Tuesday, 31 December 2019

Stage of revision 6 Is it convincing? Is there cause and effect?

This is really all about your story being logical.



The question “Why?” is very useful here. “How?” is also quite enlightening. If you could read your work backwards it might be helpful. Why is the gun smoking? How did it get there? Why has the father written this letter? How was it delivered? Why did the boy steal the loaf? How did he manage that? 



Does every happening lead to something else? Every scene must have its consequences. It’s useful too if it projects forward. What will that gun do?  What will the protagonist do because they have received the letter? What will now happen to the boy who stole the loaf?


Can that really have happened? We looked at this with endings. Something must happen. It mustn’t be too melodramatic.  You mustn’t cheat and have some unbelievable magic move you on too easily. Don’t find the gun conveniently hidden in the chimney. Don’t let the letter contain a magic formula for curing all the protagonist’s ills. Don’t make the boy the secret love child of the judge. (Though we may have to forgive Dickens, Molière and Shkespeare for such tricks). 

How to proceed with this

Examine every scene carefully and ask these four questions.
What has caused this to happen?
What will this lead to?
Is the relationship between cause and effect believable?
Does this scene actually add to the story?  

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Stage of revision 5. Characters

Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Are they consistent? Do they develop? Do you know everything about them that you should?

The importance of character

It is the tension between our characters that create our stories anyway. If your characters aren’t right, neither is your story. 

Creating empathy

It’s important that the reader can relate to the characters in a text and usually there is some empathy.  Sometimes a writer may create an unlikeable character but at least that provokes a reaction in the reader. Also in these instances we are shown why the character is the way s/he is.


For a character to be convincing they must be consistent. Check for any behaviour or speech that is out of character.


Are your characters rounded? Evil characters should have some redeeming features. Good character should have some flaws.  This all helps to make them more believable. 


Our characters must develop.  Look at what they’re like at the beginning of the story and what they’re like at the end. Is there enough change?

Character knowledge

Your character will work best if you know everything about them. You don’t have to write huge lists and answer hundreds of questions but you should certainly think about them a lot. You can get a writing buddy to fire questions at you about your character. And here’s a challenging experiment: get your writing buddy to read a passage of your text.  Now ask them a question about an aspect of your character that you know you haven’t mentioned in that passage. Do they get the answer more or less right? If so, well done.  You’ve carried the whole DNA of your character into that scene.  This shows you know your character really well.     

Tuesday, 3 December 2019

News 3 December 2019


My new attitude to reviewing

I’ve decided now to review every book I read.  I don’t mean a long review such as I do for Armadillo Magazine , my own Recommended Reads or The Young Person’s Library (note the new URL for my catalogue of Children’s books.  I’m gradually moving the archive over.) No, this time I mean just short reviews with a star rating. I’m posting both on Amazon and on Good Reads, even if the writer already has the magical 50 reviews. I used to only post reviews if I could give four or five stars.  I actually did a three star review last week. I’ve made these change for three reasons:
1.      I’d like reviews myself but feel it’s wrong to expect them and not take the trouble to write them myself.
2.      A lower star rating is more honest than silence.
3.      Consistently reviewing will raise my profile as a reviewer and increase people’s trust in the process.

News about my writing

I’m still working 240 X 70, and Not Just Fluffy Bunnies, my non-fiction text about the darker side of children’s literature though I’ve put this on one side a little as I work on my book about writing prompts. There will be 366 writing prompts. I’m going to give this book to all the people who have contributed to it and to all the people I’ve published. I’m confident I’ll get it finished in time for Christmas. I’m half way through October at the moment. Would you like to contribute? Do you have any writing prompts?
Here are a few examples of the sort of thing:

5 February  Birth Choices?

The body is an amazing thing, but older women are at risk in childbirth of having babies with health problems. Can you tell a tale of the effects of older women having children may bring? Highlight the positives and the change in mindset your character will go through. Maybe a highflying business woman who didn’t employ people with disabilities suddenly realises they have the same dreams as us to have successful careers, when she gives birth to a disabled child late in life.

Paula Readman  

6 February Story Cubes

Try out the APP Story Cubes.  At the time of writing it costs £1.99.
But if you don’t want to buy I’ve “rolled my dice” for you.  I got: a cat, a fountain, an L plate, a book, an apple, someone sleeping and an open eye. Pick at least three to build into your story
Gill James


7 February Chocolate 

Can you say it with chocolate 🍫? Write a chocolate tale with a twist. Remember, Chocolate can be Dark, Milk or White? What shade will your tale be? 

Paula Readman

18 February 2019 Drink Wine Day

As today is Drink Wine Day write a short story where a glass or a bottle of wine is the catalyst to something going well or badly.
Gill James


19 February 2019 The Mysterious Package

Two people meet on a bridge. One hands the other a mysterious package. Who are the people? What is in the package?  What will happen next?
Gill James

Note, the book will also be available on Amazon as an e-book and all contributors will get a pro-rata 50% share of net sales.  If you have ideas, send them to me.

The House of Clementine, the fourth book in my Peace Child series, is now out with beta readers. I’ve completed my normal fourteen edits and I guess there’ll be more when it comes back.    

Catalogue of books for children

I’ve added:
  • The Devil’s Angels by Kevin Brookes. This is suitable for 10-13, Key Stage 3, Lower Secondary.  It is published by Barrington Stoke and is a high-low and dyslexia friendly. There is some violence in it and much about relationships. 
  • Barking up the Wrong Tree by Philip Ardagh, illustrated Elissa Elwick. It is suitable for upper primary, Key Stage 2. It is a quirky detective story.

You can read my full comments here and here.  

Current reading recommendation

This month I’m recommending a collection of stories by David John Griffin. Note, he is an indie writer and his books are self-published. The stories are excellent. I can’t fault the formatting of the book either – and this isn’t always the case with the Big Five – who usually charge as much for their e-books as for paperbacks. They sometimes charge more in fact.  
The stories here tend towards the quirky and the surreal. I’m a great fan of that sort of story.  You can find David’s book here.   


This month I’m giving away a mobi-file for your Kindle of the third story in the Schellberg Cycle: Girl in a Smart Uniform. This is to date the most fictional of all of the stories.    
Get your free mobi-file PDF and lots of other goodies here.
Note, that normally my books and the books supplied by the imprints I manage sell for anything from £0.99 to £10.99, with most on Kindle being about £2.99 and the average price for paperback being £7.00. We have to allow our writers to make a living. But I’m offering these free samples so that you can try before you buy.   
Naturally I welcome reviews.


The Schellberg Project

The posts may be helpful for teachers who are familiar with the Schellberg stories or who are teaching about the Holocaust.
This month I’ve added more posts about Hani GĹ‘dde: about the Waldorf School and the Reichsarbeitsdienst – compulsory work experience for young German women.
You can read the posts here and here.      


School visits

I’m still promoting my school visits associated with The House on Schellberg Street project. I’ve now developed a whole workshop for this. It starts off with a board game, includes some role play and creative writing and ends with a discussion.
It is now possible to purchase the kit to work on on your own. Find details here.
Costs for my workshops = travel expenses plus £400 for a full day and £200 for a half day. This includes all materials and some freebies. Two schools near to each other might consider splitting the day and halving the travel expenses and fees. This is open to negotiation in any case.       
I also offer a free half day visit, though you pay my travel expenses, if you allow me to promote my books.      
I’m continuously adding materials for schools to the site that are different from the ones I use for the workshops. I’ve recently added in resources and books to do with the topic. See them here:      
Query for a school visit here.
I’m also happy to tailor a visit for your agreed donation. This can be for either a Schellberg Cycle visit or a creative writing workshop. Any monies raised this way will go specifically to a project I have for a non-fiction book about a journey that will follow the footsteps of Clara Lehrs. I’m hoping to do the whole journey by train, including departing via my nearest Metrolink station. It’s important to feel the rails beneath my feet.       
I offer as well standard author visits which include readings from my books, Q & A sessions and creative writing exercises.
Please remember, with these as well, I’m open to negotiation if you can’t afford the full price.


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.

Chapeltown Books News about our books. Sign up here.

The Creative CafĂ© Project News about the project and CafĂ©Lit – 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.   

Opportunities List Remember I keep a full list of vetted opportunities on my writing blog. See them here. New ones are added several times a day. Roughly once a month I go through it and take out all of the out of date ones. At that point I send it out to a list. If you would like to be on that list, sign up 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 blog as a publisher. Access this here.   

The Creative CafĂ© Project Listings and reviews of creative cafĂ©s. 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.   

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 I am gradually moving the children’s book catalogue over to this site.   Access it here.

Fair Submissions I am gradually moving the Opportunities List to this site.  Find it here.   
Happy reading and writing.

Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Stage of revision 4: Overall time scale

Image by Couleur from Pixabay

Naturally we don’t want any two year pregnancies or characters maturing three years in six months.  Also you need to allow enough time for your characters to eat and sleep yet you don’t want to dwell on those matters too much. 

I’ve actually taken now to writing down the time and date of each scene as I plan it and I also work out how long the scene takes.  I leave these timings in the chapter headings until after I have completed this edit.  Normally anyway, if you’re showing and not telling the scene will take as long as it takes to write it or read it out loud though it will take less than real time if you read it in your head. 

Sometimes the writer is very well aware of the time but the reader doesn’t actually know. You can indicate times of the year by mentioning weather, plant life and seasonal markers. 

You can indicate times of day by meal times, the state of the traffic and the characters’ energy levels. 

Even if you plan your story out with time indicators it’s still worth checking that it all still works. You may have stretched or shrunk time as you wrote.