It was the year that…

This week Francesca and Elaine review what they’ve done, writing wise, in 2016.

IMG_0840Elaine: I have to say I was quite shocked at how much time away from home has been committed to writing. 2016 has been the year of opportunity for me. I had the chance to walk away from my full time paid employment in March and I grabbed it with both hands. It is my dream, and has been for many years, to write novels for a living, but life got in the way of that dream.

The year began with me renewing my membership of the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) New Writers’ Scheme. If you want to become a writer of romantic fiction, it is something I would highly recommend.

The London Book Fair

The London Book Fair

Since then, I have attended numerous RNA events. The London Chapter meetings, which I have to admit I haven’t attended as much as I would have liked, the RoNA Awards, the summer and winter parties, and the valuable RNA Conference in Lancaster. Smattered in between them have been The London Book Fair, several writing retreats and workshops. I also attended, for the first time, the Historical Novelists Society (HNS) Conference, which was quite enlightening.

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Elaine R, Francesca, Natalie, Elaine E in Ramsgate

Francesca: Looking through my diary, it certainly has been a busy year for writing activities. I continued with the RNA blog’s ‘Competition Monthly’ and will carry on into 2017. I attended all the things Elaine’s mentioned, apart from the HNS Conference. We also attended Foyles Discovery Day in February. 

Elaine and I did a week’s writing retreat in Ramsgate in May, along with Elaine Everest and Natalie Kleinman. I will never forget singing My Sharona with Elaine R (you had to be there!). Later in May I went to the Romance in the Court event with Elaine E and Natalie. There I got an opportunity to talk to Freya North, an author I greatly admire.

Summer was busy with the RNA Conference and for me, The Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard. Don’t be fooled by the word ‘Holiday’ – we all work jolly hard!

My White Board Plan

My White Board Plan

Elaine: For the first time, I tried my hand at writing a Victorian saga; once I got my head round the difference between a historical romance and a saga, it made life a little easier. I would like to thank Louise Buckley for explaining the differences to me at my RNA one to one with her. I was quite proud of my work and it got good reviews at the RNA and HNS Conferences from the Literary Agents and Publishers alike. Unfortunately, as much as they liked it, I was informed, both directly and indirectly, that Victorian doesn’t sell, so it was back to the drawing board or perhaps I should say white board. Of course, what I haven’t mentioned is the many hours of research that is the commitment of writing anything historical.

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London Book Fair: Elaine with Rosemary Goodacre

Francesca: Moving into autumn, Elaine and I attended the Woman’s Weekly’s historical novel workshop and visited the ‘Undressed’ Exhibition at the V&A for clothing research. In October I went to the lovely Bishop’s Palace in Wells for the results of a novel competition I’d been shortlisted in. (You win some, you lose some!) 

I got my RNA New Writers’ Scheme report back in November for A Woman Walked into a Life, and was thrilled that the reader said it read like a published book. Still a little bit of work to do but it was very encouraging.

In November Elaine and I joined the Society for Women Writers and Journalists. The first six days of December  saw me at the RNA London Christmas lunch, the SWWJ Christmas afternoon tea  and The Write Place Christmas dinner (the last two on

the same day!). 

Elaine: I am now working on another historical piece, which will also be a saga, so watch this space. I have also made a commitment to interview organisers of Literary and Book Festivals for the RNA Blog.

If anyone should ask me, am I committed to my writing, I would answer just look at my calendar, because in-between all those things, I also try to write at least a thousand words a day.

Inside A Berlin Shop At Christmas

Francesca: I’m  currently dipping my toes into an historical novel set in World War One. At the same time I have ideas going through my head for two contemporary novels. Then there’s A Woman Walked to work on. And I’ve loads of ideas for short stories.

It’s going to be a busy year for both of us. What have you got planned?

@RobertsElaine11                     @FCapaldiBurgess

 

We wish our readers a very happy Christmas and a wonderful 2017.

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Are You A Daydream Believer?

Elaine Roberts asks can dreams be met in isolation.

This last week has been an emotional rollercoaster. Seven writers travelled together by train, first class naturally, to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) Conference at Lancaster University, and what a hectic four days it was. The university campus was very large and, needless to say, we did get lost, but in the process we met some lovely people who were kind enough to point us in the right direction.

 

Elaine, Francesca, Natalie and I at our Ramsgate Writing Retreat earlier this year.

Elaine, Francesca, Natalie and I at our Ramsgate Writing Retreat earlier this year.

It was wonderful to meet up with old friends and make new ones; don’t tell anyone but an awful lot of wine got drunk while we were there.

I was lucky enough to secure meetings with a couple of agents, who shall remain nameless at this stage, but they were very helpful in giving me direction and making suggested amendments to improve my work, before I send in my whole manuscript. I was thrilled with my feedback and it all helps to keep the motivation going. However, the work feels a little overwhelming and the thought of sending in the whole manuscript is quite scary!

There were some wonderful workshops and panel talks, which I attended. It is always good to be reminded of aspects of the writing world, which may have been forgotten in the rush to write a novel. All seven of us came away with good news and constructive criticism on our work, which is worth its weight in gold.

What I think is important is the support network that family, friends and the

The original WMWP Bloggers at The RoNA Awards

The original WMWP Bloggers at The RoNA Awards

RNA have given me, I am certain that without that I wouldn’t have made it as far as I have. I attend The Write Place in Dartford and Elaine Everest is very encouraging and supportive of everyone who attends there.

If you have a dream follow it and see where it takes you. There may not be time to do it full time because of work, family or other commitments, but start with small steps. Join a class, a group or an organisation. Look into an on-line course, but give yourself a chance. There will always be someone around you being negative, but don’t let them stop you from trying; as the saying goes, “it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried at all”. I was on social media and someone added a link to a video, Omeleto, talking about Regrets, please search and watch it to the end. It’s a highly recommended watch. It left me asking the question am I a “kinda” person? No I am not, so I am working hard on my edits and sending my work off.

Are you a “kinda” person?

Follow your dream because it can become a reality, I believe I am within touching distance of mine.

@RobertsElaine11

A Very Good Place To Start…

Elaine Roberts talks about how she hopes to make the year ahead count.

Christmas and New Year have come and gone and I have decided I am going to make 2016 work for me. Due to a rather hectic latter part of 2015 and bad health, I haven’t written any serious amount of words since about September.

If you have read the New Year blog, where I set out my goals for the year, you’ll know I want to finish my saga and get it sent out to agents/publishers. However, until I finish work at the end of March, my writing time is extremely limited, but that doesn’t mean I do nothing.

report_writingI’m very lucky to belong to The Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme (RNA NWS) so I read my report again. The critique is part of the RNA NWS membership and is worth its weight in gold. The writer of the report gave me some valuable direction but I didn’t know where to begin. I had written over 53,000 words and had lost touch with my story. I was stuck.

As Julie Andrews once famously sung, let’s start at the very beginning, so I did. I returned to basics.

Starting with the three-act structure, I looked at my story to see how it fitted. I’m pleased to say that overall, it wasn’t too bad. A scene I had in the first half should be in the second half of the story. I had gaps as well, so going back to the beginning helped kick start my imagination and deliver some ideas. Some will be used, some won’t, but they have all been written down.

I have also watched some documentaries that are relevant for the time period I’m writing in, this has also given me ideas. The research has continued and the reader of my manuscript gave me a few things to think about. Some of those things meant changing the order of the story and raised the question prologue or no prologue.

Victorian Saga Family Tree

Victorian Saga Family Tree

I also have plans to go to many writing events. I am attending two conferences, which involves listening to established authors, agents and publishers as well as actively participating in workshops. Once I have given up work, I intend to become a regular attendee at the London Chapter meetings. I also have writing retreats planned.

Currently, I am placing my building blocks where they need to be, so come the 1st April, I know exactly what I need to do to finish my story.images

When I look at my diary for the year ahead, I wonder how I would have managed to find time to go to work, oh but I won’t have to anymore, lucky me!

@RobertsElaine11

I Have A Dream…

Francesca and Elaine make plans for the coming year.

Francesca: So, it’s 2016 and time to fill diaries and make lists of goals. I never make ‘resolutions’ as such. I have an idea at the beginning of January of what I’d like to achieve, then revise it constantly throughout the year, depending on what opportunities come along, or alternatively, which have been lost.

Things don't always work out the way we've planned.

Things don’t always work out the way we’ve planned.

First of all there are goals which, by working hard, I can achieve by myself. These include finishing the current novel in progress, writing/reviving/revising more short stories, and maybe even some articles. 

Then there are the other goals, achievable but a little less tangible, ones that also need the input of others. I’m talking about actually being published. Naturally I’ve got to put in a good percentage of the effort by finding the right markets and getting whatever is required sent off (and making sure I’ve read the guidelines thoroughly). But the outcome is also in the lap of the publishing gods, so to speak. Experience has taught me that you win some and you lose some. Sometimes you nearly win but fall at the final hurdle. Either way there’s always the next submission or project to get on with along with valuable lessons learnt.

A busy year of writing and workshops requires lots of notebooks.

A busy year of writing and workshops requires lots of notebooks.

Luckily the job isn’t all about being hidden away in a writer’s garret: there are many events to pencil into the calendar that aid and stimulate the writing process. There’s a writing retreat in May, the Hay Festival, the Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, the Writers’ Holiday in Fishguard and possibly another retreat towards the end of the year. In between I’ll be attending various RNA events, including the local chapter meetings, and continue with classes at The Write Place. All these occasions serve different yet equally valid services, whether it’s to learn skills, meet publishing professionals for advice and/or networking, have a sustained quiet period to write or simply schmooze with fellow writers.

However, I am going to miss many of these events if I don’t acquire a diary. Six days into January and I am still without. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with blog partner Elaine, but first I will need to take a trip to the diary shop…

@FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: It’s difficult to believe 2015 is over. In my case it didn’t end with a bang; it didn’t even end with a slight fizz. Due to illness, the whole New Years Eve celebrations passed me by and the beginning of 2016 has not been any better, culminating in me missing my aunt’s 100th birthday. However, I’m going to be an eternal optimist and say things can only get better, because 2016 is going to be a special time for me.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call.

Francesca and Elaine take a photo call at an RNA event.

I have been writing for several years now but I’ve always had to fit it around a full time job, but on March 24th I am taking early retirement. There are mixed emotions, excitement and fear. The little voice in my head tells me there are no excuses now, no hiding place. For the first time, I will be able to write when I am not tired or feeling guilty because I should be spending time doing housework or being with my family. I have been liberated to enjoy writing again.

report_writingMy goals are to structure my day so I can be guilt free and to ensure I attend the fabulous Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) Conference and all other RNA events. I would like to attend the Chapter meetings more often. It has always been difficult because of my limited writing time. My main goal is to finish the saga I started last year, have it critiqued by the RNA New Writers Scheme (NWS), and make any necessary amendments, before sending it out into the world.

It’s definitely going to be a special year.

@RobertsElaine11

What are your writing goals and plans for 2016?

The Tip Of The Iceberg

This week Elaine Roberts talks about where she went wrong with her work in progress.

This week I have sent my manuscript off to the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) New Writers Scheme (NWS), to be critiqued. It is the first time I haven’t sent a completed manuscript. I have only sent the first seven chapters, which is just under 39,000 words. I thought I would send it now so I can go to the RNA Conference with a clear conscience and allow myself to enjoy the talks and workshops that are laid on. It is an exhausting but fun time with lots of writerly talk with writerly people. When the talks are finished, a copious amount of wine is drunk, although not by me of course (just in case my husband is reading this). If you can only do one event each year, this is it.

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My Saga Family Tree

Anyway, I’ve digressed. My current work in progress is a saga. Part of my preparation involved creating a large family tree to help me remember who is related to whom and their ages. All this preparation will hopefully see me over three novels. Although they will not be a series, some of the characters will be carried forward as the generations grow.

It was only when I got to chapter five that I realised I didn’t know enough about my main character’s backstory. As you can imagine, I was livid with myself and it brought my writing to a standstill. For anyone who is reading this but isn’t a budding writer, I’ll explain what the backstory is, without trying to bore you too much.

The backstory of a character is basically what makes them tick and why they react to things the way they do. So it is all about action and reaction. An example of this is when a child has been spoilt. How they react when they are told no is different to how someone reacts who is used to hearing the word no. This is a very basic example, but one I hope paints the picture. When I think of backstory, I relate it to an iceberg. The large amount of unseen ice is below sea level, that is the bit the readers do not read, but it forms your character’s underlining traits. The tip of the iceberg, the part that is above sea level, is what the readers will read and, hopefully, enjoy.

© Mopic | Dreamstime.com - Large Iceberg Floating In Water Photo

© Mopic | Dreamstime.com – Large Iceberg Floating In Water Photo

I had to brainstorm further into my characters backgrounds and delve into their childhoods and their standing within the family. Lots of scribbling took place and then I returned to chapter one and filled in the gaps, right through to chapter seven.

Now, I just wait and worry. I wait for the readers report to come back from the RNA NWS and worry in case they find big plot holes in my story. The good news is that if they do, it will be in the report and I can think about how to improve my work.

@RobertsElaine11

A Virtual Welcome to Author Jean Fullerton

Today we welcome award-winning author Jean Fullerton, whose latest novel Fetch Nurse Connie was published yesterday.

Jean Fullerton medHi, Thanks Elaine and Francesca for inviting me to be a guest on the WriteMindsWritePlace Blog.

For those of you who don’t know me I was born within the sound of Bow Bells in Whitechapel – Jack the Ripper country – and I absolutely adore my birth place of East London. My family has lived in the area since the 1820s. I use real East London locations and have my characters walking past actual shops and houses that once existed. I have also drawn on my family for many of my stories, such as the charity school, public houses and market.

I’m a qualified District Nurse and now teach nursing studies at a London University. I live with my hero of thirty-eight years just outside London in Epping Forest and have three grown-up daughters.

When did you know you wanted to write?

Unlike many of my fellow authors I am a relative latecomer to writing. In fact, I didn’t know I could write until I was sent on an NHS stress management course – yes, fact can be stranger than fiction.

I thought it was just a hobby until I got my first Romantic Novelist Association New Writers’ Scheme report back. It said I had what it took to be a published novelist because I wrote pacey stories with believable characters and sharp dialogue. Of course my reader also said I didn’t know the first thing about story structure, punctuation or presentation.

It was then I knew I had to write but it took 5 years of learning my craft before I finally got my big break.

I’ll continue to write until they prise the keyboard out from under my cold dead hand.

Jean's Banner

How long does it take you to complete a manuscript?

My novels are somewhere around the 135,000 word mark so the first draft takes me 5 months to pull together then a month re-working it before it goes off to my agent. She has been in publishing for a long time. Firstly, she was an editor with HarperCollins, Heinemann and Penguin before moving into being an agent so she always gives me insightful comments. Having incorporated those, in another month or so I’m happy to send the manuscript off to my publisher. So all in all from typing ‘Chapter one’ until hitting the send button to Orion is about 9-10 months, after which I collapse in a heap on my desk.

Can you tell us something about your ‘road’ to publication?

I’m dyslexic and when I went to school (at about the time when the Beatles were tripping off to India) the condition wasn’t recognised so English was always tortuous.

As a teenager I consumed Historical fiction of all kinds and I’d thought over the years that one day I’d write a historical novel. To my utter amazement a story tumbled out and after three months I had a 90,000 word manuscript and another story screaming to be told.

No Cure for Love

The book Jean won the Harry Bowling prize with

After writing over a 1,000,000 words my eleventh book, No Cure for Love, won the Harry Bowling Prize in 2006. I signed with my lovely agent, Laura and was offered my first two-book contract with Orion Publishing.

My first four novels were set during the Victorian era but my latest series featuring Nurse Millie Sullivan and her friend Nurse Connie Byrne are set in post-war East London. They are nurses in the pre-NHS St Dustan and St George’s Nursing Association.

Although the Nurse Millie and Connie books are stand-alone novels they have some of the same characters. How do you ensure your story lines don’t contradict each other?

It’s not easy and sometimes I end up flipping through my own book to find an answer. I have a plot grid of all my books with a timeline and notes as you can see below and I have that to hand.

Scene Events date
1 VE day Millie delivers a baby as street prepares for a Victory party. blancmange pilchards 8/5/45
2 Gets back & has to take over as the superintendent is drunk.
3 Argues with one of the nurses. Phone rings to say her father’s ill
4 At her father’s bedside with her mother as the peace is announced. Churchill spoke at 3pm
5 Calls her Aunt Ruby. King at 9pm?
6 Ch2 Goes back to work and meets her friend Connie

 

If you could give one piece of advice to budding authors what would it be?

Firstly, if it took me three years to become a nurse, another two to qualify as a district nurse and a further three to become a lecturer so why on earth would I think I could learn the craft of writing overnight? Very few first books are of a publishable standard. Mine wasn’t. Learn your craft!

Secondly, Write what you love. If you’re chasing a bandwagon by the time you’ve jumped on its left town.

And lastly persevere. Getting published is a long, hard road but you’ll never succeed unless you stick with it.

Thank you, Jean, it’s been lovely talking to you, as always.

 

Fetch Nurse Connie - Cover Feb  2015..doc-2Fetch Nurse Connie

Connie Byrne, a nurse in London’s East End working alongside Millie Sullivan from Call Nurse Millie, is planning her wedding to Charlie Ross, set to take place as soon as he returns from the war. But when she meets him off the train at London Bridge, she finds that his homecoming isn’t going to go according to plan.

Connie’s busy professional life, and the larger-than-life patients in the district, offer a welcome distraction, but for how long?

Available from Orion Fiction on Kindle, paperback and hardback on 4th June 2015.

Amazon link to buy Fetch Nurse Connie

 

Praise for Call Nurse Millie:

‘A delightful, well researched story that depicts nursing and the living conditions in the East End at the end of the war’ (Lesley Pearse)

‘…The writing shines off the page and begs for a sequel’ (Historical Novel Society)

‘…you will ride emotional highs and lows with each new birth and death. Beautifully written with some sharp dialogue.’ (THE LADY)

Jean’s website

Jean on Twitter

 

Elaine Bit The Bullet

You know, after interviewing and reading Wendy Clark’s blog post last week, it got me thinking about how my life has changed in the last three years.

report_writingThree years ago I was writing for my own pleasure, with no expectations of really being published. Then my son had a very, very long telephone conversation with Mr Everest, husband of Elaine Everest who is the proprietor of The Write Place. I was duly sent along a couple of weeks later, terrified of mixing with people who had short stories published and were actively working on novels. I was like a fish out of water, they read their work out and they were all so talented. The physical feeling of nausea was real. For all of that, I survived!

With Elaine’s and other class member’s guidance, I have had more experiences than I knew shelf 2existed. I attended the Discovery Day held at Foyles in London, another terrifying experience, pitching my novel to an agent in thirty seconds. I joined the Romantic Novelist Association (RNA) two years ago and have enjoyed everything that goes with that. The New Writer’s Scheme (NWS) and the critique that comes with it is worth its weight in gold. Attending the conference, with the talks, workshops and industry one to ones is a real experience, one I would highly recommend.

While I’m working on my third novel, the first may never see the light of day and my second is out with publishers, I have had many short stories published at home and abroad.

Has my life changed in the last three years? Yes it most definitely has. I haven’t given up my day job, the mortgage won’t allow that, but I eat, sleep and breathe writing. I take it very seriously. My novel writing is no longer just for me, I want to be published and I want to write for a living. To earn a living doing something you enjoy must be wonderful.

My son pushed me, Elaine and her students welcomed and encouraged me and there is no doubt in my mind that I would never have had the achievements, or the experiences that I’ve had, without them. I have a lot to be thankful for. That one phone call changed everything for me.

imagesIf there is something you want to achieve, bite the bullet and put yourself out there. With the Internet these days, you can find anything in minutes, so ask yourself is there anything you’d like to do. Yes it’s terrifying, but mixing with people that want to achieve the same as you is a wonderful feeling. We all need encouragement. Take the first steps and make that phone call, then the rest is up to you.