Friday, February 29, 2008

What makes a novel a page-turner?

Great characters
Great plot
Narrative tension.

If you don't know what it is or you need reminding check out this article:

And if you haven't discovered the Fiction Factor website yet there are some great articles on writing a novel here:

I particularly like this one on "Tips for Adding Tension to your Fiction"

Ebay Gum I'm Knackered!

Didn't do any rewriting tonight because I just spent the last FIVE hours taking photos of stuff and uploading it to ebay.
Aaaagh! Why does it have to take so long?
But that's it now. Once that lot sells that's it. No more ebaying for at least six months!
Now all I have to do is:
  • pray for a charity bag to fall the letter box sometime soon so I can give away a binbag's worth of clothes that's taking up all the space in the hall
  • give away an airwalker/gravity machine on freecycle (it's been in the wardrobe for a year now so safe to say I'm not going to use it any time soon!)
  • give away a pack and a half of kitchen tiles on freecycle
  • give away a bookcase on freecycle
  • paint the bedroom
  • finish painting the kitchen
  • finish glossing the living room
  • buy and put down edging in living room
  • get bike serviced
And I'm done.
Apart from
  • rent out flat
  • find new flat
  • tell gas/elec/council etc I'm moving
  • arrange royal mail post redirection
  • find removal company that doesn't charge an arm and a leg (no such thing I fear!)
  • pack
  • etc
  • etc
I'd better stop listing things before I freak out!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Writer's Book of Hope (Getting From Frustration to Publication)

I've been reading quite a lot about this book on the web in the last few weeks:

I've read the first few pages on Amazon (using the 'look inside' function) and it sounds quite good. I could do with a bit of writing 'hope' too! Oh dear am I going add another book to my enormous collection of 'How to' books?

Anyone read it? Is it worth getting?

Warchild: You're Not the Only One

I've been meaning to blog about this for a while but haven't quite got round to it. But I am now. So here goes...

A group of bloggers have decided to create an anthology from blog posts called "You're Not the Only One" which will be published and sold via Lulu with all profits going to the Warchild charity.

All you need to do is:

1) Be a blog owner
2) Submit a blog post (less than 1,500 words long) that you think fits the theme "You're Not the Only One"
3) Email it to bv 9th March (extended deadline, they'd like some more humerous entries if possible)
4) Publicise the book/call for submissions
5) Buy the book when it comes out if your submission is accepted (£9)

And that's about it as far as I can see. You can find out more here

I don't think I've ever submitted a non-fiction piece, not for at least 10 years anyway and, as I don't really share details of my personal life on this blog, I was at a bit of a loss when I first heard about this call for subs. What to send? Ummmmm....

In the end I decided to send a post called "10 Reasons Why You Shouldn't BBQ on a balcony" (snappy title!). I'm not entirely convinced that it's the kind of sub they want (unless the world is full of failed balcony BBQers who want to feel like they're not the only one!) but hey, nothing ventured nothing gained right?

Why don't you give it a go too?

Rewrite (it's all downhill from here)

In a good way.

The great thing about progressing beyond 50% of the rewrite is that I've done more than I've got left to do (if that makes any sense). It's like the count down has begun.

For example, after tonight's mini rewrite sesh. I'm on 52% done, 48% left to do.

Watching that second figure decrease and decrease should spur me on to the end. Of course the downside is that I'm a bit tempted to rush through it.

But I can't do that.

I need to give the second half as much attention as I gave the first half. I still need to edit out the waffle, tighten the prose and make sure my chapters end with cliff hangers/hooks and that the chapters are well paced, pushing the reader on to get to the end (and the next cliff hanger). Of course not all my chapters have cliff hangers but I'm hoping there will be enough unanswered questions to keep the reader turning the pages. That's the plan anyway.

43,186 / 82,072 word rewritten (52.6% of novel)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If I ever get signed....

and get an author photo taken...I'm SO going to employ this guy to airbrush it for me. WOW.

Monday, February 25, 2008

My Flat Stinks of Gloss Paint

After my rewriting marathon last weekend I decided to give myself the night off today.

Only a night off isn't a proper night off when there's redecorating to be done (it helps that broadband went down for several hours) so I got myself down to B&Q and bought a tub of white gloss paint, a hacksaw and some screws, came home and:
  • fitted a floor divider thingy for floors of different heights, between the kitchen lino and hallway laminate
  • screwed a door draft excluder thingy (piece of metal with brushes on it) to the bottom of a door
  • glossed the bathroom door, both sides
  • glossed the bathroom doorway
  • glossed the front door
  • glossed the front doorway
  • glossed half the skirting in the living room (furniture is now bundled in the middle of the room making it hard to see the tv)
  • did the washing up
  • cooked dinner

My flat stinks. But it's too cold to open the windows. Am scared to light a candle in case the whole place explodes ;o)

Oscar Results - How did I Do?

Actor in a Leading Roll

My guess: Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood" CORRECT!

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

My guess: Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men" CORRECT!

Performance by an actress in a leading role

My guess: Julie Christie in "Away from Her" WRONG. The Oscar went to Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose"

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

My guess: Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton" CORRECT!

Achievement in directing

My guess "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - CORRECT!

Best motion picture of the year

My guess: "No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers CORRECT!

Original screenplay

My guess: "Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Written by Diablo Cody CORRECT!

Adapted screenplay

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood - WRONG. The Oscar went to "No Country for Old Men".

So, six out of eight correct. Damn! I should have placed a bet ;o) Maybe next year!

Sunday, February 24, 2008


50% DONE!

That's 15% of a novel I rewrote this week. It's amazing what you can do when you pull your finger out (and your social life evaporates and your flat turns into one big dust bunny and your cupboards are bare because you haven't had time to go food shopping and your decorating still isn't done and you've lived off takeaways and haven't done any exercise and...)

Anyway, 50% done. Woo!

Can I get away with doing no re-writing next week now? No? Didn't think so!

41,171 / 81,567 words rewritten (50.4% of novel)

Oscar Predictions

A.Writer has done her Oscar predictions so I thought I'd give it a go too (for 8 of the categories anyway) . I've seen some of the films that are up for an award, but not all of them.

I've highlighted my choice for winner in bold:

Actor in a Leading Roll

George Clooney in "Michael Clayton"
(not seen it)

Daniel Day-Lewis in "There Will Be Blood"
(not seen it but I reckon he'll get it, particularly as he's already one a BAFTA for his role).

Johnny Depp in "Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
(seen it and really didn't like it all that much but will all know how much I enjoy musicals!)

Tommy Lee Jones in "In the Valley of Elah"
(not seen it)

Viggo Mortensen in "Eastern Promises"
(saw it the other night. An excellent, gripping, if slightly violent film and Viggo was excellent in it. If Daniel Day-Lewis doesn't win the Oscar I reckon he's in with a good chance).

Performance by an actor in a supporting role

Casey Affleck in "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford"
(not seen it)

Javier Bardem in "No Country for Old Men"
(seen it. He was brilliant. So scary/creepy. Urrgh. Wouldn't want to run into him on a dark night and particularly not in that highly unflattering wig!)

Philip Seymour Hoffman in "Charlie Wilson's War"
(not seen it)

Hal Holbrook in "Into the Wild"
(not seen it)

Tom Wilkinson in "Michael Clayton"
(not seen it)

Performance by an actress in a leading role

Cate Blanchett in "Elizabeth: The Golden Age"
(not seen it)

Julie Christie in "Away from Her"
(not seen it but I think she's in with a very good chance)

Marion Cotillard in "La Vie en Rose"
(seen it. She was absolutely brilliant and I think it's a toss up between her and Julie Christie but think Christie will win by a nose).

Laura Linney in "The Savages"
(not seen it)

Ellen Page in "Juno"
(seen it, loved it, raved about it. Think she's in with a good'ish chance but, because she's so young I think it'll go to one of the more experienced actresses. I reckon she'll win an Oscar at some point in her career though.

Performance by an actress in a supporting role

Cate Blanchett in "I'm Not There"
(not seen it)

Ruby Dee in "American Gangster"
(seen it but her performance didn't strike me as particularly Oscar worthy)

Saoirse Ronan in "Atonement"
(seen it. Again, not sure the performance was particularly Oscar worth)

Amy Ryan in "Gone Baby Gone"
(not seen it)

Tilda Swinton in "Michael Clayton"
(not seen it but think she'll get it. She was awarded a BAFTA for her role wasn't she?)

Achievement in directing

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Julian Schnabel
(not seen it, have read the book though. Very good)

"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Jason Reitman
(seen it, loved it etc)

"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Tony Gilroy"
(not seen it)

"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Joel Coen and Ethan Coen
(seen it. They won the BAFTA for best director so think they'll clinch it here too)

"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Paul Thomas Anderson
(not seen it)

Best motion picture of the year

"Atonement" (Focus Features) A Working Title Production: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Paul Webster, Producers
(seen it, didn't think it lived up to the hype)

"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production) A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production: Lianne Halfon, Mason Novick and Russell Smith, Producers
(see it, loved it)

"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.) A Clayton Productions, LLC Production: Sydney Pollack, Jennifer Fox and Kerry Orent, Producers
(not seen it)

"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage) A Scott Rudin/Mike Zoss Production: Scott Rudin, Ethan Coen and Joel Coen, Producers
(seen it, loved it)

"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax) A JoAnne Sellar/Ghoulardi Film Company Production: JoAnne Sellar, Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Lupi, Producers
(not seen it)

Original screenplay

"Juno" (A Mandate Pictures/Mr. Mudd Production), Written by Diablo Cody
(seen it. Reckon it definitely deserves best original screenplay. It's so cleverly written. She won a BAFTA for it to)

"Lars and the Real Girl" (MGM), Written by Nancy Oliver
(not seen it)

"Michael Clayton" (Warner Bros.), Written by Tony Gilroy"Ratatouille" (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Brad Bird; Story by Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
(not seen it)

"The Savages" (Fox Searchlight), Written by Tamara Jenkins
(not seen it)

Adapted screenplay

"Atonement" (Focus Features), Screenplay by Christopher Hampton
(doesn't get my vote. Too many sweeping scenes with nothing happening)

"Away from Her" (Lionsgate), Written by Sarah Polley
(haven't seen it)

"The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (Miramax/Pathé Renn), Screenplay by Ronald Harwood
(is supposed to be brilliant but haven't seen it. It won the BAFTA though so should do well)

"No Country for Old Men" (Miramax and Paramount Vantage), Written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
(in with a chance)

"There Will Be Blood" (Paramount Vantage and Miramax), Written for the screen by Paul Thomas Anderson
(haven't seen it)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Instead of doing any housework or redecorating today...

...I worked on my novel.

There's a huge pile of washing up in the kitchen, clothes on the bedroom floor, a bookcase that needs advertising on freecycle, a bin that needs emptying, groceries that need buying* and magnolia paint only halfway up a wall...


I've rewritten another 5% of my novel.

My aim is to reach 50% by the end of tomorrow night.

And thank you to L-Plate and A.Writer who are also editing their novels. Knowing I'm 'racing' them (even if just in a fun way) is really helping me to pull my finger out and rewrite, even when I really, really don't want to.

* The cupboards are bare so I'm going to treat myself to fish and chips for dinner!

37,232 / 82,023 words rewritten (45.3% of the novel)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Rewrite and submissions

Feeling a little bit bleurgh today (I think I might be coming down with something) so only did a couple of thousand words of the rewrite (I meant to do more) but I DID hit 40% done.

Unfortunately I can't do any more until Sunday afternoon and, if I want to keep up with the 3 month schedule I set myself a few blog posting ago, I'll have to rewrite another 5.3% (about 4,300 words). Doable but I'll have to kiss any re-decorating work goodbye to get it done.

We'll see.

I also did some submissions this evening. Because of the novel rewrite I'm not writing as many short stories as normal but I've got about a dozen that need homes, preferably paying ones. My submissions log also looks a bit pitiful (for the first time in ages I've got under 10 subs out there).

So now I've got a small pile of brown A4 envelopes in the middle of the living room floor. 4 stories to go to women's magazines and a flash to a competition.

There's something very satisfying about printing stories out, stapling them, attaching cover letters and a sae, slipping them into envelopes and stacking them up. It's like a small pile of hope.

Tomorrow I'll slip them into the post box. I'll stop short of kissing them but I will wish them luck!

33,419 / 81,887 words rewritten (40.8% of novel)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

An experiment in deadlines

Two weeks ago I mentioned that a story I'd written at the last minute for Slingink's Eurofiction competition scored the highest of the stories I'd written (it was in the top 5 out of 56 entrants). I decided, partly based on that and partly because I'm a huge procrastinator, to enter another last minute entry and let you know how it scored.

Well I got the score yesterday. It was only one point lower than the last entry and, again, scored higher than the other stories I'd spent more time on! It appears, so far, that if I write a story with less than 24 hours before a deadline it is more well received than a story I toil over for ages.

Why is that?

I have a theory.

Most of the stories I've had success with (in comps and publications) are stories I've written in one sitting, normally less than four hours. But I can't just sit and write. I need to get the 'voice' first. As soon as I've got that, the first line and a vague idea about what the story's about, I'm off. And because I've got a deadline I have to write all the way through to the end of the story, often not knowing what the ending is until I get there.

Because of this I think the story evolves in a natural, more organic way than a story I've spent hours plotting and planning. I'm not forcing my characters to bend to my will (which results in an author-led story). Instead I'm telling their story.

But getting the voice and the first line is hard. And sometimes it just won't come so instead I force a story out without them, stopping and starting it over a number or days or weeks until it's finished. I rarely feel happy with those stories and, actually, I have at least half a dozen of them I haven't been able to find homes for.

What writing stories for Eurofiction at the last minute has done for me is to FORCE me to find a voice and complete a story in one sitting. And I started to panic with this story because, by Wednesday, I still hadn't found the voice or the first line.

And then I got the train home from work. I'd finished my paper and was just staring out of the window and there it was - the voice and the first line. I scribbled them down on a piece of paper and promptly ran out of steam. But I had enough to get started today and wrote a 2,600 word story in less than 3 hours and sent it in.

Now I just have to wait 3 weeks to see how well the story scores.

What's the betting I get a crap score this time which will totally discount my theory?! ;o)

Being part of Eurofiction has been great. There's no way I'm going to win (I'm in the top 10 overall but with no chance of getting to the prize-winning number one spot) but it's fantastic that, by the end of this 20 week run, I'll have written 10 complete stories. Stories I can edit, polish and send out.

But when it's over I won't have a deadline to write to anymore.

Then what?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Most amusing google search to reach my blog today...

"a program that proof reads and writes for you"

Ha! Talk about wishful thinking.

p.s. Was it just me or did Amy Winehouse look REALLY nervous singing on the Brits tonight? I felt nervous for her all the way through. Still, despite the little-girl-tugs-at-skirt awkwardness, at least she didn't forget the words!

Why are you writing a novel?

If it's for huge riches you might want to read this post by Emma Darwin, author of The Mathematics of Love:

She makes some very sobering points (and the comments are interesting too).

p.s. Don't want to depress anyone with that link but, y'know, just passing on the info.

This is brilliant!

First seen on Emerging Writer's blog.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Films 2008

Very quick review of the films I've seen recently:

Definitely, Maybe

Starring: Ryan Renolds, Rachel Weiz, Isla Fisher

Synopsis: Man tells daughter about his past using made up names (shown through a series of flashbacks). She tries to guess which one is her mother.

Verdict: Really very tedious and slow moving. Should have worked but really, really didn't. Possibly laughed out loud once.

Score: 3/10


Starring: Ellen Page, Michael Cera (he was in Superbad)

Synopsis: Sixteen year old girl gets pregnant and decides to put her baby up for adoption

Verdict: Excellent! Everything 'Definitely, Maybe' wanted to be but wasn't. It was superbly written, brilliantly acted and was funny, clever and touching. I really didn't think I'd like this but it's definitely my favourite film of the year so far.

Score: 9/10


Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller, Rob Hawkins (no, I'd never heard of any of them either!)

Synopsis: New York comes under attack from a giant creature.

Verdict: You know how some films inform you, others entertain you, others make you laugh, others scare you? This film did none of the above. It had one of the flimsiest plots I've ever seen. Creature attacks, people scream and run, army fires guns, people run back into the danger zone, they scream, they run, they die. The end. Oh yes and it's all filmed on a handheld camera so you feel a bit sick by the end. It was watchable though and I can't say I felt bored (mostly I was peering into the darkness trying to work out what was going on and who was speaking).

Score: 4/10

Monday, February 18, 2008

Disraeli Avenue

The lovely Caroline Smailes, author of In Search of Adam ,has written a follow-up novella that explores the lives of the people who live in Disraeli Avenue.

Caroline isn't receiving a penny in payment for Disraeli Avenue. Instead she's asking for donatations to the charity One in Four. The charity offers support for people who have experienced sexual abuse and sexual violence and as a small organization, desperately needs funds to continue its work.

The novella is downloadable as an ebook here or here.

And you can donate here

The fabulous widget was designed by Stray. Click on it to enter your own secret.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Another Market for Women Writers (UK only)


THE YELLOW ROOM is a new bi-annual literary magazine publishing quality fiction by women writers residing in the UK. Each issue features around 12 short stories, a lively readers' letters page and articles of interest to women writers. The magazine is professionally presented in A5 format with a two-colour glossy perfect bound cover. THE YELLOW ROOM was founded in 2008 by Jo Derrick (formerly Jo Good, editor and publisher of QWF Magazine).

THE YELLOW ROOM is a one-woman, non-profit making project. The magazine is currently only available by post. The first issue is due to be published in the autumn of 2008. Jo says, 'We haven't yet got an online presence, but hope to have a website established in the future'.

THE YELLOW ROOM is a place where women writers can gather together for support, encouragement and friendship. Editor, Jo Derrick, is constantly on the look out for new talent and is also keen to publish short fiction by more established writers. Women writers are welcome to send in short stories of less than 5,000 words (ONLY ONE AT A TIME) for consideration.

Stories must be in English, typed on one side of A4 paper, double-spaced, featuring consecutively numbered pages and the author's name on each page.

A title page should be stapled to the story with details of the author's name, address, email and phone number as well as the word count.

The title page should also bear the initials FBSR (First British Serial Rights) to show the story hasn't been previously published elsewhere and that it is the author's own original work.

ALL MANUSCRIPTS SENT IN MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY EITHER A SAE WITH SUFFICIENT POSTAGE OR AN EMAIL ADDRESS FOR REPLY, otherwise they will not be considered. A covering letter is also appreciated.

Do not email submissions, please!

Jo likes writers to take risks. She is looking for stories with that special something. She enjoys reading about eccentric characters, who view the world in an unconventional way.

The criteria for The Yellow Room are those stories, which extend the boundaries of women's fiction. Jo is looking for the unusual, quirky stories, which explore the female psyche. Jo wants stories to grab her by the throat with their originality; stories which crackle with life. Jo will publish stories in any genre, but prefers slipstream or cross-genre fiction (fiction which doesn't fit in to any particular genre).

The address for all short story submissions is: Jo Derrick, The Yellow Room, 1 Blake Close, Bilton, Rugby CV22 7LJ.

Please email only for general enquiries:

Don't forget to send a stamped addressed envelope or email address for reply!



That's the word that just about sums up the way I feel at the moment. WHY did I think it would be a good idea to move flat while I'm rewriting my novel? You'd think a (small) one bedroom flat wouldn't take long to tidy up, reorganise and redecorate would you?


One week on and I'm still nowhere near sorted although I have now repainted the hallway, bathroom and living room. That sounds good but they've only had one coat of magnolia each. I still need to do a second coat AND a first coat in the kitchen and bedroom and gloss all of the skirting boards, picture rails and doors. I also have another box of flatpack to assemble and I'm back to work tomorrow.

Will this hell never end?

I've also been feeling horribly guilty about my rewrite and forced myself to sit down and do something this evening (ignoring the plaintive "I'm blotchy, paint me too!" call from the ceiling).

I didn't do a huge amount (just didn't have the stamina) but managed another 2.2% taking me up to 35.5% done. At the moment I feel very much like I'm peering down a long tunnel and can see bugger all, but I'm sure once I hit 50% the batteries in my rewrite torch will give off a dim glow (sorry, shit metaphor, told you I was tired!).

Right, time to cook some dinner, watch some TV and attempt to unwind.

29,386 / 82,715 words rewritten (35.5% of novel)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

New Fiction/Non Fiction Market for Women Writers

One of my 'friends' on mySpace just contacted me to let me know about a fledging magazine for women writers. I scanned the page and don't see any mention of payment but it may be worth a go if you want to add to your writing CV/list of publications or if you'd just like to help out a new magazine. As the call for subs is for the first edition I've got no idea what the quality will be like.

Check it out here:

They say they're particularly interested in "Science Fiction, Horror and Erotica, but will consider other, or mixed, genre work"

p.s. Sorry, I've been quiet of late - I've been up to my elbows and ankles and paint. That's a new thing to add to my list. I hate flat pack AND painting. And I STILL haven't done any rewriting but busted a gut with the painting today so I can spend all tomorrow afternoon and evening rewriting without feeling guilty about project 'Tart up Flat'.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Celebrity Morph

I found this on Karen's blog and thought I'd give it a go. Who'd have thought there'd be a similarity between size 16 me and size 0 Calista Flockheart? Certainly not me!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Project 'Tart Up Flat'

No writing for, gosh, days now but project 'Tart Up Flat' is coming along nicely. Thanks to my lovely, lovely dad who came to visit for a few days I now have flooring in the kitchen. Yay! It's amazing what a difference it makes. I also have nice shiny chrome bathroom accessories (towel, loo roll and showerhead holders) instead of the horrible wooden jobs that have been painted so many times the paint must be at least an inch thick!

The plaster from the feature 'slot' in my fireplace is nearly dry but I've temporarily filled it with a clear vase and yellow tulips that my mum gave me. Now it looks like it was actually supposed to be there!

I've painted the hallway magnolia and started on the bedroom. Just the living room, bedroom and kitchen to do after that. I've found a letting agent nearby which will be very useful when I've finished and, thanks to my sister and her car, I've got rid of some of my old electrical stuff at Cash Converters and several boxes of books now live in a charity shop.

Hooray for my family!

The downside is, as I mentioned at the start of the post, I haven't done ANY rewriting and, funnily enough, I'm itching to attack it again. Probably won't get chance to do any work on it until Friday at least but hey, it's nice (and unusual) to feel enthusiastic about the task so that's something.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Public Lending Rights

There is talk on t'interweb that the Public Lending Rights (PLR) may be cut (i.e. the money paid to authors when their books are borrowed from a library). With the average author salary at £10,000 a year they need these funds to help top up their income.

I'm not a published author (yet) but, you know, I might be one day and you might be too (if you're not already!).

Petition to keep the PLR at their current levels. Sign here:

I HATE flat pack

Screws...tiny screws EVERYWHERE...piece of wood...teeny tiny instructions "Screw screw A into hole F".

Ouch my finger...why won't the bloody screw go in the hole?...shit, there's SIXTEEN of them and I can't even get one in without it pinging across the room.

And I've got two of these bloody cupboards to make. THIRTY-TWO evil screws that won't screw in the thirty-two teeny tiny holes.

*bangs head against wall*

I'd rather be re-writing my novel (and that's saying something!).

How's your day going?

Competitions that disappear into the mist...

I've got a spreadsheet of all the short story and flash competitions I've entered and I update it with the result - a yellow highlight if I place and a grey highlight if I didn't get anywhere. I was just looking through it to see if there are any stories I can 'recycle' and send out and noticed there are a couple of comps from last year where I've got no idea of the result. I can't find any updates on the comp websites and a google search doesn't reveal anything.


Does anyone know anything about the following comps? If you know the results have been announced or someone who placed in one of them could you let me know (you don't have to name names) just so I get the grey highlighter out and send my stories elsewhere.

1) Belvedere Writers (closing date 31 July 2007)
2) The Lady short story competition (closing date 7 October 2007)
3) Seafield short short story comp (closing date 31 October 2007)
4) W.F. and F.G. Froud Memorial Competition (closing date 31 October 2007)


Edited to add: I received the results of the Seafield competition today (28 Feb). They are as follows:

First prize: Pat Borthwick for "Late Road Home"
Second Prize: Jo Burge for "The Road Not Taken: You Are There"
Third Prize: Mrs JT Drazin for "Regret"

First Prize: Helen Kitson for "Woman's Work"
Second Prize: Ann Bennett for "Ped Xing"
Third Prize: Mary Green for "The Girl in Our Lives"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Scissors, Dog, L-Plate, Padlock, Railway

Look at the title of this post...

Is there a story there?

Have another look...

Anything pop into your head? A tiny germ of an idea?

Then good!

Get yourself along to:

and write a short story including Scissors, Dog, L-Plate, Padlock, Railway and email it in by 1st March and you could win £150 if yours is the winning entry.

NB: They'll probably publish an anthology of the best entries at the end of the comp and if you want a copy, you'll have to pay for it (this happened to me when I entered this comp back in 2005). I don't think this is vanity publishing as they didn't publish all the entries submitted but it's worth bearing in mind when you enter. Still, it's free to enter and if you don't win and they publish your story in the anthology you don't have to buy it!

Killing Your Darlings

An interesting post from Brenda Coulter on 'killing your darlings' below:

I'm not sure I could stomach highlighting all the essential text in my novel but it's a technique that could come in useful when editing a short story (e.g. if it's 3,000 words and you need to cut it down to 2,000 for a competition or mag).

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Photo Meme

I was thinking about doing the Photo Meme I've seen on various people's blogs but, as I read through the bits of info I was asked to illustrate with a photo, I got a bit worried.

The thing is, some of the answers you have to provide are the same as the info you enter for online banking or email companies when you've forgotten your password

e.g. Enter your place of birth
Enter the name of your first pet

Now maybe I'm being overly cautious (and this doesn't apply to people whose full names aren't disclosed on their blogs) but I don't think it's a great idea to give away all that information on the net.

Others may disagree but I just thought I'd put it out there. It's better to be safe than sorry about the info you post on the net.


Hmm. Didn't get a huge amout of rewriting done today but I AM making progress with project 'tart up my flat'.

A couple of builders were in today to transform the hole in my chimney breast (a result of my boiler work I had done at the end of last year) into a 'feature fireplace'. Unfortunately, because the hole was off-centre and because it would have cost thousands of pounds to widen the other side, they had to make the hole narrower to make it central. As a result I have more of a feature 'slot' rather than fireplace but, um, I'm sure it'll look lovely once I've painted it it and put a very long, very skinny candle in it!

But yes, I did some rewriting after they'd left and I've now rewritten 30% of the novel.

Unfortunately I've just hit a bit of a sticky patch. The action has slowed a tad and I need to do some major work on the next few chapters so the novel remains a page-turner rather than a snooze-inducer. I've got some serious cutting and pasting to do!

25,446 / 84,410 word re-written (30.1% of novel)

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I'm still taking part in Slingink's Eurofiction competition. Two weeks ago the prompts for Task 7 were released. I had a whole fortnight to write, edit, polish and submit my short story. Guess when I sent it in?

10 minutes ago (20 minutes before the deadline!)

I started writing at 5pm tonight and 2.5 hours (and 2,000 words) later and I've got a finished short story. Not edited I hasten to add but written and sent in.

Why do I keep doing that?

I think it's a mixture of laziness and the adrenaline rush I get from doing things at the last minute. I've been the same since I was a student and used to start my assignments the night before a 9am deadline and finish at 3 or 4am, fuelled only by diet coke, glucose tablets and desperation.

You'd have though I'd have grown out of it by now but no. Still doing it.

My last entry (Task 6) was written the night before the deadline and got me the highest score and best feedback I've received so far so maybe there's something in it? I'll let you know in 2 weeks time when I get my score!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Blog Awards

Thanks so much to A.Writer, Sarah*G* and Karen for giving me this blogging award:

Apparently I have to pass it on to 10 people. I've got a horrible feeling lots of people have already been given this so apologies if any of the following have received it before: Womag, SallyQ, TappyLappy, Leigh, L-Plate, Sarah Dunnakey, HelenMH, Liz Fenwick, JJ and Jude.
And to A.Writer for giving me this one too:

Which I have to give to three people. So here you go Karen, Hesitant Scribe and Caroline.

Spamalot: A Musical for People who Hate Musicals! Ni!

WARNING: Controversial post coming up...

Anyone who knows me well knows I am not a fan of stage musicals.

Film musicals - particularly ones from the 1950s and 60s - yes. My Fair Lady? Love it. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang? Great Fun. Sound of Music? Classic.

Stage musicals. Ooooooh God no.

Why do I hate stage musicals so much? Let me count the ways...

1) I cannot stand it when the characters sing lines that they should act.

Here's a made up example:

Male character (sung): I ammmmmmmmmm leaving the rooooooooooom now
Female character (sung): No! (screech) Don't gooooooo. Don't leavvvvvve meeeeeeeee.
Male character (sung): If I don't leave the roooooooom I willlllll die! Die! Die!
Female character (sung): No please, please, please (grabs legs) Pleeeeease don't die...or goooooo

Which brings me onto my next point:

2) CRAP dialogue and/or lyrics. Really, really cringely bad.

Miss Saigon, take the stage:

Let me see his western nose
This bastard is...
The most beautiful sight I've ever seen!
A passport in my hand
My new life can begin
Your brat's American
So they must let us in!
The playground of mankind!
The movie in my mind!

3) Overacting and over-singing. Heartbreaking, potentially moving moment? Ham it up. Really ham it up until cheese (and ham) doth flow from your mouth. I love a good drama, a good film, a good book, I love losing myself in emotion but I can't do it with musicals because the emotions being portrayed on stage don't come across as real. They come across, to me anyway, as a parody of an emotion. It all feels horribly fake.

4) Stage school everything. Every performer in a musical seems to move, act, speak and act in the same way. All of them. There's something about the uniformity of it all that makes me really uncomfortable. When you go and see a play you get real characters portrayed by actors with different styles. With musicals everyone has a weird polished sheen to them, even in the so-called 'gritty' scenes.

Um, better stop the rant there (because I could go on!).

Anyway, my view isn't very well received because, for some bizarre reason, I seem to surround myself with people who love musicals.

And I've tried to change, I have. I've been to see Miss Saigon and Fame. Okay, so just those two in the last 10 years but that was enough.

Until last night.

Last night I went to see Spamalot. And I really thought I'd hate it. But...

It was brilliant!

It was laugh out loud funny. AND it parodied other musicals. How much did I love "The Song That Goes Like This"?

And the knights that say Ni! And the knight that wants to go on fighting even though he's had both his arms and legs chopped off. And Lancelot in a gay club. And the "Hay" joke.

It was just FANTASTIC and I came out grinning from ear to ear.

So this is a musical recommendation for people who hate musicals (and people who love them). If you get chance to see Spamalot - DO IT!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

How strange

Yesterday I rewrote the first meeting between the main character (MC) in my novel and an important character (let's call him A). I went into detail, describing how the MC breezed into an unfamiliar office and asked a question of A, who was sitting at a desk. His reaction to her was, well, a little peculiar to say the least.

Today the scenario played itself out (almost as I'd written it) in real life when I went into an unfamiliar office and asked a stranger a question and he reacted in exactly the manner I'd described the previous night.

Fiction + real life x similarity = very strange feeling.

Anyone else feel a bit freaked out when life imitates art?

Monday, February 4, 2008

What Sweet Hell is This?

Is the universe playing tricks on me or are my possessions secretly cloning themselves?

I'm moving flat in the next few months and, as I mentioned in a previous post, I'm trying to get my flat in a rent-out-able state. I need to get the hole in my chimney (a bi-product of the new boiler I had fitted at the end of last year) converted into a fireplace (the ornamental 'stick a few candles in it and it'll look lovely' kind) and new flooring laid in the kitchen (also a new boiler side-effect). I also need to paint the whole place magnolia (even though I swore I'd never paint my flat magnolia). But hey, if I'm going to be a landlord I need to do things by the 'keep it neutral' book).

In my mind I imagine potential tenants floating through my flat, admiring the fresh, clean paintwork and the tasteful minimalist decoration.

Instead my flat is a riot of STUFF.

It's everywhere. Six years worth of books, cds, clothes, dvds and paperwork filling every bookcase, shelf, chest of drawers, wardrobe and cupboard. There are piles of paper on the printer, the coffee table, the desk and the floor. It's arranged reasonably neatly but there's no doubt about it - I have too much stuff and minimalism laughs in my face.

Time for Operation Sort It Out.

A few weeks ago I sorted through all my clothes and filled two bin bags to go to charity. This evening I decided to go through my wardrobe...and filled another bin bag.

The more I throw or give away the more it mounts up. I've written a list of 'things to do' as well and the more I cross off the more I add.

Sod WhatsHisName pushing a boulder up a hill for eternity - this is hell!

Sunday, February 3, 2008


Quite a successful weekend for the re-write considering I didn't do any on Saturday (a girl has to have a day off every now and then right?).

I re-wrote 6,248 words or another 7.6% of novel #1.

The more I revise my novel the happier I am with it and when I skip back and look back at what I've already revised I can see how much better it is (and sometimes the funny bits even make me smile).

23,530 / 85,016 words rewritten (27.6% of novel)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Hello Postie!

Sometimes being a writer sucks and not just because of the dreaded block or attacks of the wobbles, but because of the postman. Some mornings I pad down the stairs to the front door and pick up a wadge of bills, rejections, junk mail and bad news.

Other mornings, like today, I pad down the stairs and pick up nothing but loveliness. And then the birds tweet and small woodland animals frollic around and being a writer is the best thing in the world.

So what did I receive today?

1. A cheque. Payment for a short story competition I won. I've got a million birthdays and special occasions to pay for this month so it should help plug a huge hole in my bank balance.

2. A signed copy of Messages by Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway.

I ordered it after taking part in the Your Messages challenges so I could continue to read the flashes, be inspired and write something in response. Just flicking through a couple sparked my brain and made me feel like writing.

Incidentally, if you want a copy of Your Messages, the book containing the 300 word responses written by 41 authors as part of the challenge (all proceeds to charity), just click on the link. Because I couldn't make the launch party last night I'll have to wait for my copy to arrive in the post (which means I've got something else to look forward to).

3. A copy of Aesthetica magazine

Talk about speedy! On 18th Jan the fiction editor emailed me to say they wanted to print my flash "Waiting for Julia" and, less than a month later, tada! There it is, printed, and just a few pages after an interview with Sarah Waters no less (do you think the proximity means some of her talent will rub off on me?)

So yes, a good day for post.

Sentenced to death

A journalist from Afghanistan has been sentenced to death for daring to read about women's rights.

I don't normally post about politics or ask people to sign petitions but this issue, this man's life, is too important to ignore.

Please read the article I've linked to below and click on the link at the bottom to sign the petition to try and convince Afghanistan's government to change their minds.


There's good news and bad news.

The bad news is...

I couldn't make it to the Your Messages book launch tonight because I've got one of those annoying coughs that drives people in cinemas insane and I didn't want to turn up and spoil anyone's reading with my constant hacking.

The good news is...

The evening didn't totally go to waste. I rewrote novel #1 and I've finally reached 20% done. Yay! So maybe I will reach 25% done by the end of the week (if I put in enough hours on Sunday).

Anyway, I look forward to reading everyone's blog postings about how it went tonight and I'm just sorry I couldn't be there. That said, as I wrote to Leigh in an email earlier today, I'm sure there will be plenty more opportunities to meet my fellow bloggers. Like when we all get 2-book deals and have book launches of our own!

17,282 / 86,197 words re-written (20.0% of novel)