Welcome to my blog

Welcome to The Literary Pig's blog - a safe haven for all those afflicted with
the unbearable urge to write.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Try something new

Try something new was one of the indoor writer's goals for 2012.  By this she meant a new genre of writing and is seriously tempted to convert an existing short story into a one act play.  But if you've never written a play or script then where do you start?  What is the expected format?  How can you find out about standard layouts?
Thankfully Ian Black (IT specialist for the West Sussex Writers' Club) came to the rescue.  Ian is the club's guru on all things technical and also involved in many local theatre productions.  He's a playwright, actor and play producer.  Ian recommended a good starting point was the BBC Writers Room website.

The introduction states:
"BBC writersroom is always on the lookout for fresh, new, talented writers for a changing Britain. When we find them, we do everything we can to get their voice heard and their work produced for BBC film, TV and radio – for drama, comedy, and children’s programmes."
Which is incredibly encouraging to any writer considering writing for the BBC.  They also claim to read every unsolicited script.

The site also offers Script Smart:
"Script Smart is a set of Microsoft Word templates to help writers format their scripts."
Basically there are a set of example scripts, which you will need Adobe Acrobat to view.  These cover:
TV drama & comedy
Radio drama & comedy
Children's drama
These are actual scripts from well known BBC programmes such as: Eastenders, Torchwood, Outnumbered, Radion 4 Afternoon Play, Tamara Drew and The Sarah Jane Adventures.  Be warned - you can lose yourself for hours reading through these!
Also available are full script formats.  We checked out the UK stage format and it's an excellent template complete with guidance notes.  An ideal tool for a first time playwright.

So if you've always wanted to write a script for TV or Radio, or layout a play then check out this marvellous site and formats.
Many thanks to Ian Black for sharing his knowledge.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Celebration of the Short Story

In January I posted a blog about Bloomsbury declaring 2012 as the 'Year of the Short Story' (read more here) and maybe this prediction is coming true.  Random House has released a digital brand called 'Storycuts'.  This range contains over 250 digital short stories.  Taken from parent collections to be available as single stories or small bundles.  If you have a favourite short story then you may find it in this new digital collection.

Yesterday Radio4's Open Book programme with Aminatta Forna was entirely devoted to the short story.  It briefly covered the origins of the short story from Poe, through Dickens, Chekov and onto Raymond Carver and Alice Munro.  Helen Simpson, herself an excellent writer of short stories, described short stories as "highly nutritious... with a high protein content", which I think is one of the best analogies I've heard to define this genre of fiction writing.

If you missed Open Book then the same episode is repeated on Thursday 23 February at 4pm, click here for more details.

Real people do WIN competitions

Anyone who follows Patsy Collins' Blog knows how she loves to share news about writing competitions.  And then she's gone and won a competition she first promoted.  Read here about Patsy's exciting news about her novel 'Escape to the country', which is going to be published end of March.  The video just about sums up how Patsy is taking the news...

Congratulations to Patsy and look forward to reading the book - it's bound to raise a smile and giggles too.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Finding the spark with Alison Hawes

Alison Hawes shared her top tips for finding the spark at a recent club evening for West Sussex Writers.  She is a prolific writer of children’s books having over 250 publications to her name.  Her work is now all unsolicited commissions for a selection of educational publishers such as Oxford University Press and she writes both fiction and non-fiction.  Having been a Primary School teacher Alison has a good understanding of what children, ranging in age from 4 to 14, want and like to read about.  So with all these demands on her creativity Alison needs to constantly generate a steady flow of ideas for storylines, characters and fact-based topics.  

Sometimes the sparks don’t come easily so Alison always keeps a bank of ideas for the lean times.  She has several notebooks to jot down thoughts: for the car, home and handbag, so there’s no danger of that light-bulb moment slipping away.  Her secret weapon (preserving marital harmony) is a ‘light-up’ pen, to scribble down ideas in the middle of the nights.  All notes are then transferred to lever arch files for the respective age group.  Alison believes that an “unused idea isn’t a rejected idea – it just hasn’t landed on the right desk at the right time”.  

Alison took us through her ten places to look for ideas and inspiration.  She had excellent examples – amazingly 2-3 of her own books – to demonstrate each tip and show what the original idea finally evolved into.
  • Other people’s writing
  •  Personal experiences: try writing down all the places you’ve ever lived, all jobs, people you’ve   met etc (good and bad!)
  •  Newspapers/articles/web etc: if you can’t use the story then use the emotion it generates
  • Museums/Galleries/Exhibitions: be curious, get out and talk to people, try to keep your mind forever open to new ideas
  • TV programmes (even the adverts)
  • Films/Computer games
  • Old stories/legends/myths/fairytales: all can be re-told, or moved to a modern setting
  • Family and friends: listen to their experiences
  • Your audience: think about what people like or don’t like and use it in your writing
  •  Ask a friend: bounce off ideas or seek out experts to help you with key facts.  Often people/experts can’t wait to tell you things, particularly if you tempt them with lunch and a chat.
Below are two exercises, both aimed at encouraging writers to find their own sparks:
  1. Write briefly about 3 personal experiences (that you haven't yet written about)
  2. Complete the following sentences about yourself:
          Not many people know this but I'm quite good at ...
          Not many people know this but I know a lot about ...
This helps you to remember that you may be an expert without realising it.

It was Alison’s goal that we would all go home with the seeds of ideas already germinating and would soon start sparking even more.  I certainly left the meeting with many thoughts buzzing in my head… and yes I remembered to jot them down in my notebook! 

Monday, 13 February 2012


Are you hooked yet?  BBC1’s ‘Call the Midwife’ is Downton Abbey with bicycles and babies and without the frocks and dishy Matthew (surely he’s wearing contacts?).  Okay, so it’s nothing like Downton but you still need a box of hankies within sobbing distance.  The indoor writer has ended up all teary for every episode so far.  And last night’s show even starred a pig called Evie – how’s that for catering to all tastes!  Sadly, next week it’s the last in the series, but surely the beeb is already working on series two…  Wallowing in sentimentality ‘Call the Midwife’ is supreme Sunday night viewing and who could resist cake-loving pigs on primetime telly! 

N.B. My preference is for chocolate cake not Victoria Sponge.

What does Yellow and Green make?

What does yellow and green make?  A great combination of competitions... read on if you write short and flash fiction:

The Yellow Room Spring Competition:

The Yellow Room Magazine is published by Jo Derrick and she also runs two competitions each year (Spring & Autumn) for short stories.  Reading Jo's Guidelines for submissions is a good starting point to determine what is likely to make your entry a success.

  • Deadline 31 March 2012 (email entries accepted)
  • Word count up to 2,500 on any theme
  • Entry fee is £4 for one story or £10 for three (paypal online payment or cheques accepted)
  • Prizes: 1st = £85, 2nd = £45, 3rd = £20
  • Winning story will be published in The Yellow Room Magazine

Eddie Walsh at Emerald Writing Workshop runs numerous competitions for flash fiction throughout the year so worth checking out the future competitions too.  These are good value to enter and Eddie seems to like 2nd class stamps as entry fees (though does accept cheques too) - he also doesn't like waste so try to get your entries in early using 2nd class post!  Shortlisted (and sometimes those on longlist) get a short critique on the website, and Eddie gets straight to the point.

  • Deadline 28 February 2012 (postal entries only)
  • Word count no longer than 500 words
  • Theme: set on a train
  • Entry fee is 5 2nd class stamps or £1.80 cheque for one story, 9 2nd class stamps (£3.24) for two stories or 12 2nd class stamps (£4.32) for three stories
  • Prizes: 1st = £65, 2nd = £20, 3rd = £15
  • Winning story is published on website
Both of the above competitions have pretty high standards and exceedingly good taste when it comes to fiction.  Well, that's what the  indoor writer told me to add - as she's come in the top three for both competitions.

Have a go and let me know how you get on...

Monday, 6 February 2012

It all helps

There is no such thing as bad publicity or as Oscar Wilde declared: "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about".  Most writers crave to see their work in print and will even settle for seeing their NAME in print... being such vain creatures.  So last week the indoor writer was as happy as the LitPig in a library because Writing Magazine (March issue) printed her letter and she was mentioned in Writers' Forum (March issue).  In Louise Jordan's feature 'Writing the perfect synopsis' (page 50, Writers' Forum) Tracy is praised for her pitch letter in the Writers' Advice Centre competition, which secured her the runner-up prize.

Letters are a good opportunity to get a piece of work published and many magazines offer payment or prizes for printed letters.  So whatever magazine/newspaper you regularly read or subscribe to always check out the letter pages and what they offer.  Remember ALL and ANY published pieces build your portfolio - it all helps!

Keep on writing...

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

National libraries day - 4 February

This week sees the launch of National Libraries Day: "Use it, love it, join it!"

The website declares that:
"National Libraries Day is devoted to all types of libraries, library users, staff and supporters across the UK. Join in by organising a celebratory event, contributing to our forums, tweeting with the #NLD12 hashtag and visiting your local library on the 4 February or the week leading up to it. How will you get involved?"
Using the link above check out how you can get involved or find out what events are taking place in your area. PLEASE support your local library.  So many libraries are under threat, facing closure or cost cuts and we will miss them if they disappear - don't let this happen and remember "Use it, love it, join it!"