Monday, 27 June 2022

Narrative voice – which person?

Characters, Dolls

I’ve recently switched form third person to first person in a novel I’m working on. And even more recently I’ve switched a short story form third person to first.

The advantage of the close third person

This is actually rather odd for me. I’m rather a fan of the close third person; I think this is a good point of view for allowing the reader to enjoy the growth with the reader. I suddenly noticed this once when a writing friend was telling the story of a young girl who had gone to work in a big house and was having trouble changing a bed. The problem was the voice; it sounded much more like a grown-up reflecting on the time when she struggled.  If we’d had a close third person account, we would have been watching the young girl herself struggle.

The more successful first person in young adult literature

Even if the writer doesn’t use present tense, we frequently get here a sense that one young  adult is talking to another young adult. They may be talking about what has happened in the past but they haven’t yet rationalised it. Indeed their narration is part of their attempt at rationalisation.

Some problems with first person present tense

It can work well and it can allow the reader to see everything through the narrators’ eyes, in fact making it feel to the reader that the story is happening to them.  However, sometimes the reader is drawn into the text itself and can’t quite get out of being aware of the words and the marks on the page. It then feels as if the protagonist is carrying a notebook everywhere with them and is writing down what happens as they go along. This feels awkward and unnatural.

My current third person past tense narrative

Here I’ve changed from the third person close to a more subjective and somewhat stylised first person past. A grandmother is telling her granddaughter about things in her past that are similar to events going on in the present day (which happens to be 2001). Thus we now have:

“It was damp, misty day when we arrived.

The taxi bumped along the rough farm track.

"See where the fork in the track is there? Well you go night and then It's about half a mile," your grandfather instructed the taxi driver.

I had to admire him. He spoke English so well. The taxi driver seemed to understand him, and he'd been fine with them.  He wasn't all that friendly but he hadn't been nasty or annoying. It must be odd for him be driving two Germans so soon after the end of the war. But Walter would stand no nonsense. He was such a good man. I knew he would look after me well. And this taxi driver had been very professional.”

Previously we had:

“The taxi bumped along the rough farm track.

"See where the fork in the track is there? Well you go night and then It's about half a mile."

Helga had to admire her husband. He spoke English so well. The taxi driver seemed to understand him, and he'd been fine with them.  He wasn't all that friendly but he hadn't been nasty or annoying. It must be odd for him be driving two Germans so soon after the end of the war. But Walter would stand no nonsense. He was such a good man. She knew he would look after her well. And this taxi driver had been very professional.”

My first person present tense

I started with the close third person again:

“The noise was getting louder. Yes it was definitely a tractor. But what was it doing here? Jed was off today. There shouldn't be anybody out with a tractor on the bottom field. 

"Here boy," Jamie called Baxter, the border collie, now retired. He had been one of the best sheep dogs the farm had ever had. "Stay close." She slipped her fingers into the long soft fur around his neck. He was such a good dog normally but you could never be too sure. "What do you think they're up to, eh, boy? Noisy old things."

The tractor came to a halt and whoever was driving it jumped off and opened the gate to the next field. What a cheek! They were trespassing.

She recognised Owain Thomas from the farm next door. He now edged the tractor slowly towards her and brought it to a stop.

"I hope you don't mind," he said. "Only the only way I can get to our top field is across your land. The lane's blocked, see."

"Oh." Had he phoned to ask? "Does Oma know?"”

I’ve changed this to:

The noise is getting louder. Yes it's definitely a tractor. But what's it doing here? Jed's up on the top field today. There shouldn't be anybody out with a tractor on the bottom field. 

"Here boy." I'm  calling Baxter, our lovely border collie, now retired. He's one of the best sheep dogs the farm's ever had. "Stay close." I slip my fingers into the long soft fur around his neck. He's such a good dog normally but you can never be too sure. "What do you think they're up to, eh, boy? Noisy old things."

The tractor comes to a halt and whoever is driving it jumps off and opens the gate to the next field. What a cheek! They're trespassing.

It's Owain Thomas from the next farm. He now edges the tractor slowly towards me and brings it to a stop.

"I hope you don't mind," he says "Only the only way I can get to our top field is across your land. The lane's blocked, see."

"Oh." Has he phoned to ask? "Does Oma know?"

It brings us closer to Jamie and slows down the passing of time.  The grandmother’s narrative covers 1925-1980. Jamie’s is mainly in February and March 2001. The use of the present tense stops her rationalising too much.  The reader can just watch what happens. The first person narrative allows also for a lot of introspection which is probably important in this story.   

 

Second person?

I only use this a very little in this story and that is when the grandmother tells Jamie some bits about her past that Jamie has forgotten.

It can be very effective though it is hard work for both reader and writer where it is used throughout a text. Here is an excerpt from a second person narrative:

“You always know when you are being watched. There’s that sense of a tingling in your spine, a boring into your back, or an awareness that every detail is being observed. And all without you turning around.

            Most of the time you would brush it away, forgotten, like the litter blowing across the platform. At other times you might freeze, knowing that you are almost alone, as you try to focus on the peeling posters. The train rushes in like an indrawn breath and you leap on.”

Linda Flynn ‘Unseen Eyes’ Resolutions 2021, Manchester Bridge House, p 190.

 

Patch test

I always recommend this. Take a few paragraphs of your narrative and try it out with various combinations of past, present, first person, second person and third person. Would you be brave enough to try the future also?  Which works the best?   

Saturday, 4 June 2022

Email – tool or rod for your back?

 Social, Social Network

How it impacts on our working life

When I still had a day job, I often felt nervous opening my inbox, especially if I hadn’t looked at it for a while. There might be something critical from management, a student with a really tricky problem or someone asking for information that was readily available elsewhere.

There was an expectation too from some that we would be attached to our email 24/7 and would always reply by return.

To be fair, my employers had a policy that we would reply within five working days, which is actually quite generous.  Now in both my working and personal life I aim to reply within 48 ours to anything important and / or urgent.

A colleague from another institution will only reply to emails received between 9 and 5.

By contrast one colleague I worked with used to send out important emails on a Sunday evening and sometimes they affected meetings the next day.

I’ve heard horror stories of parents haranguing teachers via email at all sorts of times of day and being quite upset if a reply isn’t instant.

A rod for my back?

I still worry a little when it’s time to look at my email and if I open my inbox for some reason I can get sucked into it.

I suppose I’m justified in dreading rejections.

There’s often quite a bit of correspondence from writers I’ve published and some of this does need a pretty speedy reply. Often such emails will cause me quite a bit of work.

Occasionally there’s good or interesting news.

My new strategy

I get up to about 400 emails a day. Obviously I can’t even read them all let alone reply to them. I subscribe to several newsletters but don’t always have time to read them all and sometimes the content is less interesting anyway.

I had been spending several hours a day on email. Now I’m limiting it to no more than one and half hours a day, often less.

So, after I’ve dealt with the day’s CafeLit, I go through my sent folders and file anything that needs to be kept. Then I check spam and move anything that isn’t spam and delete what is.

Next, I spend half an hour reading and dealing with everything that is interesting, important or urgent. Then I spend half an hour on what is important and / or urgent.

After that I just check for emails that are important and urgent that have arrived between 5 p.m. the day before to 5 p.m. that day.

Interesting might be a notification from Classic FM, book recommendations, and political or philosophical discussions.

Important would be notifications form the Society of Authors, SCBWI and ALCS, for example.

Important and urgent for instance would be book orders, edits returned from writers or to me from my own editors, and any news about the rental properties I own.

If I have really busy day and particularly if I’m out in the afternoon, I may only do the last step. This still ensures I’m dealing with my email effectively.

It’s my tool

Now my email inbox serves me and I’m no longer a slave to it. On the days when I sit down to it for an hour and a half, I no longer feel threatened by it.  I deal with the awkward ones calmly and allow myself to enjoy the positive ones. I look forward to the interesting ones.

         

Thursday, 2 June 2022

News 2 June 2022

 

Drop, Liquid, Splash, Reflection, Crown

I have some big news this month, and even though strictly speaking it belongs to June’s newsletter, I’m writing on 2 June so I couldn’t resist:  

The Talking About My Generation e-zine for which I write has been granted The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service: https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/mygen-news-team-crowned-with-the-queens-award-for-voluntary-service/  

244 groups have won this award this year.  It is the equivalent of an MBE.  

As you no doubt know, I have several articles on Talking About My Generation. I mention one further down.  

The article mentioned in the link above gives a clear picture of what this site is all about. Do take a look and have a browse of the site.  

   

Current writing

I’m now on edit two of the sixth book in the Schellberg Cycle. This is Helga’s story. Helga is a Holocaust survivor and the story is set partly in World War II and partly in 2001. The more modern part is set in North Wales and I have to learn about sheep farming! I found a plot hole. One of the subplots hadn’t resolved so I’ve had to add in a couple of other chapters. This will increase the word count by about 5000, bringing the novel up to around 80,000.

I’ve started to document the editing process on http://www.thehouseonschellbergstreet.com  I talk about Draft 2 here.      

Hers is my latest article for Talking About My Generation: another look at holidays in the past. https://talkingaboutmygeneration.co.uk/oh-i-do-like-to-be-beside-the-seaside-tenby          

 

The Young Person’s Library

I’ve started visiting the town library again and I’m borrowing children’s books to find material for this site.   

This month I’ve added:

Hatch by Jill Atkin and Emma Latham

This is a text for very new readers and shows us young birds hatching.  

Aunt Amelia by Rebecca Cobb

Aunt Amelia is not as formidable as she looks. She is a lot of fun. This text conforms with many picture book traditions but could also be a good text for emergent readers.    

  

 

Current reading recommendation

I was torn between two books this month and neither of them are a particularly easy read but I’ve finally decided on Michael Rosen’s Many Different Kinds of Love: A story of life, death and the NHS

This is a record of Rosen’s encounter with Covid.

He contracted the disease when it first visited us and when so little was known about it.  He was in an induced coma for eight weeks and his illness has actually lasted months. The text combines his own prose poems, the notes left to him by the NHS workers who attended him, and notes and diaries from nurses, doctors and from his wife.

Many Different Kinds of Love: A story of life, death and the NHS is a touching account of a journey through an illness. Michael Rosen tells part of the story in his own excellent writing.  Illustrations are by Chris Riddell.  

 

Giveaway

Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.

This month I’m offering Spooking.

This is at a YA uplit supernatural romance.

Tom has died and must move on. So must his girlfriend Amanda.

He is unable to reach Amanda. They argued just before the crash. He meets cheeky but friendly Marcus, who, though younger than Tom, has more experience in the areas that now matter. But Marcus has his own concerns and eventually has to leave Tom to deal with his problems alone.

The story takes place in the Solent area and in North Wales. I have lived in both of those places and have studied at the university that Amanda attends. I hope this has helped to make it real.   

Spooking is a paranormal romance but isn’t scary.  

Find out more.  Grab your copy and lots of other freebies here.

And please, please, please leave a review when you’ve finished.    

Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £7.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.

 

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be of interest to other writers.

I’ve added three posts this month.

Hidden Wars

This discusses how civilian life suffers during conflict and reflects on what happened in the 1940s and what is happening now with the Ukraine and Russia.

Wartime Farm by Peter Ginn, Ruth Goodman and Alex Langlands

This is an introduction to this very useful resource that gives us a lot of information about civilian life in the countryside during World War II.

In Draft 2 Helga’s Story

I discuss my writing process and how a text like this is gradually shaped.   

 

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

 

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

 

The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my book and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     

 

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

 

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

 

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   

 

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

 

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

 

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

 

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

 

CaféLit Stories Find these here

 

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

 

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    

 

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

 

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

 

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

 

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

 

The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.

 

Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.

 

Saturday, 21 May 2022

Three Effective Ways to Find New Stories

 

Free photos of London

 

Get out and about

Take a walk. Go for a bus ride. Do some window-shopping. You’ll see lots of people and every one of them has a story to tell and dozens you could make up about them. Who is the person you see? Why are they here now? What will they do next? Tell their story.

Give the little guy a chance

Or indeed, even the bad guy. What is the reason Cinderella’s stepsisters are so cruel to her? What does the giant make of Jack invading his home?  Why is the strange old man building a big ship? Choose well-known fairy stories or folk stories, tales from the Bible and other religious books, and stories from Shakespeare.

Bring an old story into the 21st century 

A man in his early thirties gives up the day job and travels the globe preaching and healing.  Tell this tory form the point of view of someone in the crowd. Why is a young girl who’s been pricked by a needle in a coma? What or who will wake her up? A daughter has grown wild. How does her father tame her?    

Now tell me you’re stuck!

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

How to avoid or cope with some of the biggest bugbears of being a writer

 Guy, Angry, Hat, Tie, Bow, Irate, Irritated, Bang

1.      Your friends and family – or even you yourself - don’t take you seriously 

Don’t be afraid to call yourself a writer. If you spend time writing, you are a writer.  It doesn’t matter whether you are published or not or whether you have hundreds of five star reviews or not; what matters is that you write  So, make time to write and make sure that everyone understands that that time is precious.

2.      Rejection

It still always hurts, no matter how often it happens and no matter how many acceptances you have. It’s okay to think “Your loss, mate.” But best not to say that. Often it’s not because there is anything wrong with your writing though it’s always worth another look before you send it out again. It can be a matter of timing. It’s all so very subjective anyway. So, dust yourself off, give the work a little tweak, take an honest look at why it may have been rejected, consider it a “rewrite” and get it out there again. It’s good in fact to have quite a few things out there. A publisher may bite.   

3.      Professional jealousy

Either feeling it or being the victim of it can be uncomfortable. It’s not fair is it, that your writing friend got a three book deal and her writing is no better than yours? And it’s annoying when you get the good news from a publisher and your writing friend ignores you.

Force yourself to be glad for your friend. Your time will come.

Make your jealous friend an important part of your launch. You never know, she may be able to network at your event and get some good leads.  

4.        Running out of ideas

Often when you first start out you have tons of ideas. Then you use them up or decide that they weren’t so good after all.

Remember there are ideas are all around you. Retell an old story by taking a different character’s point of view or bringing it into the 21st century. Take a walk and look at what folk are doing, Lots of stories there as swell. Or try a writing prompt. There are various books around full of them and you can often find them on social media.

5.      “I’m going to write a novel one day”

Says your non-writing friend.

Oh so many assumptions here: that it’s easy, that anyone can do it and that you will be pleased to read the end product of someone right at the beginning of a writing career.

Could you play devil’s advocate here?  Show a real interest. Ask them how they’ll find the time, have they planned the novel out yet, have they done any research. If they ask if you’ll look at it say that you don’t have time but point them towards someone you know who edits.  If you do that yourself discuss your rates. You might offer mates’ rates but be clear that you must make it worth your while.      

Monday, 2 May 2022

News 2 May 2022

 

Checklist, Check, Marketing, Project, Survey, Tick 

Checklist

This month I’d like to offer a quick checklist for your short story or novel. And if you’re not a writer but a reader and a book group member this may also help you to find points to discuss.   

  1. Is the ending satisfying?  Hopefully it’s not too melodramatic. Nor is it a damp squib. And a deus ex machina has not been applied. No god is swept on to the stage to solve everything, either literally or figuratively.
  2. Has the main character changed? Are they different at the end of the story from the way they are at the beginning?
  3. Are the other characters also believable and rounded? Neither completely good nor completely evil?
  4. Is there a good narrative balance – the right amount of dialogue, action, description and inner monologue? Does any exposition have to be there? The balance of these elements will vary from text to text and may depend on genre. It’s a talking point anyway.
  5. Is the reader allowed to think for themselves or is the writer telling them what to think? The writer should show you what happens and leave the reader to decide if there is any moral.

Happy reading and writing.         

   

Current writing

I’m continuing the sixth book in the Schellberg Cycle. This is Helga’s story. Helga is a Holocaust survivor and the story is set partly in World War II and partly in 2001. The more modern part is set in North Wales and I have to learn about sheep farming! The story is as ever taking on a life of its own and the plot is even more intricate than the way I’d seen it.  Actually this time this is happening more than normal. A while ago I decided to make the part set in World War II a first person narrative so at some point I’ll have to go back and alter earlier chapters.  Half way through Chapter 23, I decided that the 21st century part should also be a first person narrative and this time also present tense. I can already see that it’s making a difference. But there’ll be a lot of extra work soon. I am now almost at the end of the last chapter.

I’m very pleased to have had my short story Forever Hold Your Peace accepted by Page & Spine. You can see it here: https://pagespineficshowcase.com/stories1/forever-hold-your-peace-gill-james . I submitted this almost two years ago. Doesn’t that show you should never give up? I wrote the story in response to a prompt form one of our prompt books. That makes it a double success.  

      

The Young Person’s Library

This month I’ve added:

The Secret of Haven Point by Lisettte Auton

This is a fluent reader text and includes several characters that have disabilities. Author Lisette Auton also lives with a disability and prefers to describe herself as disabled.  The novel tells a very human story though includes mermaids and wreckers.   

Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories

This is another fluent reader text. There are plenty of ballet shoes, skates and theatre performances in these stories.  This is a compilation of Noel Streatfeild’s Christmas-themed earlier works that appeared in various magazines. There’s lots of nostalgia here.    

  

 

Current reading recommendation

I’m recommending today Meeting Coty by Ruth Estevez  

I really enjoyed attending the launch of this book at the lovely Portico Library in Manchester. Ruth gave us a fascinating talk which included some of the history of the Coty firm.  

Tessa Garcia has big dreams and takes steps to make them come true.

Tessa faces many expectations from her Spanish-Irish Catholic family; that she should marry, that she shouldn’t work, and that she should be dependent on men all of her life. She already has a work ethos and an enthusiasm for perfumes. This arouses in her a fascination with the perfume maker François Coty.     

Estevez presents us with a narrative as smooths as silk in this fascinating story of Meeting Coty.   

Find your copy here.     

Giveaway

Note: these are usually mobi-files to be downloaded to a Kindle.  Occasionally there are PDFs.

This month I’m offering Fibbin’ Archie.

This is at once a YA light-hearted romance and a writing experiment. If you read the title out loud you may get a hint of what the experiment’s about.     

Love and romance can be tough for a compulsive fibber
Archie has quite a reputation as a practised fibber. Normally his lies are harmless but as time goes by they begin to get him into more and more trouble. They lose him his girlfriend, and bizarrely, his hearing is affected as his ears begin to react in a very strange way every time he is less than truthful. Giving honest opinions isn’t enough. Deep truth is called for. But finding that isn’t easy. Some truths are very hard to face. Then numbers become interesting, too.
Fibbin’ Archie is, the story of a disenchanted young man. It is also a humorous story of love and sex, an examination of social issues affecting young adults and a story of coming of age. 

Find out more.  Grab your copy and lots of other freebies here.

And please, please, please leave a review when you’ve finished.    

Note: Normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99.  Most on Kindle are about £2.99 and the average price for paperback is £7.00. Writers have to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.

 

The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.  They may also be interesting for other readers of historical fiction.

Sometimes I also write about what might be of interest to other writers.

I’ve added three posts this month.

Two of them are about The Bamboo Bracelet by Merilyn Brason. The post on 7 April  is about an online talk I attended  about how the book came to be written. The post on 30 April  is an analysis of the book itself. This work certainly deserves a place in the project because although it is about a very different part of World War II many of the experiences and issues described are so similar.

Sending asylum seekers to Rwanda? is a post in which I seek to see both sides of the argument but still conclude that this would be a bad idea.    

 

Some notes about my newsletters and blogs

They do overlap a little but here is a summary of what they all do.

 

Bridge House Authors For all those published by Bridge House, CaféLit, Chapeltown or The Red Telephone or interested in being published by us. General news about the imprints. News for writers. Links to book performance. Sign up here.

 

The Bridgetown  Café Bookshop where you can buy my book and books published by Bridge House Publishing, CafeLit, Chapeltown Books and The Red Telephone.  Visit us here.     

 

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

 

The Creative Café Project News about the project and CaféLit – for the consumer rather than for the producer.  Sign up here.   

 

Gill’s News: News about my writing, The Schellberg Project, School Visits and Events. Book recommendations and giveaways. Find it here.   

 

Pushing Boundaries, Flying Higher News about conferences and workshops to do with the young adult novel. (infrequent postings) Sign up here.  

 

Red Telephone Books News about our books and our authors. Sign up here.

 

A Publisher’s Perspective Here I and some other editors blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

 

The Creative Café Project Listings and reviews of creative cafés. See them here.   

 

CaféLit Stories Find these here

 

Gill James Writer All about writing and about my books. View this here.

 

Gill’s Recommended Reads Find information here about books that have taken me out of my editor’s head and a reminder of the ones I’ve highlighted in this newsletter.    

 

Gill’s Sample Fiction Read some of my fiction here.

 

The House on Schellberg Street All about my Schellberg project. Read it here.

 

Writing Teacher All about teaching creative writing.  Some creative writing exercises. Access this here.     

 

Books Books Books Weekly offers on our books and news of new books. Find them here. 

 

The Young Person’s Library The children’s book catalogue. Access it here.

 

Fair Submissions  Find it here.   

Opportunities for writers are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up here.  

Happy reading and writing.