Friday, 3 April 2015

The Last Treasure Hunt - follow the trail of clues!

Following on from author Jane Alexander's guest post on crafting fiction yesterday, here, as promised, is the next clue in her publisher Saraband's exciting treasure hunt to win a signed copy of The Last Treasure Hunt - and more!

Clue 7

There was something strange about this lady
Who’s usually the reverse of shady
Normally she points the way
And she’ll do so again, another day.


How the hunt works:

·       Each clue refers to a landmark or iconic location in a film. The landmark/location is the answer – when you figure it out, make a note of it!

·       (If you need a hand, check out the #treasurehunt hashtag on Twitter or Instagram for a hint to the landmark’s location…)

·       Clues will be revealed by some fantastic book bloggers from March 26th until April 21st. Keep checking back on Jane Alexander’s dedicated treasure hunt page ( or on the #treasurehunt hashtag for links and new clues.

·       When all the clues are revealed, the first letter of every answer will make an anagram. Solve the anagram and you have your final answer!

·       Email this answer and all the landmarks you figured out to by April 30th to be entered into the prize draw. Two entrants will win a signed copy of The Last Treasure Hunt – and if you’ve guessed the most landmarks and locations, you’ll win a goodie bag and something special from Jane personally! On top of that you’ll get bragging rights on Twitter and we’ll publicly dub you queen/king sleuth.

·       Good luck!

About The Last Treasure Hunt:
At the age of thirty, Campbell Johnstone is a failure. He's stuck behind the bar of a shabby pub, watching from the sidelines while everyone else makes a success of their lives. The most visible is Eve Sadler, a childhood friend and rising Hollywood star. When Campbell tries to rekindle their relationship, he longs for the glitter of her success to rub off on him, but a single shocking night - the novel's shattering twist delivered with a knockout punch - changes everything. Campbell is about to discover the bittersweet taste of fame, and in the process, struggle to save his soul and overcome his own self-delusion.
The Last Treasure Hunt explores our obsession with fame and celebrity with great intelligence and sly wit - it's a modern media morality tale with bite.

Praise for The Last Treasure Hunt:
'The Last Treasure Hunt quickly asserts itself as something unique ... a masterclass on what happens when empathy is absent. [Jane Alexander's] debut novel marks the arrival of an important new voice.' Gutter Magazine

Praise for Jane Alexander's short stories:
'A trumpet call of urgency and great promise.' The Scotsman

About Jane Alexander:
Jane Alexander's short stories and creative non-fiction have been widely published in a number of anthologies and literary magazines, including Mslexia, Litro and The Orphan Leaf Review. A winner of a major national story competition, and the recipient of a Scottish Arts Council New Writers bursary, Jane is also a lecturer in creative writing at the Open University.

The Last Treasure Hunt
Publication date 26 March 2015
Publisher Saraband
ISBN: 9781908643803

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Author guest-post: Jane Alexander on the craft of constructing compelling fiction

 I'm delighted to welcome as my guest this week novelist and short story writer Jane Alexander, who's based in Edinburgh and 
whose debut novel, The Last Treasure Hunt, a witty morality tale exploring our modern obsession with fame and celebrity, was published last week. Tomorrow I'll be posting a clue in the real life treasure hunt her publishers, Saraband, have organised - you can win a signed copy of The Last Treasure Hunt and possibly more!

Today, Jane highlights a crucial lesson she learned along the way about how to write compelling fiction:

 Here’s something I’m not meant to tell you: my first novel, The Last Treasure Hunt, isn’t really my first novel. It's my debut – but it's not the first book I wrote.
Though it’s rarely acknowledged, there’s nothing unusual in this: a 2010 survey found that the average number of novels an author writes before being published is between three and four. These ‘practice novels’ are sometimes published later on in an author’s career, but more commonly they're relegated to a dusty box-file or a forgotten Word document.
Such is the fate of my own practice novels.
With each of the two books I wrote prior to The Last Treasure Hunt, the fundamental flaw was the story: it just wasn’t strong enough. As a creative writing teacher, my experience suggests that most emerging writers fall into one of two categories. There are those who can craft beautiful sentences; and those who can tell compelling stories. A lucky few are equally able with sentences and stories – but most will find they have to work hard to develop their skills in their area of weakness.
I fell firmly into the first category, though it took me some time to realise this. When agents and publishers declined my submissions, they did so with compliments about the beautiful writing – but if the writing was so beautiful, what was I missing?
Though I’d completed a Masters in Creative Writing, in seminars and workshops we’d paid very little attention to the nuts and bolts of storytelling. This, I think, is a question of scale: it’s much easier to focus on studying and critiquing smaller texts – sentences and paragraphs, short stories and novel extracts – than to work through a reading list of scores of novels and deconstruct the elements of plot. Recently Hanif Kureishi went so far as to complain that most of his students can’t tell a story, and that storytelling is an unteachable skill. He’s dealing in hyperbole, of course. Storytelling may be a harder skill to teach than, say, writing convincing dialogue – but it’s far from unteachable. Dare I say that only a poor teacher would insist otherwise?
If you want to build up your storytelling muscles, though, you may have to look beyond a traditional creative writing course. Once I’d realised what was wrong with my practice novels, I turned to a screenwriting class for help. Here, I learned about three-act structure and plot points, reversals and value changes, active questions and narrative tension. I learned techniques that transformed my approach to planning and structuring a novel, and developed new methods of shaping scenes and chapters. 
In short, that class was a revelation. As with any newly acquired knowledge, the more I put theory into practice, the more fluent and effortless my practice became. Soon, crafting an absorbing story became one of my favourite parts of the novel-writing process – and when I pass what I’ve learned on to my students,  I can practically hear the cogs turning as they begin to think about their works-in-progress in ways they never have before. 
And the next novel I wrote – my third – turned out to be my ‘first’.

To find out more about Jane, her creative process and the novel, visit her website here. Come back to Literascribe on Friday to check out the latest clue in the online treasure hunt!

Reminder: my next Fictionfire Focus Workshop is on Short Stories, on 11th April - there are still places available. Find out more here Fictionfire by the Sea, my writers' workshop and retreat in St Ives, takes place from 17th-19th April. It's fully booked, but you can still add your name to the waiting list by emailing me at You can also join the Fictionfire mailing list on my website, to be kept informed about future workshops and retreats. 

In June, I'll be running a day course on Character Building and giving a lecture on the essentials of Self-editing at the Winchester Writers' Festival - visit