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As the end of 2013 approaches, I’m finding myself reviewing myself as a writer. How have I improved in 2013? What have I actually achieved?

One part of me wants to say I’ve achieved nothing. After all I’m still unpublished. But then I realise something… I may not have my name printed on the spine of a book but that’s not everything. What I have achieved is becoming a better writer and to me that’s much more important. After all, how can I get published if I’m not a good writer?

So no, I refuse to say I’ve achieved nothing. I’ve actually achieved a lot.

At the beginning of 2013, I set myself a goal to get my first book published. The only reason this didn’t happen is because I learnt something. I learnt that having a critique partner and getting your manuscript critiqued before sending it to a publisher is vital. I wrote a blog about the importance of having a critique partner a few months ago. You can read it at this link: The importance of a critique partner

After realising this, I found myself one. The woman I partnered up with has been invaluable. I have learnt so much in the 10 months I’ve known her and we’ve both helped each other become better writers. The manuscript I want to send off for publishing had more errors than I realised and I’m really glad she’s helped me improve it so I can send it off in 2014. We have a little way to go on it but I hope to have it fully critiqued early January. Then I will send to a publisher.

I’m so glad I held off. How embarrassing would it have been sending off a manuscript with so many errors? Of course it won’t be perfect when I do finally send it, but it will be better and hopefully more appealing. So I can’t emphasize enough how important having a critique partner is and how important it is to be fully critiqued before sending your manuscript to a publisher. Trust me, you will be so glad you held off.

Being a writer, albeit a successful one, takes time. Don’t rush it. I know someone, aged 16, who was so desperate to get published, they wrote a novel, didn’t get any editing or critiquing done then published it through Create Space. It was a complete flop. The novel had so many plot holes, the story was weak, the grammar, punctuation and sentence structure needed desperate work and just overall it was a bad move.

I know the feeling of desperately wanting to get published. I’ve had that desire for years. But please…just wait! Don’t be too hasty. I’m 31 (32 in 12 days!) and still not published but I’m glad I’m not because if I published any earlier, I know I would have failed. Be 100% happy with your work, be happy to accept criticism and you will then end up going further than you realised.

I’m not saying I’ll succeed when I finally am published, but because my writing has improved so much, I’ve got a better chance at people actually enjoying what I’m writing. As the days go by my writing is becoming better and better. I have a lot to work on but compared to where I was at the beginning of the year, I’ve improved massively.

So yeah, I have achieved something this year and it’s an achievement I’m very happy of. Oh and we can’t forget my success in NaNoWriMo. This story has a long way to go but I succeeded and reached 50,000 words I’m happy with that.

With 2014 only a few minutes away now, I just want to say this… I know for a fact 2014 will be a better year for me as a writer. Whether my novel is published or not, I will continue to improve even more. I realise now, at the end of 2013, that improving as a writer is one of the biggest achievements you can have.

I hope you have all had a great 2013. If you haven’t, may 2014 be a better year for you. See you in the new year. For me, that’s only 6 minutes away. 🙂

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show don't tell

Anton Chekhov once said ‘don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.’

It’s only been in recent years that I’ve realised how true this is. The rule of show, don’t tell is one of the most important rules to remember as a writer. And I’m afraid to say, for a long time I didn’t understand it.

When I was about 20 years of age, I wrote a novel which I thought was fabulous. I was so proud of it and wanted everyone to read it and tell me how brilliant I was. In my mind, I viewed myself as a prodigy. The next ‘big thing’ in the writing world.

Naive? Most certainly!! Now, at 31 years of age, I have learnt a lot. What was the result of that so-called ‘fabulous novel’?

Well, I decided to submit the novel to a writers forum and get feedback. I was adamant I would get a flood of followers and publishers begging to publish my work. Did any of that happen? Not a chance!

I received many comments on the forum but no one was complimenting my flawless writing. Instead they all said it was clunky, badly written and had too much telling.

It was the ‘too much telling’ that had me baffled, but I’ll get back to that. For now, I’ll finish the story.

Let’s say I was horrified! I was convinced they were jealous and wanted to be nasty. But they weren’t. In fact, they made completely valid comments. It took me a long time to get over that criticism but I did and I came out of it a much stronger and better writer.

What did I learn from it?

I learnt how to accept criticism. This is vital as a writer. You cannot afford to be offended by harsh words. You’re going to get them!

I learnt to stop thinking I was such a good writer when, quite frankly, I wasn’t. My current skills, which still need a lot of work, have come from many years of practice. I am much, much better than I was back then but I’m not perfect. Every writer has their off days!

And most importantly, I finally understood what it meant to show, not tell. Oh it took me a few years to fully understand it but I did and now I live by it.

For a long time I thought how can you ‘show’ when writing a novel? Isn’t writing all about telling a story? Well, yes but you can tell a story so that it paints a picture for the reader. When I realised that, it became that much clearer to me.

There’s nothing wrong with telling occasionally. After all, it’s impossible to show everything.

Since meeting Katie Fforde (see my previous blog Meeting the author – Katie Fforde) I have gone to her for quite a lot of advice. At one point I asked her: ‘I know how important showing and telling is but does it matter how much show and how much tell there is?’ Her answer to me was: ‘It’s important to have much more show than tell. A bit of tell is ok as it saves time but it should be mostly show.’

I was critiquing someone’s work recently and one of their sentences read ‘My eyes automatically travel to the worn out and faded sign above the heavy steel doors’. The first thing I thought, this could be ‘shown’ in such a better way. Later in the story she had a scene where a little girl left the building and got her dress stuck in the door. I suggested to the author to say something like ‘I look over at Abigail and see her dress caught in the heavy steel doors’. It’s not a big change but it’s a perfect opportunity to show what the door looks like rather than tell us.

Oh and in case you are interested, the story mentioned in my blog has been totally rewritten. It is ten times better than it once was. I stripped it apart and fleshed it out. In fact, this is a piece I hope to get published in the near future.

So now that I’ve chewed your ear off with yet another example of how pathetic I was as a young writer, I will end my blog on this note:

Please remember, showing is so important in a novel. You will be surprised how much more alive your story becomes.

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Today I thought I would blog about characters and where people get their inspiration from. My aim is to get an insight on how other writers create them and hopefully help fellow writers who struggle with character creation. I know for some people, character creation can be a difficult task.

Being an avid reader of many books,  I’m always intrigued at what possessed the author to create certain characters.

Is the character based on the author? Is the character based on a friend, family member, enemy? Is it someone entirely of their imagination and has no relevance to people / things they know?

Take for example Gollum in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. What was Tolkien thinking when he created him? He’s such an unusual character and I really wish I knew. It’s funny, I had never really thought much about it but today I was watching The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey and it got me thinking. Hence this blog.

This is something that has always intrigued me. To me, character development is the most exciting part of creating and writing a novel. You can create anyone you want and make them who you want them to be. I get a thrill just writing about it!

So where do I get my character inspiration from? It’s simple – everything and everyone around me!

I use people I know – family, friends, work mates, acquaintances. Sometimes I’ll sit somewhere outdoors and just watch the goings on around me. This allows me to see how people act and I find I can gauge a lot about their personality. I listen to the way people talk, what they talk about and this gives me an idea of who my character will be. Will they be shy, giggly, outspoken, selfish, argumentative?

On wattpad.com I have a completed story called The Matchmaker. The main female character, Shannon, was an easy yet exciting character to create. One day I was watching Jane Austen’s Emma and the character of Emma was the type of person I imagined Shannon to be. Not wanting to plagiarise, I tweaked her to make her unique. In looks she has a bit of me in her when I was a teenager, a bit of my 16-year-old niece, a bit of my middle sister and a bit of my best friend. In personality she has a bit of Emma, a bit of my ex-best friend, a bit of my eldest sister and even a bit of a workmate.

Off topic just briefly – if you wish to read the story, go to the website and search for my username LisaStanbridge.

On topic again. The example of Shannon is just one example of one character but you get the gist of what I mean.

So this is my question to my fellow writers who are readers / followers – where do you get your character inspiration from? Leave a comment below. I hope that between me and the rest of you, we can provide some interesting reading to fellow writers and help to those who struggle to create characters.

If you read how other people create them, it might help you too or give you some new ideas. So, please leave a comment, let everyone know what inspires you!

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Welcome to another blog from moi. Today I’m going to blog about meeting best selling author, Katie Fforde.

I decided to write about it not only because I’m a writer and that’s what I do, but because as an aspiring author, to me she’s sort of a mentor and an inspiration. All I can say is I’m very chuffed I had the privilege. She’s a great writer and I love her books. On a more personal note, we’ve chatted a few times on twitter so finally we could put faces to names. It’s always exciting meeting online friends in real life.

The library who had organised the event did a nice job too. To fit in with her new novel, A French Affair, they played French music and provided champagne and French nibbles. Well the champagne wasn’t the real stuff from France but that’s asking a bit too much, I think! Still, it set a nice ambience to the evening and it was very enjoyable.

If anyone has met Katie before, you will agree when I say she is a really nice person. If you haven’t met her, well she’s a really nice person! She talked a bit about her new book and even read an excerpt which I thought was great. I always love when authors do that and Katie did a brilliant job. There’s just something so… thrilling about hearing an author read part of their work. I think it’s because it’s a part of them and it’s special to them which comes out in their reading. When Katie read it, she read it with such feeling and I could tell it meant a lot to her.

What really stood out to me was the fact that Katie not only talked about herself and her book, but she let others ask questions and she answered those questions in detail. I’ve known of authors who don’t give their fans the time of day and only give very brief answers. Katie is not like that and for that, I thank her. I was able to ask a couple of questions myself and she gave me some great tips that will help me as a writer.

I’m proud to say I did buy a copy of A French Affair while I was there and my fingers are itching to open it and start reading but sadly I can’t, not yet. You see, a while ago I had a very bad habit of starting a book then getting half way through and starting another. It would take me forever to finish any of them and I’d forget what was happening. I’ve recently started a new book so I’m trying to be disciplined and only read one book at a time.

So sorry Katie but I’m going to have to put it aside for a few days while I finish what I’m reading.

Has anyone else met an author, or your favourite author, before? What have been your experiences? Comment below and let me know!

Bye for now.

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‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen. This is my favourite novel and it is also considered to be one of the most beloved books of all time.

I adore Jane Austen’s writing. Apart from Pride and Prejudice I also love Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Mansfield Park. Her other novels are also great but the four aforementioned are my favourites. Pride and Prejudice will always take the bait for me. In complete honesty I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve read the book and I’m not sick of it one bit. I just find it so thrilling to read and once I start I can’t stop.

A few years ago I bought Amanda Grange’s book ‘Mr Darcy’s Diary’ so what I do now is I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and immediately follow with ‘Mr Darcy’s Diary’. Let me tell you now, there are so many novels out there from Mr Darcy’s POV and I have read my fair share of them but Amanda Grange’s version is absolutely brilliant. To anyone that hasn’t read it, I highly recommend it.

What boggles my mind is the fact that ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is considered to be a love story yet there are many men who adore it. It’s not a bad thing, in fact I think it’s wonderful that men are not afraid to say they like it. What I want to know is why is this acceptable for men to read but they wouldn’t be caught dead reading any other  love story?

Do you know what I think? I think it’s a lot to do with Mr  Darcy, hence the title of my blog.

To the female species, he is a male figure we portray as the perfect gentleman, the way men should be. I’m not trying to be sexist but let’s face it, there are not many gentlemen around nowadays is there? I’m not denying there aren’t any because I know there are, but they are so hard to find.

However, to the male species, Mr Darcy is a good example to follow. Yes you might argue that Mr Darcy is arrogant, conceited and rude but you can only really say that if you don’t know his character well. If you really read and study ‘Pride and Prejudice; you see that a lot of it is to do with his upbringing. Once his eyes have opened to what is right and wrong, he changes. This is where Amanda Grange’s ‘Mr Darcy’s Diary’ is worth reading as she has him worked out so well.

My question, as per my blog title, is this: Is Mr Darcy really all that? Personally I think he is. I’m a married woman and I love my husband to bits but he knows I fancy the pants off Mr Darcy. 🙂 so please, tell me, why is Mr Darcy so special? What do you think of him?

I decided it was time to blog about something where YOU as the reader had input, so please comment! I want to know what you think.

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