Monthly Archives: November 2014

Room in Your Heart – Welcome to Wendy Clarke

Today, to celebrate publication of her anthology, Room in Your Heart and the commencement of National Short Story Week, I’m welcoming Wendy Clarke onto my blog.

final-b2So, Wendy, big welcome fellow short story writer – and congratulations on your collection, Room in Your Heart.

Thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog, Sue. It’s lovely to be here.

Tell us a little about the collection.

Room in Your Heart is a collection of twelve romantic short stories all of which have been previously published in The People’s Friend Magazine. When putting together the collection, I chose my favourite stories and have tried to balance emotional stories with lighter ones.

What makes the short story form so appealing to you? Do you write other things, too?

I love the fact that with a short story, you can be in the head of a Victorian maid in Lancashire one day and a teenage girl in a tower block the next. Writing short stories is like an apprenticeship – a place where you can learn your craft without spending the amount of time and energy needed for a novel. Although I mainly write short stories, I write serials for The People’s Friend as well – one is awaiting publication and I am halfway through my second. I have also written articles for Writing Magazine (the one in this month’s edition is about how I put together my collection). Recently, I took the big step of starting my first novel.

The People’s Friend is a market that thrives on short stories written in the traditional style – is this your preference, too? Or are you really an experimental writer trying to burst out of the mould?

My mum is always asking me this question! I used to think I might like to write something more ‘literary’ but I’ve been writing short stories for magazines now for just over two years and I think there comes a point when you realise what style of writing suits you. Although I write in a range of styles for different magazines, when it came to choosing a genre for my collection, I realised that I have written a lot of what Shirley Blair calls ‘Romance with emotional depth’ be it contemporary or historical – this seems to be my signature style. Having said that, I have also written ghost, twist and humour.

My writing technique bugbear is head hopping and I can’t bear to read things where the writer is trying to project a scene from within two heads simultaneously. Do you have a pet hate, too?

‘Head hopping’ is one of my pet hates too. I think another one would be trying to be clever with a word when a simpler one might have worked better. Also having a character in a story state something in conversation that would be obvious to the other character, in order to fill the reader in.

First person or third person? Or either?

Both of these. I also use both past and present tense – depending on the storyline. I tend to use third person for my historical stories as I like its gentle quality. The first story in my collection, called Read These When I’ve Gone, is written from a man’s view point and is in first person present tense whereas One Step at a Time is in third person past tense.

Where are you hoping that short story writing will take you? Or have you already arrived there?

Although I love writing short stories and have no plan to stop, I seem to be following a path that others have taken. Since moving on to serials, the next logical step is a novel. I have just started it and it’s based on one of my short stories. It is a contemporary romance and I would love to get onto the RNA New Writing Scheme next year – it might give me the push I need to really follow it through.

Thank you very much for having me as a guest on your blog.

IMG_0785It’s a pleasure! To find out more about Wendy:

Wendy’s blog

Wendy on Facebook

Wendy on Twitter

 

 

 

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Familiar Blunders When Writing a Novel – revisited

This is how my head felt

This is how my head felt

I finished my first draft today. Yeah! I had such a reaction to my first post on the subject of blundering about when writing a novel (you can read it here) that I decided to celebrate by comparing how I feel now that I’ve written ‘ends’ with how I felt then, around 28,000 words earlier.

– Really thrilled that the first draft is down. Now it is, I can play with it and polish it and make it better. I love finishing a first draft and look forward to the second.

– It now seems perfectly reasonable that I had to rewrite the beginning when I got half way through. I knew my characters better by then and saw that some of the themes I thought would be important were not and that new themes took over.

– I’m a lot less bothered about whether I kept all my plates spinning, ie kept up with all my plot lines. When I begin to edit, the smashed plates will become obvious. Because of the miracle of working in a word processor, nobody will ever know whether I glued the plates back together and got them spinning back on their sticks or just quietly swept the pieces into the bin. (I work on a Mac so that should probably be Trash.)

Beta reader, Mark West.

Beta reader, Mark West.

– If I don’t notice a smashed plate then one of my beta readers or my agent will. Ditto holes in the plot. I’m blessed to have these people. Though I’ve been working alone on this for months and months they have been patiently waiting to help me. It’s kind of humbling, really.

– I’m much happier about the dynamics between certain characters now I’ve had time to think about them. And because I now know what every character does at the end. Once I know the answer, the questions seem clearer!

– I did, in the end, have sufficient ideas for my plot. I like to write between 85,000 and 95,000 words, and this book has closed at 91,850. I have no idea why I worried …

– OK, I did sweat over unknotting my plot lines and bringing the book to a conclusion that satisfied me. My brain hurt. A Facebook friend was an invaluable source of information on technology issues. But it’s done. It will probably have to be improved upon. Fine. Bring it on.

photo(53) copy 3– Yes, I do get in the same knots and snaggles with this book as with every other. I will no doubt get in them again when I write another book. Nobody said writing a book is easy. Or, if they did, it wasn’t me.

But the satisfaction now that the first draft is complete? Immense.

And my very first action after typing in the final line? (Apart from editing it and typing in a different one.) To back it up to my dropbox so that even if my house burns down tonight, my WIP is safe. Mwah. Love you, first draft.

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