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Writing Tip Number Three

Here is my Writing Tip Number Three. Also my writing news, reviews of my recent reads, and details of current competitions and literary festivals.

Writing Tip Number Three is another easy one:

CARRY A NOTEBOOK

Inspiration can strike at the most inconvenient times.

You’re standing at the school gate, armed with your child’s scooter and a packet of Monster Munch, when a wonderful new character pops into your head. Or in the dentist’s waiting room as a new subplot quells your anxious thoughts. Or you’re putting up flat-pack furniture and two kick-ass lines of dialogue emerge from your expletives.

I guarantee that you will not remember these game-changing ideas by the time you’ve wobbled that scooter all the way home and put the tea on; survived the drill (and the bill); or you’ve translated the assembly instructions into English.

You have to write your flashes of brilliance down as soon as they occur to you. Delay and they’ll be lost forever. Some writers swear by keeping a notebook at their bedside because they wake during the night or first thing in the morning brimming with ideas. Personally the only thing I wake with is the burning desire to get back to sleep, but we’re all different. I carry my notebook in my coat pocket.

Sometimes when you’re out and about, you may see a place or a person, or overhear a snatch of dialogue, that sparks an idea. Jot it down before it’s gone. I recently wrote a scene set in a garden. I based it on a garden I visit quite frequently so I had lots of ideas of what to include and I was quite pleased with the end result. However, the next time I went to the garden, I noticed lots of details I’d missed and scribbled notes as I walked round. Later I added these notes into my scene. It was far more vivid than when I’d written it simply from memory.

A notebook is also a must on those occasions when we have a few minutes of time to ourselves, usually while we’re waiting for someone: the dentist, the children, the hairdresser, the spouse, the friend. Rather than play on your phone, use the time with your notebook to plan a scene or write a bit of a chapter. You may well change what you’ve written when you get back to the sanctuary of your usual writing space, but your notebook thoughts will give you a head start.

A word of warning: make sure to create some kind of filing system for your notebook jottings as you’ll soon have a stack of full exercise books. The ideas will be lost again if you don’t know how to access them quickly.

If you can’t bear to leave the phone alone, type your notes into its notebook function. Two birds, one stone.

My Current Reads

I’m currently reading Die Lebenden und die Toten by German crime writer Nele Neuhaus. I’ve been reading it for a long old time. My Kindle advised me that it would take over 13 hours but I thought I’d speed up as I got used to the German, but it turns out Kindle was giving me a conservative estimate. Still, I’m enjoying it.

It’s a good story about an avenging serial killer who’s an excellent sniper and chooses victims who have some connection to an organ donation clinic. It’s a page-turner, alright. I just wish I could turn those pages a little faster. I couldn’t find a version in English, but if anyone fancies it in French, click here.

The two lead detectives – Bodenstein and Kirchhoff – feature in this long-running police procedural series and are likeable characters with the requisite complicated home lives. Other books in the series have been translated into English and are worth reading. It’s not necessary to read them in order.

Late February/early March turned out to be a good time for my reading and I enjoyed five gems. My reviews are here.

My Writing News

My HarperCollins editor sent me a printed manuscript of The Roommates to check for errors and make any minor changes. The book has been proofread to within an inch of its life but I still found one or two typos – is any text ever perfect?  I also suggested quite a few changes to improve clarity. I was worried I’d asked for too much but my editor said my demands were modest in comparison to some manuscripts he gets back covered in red ink arrows, crossings out and re-written paragraphs.

My detective mystery, The Good Teacher, came out in paperback and we had a small family celebration. I’m delighted that it’s been selected for a BookBub promotion later this month. Please follow me on BookBub to see my reading recommendations and hear about my book promotions and forthcoming releases.

Last week fellow author Clare Rhoden took time out from her writing to interview me for her website. The writing world is so supportive. I appreciate that every day.

Competitions

The Bath Short Story Award is open for entries until 15 April and offers a tantalizing first prize of £1,200. There are also second and third prizes, plus prizes for an unpublished writer and a local writer. Stories of up to 2,200 words on any theme, entry fee £8. Check the website for exact details.

The Leicester Writes Short Story Prize is open for stories on any theme, up to 3,000 words. The entry fee is £7 but discounted to £3 for Leicestershire writers. Details of closing date, prizes and rules are on the website.

Festivals
I’m delighted, and a little nervous, that I have been selected for my first ever author panel. This will be at the Morecambe and Vice Crime Writing Festival in September. Tickets are on sale now. Follow the festival on Facebook or Twitter to receive more announcements of authors and panels.

By Rachel Sargeant

Rachel Sargeant is a British author. Her latest thriller, The Roommates, is a Closer Magazine "Must Read". Her other titles are The Good Teacher, The Perfect Neighbours and Gallipoli: Year of Love and Duty. Rachel won Writing Magazine’s Crime Short Story competition and has been shortlisted in various competitions including the Bristol Short Story Prize. She was born in Lincolnshire and is a graduate of Aberystwyth University. She now lives in Gloucestershire with her husband and children.

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