking for long words because you're maybe a little bit ashamed of your short ones."

"If you don't have the time to read, you don't have the time or the tools to write."

"I hated school. I don't trust anybody who looks back on the years from 14 to 18 with any enjoyment. If you liked being a teenager, there's something really wrong with you."

"I have the heart of a small boy. It is in a glass jar on my desk."

"Fiction is a lie, and good fiction is the truth inside the lie."

"I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose."

"Your stuff starts out being just for you… but then it goes out. Once you know what the story is and get it right - as right as you can, anyway - it belongs to anyone who wants to read it. Or criticize it."

"Try any goddam thing you like, no matter how boringly normal or outrageous. If it works, fine. If it doesn't, toss it. Toss it even if you love it."

"As with all other aspects of the narrative art, you will improve with practice, but practice will never make you perfect. Why should it? What fun would that be?"

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Things You Can Write About

The stories and articles you can write about are limited only by your imagination, ingenuity and persistence. And your ability to dig deep into and write well about a potentially good story or article can make you a published writer.

You can write about many things and here are a few of them:

=> Your Life. No two people have had the exact experiences. Each of us goes through life and experience things that are unique only to ourselves. Your life experiences are fodder for good personal experience articles. To start writing this type of article, brainstorm about unusual, unique, scary or even dangerous events you have experienced. From your list, think of an angle or an interesting way to present your experience.

=> How-To Articles. Do you have a special talent, skill or knowledge? Why not write instructional articles? Articles of this type are commonly known as how-to articles and are regularly published in magazines because of their popularity among readers. How-to articles are usually written in a step-by-step manner, using bullet or number lists.

=> Profiles. Personality profiles or sketches feature subjects who are more or less famous -- celebrities, sports heroes, politicians or someone who is recognized in his/her field. Ordinary people who have done extraordinary things are also good subjects for personality profiles. For profile articles, look within your community and see if you can find and interview local celebrities. Usually, profiles are in the form of Q&A; so you need to come up with interesting questions for your subject.

=> Inspirationals. Stories that inspire, motivate and/or move people to tears or laughter fall under this category. Religious or secular articles are also forms of inspirational articles. If you're new to writing, submitting inspirational pieces for church or religious magazines magazines is a good way to break into print.

=> Jaunts. Travel articles appeal to practically everyone, even to those who have never traveled. Have you been someplace where you found the sights, customs, food, habits or culture different and interesting? If you're a frequent traveler, start taking down notes of the best place to stay, where the interesting sights can be found and how to get to those places. Keep a travel notebook and log your travels. Write your impressions of places, people and cultures.

=> Special Interests. A few special interest subjects are parenting, child nutrition, home and garden and health. There are certainly thousands of publications that cater to special interest subjects. If you have been gardening for years, you can write articles for gardening enthusiasts. Specialize in your area of interest. Over time, you will establish yourself as an expert in that area.

© 2003 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 1,000,000 Story Sparkers for Writers.

Download WriteSparks! Lite for free -

Monday, 27 November 2017

How Many Pages Did You Write Today?

I saw this question posted on Facebook this week. Around 20 writers responded with anything from 3 to 
30 pages, while quite a few bemoaned the fact they hadn't written any - and hated themselves (and the other writers) for it!

Do you agonize over your daily page count?

You really shouldn't.

It's not the page count, or the word count that matters. It's turning up that's important. As long as you're there, writing or intending to write every day, you'll do fine.

Writing success is a long term proposition. If you're a newbie and you want to make a career out of writing, think in terms of five years. From now till then. That's about right.

Writing is actually the easy bit compared to forging a paying lifestyle at it.

I know that in this Internet Age, everyone wants fast results and instant success but deep down we all know that's not how it works.

Success takes commitment. Being able to write for a living requires effort over the long term. Writing every day is a habit you need to foster.

And it's not just the writing.

I find it curious that writers who post their daily word count to the Net seem primarily focussed on new writing - fresh pages as it were. Whereas every seasoned writer knows that every hour spent writing new fiction usually requires anything from 3 to 10 hours revising and editing - the real writer's work.

Most everyone can write - but it takes extra dedication, skill and study of the art to be a writer - as in a real contender for success.

The Internet is an amazing thing, yes. We all have access to information that even just twenty years ago would have taken us an age to find - and use.

But absorbing that information is what takes time. It may take a writer twenty years to accept a simple truth he 'knew' but had refused to believe until the time it dawned on him as 'true'.

I've seen this phenomenon a thousand times.

Sure, I can teach you how to write a novel in 30 days.

Yes, I can teach you how to write a screenplay for Hollywood.

But it's what you do with that information that counts - how you let it change who you are, and how you alter your approach to writing - and constantly improve yourself in the process.

By all means work hard getting pages of writing out every day, but also spend a few moments daily assessing your goals, seeing what you do in context, and making commitments to staying the course.

If you only write 200 words a day, that's about the length of a novel over the course of a year. And that's fine - as long as you take the long view.

There's no hurry for the career writer.

My partner and I write every day. It's not a competition to us. It's just something we do.

Okay, so I wish sometimes there were clones of me that I could set to write this or edit that. Sometimes I wonder about bending time so that more hours were somehow available to me during the day.

But hey, that ain't gonna happen.

I have to take the long view. That if I want a piece of writing to be right and good, it will take time.

And if it takes a day, a week or a year, that's okay.

Doing your best is what matters.

And turning up, as Woody Allen once said, is 99% of success.

Keep writing!

© Rob Parnell

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Have You Tested Your Theme Against Your Plot?

How we usually begin the preparation stage in the writing process is…
 We think of an idea for a story
 We think of a suitable theme
 We plot

Once we come up with a theme and we begin plotting, we have to see how the theme and the plot match up. Sometimes as we plot we find that the theme we had initially chosen won’t do.

For example…

‘Winning The Lottery Makes Your Life Easier’

Plotting with this theme in mind, we have our characters pay off all their debts, go on endless shopping sprees, go on holidays, etc. We find though that this won’t make a very interesting story. So we spice it up, adding to the theme or coming up with a different one.

“Winning The Lottery Makes Your Life Easier But Everything Has Its Price.”

We can show the characters living the life of the rich for a while before they realize that being wealthy has its problems too...

• They now fear for their safety
• Their friends and relatives are constantly harping at their door asking for assistance
• Etc

This second scenario creates more problems for the characters, so it’s more interesting for us readers.


The preparation stage is there to prepare before you write. It’s our workbench where we figure everything out. We test our theme, we test our plot and once everything passes the test, then we begin writing.

You can change the theme as many times as you feel it needs changing, while you are in the preparation stage.

The main thing is to make your story interesting.

It’s not a good idea to keep changing the theme when writing the story because then you will have to keep changing the story. This means rewriting.

Figure everything out then write.

Have you tested your theme against your plot?

© Nick Vernon

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Quotes (4)

 "There will come a day, if you persist, when your pen will move nimbly and you will feel elated, and exclaim to yourself: Now I know that I can write," Arnold Bennett

"Jilly Cooper has been described as 'insecure and ludicrously sensitive': characteristics of any successful writer," Michael Joseph

"Writing is a dog's life, but the only one worth living," Gustave Flaubert

"If you write from the heart, you are writing at the very best of your ability," Bernie Ross

"I can't write a sex scene. In my first book there was one four-letter word, and my mother saw it and told me off about it. I wrote a sex scene and when Doubleday (publishers) saw it they just laughed at me. They said, 'You don't need it. You are a story-teller,'" Jeffrey Archer

"When I was ten, my dad bought me a second-hand typewriter and I typed out these little tales and stitched them in a folder with a hand-painted title. When I was twelve I submitted one - about a little horse, I think - to something called The Children's Mag and it was actually published. I have never stopped writing since," Barbara Taylor Bradford

"Write hard and clear about what hurts," Ernest Hemingway

"All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath," F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Don't allow yourself to get fussed over how to begin. Don't sit staring at a blank screen," Donna Levin

"Raising questions and then supplying plausible, yet unexpected answers, this is the job of the storyteller," David Gerrold

"Fiction fatigue - expect it, and don't let it ruin your story," Ansen Dibble

"I would never write about someone who is not at the end of his rope," Stanley Elkin

"Give the readers a book with people they care about and they will queue up to shake the author's hand," Norman Cousins

"An exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke," F. Scott Fitzgerald

"Always remember your reader, or else you are talking to yourself," Nigel Watts

"I don't have much time for a playwright that can't write a book, because I don't think they can. A play is a piece of cake to write, it you can write dialogue, and you can plot. They get much lauded, everyone from Tennesse Williams to Pinter and Stoppard. I'd like to see them write a novel. They couldn't in my opinion." Roald Dhal

"I've never had a short story published. So, in a way, I didn't really achieve my ambition. In that sense I'm still a failure." Joseph Wambaugh

"When in doubt, cut." Ford Madox Ford

"Too much polishing weakens rather than improves a work." Pliny the Younger

"An even battle is more fun to watch." Ansen Dibell

"The first person you should think of pleasing, in writing a book, is yourself." Patricia Highsmith

"Most authors would consider it undesirable to approach a publisher in a dirty incoherent condition. But that is, in effect, what they do when they submit a dirty and dilapidated manuscript." Stanley Unwin

"First, find out what the hero wants and then just follow him/her." Ray Bradbury

"What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure." Samuel Johnson

"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." HG Wells

"It took me 15 years to discover I had no talent for writing. But I couldn't give it up because by that time I was too famous." Robert Benchley

“Write a short story every week. It's not possible to write 52 bad short stories in a row.” Ray Bradbury

Saturday, 14 October 2017

The Oracle

Seven keys to unlock your dreams, seven words you need to hold dear on your journey. They are:

1. Passion

You cannot devote your life to anything without a passion for it. No amount of coulda, shoulda, woulda will help.

If you don't know what your passion is, look for it, identify it. You'll know what it is when you feel warm inside and a smile touches your lips.

Follow your passion.

2. Energy

You cannot fuel your passion without the enthusiasm to pursue your chosen path.

Enthusiasm needs your body fit and your mind alert. Then you can focus on what is important to you. If you're not feeling healthy, find time to relax and nurture your self, your being.

When you're relaxed, your energy will multiply and your enthusiasm go further - and your passion can become manifest.

3. Resolve

All the passion and energy in the world will amount to naught without a goal and the determination to reach it.

When you venture on a course you know to be fulfilling, you must see its end point and know you are committed to the journey.

A sure resolve in your heart will keep your energy high and your passion focused.

4. Study

You cannot continue or succeed in your chosen field without the right tools at your disposal, nor the attitudes that will help you.

Learn everything there is to know about your endeavors. Study the paths that others have taken, emulate their manners and their techniques, and you will surely arrive at the destination you desire.

Feed your thirst for knowledge to strengthen your resolve, to harness your energy and to fuel your passion.

5. Invention

Your vocation needs increasing. You must add your own self to that which you study.

Merely repeating or copying is not enough. You must love your work so that it grows. Find new meaning, new connections, new relevance and create as much as you employ.

Expand your inventiveness as you study your life's work, and your resolve will heighten, increasing your energy and passion.

6. Strategy

Anyone can dream, anyone can make a wish, but it is the superior person who makes a plan, and draws a map to show the way.

There are signs that point towards your success - and you must seek them out, acknowledge them and forever look beyond them into the distant hopeful horizon.

Know where you are going, write down the itinerary and follow the path. If the path is not there, invent it, resolve to make it clear with your multiplying energy and your passion.

7. Trust

You need faith to pursue a dream that others may believe is not for you. But others are not you - and cannot know your heart.

You must trust your instincts, your intuition and your intention. They will guide you on your journey. That is their purpose.

Believe that the Universe, or your God, lovingly wants you to succeed - and you will.

Passion, energy, resolve, study, invention, strategy, trust - they all come together and the first letter of each will remind you of the single most important directive you will ever need to tell yourself:


Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Monday, 9 October 2017

Quotes (3)

To spice the short replies to his fan mail he would often include a little poem. 

This is just one of many...

'Dear children far across the sea,

How nice of you to write to me;

I love to hear the things you say,

When you are miles and miles away.

All children, and I think I'm right,

Are nicer when they're out of sight.'

Roald Dahl

"People write to me from all over the world and I say to them: Sit down, and write a story about what you know. If you are good at it, we'll all read it. It doesn't matter where you are or what you are doing, a good story-teller just tells a story. Kane and Abel couldn't be more simple," Jeffrey Archer

"If you're going to write, don't pretend to write down. It's going to be the best that you can do, and it's the fact that it's the best that you can do that kills you," Dorothy Parker

"Know the story - as much of the story as you can possibly know if not the whole story - before you commit yourself to the first paragraph. Know the story - the whole story if possible - before you fall in love with your first sentence, not to mention your first chapter. If you don't know the story before you begin, what kind of storyteller are you? Just an ordinary kind, just a mediocre kind, making it up as you go along like a common liar," John Irving

"Gin and water is the source of all my inspiration." Lord Byron

"Whisky and beer for fools; absinthe for poets." Ernest Dowson

"Really, I can't imagine the drug scene. My generation are drinkers and smokers; I wouldn't stick a needle in myself for a hatful of golden guineas." Philip Larkin

"It is splendid to be a great writer, to put men into the frying pan of your words and make them pop like chestnuts." Gustave Flaubert

"No iron can stab the heart with such force as a full stop put just at the right place." Isaac Babel

"All experience is good for writers - except for physical pain." William Trevor

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Quotes (2)

"The most essential gift of a good writer is a built-in shockproof shit detector," Hemingway

"Plot is a Verb," Ansen Dibell

"If the summary of your own story turns out to be one you haven't already seen fifty times, so much the better. If not, don't worry: all the love stories haven't yet been written, nor anything close," Ansen Dibble

"Beginning a character's dialogue by letting him name the other person is the obvious way of telling the reader to whom he is speaking," Jean Saunders

"Rather, very, little, pretty - these are the leeches that infest the pond of prose, sucking the blood of words...we should all be very watchful of this rule, for it is rather an important one and we are pretty sure to violate it now and again," Strunk & White

"A good too many young writers make the mistake of enclosing a SAE big enough for the manuscript to come back in. This is too much of a temptation to the editor," Ring Lardner

"Get that first draft down on paper. If you are stuck in some section just put a page with 'here so-and-so finds out where the key was hidden,' or 'here there's a scene where they fall in love,' or ' I don't know exactly what happens here,' then plunge on. Get it all down. Finish the book." Dominick Dunne

"I have had a sign on my typewriter for 20 years, that says - 'don't think, do it!'," Ray Bradbury

"I'm a frustrated actress. I act all these characters. If I don't cry about them, if I don't laugh at their jokes, if I don't lose my temper and if I don't swear, it doesn't seem that I am writing them; someone else is. I act all these characters, I live these characters. And I never use four-letter words either, just all the 'damns' and 'blasts', and nor will I go into the dockyard atrocities of sex. I imply it and let the reader take it from there," Catherine Cookson

Friday, 1 September 2017

What's That Knocking Sound?

We've been busy these last couple of weeks going through staff applications and we've just started conducting interviews.

It's fascinating to view so many different people and gain some appreciation and insight for their very different lives, hopes and dreams.

As a writer, coming into contact with new people obviously fires my imagination and makes me think of characters I may not have considered - or imagined - before.

Be that as it may... (one of those strange clichés that doesn't appear to say what you think it means.)

It's also interesting to me because the whole experience of expanding my horizons has made me re-evaluate where I want to take my writing business in the future.

The other night I couldn't sleep. I was thinking about what I would do if I had a huge staff of helpers, consultants and writers. What would be possible? Just what could I achieve, I thought, if I had a large corporation of people to run, occupy and motivate?

Instead of just trucking along with a few websites and an off line writing school, what else could I do?

It was a liberating moment - even exhilarating to think of all the wonderful things that might be possible given the resources.

I realized there were no end of possibilities. I could write hundreds of books, publish them all, get them into shops and spend a fortune or promotion and marketing...

I could sell franchises, fund charities, give grants to artists, make movies and TV series. I could set up writing schools in every town in the world. I could feed the starving, terraform Mars...

Heady stuff indeed.

And I realized later that this was a lesson too.

That we're often restricted by our own limited world view. And that in order to grow we sometimes need to not only use our imaginations but also to begin taking some action.

I remember reading in The Secret that we should imagine our goals as though they'd already happened. But, try as I might, I never felt I was more than kidding myself - that I was merely play-acting and couldn't really grasp any real sense of having something I didn't actually possess.

Maybe my goals were too large, or too nebulous. I don't know.

Law of Attraction gurus, Esther and Jerry Hicks say the same - that if you visualize your goals and wants as manifest - that is, already existing, then somehow the emotional connection to your desire magnetically draws you towards your results.

All very good in theory. But personally I never liked the implication that if you don't pull off this magic trick of 'experiencing what you don't have', then success is never going to happen to you.

Sounds like a self help guru's cop out to me: The by now old "You attract failure because that is what you want" argument.

I guess I find visualization hard - and I think this goes for many - because I/we know what real success and achievement feels like.

Those moments in our lives when we're amazed at ourselves and are elated are so deeply etched on us that 'faking' them seems counter-intuitive.

I will never forget how fabulous I felt when I got my first advance of money for a screenplay. That feeling of overwhelming joy and fulfilment stayed with me for at least a couple of months. There's no way I could fake that!

I think what I'm trying to say is that if you want to achieve something special or important to you, like writing a book for instance, you need to take the actual steps necessary. That is, begin the journey.

Don't spend lots of time thinking. Spend more time doing.

Take action.

Anthony Robbins once said that opportunity does not come knocking at your door.

No, it often comes crashing through your house.

But many times we don't actually like the mess that opportunity makes and we tend to brush it away before we get too involved.

Don't be afraid to open your mind to new possibilities.

In your fiction - and in your life.

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Who's Your Main Antagonist?

When writing fiction, writers are forced to consider the protagonist and his or her agenda. We need to ask what our hero's goals are and where they want to end up as people.

Now usually, there is an antagonist whose desire to thwart the hero's goals is at least as strong, if not stronger than the hero's.

But what about writers themselves? Who is their main antagonist?

Alas - usually themselves.

When it comes to writing, there's that little guy inside your head who wants to criticize - endlessly. His voice reminds you constantly that you have no special talent, that your writing is average at best, and that you should never, ever show your work to anyone because, well, it's crap.

Helpful little fella. And to think, he lives inside of us!

Suppressing the inner critic is a necessary part of the writing process. If we couldn't silence the little rascal, we'd never write anything. Indeed many writers get stuck on page one because they can't ignore the nagging doubts the inner critic has no qualms about repeating and reinforcing every time they sit down and write.

Much of my teaching in my Easy Writing System is about dealing with your internal critic because I think, especially for the first draft, it's not very helpful. The inner critic's job comes later, after the main thrust of the story is down - from beginning to end.

Because one of the main problems with the inner critic is that he stops you from finishing anything. I know many writers who never finish anything because the critic takes over their thinking before they get anywhere near the end of their stories or pieces. Not good.

Disastrous in fact.

It gets worse.

Because even after you've completed your work, polished it, worked hard and let yourself believe you have created something of value, the critic is still there.

You have the submission envelope in your hand, ready. But he's waiting by the door, arms folded, foot tapping, looking at you with that nasty smug expression, saying, "You've not actually going to send that out are you?"

And you're forced to wonder:

Just how embarrassing would it be to send this out?

Just how bad is my writing?

What will people think of it?

What will people think of me?

None of which is helpful to you - or your potential career.

Well, there's hope. Because the fact is, it doesn't matter how far you get, that inner critic never goes away. So while you can consult with him on technical issues and listen to his advice sometimes, you really just have to shut him up, lock him away in the shed, when the time comes to submitting.

You need to develop a brave and cavalier attitude towards your work once it's done. Get it out there.

What's the worse that can happen?

You get rejected. So what? Join the ranks of the writer. We all get rejected all the time, for all the wrong reasons - and only occasionally for the right ones!

I remember a story from the music business (one of my favorite sources of anecdotes) about Marianne Faithful. She was a pop star in the sixties and had a fling with Mick Jagger if memory serves. Well, at one point she was making a comeback single with the Pet Shop Boys and got very angry with herself during the vocal take.

At one point she started crying, beating herself up for being less than perfect. At which point Neil Tennant said to her, "Hey Marianne, get it together, it's only a song."

And there's a lesson here I think. Because if you think about it, your submission is only a story. You might attach all kinds of significance to it but, really, it's just another bunch of words that, if you never send them out, are not going to be read - or missed - anyway.

So again, what's the worst that can happen?

If you get rejected, write some more. Send them out instead. Any successful writer will tell you that the more you send out the more lucky you seem to get. And better probably, simply because you will not give up.

Look at Matthew Reilly.

Here's a writer with awesome self belief. Here's a guy that, despite being serially rejected, self published his work because he was convinced there was a huge market for his extraordinarily bad prose. (Sorry, Matthew, nothing personal. I'm actually a big fan.)

And you know what?

He was right. He's now a best selling author, big time. And all of his faults and inadequacies as a writer have become his trademark, his genius if you will.

People say the same about JK Rowling (behind closed doors of course) - and dare I say, many other billion dollar phenomena.

You don't have to be superb anymore. You don't have to be literary. You just have to be out there.

You have to catch the tide of popularity - and find your own fans.

They're out there. Waiting for you.

You just gotta believe it.

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Quotes (1)

"Make 'em laugh; make 'em cry; make 'em wait," Charles Reade

"Stay with what it is and it will give you everything that isn't. From this wooden table I am learning on, I can build a whole world of fiction," Natalie Goldberg

"Get on with it. There are people who 'talk book', and there are people who 'write book': talking writers, and writing writers," Arthur Hailey

"Asking a writer what he thinks about critics, is like asking a lamppost how it feels about dogs," Christopher Hampton

"The title of the novel is part of the text, the first part of it, in fact, that we encounter - and therefore has considerable power to attract and condition the reader's attention," David Lodge

"I have never written for more than half an hour in my life. Writing to me only occupies a teeny wee bit of my life. And to be truthful, I hate writing. I wouldn't like the idea of writing all day at all," James Herriot

"If a writer knows something, even if he doesn't write it, it is present in his work," Hemingway

"If you have a skeleton in your cupboard, take it out and dance with it," Carolyn Mackenzie

"If a publisher declines your manuscript, remember it is merely the decision of one fallible human being, try another," Stanley Unwin

"If you really want to achieve greatness, you have to keep challenging yourself. You have to keep going back into yourself," James Elroy

"What all of us must do is get an idea that excites US and then write the hell out of it. Write it as well as you know how. And if you hit a nerve, and it's true, then you have a chance," Sidney Sheldon

"As a writer, you're rejected so often that you have to develop a resilience. So when I'm down it rarely lasts...I search around until I find something to get excited about," Alex Hailey

"Do they keep throwing the book at Jeffrey Archer as an act of revenge for his lousy novels?" Keith Waterhouse

"You wrote too fast. You're scared. Slow down. You shouldn't write a short story in less than two months," Cecil Dawkins

"The beginning is the 'want', the middle the 'conflict' and the end is the 'resolution'," Danny Simon

Friday, 14 July 2017

Does The Name You Chose Suit Your Character?

How do you choose a name? Do you put down the first name that pops into your mind? Initially that’s what I used to do, until someone pointed out to me that there are a few things to take into consideration when choosing a name…

1. You Have To Be Comfortable With It

We associate names with people we know. If you like a certain name but know and dislike a person who bears it, will you feel comfortable using that name in your story?

Will you mentally shut that person out or will you be reminded of them each time you type that name?

Our characters have to be likable to us before they can become likeable to our readers. Will your dislike for that person transfer to your character?

2. It Must Be Easy To Pronounce

The English language can be, at times, misleading. How many words, and even names we spell one way and pronounce another? If the name you have chosen falls into this category, will your readers know how to pronounce it?

For years I use to pronounce the beautiful name ‘Sean’ exactly how it’s written ‘Seen,’ when it’s pronounced by the much nicer sounding ‘Shorn.’ Will the name you choose bear the same problem?

If you choose a difficult pronouncing name for your character and worse, one that’s not widely known, you stand to lose the effect of that name. A beautiful sounding name can be utterly destroyed if your reader doesn’t know how to pronounce it.

Your story has to flow. If the name you’ve chosen is not easy to pronounce, the readers will constantly stop each time they come across it. This will disrupt the flow of your story.

3. Foreign Sounding Names

The same as the above applies to foreign sounding names. They must be easy to pronounce. Consider the following:


These names sound exotic but they don’t exactly roll off the tongue. Should you compromise the flow of the story for the sake of a name?

4. Does The Name Suit Your Character?

Not all names suit all people and not all names will suit all characters. Like clothing and hairstyles, names go out of fashion too.

For example...

Let’s say your heroine is a lively, upbeat, modern lady. Will it suit her type of personality if we choose the name ‘Mabel’? ‘Mabel’ we usually associate with an elderly aunt or grandmother.

What about your hero? Let’s say he’s a young man who possesses a powerful personality. Will the name ‘Hubert?’ suit him? ‘Hubert’ would suit an elderly character or perhaps a ‘quiet’ character.

5. They Shouldn’t Start With The Same Letter

If you’re going to have two main characters in your story and their names start with the same letter, it will read a little awkwardly.


 David and Debra
 Sam and Sue
 George and Gina

6. Surnames

Like we carefully choose the first name for our characters, we have to be careful when selecting their surnames. Just like first names, there are certain surnames, which sound better than others.

When selecting a surname, make sure it has a pleasant ring, when used with the first name. Using names, which rhyme like, Jeff Jefferson, sound amusing. If this is the effect you wish to create then using it is fine.

7. Stereotype Names

Are you thinking of naming your character Adolph or Judas? There’s nothing wrong with these names, except for the fact that we tend to associate them with that single person in history who bore them. Will your reader trust your hero if you name him Judas?

8. Famous Names

I recall a quote I once read which went something like this…

“Nothing grows under the shade of a tree.”

If you name your character Elvis, Madonna etc.. Will your character be able to outshine the ultra famous person of whom the world knows? I doubt it.


When naming characters there are also a few other points to consider…

Naming them will not only depend on what kind of people they are, but who their parents or guardians were (if the parents or guardians play some sort of role in your story). After all, we don’t name ourselves, do we? So take into consideration the following…

1) What kind of people are the parents?

a) Free spirited?

Unusual names will rank highly amongst people like this.

For example,

 The seasons of the year
 Or perhaps a month in the year
 Or an object
 Etc

b) Conservative?

These types of people tend to use the full name rather than an abbreviated version of it.

For example,

 Kathleen instead of Kat
 Michael instead of Mike
 Etc

2) What Is The Parents/Guardians Nationality?

If they’re traditional, they will choose a name, which is popular in their country. Also traditional parents/guardians tend to give their children the names of their own parents or other relatives.

Look at the name you chose for your main characters. Does the name suit them?

© Nick Vernon

Sunday, 9 July 2017

How to Write a Mi££ion

How to Write a Million

How to Write a Mi££ion - Orson Scott Card


by Michael Ridpath

In the summer of 1990 I decided that I wanted to start writing. I had the means (a computer), I had a little time, and I had the desire to do something a little more creative than watching TV. So, being that sort of chap, I bought half a dozen books on the subject. The first few gave some thoughts on the wonders of being a writer, ran over some basic techniques, discussed Hemingway and Faulkner, and suggested some exercises which ranged from the interesting to the inane. They gave me some ideas to while away a few hours whilst making it perfectly clear that someone like me would never actually be able to complete a book, let alone get it published.

Then I turned to the two Writer's Workshop books, *Characters & Viewpoint and Plot*. Suddenly my interest quickened. These books were about writing real books and stories, the sort which are all around us, which people read everyday. They discussed the practicalities of making characters come to life, of planning and then controlling the plot. And, what was most important, they made me think that writing a book could be fun, something that even I could do, and something I would enjoy. Somehow the nitty gritty of how to put a book together seemed to make the whole activity much more exciting than inspirational thoughts on the trials and tribulations of being an author.

I couldn't wait to get started. But, I thought, I had better pace myself, write a few scenes, a short story or two. My first exercise was to write the opening scene of a novel. I wrote about the most exciting thing I could think of what had happened to me (coping with a large bond trade that went wrong), and then I exaggerated a bit.

After half an hour of clumsy tapping, I was hooked. Bugger the exercises, I wanted to write the whole book! So, I started a plan, much of it whilst I was munching a sandwich in a quiet courtyard just behind the Bank of England. Planning was difficult. I spent several weeks worrying over character and plot, and practical tips that eked from the pages of my two Writer's Workshop books were invaluable.

Eventually, I began writing. Much to my surprise, a year later, I actually completed a draft. I showed it to my wife and friends. The criticisms came flooding back; characters are too superficial, no sense of place, too many cliches in character as well as metaphor, not enough twists in the plot, the ending was no good, and many more. Depressed, I put the writing to one side.

But I missed it. Several months later, I dug out my manuscript and reread it. It wasn't all bad, and I could see what my circle of critics meant - I even agreed with them on most things. So, I set out to solve the problems. Once again the Writer's Workshop books were useful. How could I make my hero more sympathetic? How could I pace the plot better? The exisiting ending had to go entirely, what would work as a replacement? I found hints and clues that eventually led to answers.

To work again. Another draft, more criticism, yet another draft, and by the autumn of 1993 I had a book which was about as good as it was going to get. I wrote a synopsis and sent it off to some agents together with a couple of chapters.

I was fully prepared for a rejection. I knew that the odds were against finding a publisher for a first novel, however good, but I was willing to persevere, working my way down a long list of agents. But even if the book were never published the three years of hard work were well worthwhile. I had enjoyed writing it, my wife and friends had, eventually, enjoyed reading it.

I was lucky. The second agent on my list, Carole Blacke of Blacke Friedmann, liked my book. She sent it to a number of publishers with an enthusiastic note. Five of them began bidding against each other, and within a month I had sold *Free To Trade* to Heinemann for an advance which exceeded all my expectations. Carole subsequently sold the rights to thirteen countries. I can now afford to write during the day rather than in odd corners of the evening or weekend.

It would be wrong to pretend that publication isn't important; of course we all want to see our books in bookshops. But there is so much more about the process of writing a book that is interesting; rewarding and just plain fun, which I believe, is more important. I am convinced that it is the enjoyment of the writing process; rather than a desire for publication or an attempt to write what sells, which leads in the end to the creation of your book.

These books helped me understand something of this process, and made me realise it was something I wanted to do. I have subsequently read, *Dialogue, Setting and Revision*, all of which have an equally down to earth approach to the problems every writer faces. Read these books. Enjoy them. And start writing. It's fun!

Thursday, 6 July 2017

On Best Sellers

The biggest selling book of all time is of course The Bible. Hardly surprising given its place and significance in our history. But, strictly speaking, the Bible doesn't count for our purposes because it's not supposed to be fiction (though some might disagree.)

I want to restrict my study of the bestseller to fiction - because to me, any book about things that aren't obviously real, would have to pretty powerful to inspire millions of people to buy it.


Would it surprise you then to discover that the most verifiable bestselling novel, ever, is in fact Charles Dickens "A Tale of Two Cities"?

Surprised the hell out of me. Yep, apparently we've consumed over 200 million copies of this saga about the French Revolution and its affect on English mores.

After that, we're on more familiar ground with "Lord of the Rings" at around 150 million - and apparently this figure isn't skewed by the book often being sold as three books - they're still only counted as one.

The redoubtable Agatha Christie comes in third with "And Then There Were None', which in pre PC times was called "Ten Little Niggers" - a cracking good read with a brilliant twist, written in 1939.

Here we get the glimmerings of one of my first conclusions about writing bestsellers. That from the first three entries what's clear is that so called 'literary' writing is not always what counts. It's emphatically the story that is more important.

This is especially apparent when we look at number five in the list. (The Hobbit is at number four - but clearly Tolkien had the advantage of writing number two.) The fifth bestselling novel of all time is in fact "She" by Rider Haggard.

What? I hear you gasp.

Again here we see another indication that story is king.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery's "The Little Prince" weighs in next, for reasons not immediately obvious. I mean, it's a cute story about kingship and aliens but 80 million copies? Must have been a slow news day.

Next, at number seven, we're at least not so flummoxed by the news that "The Da Vinci Code" has earned its place in the top ten bestsellers of all time.

I can already hear that rumbling out there. You're wondering about young Harry, aren't you? Patience, please.

Number eight reveals our twentieth century obsession with all things warped with "Catcher in the Rye" - the book that arguably spawned a handful of psychopaths - and to this day I still find impenetrable. I'm often struck by the thought that it really must be about something, though I'm still not quite sure what. Maybe that's its adolescent appeal. (I prefer the more familiar ground of Camus' "The Outsider".)

Number Nine - and one my favorites: "The Alchemist" by Portuguese visionary Paulo Coelho. At least here a profound message is disguised as a great piece of deceptively simple writing.

And what about number ten?

Don't hold your breath, you'll be disappointed to learn - perhaps even disgruntled to know - that "Heidi's Years of Wandering and Learning" by the less than familiar Johanna Spyri takes that coveted spot.

Well, knock me down with a fevver, as they say in London.

It was at this point in my research that I decided that perhaps the focus of my newest writing course should be on modern bestsellers - because I'm not sure there's much to gleaned from all of us running out to recreate Heidi-esque novels. But perhaps we shouldn't be overly dismissive either. There are indeed elements in "Heidi" that are duplicated in all bestselling novels - but you'll have to wait for my latest course to discover them.

So, I can feel that tug on my arm again...

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" comes in at number seventeen, believe it or not - after such evergreen classics as "Anne of Green Gables", "Black Beauty", "The Name of the Rose", "Charlotte's Web" and the other Potter's "The Tale of Peter Rabbit."

I think what's interesting about these bestsellers is that they're probably not the books you were expecting to see.

I mean, where's "The Godfather" or "Jaws" or "Jurassic Park"?

Top ten movie lists tend to feature the most recent films simply because more people exist to go and see movies nowadays - and gross numbers are what count.

But this does not always seem to be the case with novels.

Each new generation still finds entertainment in the well worn classics it seems - but that doesn't explain why so many classics aren't featured in the bestselling novels list.

Of course most so called bestseller lists produced by book retailers and publishers are often self serving. They list the books they want you to buy - and will often feature books they think people should buy, but don't (not in large numbers anyway.)

I will shy away from conclusions at this point.

Think of the above as a preamble to a major discussion on the content, format and structure of bestsellers, which I intend to release soon, entitled, "Rob Parnell's Anatomy of the Modern Fiction Bestseller."

I'm sure it will shed much needed light for you on the issue of what makes a novel a bestseller - and the fact that duplicating it is well within your grasp as a writer may surprise you too.

Look out for my latest course (my first in over a year) in an inbox near you.

Thanks for reading.

Keep Writing!

© Rob Parnell

Thursday, 8 June 2017

The Things Writers Do to Unblock Themselves

Three years ago, I asked writers in a discussion list the things they do to unblock themselves. Here are some of the responses I received:

1. Forget what I'm working on at the moment, put on some Springsteen and curl up with something written by Hemingway. (Yeah, I know, it's a strange combination.) (Steve B.)

2. Stand up, get a mug of hot chocolate and watch a rerun of "The Simpsons." (Amit K.)

3. I do housework which eventually throws my imagination back in gear because I hate housework. (Rita H.)

4. Go for a walk. I think about the piece I am working on and play with scenes and even dialogue in my mind until I come up with something that feels right. The exercise and the fresh air usually start the creative juices flowing again. (Char A.)

5. If it's something I've promised to do by a deadline, I sit at the 'puter and write stream-of consciousness stuff until the real piece starts coming. This means: I sit here and record everything that is happening at the moment, like the cat walks in, the dog wants to go out, a description of the clock or the calendar, a car going down the road. I forgot to take my vitamins and, oh, I better get some mayo for the salad. Just words, any words at all. (Trudy S.)

6. I work in my flower or vegetable gardens. Getting really close to the earth and nature helps to unclog my thinking process. (Mary L.)

7. I take a bath while listening to music. This clears my head of what I am writing. Music is a great way for me to get in touch with my inspirational side. (Jamie R.)

8. The first thing I do is put on a chick flick. I love to see girls having fun and getting the guys; plus it reminds me of the wild times I have had with my best friend. That always triggers my imagination. (Maggie G.)

9. I imagine a real person that I know, someone who is like the people in my target audience. How would I explain what I want to explain to her? My kids will tell you I feel no shame in talking to myself. I just talk out loud until I feel convincing, and then I scramble for a piece of paper to capture my "brilliance" on. My first attempt at brilliance is usually about as shiny as a lump of coal--but it always has diamond potential. (Becki A.)

10. Read something totally different from what I'm working on -- even if it's the newspaper. Getting my mind on something different helps dissolve that "block." (Lynn P.)

11. I look something up in one of the encyclopaedias and try and write something similar of my own based on the facts. (Clare L.)

12. As a newspaper reporter, I learned that writer's block wasn't permitted on that job. No way I could tell my editor I couldn't think of what to write...if I wanted to meet my deadlines and keep my job. So I guess I can say nowadays (I'm a freelancer, no longer a reporter) that I don't have writer's block. However, I'm always working on many writing projects...trying to keep many balls in the air...and often go from one to the other. If I had to work solely on one project from beginning to end with no breaks, perhaps I'd find it more difficult. avoid writer's block, I'd say have many projects going, so that if you get stuck on one, you have another to go to. And take a walk when you really need a break to "dust the cobwebs from your mind." (Mary Emma Allen)

© 2003-2004 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta

Shery is the creator of WriteSparks! - a software that generates over 1,000,000 Story Sparkers for Writers. WriteSparks!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Have You Established Your Main Character At The Start?

In the beginning of your story you have to grab your readers’ interest and sustain it till the end. Our hook is our character. Readers keep on reading to find out more about the character. To see what he’ll do in the story; how he’ll solve his problems. What his goals are and whether he’ll achieve them.
And because our character is the reason readers become hooked on our stories, establishing him at the start is a must in a short story. And it is essential to establish him at the start because we don’t have the capacity in our limited word length to introduce him at our leisure.

The bond between readers and character has to be developed almost immediately.

You might have a few characters though. How do you decide who your main character will be? A main character is one that drives the story.

Think of it this way… If we were to take him away, there will be no story because it’s his story we are telling. The story will unfold by what is happening or what has happened to him.

When you establish who your main character will be, the next thing to do is to find which of your characters is in the best position to tell the story. Will your main character tell his story or will you give that role to another character?

This is what we call Viewpoint and what we’ll see in more detail in proceeding chapters.

Your main character isn’t necessarily the one who is telling the story; he might not even appear in our story ‘physically’ but will be there through the thoughts of others. So the viewpoint character might be a secondary character.

Whoever is telling the story is the viewpoint character.

The viewpoint character gives the coloring of the story. Whatever this characters says, we will believe. It may or may not be true, according to the main character, but because he isn’t there ‘physically’ to voice his opinions, we will have to take the viewpoint character’s word for it.

In a novel you can play around with viewpoint. You can have several viewpoint characters. In a short story it works best with one.

So your main character, whether he’ll be telling his own story or someone else will be doing it for him, has to be established at the start of your story.

Having said that, let’s see the reasons why the main character may not be telling his own story...

• Perhaps our main character is one that readers won’t sympathize or empathize with.

• Or the main character will not view highly with our readers

• Or the viewpoint character knows all the facts and can tell the story better

• Etc.


Let me give you an example of a secondary character telling the story of a main character…

Let’s say your secondary character is a psychiatrist and the main character is the patient. Depending on what’s going to go on in the story, we’ll have to choose who’s in a better position to tell it. In this case, I will choose the psychiatrist.

I’ve done this because the patient is confused, being the one with the problems. The psychiatrist knows all the facts and his opinions will make things clearer to readers.

So, as the secondary character (the psychiatrist) unravels the story, we’ll become involved in the main character because it’s the main character’s story that is been told.

This may get a little confusing to the beginner writer. As they write they will have to keep in mind that the secondary character, although he’s telling the story, is NOT our main character.

The secondary character is there to do perform a task. He’s only the voice. It’s the main character we’ll become involved with.

A secondary character doesn’t play such an important role as a main character does. Therefore, information about secondary characters should be kept to a minimum. It’s not his story – it’s the main character’s story and the spotlight must, most times, be kept on the main character.

Take the above example for instance. It’s no relevance to the story how the psychiatrist started his career or where he received his diploma – what’s important, is what he has to say about the main character, his patient.


Introduce your main character straight away, as close to the beginning of the story that’s possible. Enable your readers to form a bond and that will keep them hooked.

Is your main character established at the start of your story?

© Nick Vernon

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Can Your Theme Be Proved In Your Story?

Your theme has to be something you can prove in your story - It doesn’t have to be a universal truth. This means that your theme doesn’t have to be something that happens in real life all the time (providing our logic can accept it, in order for us to believe it).

Whatever story you choose to write, be it a contemporary or a story which requires elements of fantasy such as in horror, science fiction etc… the events of that story have to appear logical.

What is not logical and consequently not believable is…

A character that has no knowledge of computers and overnight becomes a computer whiz

A car that goes over a cliff, bursts into flames and the character manages to escape unscratched


These are not believable because they can’t and don’t happen in real life and our logic doesn’t accept them.

Your theme will be believed when you prove it (providing of course you can.) Let’s see how you can do that.

We’ll start with a theme…

“Hard work leads to success.’

Our story is about a character whose goal is to reach a managerial position within the company that he works. For the reader to see how the character will reach his goal I will show him…

 Working hard
 Working long hours
 Using his initiative
 Being responsible

And all those qualities, in the end, will secure him the promotion he has been aiming for.

So my theme here will be proved that ‘Hard work leads to success’ because my character succeeds in the end.

From the examples I have given so far, you may have noticed that my stories end on a happy note. Yours don’t have to. The ending will depend on the story you are writing and how you, the writer, prefers to end it.

I could have done the reverse with this theme. I could have said,

“Hard work doesn’t lead to success.”

My story will be the same but in the end I will have the character missing out on the promotion. Both themes will be proved because I have proved them in my story.

Any theme can work in a story providing you can prove it.

Have you proved your theme?

© Nick Vernon

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

When You Hate Your Own Writing...

It's one of those bizarre phenomena - the way writers see-saw between a love/hate relationship with their own writing.

You're in the throes of a story or an article - you don't want to stop because you're feeling inspired. Each word and phrase seems to resonate with profound meaning. The drama and/or the thought process seems to be unfolding well - and you're on a high. Finally, it seems as though the hotline between your thoughts and the page are in sync - you're writing well and all is right with the world.

This feeling can last a few hours, even a few days...

... until you look back at what you've done.

Then the angst sets in.

The writing you thought was superb suddenly seems clunky and inadequate. The phrases you particularly liked now seem awkward and ill-formed. Worse, your intellect seems exposed: you feel as though your writing shows you to be the hack you never wanted to be: the metaphors lack depth and the imagery is weak. The writing doesn't work. It's just, well, awful...

"The horror, the horror!" to quote Joseph Conrad who, irritatingly enough, wrote in several different languages and still managed to look like a genius in all of them. Gah!

What's a writer to do?

First take comfort in the fact that all writers go through this.

There's not a one that at some point didn't think they were the worst writer in the world (even Joseph Conrad.) It's got nothing to do with talent or dedication or practice or experience. Every writer goes through periods of self doubt. It's part of the landscape.

Next, take stock.

What have you got?

At the very least you've got some words on paper. You can congratulate yourself that you've at least done something 90% of would be writers struggle with - actually doing it.

If you're working to a, usually self imposed, deadline, this is good. At least you don't have to go through the pain of starting. There's something down. The rest is surely just editing...

If only it were that easy.

Sometimes I wish I was more easily satisfied. It would be wonderful to write a few lines and think, Now that's cool. Perfect, I don't need to change a thing.

But that's not how it works.

I have a semi-finished novel I've been editing for months. I do a little every day if I can. It's around 85,000 words altogether and do you know what?

Every single time I sit down to work on it, I end up reworking the damned opening paragraph!

I can't understand why but every time I open up the file, I feel the need to edit the beginning. Is that perfectionism? It doesn't feel like it. Seems more like insecurity - or simply frustration that I can't find a bunch of words that work for me every time. I mean, how hard can it be?


We have to be patient.

We have to take our time.

As you know, I'm all for writing the first draft of a novel in around thirty days. Or around 30000 to 50000 words a month.

Stephenie Meyer says she wrote Twilight in just three months. Makes you want to throttle her, doesn't it?

If there's any justice it took at least a couple of years to edit.

Because editing is where the work is. My novel has around ninety chapters - and after beating myself up over the final manuscript for the last week, I've made a few decisions.

1. It's not really ready to send out. (I have actually sent it out twice and received two rejections. I can handle it - not.)

2. If I'm going to edit it again, I need to do it slowly, taking care over every singe word. Only then will I be happy - won't I?

3. At one short chapter a day of around 1000 to 2500 words, it will take me about three months to edit the whole novel (again). But that's okay. What's three months when the final, final, final version will last forever, right?

Fiction in particular I think is hard to get right. Easy to write, hard to get right. Fiction needs to look effortless - which ironically requires more effort on the part of the writer.

But in my own case, I'm sure it will be worth it.

I want this next novel to be perfect - to impress everyone who reads it. I want it to be a bestseller...

Is that asking too much?

Maybe. You can't expect everyone to like a story.

Okay, I can accept that.

It's just that I have to like it first!

Thank you for letting me vent.

I hope this little rant helps with your own writing demons.

At least now you'll know you're not alone...

Keep writing!

© Rob Parnell

Monday, 8 May 2017

Becoming a Better Writer

The urge to write fiction seems God given for some, a learned skill for others.

One thing is certain – it requires practice and a particular mindset. But, if you’re a beginner, where do you start?

The following 10 tips will help kick-start your writing habit, whether you’re a complete novice, or perhaps a pro who has lost their way!

1. Step Away From the Car, Sir.

Slightly detach yourself from your surroundings. Stop participating and begin observing. In social situations, watch people, see how they act and – more importantly - interact.

Don’t pass judgment. Take it all in – and draw on it later when you write.

2. Look Harder, Homer.

Stop and look around you. Consciously notice the buildings, what’s underfoot, overhead, and what’s right in front of you.

At home, look at something you take for granted. An iron, for instance. Find yours and study it.

3. Write Thinking Will Be Rewarded.

A simple technique. Your mother is making tea and you are chatting to her. Take a mental step back and describe the scene.

Similarly, when you’re outside, describe your environment as though you were writing it down.

4. What Reasons Do You Need?

Don’t wait for inspiration – just write!

Force yourself to write anything at all. A shopping list. An overheard conversation. Describe your bedroom.

It doesn’t matter how personal it is, or how trivial, just get it down!

5. Wakey Wakey!

Set your alarm clock for an hour earlier than normal.

When the alarm goes off, get up. Don’t dress, bathe or eat. Don’t even make coffee. Just stagger to your writing space and write the first thing that comes into your head for five minutes.

6. Oh God – Not That!

Think of the most awful and embarrassing thing you’ve ever done - the more cringe-worthy the better. Now write about it. All of it, in all its gory, horrible detail.

Then hide it away for a year or so before you read it again!

7. Like Your Style, Baby.

Don’t limit yourself. Write poems, songs, dialogue, fact, fiction, even practice writing advertising copy or horoscopes.

Your expertise improves in all areas – an improvement in one area can reap benefits in another.

8. The Sincerest Flattery

Take out a classic book from your bookcase. Copy out a paragraph. Think about the words as you write them. Don’t get intimidated!

9. Wanna See My Invention?

When you’re not writing, string together stories in your mind. Think of plots, characters, settings, dénouements.

Ask yourself what you should do next to improve your writing.

Develop this technique into a habit.

10. It’s A Goal!

When you start writing regularly, set yourself small goals. Anything from 200 words a day, or just a commitment to writing in your diary.

Later extend to finishing a short story, or an article or a poem. Perhaps one in a week.

The trick is to set goals you can achieve easily.

That way you’ll get the writing habit - and you won’t forget to enjoy it!

© Rob Parnell


Monday, 24 April 2017

Is Your Title Compelling?

Your title is your selling tool. It’s the first thing readers will scan and contemplate whether to read your story.

What your title’s job is, it has to lure the readers into your story – it has to be so compelling that they won’t even have a chance to ask themselves, ‘Will this story interest me?’

Their eyes will glide over the title and into the story before they realize it. The action will be instant.

What’s a compelling title? It’s one that instantly grabs our attention because it’s…

 Intriguing
 Interesting
 Catchy
 Provocative
 Amusing

Your title may not be all these things but it will have to be at least one. There should be something about it that grabs your readers.

So how do you write compelling titles?

Start by learning from the masters.

Learn from those whose articles and stories are published in newspapers, magazines and, in particular, pay close attention how the writers of Readers Digest go about it. They have been luring readers into their written material for years. They know their stuff.

Here are a few examples of titles taken from Readers Digest….

• Did I really need to know that?

• Who is Jack Kevorkian, Really?

• Against the flames

• Who Killed Margaret Wilson?

Do you have any newspapers or magazines handy, or even better, a Readers Digest magazine? If you do, note down a few titles, then analyze why those particular titles grabbed you.

If you don’t have any magazines handy, take a look at: (in the books section.) See what titles are listed there. Or look at your bookshelf.

Compare them to your title.

Is your title compelling?

If you find that it could be better, here’s an effective way that will ensure you find the best title for your story…

Read through your story and on a piece of paper jot down sentences and/or words that appealed to you as you read. Jot down as many as you come across – Don’t worry about editing them for now. Just note down all that grabbed you.

Then look at your characters. Is there something special about them, a word you could use in a title that will grab readers’ attention?

Now with the list you have gathered, think about what you are saying in your story. Start crossing out the words and sentences that aren’t directly relevant to it.

Select a few words and look through a thesaurus for a nicer sounding synonym.

Choose the most appropriate group of words for the title.

Remember… your title has to be one or a combination of the below…

 Intriguing
 Interesting
 Catchy
 Provocative
 Amusing

© Nick Vernon

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Does The Title Reflect The Story?

We all have different tastes in what we like to read. Some have a particular taste for horror, while others prefer romance or fantasy or crime stories, etc. My favourite genre in short stories is horror, so once the title grabs my attention, I will enthusiastically read the story.

You may want to leave your readers in no doubt of the type of story you have written. That’s fine. You want to grab all the fans out there and/or recruit new readers into the genre you are so fond of writing.

So, how do you select a title that reflects your story?

Should the title always reflect the story?

Not always. But your title must have some sort of connection with your story.

Is There A Connection Between Your Title And Your Story?

If you choose not to have the title reflect the story that’s fine too. But there should be some relevance between them.

If, for instance, your story is about a man walking on the moon, then it wouldn’t make sense to title it, ‘Walking on Mars.’

If your story is an uplifting tale about two characters finding love, then your title isn’t going to mention death, unless of course one of the characters’ die.

At first your title may not give away the nature of your story. But once having read the story, the reader will understand the connection. Let me give you a few examples…

‘The Fire In The Sky’

This can be the title of a story in which an airplane explodes in midair or a story about a meteorite on its way to earth, etc.

‘An Angel Amongst Us’

Can be the title of a story about a person with extraordinary kindness or about an angel that leaves the heavenly realm to reside on earth, etc.


You can be ambiguous in your title if you wish. Your title doesn’t always have to reflect your story. Having more than one possible meaning intrigues the reader but remember…

There has to be a connection between your title and your story.

© Nick Vernon

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Is The Theme Reinforced In The Ending?

By now you should have an idea that your theme has to reach its conclusion just as your story does. But our theme has to do more than reach its conclusion – it has to be reinforced in the end and by doing this, it will strengthen all that we have said in our story.

So if we took a theme…

‘Persist and in the end you will succeed’

And I showed my character working hard to achieve his goals, persisting, even if at times those goals seemed unreachable, then I would’ve showed that all his hard work did pay off in the end. By having him succeed, it would reinforce the theme that had been running throughout the story.

Let me further illustrate this point by giving you a more detailed example.

The theme is…

‘Persistence pays off’

The story is about a writer, who has been writing short stories for years, but has not succeeded in getting published yet.

In your story you will show his persistence with…

• How he makes time to write, even when his day is already full by his full time job and other responsibilities

• How his every thought is consumed by his writing

• Showing him sending story after story to publishers

• How he doesn’t let the fact that his family believe he’s wasting his time, distract him from his purpose

Simultaneously I will place him in win and lose situations - Losing when his stories are rejected - Winning when he receives encouraging notes from publishers.

And in those instances where he is winning, I will show gradually that resistance is starting to pay off, till I reach the end of my story where I will have one of his stories accepted for publication and thus bring my theme of ‘Persistence pays off’ to its conclusion.

By showing the reader how persistence is paying off, I would have reinforced the theme in my ending.

Is your theme reinforced in the end of your story?

© Nick Vernon

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Does Your Theme Contain Character, Conflict, Resolution?

For a theme to work and the story, which will revolve around the theme, it has to contain three things…

1. Character

2. Conflict
3. Resolution

What’s the reason for this?

If your theme doesn’t contain these three essential elements, then you won’t be writing a proper short story. It might turn out to be an essay instead.

Because without…

1) Characters

You can’t achieve emotional depth. Readers become engrossed in stories because of the characters in them. They either become the character (sympathize), or read about an interesting person (empathize).

Emotional depth is achieved when readers use their imagination and senses and/or experiences to live the story through the characters.

2) Conflict

Your story will be boring. Why? Without conflict, something to stir things up, nothing happens. And a story, in which nothing happens, is one not worth writing about.

Your characters don’t lead carefree lives. Well, not in the instance you are writing about them. In that part of their lives they are faced with a problem. They want something and can’t get it because of the conflict, which is preventing them to do so.

And it’s that conflict and the struggle the characters has to undergo that keeps us readers interested and in suspense. Will the character succeed or won’t he? And when is this all going to happen? And how is it all going to happen?

3) Resolution

Something that starts has to finish, one way or another.

Once you have created great characters, which the reader will come to care about, and you have placed them in conflict, that conflict at the end of your story has to be resolved. The characters will achieve their goals or they won’t.

That doesn’t matter.

You can end your story as you please and as it suits your story – but you have to end it. Ending the story means resolving the conflict.

Does your theme contain character, conflict, resolution?

© Nick Vernon