How To Get Story Ideas – Tips For Creative Writing And Authors

Hello my little slightly burnt quorn sausages which turn out OK once the surface has been scraped a bit. I trust you are well?

I made a little video of tips and advice that I’ve gathered from other sources as well as what works for me, so any writers out there will hopefully find this useful.

P.S. the T Shirt is by Betty Rocksteady, whose novella was published by Eraserhead Press the same time as mine.

SCP Foundation – add your spooky stories

Today a friend alerted me to a website featuring spooky stories that the average person can add to called the SCP Foundation, although they apparently delete entries that don’t comply with the general tone etc.

They have been described thusly: “The SCP Foundation is a creative writing website centered around pseudo-realistic supernatural reports. The site allows members to author entries in form of reports and documents focusing on entities referred to as SCPs, which are objects whose existence would be considered scientific anomalies and often pose a significant hazard to human health or society.

If you’re still curious have a read of this.

Projects like this are fun, unusual and good practice, so what are we waiting for?

A visit from Brighton police

When I lived in Brighton, Bath, Dorset, Stratford and Salisbury it seemed as if something crazy was happening every day. It was the usual mix of youth, hormones, absence of supporting family/old friends and neglect of self-care, and the effect was similar to wandering through an episode of Eastenders in full swing. Or Days of our Lives if you’re American, minus the Exorcism scenes (just).

Anyway, I arrived at my friend’s house in Brighton to see a police car waiting outside. Helen invited me in with a worried expression and I followed her tiny frame into the front room. She and her housemate Nikki, along with a distraught and crying girl I’d never seen before, were giving statements to one very earnest policeman while their female lodger wailed to another in a different room. “Bloody Hell,” I thought, “What is it this time?”

“She was being horrible to her girlfriend again,”¬†Helen explained, indicating the lodger making all the noise from the other room, “and when I told her not to she just went mad and attacked me!” Helen did indeed look shaken and angry.

“Oh dear,” I said helpfully.

“Right, well, she’ll be going somewhere else and we’ll be in touch,” the policeman explained as he got up to leave. Helen and Nikki’s lodger left with them and the flat fell into a heavy silence. The girlfriend of said lodger continued to weep.

“Shall I make tea then?” I offered, hurrying into the kitchen.

When everyone but the crying girl had the warm cups in their hands Helen explained that their lodger had been increasingly unpleasant to her girlfriend and Helen, always unwilling to ignore mistreatment, had had enough, leading to the attack. “You need to forget about her,” she said.

The girlfriend seemed to digest Helen’s advice. As I sipped at my tea she threw herself bodily against me and grappled me in a hug I wouldn’t give to my closest friends. Her tears dripped onto my shoulder. What could I do but hug back and stare fearfully at Helen, who bit her lip?

The hours passed, the sun rose high and soon she seemed to feel better. When she left we were all assured that tomorrow was a new day, that all would be well, and that she would begin a new life. That evening Helen got a call saying they’d got back together.

Editing a Book

I only have my own experiences to go on so if anyone can offer me any advice I’d be ecstatic to recieve it. I’m currently editing my first book and it’s torture. Writing is the easy bit in my opinion, it’s what comes after that’s the real tedious work part. Does anybody else find that?

Writing makes me a jolly, happy go lucky pixie. Editing turns me into the worst kind of teenager who’s been forced to sit down and do their homework. I’m trying to keep in mind some tips I once heard (from some lady who got published so I guess it’s probably sound advice):

the first draft you should just write, the important thing is to get it down.

The second draft you need to go back and fix the plot holes, rework events so they’re in the right place etc.

Third draft you can spend making it even better.

This is all great, but I just wish I could throw the manuscript at a Victorian assistant for the second draft and tell him he won’t get any coal unless it’s done properly.

Writer’s Groups, Online Workshops and Self-Editing Part 2

A short while ago I mentioned I had joined a local writer’s group. This was really enjoyable as the stories and poems were surprisingly (how much of a snob am I?) good. However while I found reading my story aloud helped me to locate things that needed changing, what I really missed was feedback.

I began thinking about joining an online workshop. A couple of friends I went to uni with suggested Chuck Palahniuk’s (author of Fight Club and Choke) online workshop for cult writers which looks pretty good, plus there’s the writer’s workshop and the SFF online writing workshop (Science Fiction, fantasy and horror). I was only interested in the free ones though, so I joined Critique Circle. Honestly just look in google, there’s loads.

I was nervous at first, and unsure whether anyone would get around to looking at my story or if people were just posting theirs. However you can’t upload a story until you’ve gained enough credits by critiquing someone else’s. I chose a template for my comments to ensure I did it thoroughly, and picked a story from the ‘newbie list.’ The one I chose was over 4,000 words which apparently gives you double credits, so I uploaded my story. I also noticed that the homepage features a different writing excercise every day and encourages activity from members via polls and competitions.

I waited over a week but, as there are quite a few options going down the left side, I was unsure what to do next. I kept checking my message inbox thinking the critiques would appear on there. However today, after clicking on ‘my story’ (should have been obvious I suppose), I found there had been 8 critiques. I read through them, some being more detailed than others of course, but the different templates the site offers for critiquing allows most people to be quite in-depth about their suggestions. The process highlighted areas I hadn’t realised needed work and, despite the occasional differences of culture between UK and America (a letterbox is something we have on our doors, not the thing on a stick) it was very good.

Quite intimidatingly you grade them on the helpfulness of their critiques via multiple choice, but this is also probably good otherwise you’d just get hundreds of “I liked it it was nise.”

I’m always self-editing but it can only get you so far. You do need to be quite ruthless with your work which I’m sure you already know; if you have to read a sentence more than once it probably needs changing. It can’t beat having other people look at it though. We have such a clear idea of how things are in our minds that we sometimes don’t realise other people can’t quite see it.

So there we are, free doesn’t necessarily mean bad.¬† I hope it was useful. Au revoir!

Writer’s Groups, Online Workshops and Self-Editing

I don’t know about you but one of the biggest problems I find with editing is getting somebody to read the damn thing, so the other night I went along to my local writer’s group to see if it was the answer to my dreams. A couple of friends I went to uni with had suggested Chuck Palahniuk’s (author of Fight Club and Choke) online workshop for cult writers which looks pretty good, plus there’s the writer’s workshop and the SFF online writing workshop (Science Fiction, fantasy and horror). There are also free ones, which I’ll be having a look at, such as Critique Circle. Honestly, there’s loads, just google it. At this stage in my career, if I can get advice for free, that’s what I’ll be doing.

I brought along a story I desperately want to get published. It seems if I can do a story in little over a day it gets somewhere, but the things I really love and work hard at I have trouble with. So I went along to the meeting place, a local pub, and joined the others.

Through the shouting of the locals at the bar I learned I would have to read my story aloud. Now, I had to do this during my creative writing course but it’s been a good few years, so as the reading circle drew ever closer I began to feel the palpitations reminiscent of the dreaded ‘your turn to hit the ball’ in P.E.

I began to forget myself, though, as I listened to other’s stories and poems. I get the same feeling when I’m painted in my job as a life model; however hippie this may sound I just like being in a creative environment, and the stories were good.

My palms were sweating when all eyes turned to me. I could hear the sound of my own voice rattling gratingly in my head but, as I continued, I grew in confidence and people began to laugh. It’s a comedy, so that was a good sign.

My only wish is that people gave more helpful comments, I’ve never liked it when people just say “that’s good” if it needs editing. However, on the walk home, I knew from hearing it aloud a few things that could be changed. Although having others read the thing on paper and make comments is invaluable, I think you also need to become ruthless. If you have to read a sentence twice, it needs changing. If you feel maybe there are too many words in a sentence, there probably are.

So, these are my thoughts on the matter, I hope they’re a tiny bit helpful. Good luck!