December’s Crime Book Club Meeting and January’s Read

Last night the crime book club met up for the last meeting of 2014. We discussed, the very festive, The Ho Ho Ho Mystery by Bob Burke. It was a story with a pig for a protagonist and various other story book characters as sidekicks and characters within the novel. Santa has been kidnapped and Mrs C wants Harry Pigg, the detective’s, help in finding him before it’s too late.

Yes, it all sounds a ridiculous story and one that you wouldn’t expect the book club to read, but you won’t expect this either – it was an absolute hit! Seriously, every member really enjoyed the book and that was after going into it not expecting to like it at all. Reasons given for liking it were the narrative voice of Harry which was reminiscent of 1950’s noir, the wit, and the sarcastic nods to shows such as CSI Miami. (You need to read it to understand) In fact, we all suggest you do read it this festive season! It’s only 179 pages long and it’s a great little read. Just watch the meeting below to see how much we enjoyed it and were surprised by how much we did. Just set your disbelief to the side for a couple of hours and see what you think.

 

Next month we are reading we are meeting on Wednesday 21st January 21st January at 8 p.m. GMT on Google+ Hangouts. Feel free to join. Instructions on how to access the meeting can be found Here.

We are reading The Girl on the Stairs by Louise Welsh.

girlJane Logan is a stranger to Berlin and she finds the city alive and echoing with the ghosts of its turbulent past. At six months pregnant, she’s instructed by her partner Petra to rest and enjoy her new life in Germany. But while Petra is out at work, Jane begins to feel uneasy in their chic apartment. Screams reverberate through the walls, lights flicker in the derelict building that looms over the yard, a shadow passes on the stairs…Jane meets a neighbour’s daughter, a girl whose life she tries to mend, but her involvement only further isolates her. Alone and haunted, Jane fears the worst…but the worst is yet to come. Louise Welsh, the acclaimed author of The Cutting Room, delivers another masterful suspense novel. The Girl on the Stairs is a powerful psychological thriller packed with twists and turns to keep you reading well into the night. Read it, or be left in the dark.

 

 

 

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Cover Reveal And Questions – Tilly Tennant

I’m pleased to do another cover reveal on the blog today with author Tilly Tennant. And today we’re moving away from crime and having something pretty and lovely to look at before Christmas.

Tilly Tennant was born in Dorset, the oldest of four children, but now lives in Staffordshire with a family of her own. After years of dismal and disastrous jobs, including paper plate stacking, shop girl, newspaper promotions and waitressing (she never could carry a bowl of soup without spilling a bit), she decided to indulge her passion for the written word by embarking on a degree in English and creative writing, graduating in 2009 with first class honours. She wrote her first novel in 2007 during her first summer break at university and has not stopped writing since. She also works as a freelance fiction editor, and considers herself very lucky that this enables her to read many wonderful books before the rest of the world gets them.

ManWhoCantBeMoved_stg4a (2) (1)

 

I love the cover Tilly. It’s bright and girly and it looks happy. Were you able to have any input in the design and if not, are you happy with the results?

There was a lot of trust! The lady who designed this for us, Tash, has worked with myself and other authors I know on a lot of projects, so to a certain extent we gave her a rough brief and then let her loose on it to see what she came up with. She’s great at that and always gives us quite a few images to start with, which we discuss with her and tweak as we go along. I think this one might be the seventh or eighth version. She’s very good at capturing the essence of the story, I think.

It draws you in with the silhouette in the moon. Along with the title, it’s intriguing as well as being girly, what can you say about the book?

The story follows Ellie, a journalist on a local newspaper, who gets far too involved with a story she’s covering, and Ben who is basically the story! I like to think that as well as being girly, Ellie is quite a tough and career driven character, although she is sweet and has a very human side. She’s ambitious for her career, but would never hurt anyone to get on. The opposite is true, really, that she cares for everyone else too much and always puts herself last. Ben is a sweetie too – strong but sensitive and very creative. They both get themselves in trouble by caring too much about what others want instead of what they want. I hope that the girliness of the cover image, coupled with the strong silhouette of Ben, captures all these aspects of the story.

The Man Who Can’t Be Moved? That holds implications. I’m rubbish with titles. At what point did the title come to you?

I have to confess that the title is a massive cheat and didn’t require any thinking on my part at all! I’m sure many people will recognise it as the title for a song by The Script, which gave me the inspiration for the story.

When is the publication date?

The kindle edition should be available 19th December and the paperback, hopefully, a couple of days later, although I don’t have the exact date just yet.

And without giving anything away, if you could be one of the characters, who would you be and why?

I think I would have to be Ellie. I worked for a newspaper once in advertising and I secretly envied the journalists. Their jobs seemed very glamorous compared to mine! She also has a much better social life than me!

Thanks for talking to me Tilly, it’s been great having you and I can’t wait to read it!

Thank you for having me!

You can find Tilly on her blog, Twitter and Amazon.

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Advice For Entering The CWA Debut Dagger (Pt 1) by Helen Giltrow

Today I am absolutely delighted to have CWA Debut Dagger shortlisted author Helen Giltrow on the blog talking about her writing process and entering the Debut Dagger competition. This is a big competition in the calendar year for all aspiring crime writers and today is part one of a two-part article that Helen kindly wrote for the blog. I can’t thank her enough.

Helen Giltrow entered the CWA Debut Dagger competition with a very early version of her debut novel The Distance. She made the shortlist, and has since been published by Orion, with a second novel in the pipeline.

You were shortlisted for CWA’s Debut Dagger competition back in 2001. What made you enter in the first place?

I’d been writing for years and wanted to know if I was good enough to take it seriously. And I’d just come up with a new story that I really wanted to tell. Having a competition to enter gave me a focus and a deadline.

Entering was also great practice for later, though that didn’t occur to me at the time. The competition asks for the first 3,000 words of a crime novel, plus a synopsis – so, quite similar to most agents’ requirements. And just putting that package together forces you to examine the strengths and weaknesses of your work, which has to be a good thing. The Debut Dagger was my first attempt at submitting work for consideration, and just going through the process – drafting and redrafting the opening, and writing the synopsis – taught me a lot.

You had to submit the first 3,000 words of a crime novel. Did you already have a finished novel, or were you writing from scratch?

From scratch.

And you had the idea for the story already … So how did you start?

I was already a big fan of crime fiction and I’d been writing for years. But I realised I’d never tried to analyse what makes a good crime novel opening. So as an exercise I took all the crime novels off my bookshelves, put them in a big pile, and then read just the first page of each, one after another. Then I went into a bookshop, parked myself in the crime section and did the same. I learned loads from that, but principally: good crime novels establish themselves immediately – in the first paragraph, sometimes even in the first sentence. You know exactly what sort of book you’re reading. You feel the author knows what they’re doing. You may have no idea where you’re heading, but you feel you’re in safe hands.

For me, that immediacy is key. As a writer you sometimes find yourself thinking, ‘But I need to set the scene first.’ Well, yes, you do – but make it the most gripping or involving or mysterious scene you can. Opening at a crucial point in a character’s life – even if it’s not quite clear why it’s crucial – will allow your reader to get to know that character much faster than if they were simply posting a letter or making tea. Unless that letter’s a ransom demand, or the tea is poisoned …

What advice would you give to anyone who’s worried their opening’s a bit slow?

Experiment. Try reading your second paragraph, your second page, maybe even your second chapter as if it’s the opening. Be open-minded. Play around with all the options at your disposal. See which one works best.

One well-known UK editor once told me how she suddenly realised the manuscript she was reading really needed to start at chapter 3. She persuaded the author to cut the first two chapters. The result was a bestseller.

Hang on – I’m sure some writers reading this will think, ‘If I start with chapter 3, the reader won’t have the first idea what’s going on.’

It’s swings and roundabouts. As a crime reader I love it when an author plunges me into the thick of the action and forces me to work out what’s going on. It’s all part of the game. Here’s a mysterious death, or a strange happening – what’s it all about? Or someone’s running for their lives – why, and who are they? I like being made to work a bit. But it’s true, there’s a big difference between withholding a bit of information, and leaving the reader feeling confused or completely in the dark.

I guess the trick lies in telling the reader just enough to get their bearings. At the same time you don’t want to hold up the action while your characters deliver lengthy explanations. Dialogue is great for filling in backstory quickly where you need to.

I was once told: no flashbacks until you get to chapter 3. It’s a hard rule to follow, but just thinking about it tends to ensure I keep my story moving forward.

Any other ruses for creating a gripping opening?

If you’re concerned your main action starts too quietly but for narrative reasons you need to keep that quiet scene, you can always preface it with a flashforward to a later dramatic incident. The final version of my book The Distance starts at the end of the story – a woman with blood in her hair is determinedly lying to police officers; all we know is that a plan has gone terribly, terribly wrong, and someone’s died. Then the narrative flashes back twenty-five days to the very beginning of the story: the same woman, in a bar at London’s Royal Opera House, catches sight of a man she thought was dead. And the story moves on from there.

Jo Nesbo does something similar in his novel Headhunters: he opens with a flashforward to a car crash which actually belongs two-thirds of the way through the narrative. Was he cheating? Maybe … But it’s so compellingly written, I for one had to read on.

And if you can’t use the flashforward trick?

Hint that something important’s about to happen. Then make the reader wait. Right at the start of that Royal Opera House chapter I mentioned – before the reader knows anything at all about the scene – my main character says this:

I’ve always known the past might hunt me down, despite all my precautions, the false trails and the forged histories and everything else I’ve done to distance myself from it.

But not like this.

That opening left me free to set the scene – describe the opulent bar and this mysterious man who’s come back from the dead, and recount the conversation the woman tries to maintain as she tracks the man across the crowded room – knowing that at least some readers would keep reading, just to find out what was going on. Of course if you do this, you’ve effectively just made a promise to your readers, one you have to keep – by the end of the chapter they’ll expect you to have told them a lot more about your characters and their situation. But you were probably going to do that anyway!

What about the words? Any redrafting tips?

The ones that everyone gives! That every word must earn its keep. That strong nouns and strong verbs trounce pretty much every adjective and adverb going. And that controlling pace and sentence rhythm is really important. Length of words and sentences is the key to that.

Oh, and be aware of your writing tics. I’ve compiled a checklist of my bad writing habits, so I can root them out.

Next, we’ll talk about writing the synopsis. That will be next Tuesday 23rd December, so don’t miss it!

The 2015 CWA Debut Dagger competition closes on 31st January. Interested in entering? Click HERE to sign up for more information, including the Debut Dagger Bulletin.

The Distance by Helen Giltrow

The Distance cover (1)Charlotte Alton has put her old life behind her. The life where she bought and sold information, unearthing secrets buried too deep for anyone else to find, or fabricating new identities for people who need their histories erased.

But now she has been offered one more job. To get a hit-man in to an experimental new prison and take out someone who according to the records isn’t there at all.

It’s impossible. A suicide mission. And quite possibly a set-up.

So why can’t she say no?

You can find Helen on Twitter, Orion and Amazon.

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Shallow Waters Publishing Date

Ebook coverI finally I have a publishing date for the release of Shallow Waters.

Monday 22nd December you will be able to go to which-ever electronic store you use and download a copy.

The proofread is done. I just have to make the corrections today and then I will spend the rest of the week getting myself acquainted with all the publishing platforms, and Goodreads, in preparation. And in the case of Goodreads, I shall also be loading the book on there this week so you can add it to your TBR if you want to.

It will be a hectic week and a steep learning curve for me but I’m determined to get it all done.

If anyone would be interested in hosting me on their blog, if they do that kind of thing, in whatever way you are comfortable with, over the next few weeks, just let me know.

Don’t forget you can sign up to my newsletter Here where you will be able to receive content, news and giveaways. At the minute, the first five chapters are still going out to anyone who signs up.

Here’s to a busy week! What do you have planned? It’s the run up to Christmas and it’s a stressful time as it is, yet I still see everyone working hard. Maybe the question should be, what are you doing that is fun?!

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Recently Read – The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

Genre: Crime

defenceThe truth has no place in a courtroom. The truth doesn’t matter in a trial.

The only thing that matters is what the prosecution can prove.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.

It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy.

Eddie only has 48 hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Lose this case and he loses everything.

My Thoughts:

The book starts straight in the action as any good book should. It lets you know Eddie Flynn straight away by how he deals with this. You’re in his head as he figures things out and I liked that. The head of the Russian mafia want Eddie to represent him in court on a charge of murder and Eddie doesn’t get a say in it as a bomb is strapped to him and they prove to him they already have his daughter.

What I liked about the kidnapped daughter effect was how Cavanagh finely sliced in the back story of their relationship. It gave meaning to me as a reader as to why he would fight so hard, and gave more insight into who Eddie was, rather than just having the daughter as a prop, an automatic person we would all fight for.

And fight he did. In his own way. As a con man and a lawyer. The scenes where Eddie is in court being the lawyer were my favourite. They were fantastic. If I am ever in serious need of a lawyer, I want Cavanagh to come and represent me. He is sharp and fast. So fast, at one point I was actually laughing out loud. Scrap that, I think it would be classed as cackling, especially with what I was laughing at. And if you wonder why I’d want Cavanagh to represent me, just look back at his First Draft Q&A that he did and you will see he is actually a lawyer by day and that is abundantly clear in this novel. He knows his stuff and it’s clean and crisp. But it’s at no detriment to the story which doesn’t just stay in the courtroom. Because the trial covers several days there are opportunities for Flynn and co. to leave the building and try other ways of ‘winning’ the trial and saving his daughter’s life.

It’s a book you’re not going to want to miss. I finished this last night and ended up dreaming of kidnapped children. That’s how good this book is. Unfortunately, it’s not out until 26th March, but I’d go and put it on your TBR if I were you.

 

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Living With Ehlers Danlos Syndrome And Writing

This is a short video that I shared online yesterday. Some of you may have already seen it. If not, it’s where I explain what EDS is and how I cope with it daily and manage my writing life around it. I really wanted people to understand that though I talk about it to raise awareness, I am not going to be stopped from having some kind of life by it, though obviously as you will see, a completely functioning life isn’t what is on offer, but having a disability means you have to adjust and make the most out of what you have and people need to accept you for who you are and not make pre-determined decisions about you.

If you haven’t already seen it, I hope it explains and raises awareness a little, and shows you that this bendy is still going to be a crime writer!

 

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What’s Your First Draft Like? – Tammy Cohen

Tammy Cohen is making herself comfortable in the first draft seat today and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

tammy book photo 2Tammy Cohen is a freelance journalist who has written for countless publications including The Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan. A late starter to fiction (and to other things besides) she has now written five novels – The Mistress’s Revenge, The War of the Wives, and Someone Else’s Wedding, The Broken and Dying For Christmas, all published by Doubleday. She is a Writer in Residence at Kingston University and lives in North London with her partner and three (nearly) grown children, plus one very badly behaved dog.

When you decide to write something new, what is the first thing you do?

Usually I’ll have been thinking about an idea for a while before I come to write anything. There’s nothing like having a book to finish to convince you that the book you really ought to be writing is the one that’s just popped into your head, not the one you’re actually working on! So when I finally sit down to write something new I already know what it’s about and once I’ve come up with a working title, I go straight into writing the first paragraph. To me that’s more important than sitting down and plotting it out because sometimes a voice or a style of writing will just pop out, and that makes everything so much easier. (And sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s a whole other story).

Pen and paper or straight to the keyboard?

Working titles on paper, first paragraph on keyboard

How important is research to you?

To be honest, the books I’ve done to date have been set in contemporary London and haven’t involved a huge amount of research. I’m lazy that way.

How do you go about researching?

First resort is always Google. I worked as a journalist for over twenty years so I’m pretty good at knowing where to source information.

How do you store everything; ideas, research, images that catch your eye?

I’d love to say I have colour coded folders for everything but the truth is I’m a total slob and everything is scrawled on scraps of paper which invariably end up getting chucked away by mistake.

Tell us how that first draft takes shape?

I wish I was the kind of person who did exciting things with post it notes and special apps that plot your character arcs and make pretty graphs of your narrative strands, but the truth is I’m the most boring writer in the world. I start at the beginning of a story and I write the first chapter, then the second and third until I reach the end.

Are there any rituals you have to do or items you must have with you while writing that draft?

Only in as much as going on Twitter for far too long every morning before tearing myself away to write counts as a ritual.

Does the outside world exist or are you lost to us for a period of time as the magic works?

The outside world always exists, much though I often wish it didn’t. As a freelance journalist with three young children I learned to write with one eye on the screen and the other on whatever banned activity they were getting up to at that moment, and even though they’re now nearly adults, I still find it hard to completely shut off from what’s going on around me.

What does your work space look like?

At the moment it looks remarkably like our kitchen table. Wait, that’s because it is our kitchen table. Since my oldest son finished university in June and reclaimed his bedroom, I’ve lost my office and am having to set up camp in the kitchen. It’s a nightmare because a) every time we have dinner, all my stuff ends up in the fruit bowl and b) I’m within arm’s distance of the bread bin AND the biscuit cupboard.

first draft blog - 2

Edit as you go or just keep getting words out?

I think I probably do a halfway thing – I don’t go back and edit what I’ve done until I’ve finished the first draft, but I do try to get it as right as I can first time round, so I don’t just put down the first word that comes to mind.

I see many writers counting words in a day. Word counter or other method of keeping track of progression?

When I’m on a really strict deadline I give myself word counts but it’s more of a weekly count than a daily one. I’m much more likely to tell myself I have to write 10,000 words in a week than to set myself 2,000 a day which somehow feels like a lot more pressure.

So, that first draft is down. Roughly how long did it take? And what shape is it in?

A first draft can take anything from two months to a year. My first book, The Mistress’s Revenge came out fully formed after one draft, but mostly I’ll need to go back through it another two or three times before it’s ready for anyone else to read.

first draftIn what format do you like to read it through, ereader, paper or the computer screen?

I’m a total luddite, so it has to be paper every time.

What happens now that first draft is done?

In a perfect world I’d put it in a drawer for six weeks and then come back to it fully refreshed. In reality I’ve usually got a horrible deadline looming, but I always try to leave at least a week before reading it through with my red felt-pen poised and ready for action.

Thanks for digging into the depths of the first draft. It’s been a pleasure having you.

You can find Tammy on Twitter, Curtis Brown and Amazon.

Dying For Christmas

DyingI am missing. Held captive by a blue-eyed stranger. To mark the twelve days of Christmas, he gives me a gift every day, each more horrible than the last. The twelfth day is getting closer. After that, there’ll be no more Christmas cheer for me. No mince pies, no carols. No way out .

But I have a secret. No-one has guessed it. Will you?

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Aakash Odedra: A Dance In A Hurricane Of Paper Wind And Light.

Today I had planned to write a Recently Read post, but due to the work I’ve been doing for the Shallow Waters release, I haven’t quite finished the book I was reading. In fact my reading speed has slowed somewhat over the past few weeks. I’m hoping to pick it up soon when I’ve done all I need to with the preparation that comes with independently publishing a book. Because I have to pace myself, the amount of time I actually have is diminished. I will do the Recently Read post at the weekend and the book is The Defence by Steve Cavanagh.

On the Shallow Waters front, I did send out all the reader ARCs yesterday! that was both exciting and scary. It’s out there and is going to be read. By people! What on earth did I do?

Watch the blog for a post on Monday where there will be publishing news!

So, today I am leaving you with this wonderful, beautiful video of Aakash Odedra and his dance in a hurricane of paper wind and light. Enjoy.

 

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What Do You Want To Read For January’s Crime Book Club?

The choices for January’s crime book club meeting are below. The meeting will be on Wednesday 21st January 8p.m. GMT on Google+ hangouts as usual. If you haven’t yet joined us for a meeting, but like the look of the books, then you can find out how the hangouts work Here.

The Girl With A Clock For A Heart by Peter Swanson

clockGeorge Foss never thought he’d see her again, but on a late-August night in Boston, there she is, in his local bar, Jack’s Tavern.

When George first met her, she was an eighteen-year-old college freshman from Sweetgum, Florida. She and George became inseparable in their first fall semester, so George was devastated when he got the news that she had committed suicide over Christmas break. But, as he stood in the living room of the girl’s grieving parents, he realized the girl in the photo on their mantelpiece – the one who had committed suicide – was not his girlfriend. Later, he discovered the true identity of the girl he had loved – and of the things she may have done to escape her past.

Now, twenty years later, she’s back, and she’s telling George that he’s the only one who can help her…

The Girl On The Stairs by Louise Welsh

girlJane Logan is a stranger to Berlin and she finds the city alive and echoing with the ghosts of its turbulent past. At six months pregnant, she’s instructed by her partner Petra to rest and enjoy her new life in Germany. But while Petra is out at work, Jane begins to feel uneasy in their chic apartment. Screams reverberate through the walls, lights flicker in the derelict building that looms over the yard, a shadow passes on the stairs…Jane meets a neighbour’s daughter, a girl whose life she tries to mend, but her involvement only further isolates her. Alone and haunted, Jane fears the worst…but the worst is yet to come. Louise Welsh, the acclaimed author of The Cutting Room, delivers another masterful suspense novel. The Girl on the Stairs is a powerful psychological thriller packed with twists and turns to keep you reading well into the night. Read it, or be left in the dark.

Good Girls Don’t Die by Isabelle Grey

GoodYou’d know if someone close to you was capable of lethal violence, right?

Dead wrong.

Accused of grassing up a fellow officer and driven brutally out of home and job, Grace Fisher is thankful to survive some dark times and find haven with the Major Investigation Team in Essex.

One female student is missing, last seen at a popular bar in Colchester. When a second student, also out drinking, is murdered and left grotesquely posed, the case becomes headline news.

Someone is leaking disturbing details to a tabloid crime reporter. Is it the killer? Or a detective close to the case?

With another victim, and under siege by the media, the murder enquiry hits a dead end. The review team brought in to shake things up is headed by Grace’s old DCI. Who is going to listen to her now?

 

Leave your vote in the comments, on the Facebook page or on Twitter using the hashtag #crimebookclub. Here’s to another great year ahead for the book club!

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Future Learn Start Writing Fiction- Week 3

Before I head into the details of this current blog post I just want to update you on a new series I want to run. On Saturday I ran a post showing SJI Holliday’s debut novel cover along with some questions. It proved a popular post. Readers enjoyed the insight the questions added to the cover, so I thought I’d do the same questions with any cover reveals authors are interested in doing on the blog. So if you’re a reader of the blog or crime novelist and you want your cover revealing and fancy answering the same questions, then let me know. You can find Susi’s post Here.

FutureLearn_823185So, onto week three of the Future Learn Start Writing Fiction course.

This week the focus was on editing. Reviewing and rewriting. It wanted you to learn how to be ruthless with your own work, explaining that the initial writing was to be done with perfect freedom and without censorship.

It provided an example of an overly wordy piece of text and asked you to edit it down to just two sentences. It then showed you a version of two sentences you could have chosen and why it worked that way and why they had cut out the rest. It explained the need to cut out overused words such as “quite” and “really” as well as needing to consider style, voice and rhythm.

The course then asked you to start a story using between 200-350 words and submit it for critique by your fellow students. I decided to start the opening paragraph to a novel that has been running through my head for a while but that isn’t part of the Hannah Robbins series.

Next, we had to critique between one and three of these pieces submitted by other students doing the same. We had guidelines to follow for this. I did three. The first one was okay to do. The second two were a lot more difficult because the stories made no sense. And I mean absolutely no sense. This was the biggest lesson of the week for me. Critiquing someone with kindness when you don’t understand what they have said or written.

It did illuminate that this is not a course for someone wanting to get some serious skills out of a creative writing course. For that you need one that is going to offer tutor input and a free course, one that is just supplying materials and leaving students to get the gist themselves, is not going to offer that.

The most interesting part of the course this week was starting that opening paragraph to another novel!

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