Five Research Tips from this Season’s Speakers

  1. Go Outside – Kate Mosse told us that settings and places that fascinate her are key to her writing success. Taxidermists-Daughter-mmp-217x327Whatever the weather, she stands in her setting, lets her imagination run riot and listens to the voices of those who have passed through the place before her. OK; so you may not be able to stand in exactly the right place, especially if you’re writing Sci Fi, but you get the idea – woodland in the rain, sandy beach in the wind, any stately home, castle or gallery may do and even a car park in hot sunshine. ‘See the vista through their eyes.’ Chris Cleave told us of his characters. As James Marrison suggests; a good walk is soothing when the writing gets tough.
  2. Take the Kids? – Della Galton admitted that much of her writing is driven by emotion. Children are good at provoking an emotional response in us. Yes, cinemas still have Saturday morning clubs – feel free to get emotional; the kids do. Children also have the ability to overlook the macabre in the most natural way, take weirdness in their stride and come up with the original character names. Children are valuable tickets to ‘hands on’ research and ‘behind the scenes’ glimpses that, for some reason museums don’t hand to adults.
  3. Have a nice day! – High Fantasy Author James Barclay gave us a master class in world building and battle creation in which ‘Be Realistic’ was his advice, ‘A peasant is most unlikely to defeat an experienced fighter’. ElvesBeyondtheMistsofKaturaIndividual guides dotted around historic sites or animal park keepers are only too keen to depart with their knowledge. Don’t be shy about asking them either they spend most of their time with people who don’t need to know and then you come along wanting nothing more than to hear their stories. You may not come away with a file full of research, but you’ll most likely pick up a snippet and definitely a feeling.
  4. Volunteer – ‘Put yourself in your reader’s shoes.’ said Jude Evans of Little Tiger Press. ‘Know your market.’ The Library’s annual Summer Reading Challenge plunges children’s writers right in the middle of their target market. Volunteers are needed to man the Reading Challenge desk where you will need to quiz the readers. If you don’t come away with a clear idea of the literary needs of your chosen age range then you haven’t been listening to your market.
  5. Rain stops play? – ‘You’re only really listening to the conversation when you’re not in it’ said Chris Cleave. Clare Morrall told us that dialogue is often underestimated as an aspect of bringing characters to life. WhentheFloodsCame‘Absorb the voices around you and let a hint of the waffle remain for believability’, she advises. So, buy a coffee and nurse it till its cold whilst you listen in on the conversations around you. ‘Carry out your market research.’ said Della Galton. Sit in a waiting room and read the magazines.

Round Up

Report by Lisa Nightingale

1BookFair2016Fourteen book sellers lined the Annual Members’ Book Fair finishing off the Hampshire Writers’ Society’s fifth successful season. Keep an eye on this blog for their details.

It’s been an inspirational year! Talks came from High Fantasy Author James Barclay, Crime Writer M J Arlidge, Kate Walker on her Twelve-point Guide to Romance and Children’s Author Steve Voake. In between these we fitted in a short story masterclass with Della Galton. Screenwriter Robin Mukherjee will be returning as an adjudicator in September’s free competition.

Kate Mosse shared her writing secrets in May and in June Clare Morrall joined Chris Cleave who came over all weird! EveryoneBraveisForgiven

Our competitions this year have been judged by among others; Author Allie Spencer and Adrienne Dines, Emma Scattergood, Senior Lecturer in School of Journalism, English and Communication at University of Bournemouth and Winchester University’s Creative Writing Degree Programme Leader Glenn Fosbraey.

Simon Trewin of WME
Simon Trewin of WME

Our mission is to encourage writers of any style or standard introducing them to Publishing World Professionals. We’ve had talks from Literary Agent Simon Trewin and Little Tiger Press Publisher Jude Evans.

Next season’s programme is all but finalized. Renowned Comics Writer Pat Mills, Historical Romance Writer Adele Parks, Cosy Crime Writer Simon Brett and Women’s Saga Writer Margaret Graham will be joining us. We’ll also talk poetry with Maura Dooley and Maggie Sawkins, short stories with Clare Hey and Radio Programmes with Whistledown’s David Prest.


Turning Creative Ideas into Page-Turning Storytelling – Chris Cleave

Report by Lisa Nightingale

Chris Cleave

‘It never occurred to me not to be a writer.’ began Chris Cleave award winning author of Everyone Brave is Forgiven.EveryoneBraveisForgiven

Thanks to his mother who filled their home with books his discovery that he loved writing came at just age six.

At seventeen, he submitted his first book to all the agents in London. A short story about a man roadtripping across Mexico eating only what he found at the side of the road. Chris had never been to Mexico and of course being only Seventeen couldn’t drive. The book was rejected.

Following the birth of his first child, he found that the issues such as human rights which as a teenager had been at the forefront of his mind were now burning in his heart.

IncendiaryThe next novel he wrote, Incendiary was published most successfully. His next three novels followed suit.

‘As I’m among friends ….’ He said feeling that as writers we would make more use of his sharing his experiences of research and his own writing journey.

Chris doesn’t start a novel with planning, narrative curves and character arcs. He starts with a question:

Can you ever recover from a broken heart? – Incendiary TheOtherHand

How far would you go to help a stranger? – The Other Hand

Isn’t it wrong to strive for and achieve your dream by crushing those of your friends? – Gold

He then interviews the people and the ‘life’ that will go into the book. ‘Let them talk to each other’ he tells us.

In the case of Gold, Chris spoke to athletes, daring to ask the questions that other might shy from. He found excitement when their answers came so different to what was expected. Talking to your subjects gives you a deeper insight into their behaviour patterns than any other form of research.Gold

Only then does he interweave the plot.

The mantra that he has adopted whenever he begins to write is to cross a boundary. So he writes as a woman or a different culture. This forces to keep the story away from himself. He finds a true story and using fiction reports back on it.

‘You’re only really listening to the conversation when you’re not in it.’ He says and imparted two strange tips for finding out how people really speak. 1) Disguise yourself as an IPod listener on the top deck of the bus, but don’t switch your IPod on. Instead listen to the conversations around you and 2) read Dating sites.

Having learned his lessons which are securely sealed in his ‘big, brown envelope of Bitterness’, Chris never uses a setting in which he hasn’t spent a lot of time. See the vista that the character will see or stand in their footsteps. This exercise will raise questions of its own. Questions that you would never have known to ask had you not been there.

Chris is deeply thankful that he and his Clinical Nutritionist wife are able to ‘tag team’ their childcare needs allowing him valuable research and writing time.