Tuesday, 22 October 2013

19. Workshop 101

Whew! One story finished with several to go. I’m pleased with my novella but we’ll see how things go when I check it in a few weeks’ time. I’m sure the mistakes will be glaringly obvious by then.

My hometown hosted a workshop presented by Mrs Bette Shiels last month. For those who don’t know her, Mrs Shiels is an accomplished author. She’s well-travelled, a patient teacher, is generous with her tips and tricks for budding writers and is an amazing storyteller who I could have listened to for hours. Unfortunately, we didn’t have that long.

Mrs Shiels is also the founding member of the Bundaberg Writers Group, which is in turn a well-renowned host city for its annual writers workshop held in the third week of May. You always learn something new at a workshop no matter how many you attend. There is so much information and so many authors, publishers etc. more than willing to share that knowledge and experience. They’re well worth investing your time while working toward your writing goals.

One of the workshop exercises we had was to create a character, which we then read out to our fellow attendees. The next step was to create a story involving these characters in thirty minutes. All we had to work with were their ages, gender, some basic characteristics and a few sentences regarding their backgrounds and we were off and writing. It was such fun. The amazing thing was how well those random characters came together. Not one of us expected that. Once the workshop finished, Mrs Shiels invited us to polish our short stories and send them to her for a critique.

What an opportunity. :)

My personal bugbear ‘too much telling’ was evident, but from the story I sent, Mrs Shiels has challenged me to turn it into a novella. November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWrMo). This is an event for writers to set themselves a goal of writing 50,000 words in 30 days in view of creating (and perhaps finishing) a new story. One can commit to any number of words but 50 K is the standard. Since a novella is between 20,000 – 40,000 words, I believe I have my writing challenge for November ready and eager to go. :)

At Mrs Shiels workshop, she talked about her published works. One of her stories – Home of Tortured Souls – was a book I was very interested in reading. The paranormal and supernatural worlds fascinate me so of course I had to buy it. There’s something special about having the author speak about her book, share her motivation, her compulsion to write it and how it made her feel. I had chills listening to her describe the events that lead to this story just as I had chills reading it.

The most fascinating part of the story (to me) was the fact that Mrs Shiels visited this very building and had a sense of a story that had to be written. She wrote most of it whilst waiting for her daughter to find more information about the abandoned Colonial Orphanage, which is the cornerstone of her story. By the time the information came through, she learned most of the history behind the story she’d created actually happened. Coincidence? Maybe. Or maybe those tortured souls reached out to Mrs Shiels in order to have their story told.

Home of Tortured Souls is the story of a family that ventured into an abandoned house and witnessed something they couldn’t forget. Lee Bray, a loving grandmother resolved to discover more about the abandoned building upon discovering her three-year-old grandson conversing with a spirit child trapped in the Home, a ghost begging for release. Soon after, Luke, the grandson, begins speaking in an Irish brogue and talks of ‘nelope (Penelope) the child that only he could see. Although Lee can’t see Penelope, she soon has visions of other ghosts that lead her to solving a puzzle to help set the tortured souls free. How she does this will leave you amazed. The line between fact and fiction is seamless. This story will give you chills and definitely wonder ‘what if’.

Learn more about Mrs Shiels and her books at http://bettesbooks.com/


  1. I've never NANO'd. Always looked so daunting. But a novella sounds perfect!

    Go, D! *cheersquad*

    1. You probably write that much in a month and then some, Jenny. :)

      Thank you. I will take all the cheering I can get. :)