The End of the Story

… it is the end of a story that I find far more of a challenge, assuming we have written a story gripping enough to keep a reader through the entire book.

Andy Frazier

To Begin

An amount of time in our writer’s group, and I suspect in a few others, is allocated to discussing how a story should begin, in a way it would attract a reader to turn to page two. This is generally something I for one find reasonably simple, as long as a situation and at least one or more characters arrive with interest. 

To end

To me, it is the end of a story that I find far more of a challenge, assuming we have written a story gripping enough to keep a reader through the entire book. So many books and, even more so, TV dramas end in a disappointing manner. In a previous group meeting we discussed this subject, and at the time I raised several questions as to what is or perhaps not acceptable. Does a reader demand closure? Yes, of course so. Does the ending need to be a massive crescendo? Well, not necessarily.   

Not to disappoint

One of our members suggested it needs to be a cliff-hanger, so a sequel can be tagged on later. This is a great idea but, of course, would only apply if a sequel was forthcoming, otherwise it becomes a cop out. 

One assumes that the story has a conflict within it and this should always be resolved at the end, even if a sequel is on the cards. 

Matters of opinion

Some writer’s clinics suggest that the author should know the ending before you even start writing. I disagree with this. In my last book even I didn’t know who did it until I wrote the final few chapters, and in that way lay surprise for myself as well as the reader. How could they possibly suspect, if I didn’t even know?

There is also the what/if ending where what actually happens is open to interpretation by the reader but this tends to be more for books that are trying to put over a message rather than purely to entertain. Assuming they are reading their preferred genre, the reader will be left thinking about the book for a few days to come, running a variety of scenarios through their mind until they are comfortable with one of them. 

One of the more common endings is to return back to where the book started. I have used this a number of times by creating a prologue of a couple of pages at the beginning before starting the actual story, so I have somewhere to go back to. Again this is often used in films and TV.

Resolution

A surprise ending is usually more palatable than a predictable one, but this comes with its warnings, that somewhere in the story, perhaps in a few places, the reader has been passed a subtle hint. In my case I had to backtrack and add these in the edit.  

I think most importantly, as well as getting closure, the protagonist should have somehow benefited from the final act, whether growing from its experience or at least learning from it.

Logic

Finally, I believe the ending should make sense and this is where the difficulty lies, not just with myself but with many authors. In a scenario where sub-plots collide at the end, as they often do, there must be a decent element of logic so the reader can understand why what happened, happened. Otherwise they will feel short changed and I for one would certainly like to sell them another of my books.

© Andy Frazier – May 2022

Stepping In

 “He’s gone?”

            “Yes. Could be a good thing.”

“But what now?”

            “We find someone else.”

            “It’s a bit late. Who’d be mad enough?”

            “Well, I was thinking….”

            “Exactly. Once we win, we’ll convince him to step aside too.”

            “And then?”

            “Well, you of course. Or me.”

This was my entry for a 50 words competition. I remembered it after Mac read a piece about relationships in the workplace.

The story so far … If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry!

The story so far

Have you written anything during the last month? I haven’t. My brain has been exclusively involved in seeking, assimilating and processing the information flooding in over the media. My story so far has stayed outwardly calm, though inwardly anxious. So far so good. But this has got to stop!

Please join us in this challenge. Write a piece of comedy. Our usual guide is around 300 words but that matters not, under the circumstances. Just have some fun.

Instead of our normal meeting on Monday 27th April, we can share our writing through our site over the next week or so. Are you up for it? Email your piece to me and we’ll post it. Don’t forget a non-de-plume as agreed at our last meeting.

Don’t mention the …

I constantly whinge that I don’t have time but now, it seems that I do. Anguishing through the wee small hours I decide to put pen to paper. Or rather, in the interests of not wishing to wake my partner, index finger to iPhone. But what to write about? The subject that is on everybody’s lips, must surely have become “It That Must Not Be Named.”

She’s aff her heid… how it happened

Earlier, I had sought advice from a writer pal. A big mistake last thing before sleep because she advised “comedy”. What? My normally reliable, sage friend must be a maniac. At this time of crisis and turmoil, comedy must surely be impossible. This, my fuddled brain had not been expecting.

…or is she?

And so to a sleepless night. Where, in all this, can I find humour? More challenging still, how do I find the will and the wit to write it?

After several hours of tossing and turning, I think of a hilarious video doing the circuit on social media. And so I have my prompt for the story so far. What’s more, I think it will do my mental health a power of good to try it. So, she’s right.

And now to sleep…

Thank you to my pal for a sleepless night but also for dragging me from my literary torpor.

Join us. We look forward to hearing from you!

Enjoy and take care!

Jenny

You’ll never guess what…

I’ll never guess, what?

We’re one year old next meeting.

Thinking of anniversaries, we’d love 50 words on the theme of an anniversary surprise – take it anywhere you like.

Strut your stuff

http://charlisays.com/10-funniest-writer-quotes/

As usual we invite you to bring up to 300 words of prose or poetry or script-writing … whatever you choose. If you can’t, we’re glad to see you anyway.

Focus?

A common topic that comes up is how and when we write. What are our writing habits? Some of us write in the morning, others at different times.

We all like a familiar space to write, whether it be a room or a quiet corner of the house. Some of us plan to write, whilst others are stimulated by thoughts and experiences.

The session focus will be the ideas people have for writing effectively, their discipline and techniques for keeping the nose on the grindstone.

We are planning a session on WordPress. An introduction and a chance to get involved in running our own site.

Festivities

Please have some thoughts about what we should do for the festive season. Fancy a pub get together, accessible to the 95 coastal bus. All ideas welcome. We’ll decide at the meeting.

August Meeting Report

Let’s Get Started

We did a great thing! We supported each other! It all began with a question about editing and how some of us struggle with getting past this stage in our writing. We gave each other lots of advice, including:

  • get the gist down and go from there
  • just get it all down in one go                                                                   
  • get a feel for it – Is it working?
  • go back and edit/polish at the end
  • simplify things
  • read and self-edit as you go

We all had our own ideas but the one which resonated the most was:

“Don’t eat the elephant all at one time!” In other words, one step at a time but do what suits you best.

May Meeting 2019 – Gale Winskill Editor

attention to detail that may not be immediately apparent but is needed to make the final product look smooth and seamless

Welcome to our editing session

This evening we welcomed our invited guest, Gale Winskill, who taught us lots about editing.

Editing is simple … isn’t it?

photo of editor Gale WinskillGale Winskill is a professional editor, living in Fife, who came to give us an introduction to what an editor actually does. My line of work, as with so many others, suffers from a general lack of awareness of just how much is involved, behind the scenes. All the attention to detail that may not be immediately apparent but is needed to make the final product look smooth and seamless.

Everything has its front of house – the facade that is presented to the world – but ask a teacher, a doctor, a nurse, a builder, a chef, a shopkeeper and they will all tell you just how much training, skill and experience is involved in that final product. The same applies to editing.

Reasonably armed, or so I thought, I went along to the meeting. Whatever I thought, you can multiply that by about ten because there was so much to learn!

Gale’s background

On her website, Gale freely admits that her unconventional and indirect path into her chosen career came from a lifelong love of reading and the fact that she will happily read anything.

She has travelled and worked abroad extensively, been an in-house and freelance editor. On top of that, she has a good working knowledge of several languages and is an Advanced Professional Member of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP).

What’s more, she is very personable, putting you at your ease: an important point in building a working relationship between author and editor. She is a highly skilled communicator, getting her points over objectively and succinctly. This is my take on Gale’s presentation – a daunting task considering Gale’s expertise. Fingers crossed and apologies in advance!

So what does an editor do?

Gale’s view is that a book needs to be the best it can be. A bad review is no joke and by that time, it is too late – the damage has been done. This is even more important in the age of social media, when reviews and opinions spread so quickly. However, the author is too close to their own work to turn out the final product.

That’s where an editor’s role really comes in. They need an objective eye and to be time efficient. It is helpful if they are positive, rather than negative but equally so, the author must be prepared to accept suggestions, not as critisism.

Gale believes that an editor is the ultimate reveiwer, asking the question, “Why?” It is their job to identify problems that any future reader may spot and bring them to the attention of the writer, so that they can address them, prior to going into print.

Proofreading versus Copy-editing

This was the title of a handout that Gale brought from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders. It had the following, thought provoking, quote by Gerard M-F Hill, which clearly shows the complexity of the task at hand.

“Copy-editing and proofreading are both editing, which is wrestling with words; but proofreading is like wrestling in a broom cupboard.”

Then of course, you have…

Structural editing

Structural editing deals with the big picture, looking at content, organization and pacing. Gale gave us numerous examples of this: logic of the story topic, pace/flow, gaps or holes, characters, genre, style of language, suitability of content, age appropriateness, to name but a few. There are many more but watch this space for a future workshop!

Copy-editing

This asks the question, ” Is the story sound?” “Does it make sense?”

It also includes many more issues such as punctuation, grammar, factual inaccuracy, consistency of house style, formatting and legal issues.

Proofreading

This is the final stage and includes layout, further checking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors, minor changes in sense, consistency, references and index formatting.

Any clearer?

Well yes, absolutely enlightened and eager for more.

If like me, this has whetted your appetite, then go on to Gale’s website to find out more. Many questions from members came up throughout the evening and no doubt more will come up in the coming months.

I for one, look forward to catching up with Gale again at one of our future meetings. Thanks Gale!

For more information visit:

http://www.winskilleditorial.co.uk/ 

© Jenny Hoggan

Writers on ‘Jealousy’ April 2019

We met, we agreed and we’re going ahead. This is a short update to keep you informed.

Mrs Louboutin

Each day, you’d drift in, hair perfectly straightened, clothes neatly pressed: a pristine white t-shirt or top, a pastel cardigan casually draped over your shoulders, lightly coloured expensively cut trousers, a waft of expensive perfume in your wake.

You’d spend lunch time complaining bitterly that glue or paint had ruined your much admired clothing, about how much it had cost. You’d look straight at me, expecting me to magic up a clothes allowance from an already meagre budget. I wish I had been able to. Just to shut you up. Instead, I joined the others in making sympathetic noises whilst we patted down Primark skirts and trousers, wondering why you wore such clothes to work. I knew why. It was all about status.

Your shoes were your pride and joy. They gave the biggest hint of all about just how much you spent. I lost count of the number of times you wore red soles. We knew they were red, because you insisted on taking them off or adjusting them every break time. I was tempted with the black paint! Just a little nudge would have done. It’s one of my biggest regrets!

You actually believed that you were better than us all, that you were the duchess of the work place. You made sure your conversations were steeped in what I’ll call, ‘economics’, about how much you had saved, your husband’s salary, that kind of thing. Others could only listen, as they frantically wished for payday to come around. I simply wondered why you worked at all.

Then you worked out, through various conversations, but without any hint for me, well not much of one, that my ‘economics’ were greater that yours. And that unleashed the bitch from inside you. The cruel comments, the long calculating looks from my head to my toes began in earnest. I was excluded. No wine nights, no drinks or coffees after work for me. Did I care? No. Because by then only you and I knew just how much of a cold calculating bitch you were, that your red soles should have been green.

© Joy Deacon

To have and to hold. To bloody hold?

Brian turned away from the couple and focused his eyes on the sandstone wall, trying to cloud her beauty from his mind.

It wasn’t all Scott’s fault. The times he had told himself that. And they were pals, after all. Had been since they met, really. The day he charged into a lecture room, his blond hair unkempt as though he had just woken up, all smiles, apologies and correct answers.

They had shared a pint, a laugh, a joint and eventually a flat; a life, almost – until she turned up.

For that, he blamed himself. Brian had met her at a party, the prettiest girl there. Instead of staying and dancing to some average hip-hop, he suggested they went for a drink. In the taxi he texted Scott: PINT? He had since convinced himself that he hadn’t subconsciously meant to show-off, but deep down he felt it, that need to prove a point to this mate who somehow always stole the spotlight.

A few days and a couple of unanswered texts later, she was at his door, not for him, but for his pal. An awkward raised eyebrow from her, a good old pat on the back by way of apology from Scott, and off they went.

Now, here he was less than a year later, watching his loss unfurl. He glanced back to his mate, his hair groomed, ski-tan barely fading, a grey suit hugging his frame like a model. Brian wore exactly the same threads – as best man it had been his idea – but somehow his just felt lank, ill-fitting and uneasy.

Best man? Oh the irony of that statement!

Best man while the not so best one got to have, and to hold, and whatever ever else he damn well pleased with this goddess of a girl. His girl. 

© Andy Frazier

The Watcher

The cold crept through his body, like the jealousy crept through his brain. Insidious, eroding his defences in waves. How had he come to this particular place: this street, this state of mind? He did not wish to be here, either physically or spiritually. Their relationship had seemed solid. Three years and it had not crossed his mind to doubt her. He had thought this might be it, whatever it was.

But then she had moved job. Taken up a position in a new office, in the heart of the city.

Her hours had changed, become unpredictable. Travel took up more time and was unreliable. More worrying was the change in her appearance, even her demeanour. The distance between them had grown imperceptibly, like tectonic plates drifting under their feet. He had tried to reach out across the gap but felt no hands reaching back. Suspicion had grown like a vine around a tree trunk.

Mistrust of even the smallest detail had brought him to this point, when he had decided to follow her. Now, staring up at a lit window, above a row of shabby shops, what was he hoping for? Whatever it was, he was about to find out, as she appeared in the unknown doorway.

© Jenny Hoggan

Carve Up

It’s always the same. Every time. It makes me so, so, so… angry. I watch carefully: the blade, the chopping, the squeals, the sniggering … God, I hate it! I hate them! My teeth grind so hard they squeak.

It’s happening again, now. This time the knife’s in my hand … ha! ha! ooh…

I enjoy the cutting. Hmm, look at ’em, eyes bulging with fear, and they can’t do anything, haha! … but watch. Oh my, I’m drooling, excited. Let ’em glance all they want. The power is MINE!

OOoh! The edge slices into the squishy stuff in the middle. I so enjoy his groan and the sticky pull of the blade; the way his face screws up. I saw back and forwards. Another groan, such fun.

With a final crunch Willie’s eyes stick out like organ stops. My triumph is complete.

What’s that? He get’s to choose? It’s not fair, Mum, he always gets the biggest bit. I cry. The Creme Egg is split… and I’m going to lose out … AGAIN!

© Mac Logan

Storyboard Ideas

What I do is take a single simple idea and built a framework around it. In scriptwriting, this is called a storyboard …

February meeting raises Storyboard

After an hour of general discussion about our individual on-going projects the group asked me to share mine with them. This led to my sharing the use of the Storyboard.

What I do is take a single simple idea and built a framework around it. In scriptwriting, this is called a storyboard and is the basis for a variety of writing styles, particularly fact-based fiction, my preferred genre, where the story needs to follow a set path.

E.G. – developing a movie idea

In this case, my task was to take a song lyric, deconstruct it into its characters and then imaginatively shape a life around each one of them.

My chosen song, ‘The Piano Man’, by Billy Joel, is about people visiting a late night bar to drown their sorrows and contains the formidable line, ‘they are sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone!’

the Cork-Board

Basically a storyboard is just a scratch pad or, to use Scrivener’s process, a cork-board where you pin up post-it notes and can shuffle them into some sort of order. So on each ‘post-it’ I head it with each character’s name and pin them all in one section.

cork-board

I am fortunate in my recent writing life to have researched a massive history book which involved me interviewing nearly 100 interesting people, some of whom were in the final years of life. In almost every case the questions were tailored around what little information I had about them.

questions of characters

Likewise, in this situation, we apply a little intelligence to the questions we ask each player. Of course, there are the obvious ones: how old are you, colour, sex, creed etc? But then we go deeper. Why are you lonely in a bar? What has life done to you to get you here?

real-estate novelist

In one line we are fed: ‘Paul is a real-estate novelist, who never had time for a wife.’ What on earth is a real-estate novelist? So Paul, tell me about your life as an estate agent, wasn’t much fun, eh? Sold a few houses, market crashed, and you wrote what? Maybe you saw how the sub-prime market worked and discovered the smokescreen and corruption that lay behind the banking system that eventually brought the global economy to its knees? That would put me in a late night bar, for sure!

practising politician

Then there’s the waitress, who is ‘practising politics’? We’ve all met her. Doing a night job to pay her way through college? Where better than in a downtown bar? Bound to be a few washed up senators lurking around here?

… and the rest

Each one gets given a history based around what little info we have on them and then, for me, in this exercise, the fun really starts, with the shifting of the pieces. Out of these eight or so sad people, who knows who? Which one has had their life touched by another? Where have all their paths crossed?

select a protagonist

As with all good stories, we need a protagonist, and I chose the old man who is asking the piano-man to play a tune he used to know ‘when he wore younger man’s clothes!’

This guy has been around, right? Bound to have bumped into some of the other players in his 3 score years and ten? So I stick him in the middle, and weave the others around him.

it’s a learning exercise …

As this is only an exercise, I want to keep it tight, maybe a script for a 15-minute movie, or a short story. So I make only three to four scenes involving each player, each on its own post-it. I am a great believer that scenes and characters are only borrowed and there is rarely anything original left to invent, in the same way that there are only so many notes in a music scale. So, in the majority our scenes we use everyday situations that readers can relate to.

pull it together

The timing works out that the old man could have been a veteran from the Vietnam war, so there is his first scene, in the jungle in 1969. But we don’t want a chronological history of each person; that’s no fun, far too conventional! So let’s mix them up. Paul sold houses – maybe he sold one to the old fella just before the market fell?

That waitress seems like a nice girl; perhaps she helped the old man across the road or woke him up when the train reached his stop? Venn diagram centre! So finally, when we walk into that bar at 9 o’clock on a Saturday, a quick look around and we have everyone pegged down.

neat line, neat idea

Eventually, after some enjoyable head-scratching, this exercise will end up with maybe 15-20 scenes, all in a neat line, so the author, and subsequent director, can colour them in as he or she perceives them. As with musical notes, it is the combinations and order in which they are played that make a tune.

That, to me, is what a storyboard is, a simple melody.

© Andy Frazier

Merryn Glover at Writers’ Neuk

Explaining how much she enjoys writing, Merry shared some of the difficulties of being a writer…

For our inaugural Writers’ Neuk meeting in Colinsburgh Library we invited Merryn Glover, author of A House Called Askival, to speak to us about her book and about being a writer.

Barsottibackground

A House Called Askival is based upon her own experiences growing up in South Asia and upon the period following the Second World War, when India was partitioned. Born in Kathmandu, to missionary parents, Merryn was brought up in Nepal, India and Pakistan, before training as a teacher at an Australian university.

first novel

A House Called Askival is Merryn’s first published novel but she also writes short stories and poetry, which have been published in magazines and newspapers. Over a number of years, the BBC has commissioned her plays which have been broadcast on Radio Scotland and Radio 4. Her poem, Driving Lesson, is in the Autumn issue of Northwards Now.

reading

Merryn read an excerpt from the first chapter of her book, which was greatly enjoyed by all.

learning shared

Explaining how much she enjoys writing, Merry shared some of the difficulties of being a writer, namely ways of getting published. She enjoys writing every day and is greatly encouraged to do so, by family and friends. Askival was published by the now defunct Freight Books and she is currently in discussion with another publisher, with a view to having her second novel published.

questions answered

There then followed a general discussion and questions on the writing process and getting work published. Merryn advised us, as budding writers, to:

  • never stop writing
  • consider the audience who will read our work
  • write to communicate with your readers

A lively discussion followed as the focus moved towards getting writing out there.

publishing, and all that

Self-publishing can be a way forward for many writers. It has its drawbacks but it is one way of becoming known to readers and publishers.

We also discussed how publishers focus on a number of aspects of a writer’s work including:

  • social media activity
  • self promotion

Activities like these are becoming ever more important since many newspapers publish fewer literary reviews.

marketing experience leads to improvement

Merryn suggests that attending book festivals was a way of getting her novel highlighted and cited her own attendance at the Ullapool Festival as being a positive step in becoming more well known.

She approached several publishers with Askival and now appreciates that the number of times it was refused led to improvement in it, as she kept going and adapting and changing, according to their advice.

research, rest, write, research again

We discussed how research for a novel can prevent an author actually getting down to writing a story. Merryn suggested taking a break from the research and coming back fresh, for the next stage. Her advice was that there needs to be enough of a framework to help readers understand time, place and events but mostly they want to engage with the story.

Merryn now lives in the Scottish Highlands, where she is a high school librarian, relishing the challenge of encouraging teenagers to keep reading.

thanks Merryn

We very much appreciated Merryn coming along to speak to us and offering advice an inspiration.