Niklaus: Part One – An Invitation

Happy Friday, everyone! Today marks the final day in our Festive Fantasy Week celebrations for 2013. I want to share with you now a short story that I’ve been working on in the build-up to Christmas. Now, I’d hoped to have it wrapped up by now, but it’s not quite there yet. However, that might not end up being such a bad thing. I’m going to release it in three parts here on the blog, hopefully having the whole thing on here by Christmas Day.

I really hope you enjoy the story and make sure to stay tuned for Part Two, which should be posted over the weekend.

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Niklaus: Part One – An Invitation

Tobacco smoke snaked up from the pipe and obscured the old man’s face like a veil of fog. Impossibly blue eyes danced from behind the smoke, framed by a briar patch criss-cross of wrinkles and scars. The man’s weathered face—so dark, so lined and like old boot-leather—was encircled by brilliant white hair, so overgrown now that the man’s mane and beard were indistinguishable from one another. His thick, pale lips formed a perfect circle as he took another drag from the pipe and let out the smoke in a series of silent whispers.

‘Tell me that last part again,’ he purred. ‘About the deer.’ Continue reading

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The Importance of Being Competitive

Do you like what I did with the title there?

Nah, I didn’t think it was that good either…

Today I want to talk about writing competitions and how important they are to a fledgling writer. It’s sometimes as easy as Googling “writing competitions”, but other times you’ll only hear about them by word of mouth.

I’ll start by giving you a list of current competitions that you can enter:

  • Fish Publishing – These guys run four competitions annually, including a Short Story and Flash Fiction competition. It’s judged by renowned poets and authors and the prize is pretty good.
  • Writers’ Forum – This site runs a monthly short story contest. It’s a reputable site and well worth a look.
  • Whidbey Writing Competition – A contest based in the USA, but open worldwide. You can write about anything and for any audience.
  • Cazart – You can enter short stories or flash fiction, you can swear and it’s £5 to enter. It’s open throughout 2012 each month, so get over and have a look!
  • Flash 500 – A humorous verse contest. The prizes are pretty decent, for the length of your piece (30 lines).
  • Cinnamon Press – These guys run a range of writing competitions, which change regularly. It’s a good idea to bookmark their competition page.
  • Fantasy Writing Contest – This is a yearly contest, run by Fantasy Faction, for fantasy writers. If your story wins, it gets entered into an anthology with a host of other well authors’ work. They start taking submissions from 1st January 2013.

You might be thinking, ‘Yeah, so what? I might win a small amount of money, but I might not win anything at all.’

Well that’s not the attitude to have. If you’re serious about your writing and you want it to lead somewhere one day, it’s a really good idea to enter some competitions. Here are the benefits that I see from taking part:

  1. You’re committed to finishing a piece of writing (especially if there’s an entry fee).
  2. You’re focused on an end goal and possibly a prize.
  3. You’re usually confined to a particular genre/theme.
  4. In some cases, you make connections with other writers and it’s great for networking.
  5. It maintains your “edge”.

That’s right – like the knives in your kitchen drawer, there’s always one that’s sharper than all the rest. If you want to be successful, you need to make sure that’s you. Writing contests are great for honing your skills, expanding your toolset and exercising your “writer’s brain”.

If there’s one thing you do today, why not commit to entering a competition and start planning out your story?

I’m also going to do a special series of posts during the approach to NaNoWriMo in November, to help you get prepared and learn all about this annual tournament.

If you’ve got any questions about entering competitions or need some advice on writing, drop us a comment below!

~ James

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The Top 10 List of Fantasy Little People

Here’s our new Monday feature, Epic List of the Week! I’m sure I’ve missed out some famous characters and some personal favourites of yours, so join in and let everyone know who else should be included in the list! You can leave a comment on this post underneath or you can click ‘Leave a Comment’ just above.

  1. Tyrion Lannister
  2. Bilbo Baggins
  3. Gotrek Gurnisson
  4. Gollum/Smeagol
  5. Muradin Bronzebeard
  6. Dobby the House Elf
  7. Gimli, Son of Gloin
  8. Frodo Baggins
  9. High Tinker Gelbin Mekkatorque
  10. Gilius Thunderhead

Don’t forget, you can still enter the Fiction Friday weekly contest! You could have your writing featured on the blog on Friday! Just visit this link.

Sentence Length: The Long and Short Of It

New writers are always told about the importance of sentence length. Long sentences slow down the action and are useful for description and to give a sense of time. Short sentences speed things up, create tension and don’t give the reader time to think. That’s all very well, but how do you go about pulling this off? That’s what I intend to look at in this post.

The Long

So, long sentences. You’ve seen them before. We all have.

Once upon a time there was a boy called Jack who liked ice cream. Jack’s mother was a horrible old woman who liked nothing better than to prod his backside with a hot fork. To be honest with you, Jack’s life was pretty rubbish.

As you can see, a long sentence gives plenty of time to convey ideas and develop the story, without rushing the reader along or forcing things. With a long sentence, we can span seconds, days, or even years. We can take the reader to a new place and have them snugly back at home within the same paragraph. The long sentence is where it’s at when you’re talking about a writer “playing God”.

The Short

Now, short sentences are another beast entirely.

Arrows flew from the left and right. He stumbled, went to ground. Crack! One buried itself in a tree. He scrambled away. Then, a burning pain in his leg. He tried to scream, but no sound came. The hunters closed in. This was it. The end.

It’s actually a lot harder to write short sentences, in my opinion. Especially in the case of the above example, when you’re trying to make most of it short sentences. The beauty of keeping it short, is that you instantly build tension and create a sense of fear, danger and desperation. Every sentence is a split-second flash of action. A snippet of consciousness. A rushed reaction. This is a story taking place at a blinding speed–so fast that the reader gets carried with it and doesn’t have time to think.

A Final Thought

Think of the difference between sentence lengths like the difference between a slow-building drama and a summer action blockbuster. You need a mixture of both to keep things rolling. Not too much, but not too little. Getting the balance right is difficult and I can happily admit I’ve not got it down to a tee in any way. Practice is the key. Oh, and reading. Not just reading for pleasure, but also reading to analyse technique, style and structure.