Thursday, 23 March 2017

Multiple First Person Points of View

I’ve noticed that multiple first person POV narratives are becoming increasingly popular. Sometimes this can be really effective, skilfully executed by the author, and other times it can be confusing, the narratives merging together, all the characters sounding the same.

Why would this be? you wonder. Well I’ll tell you what I think. I reckon it’s all about Voice.

Finding your voice is something all writers have to do, but for a beginner this can all seem a bit puzzling. What exactly is 'voice' and how do you find it? Well the best way to find your voice is to write, and write, and to pour your soul into your words. And your voice will come to you.

Not being very helpful am I? Let me put this another way.

There are two types of Voice.

1. Your unique voice.

This is you, the way you write, the way you use words to get across your meaning. Every writer’s voice is distinct. It is unique and when you have ‘found your voice’ people will start to recognise your writing, simply because it is a reflection of you.

2. Your character’s voice.

Each character also has a voice and when you write and you immerse yourself into the head of your character and so you release that voice.

A good way to find your character’s voice is through role play. Pretend to be your character, walk like your character, talk like your character. Maybe put yourself, as your character, in the ‘hot seat’. I’ve done this in writing workshops that I’ve run and it is fascinating to see how people transform, they talk differently and sit differently as they get into character and the other group members quiz them.

So for each character’s POV the voice of that piece becomes a unique blend of your voice and your character’s voice.

It is the way the voices blend that determines whether a multiple first person narrative will work or not. If the author hasn’t developed the character’s voices enough the author’s voice will dominate and both POVs will feel the same. But develop the character’s voice and the POVs will feel distinct. The reader won’t be constantly checking back to see who is speaking. They’ll be in no doubt.

This, in my opinion, will determine whether a multiple first person narrative works or not.

What do you think?

Monday, 6 March 2017

Squally Seas

It was squally down at the beach today. 

One moment the sun broke through, lighting the shingle golden and turning the sea to jade, then the skies darkened and the rain swept in. 


We took shelter down by the shore and watched as the rain pocked the surface of the sea and the wind whipped the waves into spray. Out in the bay the ships looked as if they were floating on mist.


Then the rain passed, clouds dragging their burden out to sea and the sun lit up a rainbow, brilliant against the darkness of the sky.


Our world may have entered squally times - but there’s always a rainbow.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Review: DRIFTFISH (A Zoomorphic Anthology)

Zoomorphic is an online magazine dedicated to celebrating wildlife and nature through the written word and DRIFTFISH, their first anthology, has a particular focus on the marine environment. So it goes without saying that, as a marine scientist, I was instantly drawn to it.

The anthology itself is a beautiful creation. The cover art, three gannets plunging into a tranquil sea, says so much about the drama that hides beneath the surface waves and in a way is a metaphor complementing the contents of this gorgeous little book. For inside that cover, within these pages, are a collection of essays and poems that will transport you, wherever you are, back to the sea.


This isn’t a book to be read in one sitting but one to be taken in small chunks, each poem or essay pondered over and allowed to resonate. For resolute they do, each unique and powerful in the own right. It is a joy to discover so many authors who love the sea as much as I do.

I would be hard pushed to pick out any favourites from within these pages for all the content here is powerful and evocative but the opening essay, Standing on Stromatolites certainly appealed to my inner geologist and I found the Brief Eulogies for Lost Animals particularly poignant.

All in all this is a gorgeous book, a real gem to be treasured and I challenge even the most hardened of land lubbers not to feel moved by the spirit of the sea.

This is a book that would make a wonderful gift – although you might want to get yourself a copy as well because it’s something you’ll want to keep to immerse yourself in again and again. That is the joy of pieces like these. Each time you read them you take something new away from those words.

And now the sea is calling to me too.

Buy DRIFTFISH.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Library Love and PLR

Today was PLR statement day.

In case you’re not an author I’ll explain. PLR stands for Public Lending Rights. Authors receive a payment every time someone borrows their books from a public library. Currently this stands at 7.82 pence per loan and the number of loans is calculated from a representative sample of libraries.

This was my third PLR statement and there’s something lovely about seeing how many people have borrowed your books from their local library. My payments are modest but each year has shown a steady increase in the number of times my books have been loaned.

Libraries are a wonderful resource and often serve as a community hub. They do more than just lend books – they provide a quiet space for study, a venue for local groups to meet. Often they have a programme of talks and visits. So it always saddens me when I see reports in the news about libraries being closed.

So if you’re an author and you haven’t yet registered your books for PLR then I suggest you do so. You don’t want to miss out on the next round of payments!

And if you’re a reader then do support your local library. Borrowing a book will cost you nothing but each time you do you are helping to make an author a little bit happier.

Monday, 12 December 2016

Submission Planning 1: Agents

The time has come to start thinking about sending my latest project out into the world. It’s time to make my submission plan and think about the various routes to publication. There are so many options available to authors these days, but also so many pitfalls.

My preferred route is to find an agent to represent me. Agents are invaluable. They have the best contacts, know the right editors to submit to and will negotiate the best deal for you. So my first line of attack will be to submit to agents.

Of course this requires research, and I’ve found a few useful ways to track down agents to put on my submission list. Here are a few of them.

Agents who represent my favourite authors. Most authors will include this information on their websites, plus this has the advantage of giving you an easy way to personalise your submission letter.

Agents on twitter. Twitter is a really useful resource for this. Lots of agents tweet and it’s worth checking out their profile because they often state if they are building their lists or are looking for a particular genre.

Agents in the Bookseller. Keep an eye on the Bookseller for announcements about new agents or agencies. Agents move around a lot and a young hungry agent with a reputable agency who is actively building their list goes straight to the top of mine.

Recommendations – if you are acquainted with an author ask them who their agent is. They’ll be happy to tell you, especially if their agent is a good one.

Writers and Artists Handbook – really rather an obvious one but included for completeness.

Online listings – there are a number of these resources, such as agent hunter or query tracker but some do require a membership fee and the focus tends to be rather more US based. Still, they can be a good starting point.

But wherever you find your potential agents please please please check them out thoroughly before submitting. Here are a few things to check for.

Sales record: Is the agent a deal maker? You should be able to find information on recent deals either on their websites or in the Book Trade literarture. If they don’t have any deals under their belt then maybe they don’t have the right contacts and if so how are they going to sell your book?

Clients: Who are their clinets? Have you heard of them? Check out their books. Even ask them about their agents.

Experience. Be wary of the agent who pops up out of nowhere and who doesn’t provide any information of where they previously worked in the industry.

Fees. Never pay any fees to an agent at all! No reputable agent these days charges a reading fee.

Affiliation of professional organisations. For example in the UK check to see if they are a member of the Association of Author’s Agents. No necessarily a red flag but a good indicator.

Remember, a bad agent is worse than no agent and sadly there are scammers out there who would happily part you from your money. But if you’ve written a saleable book and you’ve done your research then you should be fine. I hope we all find the agent of our dreams.

Monday, 28 November 2016

The Second Person

I’m not talking about my mysterious alter ego here (I’ll save that for another day) – I’m talking about Point of View. I want to talk about something I’ve been experimenting with recently which is using different voices and perspectives. My Yeovil Prizewinning story, A Legend of Flight, was the result of this sort of experimentation and one of the other things I’ve been experimenting with recently is writing using the Second Person POV.

I’m sure most of my blog readers know what I’m talking about, even if they haven’t tried the second person themselves, but just in case you are scratching your head and wondering what on earth I’m blethering on about – a brief recap.

The main types of POV:

First Person (I). Becoming increasingly popular, particularly in YA. Generally lends itself to a single POV work. Multiple First Person POVs can work but you need to keep the character voices distinct.

Second Person (You). Occasionally seen in short stories or as a minor POV character in a novel.

Third Person (He/She). The most commonly used particularly for multi-character POVs.

Omniscient. The God like viewpoint. The narrator describes a scene as if looking down on it from above.

So, back to writing in the second person. It tends not to be used very much and that is for a very good reason – it’s tricky to get right, very intense, and difficult to sustain for a long time. Hard on the reader as well as the writer. As a result if you come across it at all it will be in the form of a short story or as short sections of a longer novel. For example in Complicity Ian Banks uses it very effectively to give us the murderer’s POV.

But what do you gain from using the second person? Here are a few of the benefits.

Intensity – the second person is very powerful, the reader is immediately immersed – they effectively become the character in your book.

Ambiguity – there’s a certain ambiguity to a character written in the second person. They could be male or female, young or old. They take on some of the characteristics of the reader. This makes second person an effective tool for certain types of story. For example it works well in crime when writing a scene from the killer’s POV.

Accusatory – the use of the word ‘you’ can feel very accusatory for the reader and this can, again, be utilised for good effect.

Uneasy – one of the effects of writing in second person it that it is uncomfortable for the reader. They are being forced into the head of a character they may not like or feel at ease with. Add to this the intensity, ambiguity and accusatory nature of this POV and the reader’s sense of unease is only heightened.

Not all stories lend themselves to the second person, but I do think it’s worth giving it a try, if only to expand your writing armoury. It’s not at all easy to do well. My first efforts came across as clunky and difficult to read. For a while I wrestled with it. People who read it didn’t like it. But after a while I started to get the hang of it. It no longer seems to jar. So I’ll share with you my top tip for writing in the second person:

Try to avoid the use of the word YOU as much as possible.

This applies particularly to the start of sentences. A succession starting with ‘You’ quickly becomes grating. Try turning your sentences around so that the word ‘You’ comes in the middle. The flow will be greatly improved. You words will cease to jar.

What are you waiting for? Give it a go

Friday, 21 October 2016

Getting Literary in Yeovil

The Yeovil Literary Festival is in full swing, packed with all sorts of exciting authors and events. I was up there yesterday and today and I’ve come away buzzing – inspired to get on with some new writing. There are still two more days to go but I thought I would share with your some of the highlights so far.

Yesterday the festival kicked off with the Yeovil Prizewinners event. I was there in my capacity of short story winner 2016 but all the rest of this year’s winners were there as well – something of a first – I don’t think everyone has been able to make it before! The standard was excellent and diverse. The winning novel was superb and I can’t wait for it to be published and I can read the whole thing – and I’m pretty sure it will be – it was really good!

Some of the past winners were there as well, now published and with books to sell, and it was a lovely feeling to be amongst them with my own. Sue Yockney and Chip Tolson were launching their latest books. Sue’s new novel, Outside the Box, is a satirical romp, and Chip Tolson has just released a collection of his short stories, many of which are Yeovil Prize winners in their own right. 

Jackie Gingell, myself, Sue Yockney and Chip Tolson 

Chip and Sue on the bookstall - selling like hot cakes

Chip and Sue

And their books! This is my haul from the event! 

Today I headed back up for a crime writing workshop run by local crime writers Clare Donoghue and Chris Ewan – yes I’m thinking of dabbling in a bit of murder and mayhem – which was excellent but I do wish it had been longer. In fact they’ll be running a course in Taunton soon. Unfortunately a bit too far for me to get to.

But one of the best things was bumping into other authors. It was particularly nice to meet fellow Allsort Emma Carroll as well as Kiran Millwood Hargrave who I met at the Yeovil Prizewinners event a couple of years ago and has now had her first book published.



I only wish I could have stayed longer and spent more time talking all things writing. I hope to see you all again soon!