Diary of a Writer – Travel, Food and Story Openings

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By Margaret McNeil, Crieff Hydro, SAW

So, a couple of weeks ago, before I had a great trip to Lincoln where they have a wonderful abbey and also The Old Bakery, I promised to add a wee resume of my Q&A at Edinburgh Writers’ Club. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Entering Lincoln Abbey for the first time is one of those heart-stopping moments. How did they do it? No computers, powered tools, digital images, but there it sits in all its beauty. It is a fine Gothic building and at one time the tallest in Europe. The Old Bakery is a wonderful restaurant and a great example of re-using what’s there. The building was a bakery and shop when its owner died leaving it to his daughter. She shut the ground floor and moved upstairs where she lived for forty years. Enter chef, Ivano de Serio, and his wife, Tracy. They’ve carefully carved out a restaurant on the ground floor and fitted out three comfortable bedrooms above. A delicious experience.

Back to that Q&A

How To Lose Competitions

My own pet hate as a judge is reading The day had started badly or It had been one of those days. Such an opening is invariably followed by a detailed explanation of what went wrong. You can think of the sort of thing. Bert set the alarm for 8.15 when he meant to set 7.15; the dog escaped when he opened the door; the milk was off and the toaster exploded.

All of this ‘back-story’ is perfectly acceptable character creation, BUT the reader doesn’t need to read it. They need to absorb it by your showing of it in the action of the story you’re telling.

As the writer think – how does your man react to losing the dog? How does his body react to a mouthful of sour milk? How is he coping NOW?

Another issue raised by this sort of beginning is word count. If you have 1500 words, why are you wasting them by describing events outside your story?

There was other discussion and folk did have questions. They may come up in later posts.

Weather: I hope you’ll scroll down and read the post about the use of weather in our fiction. It was great fun to write and I loved the others in the Round Robin. However, apart from shameful self-publication, may I just say I need the light on to see the keyboard this morning as yet another sleet shower passes by…

So, I’m no agony aunt, but what puzzles you most about losing writing competitions? I don’t write poetry, folks. And like every other judge, one has to say that a different eye might have made a different choice.

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2 thoughts on “Diary of a Writer – Travel, Food and Story Openings

  1. The day didn’t start well, I got soaked in a hailstorm while walking to yoga. Oops! Sorry! Can’t even comment without breaking the rules 🙂

    I’m not all that puzzled when I don’t win. I really don’t think short stories are my forte. It was interesting to read what you say about beginnings. Guilty as charged, but noted 🙂

    The Lincoln trip sounds grand – not a city I’ve ever been to.

    Like

    • Hi Anne, glad it rang a bell. Short stories need to be much more immediate than novels where the author has words to spare for description etc. I’d never been to Lincoln either. Started out saying how interesting it was to find Eleanor of Castille’s tomb there, but got cold feet as everything points to Edward I having taken her body to Westminster Abbey. Must delve a bit. Really flat countryside and once one of the busiest ports in the country because of the wool trade. Anne

      Liked by 1 person

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