Beating a Retreat by Jane Clamp

As a new departure, I recently had the privilege of leading a retreat for writers at a Christian hotel. The setting couldn’t have been more perfect, with stunning views from the front rooms, warm hospitality and excellent food.

The group soon settled in and we quickly jelled around ice-breaking activities on the first night. The next morning, the course began in earnest with morning sessions focussed on an aspect of the writing craft followed by free afternoons in which to write or relax. After our delicious three-course meal, each evening offered the chance for us to share with each other what we had produced. The pieces were heart-warming, well-crafted and made us both laugh and cry.

I remember well the first ever retreat I went on. Led by the very funny, talented and prolific Nick Page, that week changed my life. Not only did I meet people who have become firm friends, it marked the point where I could say, albeit in a slightly wobbly voice, that I was a writer. Having the opportunit…

A Literary Genius Becomes a Human Being: First Draft Revelations - by SC Skillman

Do we sometimes pause to wonder about those literary masters whom we admire almost as if they occupy a rarefied level of existence above the rest of us?  Shakespeare, for instance, or Homer?

How different might this be if we were to see their first drafts?

I love Jane Austen, and believe 'Pride and Prejudice' is close to being the perfect novel, for many reasons. I know people exist who don't agree with me, but for the sake of argument let us say here, that for me Jane Austen the novelist is a rarefied being.  So recently I feel as if I have seen her in a new light, in a light I might even identify with; I have had an insight into her first draft.

The first draft I'm talking about is, of course, Chapters 1-12 of her last, unfinished, novel, 'Sanditon', which the screenwriter Andrew Davies has recently  adapted and completed for ITV as a very successful and enjoyable drama series.

Even Andrew Davies says of the material he had to work with: "It reads like a…

Questions about quills - by Fran Hill

Sometimes I hanker after a quill such as Shakespeare must have used: that rhythmic dip-shake-scratch-scratch dip-shake-scratch-scratch that gave one time to think in between phrases and clauses.

Yes, I realise about the blots and the unevenness and the general ink-onvenience of it all. But it doesn't stop me wondering whether those weren't the good old days for writers.

Have new technologies been of as much benefit as we think?

I'm a teacher now, but before I trained in my early 40s, I was a medical secretary in the NHS. So, I learned to touch-type when I studied for the Diploma of the Association of Medical Secretaries. I don't think this qualification exists any more, perhaps because it takes so long to say and produces unwanted spittle. 

My typing classes in the late 1970s at Warwickshire College involved learning on manual typewriters in the first year of our two-year course. Here's a picture of one in case you're a young 'un who's never heard of such a…

10 Reasons to Market your own Book by Lucy Rycroft

I sense a tension whenever book marketing posts are discussed in the Association of Christian Writers Facebook group (or, indeed, other online forums of authors and publishers). 
Much responsibility is placed on today's writers to market and sell their own books. Yet those who have been releasing books for decades remember a time when their publisher did it for them - nay, in some cases, even offered (wait for it...) an ADVANCE!! Yes, a real, live financial sum of money to tide them over whilst writing the book. It seems like a fantasy to those of us just starting out in 2019!
Rather than mourn the golden age, I thought it would be good to look at the positives of marketing your own book. I'm just at the end of a three-month period marketing my first book, Redeeming Advent, which has sold twice the number of copies I was hoping it would sell. 
Undoubtedly, a positive, 'can-do' attitude towards book marketing has been at the foundation of my book's success, so here&…

Christmas Presents by Wendy H. Jones

As I write this, Christmas is fast approaching. Trees are starting to go up, children are excited and the Christmas buying frenzy has well and truly begun. When it comes to books, a lot of them are published in November, ready for the Christmas buying season. Whilst other gifts soar and wane in popularity, books endure. When buying a book for someone, it is such a pleasure searching out the perfect one, knowing that it will bring joy to the recipient. For me, there is nothing like unwrapping a book on Christmas Day. But, I hear you say, what if they’ve read it? There is always that possibility. However, seeking out something more esoteric and opening someone’s eyes to new possibilities is exciting. I have found great new authors that way. 
While I am here, can I encourage you to use your local bookshop be it chain or independent. Not forgetting your local Christian Bookshop. I want to give a shoutout to two of my favourites - CLC Dundee and GLO Motherwell. Both are outstanding stores w…

Take a Break

There comes a time in every writers' life when you having a bad day/week/month/year and nothing seems to work. It could be due to physical health problems, mental health problems, issues with the family or any other reason.

When these things happen, accept them. Some days you can push yourself, on others you can't.

Just sit back and read this poem...

Stay true to yourself, look after yourself, live to write and create another day.

History In Stories

Do you like history? I do.

I love historical fiction. My favourite remains The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey which crosses history with a detective story. (Worth checking out if you’re interested in Richard III).

One thing I love about flash fiction is because it must be character led, I can set said characters wherever I want. I’ve written historical flash fiction pieces and implied history with other stories. I’ve also written tales which give nods to famous historical works. Even if you don’t know the characters or background to those works, my stories still make sense. They make more sense if you do know.

Even with a fantastical flash tale, I’ve implied the history of the fantastical character or setting. A line or two is enough usually to give a flavour of the setting, which is all that is needed here.

Whatever we write, our characters have a history, though not all is shown in the story we present to a reader.  I have to outline my characters and know some of their history b…