Category Archives: Fiction and story writing

New competitions for writers, the Newcomer Prize from the Fiction Desk

Winner - S R Mastrantone
Winner – S R Mastrantone
What’s in a name?
This prize is organised by The Fiction Desk website. They have had some successes with winners getting book deals, such as The Killer You Know by S R Mastrantone which is due from Sphere in 2018. Very exciting.

This year’s competition deadline is midnight (UK GMT) on 31 May 2017. The first prize is £500, second prize £250.

More details on the Newcomer Prize are here >

The Fiction Desk’s 2017 Ghost Story Competition (which we mentioned in a previous blog) shortlist and winners will be announced on their website Thursday 30th March 2017.

Interview with novelist Ivy Ngeow ‘Heart of Glass’ author

Ivy Ngeow is a writer with many successes behind her, including winning international prizes and having her work read out on the BBC World Service.

Extract: Do you believe in writer’s block?
Yes sure. The block is not a hard block. It is a semi-hard sponge. You squeeze it very hard regularly and daily and with luck, each word will come out like a drop of blood.

Ivy’s first novel is now being (almost) published by Penguin/Random House, via their new Unbound crowdfunding pre-selling platform. It is now 61% funded, with ‘pledges’ from £10 (ebook, your name in all editions) to £125 (personal visit to your writing group, name in editions, and 5 hardback copies). This is a way of reducing the publisher’s risk, as a high target figure is required – £4000 in Ivy’s case. Money is traditionally never mentioned by writers – because they earn so little! Unless you are J K Rowling of course. If you want to investigate, have a look at her videos and the site in general, visit
Unbound writers site – Ivy Ngeow – Heart of Glass >

Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass Unbound
Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass Unbound
Interview with Ivy Ngeow 3rd February 2017 by Brian Jones of Top Writing Courses

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Doing a Masters of Arts (MA) in Writing. It cost 3200 pounds but I won the prize of 1000 pounds. Had I not done the MA I would not have taken my writing to a professional level and needless to say would not have won the Middlesex University Literary Prize.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I try to give readers what they want. My aim is to be a popular writer. I want to write to make myself happy and to make others happy. This does not mean I am not being original. Everything I do has originality because I have created it and did not base it on anything. I am already an architect and designer and everything I create is already original. Similarly, I see writing as in the service industry.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?
Sure. You don’t have to have cancer to write about cancer. You don’t have be old to write about being old. Writing is very much a conjuring skill, a performance art. You just have to be skillful enough to perform believable magic tricks on your audience, and not only will they believe it, they will continue to suspend disbelief and they will enjoy your show.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I try to research after beginning a book, not before. It can be distracting and time-wasting. Before beginning a book, it is still at the sketchy ideas stage and ideas for fiction do not require research until the point where it needs to be written.

Brian: I agree. Research can be a big distraction, a way of putting off writing. Even for genre writing, say a Submarine Thriller, you can add the details later – everyone knows the basics of any scenario, enough to write the story out. Get on with the writing now! You can add the engineering detail later – if the story works.

What did you read when you were a kid?
I loved adventure stories. I loved reading Nancy Drew mysteries, Enid Blyton’s Secret Seven and Famous Five, some classics like Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Catherine Lim’s Or Else the Lightning God and Other Stories.

When did you start writing?
I started writing when I was 8 years old. At first it was to entertain my younger brothers who were only toddlers then and could not read. Then later, I was writing for myself because I could not help it and I enjoyed not writing for them (the toddlers).

What is the first book that made you laugh, and cry?
Nothing made me laugh. The first book that made me cry was Enid Blyton’s Mallory Towers (I forget which one). It’s not a sad book so I don’t remember why I cried except because of a kind of girlish hysteria where I was delirious and could not stop crying for many hours.

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I am on several forums on FaceBook such as the Unbound Social Club, where authors like me are funding or have funded their books. I am finding it useful to know and make friends with other writers as they go through exactly the same struggles. I have learnt from their tips and advice and hopefully I have given them tips and advice too along the way.
I was in a great Writers’ Club at the City Lit when I first came to London. This included several successful writers such as Penny Faith of Made Up Theatre and Keith Charters of Strident Publishing. We were all beginners then and twenty years later, we are still in touch.

What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?

Brian: Yes, writing is a pleasure and an escape. What happens when it becomes a full-time job? That is the conundrum!

Does writing energize or exhaust you?
It energizes me. I am already a creative person, when I have completed a design or drawing or illustration, I get the same thrill or buzz. I have a high standard and instinctively know when something is really, really completed to the highest possible quality.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
I find keeping up a creative routine or discipline hard.

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have already started on another novel during NanoWrimo 2016 and I am 24,000 words in. This is a standalone novel. However I am interested in planning a prequel and sequel to Heart of Glass.

Brian: Publishers seem to go for trilogies. If you haven’t planned that, even if everyone dies at the end, you can go ghost/zombie/time travel. Or, as in Dallas, use the power of dreams.

Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass novel on Unbound
Ivy Ngeow Heart of Glass novel on Unbound
Brian: Don’t forget to check out Ivy’s videos and the Unbound publshing site now >

SF Fantasy courses online free

Iain M Banks Hydrogen Sonata
Iain M Banks Hydrogen Sonata – part of the Culture series

We are adding more free online SF and Fantasy how to write content over the next few months. To sign up for alerts, just go to our home page. This will include:

  • SF world building – world meaning context, and usually actual worlds
  • Fantasy world building
  • How to avoid – or disguise – Infodumps
  • FTL – faster than light travel – allowed or not?
  • Portals – journey to another world/dimension – from that wardrobe to the Cat in the Hat – they are everywhere
  • Differences between SF and Fantasy


Writing a series
Making a pilot for a TV or film series
Research – technology and concepts
Research the market – don’t rewrite someone else’s idea
SF Fantasy Characters
SF Fantasy Plotting
SF Fantasy Conflict

Geoff Davis - Nnn Goes Mobile - Cyber VR novel from 1994
Geoff Davis – Nnn Goes Mobile – Cyber VR novel from 1994

And last but certainly not least:

Finding new ideas

Some are specific to SF and Fantasy, as things are somewhat different – or are they?

Flash fiction course coming soon

Start of flash fiction?
Start of flash fiction?
I always used to write very short stories – or even poems – and have just discovered flash fiction – stories that are about a page long, sometimes shorter, a paragraph. Of course they have been around for a long time, I just hadn’t noticed them as a separate category until a friend advised me to enter a competition.

The course will be along soon, probably as an ebook as these seem to be more popular than paging around the website.

There is a blog about how I got into flash fiction on the Notes Story Board site, please have a look at that now >

Free online writing courses fiction scripts poetry copy

This site is now open to all.

Get our free How To Write Genres ebook here >

We also make Notes Story Board creativity app for Windows and Apple Mac – visit now >

We have Kindle ebooks of the courses which can be more convenient. Check them out on the how to write fiction and scripts, poetry and copy ebooks page >

A new bundle of our top creativity app and all ebooks will be available soon.