For Aspiring Writers

Good Books


Flash Fiction

Beginning my creative writing journey at age 13, I naively jumped into the project of writing a novel. Bad idea. In previous articles, I’ve stressed that writing a novel is like writing a marathon. If you haven’t practiced, even good luck isn’t good enough. Having learnt this lesson I began writing short stories, and progressively they became shorter and shorter rather than longer and longer. Was this a problem? No.

A piece of writing does not have to be long to be good, or even enjoyable. My new found love in writing has been flash fiction. Much like other lengths of writing, such as novellas and novels, how many words constitute as a piece of flash fiction is debatable, ranging from 300 words to 1500. Essentially, this causes restraints on how fully fleshed out a plot or character is. But this is where the beauty of flash fiction lies – the ambiguity means that many different people can have a very different take on what is going on. Even the writer, as have often been the case in my experience, can see a million different possibilities about where the story could go.

Flash fiction is also great for me because I tend plan a lot before I write, but with this type of writing I can just go with the flow. It has helped me adapt my techniques and loosen my obsession with intense preparation. This has also helped me feel a lot more creative, just thinking on my feet and seeing where my writing instincts take me!

I encourage all writers to experiment not only with flash fiction, but any type of writing they have not yet tried. Things that seem not suited for us are also often things we haven’t tried, but some things can really take you by surprise. Experiment, experiment, experiment!


Motivational Muses #19

Open your mind to new experiences, particularly to the study of other ­people. Nothing that happens to a writer – however happy, however tragic – is ever wasted.

P.D. James

Books on the Art of Writing #4

The Five Minute Writer by Margaret Geraghty


What the book offers

Some writing prompts I’ve seen around the internet can just be way too wacky, but these prompts get you to think outside the box, and take your skills to a new level of creativity. The best thing with these exercises is that you can try them again and again and have a completely different outcome each time. This book will last you a life time, and show how you grow over the years as a writer!

Before it each exercise, it offers a short introduction that explains the exercise in context to writing; its significance and how to tackle it best.

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Becoming an Effective Writer

It’s evident to say writer’s write. But the difference between writing and being a writer is that writer’s produce. They produce finished stories, finished articles, finished poems and so on. They produce and they deliver.

Sometimes it’s hard to get to grips and just focus on a project. So follow these few simple guidelines and see how far you get:

  • Allocate time proportionally…and stick to it – this means spending a fifth of your time doing research, two fifths of your time planning and two fifths of your time writing – not necessarily in those proportions, but what I mean to say is don’t spend more time than you need. It’s easy to get carried away with the fun stuff or with the details, but see the fine line between have to and think you have to
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself – oh my god, look at that list of things you have to do – you still have to find your character’s surname and give their house an address, you need to find a brilliant turning point, you need to do cover art for your book, write a blurb, find a nicer way to describe the weather…calm down. Your first aim is to write a story. Sometimes I write an entire story by calling my character John or Jane Doe. Focus big, then work your way closer and closer to the details – in that order!
  • Goals and aims – this one ties with the previous point. When you set yourself goals and aims, be realistic and don’t give yourself too much pressure. Give yourself one goal a week or one goal a month if that’s what keeps you going. To write chapters 4 and 5 might be your goal for this week. And that will give you space to breath.

Picture Prompts #6

A great source for picture prompts is using news sites and their 24 Hours in Pictures feature. These pictures are chosen especially because of the story or emotion they portray. Have a look at the few I found:


Change is for the Best

It can be very hard to see something in one way, love it and nurture, and then to have to tear bits away and fit in new pieces, but when it comes to writing, it really is crucial.

Writing is a largely based around experimentation. There are simply infinite paths to choose and that’s why no two books are the same. There may come a time whilst you write that you’re finding it hard to see where your story goes, or when you read it, you just aren’t getting the flow. There may have been a time that when you started your story, you based it on a blind girl and you imagined her hair, her family life, her friends. But maybe to make the story work, you need to change the protagonist to a male.

Other things you may change to make the story work:

  • genre – this is a big one, but perhaps you had a romantic sub-plot but that’s detracting from the dark tone you want to make
  • point of view – maybe limiting your story to third person limited won’t be as effective as third person omniscient for a little dramatic irony and filling in some gaps
  • age
  • antagonist
  • structure
  • setting

This will give your story a new direction, and perhaps even a better one. Remember that the aim isn’t always to scrap and start all over again, sometimes simply re-writing and changing only elements is what will perfect your scene.

What’s a Book Without Conflict?

As much as you may want to wish better for human nature, your reader will have no interest for your story if it doesn’t have conflict. We need some spice, some gossip, some friction – we need your character to be going down a pretty steep hill.

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Question for Writers #6

The Hunter Inside – Oh yes, it’s worth a read

A much overdue review, I humbly apologise to David McGowan!

The Hunter Inside

A lot of crime, thriller and suspense fiction I’ve read falls under the category of a detective being the protagonist, or a helpless involved party taking the lead. So reading The Hunter Inside was a breath of fresh air – at least when it was not being breathtaking!

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Motivational Muses #18

Kim Lee: On the Art of Creating Characters

Click here to visit Kim Lee’s blog ‘Writers for Life’

I lean back in my chair and close my eyes. The clock ticks endlessly, but that’s fine. It helps my concentration. Something like a giant screen unfolds in the darkness. Smiling, I paint the scene. Everything is in place; the flora and the fauna, the sticks and stones. Bricks and mortar, fire or ice. Whatever I need to be there, is there. But there is something missing. Whether I’ve created a small town, or a space flight, a bedroom or a garden, the missing element remains the same. The scene is missing people. Characters. Those beings that will bring the whole thing to life.

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Titles That Could Lead to the Next Best Thing #4

  • There and Back Again
  • Wish Me Luck
  • Someone, Somewhere
  • Being Wrong
  • Second Place

Books on the Art of Writing #3

Schaum’s Quick Guide to Writing Great Short Stories by Margaret Lucke

What the book offers

Exactly what it says on the tin…I mean, cover. This is one of the most easiest books I’ve read on writing, and it’s so quick to coming on the point, without all the fancy details on the side. It covers every aspect from major ones such as conflict and character, but also more subtle one such as setting and narrative voice (which is a brilliant, brilliant chapter). It will help to make your writing more developed and fulfilling, and with exercises at the end of every chapter, you know what to do, with the aid of some very helpful tipsheets.

After the end of all the talk about writing, there is also a very helpful chapter on what to do once you’ve finished your story and are ready for publishing, including how to format your manuscript.

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Motivational Muses #18


I choose to write because it’s perfect for me.

It’s an escape, a place I can go to hide.

It’s a friend, when I feel out casted from everyone else.

It’s a journal, when the only story I can tell is my own.

It’s a book, when I need to be somewhere else.

It’s control, when I feel so out of control.

It’s healing, when everything seems pretty messed up.

And it’s fun, when life is just flat-out boring.

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