Making noise

Making noise

What goes into making my performed readings? You know the ones. I’ve recorded a short story every month for the past year to share here at The Fine-toothed Comb. It’s been a hobby, an excuse to work with some new people, and an opportunity to showcase the results. The responses I received were universally warm, …

Read more

Share this page:

Letting go

Letting go

Fear freezes us, very often. We tighten our fingers, clinging on to the known and the settled, but that instinct can be counter-productive. Ask any parent. I’ve got *three kids, and two of them are filling me with fear at the moment. I want to protect them, desperately, but I also know that if I …

Read more

Share this page:

End of year review 2021

End of year review, 2021

The last time I took proper stock of The Fine-toothed Comb was way back in March. It was supposed to be the first of my Quarterly Reviews but, as it turned out, it was also the last. The longer I spent bobbing about in the ocean of self-employment, the harder I found it to tread …

Read more

Share this page:

Want-to wants

Want-towants

Do you know what you want? Okay, but do you really want it, or do you just ‘want’ to want it? There’s a difference, see, and it took me a long time to understand that. Take writing, for instance. I’ve always had a facility with words, so writing and editing should have been a shoo-in. English Literature was my favourite subject at school, and I followed it right the way through to university, which begs the question…why did it take me so long to get into the industry?

Read more

Share this page:

Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2)

Discomforting (Parsing Judgement #2))

I’ve had some difficult conversations with clients (and prospective clients) over the years. People can be…resistant to constructive criticism, despite the fact they’re paying for it—all the more so if there’s an inherent issue to the writing that stains character and plot. Some of the most delicate conversations, I find, are those in which the issues of subconscious misogyny, racism or bigotry must be raised. Writing is intensely personal, after all. But look, horror fiction is my bread and butter; *context matters, so I’m here today to help parse the difference between portraying repugnant things and absorbing them into your writing.

Read more

Share this page:

FCon-templation

Horrific Tales

I was going to focus this post on FantasyCon 2021, which I attended in Birmingham last weekend, but I found that I couldn’t engage with the event in the normal way. This is not a criticism – with Covid-19 still very much on the rampage, I’m not sure any of us felt entirely comfortable. Instead, I’m going to talk about the significance of the event to me past and present, my mental state leading up to it this year, the fears and hopes I carried, and the final actual experience of reconnection with my tribe.

Read more

Share this page:

Raising my game

Raising my game

What makes somebody a professional? At the most basic level, it’s earning your stripes well enough that perfect strangers will pay you to work for them. By those broad standards I already consider myself a professional editor, but there’s more to it than that. Laurels aren’t for sitting on. It’s one thing to be approached by indie authors or hired by small-press publishers, but quite another to be recognised by industry peers and leaders in the field. To that purpose, and to boost my ongoing professional development, I have now joined the CIEP.

Read more

Share this page:

Seeking Resolution

I recently discussed ways in which we can avoid conflict when editing (or being edited) in a blog post called ‘It ain’t what we say’. You might think of today’s post as something of a follow-up, though it has applications in the real world too.

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #13 – Challenge

Writing prompt: Businessman seated on a telephone wire. Watched by a crow.

Hi all, and welcome back to Flashes of Inspiration, my bi-weekly flash fiction contest here at The Fine-toothed Comb. It’s been a busy week for me. Right now I’m ploughing my way through several short stories and a chunky novel, all for structural review. A convention has been announced, which I’ll be taking part in in various different panelly and workshoppy ways like some kind of pro. Oh, and I’m gradually losing the war against yoghurt. (Don’t ask.)

Anyway, enough about me. This is my forum for bringing creative people together in friendly competition. All I’m after is 400 words of imaginative prose or poetry, using the above image for inspiration. Literal interpretations are fine, as are figurative, tonal, and thematic. Whatever floats your dream-boat. I’ve been setting some specific challenges of late to try to push my own writing a bit. This week, let’s try making our narratives sound like they were written in a bygone era.

In addition, I have 3 key words that must be used in your piece in some way, shape, or form. These are:

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #12 – Challenge

Writing prompt: Horse & rider racing. Dazzling sunlight. Classical architecture.

Welcome back to Flashes of Inspiration, your (ahem) bi-weekly flash fiction competition. It’s been a bit of a busy time at The Fine-toothed Comb of late – both professionally and personally – so my apologies for keeping you waiting so long. I’ve crossed countries to see a cousin get married, attended the WorldCon in Dublin, had a teensy bit of a breakdown with regards to the day-job, and recovered myself at a pretty magical music festival. I’m back in the saddle now and raring to go again, hence the ever-so-appropriate image up top to help inspire our next round of creativity.

Forgotten how this works? It’s simple. You have 400 words to play with, an image to give you a sense of meaning, tone, action (or whatever), and 3 key words that you must use in the text somewhere. (Variants of the words are acceptable, so long as the root remains.) Confused? Frazzled? It’s just a bit of fun. Don’t sweat it.

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #11 – Challenge

Writing prompt: Young boy floating in a lake which reflects the cosmos.

Welcome once more to Flashes of Inspiration, my bi-weekly flash fiction contest. We’ve had 10 games of free-play, and it’s been loads of fun, but I think it’s time to get a little more challenging. For the next 10 contests, I’ll be pushing out of my comfort zone and hopefully dragging you lot with me. Why? Well, it’s all good exercise. Stretching different writing muscles and so on.

So, this first challenge is to find a new perspective. Flipping expectations. Same rules as ever: 400 words, 1 picture to help inspire and 3 key words to be included in some way…

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #10 – Challenge (Take 2)

Writing prompt: Young boy adrift in a stormy sea, standing in an upturned umbrella.

EDIT: (ahem…)

Morning all, and welcome back to The Fine-toothed Comb. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed setting these creative challenges. I hope you’re getting something out of them too. You’ll be happy to know that this isn’t taking the place of my editing work – I’ve been feverishly working on a novella for Horrific Tales, an adventure game-book for a comic-book creator’s Patreon, and a couple of novellas expanding on elements from my Twisted Earth anthology. (EDIT: No idea what that is? I’ve written a little bit about it here.) With several customers now pre-paying for books to be edited later on this year, it’s proving to be a busy one! But enough about me. Let’s get on with the contest.

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #9 – Challenge

Writing prompt: Extreme close-up of an long-lashed eye. A naked man clambers through the pupil.

Morning peeps, and welcome back to the Flashes of Inspiration challenge – my bi-weekly flash fiction competition thingy. I’m trying to get into the habit of writing, stirring the pot of my imagination in order to keep things fresh. I’m also giving myself the licence to experiment. Making it a shared challenge seems to hook me in more and helps me drive for quality. I hope you get something equally valuable out of it.

A reminder – the images we use each time don’t have to be taken literally and needn’t figure in your creative writing at all (though they can do so if you wish). The intention is to prick the subconscious, to prompt questions, to set a tone or evoke some feeling. Take them as you will. Your work can be in any genre, take any style or form. As usual these days, I’m looking for no more than 400 words. It seems to be a sweet spot. Oh yes, and the following three words must be used:

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #8 – Challenge

Writing prompt: A woman standing by an open-casket, touching the corpse within. She catches our eye...and smiles slyly.

Evening all, I’m back from New Zealand and burning to write. Let’s get back to our Flashes of Inspiration then, shall we? A friend shared some pretty bizarre stock images on Facebook the other day, and this one grabbed me as being particularly provocative. It seems pretty clear that there’s a nasty connection between the corpse and the girl, but what’s the story behind it? Is evil looking us in the eye, does it lie in the coffin, or perhaps behind the camera? Is the body real, or is this part of an elaborate prank? There are so many possibilities whizzing through my brain. I hope you’ll join me in crafting some kind of narrative from it.

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #7 – Challenge

Writing prompt: A serious-looking chimpanzee in a business suit. He holds a gun, and looks ready to use it.

Morning all. First up, congratulations to Caroline Polley for her victory with When In Cyberia in the last contest. Her prize will be winging its way to her soon. The creativity train never stops though, so on we go to the next competition. We have another image to get the grey cells chugging but how will you take it? Will you come up with an anthropomorphic crime drama, a Planet of the Apes pastiche, some scathing satire on capitalism, or a somewhat subtler and more twisted tale? You’ve got 400 words to play with and they must include the following three…

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #6 – Challenge

Writing prompt: Close-up of the cracked face of an android woman. Blue eyes shine out from beneath a ragged white fringe of hair.

Morning all, and congratulations to Jan Edwards for winning the last contest with her evocative piece, Ride, Boldly Ride. I’m going to change it up a bit this week and offer a prize to the next winner: a paperback copy of the excellent collection, ‘A Warning About Your Future Enslavement That You Will Dismiss as a Collection of Short Fiction and Essays by Kit Power.’

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #5 – Challenge

Writing prompt: A gas-masked youth in leathers rides a crazed merry-go-round horse in a post-apocalyptic fun-fair.

Morning all, bit of admin first, and then we’ll get on to the new Flashes of Inspiration contest on the other side of the jump. First up, I’d like to congratulate Steve Toase for winning last week’s contest. I’ve gone back and updated all of the previous posts so the names of the authors appear next to their work, as well as declaring their status as (WINNER) or (RUNNER UP). Nice to have all the info together should folk want to revisit them.

Last time around I promised some clarification on the Key Word rule, so here it is: As alternatives to the given Key Words, writers may use plurals or any variants that appear on the same dictionary entry at dictionary.com (For example, the entry for maniac defines the noun but also lists the adjective, maniacal.)

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #4 – Challenge

Writing prompt: A parade of proud druids, dressed in bright Celtic garb, passing a mighty tree..

Welcome back to the Flashes of Inspiration writing challenge. I’m sorry it’s late; yesterday was messy and frustrating on the work-front. Oh well, onwards and upwards! Previous winners are noted on each of the ‘Entries’ posts retrospectively but I feel like I haven’t been doing enough to big them up. I’ll be sure to do better in the future. Let’s start by formerly congratulating Penny Jones, who won the latest contest with a little belter called Boiler, and Alexandra Peel, our very first victor, who wrote The Weather Winder. If you fancy having a go at this next challenge, hop on over the line to get your key words.

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #3 – Challenge

Hello all, and welcome back to my little flash fiction contest. For those of you new to it, I’ve set this up as a way to challenge myself to write creatively on a regular basis. It’s all very well for me to sit back as an editor and tell everyone else how they can improve they’re work, isn’t it? No – I need to get my hands dirty too. Do the groundwork. Feel what you feel. Not all on my own, of course. I’d love you to join in – professionals and amateurs alike. It’s a bit of fun, a bit of a competition, you can even treat it as a puzzle to solve.

Read more

Share this page:

Flashes of inspiration #2 – Challenge

Writing prompt: A wooden table. Slanted slats like prison bars. A flower blossoming, poking through.

Morning all, and welcome to the second of my Flash Fiction contests.

If you want to catch up on what flash fiction is, and why it might be fun to join in, check out my previous post about it. The last contest has been edited to reveal the authors and the winning piece.

On to the next one, then. Things are pretty precarious out there in the world at the moment and frankly I could do with a glimpse of something else. Something…wondrous.

Once again, the images I post can be used any way you like to spark some inspiration. However, each of the word prompts that I post must be used somewhere in your writing.

Oh, and the screws are slowly tightening. Can you evoke wonder in a mere 400 words? The submission deadline for this second flash is midnight on Wednesday 23rd Jan 2019. Please e-mail them to dion@thefinetoothed.co.uk as my main address is still playing up.

Read more

Share this page:
error: Content is protected
Skip to content