Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Writing short and weaselling out weasel words

10 top writing tips from Without Bullshit.

Quite a general list but still well worthy of a perusal! (Peruse?)

Without Bullshit 10 top writing tips

Some good ones in here, including re-writing the passive voice. I'd also include getting rid of adverbs. 

Which top pieces of writing advice would you include? 
Post your comments below...

Friday, November 20, 2015

One day on the lake

Using the cool of the early morning before the sun rises to become its usual summer furnace, the two boys are preparing for their special day. They comb, they preen, they each shave twice, slyly checking each other over at the same time as they check themselves in the mirror. Each wants to do well yet the other’s success is integral to their own. Each needs the other to be cool, stylish and in control but not to the extent of outdoing the other.

Hopping and skipping down the steps they reach the boat where she is waiting. She’s casual, relaxed, looks as if she has no idea of the boys’ hopes and expectations. Is this an elaborate game? The boys aren’t sure, but the preparation they have put into this encounter is proof that they're prepared to endure a few knock-backs.

She walks to the bows of the clinker-built boat and spreads her towel on the deck. Sitting dangling her feet in the cool waters of the lake she half day-dreams, half watches the boys as they continue their preparations while casting half glances at her. They are desperate to look directly at her, to drink her in but they try to avoid catching her eye. Her loose fitting white cotton dress sets off her golden brown skin and natural sun-bleached hair perfectly. With no apparent effort, she commands the attention of these attractive young men.

The boys, sitting together in the stern of the boat, are almost ready. They strip off their tight fitting tee shirts and rub sun oil onto each other. This ritual demands care so that every inch is equally covered. By the time they have finished, the sun is higher in the sky and its heat is beginning to be felt.

The younger of the boys casually stands and pulls the starter cord for the outboard engine. Nothing. He pulls again. Still nothing. He fiddles with the choke, checks the fuel line and rather self-consciously reaches for the cord a third time. 
This effort is greeted with the same non-committal cough that the first two pulls achieved. He’s getting uncomfortable now, and his companion is not prepared to risk the same embarrassment. 

Smiling, the girl skips down the boat, takes the cord and lightly sets it to the first point of resistance. One sharp pull and the engine dutifully starts. She takes the boys’ place at the helm. 

“I thought the plan was for you to take me out.” She smiled as much as spoke the words.

They cruise off into the lake for the day, a day the boys have dreamt of for so long.

by T. W. Baker

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Big Magic...

Thanks to a recommendation from one of our Cafe Aphra contributors, I have just watched this amazing video interview between Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo, and I have to say I found it absolutely brilliant. 

The pacts and contracts we have to make with ourselves and our creativity; perfectionism as fear in high heels.... authenticity and originality... martyrdom and tricksterdom, and the many traps we lay ourselves and misconceptions we hold onto regarding our creative process. 

I have enjoyed hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak about writing in the past before and on this occasion she has lived up to my every expectation. I can feel I will be buying her new book, Big Magic, and reading it for myself very soon!

So, Aphraites, this is my offering to you on this 'What We Do Wednesday'! Enjoy!!

Big Magic: Elizabeth Gilbert and Marie Forleo

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Visitor

Rex picked up the brush and began sweeping. In the past week he had aged fifteen years.

Helping out friends when you can is a no brainer of course. You don’t think ahead to the grief it may cause you. You just do it and that’s the end of it. Though he’d always enjoyed the solitary life, having someone stay (“for a coupla days, max”) had held the promise of fun and conversation, a few high jinx perhaps.

Yeah, no doubt about it, body and soul needed to be yanked out of the comfort zone now and again.

And yet, as he nursed flecks of tortilla crumbs across the floor it struck him how he’d never before felt so middle aged and so damned English. He mused that if Hollywood were to make a film of the last week of his life a trailer would show Hugh Grant trapped in an elevator with Sofia Vergara and most cinemagoers would grab the broad gist of events.

Latin emotions are strongly felt and expressed. Boy, aren’t they. English ones aren’t. Rex had often felt the latin way to be admirable, more so since moving to southern Spain. It just seemed so obviously a good thing to let those feelings out. Away with the reserve and stiff upper lip repression that gives the Brits stomach ulcers and cancers. Hmm, well.

As he took back sole ownership of his flat he looked around at the evidence of the previous week, still lying in situ like the artifacts of an archaeological dig: the empty, toppled, funny-smelling shampoo bottle in the shower; the frankly bizarre looking food left in the fridge; that dodgy stain on the kitchen floor from ‘the incident’ which was either blood (his) or vomit (hers). And there were lessons. There were always lessons.

He’d once read we are all individual slivers of a higher consciousness undergoing the human experience, each in our own unique way. Thus we have bodies. We have egos. We have passions and fears, tastes and oddities that mark each of us out as individuals; beautiful, wonderful, crazy individuals. If life was about anything then it was surely about celebrating those differences as much as about recognizing our commonality.

We could all learn from each other and we could all teach.

Rex resolved to do certain things more often; to vent a little, to shout, to curse, to throw things, to laugh and to cry (at the same time). He just needed to go and lie down for a bit first. Then he had to give the kitchen a good cleaning.

by Derek Dohren

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ugly Histories

Before the reign of light skinned beauty, before the war of pale and dark

East of the Nigerian Delta and resting low amongst the viscous swampland

A baby born in ochre dust, plum-pudding black, eyes full of coal fire

Unbound by western influence and their disorders of mind and body.

There she reigned from her first sticky steps to a long hunting stride

In the savannah, boiling from red light to dark, husky from the chase

Full from the kill, slick with the sweat of victory and animal shapes

Until a night, drenched by the blood moon, when men crept and stole

Leaving her land deprived, ships packed with a weeping cargo.

by Charlotte Stirling

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Remember, remember, the month of November...

Today is the 1st of November and for many people the beginning of what is now a well established institution in the worldwide writing community... NaNoWri month!

November has been 'National Novel Writing Month' for several years now and has produced spectacular results for many writers in need of an extra push to just get that baggy first draft finished.

Here at Cafe Aphra, we offer our own take on NaNoWriMo via the Cafe Aphra November Challenge... (drum roll, please!)

Essentially, this is the same idea but we just prefer to offer people a bit more flexibility in terms of setting their own writing goals, whether total word count, daily word count or something else entirely. Writing a novel is a highly personal experience and 50,000 words in 30 days in not necessarily be the right challenge for everyone. 

We still think NaNoWriMo is a fabulous idea, however, and a really admirable institution - so we would encourage all our readers who are currently struggling to make the progress they would like on their current writing project to get involved!

Would you like to sign up to the full 50,000 words in a month via the NaNoWriMo page? If so, GOOD LUCK from all of us here and let us know how it goes - keep us posted via the comments box or via email! If not, perhaps you would like to have a think about what your own personal writing goal could be for this month and share it with us? 

We will enjoy hearing from you about how things are going on your own November Challenge and cheering you along the way!