HOW WAS YOUR MONTH?

January is at an end. Did our team reach their goals?

Elaine E: Dear reader I failed. Dancing in the Dark has not yet been sent off to my publisher. It is now a completed draft but not yet in a fit state to show to anyone. However, I won two extra article commissions and I did manage to write two short stories that are ready to send on their way to magazines around the world. Two RNA events, as well as the first month working on the RNA blog with Natalie, kept me busy. A meeting during the month may well lead to exciting news that I can share with you in future months.

Elaine R: Having read the 25,000 words of my third novel, I have re-organised my chapter breakdown and the novel, so they are now in line with each other, consequently I have added a further 6,355 words. I have written a short story and submitted it to a woman’s magazine, as well as writing my blog article and answering the comments readers made. I finished the book I was reading and it has given me a fresh perspective for my own writing.

 Francesca: January’s been a little slower on the writing front than I would have liked. I decided on a plot change around for the current novel, which has meant rearranging other parts. On top of that, I’ve added another 3,000 words. I finally wrote out a chapter breakdown which I normally do before hand, but under the pressure of NaNoWriMo I didn’t get to do it. My previous novel, Ten Years Later, is doing a new round of competitions and publishers. I’ve also scribbled lots of ideas for new short stories, have been rewriting some old ones and currently have four stories ‘out there’

 Natalie: This month has seen a great start to the year for me. During the first week I sold two short stories with a third following on the 22nd January. I’ve added six and a half thousand words to my novel and submitted nine stories to magazines. Having undertaken this and the RNA Blog, neither on my own thank goodness, I’m finding it far less daunting and much more enjoyable than I’d anticipated. It could of course be something to do with the fact that I love writing.

 Vivien: Did I achieve my planned 10,000 words? Sadly my novel only progressed by a pitiful 500 – but I did complete two commissioned articles for a nursery magazine (3000), two brand new short stories (5000) and one article (1300) which have been submitted to women’s magazines, and rewrites of seven previously rejected stories (2000+ added). I won another commission too, for an article/children’s poem, and made two story sales on the same day! As to the fate of my characters and why the novel came to a halt – find out in my next blog post, coming soon.

 Well done ladies. Let’s see how February fares for our busy writers. Have a good month!

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All The Write Words But Not Necessarily In The Write Order

Elaine Roberts Asks “Can Anyone Write A Novel”?

When I tell anyone I’m trying to write a novel, the response is nearly always the same. The first one is “I could write a book”. My response is to smile and give words of encouragement. I talk about attending creative writing classes, joining a writing group and writing associations like the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme for guidance and encouragement. After I have given my encouragement the conversation usually ends with something along the lines of “Maybe one day, I don’t have the time right now”.

The second and most popular one is “When’s your best seller coming out?” To which I often smile and say something polite and self-effacing but in my head I think, “If I was learning to play the piano, no one would suddenly expect me to become a concert pianist”.

Is it hard to be a writer?                                                 securedownload

Staring at the blank computer screen, I’m looking for inspiration, intermittently glancing down at the keyboard, panic is starting to set in. “What am I going to write?” my mind is as blank as the white page on the screen in front of me. “Oh God, I can’t do it any more, I’ve lost the ability to write a story!” This scene is familiar; it’s how nearly every writing session starts for me.

Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I can read back over the last couple of paragraphs and that will inspire me to carry on writing. However, what usually happens is that I start editing what I have previously written and when I do that, I never seem to move past the first chapter, because I’m forever rewriting it. Personally, when I’m trying to get started, it helps me to write a couple of lines about a character or scene. It doesn’t have to be correct, just something to kick start my imagination and when I’ve finished I inevitably end up deleting those first few lines. A similar thing happens if I say I’m going to try and write 500 words, it’s amazing how the time speeds by and a few hours later, I will have written a few thousand words.

When I plan my work properly, I will have a scene/chapter plan, which will have ideas of what I’m trying to achieve with this scene and what I want to include, this will include the senses, weather and clothing being worn, I have been known to forget to dress my characters. All of this kick starts the thinking process.

Will I ever be the writing equivalent of the concert pianist? Probably not, but I like to think I started off as the Eric Morecombe style pianist, having all the right notes but not necessarily playing them in the right order. But hoping I can aspire to be the writing equivalent of Elton John, maybe.

So the question was, can anyone write a novel?

I believe anyone can, who is prepared to listen, take advice and exercise patience and perseverance, but above all else, be able to exercise their imagination muscle. It takes time and hard work but if you are like me writing is an irresistible pull, just like the chocolate sitting in the fridge calling me.

WRITE WHAT YOU KNOW?

Francesca Burgess explores the value and pitfalls of research

Write what you know. That’s good advice for someone just setting out as a writer and something most writers do, to some extent, their whole writing life. I’ve certainly rummaged through the events of my life for plots. For instance, one of the first short stories I ever had published called New Beginnings (which consequently ended up in the charity anthology Diamonds and Pearls) had a plot based on my experience of the family Easter.

I’m sure I’ll go on using things I’m familiar with in my fiction, but as endlessly fascinating as my life is (cough cough), there comes a time as a writer when you need to break out, delve into something a little different, something you don’t have experience of.

The first two novels I wrote were Young Adult, which brought its own problems. Yes, I was a teenager once and I remember it quite vividly. However, if I had one of my characters dressed in loons exclaiming, “Groovy!” I might find myself accused of being a tad out of date. Some of the research for this was first hand, watching and listening to my own teen children and their friends. Then there was ‘Yoof’ TV and other YA novels.

I know some writers find research tedious but I am both lucky, and unfortunate, in that I love it. I discovered my penchant for research thirty-six years ago during a module for my history degree. It involved studying an area of Kingston-upon-Thames. Wading through microfiche files full of census data and tithe maps turned out to be really quite thrilling as the history of the streets I’d walked emerged.

Microfiche files! Those were the days. Thank goodness for computers. Much of what I write now is contemporary, but it’s amazing how much research I still have to do. The time of a train journey somewhere, the geography of a town I can’t get to visit (I so love walking the streets on Google View!), it’s all there on the internet for the viewing public.

For my novels I’ve had to research things like tide tables, the effects of cannabis, prison sentences for GBH, the laws for divorce and tenancy agreements. When adapting short stories for abroad, among the areas I’ve checked are Christmas traditions, the climate at certain times of year and the school system. Three of my four novels have required research into hospital procedure for certain conditions (I seem to enjoy heaping medical emergencies on my characters!).

As I hinted earlier, loving the research is also a problem. It’s very, very easy to get carried away and forget to do the writing. And that’s the danger of it: you’ve got to know when to stop, not to research beyond what you need. Maybe the answer is to set the timer, give myself only so long to do it? I’ll have to try it and see if it works.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m just going for a walk around Whitstable on Street View…

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WHAT LIES BENEATH

Vivien Hampshire considers the importance of finding time to think

 I’m gazing out of the window, oblivious to the noise and bustle going on around me at home, trying to work out just how and where character A is going to meet character B and what will happen to them when they do, when a familiar voice breaks into my thoughts and says: I thought you were meant to be working?

 Well, I am working, obviously. It’s just that, to husbands, partners, children, and probably just about anyone who isn’t themselves a writer, it must look very much like I’m not. Writing is supposed to be about putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, isn’t it? So, how can sitting around doing nothing but a bit of thumb-twiddling actually count as work?

 Like the tip of an iceberg, I sometimes think that the part of my life where the writing itself gets done is just the top 10 %, the bit that sticks up clearly for all to see. But the bulk of the job, the part where the real work goes on, lies in the 90 % that’s hidden away beneath the surface – in the thinking time.

 For me, the actual writing has always been the easiest part. I don’t have trouble with finding the right words and delivering them to the screen in the right order, nicely punctuated and all. But I do, quite a lot of the time, have trouble with finding the right ideas – and ideas are the driving force that will make those words flow from brain to fingers to page.

 Stories don’t just arrive fully formed. They are the end product of a lot of thinking time. Who will my story be about? What will happen, when, and where? How will it end? Before I can describe a person or a place I have to picture them in my mind, work out some sort of plot, add plenty of conflict, break it all down into scenes, and ‘hear’ the dialogue between my characters in my head so I’m sure it works. Get any of that wrong and I’m heading for a lot of frustration, wasted time and false starts.

 Some of my best women’s magazine stories have been rattled off in just two or three hours, but of course they have been bubbling away unseen for a lot longer than that – as the germ of an idea, an opening paragraph, or sometimes just a really good title, begins to expand in my mind, the twists and turns of my story working themselves out as I push my trolley round the supermarket, mop the kitchen floor, or lie in bed staring at the ceiling in the dark. I don’t always know every little thing that’s going to happen before I start to type the words, but without the time to think, there would be no words.

 So, here I am, gazing out of the window again. Is it work? Of course it is. Well, that’s my story anyway… and I’m sticking to it!

 

THESE FINGERS WERE MADE FOR BLOGGING!

Elaine Everest explains why she joined the ranks of bloggers and tweeters.

If someone had said to me that one day I’d been blogging and tweeting I’d have laughed in their face. I always thought blogging was for people who wrote for fun. It wasn’t something that those who wrote for a living did, unless of course it was a paid blogging job! As a jobbing writer, long before I sold my first non-fiction book, Showing Your Dog, A Beginner’s Guide, I knew that when I sat at my keyboard each day I was there to write articles, features, short fiction or another non-fiction book. My opinion remained the same as Canine Cuisine then A New Puppy in the Family followed along with countless high profile charity books. My promotion of these tomes was undertaken through radio interviews, newspaper features, talks and book signings. Sales were good and I was happy. Then, along came my first commissioned novel – an ebook called Gracie’s War and things changed.

It’s not possible to promote ones first novel at author talks and signings if it is an ebook. Perhaps if an author had previous hard copies of novels under their belt the ebook could be promoted face to face with postcards printed with the cover and download details. However, authors need to sell books when they make appearances and it wasn’t likely that my talk about three dog related books would sell many copies of a World War Two romance. No, I had to find another way to promote Gracie’s War.

My lovely publisher, Pulse Romance (part of the Myrmidon Books) knew just how to promote an ebook. In October, they started with a cover reveal. This was shared by a group of bloggers on a set day. We also tweeted and covered the reveal on Facebook and various websites. Friends and colleagues shared my posts – thank you friends and colleagues! Two weeks later, when Gracie’s War was released, enough interest had been generated to make excellent sales from day one.

Moving into December again Pulse Romance pulled a blinder. They organised a twenty date blog tour overseen by Shaz Goodwin at Fiction Addiction Book Tours. Gracie set off around the world. Bloggers interviewed me about my writing while others reviewed the book. I went to my Facebook page and Twitter account to share these posts. Initially I was worried about mentioning Gracie’s War too much. I was aware that some established authors knocked us writers who promoted our ebooks on FB and Twitter. They came from the days when books were made of paper and were able to promote their work in other ways, we couldn’t do that. I tried to add an interesting hook to my posts. The paddle steamer Medway Queen returned to Kent after major refurbishments. I used this news to promote Gracie’s War as Gracie’s father’s steamer, the Kentish Queen had also travelled to Dunkirk with all the other little ships. The interest was phenomenal, I needn’t have worried. Feedback was excellent. We shared comments on Facebook and also Twitter to keep the momentum going. Readers were extremely generous and it reflected in the Amazon reviews.

It was during this time that I realised that I was wrong about blogging. The bloggers I originally knew were writers of one form or another. The bloggers who work on book tours are readers and reviewers and therein lies the difference. We should value these bloggers they are the lifeblood for those of us who write ebooks. I for one am extremely grateful. Thank you.

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Start as we mean to go on!

The WriteMindWritePlace bloggers wish you a very happy and successful 2014!

We thought we’d start our first blog of 2014 by answering a few questions about the way we work, how we coped with writing throughout the festivities and also our plans for the year ahead. This is a longer post than usual but then we are all busy writers!

What would your answers be?

1. How did you fit your writing work around the season’s festivities?

Elaine E. We had a very quiet Christmas although we did go out to celebrate my birthday on Christmas Eve. As it was a ‘special’ birthday we thought we ought to make the effort! Apart from Christmas Day I managed to add a few words to my novel everyday dipping into chocolate and sipping a glass or two of wine as I did so. A last minute request from a magazine editor also had me researching and writing up an article before the end of the year.

Elaine R. Working flat out leading up to Christmas, doing what I hoped would be a final edit on my novel, before sending it off to Conville and Walsh Literary Agency. The first two weeks in December saw me catching up with Christmas, frantically searching the internet for Christmas presents and running around food shopping. Then I breathed a sigh of relief as Christmas fell into place. I bit the bullet and entered the first 10,500 words of my novel into a competition, together with a biography, which I have never written before, and a synopsis. I have also looked at my short stories and discovered I have four that are not completed, so that will be my task for January 2014. I did have a writing plan but getting the flu put paid to following too strictly.

Francecsca. I was away for the holidays with my family, their partners, grandchildren and step grandchildren plus in-laws. There were thirteen of us at one point. As you can imagine, to actually sit and write was impossible. And we all need a break from our work, whatever it is, to recharge the batteries. However, I always find endless inspiration on these occasions. Walking on the beach at Dawlish, people watching, gave me ideas as did taking the dogs for a walk on the downs in near darkness because we hadn’t realised how late it was. The location of my daughter’s house has given me a future setting. My family, especially my children, all have a weird sense of humour and are well known for deep and crazy discussions. They inspire me all the time. I make sure I always have a notebook handy to jot ideas down.

Natalie. I made a plan before the holidays began and, for the most part, managed to keep to it. I set myself realistic targets rather than suffer the ignomony of failing, which is not to say I didn’t give myself plenty to do!  I think most things would have gone ‘out the window’ without the discipline of a list to work to.

Vivien. Having left my job on Christmas Eve after 11 years, I felt I needed a proper rest and to allow time to re-adjust, so I have put all writing aside and just let myself feel like I am on holiday for a while! I need to clear my head of the old job before being able to fully dedicate myself to the new.

2. Do you have any little brags/successes you’d like to mention from December?

Elaine E. My novel, Gracie’s War had a very successful blog tour which took Gracie to readers in many countries. It was interesting to see what the bloggers and their followers thought of my book. Some reviewed it (very favourably) some ask me questions and other promoted the book and me! Tweeting, posting on Facebook and answering questions took up a big chunk of my writing day. Apart from that I sold a Christmas story to Thats Life Australia which made me realise I hadn’t written as much short fiction in 2013 that I should have done. I had the usual flurry of articles in magazines but I’d be slapping myself on the wrist if I hadn’t!

Elaine R. I am pleased that I met my own self-inflicted deadline for my novel and managed to e-mail it across and I didn’t allow my own demon of self-doubt to stop me from sending it off or entering the competition. I was suitably embarrassed and absolutely thrilled to receive an award from The Write Place as the Student Most Likely To Succeed in 2014, it’s lovely to know that other people have faith in my ability.

Francesca. Nothing writing related, I’m afraid!

Natalie. I was delighted to receive a Student of the Year certificate from The Write Place at our last December meeting, having received the same award at the end of 2012. I must be doing something right!

Vivien. As a totally non-profit making writing exercise, and just because I love doing it, I wrote and directed my final annual pantomime at work, with all childcare staff dressed up and over-acting like mad in front of a small audience of young children and their families in my own version of Aladdin. I also managed to recruit 6 little toddlers to play mice, and 5 of them actually managed to go on stage in costume and do it (one just cried and refused to co-operate!). I was also thrilled to have a double page feature about me and my love of crosswords in the Peoples Friend double issue to tie in with the 100th anniversary of the first ever crossword. Amazon sales of my cryptic crossword book certainly seemed to go up as a result of the publicity.

3. As it’s the beginning of a new year what are your writing resolutions for the 2014?

Elaine E. I need to up my output of articles and features in 2014 as find new markets. I had hoped to focus more on novels but with redundancy looming for my husband later in the year I had to refocus on my plans. I’d like to have more classes and workshops for The Write Place as working with other writers boosts my own creativity and that can only be a good thing. On the novel front I aim to have at least two more books published during the year as well as work on a crime novel idea that has been bubbling away for far too long.

Elaine R. I would like to complete my third novel to a reputable standard; my first is still sitting on the computer awaiting major rewrites! It would be lovely to be in a situation to send it out to agents/publishers by the end of the year. My short stories have been somewhat ignored since the autumn so I am going to try and write a minimum of one short story a month, if I’m honest I don’t know if that’s possible, but it’s my target.

Francesca. To finish the novel I’m working on by February and start the editing. My short story submissions have taken a tumble recently due to the novel, so I’d like to get them back up to a reasonable figure. I’ve had sixty out at one time in the past so it would be nice to achieve that again. And of course, I’d like to get a publisher for Ten Years Later! (I think that’s also a goal and a dream!)

Natalie. While continuing with my new novel, 18,000 words to date, I also want to concentrate a little more on short stories as these have lapsed in the closing months of 2013. I expect to be spending no little time on edits for my novel, Voyage of Desire, due to be published sometime in 2014.

Vivien. I must get down to some serious novel writing in 2014, with the aim of finishing a manuscript the agents will be fighting over. Well, one I can actually feel proud of and get commercially published anyway.

4. What are your writing goals for January?

Elaine E. Complete and send off Dancing in the Dark. Pitch article ideas like mad and also write two more short stories.

Elaine R. I have written 25,000 words of my third novel but I have broken my own rule of not following my chapter breakdown so I definitely need to read the novel and my chapter breakdown and try to bring them both into line. I also want to submit at least one short story to woman’s magazine. As part of my writing education I’m trying to read a style of book that wouldn’t normally interest me in the hope that I can pick up some ideas on how to improve my own writing so I’m hoping to complete that book by the end of January.

Francesca. To crack on with my current novel in progress. At the same time, I’m going to be sending out Ten Years Later, already edited several times over, to publishers and agents. There are a few comps coming up, novel and otherwise, that I’d like to enter. In between, I’d like to write a few new short stories. I find they can be a good break from the novel.

Natalie. I am hoping to receive my manuscript back from Safkhet soon so I can begin editing in earnest. While waiting I will be ploughing on with the new novel, Honey Bun. With short stories and two books on the agenda I’ve also decided to take up juggling – in my head at least!

Vivien. I have a few important personal things to get out of the way first, but even with only a couple of weeks in which to work, I would expect to get a good 10,000 words down, and to form a much clearer idea of what is going to happen to all my characters. At the moment, some of them have uncertain fates in store. I really need to be sure of where they are going so I can work harder to get them there.

We will be back at the end of the month to report on how our writing month progressed.