Tuesday 28 February 2012

Writing Short Stories

With several bestselling novels on the shelf, I recently turned my hand to writing short stories. Well, one short story so far to be exact. You wouldn’t think writing a short story would be too tricky for someone used to writing manuscripts of nearly 100,000 words. That was certainly my expectation. Wrong! It’s hard to present a brief snapshot without being superficial or resorting to clich├ęs and it was a sobering reminder that every form of writing demands different skills.
First of all, there's the idea. In a novel, one idea can carry your writing for six months, or even a year, but each short story needs its own new idea.
How do short story writers come up with so many ideas?
Then there's the issue of character. There wasn’t enough time to give much detail, and no space for character development (it was a very short short story), and it’s hard to be unpredictable without leaving an unresolved contradiction.
As in novels, plot was important, but I wasn’t sure how much time I could afford to spend setting the scene, and how short the final twist could be.
But the biggest surprise to me was how the style of my writing changed when I was writing a short story.
If I ever dare show my one short story to anyone, I’ll post it here. I’m not sure if I will, but one thing I am sure of is that I now have even more respect for short story writers than I had before.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Limited Edition

Limited Edition Hardback of Death Bed numbered and signed.. Here's my publisher making sure none of the copies were left unsigned. Purchase from http://www.noexit.co.uk/dbspecial/ - it's first come first served.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

The Importance of Editing

This may be a controversial, politically incorrect statement, but we are not all equal. On the contrary, we should celebrate our differences.
Of course I’d like to subscribe to the contemporary obsession for levelling every playing field and turning us all into socially successful, wealthy, talented, beautiful ‘individuals’ with perfect teeth and figures. But look around you. For some of us, all we need to do is look in a mirror.
I learned early in life to recognise my own strengths and weaknesses, more or less. Yes, it was disappointing. I would never be a straight A student in every subject. I wasn’t the most popular girl in the class. So winning a Novel Prize for scientific prowess, or being paid for smiling at a camera, weren’t for me. It’s just not true that anyone can achieve what they aspire to, with enough dedication and passion.
I’m not arguing against dedication or passion. Far from it. You can get a long way on self belief and enthusiasm.
But the pursuit of success isn’t always easy. We can expect to weather a few setbacks along the way. Yet primary school teachers no longer talk about ‘trial and error’. It is ‘trial and improvement’ because we cannot allow children to perceive themselves as capable of making mistakes.
As Albert Einstein said, “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” What’s so terrible about the odd blunder or two? And how are children ever going to cope as adults if we bring them up to expect they will go through life without ever ‘getting it wrong’?
The same applies to writers. If you want to produce a successful book, you should be open to criticisms and suggestions. Whether or not you agree, and decide to follow them, is your choice.
I have no particular allegiance to the traditional publishing model, although it has worked very well for me. We can all think of examples of excellent and shoddy books brought out both by traditional publishers, and self-published. But one major benefit of following the traditional route is that manuscripts are professionally edited and proof read before publication.
We don’t want to see people put off reading because they come across carelessly written books. With so many leisure activities available, this matters more than ever before.

For details of how to submit your writing for editing, email leighrusselledits@hotmail.co.uk

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Limited Edition!

I am VERY excited my publisher is printing a Special Limited Edition of Death Bed in hardback, individually signed and numbered. These are only available from http://www.noexit.co.uk/dbspecial/  This is a collector's item - or would make a great present (maybe even an investment as there are only 200 and they are not expensive!)

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Your writing

For once I'm not focusing on my own writing. 
This post is about YOUR writing.

I was flattered to be invited to write the Writing Crime Fiction module for a top writing academy. Details of how to register will be posted here once we're up and running so watch this space!
I'm currently offering critiques of other writers' work. Please contact me through my website if you want to know more. It's a great opportunity to have your work read by an internationally bestselling author (me!) My time is quite limited which means I can't guarantee to read your work, so please email me for submission details before sending anything. Electronic submssions are welcome.
You can contact me on http://www.leighrussell.co.uk/contact.php

Friday 10 February 2012

How to write short stories

Here is a great opportunity for writers to benefit from the guidance of Helen M Hunt, a successful and prolific writer of short stories for women's magazines.

Insight Into The Women’s Magazine Fiction Market – 3 March 2012
This workshop will look at writing for the increasingly tough and sadly shrinking women’s magazine market. So if you’ve been writing for a while and want to find out more about this market, this workshop could be for you.
Lunch and light refreshments are included. The cost of the course is £35 which also includes a critique.
Moving On Short Story Workshop – 31 March 2012
This course will be practically based and will help participants work towards the first draft of a story for their chosen women’s magazine market. They will receive a critique of their story once they have had a chance to finish it after the course.
Lunch and light refreshments are included. The cost of the course is £40 which also includes a critique.
New for 2012
Day Retreat For Writers – 28 April 2012
Come and spend a day with fellow writers being inspired, exercising your writing skills and sharing your work in a supportive atmosphere at Delapre Abbey. The course is run by a short story writer, but all writers are welcome to come to this one and benefit from meeting other writers in a supportive atmosphere.
The cost of the retreat is £22. Lunch is not included but you’ll be able to purchase refreshments from the Abbey Tea Room.
All these courses are held in Northampton and full details are on http://www.helenmhunt.co.uk/
Online services
For anyone who can’t make it to a workshop, Helen offers the totally flexible Hop On Hop Off online course (details here http://www.helenmhunt.co.uk/?page_id=37) and a critique service (details here http://www.helenmhunt.co.uk/?page_id=15).

Sunday 5 February 2012

Why we read crime fiction

I was very pleased to receive an invitation from BBC 3 Counties Radio this week to discuss the popularity of crime fiction live on air. This was in response to a recent report from the library service that crime novels have overtaken romance as the most borrowed genre in 2011.

The 10 most popular authors on the list were crime writers, with James Patterson at number 1 and two of Lee Child’s titles in the top 10. Most of the authors live in the US, Ian Rankin being the only UK resident author in the top 10.

I had an earlier inkling of this when a Hertfordshire librarian kindly emailed me to let me know that I was the second most borrowed author at that library for 2011, second only to James Patterson.

The question the BBC presenter posed was why has crime fiction increased in popularity in recent times?

In Victorian times people were uneasily aware of high profile killers like Jack the Ripper. Equipped with little more than bicycles, whistles and good intentions, the police in those days were ineffective. Sherlock Holmes captured the public imagination as a precursor of superman as much as of Poirot and Rebus, because it was immensely reassuring to read about a detective guaranteed to outwit the evil villain. It still seems incredible that many people thought he really existed, but we believe what we want to believe.

In the wake of 9/11 and with growing problems of recession, we are increasingly conscious of the battle for survival, on a global and an individual level. Add to this the decline in religious belief, and it is hardly surprising that so many people are turning to crime fiction as an escape from an unjust world where very little seems to make any sense.

However disturbing crime novels are, we know some sort of moral order will be restored in the end. That is the reason for their appeal. The less the world around us makes sense, the more popular the genre is likely to become, as library borrowings demonstrate.