Thursday, 30 October 2014

How To Write Spooky Stories

It's Halloween tomorrow night and my tradition is to read by candle light. Something about the flickering shadows spooks me. There is a superstition to have a candle burn at your window to let the gouls and other beasties know that you are home and alive and not to come creeping. It is also supposed to be a beacon for loved ones who have passed on, to visit and come home, while the veil between worlds is at its thinnest.

This year I will be reading Frankenstein.

This is important in all writing. You have to make your readers interested in what you are writing about.  Your characters should make your readers FEEL. Make your characters loveable or loathsome, but the reader has to care about the characters. All suspense writing starts with the reader’s empathy and then reader’s concern.
Set up. Twist.
The greatest example of the set-up-twist is the two sentence horror story. Here is one taken from sunnyskys/blog by Therealhatman:
“I woke up to hear knocking on the glass. At first, I thought it was the window until I heard it come from the mirror again.”
The reason that this works is because it has a set up. The reader is set up to think a certain way, a false sense of security even, and then the second sentence is the twist that makes you think very differently about the first. In a short story or a novel you can do this in every chapter by creating conflict between characters or in a scene. The secret is in the twist, so let your imagination run wild!
You can extend the ‘set up’ for as long as you like which brings me to number two.

Avoid the dot dot dot
Suspense is a very important part of writing scary stories. A cheat to build suspense in your writing is to make big promises of action, give the reader more information than the characters, extend moments of uncertainty and always keep your promises.
A couple plan to meet at a meeting point. That is a promise of action.
But the young man’s rival finds out and hides at the meeting point with a gun. Giving the reader more information.
The couple arrive at the place with no idea of the danger. Extend this moment for as long as possible and the reader will be on the edge of their seats waiting for the rival.
Conflict. Either a fight, or a murder, or another character arrives, whatever works for your story. Keep your promises.
Remember though, that a murder or violence is not suspense. Too much violence or gore will start to not mean anything to your readers. A murder is not suspense writing. An abduction with the threat of murder is.
NOTE: Using Elipses (…) is actually the worst and a very lazy way of building suspense, avoid the dot dot dot!

One of the greatest writing tips of all time is: Show Don’t Tell. Most people don’t even notice when writers use this technique but it is what turns a good story into a great one. It can be hard, when you are writing a story to spend time on the description especially when you have a really good idea you just want to get on the page as quickly as possible. But when it comes to suspense writing you HAVE to show not tell and it really helps to extend those moments of uncertainty I mentioned. It will also make your moments of conflict when you keep your promises really exciting.
An example of show don’t tell:

Tell: Megan shot him.  Show: The smell of gun powder filled the air and Megan’s arm jolted back into her shoulder as the gun went off. She hardly heard the bang before her ears were ringing. She stared across the room, where a trickle of black blood was already being sucked up by the carpet; she could almost hear it.

Use all of your senses for description so that the reader is drawn into the scene.

If you want to write scary stories READ scary stories. This goes for any kind of writing. This doesn’t mean just copy an author you like. There is actually a part two to this tip.
Read and Analyse.

When you begin to feel scared while reading, stop and think HOW the writer made you feel that way. Once you understand the technique they’ve used you can use a similar technique on your own story. Maybe you will notice a Set Up-Twist or the building of suspense. Take note of how the author did it and you can start to practice it with your own writing.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

October Reads

My October Reads are happening early because of Na No Wri Mo in November I am trying to go easy on myself blog wise. Hey, I'm writing 50000 words over here!!
My theme this week is books and their possible or existing movie adaptations.

Heir of Fire
Sarah J Maas
Bloomsbury Childrens 11/09/14 paperback
Book review for Bloomsbury

I would love to see all of The Throne of Glass series as a TV series or a Film but because of the set up of each book, I think it will probably work better as a TV series.

My full review can be read on Movellas here.

The Great Gastby
F Scot Fitzgerald
Free classics collection on Kindle

'What Gatsby?' I absolutely loved this book. I came to it rather late, it was one of those amazing books that I never got around to reading. Notoriously, I tend to shy away from American fiction. I wasn't exposed to it as a child, we never had it in the house and so the titles are unfamiliar and here I am at 23, reading it for the first time.
I admit that I had Toby Maguire's voice in my head from the movie, but it didn't take away from how much I enjoyed the book. I'd been to uni with people who had studied and loved it and I also listened to book club podcasts and all kinds of things, I had basic background knowledge I'd absorbed from the zietgeist.
I wanted to forget all that analytical stuff when I was reading it but it was nearly impossible not to notice it.
Over all I thought it was captivatingly written and a short easy read. It made me want to read for a copy of Waugh's Bright Young Things.

Mary Wolstencroft Shelley
Free classics collection on Kindle

Of course, what else for Halloween. Every year I read a gothic/themed novel over October/Halloween period. Last year was Dracula, which was awesome, but I didn't have a blog back then! As usual it took almost half the month to finish it. I know my reading habits a bit better now and so I knew that a more difficult read would need at least 15 days.
Frankenstein was really sad! A sequence of horrid and tragic events. I was disappointed by a marked absence of the line: "IT's ALIVE". In fact the building of the monster is rather anti-climactic in the book. Reading it properly has cast aside many a cobweb about the story, I had a lot of assumptions which I assume everyone else did too. I was SURE that Dr Frankenstein teaches the monster how to speak - not true.
It just seems like a mad little story. Maybe I'm jaded in my reading but Frankenstein didn't satisfy my need for realism.
There is no grade for it so far, because as of the time of this post, I haven't finished it, but y predicted rating is probably 6/10. Sorry Mary Shelley. BUT I am really excited to see the new Frankenstein, staring Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy coming out Oct 2015

Thursday, 16 October 2014


My Bloomsbury Review

I worked for Bloomsbury for 12 months. In 3 chunks.

2 weeks, 4 weeks, and 6 weeks.

The time I spent there built up every time and I met more and more of the staff and explored  their enormous building. Every week more of the senior staff started to recognize me and gave me a smile in the corridors.

One of the things I loved about Bloomsbury, which is also one of the most important things about where you choose to work, is that they produced great books. I was always able to be enthusiastic about the books that we were working on. It is always easier to love your job if you believe in the product.

The Facts
Bloomsbury run a loose internship scheme from 2-4 weeks in any given department, usually Editorial, Marketing and PR have interns. However if you have a particular interest or talent in another department make that clear in your application. Sometimes they can squeeze you in. (I had an eye opening two days in the Production department)

The work experience that Bloomsbury provide is unpaid, however they do pay travel expenses.  They do not pay for your lunch.

Bloomsbury offices are on Bedford Square in London near Tottenham Court Road on the Central and Northern Line.

Why I loved it
Bloomsbury feels like a publishing house the moment you step inside. The reception has floor to ceiling bookshelves crammed with books, there is a heavy dark carpet and big chairs with leather seats. Some publishing houses or literary agencies can seem almost sterile and they hide their books. (I won't name names)

The two teams that I worked on were awesome. I worked in Marketing and in Children's Editorial, both of which were incredibly useful in getting my current job which incorporates skills from both. Everyone is down to earth and great to work with, there is a definite team feel to everything that they do.

I would love to work for Bloomsbury again one day, my internships there have sparked an interest in them that I don't think I will ever shake. Until that day though I will just have to continue reading their books.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

An Open Letter to University Students

Dear Students,
Your second or third attempt at freshers week is over, I hope it was even more successful than the first time round. You've probably had a chance to meet all your lecturers and had a chance to decide which seminars you will be avoiding. *curse you 9am lectures!*

This is the year that really starts to matter. In most cases, from now on, all of your grades count towards your final result. This is also the time to do all the fun things you always wanted to do because next year all your free time will be spent in 24hr Libraries and cafes trying to squeeze 10000 words into a dissertation.

My best advice that I can give you at this early stage in the year is to get a job. Any job. Preferably one that pays you, probably as a barista or in a shop. Your second year is all about building your CV while you have time and resources on your side.

There isn't a ticket into the job market. A levels, degree, good grade, respectable university, they're all just the building blocks of your CV and you need more. Start demonstrating what you want to do.  If you don't know what to do, do things you like so that your CV reflects who you are. Having that first job or two will give you that much leverage once you graduate.

You might have spent most of your student loan on a bass guitar (you know who you are), but you can still survive on ramen noodles until Christmas. If you can live without a paying job, get an internship or placement in the industry you prefer. Sometimes this is hard to do in your university town.

I know about publishing, because that is what I wanted to do, so I can only advise on that, but it applies to everyone really. I was amazed once I got to London that there were at least three places I could have worked while at uni and I had no idea, because I never looked. Start your research NOW. look for work in your university town and at home.

My greatest regret is that I didn't do more to prepare for the real world while at Uni. Bills, rent, learning to drink jager without dying, all good lessons. But what I really should have been doing is writing for my uni magazine, working in the SU, building a blog! Anything to prove to my employers that I want to be in their industry. In publishing the consistent item on a job description is that the candidate must 'demonstrate their passion for books'. So go demonstrate any way you can.

If there just isnt time between sports, drinking and essays, use the holidays to do internship placements instead of slobbing around in your pjs. Try freelancing if you prefer the flexibility.

I cannot stress how much easier your graduate life will be if you work while at uni.

Good luck with your cover letters!


Thursday, 2 October 2014

It Took A Year

Last weekend I gave you a clue about some changes that would be coming on the blog. Did anyone guess what they might be?

Well, I am actually writing from my new office, at my new job. and tomorrow I am moving into my new house with a 26 minute commute. 

I was starting to think it would never happen! But 12 months of interning paid off and I am no longer an intern in books. So what am I up to?

I am the communities manager at Movellas. Movellas is a writing app and website, mainly for teenagers where they can publish their writing. We run a ton of competitions and it is my job to go back and forth with publishers to build campaigns and negotiate prizes. I'm also the main point of contact for any questions that the users have. 

So what will happen to intern in books? Well I love my blog, so I'm going to keep it up and keep updating. I still have a ton of advice for interns so will carry on as long as I can. Maybe in a few months this blog might graduate to Working in Books so there is that to look forward to! 

Since I've got my job (and my first paycheck) I will be moving into my new house just 30 minutes from central london. Everything is coming together *wipes a tear*

I'm starting the next chapter of my life and I am running at it full tilt (its now 7:30 on a Friday night and I still have emails! Couldnt be happier)