Blog Entries




Stuck? Bogged down? No fresh ideas? Me too, well I was until last week when the book I was reading threw up several ideas in the course of a single chapter.

            I had been struggling for a plot for two different competitions I wanted to enter and having abandoned the blank computer screen in frustration I took up my book.  By chance the phrase “black angels” jumped out at me as an idea for a ghost story and then a phrase about time being in a time loop gave me the idea for a second story. The book was ditched and I hastily scratched some notes and a story plan, to be written up properly during the week.

            So where can you get ideas if nothing comes to mind. Some of the following have provided inspiration for me in the past:

  1. Listen to conversations. Easier said than done if you live in a country where people don’t speak English, but there is always the radio or the TV or films, or watch what they are doing, their body language.
  2. Look at news stories on television or skim headlines in the paper or on the Internet.
  3. Recycle an idea – yours or someone else. They say there are only so many plots in the world, so change enough to make yours a little different.
  4. Use a difficult situation you’ve been in recently. An embarrassing moment when you don’t have money for something, or a comment you’ve made that maybe you shouldn’t have done.
  5. Use a theme – this is something I often do. Take an idea like revenge or anger and work an idea up around it.
  6. What if … you saw a ghost, your bank crashed, or your son failed his A levels (you can tell where I’ve been this summer…)
  7. Try using an object or several objects and writing a story with, say a hammer, a doll and an old building in it.
  8. Read – let your mind wander, and you might find something in the text.


For myself I’m back to my book for the evening.  I need some inspiration for a competition next week…

Short Story Writing Tips Tags: short story writing writers abroad anthology national short story week


Yes You Can Do It…

As many of us are racking our brains and shaking up our creative juices to submit a short story for the anthology, I thought it might be useful to bear a few tips in mind…

Many of the articles I’ve read about creating a short story are written in the negative, i. e. ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’. As I want to create a more positive environment, I’m going to blog about what you can do.

Tip No 1 – Characters

Characters are essential for the development of a good short story and depending on the word count; you can have between two to four. Make sure you get inside their heads, as they will drive the story forward and tell your tale. Spending a bit of time getting to know them is time well spent, so ask them about their favourite things – music, food, books and the things they don’t like too much. You won’t need all of this information in the story but it will help to mould and shape them.

Tip No 2 – Setting

Obviously, for our anthology, the setting plays a significant part. You may well know your setting very well, so you can show us what you see, but also what you can smell, hear and touch. Again, writing a brief outline of the setting before you write the actually story can help to get the right atmosphere which talks to your reader, creates a ‘postcard’ picture for them to visualise.

Tip No 3 – Timeline

Short stories need a short time span, so you can make it minutes, hours or a day. You may not know before you start, but bear in mind that you story can be just one event, an event that illustrates the theme for your story.

Tip No 4 – Focus

One thing I sometimes struggle with is focusing my short story. I tend to go off at all sorts of angles, which becomes confusing. Therefore, you can have a very narrow focus (unlike a novel) which could be linked to your timeline.

Tip No 5 – Let Yourself Go

My final tip is a personal one, just let it all hang out - well you know what I mean. Don’t get too serious about it, we all have experiences of being an ex pat with a wealth of tales to tell, some of them very similar. I know that all of us can produce creative words, which are thorough, thoughtful, and a joy to read. Therefore, you can relax and enjoy the experience.

Now, I am off to follow my five tips and fingers crossed will have something to offer shortly. I ­­can do it – can’t I?

Paola's Blog - Mapping It Out Tags: writers abroad fiction writing books software mapping


Mapping it Out

Structuring a piece of writing is not usually a problem for me: I observe something, and say ‘There’s a story there’. The final sentence often comes first, then the beginning and middle fall into place. I write quickly, occasionally with the help of a few scribbled notes, then I tweak. I may have trouble finding the right words or gauging the tone, but the map is clear in my head.

But sometimes it doesn’t come quite so smoothly.  A topic can be complex, with myriad ramifications.  It can require a lot of research, and I end up with dozens of pieces of paper, often with overlapping themes.  Ideas burst out all over the place – and like a giant jigsaw puzzle with tiny pieces, it seems to be impossible to get any order into anything.  What should I include?  What should I leave out?  Where should I start?

That’s where mindmapping can help.  Tony Buzan’s ‘The Mindmap Book’ is filled with beautiful ‘natural architecture’ photos of shells, spiders’ webs, coral, and other wonders of nature, alongside mindmaps of varying complexity. It shows how mindmapping, or ‘radiant thinking’ is a natural, easy way to structure your thoughts.  Mindmaps can be used to structure anything from presentations and meetings to lectures, stories or reports.

For a non-fiction article, here is how I would go about it:

1. Brainstorm – go through all your research articles and highlight whatever you think is important, then just put all your ideas on paper in no particular order.

2. Group the ideas into about four categories: colour-coding is helpful here.  If some ideas don’t fit into any category, leave them out; if more come to you, include them.

3. Draw your mindmap – as basic or as complex as you like: a central theme in the middle, with about four main branches – or categories - radiating from it.  Just use key words, not full sentences.

4.  Add sub-branches – these are the details, the concrete examples, of what you want to say.

After this the writing is easy. A logical sequence becomes clear.  Just put the mindmap beside your laptop or notebook, and start writing, branch by branch. 

Mindmaps eliminate the stress caused by disorganization and writer’s block.  They enhance creativity and originality.  They reduce preparation time.  They result in a more focused and organized piece of writing.  And they’re fun to work with.  Go on, try it.

A couple of mindmaps from Buzan’s book accompany this article.

You can have a look at Buzan’s book here:

And you can try out some mindmapping software for free here:



Post Note by Jo: If you want larger images please let me know and I'll send you Paola's attachments...


Who's Online
Site News
Monday, February 12, 2018
This Week on WA 12th February
Writers Abroad

Promote your Page too
Our Book Shelf

Writers Abroad's Bookshelf

The House at Zaronza
tagged: writers, abroad, vanessa, couchman, historical, and fiction
Love is All You Need: Ten tales of love from The Sophie King Prize
tagged: writers, abroad, sophie, king, prize, alyson, and hillbourne
Out of Control
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, croft, members, and publications
The Duke's Shadow
tagged: the, duke-s, shadow, louise, charles, debut, and novel
Foreign & Far Away
tagged: writers, abroad, amanda, hodkinson, books, charity, anthology, 2013...
Losing Control
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
tagged: nina, croft, writes, and abroad
Conversations with S. Teri O'Type
tagged: writers, abroad, christopher, and allen
Break Out
tagged: writers, abroad, ninca, and croft
Deadly Pursuit
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
The Calling
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
Big Book of New Short Horror
tagged: featuring, wa, member, alyson, and hillbourne
Tiger of Talmare
tagged: writers, abroad, nina, and croft
Networked Blogs