Creative Writing, dialogue, Dirty Draft, inspiration

Three Top Tips For Moving Your Writing On…

By Antonio Litterio

1. DRIVE THAT DRY: When you’ve had a run of successful writing sessions,  it comes as a shock when you hit a dry patch.  Don’t panic.  The act of writing is like holding handfuls of sand: the harder you try, the more effort you put in, the closer to impossible it gets.  The first blank sheet, or coming back after a break, is always tough. Forget what you planned to write. Instead, plunge straight in to writing your most exciting scene. It doesn’t matter if it’s out of context, just get something down on paper. This works on the sink or swim principle. It may just take a prod to make the words start flowing again. If that doesn’t work, there’s a point when sitting and suffering is pointless. Visit your own particular well of inspiration, even if it’s only snatching a nap or taking a walk. Chill out. Stop and smell the flowers. Sometimes you achieve more by trying less. 

2. PLAY FAST AND DIRTY:    When you’re first grabbed by an idea, don’t get bogged down in detail. As long as you’ve done the groundwork on your characters and conflicts, try this. Charge straight through your story, writing only the dialogue. Scribble away as fast as you can, getting down on paper or screen all the juiciest exchanges. Start the beginning, and work right through to the end. You’re not looking to write the whole novel at this stage. You’ll probably change a million things about it before you’re satisfied with your final draft, but that’s in the future. What you want at this stage is a big boost to your self-esteem. The explosion of your idea into visible words will power you on to the finish.

3. FINE TUNE THE FUTURE: Your first, “dirty” draft captures all the interpersonal, edge of the seat stuff – the interplay of character and conflicts that first got your idea up and running. If you’ve invested in plenty of thinking time and done your research, your second draft should be pure pleasure. Go back over your work word by word, and line by line. Use your character sketches to make sure everyone is doing and saying the things they should – or at least, in the way they should. Season your writing with a dash description, and a lot of character development. Let your fictional people drive their story on.  Crank up the conflict. Make them laugh and cry, and you’ll make your completed story a guaranteed page turner. 

For more writing tips, visit my website by clicking here. You can sign up for my occasional newsletter by mailing me at christinahollis@hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk, putting “NEWSLETTER” in the subject line. 
birds, Creative Writing, inspiration, National Dawn Chorus Day, Spring

Refilling the Creative Writing Well…

By Martyn Stanley
The surge of spring is well under way. These bluebells surround our house like the sea, and  for a few precious weeks each year their blue tide sweeps through the wood.

Growing things gives me a break from writing and gives my mind a chance to freewheel. I can develop fictional characters and formulate new stories. This week, I’ve been planting salads out in the Greenhouse #1, and looking forward to the first tabbouleh of summer. Tomato plants give off a powerful fragrance which reminds me of when I was little, as my father used to grow hundreds of the things. The perfume of lilac blossom is another trigger for memories. The house where I grew up had double white lilacs all along one boundary. In the low light of dusk and dawn the flowers glowed like banks of snow. I used to think it was an extra present, as my birthday falls this month. Things were so much simpler back then!

The dawn chorus is another powerfully evocative spur for me at this time of year. The birds start singing before first light. That’s when I like to go outside for some thinking time. Sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, waiting for the performance to begin eases me gently into my working day. It’s usually a robin who starts singing first here. There are two song thrush nests close to the house, one in the kitchen garden and a second in  a holly tree on the lower lawn. I like their songs second only to the nightingales that sing a few miles up the road. There are blackbirds nesting in the ivy encrusting our old shed, and once the male starts warbling from the ridge of the bigger greenhouse, I know it’s time to get ready for the school run.

Sunday, 4th May, is National Dawn Chorus Day. The thought of yet another “day” to add to all the other weird and wonderful promotional activities dreamt up by marketing men usually provokes yawns of boredom. Not this time. We’ll be heading off to Highnam before 4am, to see if the famous Gloucestershire nightingales are on song. Then it’ll be back home for a great British breakfast. The smell of frying bacon is another memorable experience. It makes me want to write a piece on why I could never be completely vegetarian…
What inspires you to write?
3 Top Tips, Creative Writing, inspiration

Three Top Tips – Mind Games In Writing

By Antonio Litterio
It’s one thing to have a great idea and write about it, but what works for you may not work for other people. That doesn’t matter if you’re only writing for your own pleasure. If you’re aiming for publication, then you’ll have to get crafty. Think like a reader, and keep these three points in mind: 

CONVICTION: Whether you’re writing non-fiction or a novel, a short story or saga you’ve got to Believe in your work – note that capital B. Making up your mind to put your thoughts down on paper is a big decision. You may or may not be aiming to get published one day, but the more faith you have in your idea, the better your work will be. Spelling and grammar can always be tidied up with redrafts and revisions, but if your writing doesn’t have heart,  it hasn’t got a hope. 

CHALLENGE: Don’t do all the work for your readers. Add twists and turns to make them think. Give them clues, drip feed information and build tension, whether dramatic or sexual, all the time. Engage their interest, and they’ll keep reading. Strap them into an emotional roller-coaster, and push them out of their comfort zone. And challenge their beliefs and their assumptions by all means – just don’t challenge their ability to finish your book. 

CARE: Don’t insult your readers’ intelligence. They come from all walks of life. They’re all individuals, too. Your writing could attract either a roadsweeper with a PhD, or a high court judge with no common sense at all. You can’t generalise about your readers, so write as well as you can. Then take care with your editing, to make sure you produce something that everyone can enjoy–whoever they are, and whatever their qualifications 

I’m Christina Hollis, and I write both contemporary and historical fiction – when I’m not cooking, gardening or beekeeping. You can catch up with me on Twitter and Facebook, see a full list of my published books at and get full details of my latest release, Jewel Under Siege, here.

Constantinople, Epublishing, First Crusade, Harlequin Masquerade, inspiration, Jewel Under Siege, Tessa Shapcott

Jewel Under Siege – My New Release.

Find out more here
I love the quote from writer Norah Ephron’s mother that everything is copy. This was brought home to me when I was researching the life of Robert Curthose for a magazine article. He was the eldest son of William the Conqueror (remember? Battle of Hastings, 1066?). As well as being a chivalrous knight, Robert was the original party guy. He was a lot of fun, but too easily swayed by his advisors. He could never have been a good ruler, and in the end both his younger brother William (Rufus) and then his youngest brother Henry (I)  got the top job  instead.

Robert’s travels took in Constantinople (modern day Istanbul), which was an amazing place. The luxurious descriptions of a city at the hub of all the great trade routes made me want to use it as the setting for a novel. People have always been resourceful in times of hardship, and I wondered how attraction would work between two people on opposing sides, caught up in a war.  My notes turned into an historical romance, Jewel Under Siege. Heroine Elena is a young widow who shelters Emil, an injured Crusader. This puts her in terrible danger, both from the authorities and from Emil’s rugged charm. The tension mounts as their attraction for each other struggles with Elena’s guilt at living a lie. Then disaster strikes – and only Emil can save the situation.

Jewel Under Siege was brought out in print by Harlequin Mills and Boon as part of their Masquerade Historical Romance Line, under my pen-name Polly Forrester. Now the on-line market has expanded, the book has been re-edited by Tessa Shapcott, given a great new cover by Samantha Groom at magicat45degrees and is now available as an ebook by clicking here.  

I love the ebook’s cover image, which you can see above. It suggests Elena’s vulnerability, as well as the exotic setting. After all the dreadful weather we’ve been struggling with here lately, the sunlight on the sea is a welcome reminder that warm weather is on the way.

I’d love to know what you think about Jewel Under Siege. If you’d like your name to be entered in  a draw to win a review copy, email me at christinahollis(at), replacing the word in brackets with @. To find out more about Jewel Under Siege, you can sign up for my next newsletter here.
inspiration, self-improvement, Three Top Tips

New Year, New You?

By Photos public
The New Year holiday already seems a long time ago. How are your resolutions holding up? Here are some ideas to keep you on track…

PLAN: You wouldn’t dream of setting off on holiday without knowing how you were going to get there. Fuzzy ideas are more likely to fail. Decide exactly what you want from 2014, and write down your goals. Don’t just say; “I’m going to lose weight”, or “I’m going to write a book.” They are nice ideas, but too vague to take seriously.  Turn your dreams into proper objectives. Be precise – “I’m going to lose fourteen pounds in weight by my birthday” or “I’m going to write a full-length romantic novel by December 31st, 2014.” They look both scary and impressive when you put them into words, but that’s the idea – resolutions are all about growing and improving. Break your big projects down into manageable chunks, then create “to do” lists to help you whittle away at each one. Rather than endlessly slogging toward your distant target, reward yourself each time you lose a pound in weight, finish writing a chapter or reach some other significant milestone. 

MINGLE: Everything’s easier once you know you’re not alone in what you’re trying to do. Join a group of like-minded people, whether it’s WeightWatchers or the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Talk about your resolution. If you’ve found something that works, share it. On the other hand, if you’re going through a rough patch, it’s amazing how people will spontaneously supply support and ideas. It’s true – a trouble shared really is  a trouble halved.  Don’t take it too far, though. If you abuse people’s sympathy and rely on them to solve all your problems for you, every time, another popular phrase will soon turn into “a friend in need is a blasted nuisance.”
By Dijr

KEEP GOING: Make a note of every single one of your successes – no matter how small.  Whatever happens, keep going. Everyone has times when they let things slide. The important thing is not to let one mistake throw you permanently into reverse. Build on every tiny triumph until you’ve turned your vision from a dream into a reality.  

One day, a building team shoved a single stone block into exactly the right position on the Giza plain in Egypt. All they had to do was repeat that simple action another two million, two hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and ninety-nine times and they’d created the Pharoah Khufu’s Great Pyramid. At 481 feet (147 metres) high, that’s the largest pyramid on earth – and it all started with that single block.

How are you getting on with your New Year Resolutions? Have you got any top tips for success?