Digital Marketing The Possibilities Are Endless



Recently I joined in the Futurelearn Digital Marketing Course. Why you might ask? Well, I figure that any help that I can get to help me get my book published has to be worth investigating. And,  I’m a bit of a perpetual student, I love learning!   I’m no expert, in fact I’m a bit of a novice, but here are some suggested links from the course and a few more that I found myself that I think may be of interest:

Free digital media guides to  create, manage, deliver and use digital media.

Temporary text hosting:

Learn how to be an authorpreneur!

‘Padlet Walls’  places to share media like images or text with other learners.

‘Welcome to the easiest way to create and collaborate in the world.’ Padlet is free to use, does not require you  create an account, and works on most devices including desktop, mobile and tablet.




Learn about using photos on google plus.

‘Capture and Share the World’s Moments’:

‘Inspiring photography. Share and connect with the Flickr Community.Stunning photos made easy. All your pictures in one place.’:

“Easily share photos and videos right from the Dropbox website. Share a link to a single photo or an entire album you’ve created, such as for a special event. Anyone who receives the link can take a look, even if they don’t have a Dropbox account. “

‘Join Pinterest to find (and save) all of the things that inspire you.’

Pin interest basics:’P

‘Your images have never looked better. Unlimited uploads. Unlimited space. Safeguard your high-res photos in the cloud.’



No doubt we all know about youtube:

But, there is also Vimeo: Watch, upload, and share videos :

Facebook and Google groups:

How to create a FB group:

‘You can use Google Groups to share information and interact with people who have your passion for a particular hobby, interest, or organization. And you can also share documents and send calendar invites to a group so you don’t have to list people individually.’

‘You can use Google+ communities to find other people who share your passion for a particular hobby, interest or organisation. And if no-one’s started a community for what you care about, you can create your own.’ Creating a google + community:

Facebook groups recommended by award winning author Dianne Harman


Or you may prefer LinkedIn. I tend to associate this one with business, but I suppose plenty authors, use it too.

Enterprise social network:

‘Yammer is a private social network that helps employees collaborate across departments, locations and business apps.’ :



On-line conversation:

‘Neat Chat is the easiest and fastest way to have an online conversation with a group of friends or colleagues. No signups or software installs are required. You simply use a web browser to communicate via Neat Chat’. :

‘Schedule. Manage. Measure’:

Simon Fogg’s links:

Building Your Platform: Michael Hyatt:

Podcast: “How to Write Web Copy That Sells”, Ray Edwards:

Storytelling Ads: Social Media is Sweet: A Hootsuite Story:

“The 5 Elements of a Powerful, Personal Brand”, Michael Hyatt:


 A couple of links I discovered via fellow Futurelearners:
 Amusing marketing approach by Ikea, found the link via Louise Hoffmann, fellow futurelearner : ‘Experience the power of a bookbook.’
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Modishness of Ladies – Literature of the English Country Rose

Literature of The English Country Rose


In the ‘good old days’  ladies would entertain and admit gentlemen into their bed chambers,which were grand affairs, with large sitting rooms. They might even wear glamorous negligees, whilst entertaining!  There is an old worldly charm in this. But I can’t see it catching on now!  Nowadays we tend to have smaller more functional bedrooms, that tend to be more personal affairs. We don’t share our teddies with everyone!  Oh, the exception here is most probably the family cat or dog. Lots of people share their bedroom with their pets. They’re cuddly too, so it figures!

The “Marriage A-la-Mode paintings link below illustrates this  entertaining well. Click on the link to see Hogarth’s painting.

Text taken from the National Gallery:

‘Marriage A-la-Mode’ was the first of Hogarth’s satirical moralising series of engravings that took the upper echelons of society as its subject. The paintings were models from which the engravings would be made. The engravings reverse the compositions.

After the death of the old Earl the wife is now the Countess, with a coronet above her bed and over the dressing table, where she sits. She has also become a mother, and a child’s teething coral hangs from her chair.

The lawyer Silvertongue invites her to a masquerade like the one to which he points, depicted on the screen. A group of visitors on the left listen to an opera singer, possibly a castrato, accompanied by a flautist.

An African page on the right unpacks a collection of curiosities bought at auction, including a figure of Actaeon. The paintings on the right wall show ‘Lot and his Daughters’ and ‘Jupiter and Io’ (after Correggio). On the left wall is a portrait of the lawyer and ‘Rape of Ganymede’ (after Michelangelo).

Getting back to the present day, I’ve just finished my Start writing Fiction course, woe is me! So I’ve started another Futurelearn course, The Literature of The English Country Rose.  I’ve been thinking about life in the past and how so many customs, manners, and niceties, have changed. In modern-day entertaining,  there does seem to be a trend for people to entertain in the kitchen. The dining room has become quite old-fashioned. The kitchen is friendly, a welcoming hubbub  of culinary activity with all those aromas, right there, right now, tingling your senses as you eat. It’s a less formal set up than most dining rooms. I know that we only tend to use our dining room on special occasions, Christmas, Birthdays, that sort of occasion. Is the good old dining room becoming redundant, a relic of the past?

Wherever you decide to eat and entertain make sure your chef is magnificent, a god of the kitchen! This fellow works for Poseidon! Oh and keep the fish away from the cat, if you are lucky enough to have one!



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Characterisation: The Bedrock Of Any Novel

In the Futurelearn Start Writing Fiction course we looked at Josip Novakovich’s methods of Characterisation:

Here is my summary of Novakovich’s methods:



This looks a bit like me, with my glasses on! Except no grey hair yet, well none I’m admitting to!

All the quotes I have taken as examples are from Hiromi Kawakami’s excellent book, Strange Weather in Tokyo which I have recently reviewed and given five stars.

Summary – In this method tell us what your characters are like and what they like doing using the 3rd person. The advantage of this method is simplicity and readability. The disadvantage is a tendency to tell rather than show. No dramatic action or dialogue takes place.

His full name was Mr Harutsana Matsumoto, but I called him ‘Sensei’. Not ‘Mr’ or ‘Sir’, just ‘Sensei’.
He was my Japanese teacher at secondary school He wasn’t my form teacher, and Japanese didn’t interest me much, so I didn’t really remember him. Since I finished school, I haven’t seen him for quite a while.

From this opening summary Hiromi Kawakami swiftly, and expertly, takes the reader into a scene at a crowded bar, with dialogue between the two main characters of the novel, Tsukiko and Sensei.

Repeated action or habit. This is a people watching exercise. What do your characters do? Have they any unconscious habits, or actions? The advantage of this method is that it saves time. The disadvantage is that it delays entry into dramatic scenes.

Sensei had always held an eraser in his hand when writing on the blackboard.

Sensei did not like anyone to pour his drinks for him. Whether it was beer or sake, he meticulously poured for himself.

Self portrait – Introducing him or herself. Can be achieved directly or indirectly. Works better if the words create a picture of the character or create some drama.

Here is Tsukiko’s self-portrait:

I, on the other hand, still might be considered a proper adult. I had been very grown-up when I was in primary school. But as I continued through secondary school, I in fact became less grown-up. And then as the years passed, I turned into quite a childlike person. I suppose I just wasn’t able to ally myself to time.

This short paragraph tells us so much about Tsukiko.

Sensei tells us about himself in a lengthy story about his wife and son and himself going hiking.

It is interesting how Hiromi Kawakami uses the differing self portraits of the two characters, to suggest the disparity in their ages, the younger of the two, Tsuikiko’s is short and to the point, and Sensei’s is long-winded and rambling.

Appearance – We can learn an awful lot about a character from appearance. I liked Novakovich’s tip about hands. Hands can be used to great effect or even feet or the way a person walks. Writing captures motion well. Again careful choice of words seems to be the key.

Descriptions of Sensei’s appearance:

His white hair was carefully smoothed back, and he was wearing a starched white shirt with a grey waistcoat.

He wore a tweed suit with leather shoes. His suit looked old but well-tailored.

When he was chewing his mouth was that of an old man.

Details about Sensei’s gait:

Sensei held his umbrella straight up and started walking. I could sense from his gait the tacit but full expectation that I would follow him.

Scene – Set your character in motion, combining appearance, action and dialogue. Advantage of this method. The reader is with you visualising and experiencing the scene. Most lifelike. The disadvantage: it is difficult to include back story, there are only so many flash backs, and memories that you can interweave into plot.

‘These elms are so verdant, aren’t they?’ Sensai said, looking up at the trees beside the bus stop. He was right – dense with leaves, the branches of the elms waved in the breeze. Although the wind was light, high in the sky, the tops of the elms swayed even more grandly.
It was a hot summer day, but the low humidity kept it cool in the shade. We took the bus to Teramachi and then walked a little. Sensei was wearing a panama hat and a Hawaiian shirt in muted colours.



Combining techniques: Combine two or more of the above techniques, making the characters development incremental.

The advice to combine techniques is excellent, the sound of a character’s voice, and sensory details can also create a powerful image:

It was only his voice that I remembered from the beginning. He had a resonant voice with a somewhat high timber, but it was rich with overtones. A voice that emanated from the boundless presence by my side at the counter.

At some point, sitting beside Sensei, I began to notice the heat that radiated from his body. Through his starched shirt, there came a sense of Sensei. A feeling of nostalgia. This sense of Sensei retained the shape of him. It was dignified, yet tender, like Sensei. Even now, I could never quite get a hold on it – I would try to capture it, but the sense escaped me. Just when I thought it was gone, though, it would sneak back up on me…Wasn’t a sensation just that kind of indistinct notion that slips away, no matter how you try to contain it

Author’s bio on Goodreads:

Josip Novakovich (Croatian: Novaković) is a Croatian-American writer. His grandparents had immigrated from the Croatia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, to Cleveland, Ohio, and, after the First World War, his grandfather returned to what had become Yugoslavia. Josip Novakovich was born (in 1956) and grew up in the Central Croatian town of Daruvar, studied medicine in the northern Serbian city of Novi Sad. At the age of 20 he left Yugoslavia, continuing his education at Vassar College (B.A.), Yale University (M.Div.), and the University of Texas, Austin (M.A.).

He has published a novel (April Fool’s Day), three short story collections (Yolk, Salvation and Other Disasters, Infidelities: Stories of War and Lust), two collections of narrative essays (Apricots from Chernobyl, Plum Brandy: Croatian Journey) and a textbook (Fiction Writer’s Workshop).

Novakovich has taught at Nebraska Indian Community College, Bard College, Moorhead State University, Antioch University in Los Angeles, the University of Cincinnati, and is now a professor at Pennsylvania State University.

Mr. Novakovich is the recipient of the Whiting Writer’s Award, a Guggenheim fellowship, two fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, an award from the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation. He was anthologized in Best American Poetry, Pushcart Prize, and O.Henry Prize Stories.

He taught in the Master’s of Fine Arts program at Pennsylvania State University, where he lived under the iron rule of Reed Moyer’s Halfmoon Township autocracy. He is currently in Montreal, Quebec teaching at Concordia University.

His book Fiction Writer’s Workshop, may be of interest: .

ISBN 1884910394 (ISBN13: 9781884910395)

As might Marakumi’s excellent novel:

Strange Weather in Tokyo Hiromi Kawakami

ISBN 9781846275104

Photos –

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A Fully Loaded Balloon of a Character


In the Futurelearn Start Writing Fiction course we’ve now moved on to Finding and Developing Fictional Characters, so I thought I would share with you some writing nuggets of wisdom.

We have been studying Josip Novakovitch’s methods of finding and developing fictional characters.

Of course there are numerous ways to develop characters. This is not rocket science, but the following gem of wisdom is.

Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an UNTOLD story INSIDE you.”

Maya Angelou is right. If there is a story inside of you, don’t keep it to yourself! Share it with the world, draw upon your own life as a starting point. Why not? Everybody has a story inside of them, reach in and you’ll find it.

Then look around you. What about your family and friends? Delicately mould these starting blocks into something new, but don’t just produce carbon copies of the originals. Blend and mix on tap resources of inspiration, use your observational skills, listen to the way people talk, and the way they interact with other people, refer to a wide range of readily available information, such as internet search engines, books, and don’t turn your nose up at strange sources of inspiration, embrace them all.

The key is to use your imagination. You need a tree load of inspiration.


Without this your characters may disappoint and burst like an overblown balloon. Or else they will fall flat onto deaf ears. Just make sure they aren’t full of hot air!

Let your imagination soar, and your characters will be fully rounded, developed and ready to lift off like a released balloon, or even a hot air balloon, soaring to the highest heights.



Allow your writing to evolve spontaneously.

Novakovich quotes Mel Brookes, Somerset Maugham, Erskine Caldwell, and Graham Greene.

Mel Brookes: “Every human being has hundreds of separate people living under his skin. The talent of a writer is his ability to give them their separate names, identities, personalities, and have them relate to other characters living with him.”

Erskine Caldwell: “I have no influence over them. I’m only an observer, recording. The story is always being told by the characters themselves.”

Graham Greene, “One gets started and then, suddenly, one cannot remember what toothpaste they use…”

Graham Greene’s quote is spot on, when things just start to happen spontaneously and the story carries the author along, then you know that you’re on the right track.

Somerset Maugham: “People are hard to know. It is a slow business to induce them to tell you the particular thing about themselves that can be of use to you.”

That’s the key and that’s why imagination is so important.

Somerset Maugham, also gave us these humorous gems of wisdom:


I especially like this one, there’s hope for me yet! There’s no age bias in writing, as long as my mind stays fresh, what is there to stop me writing when I’m older?


Getting back to my own writing experiences. I didn’t set out to follow any particular method. To be honest I stumbled along, and discovered my characters in quite a haphazard way, but in general I used a variety of approaches, which seemed to work for me.

In fact when I finished my novel I was struck by the realisation that I could see my own anxieties interwoven into my plot. This was obvious to me but might not be quite so obvious to other people reading it. I don’t have a sister or a twin so I can’t say that I write about siblings. I do have a brother but I don’t think that he influenced my writing, certainly not in this novel. Maybe who knows, he might do in future projects to come. To a certain extent I do write about my experiences, I have two teenage daughters, so it’s not surprising that the main protagonist in my novel is a teenage girl. There are male characters too. I have re-invented the main love interest for a modern audience. Is he based on anyone I know? Maybe there are elements of him in men that I have met! I’m a Scorpio and I do like to be secretive, so I’m not saying anymore. I think that we draw on all sorts of influences and this shapes our writing and the characters that we discover along the way, some of these influences may be conscious and some may be less conscious, and more exciting!

Images – via google search.

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Hooked by Lines and Images


This sounds like I’m going fishing and in a way I am. I’m searching for that illusive first line of a great story. In the Futurelearn Open University course we touched upon sources of inspiration: lines and images. I got hooked by the idea.

4.10 Hooked By Lines and Images.

When I first started writing fantasy, I’d say that visual images, were my starting point for inspiration. Fantasy and visual images just seem to be the perfect coupling. Having said that, my father’s first words, recorded into a voice recorder, were without doubt the perfect start to a new project, a travelogue of his life and adventures. He began by recalling, a humourous anecdote, one of his earliest memories. I’m not quoting him exactly but it goes something like this: At age two I was pushed out of the pram by the arrival of my sister Wendy. It was a cold winter’s day in February. My mother told me to go out with my big brother Stanley to play with the big boys in the snow. When I came home I told my mother that the big boys had looked after me well and they had said, “You’re a wee brother ain’t you?” When in fact they had called me a wee bugger!”


I just knew that these innocent words spoken by his two year old self were the right words, they were his essence if you like, a wonderful mix of his humour with his adventurous spirit. They were the very first words he recorded! He must have known too! They just sounded so perfect. This early release from the pram rather than disturbing him, or making him jealous of his sister, did neither, instead it just encouraged him to embark upon many travels, though the experience did have one other lasting effect, it left him with a life long hatred for cold weather! Which he still suffers from today living up in Bonnie, but chilly Scotland.

So whether you arrive at your first sentence by words or images, or a combination of both it doesn’t really matter, just make sure you get there.

4.11 Hunches that matter


If it matters then it should appear in your writing, but listing who you are, and what matters to you, before you begin writing, is not something that I have actively done before. In fact I would argue that all of who you are spills out into your writing without your even realising it. This process is scary, an unintentional disrobing, that propels you out there almost without you’re conscious consent. I’m not sure whether it’s a good idea to make lists of who we are, somehow that seems a bit forced to me. Instead let that, who I am, warts and all, come out naturally in your writing. You may discover things about yourself along the way! It can be enlightening.

Writing about personal concerns


This is at the heart of good writing. If you don’t care about what you write about then your words will mean little or nothing, and your readers will feel cheated. So embed those personal concerns into your writing, let them seep into the bedrock of your words.

Extraordinary versus ordinary


We looked at the following quote from Raymond Carver:

“It’s possible, in a poem or short story, to write about common-place things and objects using commonplace but precise language, and to endow those things – a chair, a window curtain, a fork, a stone, a woman’s earring – with immense, even startling power. It is possible to write a line of seemingly innocuous dialogue and have it send a chill along the reader’s spine – the source of artistic delight, as Nabokov would have it.”

Raymond Carver, nailed it!

It sounds to me as if a writer’s job is to make the commonplace anything but commonplace. Today I went to the gym and finished off my attempt at a fitness routine with a session in the swimming pool. A commonplace type of activity, for regular gym users, but in my case I am somewhat handicapped, not just because of my general level of unfitness but also because I am very short sighted. I only have at best a hazy view of people in the pool. I can make out that they’re humans, and if I squint I can just about make out what sex they are. Today, I thought I saw a young woman extending her hand, at the side of the pool, in an odd salute, but in fact as I swam closer I saw that her hand was actually her leg extended up close and personal to her face! I concluded that she must be a dancer and this was confirmed by a closer inspection of her hair which was wound in a tight bun, a dancer’s trademark. Being short sighted can be awkward, and downright hazardous at times. Earlier on, I saw the blurry form of a young man sitting at the edge of the pool on the steps. He sat for ages just waiting. What was he waiting for? He wasn’t waiting for the bus. I had this feeling that he was watching me yet I had no way of telling whether this was a figment of my imagination. I just couldn’t see. He eventually began his swim, and probably thought I was staring at him. I don’t blame him, I probably was, at least my myopic self was!

Images courtesy of Google images.

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Writing Characters – Cowpat Man

Futurelearn Start Writing Fiction Course 4.9 Writing Character.


Let’s have another look at my roughly sketched farmer, Cowpat man, maybe I can do something with this guy. His hair is trashed but who knows maybe he has potential. If you haven’t met him before, here’s my short description of him:

Arthur’s hair sat on his scalp like an apologetic cowpat. His life had turned into a hopscotch, he leapt from pat to pat but nothing changed. His horizons narrowed with every throw of the dice. He was not a gambling man but he sensed that his luck was out. The aloe vera juice oiling his biography had formed a stagnant, tropical pool.

Now at this stage Futurelearn asked us to add more detail, do some background research, and ask some what if questions. Where do I begin? I turned to my friend google for a quick bit of background information about farmers. Well it didn’t take me long to realise what I probably already knew deep down. Our farmers really deserve our admiration because:

Farming is one of the most unstable jobs in the world, at the mercy of a fluctuating economy and unpredictable weather.

Farmers have to learn from their mistakes.

Farmers have to be jack of all trades.

I really liked this one, the list was endless, let’s start with him being a













construction builder, ……..


Not just that but:

Farmers have to know how to network.

Farmers have to be creative.

Farmers have to be great problem solvers.

The list is endless. Respect. Forget Superman.


We have a new superhero. Cowpat man! Well his silhouette any way!


Well no wonder Cowpat man was depressed when I first discovered him, who wouldn’t be? I think with all that he has to cope with in his multi tasking life we can forgive him for having a bit of a flutter, after all, his whole life is a bit of a gamble. Failure is a word he daren’t utter. How is he going to feed his customers if his crops fail, or his livestock die? Maybe he’s a bit of a reckless show off, buying fancy machinery and investing unwisely. Now I can really see my character taking form, leaping from pap to pat. He needs an escape route. He’s fed up of being at everyone’s beck and call. Even his wife is beginning to irritate him. That’s where the Aloe Vera juice that’s oiling his sad biography comes into its own, because he wants to escape, from everyone, to a tropical paradise, with palm trees, beaches, and calm tranquillity. No wife, no cows, no cow pats. He needs a cure-all, and Aloe Vera does it all, just look at its supposed health benefits: it’s a digestive aid, lowers blood sugar, cholesterol, boosts energy, and is a tonic. Well that’s what they say. Ok so it tastes pretty foul but Cowpat man is used to foul things, he’s a farmer after all. He can hide the taste in an organic fruit smoothie, move to a tropical island, and grow Aloe Vera plants. Easy. Aloe Vera plants even grow for me, how hard can it be?

So there are the beginnings of Cow pat man. Ok I’m not taking him too seriously but what’s wrong with a bit of a laugh? Go on, surrender!

Images courtesy of Google Image.

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Mantra For Authors: Editing Is My Friend


A mantra for all authors, editing is my friend, editing is my friend. Welcome new friend. Let’s hope we enjoy a long and happy relationship.

Editing is such an important process. Read over what you’ve written, edit. Then take a break. Return to it again. Read it aloud. Edit again, and again, and again. You get the picture.

But don’t become obsessed, editing is important but so is a life.

images editing

Joining a writer’s group can be really helpful. Also it can drag you away from the internet for a while and you can interact with people face to face which is nice from time to time. Not saying that it’s not nice having internet pals too. They’re cool too, but you know what I’m talking about. I found having other writers critiquing my work scary to begin with but it’s well worth it. Don’t be put off by what people say, accept changes that you agree with and ignore opinions that you don’t agree with. Believe in yourself, after all it is your work, your story, at the end of the day you have to be 100% happy with it. Yes 100%. I’m talking to writers here.

Simple editing mistakes are easy to make. I have just found some that I didn’t notice when I was typing the following short passage for a FutureLearn exercise, so I thought I’d share them with you, as an example of why editing is so important!

The Red Notebook:

I followed at a short distance behind her as she entered the refectory. She wore a plain white cardigan reminiscent of cling film. Her mother kept a clean house and was always wrapping everything up in neat little cling film packages. She hated it but her influence was all pervasive, even her socks clung to her feet, neat dancers socks, moulded to her skin, cutting all hope of circulation. Her jet black hair was tied back in a pony tail that seemed to be wrenching the very roots of each follicle of hair from her scalp. No lipstick blemished those full lips. Her only adornment was the bright red notebook which seemed at odds with the rest of her ensemble. The notebook took pride of place on the table in front of her and next to this, she discarded a heavy set of cumbersome keys.

I stood up and crept behind her. I tried to see what she was writing, but the words were as bloodshot, and unreadable as her wild eyes. She picked up a plastic cup of water, gulping it down in one ferocious gulp. She spluttered, droplets of water fell from her lips blemishing the creased cover of her notebook. She wiped the water away, staring at it hysterically as if she was searching for answers. Her fingers ironed the crease but the crease remained, mocking her.

She stood up, toppling her hair back in one swift movement. I caught it. I felt responsible but I didn’t know why. “Are you ok?” I asked. She looked right through me as if I was transparent. I picked up her keys, trying to elicit a response by saying ” Don’t forget your keys.” She ignored me as if I was transparent, an unnecessary interference to her otherwise perfect day.

At least one of my mistakes was amusing! Toppling her hair back! Well it could have been, who needs a chair? The rest as far as I can see were missing hyphens, and I said transparent twice.

Reading in the genre you are intending to write in is so important. I read a lot of YA because I write YA. Also it is equally important in my opinion to read all sorts of books, these help broaden your writing skills. Anyway I love reading so it is all good! Oh and do reviews. I’m new to this but I’m sure this will help too.

On the subject of books, I just love the artwork in the Shatter Me series, aren’t they fabulous?

images shatter me

Varying the structure of your novel using different words is an important skill. Short words add pace, as do short sentences. Leave out too many adjectives, and adverbs. (I find this one difficult!) Use a dictionary, and a thesaurus. Leave out clichés.

Don’t destroy what you’ve written. This sends shivers down my spine. Keep less than perfect pieces as a reminder of how your work has progressed. There might be a good idea in there that just needs reworking.

My fantasy YA novel is currently in its final stage of edit. I didn’t follow a plan. I just had lots of ideas and wanted to get them down quickly before they evaporated! I found this approach was great creatively but had the down side of an awful lot of re-editing and re-structuring, so I wouldn’t recommend this. A little bit of planning is important. So next time round I’ll do a rough plan which will allow me flexibility if I want to change it.

The level of research required depends on the novel you’re writing, e.g. I imagine historical fiction is one of those genres that involves masses of research. Even so, I had to research crystals, shadows, the Corpus Christi Clock, Grantchester, and Cambridge ghost stories for mine.

I joined a local writer’s group, Cambridge Writers, and have found this very helpful. I would highly recommend finding a group in your local area.

Alternatively try an on-line writing group. My fellow Futurelearners suggested these two websites:

One thing that surprised me about the following FutureLearn exercise, is that I found an idea for a story from a radio prompt. I have never tried this before, so thanks Futurelearn, good tip. In the first draft I just quickly typed in some rough draft ideas. In the second draft I developed the idea by using different words, for instance I took out the word stared and used a different word, barrelled to suggest her eyes moving furiously in excitement, and I changed some of the other details to make the paragraph more interesting, using everyday words such as nettled, sting, mirror, signal, manoeuvre, tank.

1st draft:
Amy stared at the on-line application form for the local radio apprenticeship scheme. “I would make a great local apprentice because,” ……………The next prompt was easy, “If there is one thing I could change about where I live it would be…..

All of her eighteen years she had lived in Cambridge. There was one thing about Cambridge that really riled her. Public transport. She lived on the outskirts, in suburbia, and the buses were non existent in the evening. Nights out meant asking her long suffering parents to pick her up or get an expensive taxi home. Or even worse accept a lift from one of her friends. Not that they drove home drunk but their lack of attention to detail made her wonder if they had bribed the driving instructor to get their licences. Why had her parents decided to live in this no go zone? What was wrong with living in the centre of the town?

A message on her Facebook flashed up. Harry had liked her new profile picture. Her shoulder length blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and clear complexion, made her laugh. No evidence at all of all those late nights. She was the perfect candidate for a job in local radio. Six o’clock starts. No problem.

2nd Draft:
Amy’s wide eyes barrelled along the prompts on the on-line application for the local radio apprenticeship scheme. “I would make a great apprentice because,” I’m super cool, of course! The next prompt was, if there is one thing I would change about where live it would be.” Simple, child’s play.

All of her eighteen years Amy had lived in Cambridge. Sigh. There was one thing about Cambridge that really nettled her. Public transport. A sting in the backside. She lived in wretched suburbia and buses were an alien species in the evening. Night outs meant asking her long suffering parents to chariot her home, or get a taxi, sorry wallet. Or even worse steal away in one of her friend’s cars. Not that they drove home drunk, at least she hoped they didn’t, but mirror signal manoeuvre didn’t seem to be in their dictionary. Why had her parents, god love them, decided to live in this no go zone? Even combat troops have better transport facilities, a tank would be acceptable.

A face book message, flashed up. It was Harry. Hope he wasn’t flashing his pecs again! Harry had liked her new profile picture. Her shoulder length blonde hair, bright blue eyes and clear complexion were a hit with the boys. No evidence of those late nights lingered, she was an accused but flawless culprit. The perfect candidate for a job in local radio. Six o’clock starts, no problem.

Just to keep you from getting bored I thought that I’d end on a light, well rather silly note.

images cows

An earlier Futurelearn exercise using familiar words in unfamiliar places:

Arthur’s hair sat on his scalp like an apologetic cowpat. His life had turned into a hopscotch, he leapt from pat to pat but nothing changed. His horizons narrowed with every throw of the dice. He was not a gambling man but he sensed that his luck was out. The aloe vera juice oiling his biography had formed a stagnant, tropical pool.

Cowpat was a bit of a crazy choice of word but I thought it suggested that Arthur wasn’t a happy type of bloke and that he felt crushed, and trampled on. The hopscotch notion I used to convey a sense of childishness. I’m not sure about the aloe vera juice I think I may have gone too far with that one!

Thanks to Futurelearn for all the tips. Enjoying the course.

Photos courtesy of Google Images.

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Futurelearn – Free online courses.

[Alternative Text]

Futurelearn. Start Writing Fiction Course. I started this free on-line course at the end of April. There are a wide array of courses to choose from.

“At FutureLearn, we want to inspire learning for life. We offer a diverse selection of free, high quality online courses from some of the world’s leading universities and other outstanding cultural institutions.

Our aim is to connect learners from all over the globe with high quality educators, and with each other. We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, with plenty of opportunities to discuss what you’ve studied, in order to make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.

Courses are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life, rather than your life around learning.

We are a private company wholly owned by The Open University, with the benefit of over 40 years of their experience in distance learning and online education. Our partners include over 20 of the best UK and international universities, as well as institutions with a huge archive of cultural and educational material, including the British Council, the British Library, and the British Museum.

FutureLearn is in beta and the courses we’ll be running this year – there are many more on the way – are all pilot courses. This allows us to shape and refine how it all works, using feedback and ideas from our learners. It is important to us to craft a high quality product which is tailored specifically to our learners’ needs, so we want to spend the time listening.

What you’re seeing is the smallest number of features that can deliver our vision for a new form of education. Over the coming months, as we unveil new courses, we’ll be developing new features and evolving our offer.”


A page from Great Expectations by Dickens

I have also signed up for the Literature of The English Country Rose course which begins in June.

“On this course, we’ll be introducing you to literature from 450 years of English country-house history and we’ll be seeing together how that literature shapes our understanding of country houses. We’ll be joined on the way by guest experts from the University of Sheffield School of English and tapping into their specialist knowledge.

We’re going to travel on a historical journey through literature, visiting notable country houses around Yorkshire and Derbyshire. You’ll gain insight into life in these country houses and will learn about some common misconceptions. You will see the magnificent seventeenth-century wall paintings at Bolsover Castle, often held to be the best of their kind in England. You will visit Haddon Hall, a house frozen in the time of William Shakespeare and an inspiration for the great Gothic novelist, Ann Radcliffe.

We’ll be using a wide range of texts spanning the history of literature from Thomas More’s ‘Utopia’ to Oscar Wilde’s ‘Canterville Ghost’. Along the way we will examine sections from a play by Shakespeare, poetry by Margaret Cavendish, and brief passages from novels by Jane Austen, and Charles Dickens. We will even look at fiction by a country house resident Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire.

During this course you’ll learn to analyse literature using a technique called ‘close reading’. It will help you to make your own connections between country-house literature and its historical backgrounds.”

Photos and Course Information via Futurelearn Website.

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