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The Creative Writer's Toolbelt by Andrew J Chamberlain

The Creative Writer's Toolbelt

by Andrew J Chamberlain

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The Creative Writer's Toolbelt offers practical, accessible advice that you can apply straight away to your own writing


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http://ajc-cwt-001.podomatic.com

Episode 100: Reflecting on the best advice and insight from 100 episodes of the Creative Writer's Toolbelt with writer, editor, and fellow podcaster, Sarah Werner


Sat, May 20, 2017


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After just over three years the Creative Writer's Toolbelt reaches 100 episodes! To mark the occasion I'm reflecting on some of the best advice and insight I've received over that time, and to do that I am joined by writer, editor, speaker and fellow podcaster Sarah Werner. In our conversation I ask Sarah some great questions(!) and we reflect on story structure, character, setting, genre, research and the writers life. I'll also give you an update on the Handbook, which is due out in October, and there's news about the "Writer's Jumpstart" conference which is in London on November 11th, where I will be speaking with Scottish Crime writer Wendy H Jones.

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Episode 99 - Six simple principles for living well as a writer.


Fri, Apr 28, 2017


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Continuing the theme of "the writer's life" this episode offers some evidence based advice and practical steps for looking after ourselves so that we can live well and write well. From getting enough water and sleep, to eating well, exercising, socializing, and being mindful of our spiritual well-being. These tips will help us all to look after the totality of who we are, so that we can look after ourselves and our writing.

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Episode 98 - How to look after yourself and not be a jerk - living the writer's life well with Marie Bilodeau and Derek K?nsken


Sun, Apr 09, 2017


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This episode is a conversation with Ottawa based speculative writers Marie Bilodeau and Derek K?nsken. In the conversation we explore how to live the writer's life well, and what it means to follow the navy maxim that we need to be able to float, sail and shoot. We explore Marie's experiences with retreats, and Derek's experiences with sabbaticals, and we reflect on Derek's best advice for writers: Don't be a jerk.

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Episode 97 - If you only get one thing right in your writing make it this


Mon, Apr 03, 2017


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As of this month (April 2017) I’m working hard on the Creative Writer's Toolbelt Handbook. As I look back on nearly 100 episodes I’ve realized that there's one fundamental thing we writers have to do to create great work, and it's this: be authentic! In this episode we explore what it is to be authentic, and we look at some practical tools to achieve that authenticity.

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Episode 96 - Different routes into publishing: Interview with Wendy H Jones and Ryan Dalton


Tue, Mar 28, 2017


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This episode is a conversation with two authors who have come to publication by different routes. Wendy H Jones has self published crime fiction with the DI Shona McKenzie series, and a book on marketing for authors, she has also traditionally published a YA novel. Ryan Dalton is the author of the Time Shift Trilogy, and the first book in that series, his debut novel, The Year of Lightening was published in January 2016, Book 2 in the series The Black Tempest is published in April of this year.

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Episode 95 Into the crucible - empowering your work with symbol dilemma and innovation


Mon, Feb 27, 2017


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In episodes 92 and 94 we explored the landscape of genre and trope, theme and moral, and in this episode we continue that exploration with a look at symbol and motif. We step back to look at how all of these aspects of creative writing are connected and how we can use the power of symbols, the fascination with dilemma, and the potential to subvert tropes as tools to empower our work.

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Episode 94 Jesse Pinkman meets Lady Macbeth. Themes ethics and morality in your story


Mon, Feb 20, 2017


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In this episode we explore the right and wrong way to handle themes in our work. We say 'no' to preaching and lecturing the reader, and 'yes' to weaving the themes we want to present into the story, and giving the engagement of the characters with those themes real consequences. We explore some great examples of how themes can be explored in story, from Elizabeth and Darcy to Harry Potter, and Jesse Pinkman to Lady Macbeth

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Episode 93 - Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky


Mon, Feb 13, 2017


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This episode is an interview with award winning author Adrian Tchaikovsky. Adrian and I talk about the long road to producing publishable quality material, how to work with genres and their tropes, the writer's life, and why it's always helpful to have a contact at the Natural History Museum.

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Episode 92 - A home and a market for your story. Navigating your way around trope and genre


Mon, Feb 06, 2017


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What genre does your story fit into? And how can you use the tropes of that genre to make your story fresh, original, and compelling? In this episode we explore the challenge of identifying the genre or genres of your story, and looking at way to embrace the tropes of that genre by re-imagining them and subverting them to keep your work interesting and cliche free.

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Episode 91 - Stay on target! How to write a great action scene.


Tue, Jan 31, 2017


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For this episode I am again joined by Jessi Rita Hoffman (jessiritahoffman.com). Jessi is a former publishing house editor-in-chief and award-winning magazine editor now offers professional book editing services and author coaching. In this episode Jessi and I discuss the key elements of the action scene. From the need to keep the prose tight, to managing the rising tension, from dumping those 'hedge' words, to not telling us how much your protagonist is bleeding. Remember - keep the girl, or guy, fighting!

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Episode 90 - Let the romance do the talking! Writing a great love scene


Sat, Jan 14, 2017


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I'm joined for this episode by Jessi Rita Hoffman (jessiritahoffman.com). Jessi is a former publishing house editor-in-chief and award-winning magazine editor now offers professional book editing services and author coaching. Jessi and I talk about the essential elements of writing the romance scene. Creating a compelling romance scene is essential for any genre, and Jessi and I discuss how to keep the scene real, why the Victorians were so good at romance, keeping the lovers together and apart, and finally the merits of getting cosmic.

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Episode 89 - Power up your prose! Making sentences paragraphs and scenes work for you


Sat, Jan 07, 2017


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In this episode we look at the way in which the building blocks of prose: the sentence, the paragraph, and the scene, work. We explore the fundamental principle that drives all of them, and how you can use these structural tools to enhance your work and captivate your reader

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Episode 88 - My favourite reads of 2016 and the CWT Survey


Tue, Dec 27, 2016


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This rather Christmassy episode is a review of my favourite reads of 2016. It's a subjective review, just stuff I've read that I liked, and a bit about why I liked it. Also news about the CWT 2017 listener and subscriber survey.Take part to be entered into the prize draw and get a copy of the Overview of the forthcoming Handbook.

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Episode 87 - Inside the publishing house - conversations with the team at Gollancz


Wed, Dec 21, 2016


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This very special episode takes us inside one of the most iconic publishing houses in the world. The episode comprises four conversations with press, marketing and commissioning staff at Gollancz; the fantasy, horror, and science fiction imprint. The episode includes a conversation with Gollancz's Publishing Director, Gillian Redfearn. Many of you will know Gollancz as the publisher of prominent authors like Brandon Sanderson, Ben Aaronovitch, Stephen Baxter and Al Reynolds as well classic books from the likes of Arthur C Clarke, Philip K Dick, and Terry Pratchett. These conversations cover issues that apply to writers from all genres; from tips on submissions to what a publisher wants from their authors, and from the the importance of voice through to the mistakes aspiring authors make in their manuscripts, and how to avoid them. And for those interested in submitting material directly to Gollancz there’ll be news on what their submission plans are for 2017.

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Episode 86 - Handle with care! Writing and placing the flashback scene


Thu, Dec 15, 2016


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Loved and hated in equal measures, the flashback remains a firm favourite with authors. When it's done well it can enthrall readers, give them a poignant and dramatic experience, and drive the engine of your story. Done badly, and it will leave your reader confused and frustrated. In this episode we look at the good and bad of the flashback scene, and identify the guiding principles for using this type of scene appropriately.

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Episode 85 - An interview with Anne Perry editor at Hodder and Stoughton


Sun, Nov 27, 2016


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This episode is a wide ranging interview with commissioning editor Anne Perry from Hodder and Stoughton. Anne draws on her experience to talk about how the commissioning process works, what an author should be prepared to do to help with the process, and what she wants to see in a manuscript. Anne also gives us some advice on writing action and romance scenes, and how to tackle the presentation of characters from diverse backgrounds. Enjoy!

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Episode 84 - Finishing well. Principles for writing a great closing scene


Wed, Nov 23, 2016


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Writing the closing scene of a story is more than just tying up the loose ends and sending our characters off into the sunset. We want to leave our readers with the best possible impression of our work, so that they have fond memories of reading what we have written but also to ensure they come back for more, and tell others why they should read our work as well. In this episode we look at the principles for finishing well, as they apply to the stand alone story, and one of a series.

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Episode 83 - Curtain Up! Essential Principles for the Opening Scene


Thu, Oct 27, 2016


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We all know the opening scene in any book is the critical moment to make your mark on the reader, to grab their interest, to set out your stall, and to keep them hooked. This episode explores the four principles that make an opening scene work and give your whole story a great start

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Episode 82 - Interview with children's author Bob Hartman


Sat, Oct 15, 2016


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This episode first appeared (briefly!) back in 2014 but mysteriously disappeared, making it a missing episode. It's a conversation with the writer Bob Hartman. Bob is a children’s writer and storyteller, he draws inspiration from the Bible and classical sources like Aesop’s fables for his work. In this interview he talks about the essentials of writing for children as well as storytelling and how to approach a publisher.

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Episode 81 - You have a deal with your readers - here's how to deliver your side of it


Wed, Oct 05, 2016


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In this episode we use the development of a scene to illustrate a critical element of the author:reader relationship, that’s the implied deal that you, the author, have with your readers. We are going to look at what that deal is, and how you can make good on the reader's expectations that you are going to be competent and honest. We’ll explore some techniques that you can apply, scene by scene, and to help us we’re going to borrow a practice from the world of the theatre known as ‘blocking’.

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Episode 80 - The absolute essentials of writing a scene


Sat, Sep 24, 2016


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The scene is a key building block of a story, so how can we make sure that the scenes in our writing work? In this episode we explore the three key questions that every writer needs to ask about each scene they write:what is the objective of the scene? How does the scene begin and end? And what gives the scene energy and direction?

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Episode 79 - The sound of your writing is critical to your success - here's how you can improve it


Wed, Sep 14, 2016


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This episode is a round up of everything we've been talking about concerning the sound of writing over the last few episodes. We look at tone, style, and voice, the importance of clarity, brevity, and precision and then go on to think about the problems and solutions related to sentence structure.

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Episode 78 - Conversation with Becky Chambers and Nisi Shawl + Indiegogo launch for the Handbook


Fri, Sep 09, 2016


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In this episode I'm excited to announce the launch of the Creative Writer's Toolbelt Handbook, a project to gather the very best advice and insight from all of the podcasts into book form. Development of the book is being crowdfunded through Indiegogo, please check out 'The Creative Writer's Toolbelt Handbook' at indiegogo.com. The main part of the podcast is a wonderful conversation I had with the authors Becky Chambers and Nisi Shawl. We talk about physicality and writing, the difference between a romance scene and a sex scene, the nature of joy and compassion in their work, and then each of them reads a passage from their respective new novels.

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Episode 77 - Listen to the voices! What we can learn about voice from great writing


Mon, Aug 29, 2016


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In this episode we are going to look at a number of very different examples of writing that excel in the area of how the writing sounds. They are deliberately different in terms of style, and authorial voice, but each of them can teach us something. And because they are very different the benefits that they bring to their respective stories is very different.

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Episode 76 - It's not just what you say it's the way that you say it. Why the sound of your writing matters.


Fri, Aug 19, 2016


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There's a lot of truth in the old adage: "it's not what you say, it's the way that you say it". We all want to tell a great story, but part of that is how we tell our story. Some authors seem to have a captivating and beguiling sound to their work. How do they do it? What are the problems that can occur with the sound of writing, and how can we avoid them? In this episode we look at some of the problems that can make your work sound stuttering or clunky or dull - and then we go on to discuss the key to making your writing sound good: it's all in the editing.

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Episode 75 - Unlocking the secrets of excellent writing style


Mon, Aug 08, 2016


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What is excellent writing style? And how can we develop that style without simply mimicking the writers we admire? In this episode we apply some of the ideas presented in episode 73 by looking at the way in which clarity, brevity, and precision can help us to develop our writing style. These, together with knowing who you are writing for, and working with the story, are the keys that unlock the secrets of great writing style.

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Episode 74 - Thirty Years of the Arthur C Clarke Award. A conversation with Award Director Tom Hunter


Mon, Aug 01, 2016


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The UK’s most prestigious Science Fiction literature prize, the Arthur C Clarke award, is 30 this year. In this episode I talk to Award Director Tom Hunter about the history of the award, plans for its future, and the state of contemporary Science Fiction writing. Tom gives us some tips for using social media effectively, and we find out what’s most likely to excite a literary agent.

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Episode 73 - Unlocking the secrets of tone style and voice


Sun, Jul 24, 2016


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This episode marks the start of a new series for the Creative Writer's Toolbelt, looking at the sound of our writing. We're going to cover a whole range of confusing, and sometimes overlapping terms; establishing what they mean, and working out how to use them to improve our work. In this introductory episode we are going to look at tone, style, and voice.

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Episode 72 - Six principles for the perfect setting


Thu, Jul 14, 2016


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This episode wraps up our review of the dimension setting of creative writing, and building on the practical examples of episode 70 we take a whistle-stop tour of the six principles of setting, from research to credibility, from genre to sensory description, here are the principles that will help you to create a credible, immersive and compelling setting for your work

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Episode 71 - Interview with Ian McDonald


Fri, Jul 08, 2016


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This episode is a conversation with Northern Ireland based author Ian McDonald. Ian has been a professional writer for over twenty five years, and in this episode he takes us on from the solid foundational work that we usually focus on in the Creative Writer's Toolbelt to some of the more advanced concepts. Ian has won numerous awards including the Locus, Philip K Dick, Hugo, Theodore Sturgeon and John Campbell Memorial awards, and the BSFA best novel award three times.

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Episode 70 - Three stories - three genres -three settings


Sun, Jul 03, 2016


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Over the past ten episodes of the podcast we've looked at a range of strategies and techniques to make story setting as compelling and attractive as possible for readers. Looking at research and description as well as the relationship between setting and character, and setting and voice. We've explored the creative tension between being "credible" and "immersive" in setting. This episode illustrates these principles with a quick sketch of the settings from three very different stories in very different genres, giving practical applications of the insights.

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Episode 69 - Seasoning the story: how to seed information about character and setting into your work


Thu, Jun 16, 2016


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So you've identified the key information about your settings and characters, and now you have to seed it into your work. If you do it right, you can carry your readers into a rich and immersive world with characters they will want to care about; if you do it wrong you may lose your readers altogether. The stakes are that high, and in this episode we explore the techniques and strategies for avoiding the mistakes and making the best of the information you need to give your readers.

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Episode 68 - Building characters from the foundations up: how to develop compelling characters & backstory


Wed, Jun 08, 2016


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This episode will guide you though the process of taking the raw material of your character research and ideas, and putting them through the prism of the character components to create believable characters together with their backstory.

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Episode 67 - From Research to Reality: using the raw material of research to create compelling setting and backstory


Thu, Jun 02, 2016


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You might have a lot of research for your story, but how do you apply it effectively to create a rich and compelling setting, not just for the story itself but for the foundational backstory you need to give your work depth and credibility? In this episode we examine the steps you can take to do this, by laying out the framework and the environment of your work, and then bring your research to bear so that you can create individual scenes that are authentic and vibrant, drawing the reader into the story. We'll explore the way in which settings can be broken down into specific scenes throughout the story so that each scene can be transformed by your research.

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Episode 66 - Conversation with Becky Chambers


Sat, May 14, 2016


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My guest this week is the author Becky Chambers, author of the critically acclaimed novel 'The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet'. Becky’s novel was shortlisted for the Kitschies in the debut category in 2014, longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2016, and it has just been shortlisted for the Arthur C Clarke prize. Becky knows what it is to self-publish and she also knows what it is to be commercially published, since her self-published novel was picked up in 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton. In the interview she shares her experiences and advice on the craft and the publishing process. Many of you will know Becky’s work, but if you don’t just check the search engine of your choice and you’ll see what I mean when I say that Becky is the talk of the town in publishing at the moment.

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Episode 65 - The Magpie and the Compost Heap: Curiosity and Curation for your future projects


Thu, May 12, 2016


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In episode 64 we looked at what we can do to build and enhance setting in a current project, and in this episode we look at some of the practices and habits we can adopt to help us invest as writers in future projects. We look at how, like the magpie, we need to be on the lookout for the 'shiny things' around us, the unusual the intriguing, the noteworthy. We also look at why it's good to put our research into the writer's equivalent of a compost heap where it can settle and mature into something truly useful for our writing.

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Episode 64 - Research Respect and Reasoning: building the foundations of your story setting


Thu, May 05, 2016


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Great stories require a lot of research, but there's more to it than just surfing the net for a few interesting details. In this episode we look at how to use our sources wisely and with due courtesy to those who help us. We know there's a lot of great stuff on the internet, but how do we use it wisely? And what about other forms of research, like the reference library? What about talking to people as individuals, and respecting the value they can give our work? And we shouldn't forget the thinking we need to do. What happens to our story when we reason out what might happen, do things still stack up? This episode examines all of these issues, and offer some practical ideas for making the best of the research you do for your work.

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Episode 63 - Interview with Peter F Hamilton


Thu, Apr 28, 2016


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This episode is a conversation with bestselling author Peter F Hamilton. In a career spanning nearly thirty years Peter has published seventeen books as well as numerous short stories. He is known for his epic science fiction trilogies including the Void series from his Commonwealth Universe, and the Night's Dawn series from the Confederation Universe. In this conversation Peter talks about the formative literary influences on his life as he was growing up, the preparation he does before writing a million word epic, and why creating the bad guy is such fun. He also talks about the importance of consistency in creating setting, and the enduring power of space and space travel to generate a sense of wonder.

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Episode 62 - In at the deep end. How to immerse readers in your story


Sat, Apr 16, 2016


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In the previous episode we explored the two essential qualities of setting through describing the need for setting to be credible and immersive. In this episode we focus on one of those qualities, the immersive setting, and we explore how to make the setting an immersive and compelling place for readers by taking the time to research and plan the backstory, creating a mood and style for the setting, and by presenting the setting with sparse, specific, and sensory language.

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Episode 61 - Are you sitting comfortably? Why your setting must be Credible and Immersive


Thu, Apr 07, 2016


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This podcast starts a new series on the subject of setting, and we begin by exploring why there are only two essential qualities needed for a setting to be effective; these are that a setting needs to be credible, and immersive. If you imagine your setting as a chair, it needs to be strong enough to support the reader, and comfortable enough to hold them for the whole story. This episode provides the practical techniques required to deliver both of these requirements.

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Episode 60 'Writing the Other' with Nisi Shawl and Daniel Jos? Older


Wed, Mar 30, 2016


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How should we present characters from a range of different backgrounds in our work? How can we portray these characters with integrity and respect, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation and ability? And how can we navigate this issue with confidence, especially if we come from a group that is perceived to be privileged? Most us will need to present characters in our work who are not like us in some which is socially determined as important. So for example differences in race, and gender, and sexual orientation are currently determined by society as important. Dealing with these differences is the critical cultural issue for writers today, and to help us tackle it, I've invited the writer and journalist Nisi Shawl (www.nisishawl.com), and the writer, composer and musician Daniel Jos? Older (www.danieljoseolder.net), to join me on the Creative Writer's Toolbelt. This conversation is essential listening for anyone who is serious about dealing successfully with the challenge of 'writing the other'.

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Episode 59 - Character and characterisation: series wrapup


Thu, Mar 17, 2016


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This episode is a summary of the issues we have covered in the last dozen or so installments of The Creative Writer's Toolbelt, from the critical components of character: developing the character essence, and goal, motivation, and passion - through the secondary components: defining the character arc, defining the interior life of the character, using character interaction to best effect, and defining a complementary set of characteristics and voice.

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Episode 58 - Deep and narrow or broad and shallow? The essentials of Point of View


Thu, Mar 03, 2016


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Point of view (PoV) is critical to your story. The authorial decision you make about PoV will set the tone and voice of your work, and influence the reader's perception of your protagonist. It's a decision that you need to make up front, and once you've made it you need to stick to it. It's essential that you know what the options are, what the benefits and disadvantages of each PoV are, and you understand which option is going to work best with your story.

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Episode 57 - Outstanding performance in a supporting role - making your supporting characters excellent


Thu, Feb 18, 2016


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It's no surprise that many of the principles that we use to develop our lead characters also apply to our supporting cast. The critical objectives with our supporting characters are the same, we need to create characters with a strong, believable essence, and clear goals and motivation, and then we need to deploy them effectively to support both the main characters and the story. We can do this by ensuring these characters have a strong backstory, even if they have just a walk on part, and we can draw on a range of sources including our imagination, caricature, and people we know in real life to build the composite character for our story.

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Episode 56 - Toolbelt EXTRA: Interview with Al Robertson


Thu, Feb 11, 2016


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Toolbelt EXTRA is an additional episode outside of the usual fortnightly regular podcasts. In these longer episodes we take a deep dive into the life and work of a guest author or editor. We explore what's happening in the genre they write in, what inspires them, and their tips for aspiring writers. This episode is an in-depth conversation with the author Al Robertson. We cover: planning vs improvisation and how to draw on both ends of that spectrum, the importance of concision and clarity in writing, the place of cyberpunk within the genre, the state of British Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Al's recommendations for books on the craft of creative writing.

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Episode 55 - Don't just talk the talk! Squeezing everything out of your characters interactions


Thu, Feb 04, 2016


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I'm responding to a listener question in this episode by looking at the issue of character interaction. How can we use it to best effect, and what are some of the factors to bear in mind? Most interaction will be through the medium of dialogue, but there's so much more we can do with a bit of imagination, to help us achieve our objectives across dimensions like character development, story, and voice. So don't just talk the talk, bring all the senses in to play and capture the reader in your noisy, vibrant, pungent, and intense world!

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Episode 54 - Interview with crime writer Wendy H Jones


Thu, Jan 21, 2016


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Wendy H Jones is a self-published crime writer and part of the controversial "Tartan Noire" movement of Scottish Crime Fiction. Wendy has published three novels in her "Killer's" series, featuring her protagonist Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie. Wendy is now building a fan-base around the world and in our conversation she reveals the publication date and title for a fourth installment of her series. In a varied career Wendy has worked in academia and as a nurse. She served in the British Armed forces for over twenty years, first in the Navy and then the British Army. After traveling around the world with her job, Wendy has returned to her native Dundee to pursue a career in writing, and is now in demand as a speaker across the UK. In this episode Wendy talks about her tips for character development, planning and plotting over a series rather than just one book, promotion techniques for the self-publishing, and why social media, as the name suggests, has to be SOCIAL, rather than just marketing.

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Episode 53 - Perfecting the devil. How to create a deliciously wicked antagonist


Thu, Jan 07, 2016


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This episode is all about the protagonist's nemesis, the antagonist. Traditionally seen as 'the bad guy' the antagonist's real function in a story is to contend with, and oppose, the protagonist at every step. In this episode we look at ways in which the antagonist can have their own character arc, with some characters switching into or out of the antagonist's role. We'll also look at the five strategies you can use to create the delicious antagonist, from a painful but convincing backstory to a personal connection with the protagonist, and from a firm belief in their own cause to good behaviour and an excellent dress sense. Welcome to the dark side of your story!

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Episode 52 - Christmas 2015: Superfood for the writer's brain


Fri, Dec 25, 2015


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In this episode, released on Christmas Day 2015, we take time out from the usual teaching and interviews for a few minutes to reflect on the relentless nature of the writer's life. Maybe the best way to keep up the pace with our writing is to take a break and give something back to that creative part of our brain that we've worked so hard. The festive season is a particularly good time to indulge in some "Superfood" for our minds, and reawaken the wonder and curiosity again.

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Episode 51 - True to the End. The keys to developing your protagonist's character arc


Wed, Dec 09, 2015


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Nothing holds the reader in your story like a compelling, authentic character, and an essential element of developing a character is developing their character arc. In this episode we explore the essentials of developing the arc for your protagonist and principle characters. I'll explain why the character arc is so important, why it has to develop in harmony with the story arc, and why we need to pay attention to the inner and outer journey of our lead characters.

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Episode 50 - Interview with Nancy Kress


Fri, Nov 27, 2015


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For the fiftieth episode I'm delighted to present an interview with Nebula and Hugo award winning author Nancy Kress. Nancy is the author of twenty-seven novels, three books on writing, four short story collections, and over a hundred works of short fiction. Her fiction has won six Nebulas (for “Out of All Them Bright Stars,” “Beggars in Spain,” “The Flowers of Aulit Prison,” “Fountain of Age,” “After the Fall, Before the Fall, and During the Fall,” and “Yesterday’s Kin”), two Hugos (for “Beggars in Spain” and “The Erdmann Nexus”), a Sturgeon (for “The Flowers of Aulit Prison”), and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award (for PROBABILITY SPACE). Her work has been translated into Swedish, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Polish, Croatian, Korean, Lithuanian, Chinese, Romanian, Japanese, Russian, and Klingon, none of which she can read. In 1998, Nancy married fellow SF writer Charles Sheffield, who died in 2002 of brain cancer. In 2011 she married writer Jack Skillingstead. They live in Seattle with Cosette, the world’s most spoiled toy poodle.

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Episode 49 - Tailored for a perfect fit. Find the right characteristics for your cast of characters


Fri, Nov 13, 2015


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Sometimes it's just one or two well placed,well fitting characteristics that make a character. In this episode we are going to look at what kind of characteristics we can give our characters, how to present those characteristics in a convincing and persuasive way, and we'll look at some examples of how writers have used characteristics of all kinds to complement and enhance the essence or core of their characters.

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Episode 48 - The blade in the mind. Exploiting the interior life of your characters


Fri, Oct 30, 2015


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What is the interior life of the character, and what sort of interior life should we be showing in our work? This episode looks at the thoughts and feelings of our characters, and gives practical advice on what sorts of interior life should be shown in a story, and how it should be done. Cut the banal day dreams and focus on the blade in the mind, the thoughts that have a sharp edge to them. Dark or angry, comedic or sexual, there's a truthful and cutting thought lurking in every character that will help to set a scene, drive a plot and develop a character. Don't be afraid to reveal the interior life of your character, just make sure it's grabbing the reader and driving the story when you do it.

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Episode 47 - Get 'em off the couch! Goals motivation and passion as the driving forces for your characters


Thu, Oct 15, 2015


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Jeanne Cavelos, the Director of the Odyssey Writing Workshop says that the number one piece of advice she gives to writers is this: give your character a goal. It's so easy for us to create pet characters who just sit on the couch, docile and useless in our story. We may love these creations but they slow the narrative, and bore the reader. So how do we get our characters engaged, and working with our story not against it? Simple, we follow Jeanne's advice and give them a goal (or goals), as well as some strong motivation, and a driving passion as part of who they are.

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Episode 46 - The Essence of character


Sat, Oct 03, 2015


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What is the essence of a character? Why is the creation and presentation of that essence the most important challenge for character development in creative writing? In this episode I am starting a series looking at developing characters in fiction, memoir, biography, in fact any kind of story telling. I'll be explaining why I think developing the core, or essence of your character is the most critical task in the character development dimension, we'll look at a couple of examples from great story tellers, and I'll tell you how I think you can present the essence of your characters effectively to your readers.

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Episode 45 - Interview with editor and agent Julie Crisp


Fri, Sep 18, 2015


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This episode is an interview with the freelance editor, script doctor, and literary agent Julie Crisp. Julie has over fifteen years’ experience working for three major houses across a broad spectrum of commercial titles within fiction, non-fiction and children’s. Most recently she headed up the UK arm of one of the largest global brands of science fiction and fantasy, Tor. She has worked with bestselling and award-winning authors such as Ann Cleeves, Peter F. Hamilton, China Mi?ville, Neal Asher, Amanda Hocking, and Naomi Novik. This is another 'must listen' interview for anyone who wants advice from an experienced professional about what catches the editor's eye, what sells, and how to give yourself the best chance of getting your work noticed.

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Episode 44 - Finish with Style! The Resolution stage of your story


Fri, Sep 04, 2015


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Finishing your story takes as much skill and wisdom as telling it, and there's more to a good finish that clearing up the battle field and writing THE END at the bottom of your manuscript. The final, resolution stage of the six stage story process requires that you tie up the loose ends, resolve your subplots, and show your readers the consequences of the climax stage of the story.

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Episode 43 - Judgement Day! How to get the best out of the climax stage of your story


Fri, Aug 21, 2015


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In this episode we look at stage five of the six stage story process - the climax stage. We are going to answer the question "what is the climax?" and also look at how, as writers, we can make the most of this stage of the story. The most important lesson to take away from this episode is that the climax is not about blood and explosions - it's about characters and ideas, it's about the beliefs that characters hold dear, and will live, and die for.

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Episode 42 - Exploiting the Crisis stage of your story


Thu, Aug 06, 2015


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In this episode we look at stage four of the six stage story process, the Crisis. There is no better time in your story to showcase the strengths, weaknesses, and motivations of your characters. This is also a moment to use all of your creative writing skills to create a poignant moment, to enrich the setting and mood of your work, to add colour and depth to the context for your story. The crisis is the decisive moment, the calm before the storm, the point where all of the choices have been made and the climax must now be faced. How will your characters react? Will they be heroes or cowards, or maybe a more subtle combination of both? Here is your window of opportunity to show all of these things, use it well!

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Episode 41 - Conversation with historian writer and speaker Nick Page


Thu, Jul 23, 2015


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This episode is an interview with the author and historian, Nick Page. Nick, who describes himself as a 'writer for hire', has been a freelance writer for nearly twenty years, publishing over seventy books including biblical histories. We discuss the disciplines required to write history, including historical fiction, tips for placing the reader firmly in the scene you are writing, and advice for the new writer. Nick has a wealth of experience which he brings to this conversation. I have been looking forward to interviewing Nick for a long time, he is witty, honest, and knowledgeable, and it was a joy to speak with him, I hope you find our conversation entertaining and enlightening.

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Episode 40 - Show them the magic. Making your story excellent through the Momentum stage


Fri, Jul 10, 2015


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This is the second of two podcasts focusing on stage three of the six stage story process. What can you achieve during the broad expanse of your story from the inciting incident through to the climax? This episode will show you how to make your story sparkle as you use the 'momentum' stage of the story process to develop complex and intriguing characters, enrich the setting of your story, present your themes to the reader, and beguile them (and the commissioning editor) with a distinctive voice.

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Episode 39 - Harnessing the power of human psychology for your story


Thu, Jun 25, 2015


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In this episode we start to explore the third of the six stages of story, and answer the question: how can we make this tricky middle section of our work as compelling and excellent as possible? The answer comes from knowing one of the fundamental truths of human psychology: we all love a challenge, and we all love to see others challenged. This episode explores how to harness this truth in the third stage of story, and capture readers and keep them all the way through to the end.

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Episode 38 - We have lift off! Getting the best out of the inciting incident


Fri, Jun 12, 2015


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How do you get the most out of the inciting incident in your story? Here are three challenges that you should set your inciting incident, and it should be equal to them all. First it should answer the need for action you created at the start of your story, second it needs to transform the story, and grip the reader as it does so, and finally it needs to be the springboard into the next stage, providing the necessary momentum to draw the reader in as the main part of your story.

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Episode 37 - Grab them by the eyeballs!


Fri, May 29, 2015


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What are the three key objectives you need to achieve at the start of your story? In this episode we will be exploring in more detail stage one of the six stages of story I outlined in episode 36. And in this opening stage there are three things you must achieve as your story gets started: first grab your reader and keep them, second, set out your stall in terms of setting character and voice, and third, create the need for change and action.

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Episode 36 - The DNA of Story. The six stage model of great storylines


Sat, May 16, 2015


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How do stories work? What are the stages in a story, and what are the objectives of those different stages? Understanding the answers to these questions will help you understand the way a great story can be constructed. In this episode we delve a bit deeper into the concept of the six stage story process, and show how this model represents the DNA of great stories, and how you can apply the model to inform and improve your writing

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Episode 35 - Interview with Lee Harris Senior Editor at Tor.com


Sat, May 02, 2015


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This episode is an interview with Lee Harris, Senior Editor at Tor.com. We find out what keeps him reading a manuscript, the MOST important lesson you need to learn before you submit anything anywhere, and why a Batman novella can never be properly be regarded as Epic Fantasy. There are also hints and tips for anyone thinking about going to a convention.

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Episode 34 - Story theory: a powerful addition to your writer's toolbelt


Sat, Apr 18, 2015


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Studying story theory might sound like a bit of an academic exercise, but don't be put off! In this episode we explore how story theory can help you understand what stories are, how they work, how they are structured, and how the theory can be applied to make your work excellent.

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Episode 33 - Self-publishing for everyone. Advice for all writers from four authors who published their own work


Fri, Apr 03, 2015


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Four different writers, four different approaches to publishing your own work. In the first half of this episode, I talk to bestselling author and professional speaker JOANNA PENN about defining goals, thinking globally, and writing what we love. Then I talk to the local historian Heather Flack, NGO writer-in-residence Glenn Myers, and sixth form student, Holly Phipps – each of whom have used self-publishing for their own, very different projects.

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Episode 32 - Interview with Alastair Reynolds


Sat, Mar 21, 2015


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This is a bonus episode, featuring an interview with the British Science Fiction writer Alastair Reynolds. In this interview we discuss Al's advice to aspiring SciFi writers, the state of Science Fiction literature, and why the future doesn't have to end up in the hands of flesh eating zombies.

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Episode 31 - From Aristotle to Stephen King. Story theory tips for your writer's toolbelt


Sat, Mar 21, 2015


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In this episode we condense about 2,300 years of story theory into ten minutes(!) and then look at four practical lessons we can apply to our writing, including how to make a great first impression with an opening line, why it's so important that we get our work into the best possible state, and how to tell whether a clever plot element really is as clever as we think it is.

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Episode 30 - Hit the ground running: how to write a great opening line


Sat, Mar 07, 2015


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How do you start a story? With a compelling opening line, of course. In this episode we will look at how you can write a great opening line, what the most important objective for an opening lines is, and how the dimensions of story can help you. We'll have a look at some great opening lines from literature, and a couple of bad ones that I've made created just for the episode!

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Episode 29 - Interview with Jeanne Cavelos


Thu, Feb 19, 2015


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This episode is a "must listen" for all writers of horror, fantasy, and science fiction. My guest is Jeanne Cavelos the primary instructor and Director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust. In her role Jeanne directs the Odyssey Writing Workshop; a six week intensive course - the only workshop of its kind run by an editor. In this interview Jeanne gives us tips on planning versus pantsing, world building and character development and tells me about the single biggest problem she sees in the manuscripts that she reviews.

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Episode 28 - Harness the power of foreshadowing


Sat, Feb 07, 2015


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What is foreshadowing? How does it work, and how can you use it to enhance and enrich your writing? In this episode we will look at the different types of foreshadowing, how they can empower your writing, and how to use them to best effect

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Episode 27 - What is the guiding principle behind your story?


Sat, Jan 24, 2015


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What's the most important thing in creating a plot and story development? It's knowing your guiding principle, or 'Controlling Idea' as the master of story telling,Robert McKee, calls it. In this episode we identify what that guiding principle is, and why it's critical to your story.

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Episode 26 - How to deal with a mid-story crisis (plot part 4)


Sat, Jan 10, 2015


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You know that feeling, you are about 20k to 30k words in to the story, and you suddenly begin to wonder where it's all going. Is this story really any good? Is it even worth you finishing it? These are all classic symptoms of the mid-story crisis, and in this episode we explore what that crisis is, and how you can resolve it.

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Episode 25 - Interview with Marie Bilodeau


Sat, Dec 27, 2014


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This is a guest episide with Ottawa-based storyteller and science-fiction/fantasy writer, Marie Bilodeau. Marie's writings have been nominated four times for Canada's biggest SF award, the Aurora Awards. Her new dark fantasy series, Nigh, is about to be released. She's told stories across Canada in theatre houses, tea shops, bars and under disco balls. Find out more about Marie, her writings and upcoming shows at www.mariebilodeau.com.

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Episode 24 - Planners and Pantsers (Plot pt 3)


Sat, Dec 13, 2014


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One of the more contentious debates in creative writing is the question of whether authors should plan and outline, or simply go with the flow and dive straight in to their writing. In this episode we look at both sides of the argument and try to pick the best from both.

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Episode 23 - First things first (plot pt 2)


Sat, Nov 29, 2014


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Continuing our review of the essentials of plot, in this episode we look at the things you need to deal with early in the story, namely setting out the main storyline and setting the core expectations and boundaries for your reader.

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Episode 22 - Interview with Claire Keane


Sat, Nov 15, 2014


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This episode is an interview with artist and children’s writer and illustrator, Claire Keane. Until 2013 Claire was based at Disney studios where she worked as a visual development artist. She contributed to two animated feature films, "Frozen" which was released last year, and "Tangled", which she worked on with her father, the animator Glen Keane. I invited Claire on to the show because of her interest in character development and story and sincerity and integrity in art. We had a great conversation, I hope you enjoy it.

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Episode 21 The Fundamentals of Plot - Part 1


Sat, Nov 01, 2014


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We've started on the process of building a story from the ground up, and we're going to kick off with plot. In this episode we look at three aspects of plot: the shape of the story, the engine of the plot, and the danger of cliches

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Episode 20 - Building a story from the ground up


Sat, Oct 18, 2014


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It's time to start planning that story, but with so many aspects to creative writing and the creative process being such a subjective and mysterious thing, how do you plan? In this episode we explore the dimensions to a story and how to balance the discipline of structure with the flexibility to harness imagination

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Episode 19 - Writing for others-writing for yourself


Sat, Oct 04, 2014


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Back to first principles. We're asking a couple of fundamental questions in this episode as the foundation for going on to look at a whole range of aspects to creative writing over the weeks and months to come. These will include: plot, character, theme, genre,setting, style, and viewpoint.

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Episode 18 - The HARVARD Model for developing characters


Sat, Sep 20, 2014


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The HARVARD model is a systematic process for developing the personae of your characters. It's different from other character generators in two ways: first, it encourages you, the writer, to show how the character's personality manifests itself, and how they interact with others; and second it acknowledges the way in which character and plot should work together to produce your story.

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Episode 17 -Interview with Derek Kunsken


Fri, Sep 05, 2014


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In one of our occasional interviews on the Writer's Toolbelt, I talk to award winning SciFi and fantasy author Derek Kunsken about showing and telling, outlining, characterisation, and being found out by your writers group.

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Episode 16 - Three tests that will tell you how successful your characters really are


Sat, Aug 23, 2014


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So how good are your characters? Can you tell? Here are three tests that you can use to work out how effective your characters are. You can also use these tests to help you develop your characters further.

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Episode 15 - Characters with Edge


Sat, Aug 09, 2014


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Great books can have ordinary characters plunged into extraordinary situations - but they can also have extraordinary characters who create their own extraordinary situations! Who are these characters? What are they like, and how can we, as writers create them? These characters have what Harry Bingham in his book "How to Write" calls - characters with edge.

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Episode 14 - Deeds not words


Sun, Jul 27, 2014


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It's what your character does, rather than what you say about them, that defines them for the reader. In this episode Andrew talks about how action defines character and gives examples for both heros and villains

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Episode 13 - Character Motivation


Sat, Jul 12, 2014


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Continuing our series on characterisation, in this episode we look at character motivation and why the motivation for the characters in our writing must be: evident to the reader, reasonable and understandable, and must drive the plot.

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Episode 12 - What three qualities do you need to be a good writer?


Thu, Jun 26, 2014


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What are the personal qualities you need, not only keep you writing but to help you improve in your craft? Andrew shares his views on why perseverance, humility, and imagination are the fundamental character traits you need to develop as a writer.

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Episode 11 - Creating the individual character (part 1)


Fri, Jun 13, 2014


In the last episode we looked at character integrity and how this is founded on 1.Believability/plausibility and 2. The character as an individual. In this episode I'm going to start to look at how a character can become an individual, focusing on descriptive markers and character weaknesses.

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Episode 10 - Getting to know you! Believability and consistency as the keys to developing character integrity


Sun, Jun 01, 2014


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This episode introduces the core requirements for good character development: character integrity and individuality. We will look at individuality next time, but in this episode we look at how making a character believable, and keeping them consistent are the keys to successful characterisation.

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Episode 9 - Get Active! Using the right verbs and the right voice to energise your story


Sat, May 03, 2014


In this episode I cover two issues, using precise and powerful verbs, and also using the active rather than passive voice to energise and drive your story

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Episode 8 - 'Just in time' storytelling


Sat, Apr 19, 2014


Grabbing the reader's attention immediately is a vital part of storytelling. Often writers will start a story too early, or fill the first critical paragraphs with backstory and infodump. In this podcast we explore techniques to make sure your writing grabs the reader right from the first sentence.

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Episode 7 - What the rejection letter doesn't tell you


Sat, Apr 05, 2014


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In this podcast I explore some of the mistakes that editors look out for. Here are ten things to think about before you submit your work - get them right and make your manuscript shine!

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Episode 6 - The serious business of writing something funny


Sat, Mar 22, 2014


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This is the last of the five techniques for showing not telling - and arguably it's the hardest one to do. Humour is a serious business and requires precision and integrity in its execution. Precision in terms of timing and editing, and integrity in terms of keeping the characters and scene believable.

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Episode 5 - The power of suggestion


Sat, Mar 08, 2014


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In this episode we look at another dimension of showing not telling, and that's the potential for hinting, suggesting or implying something rather than telling the reader outright. One of the most powerful tools we have as creative writers is derived from the fact that a hint or suggestion, well understood, will always have more power than something said explicitly.

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Episode 4 - The zest of the orange the icy tingle of the stream in winter


Sat, Feb 22, 2014


In this episode I will explain how you can use sensory language to show rather than tell your story

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Episode 3 - Sparse and Specific Description


Sun, Feb 16, 2014


How to use a small number of very specific descriptive cues to show your reader both scene and character

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Episode 2 - Dialogue


Fri, Feb 07, 2014


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Practical, accessible advice on using dialogue in your creative writing to develop character, build tension and progress the plot of your story.

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Episode 1 - Showing not telling


Fri, Jan 24, 2014


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The Creative Writer's Toolbelt provides practical, accessible advice for Creative Writers

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More Details

  • Published: May 2016
  • LearnOutLoud.com Product ID: T083642