Yesterday saw seven young ladies represent the Edinburgh Seven who were deprived of their rightful degrees in the 1870s and accept posthumous ones on their behalf. The story of the fight to open up careers other than marriage and motherhood to women is full of individual examples of courage in the face of astonishing resistance. None more so perhaps than the medical world.
When my sons were small, I took one of them to our GP Practice. Consultation over, I prompted him to thank the doctor, a young woman. She smiled and said, “Sometimes they say at this point, are we going to see the real doctor now?”
I’ve never forgotten and I was therefore delighted to be asked to write the short article pictured above and available in the People’s Friend 6th July edition.
In other writing news, I did write up a wee story about the visiting deer, and it’s off for consideration. Fingers crossed.
Diary of a Writer and already the year has reached July. The Scottish schools are now on holiday and the suburban area I live in will be quiet-ish for the next two weeks as many folk just pack up and go immediately for their break.
I say quiet-ish as someone is digging up the road. Has its benefits of course because traffic is scared off by four-way controls.
What’s happening in this writer’s household and brain to act as a prompt? So, regular visitors will have seen this picture already.
He left us safely, but it is still raining and last night there was thunder and lightening, too. Joys of a heatwave.
I feel the young roe deer has to be this month’s prompt although there are loads of competing images in the recent press.
Her Majesty reviewing the Guard as she attends the Ceremony of the Keys at the start of Royal Week in Scotland. Themes abound from that, not least the loyalty of a life lived for duty, but also what is the proud mum or young wife/husband in the invited audience feeling as their soldier parades for the first or last time? That handshake between two world leaders? Have we had to put on a polite face against our personal feelings? The heatwave itself – they don’t usually last too long in Scotland so difficult to know when to submit a story.
In other writing areas, I’ve been approached to write a post for my friend Anne Stormont‘s online book festival. It begins today and will run through July and August and my contribution is scheduled for August 21st. Anne’s idea is to have articles and interviews online to reach folk who might find it hard for many reasons to get to such festivals in person. Her opening post is here. First up is the wonderfully dark Scottish crime writer Helen Forbes.
Why not sign up to Anne’s blog so you don’t miss out on any of the fabulous participants she’s lined up?
NEW DEPARTURE – ARTICLE WRITING
The People’s Friend approached me to write an article about the pioneering women known as The Edinburgh Seven. It appears in the next weekly edition, dated 6th July and will be in the shops on Wednesday. I’ve got my subscription copy. For those of you who don’t know, The Edinburgh Seven were the first women to matriculate in any British university. Was it straightforward? Read the article…
Oh, and July is the month of the Romantic Novelists’ Association‘s conference. I’m off to Lancaster again and am deeply into difficult decisions like which dresses to take for the gala dinner, what colour should my nails be and how do you pack a plastic wine-glass with any hope of it arriving intact? 1-2-1s Ah, yes, the business side. Okay, I’m saying nothing, but will hope to have news.
How is your own writer’s diary shaping up?
This month Robin asks whether we’ve used an event in our lives, in the life of someone we know or one reported in the press in our fiction.
This might be a politer and more academic way of asking where do you get your ideas from? That is an issue that puzzles many folk. On the other hand, it might be a question of morality. Have you taken a joy or a misery lived through by yourself or others and fictionalised it?
The bald answer is yes. My most recent longer piece was the serial I wrote last year for People’s Friend. City of Discoveries had a brief as it was a commission, but I had a great deal of artistic licence within that. Showcasing Dundee’s Jam, Jute and Journalism reputation, what was my theme?
Well, my Fife granny told me a bittersweet story about how she had to leave school and go to work in a factory/mill. One day, the foreman stood behind her and ran his hands through her beautiful red hair. She resisted vigorously and implied he left her well alone thereafter. Forward a few decades and that unknown man became the baddy in my heroine granny’s story. Drew Fleming doesn’t leave my heroine alone and we have a tale of nineteenth century stalking.
And there we have it. Yes, I have and I will continue to do so. Where do I find ideas? On the bus; in the shopping queue; actually listening to the conversation of friends; reading beyond the headlines; ruthlessly analysing the minutiae of my own life.
Are you wondering what the fine fellow whose picture illustrates this post has to do with anything? Good to leave a question unanswered till the end.
My house, in an urban area, has an enclosed back garden. The garden is surrounded by three 8 foot walls and the house. Looking out one day last week, I saw the hind quarters of a deer sticking out of the rhoddies. He made himself at home, as you can see, and only left in a series of specatacular jumps, when my husband walked down the garden in the late afternoon.
We’ve been decades in this house and that’s a first. Yes, it’ll be in a story sometime soon.
How about you? Do you fictionalise life as lived for your works? You may want to visit some of the other blogs in this RR. As I’m setting this up a bit early, I can only give you my best guess of whose that will be. I’ll correct it as soon as I can.
Fiona McGier https://eur04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.fionamcgier.com%2F&data=02%7C01%7C%7C888b8523f4dd4023796f08d6f2a3825c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636963181409130301&sdata=YTgTbHc8Om5NWhYQrLecwlXWOQK0CgArIpO0CBfWSfI%3D&reserved=0
Margaret Fieland https://eur04.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fmargaretfieland.wordpress.com&data=02%7C01%7C%7C888b8523f4dd4023796f08d6f2a3825c%7C84df9e7fe9f640afb435aaaaaaaaaaaa%7C1%7C0%7C636963181409120293&sdata=70H2%2FUq3SfLeYBHJd3Ra1bV7FN0MQDj2bQX4NGvWJ3Q%3D&reserved=0
Diary of a Writer for June is a wee departure from the usual. Why?
Well as regular visitors know, I’m a member of a group called Capital Writers and from time to time we produce an e-book of stories to showcase our writing. The latest story collection is out tomorrow and will be launched in the afternoon at an event to raise funds for the wonderful CrossReach perinatal service. But it’s not digital.
CrossReach is the social resonsibility arm of the Church of Scotland. It does sterling work among the elderly, the addicted and those suffering after the birth of a baby. It does loads of other stuff, too. It is partly funded by donations and the support of individual churches.
This year it marks 150 years since its creation in 1869. Seeing a pattern here? People’s Friend, CrossReach, Sainsbury’s, The Edinburgh Seven (women in medicine).
So Self, Jane, kate and Jennifer have produced this lovely little booklet:
Jane and I will be reading from our work at 3.30 in Mayfield Salisbury Parish Church, entry through the halls’ door on West mayfield. come a little earlier to have coffee and cake or to hear poet and former Edinburgh Makar, Christine de Luca.
Booklet is unpriced and we’re looking for donations to help fund CrossReach’s work.
CAPITAL WRITERS have two speaking engagements this week.
MONDAY 27th May
First up is tonight at the invitation of The Corstorphine Community Festival. We’re in Corstorphine Library between 6.30 – 8.30 for a meet the author session with librarian Shirley and Cosy Crime local writer, Cecilia Peartree.
SATURDAY 1st June
If you can’t catch us there, and even if you can, come along on Saturday afternoon to a fun storytelling event in Mayfield Salisbury church, 18 West Mayfield, EH9 from 2.30-4,30
Coffee, tea and cake is promised as well as the launch of our Capital CrossReach Stories pamphlet. We’ve each written a story to mark the 150th anniversary of this remarkable organisation and for a small donation to CrossReach, you can secure a copy to carry off.
ADJUDICATION WOMAN’S SHORT STORY – SCOTTISH ASSOCIATION OF WRITERS
This post looks back to what I did in February and early March. Looking at the file this morning, I see I wrote over 13,000 words between the adjudication overview, below, and the individual critiques. It took a wee while. In addition, I evolved a workshop which was attended by 15 writers on the Sunday morning of the Fiftieth Anniversary Conference.
I hope you’ll find the general comments of interest, readers and writers.
Adjudication delivered on Saturday 23rd March 2019
It has been a great pleasure to read the 47 entries in the category, Woman’s Short Story.
I was entertained by a wide variety of subject matter. There were single ladies in search of love. There were ladies fleeing from broken relationships. There were a few children causing heartache and occasionally mayhem. Of interest to me was the high number of entries with a touch of the supernatural. There were stories reflecting the electronic nature of our lives – be that the internet or the mobile phone. There was loyalty.
What was I looking for? Entertainment, emotional sincerity, strong characterisation, careful plotting, historical accuracy where relevant and impeccable editing.
What did I Find?
Overall the MSS submitted were short stories. However, there were two I thought would work better as articles and one as a sketch. There were another couple I thought were either literary type stories or more suitable for a general market such as The Weekly News or perhaps competitions run by the writing magazines.
The standard at the top of the competition was high and I think it might be helpful to indicate some general issues I encountered. Matters that might help you move out of the bulk and onto the shortlist in another competition.
Please read in your market. Studying any woman’s magazine will demonstrate that the short stories are dialogue heavy. Properly used, dialogue enables the writer to dramatize scenes, to show characterisation, to get the thoughts of characters other than the ViewPoint character onto the page and to move the action along. Improperly used, dialogue might have two characters telling each other things they already know – in the story world of which they are a part – in order to tell the reader those facts.
The entries included several with excellent dialogue but also some with poor dialogue and some with virtually none.
The word count for this competition was 1,000 – 2,000. Therefore, it might be a mistake to use 500 words to set up your story. You the writer need to know what has brought the VP character to this point in time when the action starts, the reader doesn’t. It’s an enormous temptation to set out the VP character’s problem and then write a 2-page flashback explaining how the problem came about. Please resist that temptation and feed the information into your story, bleed it in as the action progresses.
To a lesser extent, but nonetheless important, were two other issues. In a short piece, it can be a mistake to split the VP. In a novel or novella you have more leeway to tell the story from opposing points of view. In a short story, the reader likes to know early on who they’re rooting for. Finally, the computer is our friend, but we need to use it with care. Have you altered a sentence? Did you check the surrounding ones to see whether their content is affected by that change? I encountered a few misplaced articles and verbs of the wrong tense. There were also a few stories where the layout was in need of attention. Again, check printed work.
The overall Winner was Linda Brown of Ayr Writers. Linda is an unpublished writer at present, but I cannot think that will be the case for very long.
The Scottish Association of Writers is an umbrella organisation for writing groups thorughout Scotland and their website is here.
Have you enjoyed any competition success recently? Drop by and tell us about it, please.
How do you self-edit your books before submitting or publishing? This is the question Rhobin asked us to consider in March.
Self-editing is a complex process and I’ve taken a few days of thought to work out what I might say here.
I have a degree in English Literature and Language and very good language and editing skills – BUT, I’m not perfect and I HAVE NO ILLUSIONS that I might be.
Without or before outside editorial help, what can one do?
RULE No ONE:
Always, always, leave the work to read again. Short articles or blogs, irritated letters to your publisher – you might get away with an overnight gap. Anything longer, a minimum of a week. The reason for setting a MS aside is that you come back to it with the eye of a reader.
RULE No TWO:
Put into Find and Replace a hair colour or the words green/blue/grey eyes in the hope your inability to remember the hero/heroine’s hair or eye colouring will have remained consistent throughout. In my case, it won’t. While you’re doing Find and Replace check out your word tics. My major one is redundant ‘thats’. Great way to reduce a tight word count.
RULE No THREE:
Write out a timeline for all the major characters and find out whether two of them have slammed a door, fallen off a horse, whatever. Good plot ideas have a tendency to hang about.
In General, I start each day with a read-through. Of a novel, this will be from the top for a while, but eventually the words have piled on and time doesn’t permit. I do benefit from the red spelling warnings, but find the purpley ones hinting at grammar issues less useful.
As regular visitors know I’m in a group called Capital Writers. One of our members, Jane Riddell, has produced this helpful guide – Words’worth
I wrote the bulk of Bella’s Betrothal during my one stint in Nano-Wri-Mo. The advice was to avoid self-editing in order to get the word count up and the words on the page. It was quite a departure to normal practice for me, but that book is full of energy. It has also been edited by me and by the wonderful Judy Roth.
Fellow Robiners are listed below and perhaps you’d like to pop across and read their thoughts. Tweets and FB shares really appreciated, folks.
I’ve left the household to themsleves on the domestic front and will be at the Scottish Association of Writers weekend school when this post goes up. Apologies if it takes me a while to get back to your wonderful comments – How do you cope with self-editing?
So, having started the most recent novel idea something like four times, I may just have to concede it’s flawed and work on another. Not everything in one’s brain is going to win a trophy.
In the meantime, I’m clearing stacks of paper, research material and ephemera in quantities, rather large quantities, from the study. My tidy-minded husband may feel moved to award a trophy for these efforts. On the other hand, he may just appear with a further roll of bin bags.
In the, other meantime, I’m writing short stories. Wonderfully satisfying to craft a complete something.
Courting the Countess has possibly come to a library near you. If not, it’s available on amazon here.
Having bought it some time ago, I’m just starting to read Helen Forbes’ second Joe Galbraith novel, Madness Lies.
Why have I waited so long? (Research for City of Discoveries, ed.)
Okay, folks. Hope your own ideas are flourishing and not languishing.
With 2nd March on the cover, The People’s Friend serial I spent so much of last year researching and writing reaches its 8th and final instalment. When my subscription copy came in last Saturday, I greedily raced through the closing scenes and yet again shed a tear over one of my characters. But don’t panic, folks, nobody dies.
Don’t know whether any of you take The Weekly News, but I had my first short story for it, Trouble in Store, published in the 23rd February edition. A mere 1200 words, it was incredibly satisfying to write.
This month is devoted to an adjudication for the Scottish Association of Writers. I’ve made excellent progress partly due to being confined by an horrendous cold. Will be sending the results in this weekend and have done all the critiques. Next up is planning for the workshop I’m offering at the conference. The written word crafted to be spoken is my favourite type of writing.
Looking ahead, I’ve been asked to speak at an event marking the 150th anniversary of the Church of Scotland’s social care body. Now known as CrossReach, it provides many services for the ill and vulnerable.
1869 was some year!
Currently re-reading The Unknown Ajax by Georgette Heyer and loving it all over again. what are you reading?
The topic for this month’s round robin is an opinion on love, sex, and relationships in books. What seems acceptable? Is it necessary in a story? And what goes too far?
For a variety of reasons, I’m not included in the official list of contributors this month. I have been reading some of the posts and I discovered I wanted to say something – hence these quick few words.
Jane Austen is one of my favourite authors and so is Georgette Heyer. Neither writer majors on sex. They both write about relationships and about love – quite often familial love/loyalty. It would, however, be a great mistake to suggest the sex isn’t there.
One of the sexiest moments in television adaptations has to be the one where Captain Wentworth assists Anne Elliot into his brother-in-law’s open carriage. The pressure of his hand in the small of her back and the reactionary embarrassment from both him and her are moving beyond words.
Who needs a biology lesson?
I don’t think my books make it into the ‘sweet’ romance category, but they contain little to make anyone blush. Mariah Fox might develop a sever dose of hayfever, though, when her would-be husband fills her house with summer blooms as part of his campaign to win her hand. Like many a Heyer heroine, Mariah’s sparring battle with Tobias conceals a blossoming romance that leads to Mariah’s Marriage.
I hope you’ve all been enjoying my City of Discoveries, the Anniversary serial commissioned to mark the 150th anniversary of The People’s Friend magazine. Instalment 7 is out on Wednesday.
That’s it, folks,
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