Sunday, 30 December 2007

Novel 2 outline...

DONE!!!

To be sent off tomorrow.

Bring on the New Year's Eve festivities!

And, because I doubt I'll get to a computer on New Year's Day

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

New Year's Resolutions to follow in...well...in the New Year!

Friday, 28 December 2007

End of Year Writing Stats

I was sure I posted my writing stats last year but I can't seem to find them. Never mind. Here are the stats for this year...

Number of words written in 2007: 146,738

Number of stories written in 2007: 20

Number of flashes written in 2007: 17

Number of poems written in 2007: 3

Number of novels completed in 2007: 1 (hooray!)

168 short story and flash submissions (quite a few still 'out there')

25 short story and flash fiction hits including:

12 competition placings (2 published in print, 1 published online)
3 online publications at ezines
8 print publications
1 radio broadcast
1 performance

and....

90 short story/flash rejections (I don't tend to post those on the blog funnily enough! ;o))

This year was particularly tough writing-wise as I took on a little too much. I tried to keep up with my short story writing and subbing AND write a novel. Next year it's going to be all about the novels with the odd short story written when the mood takes me. I just haven't got the time or energy to dedicate myself to both.

I'm still so pleased with myself for writing and editing novel #1 this year and I'm really excited about started novel #2 next year. For the past couple of nights novel #2 has been knocking at my brain just as I'm about to fall asleep and I've had to get up and scribble down the ideas before I forget them. It's really taken shape now so, after a day at the sales today (black knee high boots in size 8 yay!), I'm going to spend as long as it takes tomorrow getting the outline written.

2007 has been a good year writing-wise. Let's hope 2008 is even better!

Thursday, 27 December 2007

You've got to love the Christmas sales...

...because you overhear the funniest conversations.

Take this one that I eavesdropped on in Marks and Sparks this afternoon:

Lady #1 (holding up a shirt and eyeing it critically): I quite like this

Lady #2 (appraising shirt): Why don't you get it?

Lady #1: Because I'm trying to work out if Gok Wan would buy it

Lady #2 (confused): Gok Wan?

Lady #1: Yes, my rule for the sales this year is to only buy clothes Gok Wan would approve of

Lady #2: And what would he think of that shirt?

Lady #1 (putting shirt back on rail): He'd hate it! Next!

Monday, 24 December 2007

Just sneaking back to say...

I've had more wonderful news! I found out yesterday that I WON the Children in Need Flash Marathon. I am totally, totally gobsmacked. Forty or so of the highest scoring entries were sent to Tom Dooley at Eclectica to judge anonymously and he chose one of mine as the winner. It'll be published on the site at some point in the future and I'll also receive some prize money (no idea how much yet). But gosh...wow...what a great Christmas present and totally unexpected :o)

In other news I've spent most of Christmas Day penning my entry for the fourth round of Eurofiction (to be in by 27th December!) and I've just sent it off! It's probably not the best story I've ever written (it was written in the living room with a glass of mulled wine in one hand, the TV blaring in the background and my family chatting and laughing around me) but it's a story and it's been sent (I promised myself I'd write a story for each of the 10 rounds of Eurofiction comes hell or high water and so far I have).

I still have to outline novel #2 but that can wait until after Christmas (I'm not a complete masochist!).

Happy Christmas everyone. Hope you all have a happy, stress-free day :o)

Monday, 17 December 2007

Hit at QWF!

Good God. I just received an email from Kathie at QWF (Quality Women's Fiction) to let me know that my story "The Healer's Wife" will be published in the January 2008 issue.

Am so, so, so chuffed as QWF was on my list of journals/magazines I wanted to crack this year and, just at the last minute, I have!

I've had such good news this month that I can't help but think my luck will change soon and something horrible will happen (I know, I know, it's supersticious silliness but...you know...when you're a natural pessimist like me a spate of good news tends to freak you out a bit!) Anyway, I've got a nice warm glow now (and that isn't just the two Christmas candles burning on the desk beside me!)

p.s. Went to see "Cinderella" at Brighton Theatre Royal this evening. I hadn't been to see a panto since I was a kid and it was just as much fun as I remembered. Not sure it used to cost £24 a seat when I was little though!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

When someone asks...

"Where did you get the idea for novel #2 from?"

I can answer...

"It popped into my head while I was knitting and watching Antiques Roadshow one Sunday before Christmas."

I'm so rock and roll!

Seriously though - I think the lack of mental stimulation gave my subconscious the opportunity to go "Oi you, I've got an idea. Listen!"

I still haven't got the whole plot worked out for novel #2 but I'm getting there.

The Mystery of the Splat!

Last night, while I was watching TV in the early hours of the morning (probably about 1 or 2am) I heard a loud THUMP as something hit my living room window. The blinds were down and it was dark outside so I assumed it was a senile seagull, confused by the light.

This morning I opened the blinds and discovered...well...a splat on the window!

Looking at it a bit more closely there are sort of orangey coloured bits pasted to the window (nice!) and lots of dribbles. It doesn't look like blood. In fact, it looks more like someone threw a moldy orange at my window. BUT...I live in the first floor flat of a converted house so someone would have to aim pretty high to throw an orange up here and they'd have to do it deliberately. Who would do that and why? The other option is that some kind of flying animal hit my window and its guts are orange coloured. Or maybe a flying animal dressed as an orange hit my window?

I'm curious (and more than a little grossed out)

Can you tell I'm trying to distract myself from outlining novel #2?

Saturday, 15 December 2007

When life almost imitates art

I've finished all my Christmas shopping, wrapped all the presents and ASDA are turning up with the food tomorrow (hooray for internet shopping). Just one thing left to sort out...the Christmas tree...

I was supposed to wait for someone to come and help me get it down from the attic but, because I'm the impatient sort, I thought I'd try and get it down myself earlier this afternoon. I propped up the step ladder under the hatch and climbed to the top. I slid the hatch to one side and peered around. There was the tree, about three feet away from the hatch. I should probably mention now that I've never gone up into the attic before because the step ladder is too short and I don't have the arm power to pull myself up. What I normally do is climb up to the top step and slide things in so they're within arms reach of the hatch.

Today, being desperate to get my tree, I thought maybe, just maybe, I could stand on the very top of the ladder (the bit that has a big warning sign on it saying do not stand on this) and haul myself in.

I stepped...

I lifted myself up a bit...

I put my weight on my arms...

and then...

the step ladder wobbled beneath me

and I thought "Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, what the hell am I doing?"

There's a bit in novel #1 involving the main character, something in the attic she desperately wants and a wobbly step ladder. And it doesn't end happily ever after.

I decided to abandon the tree and stepped, slowly, back down the step ladder. They say life imitates arts but I certainly don't want my life to imitate my book (you'll know why if it ever gets published).

Still think the living room looks empty without the tree though.

Acute episodes

My copy of The Lancet's end of year fiction special arrived this morning. They've called it Acute Episodes which is a very fitting name I think and its a beautifully made publication; it's A5 size, the front cover is glossy, the pages are high quality paper, the typography is excellent and the photographic illustrations are brilliant.

There's something so satisfying about seeing your story in print and for me its all about the tactile quality of the publication and the feeling of solidity - you can put your words on a shelf and they won't float away.

The other good news...

A couple of days ago I mentioned some wonderful news I'd received via email that I couldn't announce because I'd been sworn to secrecy, but now I can...

Sarah Salway and Lynne Rees have a book out next year called Messages. To quote their blog:

"When we started the Messages Project in 2003, it was all about our shared passion for writing and the creative process. We devised a simple formula over coffee one day. Using email, we would exchange 300 ‘messages’ of exactly 300 words, with each one returned within a time limit of 72 hours. Links between each message were made with words, themes, character, form, or even mood. The project took eighteen months to complete and the original Messages was published in July 2006."

In November this year they started the Write Your Messages project. Every day for 30 days they posted one of the messages from their book on their blog http://writeyourmessages.blogspot.com/ and invited writers to respond to that message with their own 300 word response. The best responses at the end of the 30 days would be selected by Lynne and Sarah for inclusion in a booklet to be published by Bluechrome and sold for charity.

I read the messages every single day (and many of the responses) and contributed 6 of my own 300-word responses during the course of the month and...

Two of my messages have been selected for publication!

I really enjoyed the Messages project and desperately wanted to be a part of the final publication so I'm dead chuffed to have two flashes in it. There's a launch party at the end of January that I'll be going to and...casting a quick eye over the other contributors...it looks like lots of fellow bloggers could be going too. So excited! Who's going?

Friday, 14 December 2007

That Christmassy Feeling

My flat is a tip.

Why, when I have so much to do anyway did I decide it would be a good time to go through all my clothes sorting them into piles of 'keep', 'throw', 'charity shop' and 'ebay'? I also have a pile of ebay packages to post out (again WHY did I think it would be a good idea to ebay more stuff before Christmas?). I also have piles of presents to wrap and a freezer I need to defrost to make space for yummy Christmas food. Oh, and a million other niggly jobs that need to be done before Christmas.

BUT...

I've still got the Christmas feeling and I just wanted to say...

Merry Christmas everyone!

And to prove how Christmassy I'm feeling I thought I'd do a little dance for you. Enjoy!

Me dancing like a loon!

Thursday, 13 December 2007

So...

In light of my previous post it looks like I'm not going to have a quiet Christmas after all. I've got a novel to plan and outline!

Still, there are worse ways to spend your time!

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Knackered but Happy

Good god, I can't wait for this week to end! I've been up and down more often than a gigolo's zip. Up to London and back down to Brighton that is.

It started last Saturday when I travelled up to London to queue for my ticket and wristband at the O2 centre (did I mention I went to the Ahmet Ertegun/Led Zeppelin gig ;o)) I travelled back down to Brighton on Sunday.

On Monday I travelled back up to London to go to said gig. So much has been written about it that I'm at a loss for words, apart from the word FANFUCKINTASTIC which, from now on, should always be synonymous with Led Zeppelin. Honestly, they were so good I felt dizzy (and that wasn't because we were on the 4th floor) when they finished the second encore - Rock and Roll - and didn't feel normal again for hours. Even then my ears didn't stop ringing for 12 hours!

Anyway, back down to Brighton tonight and then back up to London tomorrow for a work Christmas dinner (we're going to a Gary Rhodes restaurant/bar. OHMYGOD what do I wear? I don't do 'posh'!) and then back down on Friday and....

THAT'S IT!

I'll be on holiday for THREE WHOLE WEEKS. and no more up and down apart from across (and slightly up) to my folks for a few days. Wah hoo!

I stayed up obscenely late on Monday night to get the third story written for the Eurofiction competition and gave it a quick edit tonight before sending it off. Now I've got until 27th December to write the fourth one. Eek!

One more writing related bit of news before I go...

An email last night delivered some wonderful news (no, it's not novel related) but I'm under strict instructions not to make the news public until it's, well, been made public so I can't say any more.

Now all I have to do is get my Christmas tree down from the attic, buy a couple more presents, do a food shop and tidy up the flat.

And then I'll be ready for Christmas (easier said than done)

Monday, 10 December 2007

And here they are!


Thats a surprisingly sexy robert plant in the top left of the photo ;-)

Waiting for led Zeppelin to come on stage...


Any minute now!

Short Story Hit!

Hooray! My story was Commended in the Southport Writers short story competition. No money and no publication but my story was in the top 14 of 277 entries so that's an achievement in itself in my book. Very happy. And now I can chance the story in another competition.

Was struggling to get my third story written for the Eurofiction competition tonight but the hit news has buoyed me up...hopefully I'll finish it now!

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Man Flu

You can tell I'm winding down for the year because my posts are becoming more about things I've discovered whilst surfing the net and less about writing!

Love this (s0, so true):

T-shirts for a fiver!

Hooray for internet shopping. I just bought two very funky T-shirts as Christmas presents for $10 (a fiver) each. I'm nothing if not cheap ;o).

Here's the site if you want to get some too: Threadless (the $10 a t-shirt sale lasts until 16th December)

and here are some of my favourite designs:







Saturday, 1 December 2007

My first 'novel' (and my first ever rejection)

Earlier on today I was scrabbling around under my bed sorting through all the crap priceless treasures I'd stored there when I discovered a brown envelope. It wasn't just any old brown envelope. Oh no, this enveloped contained a great unpublished masterpiece. A treasure no less! It was my very first book; written and illustrated by my eight year old hand, bound with pink wool... and rejected by Penguin Publishers (they sent a very nice letter but still, talk about starting earlier with the rejection letters!). And the title? Short, concise, to the point: Weedy.

Here, in all it's unedited glory (typos included), is my first ever novel:

Once upon a time at the bottom of a field lived four flowers, Tulip, Marigold, Rose and forget-me-not. One day when the four flowers were talking a stranger crept near and buried its roots in the ground. It watched the four flowers.

"Hey look over there," said Tulip pointing in the things direction. They all looked at the thing "What on earth are you"? said Marigold sneering "I", said the thing," am a weed"" "My name is Weedy."

"Ugh," a weed" said Marigold. "I don't want to be seen with a weed."

"Come on Marigold don't be horrible to Weedy", said Forget me-not.

"Weedy would like like to be friends with us?" said Rose

"No certainly not" said Weedy crossly. Then he shrugged his shoulders dropped his head and fell asleep.

"I don't think much of him," said Marigold.

"He snores aswell," said Rose.

"Maybe he will be nice in the morning," said Tulip. Then they all fell asleep.

The next morning came and Weedy was the first one awake "I'll get those flowers," he said to himself. He pulled his roots out of the ground and crept quietly over to Marigold and pull a petal out of her pretty head. The he walked up to the brook cupped his leaves and took some water in them and splashed it all over the flowers.

"Oh" said all the flowers as they quickley woke up

"Oh no" said Marigold almost in tears as she looked at her face in the mirror "Weedy you are a horrible plant I wish you had never come here" she said. Weedy laughed wickedly and crept off "We must try and get rid of him," said Marigold. "He is horrible" said Rose.

But the next morning it was even worse. Weedy made the ground that the flowers had been sleeping in all wet and muddy. Then he had smeared the poor flowers with mud. They were cross.

"We must stop him," said Forget me not.

"But how?" asked Marigold

"I think I have got an idea" exclaimed Tulip.

"Tomorrow we must all get up before Weedy," Rose told the flowers.

"Then we must get some tar from all the work men and put it around Weedy before he wakes up," said Tulip. Then they put their roots in the ground and they all fell asleep. Weedy smiled wickedly as he fell asleep but he did not know what was going to happen in the morning.

The next morning the flowers got up before Weedy and went to where the workmen were working and got some tar in a bucket made out of leaves. Then they spread the tar around Weedy and splashed him with water. Weedy woke up suddenly and looked aruond "Oh no please help me" he said and I will be your friend and will not play jokes on you

The flowers decided to help him out and pulled him out of the tar. From then on Weedy was never playing jokes on them but somtimes he was a little bit unkind. But they are all friends now.

The end.

Winding Down for 2007

There are only 31 days left in 2007 (including what's left of today). Good God. Where did the year go? The year is winding down and so am I. After lots of frantic novel editing, story writing and flashing (fiction) last month I've decided that December is going to be a much quieter affair.

I still have to write two short stories for Eurofiction before the year is up (one by 13th December and one by 27th December) but, other than that, I'm going to take it fairly easy.

I'm going to spend most of this month thinking and scribbling. All the advice I've read says that the best thing you can do when you've sent a novel to an agent is to get on with your next one and that's what I'm going to do. I've had an idea for my second novel for a while now but I really need to start thinking it through in more detail. I need to brainstorm it and scribble down every idea that comes into my head and then sketch out the plot and decide which POV I'm going to use - details that are all very much an unknown at the moment.

So, December = thinking month. January = writing month. A new novel, a new word counter, a new 'race'. Anyone else starting a new project in 2008?

The Girl In The Cafe Review

A couple of months ago I signed up to join the Girl in the Cafe tour which is a project set up by Ingrid to spread the word about the film The Girl in the Cafe (starring Billy Nighy and Kelly MacDonald and written by Richard Curtis). To join the tour you just sign up at the website and, in time, a copy of the film will be sent to you. You then watch it, review it on your blog if you have one and then send it on to the next person.

So, always a nosey mare, I signed up because I wanted to find out what was so special about the film Ingrid wanted everyone to watch.

I received it a little while ago (sorry Ingrid) and finally sat down to watch it tonight. I didn't know a huge deal about it before I put it on apart from the fact it was about a relationship and about the G8 summit. Huh? I thought. How can that work? If I'm 100% honest it doesn't work brilliantly. Nighy and MacDonald are excellent and the way they stumble around each other, both searching for a salve to their particular loneliness, is beautifully portrayed. They're an unlikely match on the surface and their awkwardness is palpable but you can't help but root for them.

That's one side of the film. The other side is the political message - the fact that, according to the film, Britain was pushing action on the Millennium Goal (to bring an end to world poverty) at the G8 summit in Reykjavik. The film was made in conjunction with the Make Poverty History campaign and you can tell that Richard Curtis did his best to introduce the issue with a subtle hand but there were several moments in the film where it felt shoe-horned in and clunky. I often felt like I was watching a publication information skit during a Live8 or Comic Relief event.

There were other moments when the interchange between MacDonald's character Gina and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and others later on in the film (I won't spoil it) felt heavily scripted rather than natural (and, I hate to admit, many of them were hugely cringeworthy). I did also wonder whether or not the British contingent would be quite so influenced by the opinion of one member of the public. Overall this wasn't a film you could lose yourself in because, as intriguing as the relationship between MacDonald and Nighy was, the political message was so overt it felt a little as though it was being flashed across the screen. (Thinking about it I'm sure that was point but I still felt it could have been done a little more subtly)

That said the film did redeem itself in the final scene between Gina and Lawrence (Nighy's character) and it was really quite touching.

The Girl in the Cafe attempted something big and brave and, while it might not rank in my top ten films ever, it did succeed in its mission to inform and enlighten. Whereas before, I'm ashamed to admit, I was largely ignorant about what the G8 summit was actually about, I am now somewhat enlightened. I was also very touched by the Nelson Mandella quote at the end of the film. In just two sentences it powerfully sums up the central message of the entire film.

If you'd like to sign up (for free) to see this film go along to Girl in the Cafe tour and send Ingrid an email.

Friday, 30 November 2007

Mobile phone blog test


A rainy day in brighton. Photo taken from my window.

[Edited to add: I just discovered that I can take photos and write blog entries on my new mobile phone and send them to my blog. Oh the joy of technology!]

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Official. I am a masochist.

As well as editing my book today and trying (and failing) to print it out I've also managed a short story for Eurofiction task 2 (written on the train home) and a flash for today's Your Messages (that was written when the printer gave up the ghost!).

And you know what the best bit of the day was? A complete stranger sending me an email to say they really liked the flash I posted on Your Messages. I feel all warm and fuzzy now. Thanks Gina.

And now I'm going to sleep.

Typical!

I'd printed out 95/345 pages of my novel when I heard an ominous beep, beep, BEEP noise. I glanced at the printer.

"Out of yellow ink," it said.

I shrugged. "So what? I'm not printing my novel out in yellow I'm printing it out in black."

PRINT.

"No," said the printer. "I'm out of yellow ink. Replace the yellow cartridge and then, and only then, will I print out your novel in black."

"But that doesn't make sense. The black ink cartridge is full. It doesn't matter that the yellow one is empty because...YOU'RE NOT GOING TO USE IT."

"Don't care," said the printer. "I'm not going to print any more of your novel and that's that."

BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP.

I feel an early morning ink cartridge shopping trip coming on. That's if I haven't kicked the printer to death first.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Just a quick one (a hit)

I found out earlier that I'm a runner up in the WriteSpace "Forbidden Friends" competition. The prize is £15 worth of vouchers (so I can enter the next 3 Writespace comps for free!). I was a runner up in the last comp too so I'm aiming for the cash prizes next time! ;o)

Thursday, 22 November 2007

p.s.

Hooray for ebay. When I trot down to the post office tomorrow with a bag full of parcels my flat will be free of 11 bits of junk saleable items and I will be £100 better off. Just in time for Christmas too. Nice! Now I just need to decide what to do with the other 15,000,000 items that are cluttering up my flat.

p.s. Guess what the central heating men said to me today? It's something I've never heard before - not from the diy store kitchen team, the bathroom fitter, various people who have come to give me a quote for something, Jehovah's witnesses (not really) and all tradesmen that have ever visited -

"It's a tiny flat isn't it?"

Really? I hadn't noticed.

How I Live Now

I rarely (if ever) do book reviews on this blog but, for this particular book, I felt compelled to put fingers to keyboard and tell the world just how fantastic it is. The book in question is "How I Live Now" by Meg Rosoff.

I can't remember why I bought it - possibly because I read a rave review on someone else's blog* or because I wanted to research the Young Adult (YA) market - but buy it I did and I devoured it in a day. It was the first book I haven't been able to put down in a long, long time.

Strictly speaking "How I Live Now" is a YA novel but don't let that put you off. The language, the voice and the characters sparkle and Daisy, the main character, couldn't be more alive if she jumped off the page and breathed in your face. I didn't know anything about this book, the setting or the plot before I started reading it and, in my opinion, neither should you. This is a book you need to read without any preconceptions. Just open it and let it gobble you up. It's a book about love and loss and hope and desire. It's tender and funny and brave and sad.

It's a book I wish I'd written. I can't give it greater praise than that. Recommended for everyone over the age of 12 with a heartbeat.




* It was shortlisted for the Orange Award for new writers so had quite a lot of press at the time I think.

Something silly

This takes a while to load but it put a smile on my face and hopefully on the faces of the people I sent animated 'potato messages' to.

Why say it with flowers when can say it with potatoes?

http://www.potatoparade.co.uk/

(The image above is for all writers reading this blog. Unfortunately you can't send bulk emails from the site so you'll have to make do with a static image for now!)

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

What's new?

Well, I spent last weekend in the snowy Worcestershire countryside for my niece's first birthday. And very sweet it was too - particularly watching how she and the other children (one 9 months, one 15 months) interacted with each other. They reminded me of cats. When they spotted another child they'd stop whatever they were doing and stare. Then they'd sneak forward on hands and knees and halt suddenly when the other child moved. Then they'd sneak forward some more, reach out a hand and then BAT, hit the child on the head. Remarkably there were very few tears and lots of laughter (mostly from the assembled adults).

What else?

I've been working with the editor of Etchings to tweak a few things that needed tweaking in my story before it goes to press (and a very nice man Patrick is too. I thoroughly recommend you all send your best literary short stories off to him asap - http://www.illurapress.com/).

Oh, and the scores are rolling in for the Children in Need flashes (they're all being critiqued anonymously so no one has any idea who wrote each flash) and, after my ever so slightly miserable previous post, I'm pleased to say my flashes have scored quite well.

Each flash needs four separate critiques and each critique gives the flash an overall score.

80-90 means disappointing, needs work
91-99 means reasonable to good
100-109 means good to very good
110+ means excellent

So far, out of the 150 flashes that were written none have scored an average of 110+, about 25 have scored 100-109, 85 have scored 90-99 and 10 have scored 80-89 (for those of you doing the maths some of the flashes haven't received their four crits yet so don't have an average yet).

Of my flashes 3 scored 100-109 and 5 scored 90-99. NONE scored 80-89 so - yay - I didn't write a complete stinker!

What else? Oh, I'm trying to think up a story for the 2nd round of Eurofiction (I have to get my story in a week on Thursday). The prompts this week are:

1) Write a story which includes the following phrase: She touched the envelope and smiled.
2) Write a story about trust.
3) Write a story which includes a dog, a teacup and highlighter pen.

At the moment I'm favouring option 1 but I've got no idea what the story's going to involve yet!

Other than that (and getting over some evil headache/aching bones/exhaustion virus that I've been battling for the last few days) I'm preparing for my flat to descend into chaos over the next two days. My old back boiler is FINALLY being replaced with a nice new combi-boiler (after 2 years of getting quotes, crying at the cost of the quotes and being ignored by central heating firms who came round to give me quotes and then never got back to me) . Wish me luck!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Children in Need all over for another year

I managed another three flashes tonight and I'm done and ready for bed.

Last year I managed 18 flashes and poems and this year only 8 flashes (and 3 unfinished ones). I feel a bit crappy about that but:

1) I didn't ask anyone to sponsor me this year so didn't have the impetus to go the extra mile
2) I REALLY suffered from writers block/self-consciousness this year and producing 8 finished flashes in that state felt like quite an achievement in itself
3) I like one of the flashes I wrote. It was quite amusing, even if I do say so myself

After midday tomorrow everyone will start critiquing the flashes (anonymously) and next week I'll find out if any of the ones I wrote made the grade to get into this year's anthology or the prizes. If I don't make the grade or win a prize that's okay. Sometimes you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone and force your brain to engage/be creative. And that's what I've done this year, if nothing else.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Excellent, excellent, excellent!

At LAST some excellent news. An email this morning to say my short story "Bookmunch" has been accepted by Australian literary publication "Etchings" (published by http://www.ilurapress.com/ and available in good Ozzy bookshops).

Bookmunch is a story I'm really very fond of and, after it failed to place in a couple of competitions, I thought "sod this, Bookmunch isn't a competition story, it's a story that deserves to be in a good publication" and now it's going to be. Very happy about that.

Also very happy about the free copy I'll be getting and the $50 (Australian dollars) I'll be paid (only I have no idea how much that is in pounds, but anything is better than a kick in the pants).

In other news...

I wrote 5 pieces of flash fiction for Children In Need last night (from 6pm to 3am). Really I should have written 9 pieces (one an hour) but I'm afraid I got a bit distracted by "I'm a Celebrity..." at 9pm and "The Mummy Diaries" at 10pm (which made me cry).

Turning off the TV and putting music on instead was much more condusive to writing! So was the bottle of wine I drank to oil the cogs! I nearly wrote 6 pieces but one of them didn't quite come together as the end of the hour approached so I'll be putting that one in a 'rewrite this as a short story' folder (no such folder exists but you know what I mean).

Anyway, I have a busy day today so I won't be doing any more flashes during the day but I intend to get writing again tonight.

p.s. Kellie, shame on you for reading P.S. I Love You Twice! I hope you can blame that on your hormones! ;o)

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Test your vocab and help charity at the same time

Thanks to TappyLappy I've just discovered a great site called FreeRice where you can test your vocab whilst helping charity at the same time.

My current vocab level is 42. What's yours?

http://www.freerice.com/

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

A Meme (in place of a post!)

While I wait for my blogging mojo to come back here's a meme I stole borrowed from Juliette's blog.

Five Gentlemen I'd Like To Have Round for Tea:

Josh Holloway (aka Sawyer in Lost) - he'd be the eyecandy
Stephen Fry - he'd be the witty/intellectual one
Paul Merton - he'd make me laugh
Eddie Veddie (lead singer of Pearl Jam) - he could sing to me (and be eyecandy too)
Paul O'Grady - he'd be the caustic/sarcastic one

Five Ladies I'd Like to Lunch With:

Fern Britton - she'd make everyone snort tea out of their noses
Jo Brand - for her wit and humour
Margaret Atwood - so I could pick her brains about writing
Martha Wainwright - she could sing to us
Colleen Nolan (or Carol McGiffin - both from Loose Women fame) - they'd be a laugh

Four People I'd Like To Meet in Heaven
(excluding family and friends):

Marilyn Monroe - I'd like to find out if she was more than just a pretty face (also whether she killed herself or was murdered)
Louis Armstrong - he could sing "What a Wonderful World" to me and make me feel more chilled about being dead!
Kurt Cobain - we could reminisce about grunge
Roald Dahl - he could tell me stories to keep me entertained


Four Material Things I Couldn't Live Without:

My laptop
My mp3 player
My bed
My books

Four Things I COULD Live Without:

The London Underground during rush hour
My debts
Writers block/blips in self-confidence
Rude people

Three Books I Would Save From a Burning Building:

The Faraway Tree - Enid Blyton
1984 - George Orwell
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley

Three Books I Would Throw Into a Burning Building:

P.S. I Love You - Cecilia Ahern (couldn't finish it)
Brick Lane - Monica Ali (couldn't get into it)
Crystal - Katie Price/Jordan (along with anything else masquerading as fiction and 'written' by a celebrity)

Five Songs That Make Me Happy:

Could You Be Loved - Bob Marley
Valerie - The Zutons
Big Sur - The Thrills
What a Wonderful World - Louis Armstrong
Pretty in Pink - Psychadelic Furs

Five Songs That Make Me Cry:

Almost Blue - Alison Moyet
Don't Smoke in Bed - Nina Simone
Hallelujah - Jeff Buckley
Hurt - Johnny Cash
You've Changed - Joni Mitchell


Two Things I Wish I'd Invented:

Google (I'd be a multimillionaire by now)
The Sandwich (it would be quite cool for my surname to be immortalised)

Okay and now I'm going to tag 5 people. I'll go for A.Writer, Sally, Lane, HelenMH and Fiona.

p.s. I finally got round to putting some of my post-clearout stuff on ebay at the weekend and am now addicted to checking my listings to see how high the bids are! Roll on some extra cash to spend on Christmas presents!

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

I've lost my blogging mojo...

...have you seen it?

I've been meaning to post to this blog for a few days but just haven't felt particularly inspired. That's not to say I haven't been writing - I have. I wrote a 300 word flash for http://writeyourmessages.blogspot.com/ on Friday and last night I wrote a 2,000 word story for Eurofiction (entries for the first task have to be in on Thursday so I actually got mine in really early, well, for me anyway). I just, dunno, don't feel like I've got much of interest to blog about at the moment.

If anyone finds my mojo please return it asap!

Thursday, 8 November 2007

Editing

Hooray - just did some more novel editing pushing my first draft edited from 78% to 85.6% done!

I've now finished typing up my previous paper edits so it's back to the print out to do some more scribbling/crossing out. Just 39 pages left to read, edit and type up and then the first edit will be DONE!

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Bits and Bobs

I had no idea I hadn't blogged since Sunday - where have the days gone?

So, I haven't blogged about writing or editing for a while so I'd better mention them. Since Sunday I've:

1) Edited a short story (the one that had pace problems) and sent it off to an anthology
2) Written a 300 word flash for the 'your messages' project (http://writeyourmessages.blogspot.com/)
3) Written a 150 word flash for Mslexia's latest flash call - Electricity (just need to take another look at it and see if it needs editing before I send it off)
4) Started a short story...and abandoned it (it felt too forced)

And, um, that's it. Oh...I lie...I've also been thinking about writing a lot and scribbling down ideas for the Eurofiction competition. The first set of prompts went up on the website last Thursday and I've been racking my brains for ideas ever since. If you're curious the three prompts were:
  • A story titled "The Interview"
  • A story containing the line "I knew I shouldn't have given her my phone number"
  • A showing the top card of a pack of cards - the Jack of Hearts

The abandoned short story I mentioned above was a response to the second prompt. I didn't want to write something obvious (like a story about a guy who meets a girl in a club and she turns out to be a stalker/lunatic) so took a slightly different approach but it all just felt too self-conscious and I knew that if I forced the story out if wouldn't work. I've now had an idea for the first prompt which also isn't an obvious interpretation but it's a story that should actually be quite fun to write (because that's what writing should be about right? Fun. Sometimes it's easy to forget that).

So yes, I've got the idea. Now I just need to write it!

I've haven't done any more editing of the novel (or work on the children's book) but something I realised while I was on holiday was that I put far too much pressure on myself when it comes to writing and sometimes you should just write what you feel like writing. And this week I've mostly felt like writing flashes and scribbling down ideas. Tomorrow I'm going to do a bit of novel editing and on Sunday I'm going to write my Eurofiction entry. That's quite enough for one week I think!

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Cringey, cringey, cringe

I just saw the new Spice Girls video on TV and my overwhelming response is... embarrassment. What are they doing? It's like the battle of the 30-something bodies. Geri gyrating against a doorway with her ultra-toned stomach out, MelB seems to have forgotten to put her top on and Victoria..well...I think she may have escaped from a gimp dungeon.

Congrats to Mel C and Emma for keeping their clothes on (and preserving their dignity).

If you'd like to cringe too go here and see the car crash 'come back' for yourselves:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqBjgyd3_44

Saturday, 3 November 2007

I am...

getting a bit addicted to this:

Helicopter Game

and, as a result, probably developing RSI.

My current highest score is 836.

Can you beat it? (probably)

Friday, 2 November 2007

300 word messages

I know lots of other bloggers have already blogged about this but I feel the need to get the word out too, particularly as I've just written a 300 word message in response to today's posting and now have that lovely 'Ooh, I just wrote something new' feeling.

What am I talking about?

Well, get yourself over here: http://writeyourmessages.blogspot.com/ to find out and join in. I noticed fellow bloggers Zinnia and Chris have also posted messages in response to the posts.

Give it ago - even if you don't get selected for the publication you'll get your creative juices flowing.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Good God - I actually did some editing!

I really didn't want to do any editing tonight but I knew that the longer I left the editing the less likely I was to start doing it again. Luckily I still had pages and pages of hand scribbled edits to type up so I didn't have to concentrate too much.

5% done tonight and that puts my editing at 78% done. There's just 70 pages left to edit (of 340 pages) and I've hand edited 22 of those pages so not much more to do. Hooray!

And then it's onto editing stage 2....

On finding the right voice...and bad timing...

On Monday night, just as I'd settled into bed, I had an idea for a story and, all of a sudden, the opening popped into my head.

I had the voice, the tone, the mood and that 'ooh' feeling you get when you just know that if you sit down and start writing the story you won't stop until it's done (my most successful short stories have come out this way but, unfortunately, such magical moments are few and far between, more's the pity). It was 2am, I was dog-tired and all I had to hand was my mobile phone. I tapped as much as I could into the notes section of my phone and then ran out of space. I was torn. Did I get up, seize the moment and write it (and make it through a day at work with 3-4 hours sleep) or go to sleep (I'd only had 5 hours sleep the night before and had to get up at 7am)? I'm ashamed to say I went to sleep. And I dare call myself a writer!

Now my only option is to transcribe my mobile phone story opening and hope like hell that I can recapture the mood/tone/voice and write the story. All I have to do is find a way to re-capture the magic. Easier said than done unfortunately *sigh*.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The power of words

I'm ashamed to say I'd never heard of Dina Rabinovitch until I read the news of her death on someone else's blog earlier today. I followed the link they posted to The Guardian where Dina wrote a column about her battle with breast cancer.

Deeply moved by the first column I read, I went back and read through the archives. By the time I'd finished reading I felt shellshocked and heart-broken. I felt like I had to do something so I donated some money to the cause Dina was raising money for. It feels like such a small, empty gesture and, like so many things you do after someone has died, it felt like it came too late but I hope it will go some way towards the £100,000 Dina was trying to raise for clinical trials into breast cancer.

It is Dina's legacy that her story, and her words, were so powerful they inspired a total stranger to try and help, even after her death.

You can read Dina's story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/dinarabinovitch

and donate here: http://www.justgiving.com/dinaspage

Thank you to the blogger who posted about Dina. Maybe if we all blog about this, if we all raise awareness in the blogging community, maybe that £100,000 total can be reached, or exceeded. If enough money is raised maybe the clinical trials that Dina cared so desperately about can prevent other women from dying of this terrible disease.

Monday, 29 October 2007

I'm back!

What do you get if you cross a musty-smelling 60s style chalet (complete with matching 60s crockery) on the Isle of Wight with a sunny/windy/rainy week in October?

A damned good holiday that's what*

And I really, really, really didn't want to come back to real life. My week was a mixture of luxurious slovenliness (sofa+ chocolate + dvd player + loads of great TV shows (The 4400 and Jericho) and lots of films = bliss) and day trips to the seaside, the pier, the amusement arcades, the zoo, the bowling alley, cafes with sea views and the occasional trip to the pub.

I promised myself I wouldn't do any writing or editing and I didn't. Unfortunately the books I lugged all the way there...and all the way back... remained unread too but I don't feel too guilty. I just wanted to do what I wanted, when I wanted, for a whole week. And I did! My b'day was lovely - a trip to the Isle of Wight Zoo in the afternoon and to the cinema to see Stardust in the evening. Can't recommend the film enough. If you loved films like Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story when you were a kid you'll love Stardust. And you can take your kids to see it too ;o)

Now it's back to work, back on with the writing and editing and I've also got a ton of websites to design for friends. So busy, busy, busy once again. Oh how I miss last weeks late nights and later mornings.

Two good bits of news to come back to to raise my writing spirits...

1) My flash "Six Uses for a Hedgehog" is going to be published v.v.soon by Tall Tales and Modern Fables - a Lottery-funded free quarterly print magazine to be distributed in pubs and cafes in Brighton & Hove. And all the contributing writers are from Brighton and Hove too so that's nice.

2) To Be Read Aloud got in touch to tell me my story "Slipping Down the Sky" has been published in their latest anthology for 'oral interpreters' (that's people who compete in reading competitions to you and me) and it's winging its way to me from the States as we speak. Oh, and a very welcome $100 has been deposited in my PayPal account. V nice.

So... what are my plans now? Well my novel still needs to be edited, my children's book still needs to be written and I've got a short story that needs a bit of work.

On top of that I've also signed up for Slingink's Eurofiction competition. Starting on 1st November a series of 3 prompts will be released. I'll then have 2 weeks to write a story to one of those prompts and send it in. The judges will then rate the received stories in a Eurofiction marking style - 20 points for 1st place, 18 for second, 17 for third, down to one point and then nil. The competition takes place over 20 weeks so, by the end of it, I'll have written 10 new short stories. There's a cash prize for the person who comes top of the leader board at the end of the twenty weeks but that's not why I'm entering. I've entered to give myself a short story kick up the bum and get me writing more regularly.

What else? Oh yes. And I'll be flashing for Children in Need in the middle of November. That's not as rude as it sounds - I'll be writing a piece of flash fiction every hour from 6pm on Thursday 15th November to about 2am Friday 16th November (to a series of prompts). Last year, and the year before, I flashed from 6pm through to midnight on Friday with only a couple of hours break (and some sleep time) but this year I wasn't able to get time off work so I'll just be doing a bit. Every little helps and all that.

God, just typing all that out makes me feel knackered. Time for a lie down!

* Copious rose-scented joss sticks partially masked the musky smell

Friday, 19 October 2007

One final post...

...to say HOORAH! I set myself a target last month to write and sub two short stories to themed comps before 31st October. One I wrote in September and sent at the end of the month and the second I finished today and will be sending off tomorrow. I normally let a short story 'rest' for a week before I edit it and send it out but, because time is short, I had to resort to plan B. So, I wrote it tonight, then changed the font and size (to fool my brain into thinking I'm reading someone else's work) printed it out, read it aloud and edited it several times before I popped it into an envelope.

Soooooooo nice to actually achieve something on my 'to do' list. Now I can enjoy my week off feeling all self-satisfied (instead of guilty). Hoorah again.

Back on 30th October.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Creeping along with the editing...


I really, really, really didn't want to type up my hard copy edits this evening but I forced myself and managed a measley 2.9% before the teensy bit of motivation I had gasped and died.

I've realised it's not the editing per se that I don't like - it's the typing it up afterwards - it's just so tedious. If I were rich I could mark all my changes on the hard copy and give it to someone to correct the electronic version. But I'm not rich so on I go! Well, I'll continue typing up the edits tomorrow but after that I'm going on a blogging/writing/editing hiatus until about 30th October. It's my birthday next week and I'm giving myself the week off. I also have a busy weekend this weekend. So, the chances of me blogging between now and 30th October are pretty slim. Just a heads up in case you wonder where I've gone.

Okay, am squinting at the screen now. Time for bed I think.

p.s. If you haven't visited Sally's blog recently I suggest you get yourself there forthwith. She's doing a fantastically useful series of writing-related posts called "Ask Sally". Go along and ask her the writing question you've always wanted to ask.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

An amusing take on editing...

George Saunders (short story writer) was asked how he tackles editing. This is what he said...

"I start off with a sentence, say...'Frank sat on the couch that fateful afternoon'. I ask myself, does it matter when Frank was on the couch?

No. So the sentence becomes: 'Frank sat on the couch'.

Then I ask, does it matter where he was sitting?

No. So we now have: 'Frank sat'.

Then I might ask, does it matter was Frank was doing?

No, it doesn't. Which leaves: 'Frank'.

Then I ask myself, is Frank relevant?

No, he isn't."

Monday, 15 October 2007

Publishing opportunity

Fragile Publishing (who published Neil J Hart's book "Spritz") have released a call for submissions for their new online magazine (which will be delivered as a pdf from their website).

They're looking for short stories, flashes and novel extracts. There's no payment as they're a small publisher but, particularly if you haven't had anything published before, it would be a great start to your writing CV (it's always good to include brief details of your writing accomplishments in your covering letter to an agent).

Stories should be no longer than 3,000 words.
Flash fiction should be no longer than 1,000 words.
If you want to submit a novel extract send them a 200 word synopsis and an extract no longer than 3,000 words.

For more details go here:

http://www.fragilepublishing.com/thefragile/

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Finally, some editing...

I put it off and put it off but I finally pulled my finger out this afternoon, turned off the laptop and went out to the balcony with my novel print-out, a pen and the radio. Several hours later I returned to the warmth of the living room with 44 edited pages!

I'm not going to transfer the edits to the Word doc tonight (I think I've done enough for one day) so I'll save that for next week. Then I've just got to edit the final 50 pages and the first edit will be done.

My plan for the second edit is to read aloud each chapter and see how it sounds. Anything that sounds clunky or I stumble over will get re-written. But I'm not going to progress straight from the first edit to the second. I'm going to take a bit a time off from the novel and write a few short stories and plough on with my children's book. I'm definitely a writer rather than an editor!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

More weirdness for your enjoyment

Keep staring at it until you're told to stop, even if you get bored (although, if you suffer from epilepsy you should probably give this a miss). Seriously strange.

Friday, 12 October 2007

p.s.

If you're finding it hard to keep up with everyone's blogs I really recommend:

http://reader.google.com

You input all your favourite blogs and it lists them on a page so you can just click the link and read the blog. When you've read the most recent entry you simply click the "Mark All as Read" button. The next time you login you'll be shown all the blogs that have published new posts since you last logged in so you don't have to finish a blog several times a week to see if they've updated or not - because Google Reader will tell you at a glance!

The only thing you can't do in Google Reader (as far as I know) is comment and read comments but, if you want to comment, you just click on the title of the post and it'll open in a new window so you can comment.

After three days...

...in which I did no writing or editing of any sort (and really enjoyed the time off), I've finally got back in the writing saddle (so to speak) and have just finished a short story.

The story was originally 1,500 words but I realised tonight that I'd only told half the story and the ending was far too abrupt. I wrote another 800 words tonight and have my first draft finished, but there are still a few pace problems with the story that I need to fix before it's ready to sub. Anyway, it's good to get the first draft done and I've got that lovely "Ah" feeling I always get when I finish a short story.

What else? Oh yes, I had a bit of a subbing spree earlier this week. I haven't had a 'hit' since July and realised it was because I hadn't subbed much in June and July. It normally takes several months after you sub a short story or piece of flash fiction before you hear something back and, because I only subbed five or six stories/flashes in June and July (because I was writing my novel) the hits haven't exactly been flowing (in fact, there haven't been any!). I normally sub between 12-20 short stories and flashes a month and I need to get back to that if I'm ever going to have another hit. Since 1st October I've subbed 10 stories and flashes which is much better. If I can get that up to 20 by 31st October I'll be a very happy woman.

Anyway, no more short stories this weekend. I need to get on with editing my novel and writing my children's book.

Oh, and here's a clip from one of my favourite programmes, QI. It was just shown on TV and made me laugh A LOT. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

What drives you to write?

Interesting article in The Times about what drives different writers to write.

I nodded vigorously to this comment by Rose Heiney:

"It’s weird, when I’m not writing I get very miserable and think, what’s the point of me, now? Obviously when I am writing I whinge about it incessantly"

Full article here:

http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article2615414.ece

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Good Things / Bad Things

Good Things

  • I did LOADS of editing last night and novel #1 is now over 70% edited


  • I wrote some more of my children's book and, with a small push, I'll hit 10% written very soon (am loving how quickly the percentage on my counter goes up when the finished book is only 30,000 words long!)


  • Just as I was falling asleep last night I got an idea for a themed short story competition so reached for my mobile phone and tapped the idea into the notes section (keeping my mobile by my bed works better for me than a notepad and paper because, as soon as I touch a button it lights up. No need to turn the light on)


  • Every day I receive an emailed 'daily digest' from freecycle containing things people in my local area want or are offering to others for free (as long as they collect). Basically it's a great way to declutter and recycle without adding to the landfill (I've got landfill guilt now after seeing a crappy reality show called "Dump" or something similar).

    Anyway, I've used freecycle a couple of times. The first time I wandered across town to pick up a bath end panel someone was giving away (when I refitted my bathroom five years ago my bath arrived without an end panel and I didn't have a car to go and sort it out so my plumber fitted a piece of wood in its place instead and glossed it white. I know, classy. Sssh!) and discovered, when I got home, that it was too wide for my bath. Ooops!

    The second time I used it I chucked my broken down, good-for-no one cooker on the tip and went to pick up one someone was offering and...it was HIDEOUS. Rusty, ancient and several of the rings didn't work. Luckily I realised that immediately and didn't ferry it home (although I did spend the best part of 3 months with no cooker before my kitchen was re-fitted).

    The third time I used freecyle I put together a box of suitable books and games I didn't need for an old people's home after a request was posted.

    And yesterday I used freecycle for a fourth time and gave a huge bag of books and a cardboard box full of bric-a-brac to a scout fete that was being held in one of the city's council estates. That made me feel good for two reasons 1) My stuff will hopefully help them to make money so they can stop kids throwing stones at passing buses and offer them something more constructive to do instead continue to do good work and 2) I now have less crap in my flat!


  • I started writing down a few notes for my themed short story on the train this morning and, before I knew it, I'd written the beginning and the first few paragraphs.


  • I FINALLY wrote a letter to my friend in Australia after promising her one for months and months and MONTHS (Hi Kel! x)

  • Oh yes and, over the weekend, I re-wrote a short story and subbed 4 piece of flash fiction (written a while ago but they deserve homes) to various ezines and print magazines.

Bad Things

  • I still have loads of crap in my flat (particularly clothes) and am going to have to scrabble around in the wardrobe, various cupboards, the attic and under the bed to sort through it.


  • I am exhausted from lack of sleep. After I wrote a note in my mobile about my short story idea I was buzzing so much I couldn't go back to sleep for another hour. Total amount of sleep last night? About 4.5 hours. Even for a night owl like me that's a pitiful amount


  • The postal strike is going to go on forever so Kel will have to wait EVEN LONGER for her letter


  • Last night I picked up my digital camera and thought I'd look through the saved pictures and see how much space I had left in the memory...but the little LCD screen didn't light up at all. It stayed black. I tried everything to get it to work, including changing the batteries and pressing all kinds of buttons. In desperation I emailed a camera repair shop telling them the make of camera and the problem and asked for a quote. This morning I received a reply - £122 PLUS VAT. That's half what I paid for the camera in the first place! Me thinks I won't be getting the camera repaired. Maybe I can sell it on ebay for parts or something?




Okay, so overall the good news out-weighs the bad. Not a bad day then.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Making progress

I made some good progress on the novel this weekend and have now edited a little over 63%. I've got just over a third left to do and am about to start Chapter 23 (of 32).

I'm also doing the second edit of some of the novel at the same time, which is a bit strange but do-able. My novel critique group have now seen five of my thirty-two chapters so I'm taking on board some of their comments and re-editing the text as I receive feedback.

I also wrote a fair bit of my children's book (for 8-12 year olds) this weekend and, you know what?, I loved it. I'm finding something very freeing about writing it. I can totally immerse myself in the characters and the action without worrying so much about language and I feel genuinely excited about this book. Unlike my other book I haven't plotted or outlined this one at all - I've just got a start, a twist and an end - and I'm just letting it take me where it takes me. If I get stuck somewhere along the line I'll probably pause and take stock but, for now, I'm just enjoying writing it.

p.s. Congrats to A.Writer for completing her first edit this weekend.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Oh God!

"Any self-respecting agent can visually tell within 20 or 30 seconds of looking at unsoliciated submissions, both the letter of submission and the manuscript, whether the book is any good or not."

Giles Gordon, Literary Agents, The Role of the Literary Agent (Artists and Writers YearBook 2008)

Now I'm going to start obsessing about the first page of my novel AGAIN!

I've worked on that page SO MANY times and listened to it using Natural Reader SO MANY TIMES that now, when I think about it, I can hear the half-human-half-computer voice reading it out word for word in my head!

Okay, time to shut the book and start editing (honest).

p.s. I thought the section "How to attract the attention of a literary agent" was very good.

Look what parcel force just delivered...



Hoorah - at last! Am just going to have a quick sit down and a flick through before I start editing.

Honest! It's...um...research and...er...motivational ;o)


p.s. Another reason to be cheerful... Two fridges left home today. I am now mother to just the one fridge rather than THREE. Hooray!

And now for something completely different...

Get your own Dylan message here: http://www.dylanmessaging.com/

p.s. In my defence, Bob, I did write something last night. Not for this novel admittedly but I did get down the first 375 of my new children's book. Yeah, yeah, I know I said I'm not going to enter the Times competition (and I'm still not going to) but why not strike when the inspiration is hot? (you know what I mean!). It felt good to write something fresh.

Anyway, I am, AM going to do some editing on the novel tonight. Promise.

p.p.s. Love you Bob x

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Reason #1 why you shouldn't learn to touch type on a typewriter....

What kind of idiot...

...books a holiday in half term when she doesn't have any kids? The kind that has no idea when half terms and school holidays fall that's who.

Can I just say...

The prices! The PRICES!

Week before holiday - quite reasonable
Week after holiday - quite reasonable
Week of half term? - THROUGH THE BLOODY ROOF!

And I'm not even going abroad.

*sigh*

CACTUS TV NEED AMATEUR WRITERS

Just found this on t'interweb (I suspect my job is far too 'boring' to make for interesting TV but you might want to give it a go):

We make Richard & Judy for Channel 4 and as part of Channel 4’s Literacy week we are also making some specialist programmes. Four of these are for 3 Minute Wonders and we are looking for a selection of amateur writers to take part.

3 MINUTE WONDERS: THE STORY TRAIL (WORKING TITLE)

In the style of the parlour game ‘Consequences’, we will create four stories from scratch by asking writers, celebrities and children to write a paragraph each. We will follow each journey from start to finish. The story will be a complete and cohesive piece of work as contributors will read the story so far and add to it, incorporating their own style and personality.

Each of the four short films will be separate stories but with a similar format.

Each film with begin with a famous author starting the story off in their own style with an opening paragraph. Once the story has been on its journey it will arrive back with the author who will see what has happened to their idea, and will then finish the story off.

We are looking for some keen, amateur writers who have interesting day jobs to take on part of the story for us. We will film them reading and writing their contribution – which will be a short paragraph – and then pass the story on. We are looking for real characters who are enthusiastic and happy to appear on camera for a short moment.

Please contact Danielle Ellis ASAP if this sounds like something you are interested in outlining details of your occupation, age, location, preferred writing style/genre and whether you have ever been published. Filming will commence ASAP.
Contact email: danielle.ellis@cactustv.co.uk

Monday, 1 October 2007

I have decided not to be a complete masochist/idiot...

I'm not going to try and write a children's book in 30 days to enter into the Times competition.

With a full time job, half a novel to edit and short stories to write and sub I'd be a total idiot if I tried to write a children's book aswell. Even if I dropped the novel editing and stories for a month, writing 30-40,000 words and editing them before 7th November would be a near impossible task (especially as I'll be on holiday for one of those weeks) and would possibly cause a nervous breakdown (mine and everyone around me).

One thing at a time Cally, one thing at a time...

I need to keep repeating that mantra to myself.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

A plea...

Does anyone know the URL for QWF (Quality Women's Fiction magazine). I want to send them something but www.qwfmagazine.co.uk doesn't exist anymore and all the links I've found on google all point to that site. I know the magazine changed hands and is now based in America but I've got no idea where the site is now.

Can anyone help?

Talk about leaving it to the last minute!

I promised myself, when writing and editing this novel, that I wouldn't let my short story writing slip - that I'd still write at least a short story a month.

Last month I managed to write a 1,500 word story but this month... well... day after day slipped by and I just couldn't find the motivation or the time to write a story. When I woke up today I looked at the date - 30th September - last chance to write a story or have a big ZERO in my 'numbers of stories written' log for the month.

I had a few story ideas to choose from but I really wasn't in the mood to write anything dark or depressing (how unusual!) so decided to write something light-hearted instead. BUT... no light-hearted short story ideas in my notebook. I decided to have a look at the short story competitions that are closing in the next few months instead. Was there one with a theme I could write a story for? I ummed and ahhed over a few competition and, just as I was about to give up, an idea for one of the themes popped into my head.

It took a couple of hours to get it down, but I did it - a completed short story at just under 1,000 words and I'm happy with it and going to send it off tomorrow.

Phew. So that's it for short stories for a while (until 31st October anyway ;o))

Edited to add: And some more editing done tonight. I really wanted to get at least 50% of the second draft of the novel done by the end of this month and I have - 53.7% done.

Tonight I have mostly been...

re-designing my website (oh yes, any excuse not to do some writing or editing!)

It's here:

http://www.callytaylor.com

What do you think? Too foofy looking?

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Useful and interesting links

I've rediscovered the mini-courses at BBC GetWriting (I used to be a member of the GetWriting community but it closed down a few years ago) and there's some really useful articles there. Go here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/getwriting/minicourse

and make sure you click on the 'read text only version' rather than the Flash version (the flash version is bit tempramental).

I've also ploughed through the archives of a blog called "Diary of an Unpublished Author" (which is a misnomer as she's going to be published very soon). Check it out here:

http://www.upadiary.blogspot.com/

Some useful links and info here:

http://emergingwriter.blogspot.com/

And a very interesting article about writing fiction for 8-12 year olds here (pdf format):

http://www.ianbone.com.au/pdfs/NovelsYoung_IanBone.pdf

Psychic or co-incidence?

Yesterday I took a taxi from the train station to my flat. Nothing unusual about that - I do it several times a week. But yesterday, as I sat in the back and pulled on my seatbelt (as I do every time I'm in a car), I started to think about the mechanics of a seatbelt, about how far I'd lurch forward if the car was involved in a crash. I noticed how close the seatbelt was to my neck and wondered what sort of damage might be done to my neck if I did lurch foward - would it cut my neck or just hurt?

About seven minutes later...

a car pulled out in front of us causing the taxi driver breaked sharply to avoid hitting it. I fell forward but the seatbelt stropped me from crashing into the seat in front of me, and dug into my neck (but didn't break the skin). No one was hurt and there was no collision. It was the first time that had ever happened to me in a taxi (and I've never been involved in any kind of car accident).


So, psychic or co-incidence? I'm thinking the latter.

Friday, 28 September 2007

A book meme...

Just a meme today as there's not much to report on the writing front because I've developed a stinky cold (I was ill a month ago for God's sake. This isn't fair! Still, that's what stress, a general lack of sleep and pushing yourself too hard at work and with writing does for you. I need to rest up).

Oh, I did do a little bit of hardcopy editing on the train home (before I collapsed on the sofa with a blanket and hot cup of tea). Here's a tip for other writers: don't take a book, newspaper or magazine on the train with you. Take a print-out of your novel instead. You'll get so bored of watching other people snore you'll dig it out of your bag and get reading! I still have to type up the changes I made so my edit counter hasn't moved yet but I have made a bit more progress.

Anyway, the book meme. The lovely jj tagged me for this. Here are my answers...

Total number of books...

Oh God, LOADS, probably hundreds. I've got two bookshelves in my bedroom and two in my living room (and a separate shelf) and I've run out of space. There are piles of books everywhere. I gave away a box full of books to a charity a couple of weeks ago and I've got another bag full of books to take to the charity shop in my hall

Last book read...

I'm currently reading In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes but haven't read as much as I would have liked as I'm having to snatch bits of time here and there and really need to give myself a few good hours (or a whole afternoon on the sofa) to lose myself in it. I have to say that what I've read so far is fantastically powerful. In fact, after one particular scene at the beginning of the book I felt physically sick for several hours. The fact that Caroline can create such a strong physical reaction in me through her use of words is testament to the power and skill of her writing.

Last book bought...

That would be Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by Lisa Tuttle. I didn't end up writing the sci fi story I'd planned for a competition and instead sent in a comedy piece (it was in my 'old stories' folder and I basically re-wrote it). That said I still want to write my sci fi story at some point but there's no rush now. The fantasy section of the book will still come in useful when I start outlining my children's book. Ummm, yes, having said earlier that stress is making me ill I've decided to try and write a children's book in a month to enter into the Times competition. Yeah, yeah, I know - I'm pushing myself too hard but there's nothing like a deadline to get me fired up. If it weren't for another comp - you know the one - I might not have finished my novel so why break a successful formula? Feel free to berate me when I get hospitalised halfway through October ;o)

5 Meaningful books...

This one is really tricky. How do I choose just five books that are meaningful to me out of all the ones I own. Okay, rather than examine all the shelves I'm going to go with the ones that pop into my head first.

So...

1. The Faraway Tree Stories by Enid Blyton

This series of books totally grabbed my imagination as I child and I fell into the stories, totally losing myself in the tree, the characters, the worlds at the top and the adventures. Enid Blyton was my childhood hero and inspired me to write.

2. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley.

In my mid teens I really got into novels about dystopian futures and this was my favourite. The other two were Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and 1984 by George Orwell. Which leads me onto...

3. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

I only discovered Margaret Atwood relatively recently (about four years ago) and this was the first of many of her books that I read. Not only is this book about a dystopia but it's also fantastically written. I so, so admire Margaret Atwood's writing style and even enjoyed the first book she ever had published (which is probably her weakest). Last year I even got to meet her (well, I went to the London Book Fair, listened to her talk and queued up for her to sign her latest book, The Tent). I know lots of people really rate 'Alias Grace' and it's on my bookshelf - waiting to be devoured when I go on holiday towards the end of October.

4. Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse

In my early twenties I took off on a tangent and started reading books by Henry Miller, Simone de Beauvoir, Dostoevsky, Nabokov, Oscar Wilde, Albert Camus and Herman Hesse. Apart from
The Picture of Dorian Gray the book that had the most profound effect on me was Steppenwolf. It's not a book that women typically relate to (as far as I know) but I lost myself in Steppenwolf's mind and his perception of the world (sorry, I know that sounds pretentious).

5. After You'd Gone by Maggie O'Farrell

This is probably quite a popular choice but I LOVED this book. I loved the story, I loved Maggie's writing style, I loved the sense of mystery and other worldliness. In fact, if there was one book I read as an adult that made me think "I want to write something like this" it's this book.

So that's that and now I'm feeling horribly guilty about all the books I didn't mention, like "Lord of the Flies", "To Kill a Mockingbird" and countless more modern novels that I fell in love with. Am scared to look at my bookshelves now in case I have to come back and revise this entry!

And now I have to tag five more people to fill out this meme so I choose:

A. Writer, Sally Quilford, womag writer, Nichola and Sarah G.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

The joy of research

The joy of research? The joy of research? I never thought I'd write that sentence but I did some research (for a short story idea I've got today) and it really was enjoyable.

A little background...

I had an idea for a short story set in a prison. Now I've never been to prison (I'm pleased to say) and don't know anyone who has been to prison. In fact, my only 'knowledge' of prison are films or dramas I've seen on TV and I didn't want to rely on them to get my facts straight (particularly as "Prisoner Cell Block H" is probably a little dated! ;o))

BUT...one of my friends is a prison officer. Perfect! I sent her a message on facebook asking if she could spare the time to answer 8 questions I had. I expected her to reply with a couple of brief sentence responses to each question...but she did even better than that...she rang me up and we talked for an HOUR as she answered all my original questions and ones that popped into my head AND provided loads of extra info I didn't need but was really useful. As if that wasn't good enough she also, after I told her my idea for the story, told me how my character might feel, how other prisoners and guards would react to her and what sights and sounds my character would experience. By the end of the conversation I felt thoroughly shaken... not in a bad way... in a good way. My friend had painted such a wonderfully vivid picture of prison that I felt terrified on behalf of my character (and I'd filled 5 sides of A4 with notes - on both sides).

So thank you so, so much prison officer friend. You're lovely.

p.s. Did some editing last night and am now 43% done.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Why write a new story when you can recycle one?

A night off from editing tonight...

Actually that's not strictly true.

A night off from editing the novel tonight. I meant to sit down and write a short story for a competition but instead browsed my short story folders and discovered a story that was a very good fit BUT...
  • It was too long (by about a thousand words)
  • It contained too many characters
  • It had a distinctly miserable editing

If I was going to sub the story to the competition I had to do a lot of work to it. SO I did. I:

  • chopped 1,000 words (and the remaining words tightened)
  • chopped two or three characters (I wrote the story before I found out you should have a maximum of 4 characters in a short story)
  • made the ending upbeat and much cleverer than the original ending (if I do say so myself)

And you know what? Although it took me the best part of the evening I actually really enjoyed the process and now I feel a tremendous sense of job well done. It doesn't even matter if the story doesn't place in the comp - it's in a sub-able state now.

Now why the hell can't I feel the same about editing my novel? Oh, I know. The story was complete at 2,200 words. The novel is over 91,000 words more than that. Back to novel editing tomorrow.

A weekend without writing (but a little bit of editing squeezed in at the last minute)

This weekend I meant to:
  • edit my novel
  • write a sci-fi story for a competition
  • send four short stories off to competitions
  • turn at least one of my eight short story ideas into an actual story
  • start planning out my idea for a children's novel (am contemplating writing it in October so I can send it into the Times children's novel competition before the 7th November deadline)

Instead I...

  • stayed up late watching trash TV on Friday night
  • had a long lie-in on Saturday (I'm talking 1pm people!)
  • read some more of In Search of Adam in bed
  • took a walk down to the beach and lay in the sun as the waves lapped at the shore
  • watched a good film (The Science of Sleep)
  • tackled my jungle of a garden
  • sat on my balcony and read the Sunday papers
  • watched more episodes of America's Next Top Model than is healthy

And it was GREAT.

I've been putting far too much pressure on myself writing-wise recently and I really needed some R&R. I feel so much better for it.

Other pleasant surprises this weekend included a copy of Neil J Hart's book Spritz in the post (I fully intend to start reading very soon). Thanks Neil :o)

So, a very, very relaxing weekend all in all but I have a confession to make - I edited some more of my novel tonight. I've now completed over a third of the first draft. Yay!

Friday, 21 September 2007

Still editing

Sometimes, most of the time actually, I'm not in the mood for editing but tonight something clicked and I've just spent the last few hours ploughing through a significant chunk of my novel. My counter shows 28.4% done but that's just type-written words edited, I've actually done a bit more by reading through another 45 pages of my novel, making edits on the print out.

At first I really struggled - there were several pages of clunky text one after another and I started to get annoyed with myself for writing such crappy prose but then, thank God, page after page of text that really didn't need much work. When you hit pages like that you can really speed through and reading what you've written actually quite a pleasant rather than a cringe-worthy experience.

Before I started writing my novel I believed that editing just meant correcting the odd typo and correcting the physical descriptions of characters (like a character having blonde hair at the beginning and brown hair later on). God I was naive.

I'm trying to speed through the first edit of my novel because I've promised myself I can write some short stories, maybe outline a new novel when I'm done. Then I'll grit my teeth and get on with edit number two.

Anyone else promise themselves 'rewards' for editing or writing? (When writing my novel I bought myself a little present for every 30,000 words I wrote. I tried promising myself a small glass of wine for every 2,000 words I wrote but didn't have the self-restraint and often sipped a glass as I wrote. That probably explains where the pages of clunky text have come from!)