Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learn how to use Facebook or Twitter as a writer

Workshops: Saturday 10 November 2012

  • Do you want to use Facebook or Twitter but don't know how or who to ask? 
  • Have you uploaded your manuscript to Amazon, Smashwords, etc and wonder why your book is not selling? 
  • Are you tired of publishers that say no but not sure how to indie (self) publish?

Here's your chance to discover the answers, guided by The Story Bridge team of James George and Jocelyn Watkin.   

There are two workshops - come to just one or both. 
Date: Saturday 10 November 
Venue: Selwyn College, 203-245 Kohimarama Road, Auckland.  Free parking on site. 

Workshop 1: How to indie publish your books (both print and e-books) 
9.30am – 12:30pm
Learn the ‘nuts & bolts’ of the indie publishing process from word document to finished book. 
$117, or bring a buddy and pay only $97 each 
RSVP form
Workshop 2: How to use Facebook, Twitter and blogs (social media) as a writer and sell more books
1.30pm – 4.30pm
Whether you indie (self) publish or are published by a traditional publisher, you will need to market yourself and your books using social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter and blogging).  This class will be held in a computer suite so you don't need to bring a laptop.
$117, or bring a buddy and pay only $97 each. RSVP form 

Come to both workshops: Pay only $97 per workshop and bring your lunch (tea and coffee will be provided). 
RSVP form 

Email or phone 027 493 9851 if you need more information. 

Bookings close on Tuesday 6 November.   
Click here to download the RSVP / Registration form

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ian Rankin appearing in Auckland

Noted detective thriller writer Ian Rankin is appearing in Auckland in discussion with Crime Watch blogsite founder Craig Sisterson.

Spencer on Byron Hotel, Takapuna, Auckland
12th November.

 I'll definitely be going. Be keen to hear Rankin's rationale for constructing his crime/mystery/thriller novels.

Rankin's hard bitten detective novel continue a long line of excellent detective thrillers set  in Scotland. 

Here is a link to more information on Craig Sisterson's Crime Watch blog.

See you there.

Book Blogs...

I did an interview this week with Karen Tay, for her book blog page  Reading  is Bliss, on the website. She asked me about the growing phenomenon of book blogs and if (and how) they are changing readers' perceptions of book reviews and literary criticism. It's an interesting subject and perhaps hints at conflicts around who (if anyone) should hold sway in giving opinion on published works, and how a reader judges value.



I had coffee with an old colleague a few weeks ago, in which he (intelligent, street-smart, well-read, politically lefty, opinionated journo) said he liked my blog. His assessment of it was that it was aimed at bored housewives with Master's degrees in lit, looking for an outlet for their repressed creativity.
I would argue that the comments section alone - and yes, I do read every single comment, I figure it's the least I can do for my readers - suggests otherwise. There are men, women, housewives, librarians, students, engineers, writers and architects who read my blog. In other words, a typical cross-section of society.

Read the rest of Karen's article here

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Not taken in

I went to see the movie, Taken 2, on the weekend and was struck by how ho-hum it all was. The first of these films, Taken, was one of those thrillers whose best moments had a kinetic energy that seemed to run up through the theatre floor and into your seat. But it was a one idea film which didn't need to become a franchise.

When you take away all the noise and explosions and flick-knife cutting between scenes, the real film is actually pretty static. Even the main actors and actresses seemed bored, and almost annoyed at having to do this. 

Even the action sequences in the sequel have a been there/done that feel to them. I don't think much new has been done with car chase sequences since The French Connection in 1971. 

It's difficult to get away from storytelling fundamentals, no matter what the genre.

  • effective, individualized characterisation
  • a meaningful context, beyond the stereotypical
  • a plot that has surprises (when you first see them) that make story sense in the wider context
  • believability
  • an attempt at an emotional core which has poignancy, not syrup

The villains in this film (Islamic, as has been the fashion since 9/11) are all stereotyped, and come and go so quickly that we never get a sense of them as being individualized. They have no inner lives that are hinted at on screen, they are just ciphers, balls of typecast anger.

Even the hero's family are merely functional. Liam Neeson's (Bryan in the film) wife, Lenore, is underwritten, a shame and a nagging and worrying recurring facet of many action films. She just seems to be there to suffer, to act as revenge motivation. The daughter, Kim, is given more space and scope, but segues between classic American young beauty and grenade carrying proto-marine.

As for context, there was a classic revenge narrative, which is true enough, but still done to death. The first few minutes show the villains at a funeral, which both connects to the background of the first film and sets up their motivations in this one. But it's too easy.

One of the reasons why the Bourne trilogy of thrillers was so effective was that amid all the action it contained mystery. Who was Jason Bourne, really? Who had wiped his memory? Who was behind the attempts in the present to shut him down and kill him? So the film worked on an intellectual level, not just a physical one. And Matt Damon's acting, mixing vulnerability and confusion with his super action powers, gave the films layers of nuance. They had an emotional and a psychological core.

Taken 2, has no real emotional core, beyond the classic, you kidnapped my family plot. It has no psychological dimension at all. The heroes are all good, the villains are all bad. There is no ambiguity, no self-questioning of motives or allotted roles, no subtextual conflicts bubbling away. Everything is derived and played out on the surface. So because the audience isn't asked to think or feel, the quick change editing goes into overdrive to compensate.

It even fails in believability. The villains don't do a thorough search to find the hero's hidden phone, they leave him alone with his wife, giving him time to escape and save her.  

I also find it a very questionable thread in American movies where ex CIA agents are presented as heroes, or at the very least - ordinary guys. It's a serious liberty with  the truth to get away with either of those lines.

It's tempting to think that the film's only real purposes are to sell popcorn and get us angrier at anyone who prays to Allah.The great thrillers, Bourne, Bullit, The French Connection 1 and 2, Terminator 2 (Judgement Day) work on more than one level, and at their best get us to question our own perspectives of good and evil, question our own motivations and justifications.
Action thrillers have their place, and at their best, they can invigorate and render the audience uncomfortable, as well as thrilled. At their worst they're just smoke and noise.


Friday, October 5, 2012

The Story Bridge Writers' Coffee Club

Many writers want someone to talk to when they have a problem that needs sorting or advice on just one question. They may not be ready for a full manuscript assessment but they just need something now to keep them on track with their book or writing project.

If this sounds like you then The Story Bridge Writers' Coffee Club is for YOU.

In the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, you can move your book and publishing project along to the next step. Imagine if you could meet and talk with either of The Story Bridge team (James George or Jocelyn Watkin) over a coffee to access to their knowledge or back up this knowledge through a mixture of articles, blogs, tips and ideas. Find out more here.

The next The Story Bridge Writers' Coffee Club intake will be in November 2012. This will be ideal for anyone wanting to work on a special writing/publishing project over the New Year and January period.  Numbers are limited. Send us an email (to and tell us why you want to be part of our Writers' Coffee Club. Applications close 31 October 2012.  We'll be in touch after that.

Want to know more?  Click here to discover how The Story Bridge Writers' Coffee Club can help you.

Want free writing tips from The Story Bridge team? Our free e-newsletter is distributed twice per month with ideas and inspiration for writers at all levels. Send an email to with "newsletter please" in the subject line.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Book launch on Saturday 13 October, 10.30am

Linda Dawley will be launching her fabulous book for children The Tooth Fairy's Mistake

Where: Pukekohe Library, The Centre, 12 Massey Ave, Pukekohe

When: Saturday 13 October, 10.30am to 12 noon 

Books will be available for the special launch price of $20.  (Please bring cash or a cheque if you wish to buy one)

Children, parents, supporters all welcome.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


There is a form of modern short story where the selected narrative encompasses a single moment in time, suspended equally between an unknown (but inferred) past and an unknown (but inferred) future. It is a form of the 'slice of life' story, where the scene is acted out in real time, without the aid of much in the way of diegesis (narrative explanatory storytelling.) These kinds of stories have developed partly because of our knowledge of the way cinema works, where we are used to seeing scenes play out without a narrator telling us what they think, feel, perceive. It allows the viewer/reader to make meaning for themselves, from the clues and actions supplied.

Sometimes the story will work on the reader's pre-existing knowledge of patterns of behaviour, of character types or of stored memory of things we are uneasy about (nightmare images, signifiers of recurring character archetypes.)

The visual joke/story below is another example of this process.

The story itself captures a single moment, but it is full of subtext and potential conflict based on our pre-existing knowledge and fears. Darth Vader has become such a well known character over the last 35 years that he has joined traditional figures like: the big bad wolf, monsters under the bed, ghosts, spiders etc, as immediate sources of conflict and fear. 
That's what gives this story potency, the fact that we know he is the absolute last person you'd want to have slip and land on his backside.

Some other great ingredients here are the wet floor sign and especially the boom box. The boom box works two ways, as a device to block the sound of Darth Vader's approaching footsteps and also to humanize the trooper mopping the floor. An extra ingredient in the subtext is that the floor mopping trooper is an everyman, the classic underdog, therefore (in this specific context) the figure the audience will empathize with. That's what gives the joke real bite. The underdog figure feels like he could be us.

You can find good story anywhere, if you know what to look for and how to develop it. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Tribute to Margaret Mahy

Margaret Mahy (Photo by: David Hallet)
NZ Society of Authors meeting:
A Tribute To Margaret Mahy
Guest speaker: 
Tessa Duder 
Friday 3rd August 2012, 6pm 

Cost: $5, plus $5 for a glass of wine

Tessa, a close friend of Margaret's wrote the first major portrait of New Zealand’s beloved children’s author titled; Margaret Mahy: a writers life. The book features extensive quotes from Mahy’s speeches, reviews, commentary on children’s literature, as well as previously unpublished poems and representative extracts from her works. 

Tessa has written eleven novels, eight books of non-fiction, one full length play, eight anthologies and collaborated on seven others. She has received many awards including the American Libraries Association notable book for Jellybean, NZ Children’s Book of the Year for Alex, the Margaret Mahy Medal for a distinguished contribution to Children’s literature and the NZ Post Senior Fiction Award for The Tiggie Tompson Show, to name a few. This is a special night to remember a special New Zealand literary figure.

The meeting room for the AUT Master of Creative Writing Course on level 4, Duthie Whyte Building, 120 Mayoral Drive, which is on the corner of Mayoral Drive and Wakefield St in
Auckland Central. Time 6pm. This is also the home of the NZSA’s office. 

There is street parking handy to the venue as well as parking buildings, including the Aotea Square car park. The venue is also nicely central for those using public transport.

New members or would-be members are particularly welcome. Come and have a wine and meet fellow writers. Please note: the outside door is locked at 6.30pm.  If anyone is trapped outside, please phone or text Tom Lodge on 02102868593 and someone will come down to let you in.

Friday 3rd August 2012, 6pm: Don't forget your $5 for the meeting and $5 for a glass of wine.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to promote yourself as a writer and indie publisher

Jocelyn Watkin recently spoke to the NZ Society of Authors, Auckland branch, about indie publishing and promotional opportunities for writers.

She began her speech with: "This is an exciting time to be a writer. For the first time in history technology has become available and at the right price for any writer to choose new paths to creativity and to publishing." 

She talked about the top 7 myths about the Internet and websites that writers need to be aware of and revealed the 2 key questions any writer needs to answer in order to sell a lot more books.  Click here for her presentation notes and to find out what these two questions are.

Buy Jocelyn's books:

Are you frantically juggling bills and wondering how to pay for everything?

In this book you'll discover how to:

  • Stop money pouring out of your life
  • Smash the spending habit so you have more money for what you really want
  • Handle the big money decisions with ease
  • Buy property with confidence and without going broke
  • Get a better life with the 7-week money challenge
  • Decide what is important to you.
 Click here to buy Faith Speaks Money Talks now for $20

If you want more out of life, or are frustrated by money, or just want to pay for your next holiday without financial stress, then this book is for you.

Keeping the Faith - Travel the World was awarded a 5-star rating by online book store Good Returns, along with the warning. "This book changes lives!"  

Click here to buy Keeping the Faith - Travel the World now for $25 

Thursday, June 28, 2012


In my post below I talked about feel and tone. These are important concepts in writing, as they are in film-making and in music. You can use tone to empower a scene or sequence with a deeper reasonance. By arranging the tone to fit the context, or by seeding in momentary clashes in tone to have that clash deepen the effect.

In this video of the 1987 classic 'Glad I'm not a Kennedy' by Shona Laing, (directed by Bruce Sheridan) there is a great use of tones throughout, both in tones to match context and to clash with it.

The visual tone for most of the clip is austere: the singer is garbed in dark colours, the visual tones black and white, sepia, or a very leached colour bordering on monochrome. There are images of hard surfaces, steel staircases, concrete buildings. Even the scenes in natural landscapes have a windswept, windworn feel. This works in well with the archival footage which was shot on black and white film stock.

This works in well with the song's musical tone (melody and lyrics) which is sombre in both style and context (John F Kennedy was shot dead at the age of 46 in 1963.) 

There are however key moments where there is a (likely) deliberate clash of tones. Particularly the scenes in full colour (the only ones in the clip) taken from the Kennedy family's home movies. It is these moments that make this a great clip. The full colour and its attendent sweetness and breath of life deepens the emotional response, because of the clash between tones, and because of the terrible knowledge we have of the character's fate. The very simple moment at 1:24 with JFK crossing the road with John Jr is heartbreaking, because of the knowledge we have that both JFK and John Jr (after this clip was made) died young.

Sometimes in storytelling a sudden, brief injection of a tonal clash can have great effect. A sombre image in the midst of a seemingly joyous scene (a boy standing alone in the background, isolated for a second from the foreground of a group of children playing). Sometimes a joyous image in a sombre background (a butterfly above a barren desert floor) can trigger an internal clash of tone in the reader and deepen the resonance. Poets do this, film makers too. It's another tool you can use in your writing.

Subtleties in characterisation

This painting by New Zealand artist Sofia Minson demonstrates some interesting points about characterisation.

  • what you don't bother to show is as important as what you do show
  • that images and stories take us somewhere in our heads, a place of connection or conflict
  • that you can manipulate the feel of a piece by the tones you use
  • that you don't need to strive for an absolutely clear understanding, sometimes a hint, a series of hints, is enough
What you don't bother to show

Note how the edges of the painting around the character's face blur and fade into nothing. Sometimes background information is valuable, sometimes a singular focus - if only for a moment - gives intensity and resonance. Pick your moments to bring out background detail; and pick your moments to let it fade

Where images and stories take us

This is one of the key facets of storytelling (prose, poetry, dance, art, music etc) and one of the key reasons it exists as a concept and a practice in the first place. It makes us ask questions of the character, of their world, ask what resonance their world has to ours. Is a single character's struggle representative of a universal struggle. Will my character's lives reflect other lives

Feel and tone

Musicians have used this forever. You can take a jaunty tune in a major key and slow the tempo and switch it to a minor key and the same words will have a different kind of resonance. Your emotional reaction will skew the words, take them and you somewhere else. The image above in monochrome would not be remotely the same in full colour, even if all the other components (angle, line, distance, perspective). You can write minor key scenes by adjusting the voice, focusing on greyscale images. You can then let it small dots of colour, like the first new green shoots of spring on trees

No need for completion

When we talk about rounding out characters and characterisation, remember it's not a search for completion. Some things can be left ambiguous, deliberately incomplete. Readers approach texts with their own context and emotional baggage and needs so will always see things a little differently to what you might intend. I can't read exactly what's in the character's eyes in the painting above. Compassion, curiosity, strength, need? Each viewer/reader will see both the text and their own (often unconsciously) implanted meaning. That's one of the beauties of storytelling. Go as far as you can, then step away and leave space for the audience to make meaning.


I was working with a writer earlier recently who spoke about a first person narrative she was writing and how it began to feel like it was trapping her. Her characterisation was developing well but: she was bringing out the character's backstory piece by piece (rather than dumping a block of it in exposition), and she was also getting some sense of the character's conflicts by listening to their dialogue in their relationship scenes with others. (Her lover, her co-workers, her family.) But with all that sound writing practice the character was feeling one-dimensional.

Sometimes a jolt in perspective can help here. As an exercise, switch to a narrative in first person POV from one of the other characters in your protagonist's life. Set up a dialogue scene and give it some attitude and edge. A flashpoint of conflict, a moment of covert conflict. Think of unfinished business (backstory) in your protagonist's life and design a real-time scene to confront them with it, try and bring it out. But focus on the other character's POV. What does your protagonist do with their body (their gestures, their eyes, the tone of their voice.) What do they let slip out in their words? Turn the tables on them. Challenge them, read their responses from the outside. Sometimes our characters in First Person POV enlist the author as part of their natural cloaking mechanism. We need to break beyond that, to achieve a rounded characterisation.

Don't try and achieve this kind of insight with straight telling, it's always a lesser option. Eg. 'And I knew then I'd always resented my mother...' etc. Bring that kind of conflict out in gesture, in dialogue that circles then pincers, in passive aggressive responses. You're not writing an encyclopedia, with an aim to get information across as quickly as possible.  You're looking for insight and revelation, for uncovering.

So when constructing character in First Person, consider an exercise where you switch to someone else's perspective to jolt some new understanding from your protagonist. It's better to do it in another first person POV, rather than third person, as in third person your character might still control your perspective so you don't learn anything new. When you've got some critical insights, feed that back into your main narrative, in first person from your protagonist's POV.

The photograph above looks like a shot of mars, jupiter and venus, maybe from somewhere in the red center of Australia, or Arizona, in a dusty sunset. It isn't. The image is taken from Mars and one of those little starry dots is the earth.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

How to make more sales with your website

Writers are often frustrated in how to make more sales of their books and e-books. It's all about numbers of viewers on your site. If you've made 4 sales this month and you've had only 4 people visit your site, then that's a fantastic (but unlikely) result. You'll never make more sales unless you can get more viewers.

The secret of making more sales is to have a great site with good content. Jocelyn Watkin talks about how to attract people to your website, keep them coming back for more and create your own community of interested buyers.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why all writers can benefit from Indie publishing

James George has been published three times by a traditional publisher.  He has contracts for two more. However, he can see a lot of benefits in Indie publishing.  Discover what he has to say in the video clip below.

Click here to find out more about James' books

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to become a 21st Century internet entrepreneur

Jocelyn working hard as a writer in Germany
Jocelyn Watkin recently gave a presentation on her 2011 travel writer-in-residency experience in Germany and how blogging opened the door to that opportunity. 

Jocelyn's audience was Travcom, the professional organisation for writers, photographers and communications professionals in the travel and tourism industry.  

Her topic was why the 21st Century travel writer needs to become an Internet entrepreneur and how the Internet and blogging offers more opportunities and far less frustration than traditional outlets for travel writers.
Click here for your very own copy of her speech notes. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Free ebook on how to successfully publish ebooks

The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success reveals the best practices of the most commercially successful self-published ebook authors. This ebook by Smashwords founder Mark Coker is a must-read for every writer, author, publisher and literary agent. Learn over 25 best-practices you can implement today at no cost. These secrets will help you become a more professional, more successful writer and publisher.

Get it here, it's free.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Will ebooks make you a millionaire?

You've uploaded your shiny, new ebook onto Amazon or Smashwords, but the cash registers aren't ringing.  Jocelyn Watkin explains why you need to promote your book and your website to get more sales.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Elements of Indie Publishing

Interesting to get anecdotal evidence from many local NZ writers in the last couple of months of how they're thinking (firstly) of Indie Publishing now, with the majority probably thinking of e-publishing format - because of the quick turnaround time getting it up online and instant visibility. There's a feeling out in the writing and reading community that the times really are changing and new opportunities are appearing - and writers need to be smart in using them.

It's easy to get your thinking to leap forward into the moment you put your 'finished' book onto Amazon, or Smashwords or Lulu but remember to think of how all the elements of Indie Publishing should work in symmetry with each other.

Elements such as: 

- getting your work up to the best standard it can be in the first place
- utilizing the skills of other writers to give you feedback and advice (for an example see the clip on Writers Groups below.)
- building up your audience while you're creating
- building a list of contacts with skills in the various elements of publishing and distribution (editors, script assessors, distributors, book producers, marketers)

Jocelyn has written many articles on these issues in the Free Indie Publishing Tips page. 

So the word's getting out. Writers need to work together to increase our knowledge base on the elements of Indie Publishing. The formats we use are just that - formats/platforms - the onus will be on the writer working to connect with the reader, beyond the specific format they use (e-books/print-on-demand p-books.)

The Story Bridge will be putting a lot of focus this year on all these factors relating to establishing and increasing your profile as an Indie Publisher.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Why writers' critique groups are critical for your success

It can be isolating being a writer.  We often need other writers to talk to and to discuss fresh ideas. 

In the video clip below, James George talks about how critique groups are essential for growing your skills as a writer and to receive constructive feedback on your writing. He also includes ideas and tips on how to form your own group, including selecting people for it. 

Please tweet or add a comment if you found this clip helpful

Friday, March 9, 2012

New book by Louise Inglis

Happiness in his Eyes - a new book by Manukau writer, Louise Inglis 

This is Louise’s story of the first seven years bringing up her son Kevin, a child with special needs.     

At thirteen months, Kevin was diagnosed with autism, and over the next five years Louise, husband Michael and Kevin’s older brother Matthew were forced to adjust to additional obstacles, including epilepsy, and a life radically different from that which they had ever imagined.

Click here to find out more about this compelling book and how to buy it.


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Ten lies that website designers like to tell you

Many website designers lie to you. 

These lies are not often intentional but misconceptions parroted by those who don't know any better. However, their lack of understanding means you lose - sales, opportunities and importantly, credibility.

So, how do you get a website that really works for you and doesn't waste your money? How do you get to the bridge out of geek-infested swamp?  

We've identified the Top 10 'misconceptions' about the Internet and websites. Click here and you can cross the bridge out of the website swamp.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Workshops on how to publish, market and sell your books are filling fast

Take charge of your publishing destiny with our workshops at the Centre for Continuing Education (part of the University of Auckland).

At these workshops you'll find out how to publish, market and sell your writing (online or in print).  However, places are filling fast. 

Find out more by clicking on these links: How to Self-Publish and Market your Books (on 17th March) and How to Blog and Sell your Books Online (on 24th March).

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Come away with us for a weekend

Story Bridge Club Write Away Weekend: Friday 2 - Sunday 4 March 2012, in Waipu

Wouldn't it be great to get away for a day or two to just write? Now you can with The Story Bridge Club's Write Away Weekend in Waipu. You don't have to be a member - come on your own, with a writing buddy or a writing group for the chance to chat with other writers and attend writing workshops. All welcome from beginners to more advanced writers. 

The Story Bridge Club has teamed up with Waipu Clansman Motel & Restaurant to offer a number of affordable options for writing workshops, meals and accommodation. Waipu is only 2 hours from Auckland and 1/2 hour from Whangarei. Come for just one or two workshops, stay one night or for the whole weekend.  The more you attend, the more you save.

Click here to discover more about this Write Away Weekend.

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 workshops

We've got some great news for those who want to tell their own story in their own way.  Our popular legacy writing workshops are happening again in February 2012.  There's good news for South Auckland writers as the funding we've received from Auckland Council Creative Communities will subsidise your costs.  Find out more about these legacy writing workshops here.

For those wanting to know how to get published, there's more good news. The Centre for Continuing Education has asked us to repeat our successful publishing and selling online workshops and these will be in March. Get in quick to register for these as they sold out early last time we held them.  Find out more here.  (Scroll down the page once it opens up).