Amazing writing blogs 

Michael J Sullivan

Michael J. Sullivan's personal story is incredible and inspiring. He wrote and shelved 13 novels before he self published and became the phenominal success he is today.

 

He'd become so depressed about his chances of ever making it as a writer that he gave up writing for a whole decade and only started again to get his daughter, who has dyslexia, into reading.

 

Apart from being laugh-outloud funny (see the sample below!) his articles in the Writing Advice section of his site on, 'Dealing with Failure', 'Dialog', 'Point of View', and the rather rarer topic of 'Multitasking' in writing, are invaluable resources for all writers who consider there are still things they can learn.  

Excerpt from Michael's 'Applied Description' post:

"The subject was male, five foot, eight inches, twenty-four years old. He was Caucasian, with black hair, and blue eyes. He wore a single-breasted dark blue suit with a white collared shirt and a red tie.

 

The first impulse is to clean up the data-speak and turn it into something more casual.

 

He was average height for a white male in his mid twenties. He had black hair and blue eyes, and wore a dark blue, single-breasted suit with  a white shirt and red tie.

 

This is easier to read but still dull, so the next impulse is to dress up the description using more sophisticated, artsy language.

 

He was of median height for an anti-chromatic male in his newly minted adulthood. He had raven hair and cerulean eyes, and wore a dark single-breasted suit that enveloped him like a dark shadow, with a red tie like a line of blood slicing down his alabaster clear-buttoned chest.

 

This is where a lot of aspiring writers get stuck, lost in the clever wording and surprising imagery. It can be like a drug. It’s fun to play with words, to think of new ways to say old things. It is also easy to delude yourself into thinking this is great writing. It has to be, it’s beautiful, and it’s hard to do. It takes a lot more work than just saying something bluntly. A sense of mingling poetry and prose can soon follow and the effects become dramatic.

 

Mediocre this bleached pedestal of western dominance, this man newly stamped and licensed—legal to drink. Inky black, his raven’s wrath of hair perched indomitable upon his crown shading two cerulean marbles sucked in rolling sockets. His fascist uniform of the new national socialism, blood on snow, on black of death.

 

This then brings me back to the point of my original post where I suggested describing things using tiny details and general impressions. Here is the same description distilled down to one sentence using the impression method:

 

Jimmy Davis looked like an insurance salesman, already doomed at the age of twenty-five."

 

Quoted with permission of the author. Read the full post on Michael J. Sullivan's site here

Christopher Fielden is the total short story guru in the UK. He quit his job a few years ago to make money through his writing, blogging on writing and generally furthering the cause of fiction by offering services to emerging writers and championing the short story. 

His site hosts the definitive list of short story contests and short story magazines in the UK, as well as listing international competitions and magazines that accept UK/worldwide entrants. 

You can search around the internet a long time (believe me, I did) and not find a definitive and up to date list of the opportunities out there for short story writers like this.

 

Chris realised that while there are numerous small lists of short story competitions and other writing competitions, nowhere was there one complete list of all opportunities currently available for the short story writer. His site lists all useful info such as word limits, deadlines, enty fees and prizes. Do check it out here

Emma Darwin is the author of the highly acclaimed 'The Mathmatics of Love' and bestselling 'A Secret Alchemy'. Her third novel is on the way... (If you're wondering about the surname, yes, she's also that Darwin's direct descendent!) She's also written the non-fiction 'Get Started in Writing Historical Fiction'. 

Discovering her blog of writing techniqe advice is, for the novice writer, like discovering a goldmine of wisdom.

 

It reveals ideas and concepts that most newbie writers have never even heard of and explains them accessibly yet in real depth. This is what Emma writes about the blog: 

"This Itch of Writing: the blog is read by writers at all levels, linked to by many MA, MFA and undergraduate creative writing courses around the world, and is the only blog recommended by name in the Society of Editors and Proofreaders guide Editing Fiction."

As well as invaluable writing advice articles she also discusses more philosophical topics of great interest to the aspiring or emerging writer, such as whether writing can be taught or not and what the prospects of making a full living out of writing fiction really are today.  

The article on removing 'Filtering', which Emma argues is possibly the easiest and quickest way for a beginner writer to impove is especially useful. 

In addition, Chris runs his very own short story contest, the prestigious and much coveted To Hull and Back humorous short story competition, with a large cash prize and publication in the anthology for the winners and shortlist. A brilliant read if you fancy some very amusing short stories.

 

There's the latest hilarious anthology - click to view on Amazon: 

He also hosts a selection of brilliant writing challenges to raise money for charity. One of which is the Adverbially challenged writing contest. See my entry here

Emma Darwin
Chris Fielden
Excerpt from 'This Itch of Writing', the invaluable writers' toolkit on craft: 
The Ten Things Which Most Often Go Wrong With Beginners' Fiction

"...Writers who are just beginning...do tend to make many of the same mistakes as each other. That's why books and straightfoward "Writing Fiction" courses do work well for these early-stage writers: much of what is said will be useful to much of the group. And in that spirit, these are the ten things which I most often find that such early-stage writers need to work on:

1) Telling where you should be Showing. Or, as I prefer to call it, Informing where you should be Evoking. The most common sub-set of Bad Telling is what I think of as Office-Speak.

2) Under-writing so that everything is a bare minimum of dialogue and necessary information about physical actions and events, like a play- or film-script, so that characters float in undifferentiated space and their thoughts and feelings are never evoked. But we have no actors, directors, designers, choreographers, camera operators; we only have our words on the page. A variant has the occasional lump of description like a stage direction at the beginning of the scene, and after that the characters operate in a blank space.

3) Over-writing, including over-explaining. A variant is what I call showing too much, which may in itself read very well, so it can be hard to spot.

4) Good writing but no narrative drive. Good writing, by definition, convinces the reader: in the short term we're easily drawn in and believe in this vivid world. But soon the reader gets restive because the story-ship isn't actually going anywhere."

Quoted with permission of the author. See the full article on Emma's site here