At the beginning of this year I set myself the task of reading more books considered ‘classics’ in order to widen my literary knowledge and improve my writing skills. After asking a friend and colleague for book recommendations, I have made it to and finished the modern classic and short story, ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Joseph Conrad. Previously, I had never heard of Joseph Conrad, so I decided to do some research about the author.
Joseph Conrad was born in December 1857, he was a Polish-British writer who was granted British nationality in 1886. Many of his works feature nautical settings which is not surprising considering Conrad expressed a desire to go to sea and spent time working on French merchant vessels before joining a British ship as an apprentice.
The ‘Heart of Darkness’ explores the effects of European imperialism and colonialism in Africa, both for the African people who lived there and the Europeans who were sent there as part of the now, illegal, ivory trade. Conrad writes from read more
When I was in high school and studying English Literature, we read books like ‘Of Mice And Men’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’. One day that I remember clearly, a student asked the English teacher why we were bothering to study the sentences in such detail. This student was sure that writers would not and did not plan every single sentence they wrote. They thought that if a writer chose to write that the curtains were blue then they simply were blue and that it was not a subtle attempt at drawing out feelings of sadness from the reader. My teacher didn’t have a reply at the time, but after writing a book, reading hundreds of other books and many years later, I do have a reply. read more
Ok so maybe some of these ideas are not so ‘novel’, but being an author doesn’t mean you have to write novels and huge epic trilogies all the time. Some people just don’t take to writing the longer stuff and that’s ok, because it doesn’t mean that you’re not a writer. Or perhaps you do write novels and you just fancy trying something different with your writing skills? Here are just a handful of ideas that you can try when you’re not feeling up to writing your novel, but you really want to write…
1) Write A Poem Or A Song.
You don’t have to write the next Homer’s Iliad or Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, but a little song, poem, or even just a couplet, might be a secret talent that you never knew you had. Poetry and song writing is a good way to get creative with words, and learn some new synonyms and antonyms whilst you’re at it.
2) Keep A Gratitude Diary. read more
Outlet Publishing and their team have kindly asked me to help judge their short story competition, and even though I haven’t written a short story myself, yet, and I’m certainly no expert. I am an avid reader and I have been through the writing and publication process, so I do feel in my humble opinion that I have a basic understanding of what works and what doesn’t.
Over the past two months I have read dozens of entries written by young, hopeful candidates. Some have been very good, others not so, but as the entries have been piling up around me I have noticed similarities and reoccurring patterns. The same mistakes have been cropping up again and again, and there appears to be a preference towards particular genres and themes. The latter is neither strictly bad nor good, but the former is most definitely bad. With this in mind, I am going to share with you some insight into what I feel short story competition judges are looking for, and hopefully help you and your short stories shoot to the top of the winning pile.
Tip Number 1: Read The Rules.
This may seem obvious, but make sure you read the competition’s specifications, rules and guidelines. I don’t know if it was because candidates couldn’t be bothered to read the rules or if they simply misread them, but a couple of the short story submissions I have recently received didn’t sit within the required word count. Judges may be able to forgive a word count that falls 10% above or below the maximum and minimum requirement, but if your story is more than 10% above or below then don’t submit it. Also, some competitions state a specific age range or country of residence, so make sure you read everything carefully before submitting your work.
Tip Number 2: Quality Over Quantity. read more
A warm hello to everyone!
Since this is the first Diary of a Young Writer blog of 2017, I hope you had a happy Christmas and a great New Year. Despite 2016 being a pretty bad year for a lot of people, I can actually say that my 2016 was pretty good, though that’s only when I ignore the political world.
2016 held a number of firsts for me, some of them were difficult and others I ploughed on ahead like an unstoppable steam train. I finally moved away from home, I reread my first published novel again and actually enjoyed it, and I’m being paid to do what I love. I also read forty different fictional novels during the year, just six shy from the previous year. read more
I have recently read George Orwell’s essay ‘Bookshop Memories’ – the cynic in me was delighted. I’ve been working in a second hand bookshop part-time for the past couple of months and even though I haven’t come across all the types of customers Orwell describes, it’s safe to say I had little trouble imagining them.
I can understand honestly Orwell’s frustrations, but I think his account is somewhat unfair and not quite so accurate nowadays, though I guess time may change my mind. I do believe that you have to be a certain kind of person to enjoy working with books, and although I’d struggle to describe that type of person, even to myself, I can tell you what type of person it most definitely isn’t. read more
Have you ever heard a friend, a family member, or even perhaps a stranger wishing out loud that they were more creative? Or maybe you’ve heard some of these excuses: ‘but I’m not creative like you’ or ‘I’m terrible at drawing’ or ‘I don’t have the time to play a musical instrument?’ Yet, these are the very people who will often look on at a piece of art or watch a musical performance with a mixture of awe, jealousy and yearning?
If you grew up in an academic environment, surrounded by people who attended public schools and colleges, then it’s likely that your view on what being creative means falls into the narrow fields of those who can paint and those who can play an instrument. It’s also likely that you were guided away from creative pursuits unless they somehow benefitted you academically. I know this because I went through the exact same schooling system several years ago. I’m not sure if much has really changed since then with public schools and colleges, and I don’t know enough about state schools (also known as public schools outside of the UK) or state colleges to comment.
What I do know is that there appears to be a common misconception that it is almost impossible to get a job in the creative industry or make your way in the world as an artist, read more
It’s that time of year again when it’s great if you’re a kid, sociable if you’re a teen, and usually pretty sucky if you’re an adult. Yes, of course, I’m talking about Halloween.
As much as I love kids (and dressing-up), I can think of better ways to spend my evening which doesn’t involve getting up to answer the door every five minutes. To all you poor souls who don’t have a table booked or a cinema viewing or another excuse to avoid the house, all I can offer you is a blog and some book recommendations to help you fill the minutes between grazing the candy bowl and answering the front door.
I don’t have any horrors for you with these next three novels but scroll down to the bottom of this blog for some scarier suggestions. However, for the spookiest day of the year, I do have a Witch, a Wizard, and a Changeling… read more
Admittedly my trip to Wigtown was booked rather last minute dot com. I had been meaning to visit Scotland’s National Book Town for some time, but between searching for properties and moving out, I hadn’t gotten around to it. Then there came a two week lull where all the agreements had been signed but my new flat was left waiting for broadband. Since my work is all home-based and requires the internet, there was little I could do, so I decided that this was the perfect time to book an overnight trip to Wigtown.
I went online, searched for places to stay in Wigtown, and quickly found a great priced room available for one night at the Hillcrest House B&B. My goal in Wigtown was to be nosy, get a general feel for the place, and go around all the book shops and dig the owners’ brains for any tips and advice for anyone who is thinking about setting up a book shop for the first time. (I also personally aimed to buy a book from every book shop in the town.)
Now for those of you who don’t know, Wigtown is a little town in the Dumfries and Galloway region in the Southwest of Scotland. It has a population of around 1,000 people and is home to several, independent, second-hand book shops. Now this may not seem like a lot at first glance, but it means there’s one book shop or book café for every 100 residents. To put this into perspective, Edinburgh would probably read more