What’s Your Dream?

Elaine Roberts talks about what a difference a year makes.

Firstly, Francesca and I should apologise for being missing for so long, where has this year gone?

Due to a few family problems I have been in a reflective mood lately and it’s made me realise a few things, mainly how lucky I am. I thought I’d share a snippet of my world, without boring you with too much detail.

A few years ago my niece visited me and while we were talking she asked me, if I could do anything, what would it be? I told her I didn’t know. What was interesting was that, apparently, my sister had said the same thing. We came to the conclusion that we had never been asked about our own dreams and ambitions. It was from that conversation that I remembered, when I was in my early twenties, I used to write in the evening when my children had gone to bed. I had sent my work to Mills and Boon who sent me a delightful letter. It was a rejection, but it was encouraging. That was in the early eighties, I think, but then life took over.

In 2012, I joined a writing class and my dream was resurrected.

In April 2016, I had the opportunity to take redundancy from work and grabbed it with both hands, because I had a dream I wanted to follow.

In September 2016, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, which is a World War One family saga, hadn’t even been thought of. I was writing a Victorian novel.

At the end of November 2017, I signed my three-book contract with Aria.

My debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls, was published in June 2018.

The second novel in the series, The Foyles Bookshop Girls At War, is published in January 2019.

I am currently writing the third novel, Christmas At The Foyles Bookshop, which is out in August 2019.

It’s all been very exciting. Since signing the contract, my life has been dogged with my own self-doubt and serious family illnesses. At times, I have wondered if I had time to write another novel, or even if I could. I have questioned myself, over and over again, but my laptop went everywhere with me in case I got ten minutes to lose myself, away from the stresses of my reality at that time.

I also wondered whether all writers go through the same emotional rollercoaster, and having spoken to a few authors, I believe the answer is yes.

Anything creative is subjective, so that is easily followed by self-doubt, because everyone has an opinion, and definitely won’t all agree with each other.

A magazine short story

It took me a long time to tell someone I was an author. I built it up in my head to be this great unveiling, and didn’t want to come across as something I’m not. Haha, it was such a let down when I finally got round to saying it out loud, because I got no response whatsoever. The second time I said it, the response was “I don’t read books”. How sad is that? I can’t imagine going through life without a book on the go. My biggest problem is not having enough time to read all the books I want to.

I love a good book, and to write a novel has been a dream of mine since I was young.

Thanks to my hard work, determination and a great support network around me, and to my readers I have achieved my goal. The biggest thanks must go to my niece for asking the question in the first place and my tutor for guiding and bullying me into writing short stories as well as the novel.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, or what life throws at you, don’t lose faith or hope that you will achieve your dream. It may not be your time now, but remember, it’s never too late.

Imagine…

Francesca and Elaine discuss how inspired they are when they listen to music.

Francesca: Over the years I have found songs useful not only for sparking fiction ideas, but for finding titles for short stories I’ve already written.

When will the characters meet again?

When will the characters meet again?

Some of these stories are still in idea form in my ‘Cooking’ notebook. Others have been written but not polished enough to send out, for instance This Old House, about someone visiting what used to be their home. The Night Has a Thousand Eyes was just the right title for a story about someone wishing on a star for the perfect love when he was right in front of her. When Will I See You Again was number 1 the day many of my friends left school and always reminds me of that time. It inspired a story about meeting someone again many years after, you guessed it, leaving school.

For the story of a Valentine’s dinner that burst into flames (based on a true incident in my life) I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire was the perfect title. As Tears Go By, is about a girl missing her… but if I tell you that and it’s published, I’ll give the twist away.

IMG_7427

Flicking through a record collection for inspiration.

Among the stories I have had published, Memories Are Made of This (Sweden’s Allas  and India’s Woman’s Era) seemed an apt title for the tale of a hoarding grandmother. Goat’s Head Soup (The Weekly News), is about an unusual dinner party. Waiting on a Friend (Woman’s Weekly) is about an old man about to meet a good mate he hasn’t seen in many years.

Three of my all time favourite songs/tunes, Summertime (from Porgy and Bess), Stranger on the Shore and Sleepwalk, have, oddly, never engendered any story ideas for me. I think perhaps only the middle one would make a good story title. All three do remind me of long, hot summers as a child and are therefore useful for mood creation – but that’s a different topic altogether.

It’s time I tidied up some of those unpolished stories and got them out there.

@FCapaldiBurgess

Elaine: One of my favourite pastimes is listening to music.

My grandson with his piano.

My grandson with his piano.

Music can set the mood, time and era in your writing. This is something I have included in my novels, however I do believe there is a copyright issue, depending on how much of a song or title you use.

For me, song writing is the ultimate short story and the titles are often used for these. The lyrics of songs have been known to reduce me to tears on more than one occasion. Music is linked to events in my life, the obvious one is a wedding day, but it can also send me back in time, and suddenly I’m reliving my youth, even if it’s only for three minutes. Therefore, it is logical to link music to situations.

I can’t say I have ever listened to a piece of music and been inspired to write something, which is strange in itself, as I know other authors have.

When I write a short story, it tends to stem from a situation, but as I’ve said, music sparks situations in your mind, so therefore, I will set myself a challenge to pick a song and be inspired to write a story. Am I alone in this? Let me know your thoughts.

@RobertsElaine11

 

If you’re struggling for inspiration, why not trawl through an old copy of a hit singles book or the internet for song titles/themes? This site has the top 100 UK hits for all the decades from the 1950s till now: http://www.uk-charts.top-source.info/uk-chart-history.shtml

 

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.

Waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear

Francesca Capaldi Burgess considers the dreaded editing, and those dratted ‘favourite’ words.

Editing is something I love and hate, much as Golem in Lord of the Rings loved and hated the ring. And like Golem, I will never be rid of my need for it.

The ‘love’ part comes from the knowledge that I have completed the first draft, ‘The End’ typed, in my mind if not in truth, on the last page. Then comes the reality – back to page 1. And I know this will be only one of many edits, whether it’s a short story or a novel. The more I edit it, the more I tend to hate it! Neither does the editing process finish with the submission of the work.Page editing

I’ve written before of how I’m an eternal editor. If my work comes winging its way back to me, I will be
sifting through it yet again. Even if it’s a short story I’ve already sold in a different country, I will make sure it’s the best I think it can be. And that’s quite aside from the fact that foreign markets might compel me to change certain aspect in any case.

So, I shrug, huff a sigh while a sense of foreboding floods my senses, eyeing the page hopefully, clearly ready to begin, obviously. Which brings me to one of the major editing events – eradicating favourite words. Not favourite in the sense that I like them, but because they are overused by me. The sentence before last contains many that I placed on a hit list recently after finishing the first draft of a novella. Sometimes I end up simply replacing one well-worn word with another equally shabby one. In which case, a complete re-write of that sentence, and perhaps the one before and after, is called for.

The ‘Word’ list of synonyms is some help, as is the internet, but I prefer my Collins Thesaurus. What a hunk of a book! It’s much better than Roget’s version, which I’ve always found cumbersome.

I am, however, eternally grateful for the ‘Find and Replace’ function. I can’t imagine how much more difficult sifting through hackneyed words must have been in the days of typewriters and pens/quills, though I have to admit a fondness for writing by hand. ‘F&R’ is also useful for changing single quotes to double, and vice versa, for the requirements of different publishers, though it’s still mind-numbingly tedious to do.

Below is the hit list I made for my most recent work. Some of them will probably have you going ‘eh?!’ How many of these are also your bugbears? Can you add to the list? Feel free to comment below and tell me of any of your own worn out words.

shrug                           admonish

sigh                              laugh

huff                              wildly

breath                         unspoken

smile                           tut

grin                              raise

senses                          head

lips                               eyeing

nod                              turn

wide-eyed                   vaguely

ripple                           life

obviously                     bright

clear                            expression

connection                  screwed (not what you’re thinking, you mucky pup!)

And if you’re wondering about the title of this blog, it’s because of this rather nice quote by author Patricia Fuller: 

Writing without revising is the literary equivalent of waltzing gaily out of the house in your underwear.”

Find me on twitter