We are not looking for the big names of the literary world, rather the talented authors who remain to be discovered, the voices which are as yet unheard, the stories as yet untold, the writers ignored by the publishing industry.
The prize for the monthly competition is £100 to the winner, £25 to the highly commended and £250 for the end of year one.
I have been doing some teaching on poetry
recently. It is not my thing really so I had to do a lot of research, during
which I came across a few quotes on of
what makes a good poem. Here are one or two: A good poem is a slip-of-a-thing that celebrates language, that takes you on a
short journey and touches your heart, turns on your imagination, or tickles
your funny- bone somewhere along the way. Nikki Grimes.
A good poem makes you feel like you’ve
been there before, or want to go. A good poem takes you to the city, to the
sea, to the heart of any and all matters; you see it, taste it, belong to it. A
good poem is a menagerie of craft; a spinning of sound, word choice,
alliteration, rhythm and often rhyme. A good poem is the arrangement of
enchantment, or as J. Patrick Lewis says, a blind date with enchantment.
Rebecca Kai Dotlich
What makes a good poem? Brevity,
terseness, spareness, viewing something new for the very first time, creating
an image like no one has ever been blown away by before in their entire life.
Lee Bennett Hopkins
Love and care for elemental details, for
chosen words and their simple arrangement on the page... and a way of ending
that leaves a new resonance or a lit spark in the reader or listener's
mind—that’s part of it.
Naomi Shihab Nye
A good poem surprises your senses, shakes
you awake, stirs your emotions, and startles your imagination. Each poem is an
act of discovery. Poetry helps us widen our vision and our hearts.
the occasional class on writing for theatre and thought some observations might
prove interesting. The
power of words is crucial when writing for theatre but so is a technical
understanding of the staging process. Writers need to do the following: Think where the person was before entering the stage
and where he/she goes to eg if he/she has come in from the cold remember to
write cold references of actions (stamping feet etc ) The writer needs to consider what the characters are
doing as well as saying - a walk across a stage can take a long time as can a
passage of speech. Find something for them do, making tea, putting the kettle
on etc. It gives the scene more movement and avoids problems for actors who
feel all they can do is stand like a plank and spout their lines. Think of how long words take to say and how they
will play in an audience. An intimate aside in a small room can fall flat in a
large theatre. Comedy needs to big and bold, drama can be more
subtle and considered (the actor can be more introspective, address the
audience, reveal much about what they are thinking)
Dialogue is crucial. The actor will make much of the
business etc up themselves but they need guidance and that comes from the
words. Abide by the rules of dialogue:
A lot of the time, we do not speak in correct
sentences - we often
use short sharp phrases
We assume the listener knows a lot about us
Dialogue can impart information but we try to make that information
interesting, lacing it with humour, personal interpretation etc
We can tell a lot about a person in a short snap of
conversation - a
few words of dialogue can say a lot about a character.
Dialogue needs to be crisp (and humour needs to hit
the gag and move on, good comedy relies on timing and pace)
Dialogue needs to be in character
must take the story on
must not be packed with extraneous
information. If you need to slot in information, find a way of doing it subtly.
The best stories are those which show the
writers’ instinctive understanding for the way readers can be moved.
What do I mean? Well, in my view, good
writing is about triggers. What is the point if the reader gets to the end of
your story, shrugs and goes to make a cup of tea, their life unchanged by your
efforts? How much better if, before they go and
make that cup of tea, they sit for a few moments and think back on what they have
read? Maybe they will feel emotional, maybe they
will feel moved to tears, maybe they will say a silent prayer for a remembered
loved one, maybe they will smile at memories, maybe they will laugh at jokes
just read, maybe they simply cared for the people in the story they just read.
As long as they feel something. Tales that bring forth such reactions
often draw in some way on the writer’s own experiences but they also trigger
something in readers they have never met. We all have those triggers inside us.
Fears, insecurities, emotions, experiences. Like everyone, I have had, still
have, deep sadness in my life. Loved ones lost and damaged, deaths witnessed,
things unsaid, lives un-lived. So when I read some stories, they trigger
something deep within me. For others, different stories will move them and in
different ways. Now, I am not saying that to succeed all a
story needs is power - we should never lose sight of craft - but if it has the
ability to move someone somewhere then it’s achieved something special. I think that sometimes writers forget the
power in our hands when we pick up that pen, switch on that computer. Yes, it’s
fiction but in so many stories you can see the truth running through it. That is certainly the case with my own
writing. In a way, my characters tell parts of my life story. Changed, adapted,
developed but part of my life story for all that. Does it trigger something in
the reader? Do you know, I reckon it might just do for some of them. Not all of
them but for some.
I have increasingly been
working on crime novellas. As a result, I have been researching the world of
short novels and it seems to me that their time could be upon us because of the
e-book revolution. Folks are happy to read 30,000
words of story on their hand-helds - particularly on holiday when a book that
can be finished in a day or two is welcome. So what exactly is a novella?
Well, it’s an extended short story in many ways, constructed in episodes but
written in a tight and clipped way to guarantee pace. The Science Fiction
and Fantasy Writers of AmericaNebula Awards
for science fiction defined the novella as
having a word count of between 17,500 and 40,000. Other definitions start as
low as 10,000 words. Why are novellas so effective
as a genre? Well, usually I write novels that run to 60,000-70,000 words but with
novellas I cut back big-time. I look at my early novels and
it’s a lesson I have needed to learn. Hopefully, my writing has become crisper
as a result of that growing sense of discipline.
The Open Mic
night for authors season continues on Thursday February 25. The nights,
supported by Darlington for Culture and which offer a forum for writers to read
their material and audiences to enjoy it, run at Voodoo Café/Cantina, 84
Skinnergate, Darlington, on the last Thursday of the month. Each session starts
at 7pm and the cost of entry is £3 paid on the door.
information is available from Inscribe Media Limited at
Following the news that we are to
run an online crime fiction course (details on the home page) I thought it would be useful to look at how
to write a good crime story:
* The story should be strong and one that can be told in a short story (most
crime stories are novels)
* Create a strong sense of place - the reader must be able to visualise where
the action happens
* Create strong characters - do not stray into cliché, make our investigators
real people. Your hero must not be perfect, he or she must be flawed but be
careful about writing in too many flaws
* If you create a sidekick, make sure they have a job to do - passing on
information, allowing your main character to react so we learn more about them
* Make the villain real not some clichéd villain from the movies. The best
thing is for them to have appeared earlier in the story so the reader knows
them. Give them a good reason to commit the crime - secrets, secrets, always
* Grab the reader from the start.
Here is an extract from an interview with the author Nick Brownlee explaining
how to do it: Q The opening scene of Bait features a character being gutted alive on a
fishing boat. Was it always in your mind to start the book with such a gory
A I have been a journalist for the best part of 20 years, much of that time
writing stories for tabloid newspapers. The first lesson you are taught is that
you must grab the reader’s attention with the very first paragraph, because by
the third they will have lost interest in the story. It’s the same with
commercial fiction – especially if you are an unknown author. In order to get
published, Bait had to leap out of an agent’s slush pile and then make a
publisher look twice. I needed an opening that would catch the eye. Hopefully
it will have the same effect on the casual reader.”
* Even with a short story, it is worth mapping out a synopsis because crime
stories are be definition complicated and you need to get it right * Keep the story moving - nothing
holds a reader better than tension creates as the pace develops. Keep it
driving on relentlessly
* Think about your ending - surprise the reader, have some drama, a chase, a
fight, a killing, a dramatic revelation
* Feel free to makes us think - maybe you want to cast light on human nature,
or perhaps a problem in society, Do not preach but feel free to let that idea
come through in your story
The key to good writing is making the experience feel real for the reader, a major
part of my teaching of authors. You need to evoke a reaction in your reader and this is done
through triggers, using your reader’s associations to evoke a reaction. How do
you do that? Well,
why not start by playing on: Their
connections to places and people Their
prejudices and preconceptions? Their
response to weather conditions - snow, rain, heat etc Their
deeply felt fears and phobias?
is crucial for writers, especially those penning novels.
is directly related to the way we work and very often happens when you go back
over something you have written
me, it comes as I write and the plot evolves. Suddenly something becomes
important that was not important before or maybe was not there before so I add in
me, you may want to go back to a scene you wrote and inject it with an emotion
or add in extra information about a character. Was it too bland as it was, was
the reader likely to be bored? Or confused?
this layering is crucial and, for me, it can change stories for the better.