Author Archives: carorussell

The two Cs of story writing

Have you ever read something you’ve written and ended up scratching your head.
‘What on earth does that mean?’ you ask.

For some reason, not even known to my subconscious, most bits of writing I produce at the moment turn out plain wrong. Vexing, it is.

So I talked to my co-blogger, Fran, trying to pick apart what was going wrong. Two things recurred: clarity and conflict.

Stories need to be clear for the reader. But it also needs to be clear for the writer, hopefully before writing begins. This has been sadly lacking with my writing process of late. Instead, I’ve been adopting the ‘scattergun of ideas’ approach. I don’t recommend it. Although I’m easily confused at the best of times, this way of working doesn’t help.

Conflict is another essential. Without it there is no story. My stories weren’t without the called for obstacle but the solution to the conflict often wasn’t strong enough. The writing just drifted and with it my attention. Nothing should be easy to solve, not even your own stories!

So my new mantra is: be clear what you mean and avoid the muddles. And make the conflict a real obstacle.

In other words, people, make war with your words!


In the spirit of Dickens

I’ve been thinking of writing ode to my boiler – along the lines of ‘oh my boiler who doesn’t work’ or something like that.

There’s definitely something different about sitting down to write, shivering from cold. Perhaps wrapping a blanket round the shoulders, a warming drink.

A sharp cough into my tissue, my throat raw from a virus (yes, I’m a trooper, I know ;-0). And then summoning the spirits of Dickens and the like – You know, the ones who would have shivered for inspiration – I begin to write. As I sit in my bleak house (see what I did there?) my writing begins to take shape. Plus the process proves effective for warming the very tips of the fingers.

Hard times, indeed.

What I’ve produced has very little to do with great literature. But it was work done in chilly circumstances, so that seems a bonus. So I have great expectations for the next time I write. Hopefully with our mutual friends central heating and hot water.

Now back to that ode…

My top YA recommendation – The City of Bones

City of Bones, and the subsequent books in The Mortal Instruments series, is written by Cassandra Clare.

The books tell the story of Shadow-hunters, half human, half angel. Okay, so it’s fantasy. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I know. But they are well written, with characters you can’t help but love, and action that keeps on coming. Most of all, the humour within the books makes them worth visiting and revisiting.

So why am I telling you this now? Well, later this year (23rd August) City of Bones is released as a film. Whether it will be as good as the books remains to be seen, but either way, I much prefer reading the book first. Don’t you?

Oh, Cassandra Clare has also written The Infernal Devices series. Well worth a look too. Great story telling always is!

Go out and sneak a perk. Then let me know what you think.

A (thank you) nod to a blog

Yours truly has been mentioned on Phil Rowlands blog
Talking about teachers and writing. Check it out.

It did remind me – must sort out a new photo!

Robot reader

Okay, so not so much a robot as free software called Natural Reader. But I like to think that there’s a little robot inside my laptop who tells me things. ;-0

I’d heard of software called Read Please from Linda Lewis’ very good book ‘Why Short Stories get Rejected’.

The programme reads you any writing you have pasted in. Except I didn’t go with that one (discontinued or something). So google presented the option to try Natural Reader.

The name is a bit of misnomer or at least the free version, didn’t exactly sound natural. We’re back to the robot again. The intonation was almost non-existent, though there were moments when it sounded more fluent.

I did find it useful though. Pauses showed me where I had added unnecessary commas. Long, wordy passages became obvious too. Also places where I’d used the same words close together were soon spotted. It’s these things you need to notice at the proofreading stage, after all.

I’d say it was worth downloading, for all of the reasons above. And to have the opportunity to make it say – Exterminate, exterminate!

If anyone knows of another (better or worse) proofreading software please let me know!

A visit from the chunder fairy

I got a shock yesterday when I looked at the calendar and realised November is nearly over, and with it my semi-attempt at NaMoWriMo.
As my header suggests, things haven’t exactly gone to plan. One after the other my children and hubby had a visit from that most indiscriminate of species, the vomit fairy. As a result my time was spent filling and emptying the washing machine; changing bedding; and generally keeping things going.
Writing wasn’t something I had much time for, though it was never very far from my thoughts. While I was cleaning up, awake in the early hours my mind was plotting and scheming about twists and surprises.
So I’m trying to view it as time well spent. Or time well thought.
Except it hasn’t been. Truthfully my brain has been foggy to say the least. And the effort to string together more than one word, well, painful.

At least our little visitor has left the building. I hope. Now to get on with the fun stuff!

National Short Story Week

This week is National Short Story Week in the UK. So I’ve abandoned my vague attempts at NaNoWriMo (though as previous posts show I really wasn’t doing it properly anyway ;-0). For this week I’m aiming to finish several short stories that keep hanging around. I mean, the things just won’t write themselves.

Anyone interested in finding out more can go to