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Author, Avid Tweeter & Blogger, Lover of books, Teacher of Maths & Swimming, Mother, Speaks Spanish, Friend to many...

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


I attended the Festival back in September... seems like a lifetime ago now.  And I am finally about the complete my diary of the weekend.  Going through my notes has been useful, I did not realise how much I had taken in until I reviewed them.  I consider myself lucky to have been able to attend this weekend.  It was a real treat, I actually felt like a writer, like I belonged.  The fact I had self published interested many budding authors on the pursuit of an agent and a publishing contract.  It was funny to be asked for advice!

I have to admit that since February of this year I have been on the steepest learning curve of my life.  From learning how to format, create a cover, discovering the beauty of using Beta readers to help me edit my novels, self editing and downloading to Smashwords and then Amazon.  I learnt how to make my novels look as professional as possible.  I am sure they could do with some further editing, but then I have read many “traditionally” published novels that could have been edited extensively.  I am sure you can all name a few…

Anyway, I have posted a fair amount on this blog and I think some of the posts are very useful for all of you aspiring or already published authors.  As a teacher, I know we are always learning, moving forward, we never know it all.  These notes might help you find something you forgot or did not consider.  Enjoy, share and comment…

Thank you to The Writer Workshop for hosting the event,
Carry on reading, writing and reviewing,
Vanessa Wester J xx

Summary of the Main Posts:

Self Editing you Novel with Debi Alper (Part 1 &2) – Excellent
Jojo Moyes Key Address – Outstanding
Creating Tension with Claire McGowenSuperb (great advice)
Creating Character with Julie CohenFantastic (helps you kick start a story)
Reimagining SFF: Fantasy & SciFi for the Modern Market with Lee HarrisInformative & enjoyable
Breaking the Rules by Sam MillsA great alternative way to write

Tuesday, 11 December 2012


People don't say what they do, they show... SHOW DON'T TELL

E.g. Pride & Prejudice - Austen uses great control, Lolita

Narrators can be unusual, sympathetic or unreliable.  They are the window into another world.

Sam gave us an exercise... Have to see Sleeping Beauty from a different point of view, choose an unusual narrator.  This is what I wrote...

I had a thumping headache after my restless night.  Someday, I would find a nicer home, a quieter one.  The owl had finally shut up as the sun rose and I was stretching out my wings when I heard the most God auful moise.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the carnage.

Branches flew into the air, flowers shrieked in pain, birds scattered in all directions.  Everyone fled.  No-one remained.  No-one except me.

Frozen on the spot, I watched in absolute fear.  what was this beast, this evil, that came towards us?  What could want to get through so badly?  My eyes followed the debris, transfixed, as it passed under me and made its way to the castle.  And then I realised, the castle...My lady.  I would not let anyone harm my beautiful lady.  I had watched over her since birth.

I leapt into action, and hovered over the scene.  I didn't know how to save her, but I would do my best all the same.  I would save her.  I would find a way.  My body shuddered as I realised what I was about to commit to.  I could not figure out how someone of my stature could beat such a beast.  A giant.

The giant progressed.

In the entrance, up the stairs, down the corridor.  I searched all round for a weapon, I needed a weapon.

This excerpt (in case you did not guess) was written from the point of view of a bird...

We discussed many other issues, which I did not write extensive notes on.

Some of the things that came up included...

Literary Fiction - Books that stand the test of time

Conflict - Drive

Romantic comedy - The Beautiful & the Damned (characters tend to be more pessimistic. They don't resolve the problem).

Hawthorne - Explore different crimes & murders

It was great to just chat about different ideas and styles... and this concluded my workshop experience! It was time to get my bags and go... My summary post will follow shortly!

Thanks for reading,
Vanessa :) xx


I briefly attending The Art of the... Pause with Harry Bingham but had to dash out quickly for my Book Doctor appointment with Sam Mills.  So, I can't really say too much about it, other than - feel free to pause...

Twitter: @sammillsauthor

Sam was lovely... and had a hand written sheet with notes! Amazing... but again, it was all good! This was her feedback.


The idea is imaginative. I am glad you have created something a bit different from the usual paranormal romacne - but you need to make sure the concept isn't just vampires awith a different name attached to them.

The Evolution Trilogy isn't, so she was happy with the concept...


Yes, the writing has pace and energy and I found it compelling.  Occasionally, there are cliches, however "she resembles a rabbit caught in headlights" - try to think up a fresher image.

This was removed from HYBRID, and I have avoided cliches in my writing now...


The prologue is gripping and dramatic.  I enjoyed the characters.  I liked the way that each character is clearly defined, though you could still build Caitlin up with a few more details here and there e.g. why doesn't Julia like what Caitlin is wearing?

I explained that Caitlin is further described through the eyes of my main character, Steven, when he appears on the scene - again she was happy with this.


I did enjoy reading this - just take care to make sure this stand out from the crowd and is different from Twilight.

Most of my readers have found the idea for The Evolution Trilogy to be unique and different from Twilight... read the reviews for Hybrid & Complications!



Reimagining SFF: Fantasy & SciFi for the modern market with Lee Harris

My first workshop on Sunday involved Science Fiction.  Now, I have a confession to make here... I love Science Fiction movies but I rarely read Science Fiction books. In fact, even though many class my Evolution Trilogy as Science fiction, I see it as Romantic Suspense with an edge (or with a paranormal twist).

So, I really enjoyed this workshop - I learned a lot about a world I know nothing about.  I also got the chance to chat to Lee about my Evolution Series at the end.  He gave me some great advice and I decided my series was going to become a Trilogy... it took a lot of pressure off! Thank you Lee for taking the time to give me advice and for being so nice...

So first, let me introduce Lee Harris

Angry Robot’s Editor. Helps Marco decide what an Angry Robot author looks like, and does more than his fair share of marketing and making the tea. [NB, we don't drink tea.] Nice guy – politer than him, that’s for sure. Also publishes a well-known weekly fiction eZine -Hub, reviewed TV shows for the excellent (now sadly defunct) DeathRay Magazine, blogs and writes for SFX and occasionally updates his own blog at LeeAHarris.com. He’s also a Twitter bod, and the current Chair of the British Fantasy Society.


  • Space Opera/ Western (Firefly)
  • Cyber Punk - HiTec Machinery (biological)
  • Post Apocalyptic
  • Steam Punk (Victorian)/ Diesel (WW1/ WW2)/ Cyber
  • Contemporary/ Modern - Urban Fantasy (Paranormal Romance)
  • Alternative History
  • Dystopian/ Utopian
  • Soft SF (Economics)
  • Hard SF (Physics)
  • Urban Fantasy - Paranormal Romance
  • Zombie Fiction
  • High Fantasy


If you write to market you might miss the boat... not if SF


Everyone else will have the same idea and try to come up with similar books...look at Twilight, Fifty shades - the market was flooded.


This is less emotional/ more about trying to connect with the reader (for example - and this made me laugh - how many of you have seen the picture of the girl in a long dress looking over her shoulder, sometimes holding a sword?)

Personally, I stopped looking at books because the covers were the same when I was in my Twilight obsession...lol


  • Steam Punk
  • Retro Geek punk - Player One
  • Geeks rule the world
  • Elitist HiTec
  • Robot book
  • Dystopian - Hunger Games
  • Comic SciFi
  • Time Travel
  • Fiction from other cultures - Gods/ Godesses
  • Fantasy set in another country
Best chance of success
  • Compare to recent success
  • Influenced by...
  • Reminiscent of...
  • Include "reviews"
  • Should appeal to...
  1. Write well
  2. Research the Market
  3. Think of a fresh concept within a Genre
  4. Make it a good read...
  5. Commercial


Finally, I get to Saturday night... when I actually wore a very nice dress & makeup (those of you who know me, try not to faint, okay...)


Okay, me (in the middle - yeah that's me...ha ha) with Keri & Penelope - lovely ladies. I miss Keri, we instantly clicked!

Harry Bingham (on the right) giving thanks to various people...

 Some other people on my table...

Lots of budding writers looking for inspiration & hope (hmmmm... best not have too many of those!)

One to One with David Headley

During the workshop by Julie Cohen I had my second one to one with an agent, David Headley.


David studied theology in London and Durham before co-founding and becoming the Managing Director of Goldsboro Books, a much admired independent bookseller, based in central London.

David has spent the last 14 years establishing Goldsboro Books and building good relationships with editors within the UK's major publishing houses. He has gained a reputation for championing debut authors and he created the UK's largest collectors' book club and is influential in selling large quantities of hardback fiction in the UK.

David is actively looking for new writers across the board, both general and genre fiction (excluding young adult, children’s, poetry, plays, screenplays and short stories). David is particularly interested in well written novels with strong characters and an original narrative voice.

I had heard from a friend that he had been very harsh on her writing, so I have to admit I was scared.  I had submitted three chapters of HYBRID and was ready to receive a grilling.

But, again it did not happen! I know, shock...

David mainly asked why I had choosen to go down the Self Publishing route, he did not understand the reasoning.  And then added that my writing was sound and very good, it just wasn't what he was looking for at the moment.  The fact it was kind of Young Adult was also an issue.

So, no slating, no critique, just a simple... not for me.

Might I add this is the problem for any debut novelist (I think)

QUESTION: How do you find the right agent for your writing and style?
ANSWER: Impossible... LOL


I can't believe it has been so long since my last posting, so today I will try to finish my diary... Oh yes I will... (sorry I have doing a panto all of last week! Have to get it out of my system...lol)

Anyway, the next workshop I attended was Creating Character by the lovely Julie Cohen (a very bubbly lady - I want her energy!)

According to Julie, there are six ways to create character... I will expand on the exercises at the end.

1) Appearance/ Decription

Characters might fit their appearance, or be at odds with it. Beware of indigestible chunks of description, or cliches.
EXERCISE: Describe the Character's appearance)

2) Action: SHOWING not telling

Make characters active whenever possible, instead of telling what they're like
EXERCISE: Write about this character walking into a room and picking up an object

3) Symbolism

Use objects and settings to show significant aspects of your character
EXERCISE: Discover the significance of the object the character picked up

4) Conflict

This will drive your character forward through the entire story, and can be on an internal (emotional) and/ or external (plot) level.  The best conflicts grow out of internal conflicts.
EXERCISE: What's your character's biggest problem?

5) Character Arc

How does your character grow and change over the course of the story?
EXERCISE: What's your character's greatest quality and worst fault, and how do they connect?

6) Voice

Both the voice of the character as narrator, and voice in dialogue.
EXERCISE: Write dialogue as a script, and write first-person inner monolgue

  1. Put X in a place s/he doesn't belong
  2. Introduce X to a character with conflicting goals
  3. Introduce X to a chracter with the same goals but different motivation
  4. Make X face his/ her worst fear
  5. Give X an impossible task
  6. Make X make a horrible mistake
  7. Force X to confront the past
  8. Plunge X into unexpected fame
  9. Make X lose everything
  10. Make X win something unwanted, or which becomes unwanted

During the course of this workshop we had to carry out the exercises.

My character was a male who I called TIGER QUINN, aged 19. (We had to select a number and letter cards to give us a start).  This is what I wrote...

Tiger Quinn was not the type of person who had ever been described as bright.  As long as Lisa could remember, he had been the drop out loser guy that every girls aspired to have as a boyfriend.  She was not one of those girls.  From the moment she set eyes on his muscular, tanned body and striking hazel eyes, she had known he was that type.  The type that would never be interested in someone like her.  And funnily enough, his idea to trip her up five years ealier had only solidified her hatred.  She would not forget, her memory was long.

Lisa happened to watch the door as he grabbed the handle and made his way in.  His slow, almost calculated (and obviously staged), walk was smooth. As he continued to move in her direction a smile broke out over his face.  She glanced over her shoulder, paranoid. she faced him again and realised he was actually smiling at her. He stopped next to her, leaned one hand on the table and winked.  then he picked up a chip from her plate, dipped it in her ketchup, and popped it in his mouth.  He chewed slowly, it was almost an attempt at seduction.  Almost.

He moved his hand to take another just as Lisa broke out of her trance and slapped his hand away.  Her eyes narrowed.

(This covered points 1 & 2)

Best attribute: Looks, kind, sharing
Worst attribute: Attitude, arrogance, pride

(For point 3)

Now we had to make them talk (she asked us not to embellish, just make them talk)

'I'm glad it hurt.'
'Come on, you know you don't mind sharing with me. Most girls I know would love to split a meal with me.'
'Well, I'm not one of them.'
Lisa stared.
'You are serious? Wow! Anyway, I know something you don't and you're going to have to be nice to me so that I tell you what it is.'
'You don't know shit.'
'Go girl.  I didn't even know you knew how to swear.'
'Well, I do.'
'So, I guess I'll be going then.  You don't want to know what I know. Right?'
'Okay then.'
He started to walk away, but then stopped and turned back to face her. 'Fine, I'll tell you already. I'm in love with you.'
Before Lisa could react his lips were on hers.  That completely threw her off.

I did not get the chance to carry on with the exercise since I had my next one to one with an agent... but what I managed to do was excellent! Thank you Julie...