Sunday, 29 April 2007

A Very Speedy Poetry Hit!

Remember that poem I talked about in my last post? Well at 2pm today I subbed it to "Poetic Hours" (a print poetry magazine that donates all profits to charities). At 6.20pm I got an email saying they would like to publish my poem in the June edition of the magazine!

If you've got any poems that need homes hurry over to:

http://www.poetichours.homestead.com/contactpage.html

and submit a poem. You only have until 1 May to submit a poem for the June edition of the magazine. (Submissions for the autumn edition will only be considered between 15 June - 15 October)

Novel Update - just a quick one

I've got a friend coming round for dinner and a DVD in a bit so this is just a quick update.

Today I:

1) Edited my second short story. All done and dusted and ready to go off to a comp just as soon as the organisers get back to me on a submission question I had.

2) Edited an oldish short story to cut it down from 2,400 words to under 2,000 words (there's a comp in June that I'm thinking of subbing it to)

3) Turned a short flash into a poem and sent it off to a Poetry mag. I haven't written poems since I was in my early twenties (and oh god they were awful) but the leader of my writing group recently suggested we look at our prose with a view to turning some of it into poetry. I gave it a go this afternoon and quite liked the result. I haven't studied poetry since I did English A-level and I've got no idea how non-rhyming poems are supposed to work but I read mine aloud and it sounded okay.

4) Wrote another 900 words of the novel. I was going to have a break today but the novel won't write itself and I wanted to crack the 34,000 word target (that's what I often do if I feel a bit sluggish about writing, I say "okay, just write until you hit 34,000 words and then you can stop". Or else I'll say to myself "just write until you've written 1,000 words and then stop"). For me it helps me turn off the internal editor and just get the words out there. I can worry about how good they are when I've finished and I start editing.

5) Reviewed A.Writer's synopsis and made a few suggestions. It's GOOD and she should quit worrying (says the girl who should start taking her own advice!)

Anyway, it's nice to know that I'll be starting next week with a clean slate so to speak (no edits hanging over me waiting to be done). Next week is going to be a writing only week (hopefully). No editing, no tweaking, no subbing. Just write!

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Novel Progress - Update

So, I've just finished my novel-writing stint for tonight. 1,130 words written, pushing me over 33,000 words now (37% of novel written).

I've learnt one thing from this experience - DO NOT read/edit your novel while you're still writing it. It really throws you off. The next time (ha!) I write a novel I'm just going to plough through and TOTALLY turn off my editing head until I've finished the whole thing.

Right, back to the tele...

A day of editing

Yesterday I printed out the first 3,000 words of my novel and a short story I wrote earlier this week. I used my normal 'trick' and changed the font and the font size before I printed them out. It's a useful trick if you feel too close to your words to edit them properly. It's as though seeing them in a different font from normal makes them look like someone else's work. Anyway, it works for me!

So today I had a read through of both, made a few changes/tweaks on paper and have just made the changes to the electronic copies. I think/hope I'm pretty much done with the first 3,000 words of my novel now (especially after my recent synopsis fiasco!). I'm going to print it out one more time and then put it in a drawer to be read one last time, next week.

I need to move on with the novel and forget about the beginning. Halfway (45,000) words is looking tantalisingly close now.

The story is pretty much done too so I'll sub that to the comp I have in mind for it next week. The other story I wrote recently is recently getting anonymously critted in my writing group. When that's all done and dusted I'll take a look at the comments and edit it according to the ones I agree with!

Okay - time for dinner and a dose of TV - and then on with the novel this evening.

What do your characters look like?


Just had far too much fun playing with this site to try and create images of some of my characters:

<- Brian, transpotter and ex-Territorial army member


This is the site:



Warning! You won't get any writing done while you're playing!

Friday, 27 April 2007

Novel Progress - Hooray for the Internet!

All I can say is...

PHEW!!!

I revised my synopsis in the light of Vanda's comment and emailed it to the lovely, lovely Sally Quilford for a second opinion.

And she liked it. And she said it made sense. And she's going to help me make the synopsis even clearer.

Oh thank God (for Sally). I was thisclose to dropping the whole novel last night. But now...(and I would skip around the room if I wasn't such a lazy arse)... I feel re-motivated and enthused.

And thank God for Vanda. If I hadn't sent my synopsis to her I would have had no idea that there was such a glaring and confusing hole in my plot. Sending your work out for other people to look at is extremely scary...but it's worth it. Sometimes you're just too close to your novel to see it clearly.

Right, that's it for now. I've got some words to write.

Edited to add: A.Writer - thank you soooooo much for your email. You made my day!

In other news....

The join wasn't spotted in my short story and... to my enormous surprise ... the first crit it received gave it a pretty good score.

I am in shock!

Novel Update - the good, the bad and the really bad

Critique back from Vanda today.

The good:


  • My writing "flowed well"
  • There were no problems with grammar and punctuation
  • She called the first paragraph "great" and "catchy"
  • She liked my main character "she captivated me" and wanted to read on
  • she marked several phrases with "lovely" and "great characterisation"
  • She really liked my "cliffhanger" chapter endings
  • She really liked my second chapter even though it was very different to the first

The bad:

  • My character was too quick to argue in one scene (too little motivation)
  • My character did something unlikely in another scene

    (Both fixable with a quick re-write)

The really bad:

  • There is a huge, big, fat plot hole in my synopsis that makes the entire story incomprehensible (my words not Vandas)

I had a quiet freak out when I read the "I'm confused" comments on the synopsis and then I had a think and then my brain hurt (a lot) and then I freaked out a bit more.

At first I didn't think it was fixable and seriously considered trashing the entire novel. Then I had an idea and pencilled it into the synopsis. I'm still not sure if it will work. As I said before my story might possibly be classified as "paranormal chicklit" and, for this 'fix' to work, it requires a fair amount of suspension of disbelief on the part of the reader. But how far will people suspend their disbelief before they go "Nah, this is just silly?"

I have sent out an SOS to try and find out...

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Still dabbling with stories whilst novel writing (and notes on 'voice')

I was reading Sally's blog yesterday and she was talking about re-visiting old short stories - which I found interesting as I'd just been working on a short story I'd abandoned over a year ago (I have a folder called 'Abandoned openings' on my desktop and every now and then I trawl though it to see if anything sparks an idea).

Anyway, I didn't want to abandon this particular story as the voice was very strong and the premise was an interesting one (to me anyway). I re-read the story several times and an idea for an ending slowly formed in my mind. The trouble was - I couldn't get back into the voice - and I silently cursed my past self for not finishing the story. In my experience when you suddenly 'get' a very strong voice you have to complete the short story in one sitting or risk losing the voice, the moment, forever. I have to admit I struggled to get the voice back for the second half of the story and I'm not entirely sure I did it justice second time around. This weekend I'm going to send the story to my writing group to critique to see what they think although I've got a very strong feeling they'll be able to see the join. I'm also not 100% sure the story works as is but...we'll see. Maybe some fresh eyes will be able to point out where I went wrong.

Fortunately the voice in my novel isn't nearly as strong as the one in the story so it's much easier to slip back into it day after day.

Talking of the novel - it's plodding along nicely. 700'ish words last night and 400'ish words the night before. I need to do some serious work on the novel this weekend and wrack up a couple of 1,200 words a night totals to push it along.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

You know...the novel you've been working on...

LOVE Family Guy and really, really, really love this clip.

It's funny but also scarily spot on!



Note to self: Do NOT take three years to write novel!

I'm a Novel Racer!

Hooray! Kate Harrison (author of 'Brown Owl's Guide to Life' and many other novels) has added me to the novel racer list on her blog which means I'm now officially 'racing' to get my novel finished along with all the other lovely racers (some of whom have already..err...finished. I never was very good at races - unless you count the National* Brownie Egg and Spoon Race in 1981 which I WON!)

Anyway, I've been reading all the blogs for ages and thought it was finally time to pull my finger out and join in. Now I officially have to finish writing this novel - not that I wasn't going to anyway but this is added impetus.

* National meaning Germany - it was for Brownies whose Dads were in the armed forces and we were living over there at the time (to be honest I don't think there were that many of us).

P.S. Rather annoyingly Blogger won't let me add the list of novel racer blogs at the moment (some kind of javascript error). Will try again soon.

Amazon fillers ( or - how to get your order to qualify for free delivery without spending a fortune)

You know the scenario... you're shopping on Amazon and you've bought a couple of books. The total comes to, say, £13.86 and Amazon says 'just spend a little bit more and you'll qualify for the £15 spent free delivery special.' Okay, you think, I'll go and buy something else. So you buy something you don't really want or need and all of a sudden your bill comes to £22 - you've qualified for free delivery but the total is way more than you wanted to spend!

What's the answer?

This site:

http://www.filleritem.com/uk.html

It lists all the really cheap 'filler' items you can buy on Amazon to push your shopping cart total to just over £15 without you spending a fortune.

I bought a book of short stories by Louisa M. Alcott for £1.02 but you can find even cheaper items on there (from 25p upwards). Give it a go!

Monday, 23 April 2007

Novel Progress - 1/3 written! (and how I deal with writers' block)

Well I've got no idea how it happened (apart from me putting my fingers to the keys and pressing, obviously) but I managed to write over 2,200 words tonight!

I've now written 30,118 words which means I've written over 1/3 of my novel. OHMYGOD.

I only have to write twice as much as I've written already and then I'll have finished it! OHMYGOD (more of a scary exclamation this time).

Still a lot to do then.

It's strange - I thought I'd be the sort of novelist that savoured every word, that actively enjoyed putting fingers to keyboard but it turns out I'm not. I'm desperate to type THE END. That's not to say that I'm not enjoying it (I am, mostly) and the 2,200 words I wrote tonight appeared because I was really enjoying the scene I was writing and they just flowed - BUT - that's quite unusual.

I'd say about half the words I've written so far have flowed easily and the other half have been a bit of a slog. I think the thing is I'm desperate to get to the really exciting bit which happens, I'm guessing, about 60,000 words in when the crises hit desperation point and my poor MC is really struggling (does that make me a sadist?). It's also because I very much feel like I'm flying by the seat of my pants and it's weird knowing I'm not 100% sure what happens between 30,000 and 60,000 words (does that make me a control freak?). I also want to be able to pat myself on the back for, for the first time, actually finishing a novel.

Plotting eight scenes (and then adding on a few more as I write the earlier scenes) is definitely helping me motor on. It seems writers' block only happens when four things occur:
  1. I don't know what happens next and I'm stuck
  2. I get a rejection (from a sub or a competition) which makes me doubt how good a writer I am
  3. I read a fantastically good novel/short story and it makes me doubt how good a writer I am
  4. I read online how hard it is to get published and assume that I will be one of the many never-published

Okay, so number 1) can be solved - by forward plotting.

As for 2) I guess the answer is 'don't send anything out' but then I wouldn't get any acceptances which make me think I can write and cheers me up enormously.

For number 3) the answer is not to read anything good (actually I started reading a chick-lit book at the weekend which was fantastically bad and made me feel soooo much better about my writing. Maybe that's the answer?)

And number 4)? Simple - stop reading online articles about publishing until I'm all done.

One thing I've found that really helps (with 2-4) is to tell myself 'I'm writing this for me. I'm just writing it to prove to myself that I can finish a novel. That's the main reason why I'm writing it. Sod thoughts of publishing deals.' I'm totally lying to myself when I say that of course, but if I can get myself into that mindset before I start writing it lifts some of the internal pressure and the words start to flow much easier.

How do you deal with writers' block and 'wobbles' (A.Writer's term)?

Can I Speak to Elvis, Please?

Someone just rang my mobile and said "Can I speak to Elvis, please?"

"Elvis?" I said.

"Yeah. Oh, sorry, I think I've got the wrong number."

I think there must be a short story in there somewhere.

Talking of short stories I did write a short story last night (much to my surprise!). Great, I thought when I'd finished, a 1,500 word story on the theme of 'seven' for the Lymm Festival comp (I won a Highly Commended there last year). I googled the comp so I could print out the entry form...

Oh dear. New Lymm Festival rules this year 'your entry must fit on a single side of A4'. My story was 3.5 pages of A4!

Ah well, rather than brutally chop my story (which I really quite like) to get it down to a single side of A4 I'm going to write something new for Lymm and send my story somewhere else instead.

Still can't quite believe I wrote some of my novel and a short story last night. Just goes to prove what happens when you turn off the TV and put some music on instead (well, for me anyway)

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Novel Progress - Update

Not much to report here apart from the fact I wrote just over 1,300 words today pushing my word count to over 30% of novel written which feels good. Just need a final push to get to 33% (a third of novel written). That would feel even better.

I was looking through my short story folder the other day, looking for something to sub to a competition and realised that, out of my all my stories:
  • 1/3 have already been published (or will be published shortly)
  • 1/3 have been subbed
  • 1/3 aren't good enough to be subbed

All of a sudden I felt the overwhelming need to write some new short stories. And there I was saying I was fully focussed on my novel. I guess I'm slightly nervous that, if I don't write a short story soon, I'll forget how to do it. So, I might write a new short story tonight or I might just watch TV and wait for the urge to pass. We'll see!

Friday, 20 April 2007

My Weekly Mystery Solved (and Cotswold Cheque)

Received a letter from My Weekly yesterday. Yep, they did mistakenly send my manuscript back to me (although they'd accepted it for publication) and thanked me for sending it back.

They weren't able to give me any news on when the story might be published. Appaently they hold them in stock and use them 'according to the season in which they're set and are then chosen to make up a balance within each issues with regard to both length and mood'. Mine could be published in two months or next year! But they are going to send a complimentary copy so I'll know when it's out.

Another apology in the post - Cotswold Writing comp apologised for the mix up and sent me a cheque made out to me instead of the mysterious Miss Turner (jokes in the writing group included - 'change your name to Paige' 'change your name to Tina') so that's good.

Oh - one thing I want to add. MW said they are always on the look-out for light-hearted or humorous tales, 'but we already have a plentiful stock of Christmas-themed ones'. So there you go - little hint for anyone wanting to sub something.

I have a question too - anyone got any hints on writing humorous/light-hearted tales? I have to admit that that kind of story doesn't come easily to me and I have no idea how to set about writing a story that involves conflict but is also light-hearted? Can anyone point me in the direction of any internet articles/postings or any books on the subject?

Oh! That reminds me. In June I'm going to a one day writing seminar in the Cotswolds on 'how to write magical fiction' (aimed at the women's magazine market). I'm really looking forward to it.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

How Writing a Novel Makes You Read (Novels) Differently

It's a strange one this.

I've avoided reading any chick lit since starting my novel (as I don't want to inadvertently pick up on someone else's style/voice) but I have been reading. I finished reading A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby the other day and have recently started reading The Abortionist's Daughter by Elisabeth Hyde (which I picked up in a 3 for 2 offer at Waterstones. It seems to be a crime novel - which I normally don't read - so is different from my normal book choice).

Anyway, I'm not going to review either book but I did want to note how writing a novel myself has affected the way I read (hopefully this is just a short term side effect). I'm much more aware of things like style, voice, language, characterisation, plot and pacing than I've even been before when reading a novel. Maybe it's because there's something about these two novels that has stopped me being swept into the 'fictive dream' (a term coined by the late late John Gardner to describe how you get lost in a novel) but I've found myself almost analysing them as I read.

A quick summary of 'A Long Way Down' before I talk about it (so you're not entirely lost): For entirely different reasons four characters decide to kill themselves on New Year's Eve. Co-incidentally (or not so co-incidentally as it's a known suicide point) they all meet on the roof of 'Topper's House' (a high rise building). The story is about what happens after they talk each other down and how they interact and how they go about fixing the varies crises in their lives.

In "A Long Way Down" I was interested in the use of POV and voice (Hornby uses first person POV for four different characters - swapping between POVs to move the story on). Oh the whole he was very successful and I only noticed a couple of slips where a character used a phrase that was more suited to another character. The other thing I was aware of was plot progression. I got a very real sense of where the author reached a bit of a sticking point in the novel and had to pause. I could almost hear him think 'what happens now?' and then lo and behold, another conflict would appear. Sometimes these conflicts were organic to the plot, on other occasions they seemed very forced. i.e. Jess deciding to invent an 'angel' and sell the story to the national press. There were other events that felt very author led rather than character led a sense Hornby went 'okay, I'll have them do this now and, because I don't want to use one person's POV all the way through I'll have them invite one of the others along with them'. Sometimes this was out of character (for the tagger alonger) so we'd get their POV to explain why they decided to go along.

All this was completely contrary to the advice I've been given in one of my writing groups - the plot should be character rather than author led and this was, probably, the first time I was aware that a plot was author led.

I suppose the advice I, as a wannabe novelist, can take from this is that you must go with your instincts about your character and let them, rather than you, define the action of the novel. It makes the novel feel more dynamic and, ultimately, more honest. Your readers will feel it if you're manipulating your characters. Of course you still need to plot your novel and have an idea of the way it's going but you shouldn't force your characters to act out of character to move the action forwards. It feels false.

I've only just got started with "The Abortionist's Daughter" so there's not much I can say about that yet. What I have noticed is that its use of 3rd person limited POV. So far and I'm still only in Chapter 1 I've read Megan's POV, Frank's POV, Huck's POV and the Rev Steven's POV. It's a lot to take in in such a short chapter and I found myself flicking back in the book to work out who was talking about who. I can understand why the author did it - this is a crime book after all so you need to get into the heads of these people to get their take on what's going on (I'm assuming they're the main characters and that there aren't too many more!). It'll be interested to see if I remain a little confused as I continue to read or if I'll get to know these characters much better and start to automatically switch from one POV to another without coming out of the fictive dream.

My novel is 1st person POV all the way through (for just one character) so no potential confusion there (thank God) but it's interesting to study the way other authors approach POV because, hopefully, when I've finished this book there will be novel number 2 and 1st person POV might not suit that. I do like the ideal of multiple characters 1st person POV and the challenge will be to create unique voices.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Novel Progress - Update

In typical fashion (for me) I couldn't help but look at my opening again last night and ending up chopping 200 words off the beginning of my opening! (Didn't email Vanda again though - that would be pushing her patience too far). As Sally said in my comments sometimes the very beginning of your opening is a bit of a warm up and I realised that any info I had in the first 200 words was repeated later on through dialogue so no point keeping it. Show don't tell and all that. The opening works much better for it. One of these days I might actually stop tweaking! (or not)

In other news I've written another 1,000'ish words.

I realised the other night that I'm in slightly unchartered territory at the moment because my novel outline is pretty sparse. As a result I can feel myself becoming a little less enthusiastic about sitting down and writing and that's not good. I quickly got round that by sketching out the next eight scenes in some more detail and started writing again. It feels better. I know there's another scene after the one I'm writing now and another one after that and so on. When I've written all eight I'll sketch out the next eight and continue onwards. Of course there's a chance my characters may want to go off in a slightly different directions to the ones I have planned but, if that's in character and still carries the plot forward in the right direction, that's fine.

Am I only the writer not to bother writing down character details/history etc before I started? The more I write the more I get to know them and I like that. Of course it means I'll probably have to proof my novel quite carefully when I've finished to check for inconsistencies but I don't mind that. None of them have done anything wildly out of character in the last 25,000 words anyway.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Novel Progress - Did I say I'd FINISHED the first 3,000 words?

So, I edited the first 3,000 words and sent them off to Vanda for a critique.

All done and dusted, right?

Wrong!

Last night, while I was having a bath, I started to think about my novel (which in itself isn't unusual because I can't stop thinking about the damn thing) and I had a revelation! That scene that I'd been saving as a funny flashback for later in the book would be a perfect opener. It had a hook in the first few sentences, it inspired sympathy for the main character, generated tension, ended with a punchline (that was actually quite funny) and introduced another hook to keep the reader reading.

Now I could lie at this point and claim I jumped out of the bath, dripped suds all over the floor and soaked the laptop with my wet fingers as I hammered out the words (it would make for a more amusing blog entry after all). But I won't. I continued with my bath, whilst frantically repeating the new opening in my head so I wouldn't forget it and then, when I was all done and dry, I hammered out the words - all 800 of them.

I went to bed at about 2am and mused some more and some more and some more. And then I got up, emailed Vanda and told her not to critique the 3,000 words I'd sent her because I'd come up with a new beginning and I'd rather she look at that (she emailed me later saying that was fine).

I got up at 6am, edited the new beginning, printed off the first 3,000 words, stuck them in an envelope, posted them before I had chance to change my mind again and just managed to catch my train to work before the doors shut.

Am now exhausted but I have a much better beginning and I'm happier with it. The only trouble is... well...the subject matter may put some people off. I'm not saying much more than that just yet. Let's see what Vanda thinks*

*And if she thinks no I'll go back to the original opening sentence.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Intruder Alert!

Just now, typing away at my laptop, I felt someone watching me.

I turned round and discovered...

a black/brown/mottled cat.

I don't have a cat.

I live on the first floor so it must have jumped onto my balcony and wandered through the open back door.

Whose cat is it?

When watching scary movies I often wonder how I'd react if a stranger appeared in my house. Would I scream or shout or shriek?

Apparently I just jump a bit and go "Wooooooooooooo!"

Novel Writing Articles

I just found this page of novel-writing tips from an author called Caro Clarke. I haven't read it all yet but there's some thought provoking stuff:

http://www.caroclarke.com/writing.html

Harpers Bazaar / Orange Short Story Competition 2007

Here's a goodie of a short story competition... My only query is they say you should be unpublished - is that novel unpublished or short story unpublished? I wish they'd be more clear!

Harpers Bazaar / Orange Short Story Competition 2007

If you are an unpublished female writer, over the age of 18 enter now!

The judges (Amanda Ridout, managing director of the general books division of HarperCollins UK (chair); Kate Mosse, Martha Kearney, John Walsh and senior editors from Harper’s Bazaar) are looking for stylish, creative and original writing.

To enter send an original 2,000 word story on the subject ‘The Gesture’ a 200 word autobiography a passport photo of yourself attached to a sheet of A4 paper with your full name, address, telephone number (mobile where possible), occupation and date of birth.

Your competition entry should be typed and double-line spaced on A4 paper.

Send it to

Short-story competition
Harper’s Bazaar
National Magazine House
72 Broadwick Street
London
W1F 9EP

Closing date: 27 April 2007

Prizes

Three finalists will be chosen to attend a writer’s masterclass and lunch at HarperCollins in London. The finalists will then have the chance to edit their entries and resubmit them to the judges for final consideration.

The first prize is a cheque for £1,000 and publication of the story in Harper’s Bazaar. The two runners-up receive £500 each.

The winner will be announced at the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction awards ceremony on 6 Jun 2007. The winner and runners-up will also receive copies of the books shortlisted for this year’s Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction.

For more information see the March issue of Harper’s Bazaar

Rules and regulations

1 Entrants must be unpublished female writers aged 18 or over.

For more details go here:

http://www.orangeprize.co.uk/opf/harpers.php4

Novel Progress - 1st 3,000 words and synopsis re-drafted

After much, much reading and re-reading and editing and tweaking and printing out and scribbling and typing and re-printing and re-reading and re-editing and scribbling and typing and even, at one point, reading aloud into a digital microphone and listening and more scribbling and typing...I AM DONE.

The first 3,000 words and the synopsis are bundled into a envelope and addressed to Vanda. Tomorrow I'll send it off and now...

I feel sick.

What if Vanda thinks it's rubbish? What if her feedback is so scathing I don't write another word? What if she tells me that the whole paranormal crux of the plot is laughable? Maybe I should shoot myself now for telling her, in my covering letter, to 'be as brutal/honest as you like'.

NO ONE has read the first 3,000 words apart from me. In fact, no one has read any of my novel. Only one person (a friend, a musician not a writer) has listened to a precis of the novel. She seemed to like it and laughed at the climax (am hoping that was the result of my glib telling as the climax should actually be shocking rather than amusing).

Anyway, what a palavar it was to edit the first 3,000 words. God help me when I have to edit all 90,000 words. Urrgh.

Anyway, I wrote an additional 700 words yesterday and 1,000'ish today so the word count is now over 22,000 (nearly, nearly 1/4 of the novel written). I've set my target word count at 90,000 words rather than 80,000 words and I'm not entirely sure why. I think maybe I read that the average novel is 80,000-100,000 words so decided to aim for 90,000 words. Readers - why did you decide on your target word count?

In other news a bumble bee invaded my living room earlier this evening and still hasn't found its way out. I was shocked by just how big and noisy a bumble bee can be (particularly in a fairly small living room) and have spent most of the evening ducking and screaming. The bee is now crawling around on the floor so I'm watching where I step.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Anxiety Dreams

Yesterday I edited part of the opening where the MC thinks she's having an anxiety dream...

then I went to bed and...

had an anxiety dream!

My dream was even more traumatic than the MCs (she thinks she's naked on Oxford street). I dreamed I was on the tube and was grabbing all my stuff (which was scattered throughout the carriage) so I could get off at my stop. In my hurry I forgot to grab my laptop which I'd left on the seat. When I turned round it had been stolen. My novel - gone! To make matters worse my flash stick was still attached. My back up copy of my novel - gone! Every last word gone.

I have never, ever been so happy to wake up and realise I'd been dreaming.

Note to self: back up novel on CD regularly and distribute throughout house.

Went out for most of today (and lost £20 on the Grand National - boo!) so didn't do too much work on the novel but did edit several bits this morning that I was really happy with. Which was nice.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Novel Update - Is it Boring?

Now that I've re-read and edited the first 3,000 words oh, several hundred times at least I can no longer tell if it's any good. I know that I haven't got too many adverbs in there now and that I've tried to use indirect dialogue (where someone says something in an interesting, unstraightforward way - as opposed to indirect speech where you would write "john said that I shouldn't go to the cinema" which you should avoid) where possible (thank you for that tip James N Frey) to spice up the dialogue, I've cut the bits that don't work (or were crap) and I've re-worked the descriptive passages to make them a bit more interesting and, dare I say it, amusing, but the one question I am no longer able to answer is...

Is it boring?

I've read it so many times now that I have absolutely no idea whether the judges will go "Oooh" or "Yawwwwn".

A big part of the problem is that, because I'm still writing the novel, I'm not removed enough from the text to judge it objectively and, because I need to get it to Vanda in time to re-work it before 31 May deadline, I can't give myself that space.

My solution?

Tomorrow I'm going to continue writing the novel and on Sunday I'm going to give the first 3,000 words a final, final readthrough and edit and then I'm going to send it to Vanda on Monday. After I've done that I'll mostly be feeling sick with worry...

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Novel Progress - Editing

Ooooh editing is so not fun. I thought it would be as I love tweaking my short stories but, because my novel opening will be going off to a competition to be judged and I'm feeling the pressure, I'm finding editing a whole bundle of not fun.

Questions that ran through my mind as I was reading my opening:


  • Should there be more of an introduction to my characters before I plunge them into conflict so I can build up the reader's sympathy for them? [Answer: I don't know. Probably not if I want to hook the reader straight away]

  • Will the reader like my main character (even though the novel opens with her arguing with someone)? [Answer: Hopefully she'll gain their sympathy by what she goes through after the initial argument]

  • Is the hook strong enough to pull a reader in? [Answer: It's certainly an usual hook so yes, hopefully]

  • Is there too little description? [Answer: I don't know. I don't like reading reams of description and I don't like writing it either. Hopefully there's enough.]

  • Are my funny bits actually funny? [Answer: One bit made me grin. Does that mean it's funny?]

  • Is the language good or is it bland? [Answer: The language definitely needs some work to sparkle]


So, I've done a bit of work on the first 1,000 or so words. I'm still not 100% happy but I'm happier so that's something. I even digitally recorded myself reading the first 3,000 words as sometimes you can more easily spot the glaring mistakes when you listen to what you've written rather than reading it. It sounded okay, I have to say.

What I've written is okay, it may even be good. The trouble is I want it to be great!

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Novel Update - Progress

I took my laptop away with me this Easter, determined to do some writing and...shock horror...I did! Most of it took place in the very early hours of the morning and I've now passed the 20,000 word mark. Hooray!

Now I've got that far and there's a natural pause before I start the next chapter I'm going to concentrate on editing/rewriting the first 3,000 words before I give send them off to Vanda for a professional appraisal (oh God, what if she thinks it's awful?) and then rework/polish them before subbing them to the Miss Write competition. I've got until the end of May so hopefully I've got plenty of time.

That My Weekly news (see previous post) was just what I needed to lift my writing spirits so I think I'll temporarily bask in the warm glow of my small success before the next bout of 'I can't write' blues kick in!

Two Hits - one of them a breakthrough!

Apologies for my recent silence. I went away for Easter and was too busy doing Easter stuff (enjoying the sunshine and eating chocolate mostly) to blog. I did write, however and I'll post a Novel Update post after this one.

First, the good news...

The competition result that I mentioned last week? It was the Cotswold Writing Circle short story competition and one of my subbed stories got me a runner up prize of £25 and future publication in their anthology. Unfortunately they got my surname wrong (on the website and, unfortunately, the cheque) so I'm desperately trying to contact them (it would be awful if they published my story under the wrong name too). The email address on their website didn't work (bounced back) so I've tried their contact form AND left a message on their messageboard. I'll probably pop a letter in the post tomorrow as well. Better safe than sorry (and it would be nice to cash that cheque!).

The other bit of good news is that I've finally broken the women's magazine market after subbing for a couple of years on and off (yes, I know I was published in Woman's Own last year but that was as a result of a competition rather than a sub so it's a little bit different, in my book anyway).

Anyway, this morning I received a letter from My Weekly telling me that they'd love to publish the story I sent them in August last year (it was shortlisted in a WriteLink weekender competition but wasn't published). I'd assumed, because so much time had passed between subbing the story and now, that My Weekly had long since forgotten all about the story. Apparently not! That'll be my first paying publication of the year. Wah hoo! They sent the story back to me, along with a rights form I have to sign and I'm a bit confused. Do I send the story back with the form or can I assume they've already photocopied it/typed it up? Anyone know? Sally?

Right...now to do a novel update post.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Alien/Monkey/Ghost watches a train rush past


I took a photo on the train yesterday as the countryside rushed past.
This is what came out...
Look at where the arrow is pointing (I put the arrow in using Photoshop but the thing it's pointing to is genuinely part of the photo). Is it just me or does that look like some kind of monkey/alien/ghost just outside the window ?
Weird.
Maybe it's just me.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Woman and Home short story competition

I read the following on Sally Quilford's website earlier this evening:

"Woman and Home are once again running their regular short story competition. You need to buy a copy of the mag with an entry form in order to enter (photocopies NOT accepted). If you have had stories published in a publication with a circulation of above 5000 you are unable to enter(which rules out most womens magazines, including The Weekly News).

The prize is £1500 and VIP tickets for the Costa Book awards.

HOW TO ENTER The theme is FEEL GOOD, but the title you give your story is entirely up to you. Submit your story of 3,000 words, typed in double spacing on one side of each sheet of A4 paper. Number the pages and keep a copy, as we can't return entries. Include a recent photo (which cannot be returned) and 200 words about yourself. Attach the coupon on page 71 of the May edition of woman&home to the front of your entry. You'll need a separate coupon for each story. Photocopies of the coupon are not accepted. All entries must be received by 25 May 2007."

I was a runner up in the Woman's Own short story competition last year and my story was published so I can't enter but I hope people who read this blog will give it a go (if they haven't had a story widely published before). I can't begin to describe how wonderful it was to get a call from the WO Fiction Editor to tell me my story was runner up. No amount of money can buy you that kind of feeling. So give it a go. You just never know!

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Novel Progress - Update

Well the old 'write as much as you can in an hour with headphones jammed into ears and music on' approach worked again.

This time I had Tracy Chapman in my ears (have loved her since I was 13 and finally got to see her live last year) and I wrote approximately 1,200 words. I found it VERY hard to get going but after a bit of a faff I got started and then the words pretty much flowed. Also, and quite excitingly, when Lucy got home from seeing Dan she found her flatmate Brian dressed in a most unexpected fashion. I had no idea he'd be dressed like that. They're off on an adventure together now and I've no idea how it will turn out. Now THAT'S the exciting thing about writing a novel - when the characters tell you what they're doing and you just have to follow them.

So that's the writing done for today. Hooray! Over 16,000 words of the novel now written (18%).

Guilt, Depressing Films, Excitement

Not much to report here really.

Guilt

Wrote 1,200ish words on the novel on Monday (pushing it to over 15,000 words) but wrote nothing yesterday. I feel horribly guilty if I don't write at least a few words a day (normally at least 800) but yesterday I gave myself the day off. Am determined to write something today as I've got this feeling that, if I don't, I may lose my grip on the novel and one day of not writing may become two or three or a week or a month and I'll have started another novel that I won't ever finish. So yes - today I will write.

Depressing Films

The other night I watched The Last Kiss. It has to be one of the singularly most depressing films I've ever seen. Now, on the whole, I'm rather partial to a depressing film - particularly if it's a depressing romance (e.g. The English Patient, The End of the Affair etc) but The Last Kiss was just horrible. It's probably a fairly realistic representation about how some men react to the whole commitment, family thing when they're in their late 20s/early 30s but that certainly doesn't make it any more enjoyable - particularly when you're a woman in her early thirties! Also, despite appearances to the contrary (it features Zach Braff from Scrubs), the film is not the slightest bit funny.

Excitement

News the other day that I've placed in a short story competition. I'm not first, that much I do know, but I don't know if I'm second or third or fourth or what kind of cash prize I'll receive (though I'm hopeful there will be some kind of cash prize). I won't find out until Thursday next week (12th April) so will report back then.


Sunday, 1 April 2007

Novel Update - Hello Googlers!

Not much to report on the novel front apart from another 1,056 words written over the weekend (tonight actually). Am now in totally unchartered territory - i.e. writing to the thinnest of scene descriptions i.e. "Lucy goes to find Dan." Have only the vaguest of ideas what happens so it's interesting, if not a little disconcerting, to just let Lucy get on with it. Apparently she likes to talk to chavs and muse about death (musing to herself, not to the chavs) en route . Who knew? If my calculations are right I am now nearly 1/6 of the way through the book. Way hay. Basically I have only the vaguest of ideas what happens between now and the last 10,000 words of the book. Should be interesting or could be disasterous. Will have to keep writing to find out.

In other news - I found out this weekend that I have a potential career as 'band stylist' (in a strictly amateur sense) if my career as novelist doesn't pan out. How ironic that I have an eye for men's fashion when I'm so hopeless at dressing myself.