Friday, June 29, 2007

Novel update - progress

1,117 words written tonight. Yay!

I'm inching my way ever closer to the end of the novel.

93.7% written if the final word count is 90,000 (unlikely)
90.6% written if the final word count is 93,000 (possible)
88.7% written if the final word count is 95,000 (looking most likely!)

I need to up my daily word count quite radically if I'm going to hit 95,000 words by 15th July (which will be 4 months since I started writing the novel), especially as there are quite a few days between now and the 15th when I won't get the chance to write.

I've got most of Sunday afternoon and evening free to write so I'll have to write as many words as I can then!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

To blog or not to blog?

A US agent has advised blogging authors to keep quiet about which publishers their agent is submitting their novel to and the kind of feedback they've received from publishers - rejection, criticism etc.

And that's got me to thinking... as aspiring (or, in some cases, published) authors should we try and keep our blogs clear of negativity, writing struggles and rejections? If a potential agent or publishing house googles you and reads about your writing struggles might that put them off taking you on?

The blog is here:

More good news

I received a phone call earlier - from one of the organisers of a short story competition I entered in June. I can't say any more until he rings me back next week, but I'm fairly certain I can class it as another 'hit'. Big old grin on my face now.

More news on this next week!

p.s. Despite my best intentions I only wrote 479 words of the novel tonight. After a few night away from it I found it really hard to get into it again. Hopefully there will be more this weekend!

More good news

Just received a very unexpected and exciting phone call about a competition I've entered but I can't say anything until the judges have a conflab early next week and get back to me.

Depending on the result of their conversation I'll either a) have my short story published in book or b) have my story published in a book and broadcast on radio. Cross your fingers for me that it's b)!

Will report back on this next week!

Writelink Weekender hit!

Good news this morning.

I found out the story I wrote for the Writelink Weekender competition in May (the story had to be written in 48 hours, no more than 1,200 words and to the theme "falling") was highly commended.

No cash prize for highly commended unfortunately but the story isn't being published so I can try and place it in another competition. So that's good!

Snow Patrol ROCK!

I went to see Snow Patrol at the O2 venue (inside the Millennium Dome) last night. It was supposed to be a private gig for fans and Millennium Dome workers but there must have been 20,000 people there. It was packed! That said I managed to get fairly close the the front and had a perfect view throughout.

After a fairly quiet start (the seated members of the audience looked, in the words of Gary Lightboy (Snow Patrol's singer) like they were "watching Wimbledon") the audience started to warm up and the atmosphere became electric with people jumping up and down, punching the air, clapping, singing along and generally just having a brilliant time.

The acoustics in the venue were amazing and the light show and video screens were stunning. Snow Patrol were on top form, joking, smiling and buzzing throughout. They played a heart-wrenchingly beautiful version of "Make This Go on Forever" (my personal favourite) as well as their hits - "Chocolate", "Run", "Open Your Eyes" but the climax of the night was the absolutely brilliant rendition of "Chasing Cars." Ooooh goosebumps!

If you get the chance to see Snow Patrol live don't miss it! This gig goes down as one of my top 5 gigs of all time.

Here are some more of my photos of the night:

All photos: Snow Patrol gig - 26 June 2007 - o2 venue - copyright me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

More seemingly random googles end up on my blog

How's this one for a corker?

"storytelling ideas for the talking vegetables"

What? Someone has talking vegetables who are suffering from writer's block? Who woulda thunk it?

Cigarettes and Alcohol with the Liar's League

So, last night I went to the "Cigarettes and Alcohol" themed event at the Lamb pub in Bloomsbury, London, run by the Liar's League. And it was a wonderful evening!

The Liar's League had hired a function room above the pub (complete with its own bar - which was nice, particularly as I was ever so slightly nervous and I wasn't even reading!) and, by the time the event started, all the tables were full and expectant eyes turned towards the front of the room as one of the "Liars" introduced the night.

My story was up first and the wonderful Clive Greenwood did a fantastic job of reading "Full to Spilling." All eyes were on Clive and the room was totally silent apart from the sound of his voice. He even made people laugh and I hadn't deliberately written humour into the piece. It was strange to watch someone else read out something I had written - it was like it was no longer part of me but some new entity, existing in its own right. It was lovely to just sit there, anonymity in tact, and hear my story come to life.

Another story followed mine and then there was an interval (more wine!) followed by three more wonderful stories, all brilliantly performed and utterly captivating.

Five stories, five performers and a wonderful night and all for £2 (free for the writers). I can't recommend it enough.

Do go along if you're in the area - or submit one of your stories (flashes of humour in your piece might help).

The next three themes are:

Sex & Death (happy to consider erotica/crime fiction) - send 'em in to by Friday June 22. To be performed on July 10.

Home & Abroad (travel fiction is ok but it has to have a story). No closing date for subs published yet. To be performed on Aug 14.

Birds & Beasts (animals, birds, fish, insects, mythical beasts even) No closing date for subs published yet. To be performed onSep 11.

Find out more about the Liar's League here:

Monday, June 25, 2007

The decisions publishers make...

Fiction publisher Snowbooks have a new blog entry called "How we choose what we publish".

It makes for interesting reading for anyone wanting an insight into the publishing process and why certain novels are accepted and others are rejected. It should be mentioned here that Snowbooks are a small publishing company and they work in a different way from the larger publishing companies so what they say only reflects the way they work and not the publishing industry as a whole.

You can read the blog in full here:

p.s. The thought of an editor falling in love with your book and dancing around is such a wonderful image. Here's hoping!

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Novel Progress - Update

1,244 words written today. It's looking more and more like the novel is going to be over 90,000 words but not by loads - I'm thinking maybe 93-94,000. When I do hit 90,000 words I'll update the wordcounter to reflect what I think the final word count will be.

I spent this afternoon sitting at my desk, all warm and cosy, tapping away at the keyboard as raindrops splattered against the window and the TV burbled away in the background. It's days like this when I realise quite how much I love writing. (The fact I've nearly finished the first draft of my novel helps too!)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A Philosophical Attitude to Rejection

I read an interview with Jasper Fforde earlier that made me re-think my attitude to rejection letters.

The man was rejected 76 times over a period of 10 years and kept on writing!

Find out why:

Something to think about!

Novel Progess - Update

Going well... just wrote 2,076 words and have now hit 81,242 words written (90.3% of novel). That's enough words written for today I think! Hopefully I can write a similar number of words tomorrow.

The media in my dreams

Last night I had a dream that I found Madeleine McCann. I knew it was her because of her unusual eye.

I have no idea where I found her or who she was with but I did find her. I know this dream is just a result of a media overload but I'm kind of hoping it may be prophetic (not that I find her but that someone does). If she's found today just call me Psychic Calistro. If not just call me Over-active-imagination Calistro.

Miette's Bedtime Story Podcast

Just found this fantastic site with downloadable stories that are read out to you by 'Miette'. She has a slightly odd accent but there's some good stuff on there including Alice Walker. Just click on a story and it should immediately load into whatever software you use to play music (I use Windows Media player).

Go here

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Novel Progress - Update

I didn't write any words last night but I did write 1,100 words tonight to try and make up for it.

The scene I wrote tonight was particularly difficult as the setting was a Star Trek convention and I've never been to one (I may be a geek but I'm not that much of a geek ;o)). I had to do a lot of googling to find out everything I needed to know and even then I'm not 100% sure I've captured the atmosphere and what actually happens there but it was enough to get the first draft written anyway. I can always do more extensive research when I come to do the re-draft.

In other news... I've fancied writing a new short story for ages but have felt very uninspired and, no matter how hard I try, I can't come up with a good idea. A couple of nights ago I was just starting to drift off when I suddenly got what I thought was a great opening line for a short story. I debated about whether or not to get up and write it down but it was already really late (and I'd only get 5 hours sleep before I had to get up for work) so I said the lines to myself over and over again to try and get them into my brain. I woke up the next morning and... the lines were gone. Aaaggh! Try as I might I just can't get them back.

Still - at least the novel is ticking along. I'm already dreaming of the bottle of champagne I'm going to drink when I've finished it!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A little joke for writers....

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first.

As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop.

As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop.

As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."

Yesterday I was out-geeked!

Several months ago, in a moment I can only describe as severe geekdom, I decided it would be very good idea if I downloaded a new ring tone for my mobile phone.

Okay, not too geeky so far but bear with with me...

I downloaded...

the sound the phones make in the CTU offices of '"24".


Anyway, that ringtone has caused me (and those close to me) much embarrassment over the last few months. Whenever it rings people will invariably look round and sometimes, like when I was standing in a queue outside the Ryan Adams gig, people will start making comments like "It's Jack Bauer for you" (told you it was embarrassing).

I have been meaning and meaning to change my ringtone but I just keep forgetting.

Yesterday a very nice middle-aged man from a certain well-known DIY store came round to talk to me about my new kitchen and how my flat was teeny tiny and how they would have to take over my bedroom to store all the stuff as they worked and how one of their powertools might wipe my laptop if I left it on (run for the hills with the laptop for it doth contain "the novel"). As he was talking to me about all this I suddenly heard a familiar sound - the plaintiff peel of a CTU phone. I immediately reached for my mobile only to discover that no one was calling me. It was kitchen man's phone. He looked at me, grinned and answered his phone.

When he finished his conversation I admitted that I too had the 24 ringtone. I expected him to say "What? Is that what I've got on my phone?" but, oh no he'd downloaded it too but not only had he downloaded it he was a member of the 24 fan club - he even (literally) had the T-shirt. He had trawled through the official website (which I had never visited) and had spent many weeks of his life completing some kind of online mini-Jack-Bauer-type-mission in order to try and win a spot in the 24 film (there's going to be a film? I had no idea).

I may be a bit of a geek but kitchen man is an ubergeek and, in many ways, it makes me feel a bit better. There but the grace of God..and all that.

Talking of which. I'm going to remove that blimmin ring tone right now!

p.s. I should mention that good can come from geek talk - kitchen man suggested a way I can cut the cost of my kitchen by getting an electrician to do some of the worth thereby lobbing off hundred of pounds of DIY store mark-up. Nice!

Monday, June 18, 2007

No such thing as a nice rejection?

Heard back from Woman's Weekly today. I sent the story off in February and was hopeful, because they'd had it so long, that they were going to take it. Unfortunately not - the rejection arrived today. I wasn't too disappointed, however, as they sent back the tick sheet (if you sent something truly awful you just get the standard 'no thanks' letter) and they'd ticked that they rejected it because it had 'a well-worn theme' BUT they'd handwritten 'although nicely done' next to it.

This is the first time I've received some direct feedback with a rejection from WW so am perversely quite pleased!

It's the second tick sheet rejection I've received so neither of my subs was successful. If it's at all helpful for anyone wanting to send to WW my well-worn themes were adoption and cancer. I wasn't sure about the cancer story (as I realise that theme is overdone) but I'd added a touch of magic and hope to the story so hoped that would be enough. It wasn't - quite - but that's okay. I've sent the story off to a comp instead. As womagwriter said in one of her posts it's not a rejection it's a re-marketing exercise!

Now I just need to work out how to write more cheery stories for the women's magazine market. Easier said than done. I love writing a miserable tale, me!

p.s. 1,000 words of the novel written tonight. I wrote the second half of a very tricky scene. Tricky because it was partially based on something thing that really happened to me and I'm not entirely sure if the reader will buy it. Truth is sometimes stranger than fiction and all that!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Novel Progress - Update

No words written on Friday night. 578 words written on Saturday night and 1,279 words written tonight.

YWriter tells me I need to write 522 words a day to hit 90,000 words by 15 July (my self-imposed deadline) but, as I've mentioned before I think this novel will probably be more like 95,000 words (if not more) so I have to make a massive effort to write more like 700-900 words a day just in case the total word count for my novel does go up to a potential 95,000-100,000 words.

I thought this part of the novel (the ending) would fly by but my word count seems to have slowed massively. I'm not sure if it's because I'm doubting whether or not the potential readers of my novel would buy the ending of my book or whether I'm trying to put off finishing it because I'm scared of what happens when I do finish it. Because that's when I have to revise the novel and send it out into the ether for agents to judge. That's when I'll find out whether anyone, other than me, thinks it's any good and that's a scary thought. I know that if it isn't good enough and it gets rejected by every agent I send it to I'll just go ahead and write another novel and send that out but I don't want that to happen. I want this novel to be snapped up. I want this novel to be loved. I don't want this novel to be a 'learning experience'.

I know what the answer is. The answer is to stop bloody thinking so much and just write it but it's easier said than done!

Why did no one ever tell me when I was a child (when the idea of becoming an novelist first appealed to me) that trying to become a publisher author was this damned scary?!

Susan Hill - online writing course

Susan Hill (writer of "I'm the King of the Castle" and "Woman in Black" and many other novels) is running a free online writing course in September and is inviting people who'd like to sign up to email her now so she can get an idea of numbers.

For more details go here

p.s. I've signed up.

As if they weren't bad enough anyway...

... an estate agent tried to break into my flat today!

A little background. I live in the first floor flat of a converted terraced house. Below me is, obviously, the ground floor flat. The house next door has the same first floor and ground floor arrangement. The two first floor flats share a front door and then stairs to a shared hallway where the doors to our flats our. The two ground floor flats share a different front door and a shared hallway with the doors to their flats.

Okay...on with the story...

I was in the kitchen earlier today when I heard the door to my flat rattling and the sound of keys in the lock. I'd locked the door (and left the keys in) and I wasn't expecting visitors - particularly not visitors who had spare keys to my flat. I hurried to the door and opened it a crack, reading myself to scream in case it was a burglar with a crowbar in his hand. A young man in a suit, keys in his hand, stared back at me.

"Hello," he said. "I've come to show the flat."

"My flat isn't for sale. The ground floor flat is."

"Yes, I know."

"The ground floor flat is...downstairs..."

"Oh, right, thanks."

The man walked UPSTAIRS to my flat. The flat for sale was on the ground floor. I think there's a clue there.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Music Meme

Sally tagged me with a music meme and, after a kick up the bum (just kidding, Sally) I've finally got round to doing it.

Here are the rules:

1. Go to or
2. Pick the year you turned 18
3. Get yourself nostalgic over the songs of the year
4. Write something about how the song affected you
5. Pass it on to 5 more friends

I used

1 Vic Reeves & The Wonder Stuff - Dizzy - #1 - Oct 1991

Vic Reeves was MASSIVE in 1991. Everyone was watching "Vic Reeves Big Night Out". I have to admit that I rarely 'got' the humour in Big Night Out (though I did go on to love "Shooting Stars"). Anyway, I loved The Wonder Stuff (especially "Size of a Cow") but I did think this song was a bit silly - "Dizzy, my head is spinning, like a whirlpool" - but that didn't stop me dancing to it like a maniac at school discos.

2 Unlimited - Get Ready For This - #2 - Oct 1991

Oh God - I HATED this song. I used to go to a really cheesy club in town with one ofr my friends and this song was forever being played. The only trouble was it was so damned catchy (aren't all the worst songs?) and, after I'd get home at whatever o'clock in the morning my head would be full of "Get ready for this...Der der der DA"!

3 Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine - After The Watershed - #11 - Oct 1991

Funnily enough I can't remember this song AT ALL but I did quite like CTUSM especially "Sheriff Fatman" and "The Only Living Boy in New Cross"

4 Don McLean - American Pie (re-issue) - #14 - Oct 1991

Out of all the songs that were out when I turned eighteen this is the one that resonates the most. I first bought a Don McLean tape when I was fourteen and I used to listen to it on my Walkman at night, with the duvet over my head. I loved American Pie and Castles in the Sky and Vincent. In fact I thought Vincent was probably the saddest song I'd ever heard (and I didn't even know then that it was about Vincent Van Gogh!).

Anyway, when I left school "American Pie" was like our year's anthem and when we had our leavers ball this was the last song of the night. Everyone put their arms around each other (even people who didn't like each other or who had bullied each other) and we formed one big massive circle and sang this song at the top of our lungs. Many, many tears were shed.

5 Alison Moyet - This House - #40 - Oct 1991

This is when I come out as a closet Alison Moyet fan. It wasn't very cool to like Alison Moyet back in 1991 but I absolutely adored her voice - the power, the tone, the emotion. I liked her because she wasn't singing cheesy pop tunes she was singing songs that she seemed to pour her everything into. I absolutely love her versions of "The Man I Love" and "Almost Blue" from her Voice album. One of the highlights of last year was going to see her in "Smaller" with Dawn French.

God I'm such a nerd. I do own some 'cool' (whatever that means) music too, honestly!

Okay - I tag anyone who fancies giving this a go. Yes, you too can cringe as you re-live your teens! Let me know if you do it.

p.s. 800'ish words of the novel written tonight which is good as the last couple of days exactly prolific. Still on target for my 15 July deadline though and the average I need to write a day has now dropped to 531 words a day to reach 90,000 words. The only trouble is...I've done a rough calculation of the number of scenes left and the probably number of words each will contain and I reckon this novel is heading for around 95,000 words if not more.

I've done the calculations on YWriter and if the novel is 95,000 words I need to write 693 a day to finish by 15 July (definitely do-able) and if the novel is 100,000 words I need to write 854 words a day to finish by 15 July (still do-able but more tricky if I miss a day). Anyway, onwards - the novel has to be finished, no matter how long it ends up being!

A hit at last! (Liars League)

Just when I was thinking I'd never have another hit I received an email from The Liar's League telling me that my v short story "Full to Spilling" has been selected to be performed by an actor at their "Cigarettes and Alcohol" themed night (Liars League run nights every two weeks where prose written by writers is performed by actors).

The night starts at 7pm, Tuesday 26 June. The Lamb, 94 Lamb's Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1N 3LZ. £2 entry).

If you live or work in the London area why not come along?

p.s. My story contains some quite strong language so you might want to give it a miss if you are offended by that kind of thing!
p.p.s. Sally - still planning on doing your meme just haven't quite got round to it yet.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Matching a character's name to their age

Say you're writing a story and you've got three characters. One of them is 82 years old, another is 67 years old and the third is 16 years old. You need to choose names for these characters that match their personalities but you also need to make sure they're plausible names for the decade the character was born in. How can you check? Simple! Use this site:

NB: You need to have Java enabled in your browser for it to load.

Once the page has loaded just enter your chosen name and press return and the graph will shift to show you how popular that name was in the decade your character was born.

e.g. "Sandra" was a very popular name in 1940 (one of the top 6 names) but was very rare in the 1920s (rank 562) and has obviously fallen out of failure in recent years too (rank 364 in 2006). So - Sandra's a very plausible name for your 67 year old!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The 7, 20 and 36 basic plots in story telling

In "Wannabe a Writer" Jane says there are 14 basic plots that all stories/novels are based on in some way.

I was curious what these might be (and am in a short story writing mood and needed inspiration) so googled plots and...found nothing...not about 14 basic plots anyway. I did, however, discovered 7, 20 and 30 basic plots* (depending on who you believe). These are:

7 plots

[wo]man vs. nature
[wo]man vs. man
[wo]man vs. the environment
[wo]man vs. machines/technology
[wo]man vs. the supernatural
[wo]man vs. self
[wo]man vs. god/religion

20 plots

Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books, 1993. (ISBN 0-89879-595-8)This book proposes twenty basic plots:

The Riddle
Forbidden Love
Wretched Excess

36 plots

Polti, Georges. The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations. trans. Lucille Ray.
Polti claims to be trying to reconstruct the 36 plots that Goethe alleges someone named [Carlo] Gozzi came up with. (In the following list, the words in parentheses are our annotations to try to explain some of the less helpful titles.):

Supplication (in which the Supplicant must beg something from Power in authority)
Crime Pursued by Vengeance
Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred
Falling Prey to Cruelty of Misfortune
Daring Enterprise
The Enigma (temptation or a riddle)
Enmity of Kinsmen
Rivalry of Kinsmen
Murderous Adultery
Fatal Imprudence
Involuntary Crimes of Love (example: discovery that one has married one’s mother, sister, etc.)
Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
Self-Sacrificing for an Ideal
Self-Sacrifice for Kindred
All Sacrificed for Passion
Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones
Rivalry of Superior and Inferior
Crimes of Love
Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
Obstacles to Love
An Enemy Loved
Conflict with a God
Mistaken Jealousy
Erroneous Judgement
Recovery of a Lost One
Loss of Loved Ones

Now I've got so many plots to choose from I still don't know what to write!

* information sourced from here.

Most amusing "google" to reach my blog

The most popular google search terms used to find my blog this week are:
  • how long should a YA novel be?
  • writing a novel
  • family guy brian's novel
  • harpers short story winner 2007 (I listed details of this comp ages ago but didn't enter and I don't know who won - sorry)

But the one that amused me the most was:

  • giant woman toes

For people who don't know why that amuses me check out this blog entry.

Novel Progess - Update

Just wrote 1,179 words. Have now written 71,229 words (79.1% of the novel written) and things are really starting to hot up. The conflict levels are now at their highest (that's what's supposed to happen at this point of the novel, right?) and I just wrote a really full on scene when one of the characters overhears something that utterly devastates her. I was expecting her to repress her emotional response to what she heard but, apparently, she favoured a rather more violent reaction! Great fun to write though.

A night off!

After my 3,000 word writing marathon last night I decided to give myself the day off today and I really enjoyed it. Spent most of the afternoon battling the crowds on Oxford/Bond Street and treated myself to some new clothes (gotta love the year-long sales).

Also finished "Wannabe a Writer" - what a treat of a book. To be honest it didn't teach me anything I didn't already know about the craft of writing but it did offer a great insight in the writing practices, superstitions and beliefs of other writers. My absolute favourite part had to be how Jane Wendham-Jones went about getting herself a book deal. That girl's got guts! Also the section on plotting your novel was VERY useful and I'll certainly be trying out some of those techniques in the future. I also enjoyed the little insights into writing for the women's magazine market (need more hits there!) and advice on recycling plots (much give that a go).

Wannabe a Writer is like having a print out of all the chats/advice/blogs/postings of the other writers that I chat to on the net. It's friendly, easy-to-read, encouraging and not in the slightest bit condescending or patronising. It's like having a chat with a down-to-earth writing mentor. Great!

p.s. If any of my regular readers have noticed that one of my previous posts has disappeared it's because...well... I'm trying to forget about that little discovery so I can carry on writing. The less reminders I have the better!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Novel Progress - 3/4 written (and a very welcome book delivery)

I took Sally's advice the other day and ordered a copy of this book:

and it dropped through the mailbox earlier. Talk about good timing!

After my spazz-out earlier (thanks to all who commented and tried to calm me down. I'm not always this neurotic - honestly!) I've done two things:

1) Written over 3,000 words of the novel - which means I've now written over 70,000 words (77.8% of novel written). I've also sketched out the last few chapters and I think there's every chance the book may end up being closer to 100,000 words than 90,000 words. Oops!

2) Read bits and bobs of "Wannabe a Writer" book - so far so enjoyable and a great insight into other writers' lives and neuroses - will do more of a review when I've finished it.

Okay - now off to tidy the flat before some friends come round and then I'll be drinking copious amounts of white wine!

Some more family guy

Some more Family Guy humour (dedicated to all Mums reading this blog!)

My Book Deal Ruined My Life

As if we didn't have enough to worry about already!

and, more helpfully, some advice from Legend Press's Managing Director Tom Chalmers:

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Ryan Adams - Koko, Camden, London

No words written tonight because I went to a gig - Ryan Adams's gig at the Koko in Camden (not, under any circumstances, to be confused with cheesy crooner Bryan Adams).

It was a bit of a mixed bag as gigs go. We got there a little after six and queued up. The doors, which were supposed to open at seven, didn't open until ten to eight. We grabbed a couple of drinks (£11 for two glasses of wine - what?!) and took our places about four rows from the stage (standing). We figured the support act would be on soon so we waited...

and waited

and waited





Finally, at about 9.10pm Ryan Adams and his band came on to rapturous applause (what happened to the support act?!). The room hushed and he played.... a song I didn't know (he brought a new album out this year that't know about) and then he played... another song I didn't know. Finally, after about half an hour he played a song I loved. So happy, so, so, so, happy. And there was another one - double yay. And one more and then.... the band said "thank you very much" and left the stage.

We clapped and whistled (well I did - loudly) and the band finally came back on stage. They played two (or was it three) more songs and then left again.

"They've only played for an hour and 10 minutes. They'll be back," someone said.

They weren't. The gig was over and it was only 10:20pm!

Talk about a let down. I own four Ryan Adams albums and had wanted to see him for AGES. Ah well. The songs he played that I loved he did magnificently, but I felt a bit short changed by the length of the set and all the hanging around, I have to say.

Right - tomorrow I need to write double my normal daily word count to make up for a night off tonight so I'd better get me some zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzs.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Novel Progress - update

As I didn't write last night (I went to the pub) I thought I must get some words down tonight. Managed about 900'ish before I ran out of steam but that's better than nothing (especially as the TV was on VERY LOUD and I couldn't really concentrate!). Am only 700'ish words away from hitting the 75% written mark so that's what I'm aiming for tomorrow.

I know I shouldn't but I can't help re-reading bits of what I've written so far and I'm itching to finish the first draft and start editing. Everything I've learned from the "Make Your Words Work" book (see previous posts) is gnawing away at my brain going "apply me, apply me." I'm also aware that my novel is pretty dialogue heavy (maybe I should be a screenwriter?) and I need to go through the novel and work on my very sparse descriptions both of settings and my characters.

I was reading an interview with some author or other today who said that she didn't include any descriptions of any of her characters as she likes to leave it up to the reader to decide what they look like. On the other hand, I recently read the first few pages of "Vince and Joy" by Lisa Jewell ("Ralph's Party" was the first chick lit book I ever read) and noticed that she goes into great detail when describing her characters. I think perhaps I fall in between the two camps as I'm not sure if no physical description at all of your characters is a good idea (though I'd like to get away with that if I could) and I'd feel like I was really slowing the pace if I put in too much description. Opinions? How much description do you like to read in a novel and how much have you put into your own work?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

On being distracted by novel #1...

I know I shouldn't but I can't help thinking about novel #1 (the one I temporarily abandoned at 52,000 words a couple of years ago) and I've come to the decision that I'm definitely going to return to it and finish it after I've finished novel #2 (I never was very good at doing things in the right order).

When I started novel #1 I thought I was writing a children's book for 10-12 year old but now I'm not so sure. My protagonist is a 13 year old girl who is quite naive but does end up smoking and drinking (only very briefly and because she's grieving and rebelling at being sent away to boarding school). The novel begins with the revelation that the girl's mother has killed herself (suicide at Beachy Head). The daughter blames herself, but the real reason for her mother's death isn't revealed until the end of the novel when the girl uncovers all kind of murky family secrets.

I'm now thinking that this novel should actually be Young Adult and that the girl should be 15 rather than 13. This is going to mean quite a significant re-write as the voice is currently much too young for a 15 year old in today's society. My question is - how long can a YA be? Or how long is one typically?

Monday, June 4, 2007

Text to Speech software (or how to proof-read your novel without reading it out loud yourself)

I wrote 1,300 words of the novel tonight (yay!) and then started randomly surfing the web (as you d0) and stumbled across a piece of software that an author had recommended to help you proof-read your novel. I was sceptical but, as it was free, decided to check it out anyway.

The Good News

It does what it says on the tin - you paste your text into the software (which downloads quickly) and press the play button and it reads it out.

The Bad News

It reads it out in a Stephen Hawkin type voice which doesn't make for the most natural pronunciation.

The Really Bad News

When I listened to the first 3,000 words of my novel I noticed two errors - one of them in the second sentence (I'd written 'look' instead of 'looked') and a similar error further down the first page. Crap.

Ah well - am definitely going to use this software in future (Stephen Hawkins voice or no Stephen Hawkins voice). When you hear as opposed to read your novel the errors really stand out.

If you want to give it a go here's the URL:

Doctor Who and Good Advice For Editing Your Novel

How good was last week's Doctor Who? I watched it last night (hooray for 'on demand' again) and I actually cried at the end. I cried at an episode of Doctor Who?! Who would have thought it? It was the look in the war veteran's eyes when he saw the Doctor that set me off - and the thought of him as a child in the first world war. Bloody well done the writer of that episode.

Oh - and I can't stress enough how excellent this book is:

I spent hours reading through it last night and found some excellent advice on 'making your words work'. This book is going to be particularly helpful when I come to work on the second draft of my novel and I'll post a blog about the advice but, for now, here's some of the advice in brief:
  • eschew verbosity (don't use long words when short ones will do, don't use rare words instead of common ones, don't use words that are unfamiliar to the majority of your readers. Use simple words but don't confuse simple with dull - use simple but interesting words - why 'walk' when you can 'stroll'. )
  • remove redundant words (there's no need to say 'enormous giant' - giant is enough)
  • remove wasted words (replace 'in the event of' with 'if', replace 'on the occasion of' with 'when' and 'owing to the fact that' with 'because')
  • don't modify words that cannot be modified (e.g. 'very unique' or 'slightly impossible')
  • replace weak words with strong words (instead of writing 'Lee was a mean woman' write 'Lee was a shrew'. Look for adverbs - they often occur because you chose a weak verb and tried to boost it. Chuck your adverbs in the bin and replace them with stronger verbs. Instead of 'Stan jumped suddenly upon the burglar' write 'Stan pounced on the burglar'
  • Use the active voice rather than the passive voice where possible (e.g. replace 'the Christmas present given to Frank was an electric guitar' with 'Frank got an electric guitar for Christmas)
  • Be specific (rather than write 'Joe drove a car through the desert' write 'Joe drove a Mustang through the Sahara' - it gives a much more vivid image for the reader to grab hold of)
  • Show don't tell (don't write 'Sarah was impatient' write 'Sarah tapped her foot and glanced at her watch')
  • Avoid cliches
  • Appeal to the senses - sight, smell, sound, touch

All that advice is in the 'Style' chapter of the book. There's tons more in the other sections. Honestly I can't recommend this book enough.

Oh - and this bit of advice, right at the end, could have be written for me:

"In fact, I encourage you not to try too hard to make the first draft good. Too many writers are so critical of themselves in the first draft that they never get to the second. They sit down to write, with a fussy little editor sitting on their shoulder, and after two of three paragraphs the little editor snickers. "Oh, that's awful," he says. Or "What a stupid way of saying that. This is embarrassing." So the writer yanks the sheet of paper out of the typewriter, tosses it into a wastebasket, and starts over. Some writers never finish a story because of that little editor on their shoulder. Save your editor for the rewriting. Write the first draft without judgment. Take some risks. Put in the words that might seem ridiculous. Nobody but you has to see the first draft. It is better to rewrite bad writing than to be so inhibited in the first draft that you don't put in the good, imaginative writing you are capable of.

The way I look at it is that when you rewrite your story, article, chapter, essay, or whatever, you are sculpting the clay that you created. But when you write the first draft you are creating clay out of nothing. That, by itself, is a tough enough trick; don't burden yourself with the further requirement that it be any good. The first draft doesn't have to be good. It just has to be there."

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Novel Progress - ploughing on...

Thanks for the words of encouragement in response to my previous post, guys. The wibble isn't over and I'm trying to write through it though my heart really isn't in it at the moment. I suppose the nearer I get to the end of the book the more my worries about agents and publication and reviews rise to the surface. When the book is finished I'll have to deal with those fears and, subconsciously, my writing is probably slowing down so I can delay finishing it. I need to get the "I'm just writing this for me" mindset back so I can quash all the horrible "what ifs" I keep thinking about.

They say two of the biggest causes of writers' block are fear of success (ha, right!) and fear of failure. I'm definitely in the latter camp. I've wanted to be an author for as long as I can remember and I'm scared that, although I've put my heart and soul into this novel (and four months of my life by the time I finish the first draft) I (or my novel) might not be good enough.

It's strange really because I've encountered a fair few rejections in my short story writing endeavours (and a few successes too) but you don't invest so much of yourself (or your time) into a short story. If it doesn't work it doesn't really matter because you only spent an hour, three hours, a day, whatever, working on the story and there is always another one waiting to be written (quickly). I've put so much of myself into this novel and the characters and I think it would be awful if I had to lock them away in a drawer at the end of all this and they never got the chance to 'live' on bookshelves and in other people's minds. The thought of starting all over again with a new novel just fills me with dread!

I know this is all horribly pessimistic (I haven't even finished the damned thing yet) but I am more of a glass half empty type of person rather than a glass half full so it's to be expected really.

Anyway, I just wrote 968 words so the novel word count has gone up. I need to push through this and keep writing every day.

I've been thinking about what I'll do when I've finished the second draft. Do I try and recruit people to read the novel or do I bite the bullet and get a professional critique? Jacqui Bennett's Writing Bureau does a critique service for novels under 100,000 words for £135 (they only critique the plot and characters - it costs more to get grammar, presentation and spelling checked) and I'm seriously considering that.

No writing yesterday. I thought I'd give myself the day off instead. In the afternoon I watched Pan's Labyrinth .

I'd heard great things about it but had no idea what to expect. Actually, I thought it was going to be child's fairy tale with lots of animation so wasn't expecting anything too deep or moving. I was so wrong. The film is rate 15 and there's some really quite shocking violence in it but the story was incredible - it really sucked me in - and the little girl who played the main character was amazing. It's on my Amazon wish list now and I really recommend it.

Yesterday evening I went to the "Comedy Carnival" in Clapham Junction. We wanted to go to the Comedy Store or Jongleurs but they were both sold out so we plumped for the Comedy Carnival instead (although neither of us had been there before). First impressions were terrible - it was held in the 'Wessex' club which was probably the cheesiest club I've ever been into (and I've been to some really cheesy clubs in my time). It was dimly lit and they were playing the worse music in the world (house) and there was hardly anyone in the bar half of the club. We bought our drinks anyway and made our way in the the other half of the club (where the comedy was). I strode towards the door and promptly tripped over a crutch that was sticking out from someone's table. I lunged forward, grabbed hold of a random girl who was coming out of the door and spilled most of my drink onto the floor. That was my comedy moment of the night.

To make matters worse I discovered that my stumble had snapped one of the leather thongs of my new sandals. The guy whose crutch it was didn't even apologise - he just looked up blankly as though it was my fault.

I wasn't in a great mood when I limped towards our seats (chairs lined up in semi-circles like some kind of school assembly) and waiting for the comedians to come onto the (tiny) stage. Fortunately things got better from there on. The first comedian was okay although his Tommy Cooper (who I loved) style jokes fell a bit flat and the pacing was incredibly slow but the second and third comedians were much better (even my companion - who is renowned for comments like 'female comedians are crap' - had to concede that the last act was pretty funny - and he laughed loudly when she read from a 1950's book on 'how to be a perfect housewife' and advised women to only speak to men when they had 'something interesting to say'). Don't worry - I did punch him on the arm.

All in all it wasn't a bad night but I wouldn't recommend the Comedy Carnival. The decor was all wrong, the music was terrible, the seating arrangement was tacky and the crowd was so small that the atmosphere was a bit thin. For a really good night out I recommend the Komedia in Brighton. It's been a brilliant night out every time I've been.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Novel Progress - the last third blahs

No words written last night. After another exhausting day's work we went off to a fantastic restaurant in nearby Peacehaven. It's called "The Thai Elephant" (for anyone in the Sussex area who's interested) and they have an all-you-can-eat deal for £15.80 per person (drinks not included). I expected a cold, sticky, grubby buffet type affair but it was SO much better than that. You sit at your table and order from the menu, just as you normally would in a restaurant (only there are no prices because everything's FREE...well, included in the £15.80). Anyway, I ate a disgusting amount of food last night including: chicken satay, chilli squid, chilli chicken, tempura prawns, hoi-sin duck pancakes, thai red curry and banana fritters with ice cream! I will add that all the starters were shared with four other people but I did eat far too much!

When we rolled back back I was far too sleepy (and full) to write so watched the latest episode of "The Apprentice" (don't you just love that 'TV on demand' function on cable TV. I can't get enough of it - while it's free anyway) and feel asleep on the floor at about 1.30am.

Up again at about 9.15am and my parents left at about 11am. They've (because I really can't take much credit) done a fantastic job on my flat in roughly 2.5 days. My garden no longer looks like a wilderness surrounded by tumbled-down fences (you can actually see where the garden ends and the borders start now!), I have laminate flooring in my hallway, re-fitted laminate in my living room (the planks I'd failed to fit properly near the wall) a non-rotting window in my bedroom, cables attached to the outside wall instead of flapping around in the wind, a white (instead of yellowy) living room ceiling, white (instead of yellowy) tiles in the bathroom, a clean kitchen, cracks in the walls filled with plaster, a de-cluttered bedroom (my Dad took the two spare computers and montor that had been crowding in the corner) and FINALLY my Christmas tree is up in the attic instead of propped against the airing cupboard.

There are still a lot of jobs to be done (including re-painting the living room, kitchen, hallway and bathroom) but I can do that myself and the kitchen refit should hopefully happen in 8 weeks time. I also have to do some more de-cluttering and flog everything at a car boot sale. A job for later in the summer I think.

Ah - my flat is no longer falling down round my ears. Such a nice feeling!

Anyway, enough about the flat. I just wrote about 900 words of my novel and the word count is now at 70% of novel written. I can't help but feeling, however, that I'm just churning out words now, desperate to reach the end. I need a new burst of enthusiasm. I need to feel excited about the novel again. I guess I've had a bit of an attack of the 'fears'. I'm aware that this novel will be on an agent's desk by the end of this year and I'm thinking, "what if it's not good enough?", "what if she hates it?" "what if everyone hates it?" "what if it gets published and it gets slated by readers on Amazon and reviewers in print? My name will be attached to it and everyone will think I'm a crap writer." ooooohHH wibble, wibble, wibble.

This is a normal feeling right? Everyone feels like this? Even successful, published authors?

What I need is a short story hit to boost my confidence.