Friday, 31 October 2008

Need to flex your writing muscles?

In a slightly different incarnation this year but back nevertheless.

What am I on about?

In November last year Sarah Salway and Lynne Rees set up a blog. Each day for a month they posted a piece of flash fiction from their book 'Messages' and writers were asked to post a flash in the comments section in response, within 24 hours. Dozens of writer took part and, at the end of 30 days, Sarah and Lynne read through all the pieces and chose a selection to be published in a Your Messages anthology.

This year they're doing it all over again but, this time, your response should be 30 words long OR 300 words long. There won't be an anthology but the best piece, as judged by Sarah and Lynne at the end of the month, will win a fantastic selection of their books.

I really recommend giving it a go. You can think of it as a way to warm up your writing muscles each day, drop in and write something every now and then or you could use it as a way to generate a new piece of writing (you don't have to post your response in the comments if you don't want to). It's also a great way to meet new writers online and last year there was a fantastic feeling of camaraderie amongst everyone who took part.

So what are you waiting for?

Your Messages kicks off tomorrow!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Breaking news...

The Portuguese rights (Brazil only) have been sold to one of the biggest publishing houses in Brazil. It's the same company that publishes Marian Keyes (about the only thing I've got in common with her but still). Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!

My book is going to be published in a foreign language! How exciting!

Any Portuguese speakers/Brazilians amongst my blog readers? No...didn't think so!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Thank you all so much...

...for all your wonderful comments in reply to my last post. You all made the moment even more special that it already was. It would take me forever to reply to all the comments but I did read and cherish every single one. Thank you.

Sometimes having a blog bugs me and feels like a bit of a (virtual) weight around my neck. At other times, like Monday, it feels like the best thing in the world and I'm so glad I started it as I've now got a permanent (or as permanent as the web can be) record of my attempt (I hate the word 'journey') to become a published author.

So how do I follow up a post like the last one?

With a bit of a whimper really.

I don't have much to report apart from the fact I've been frantically scribbling a new outline for book two (yes, this would be my third idea for book two if you count the 20,000 words I wrote of idea 1!). I feel sorry for my agent. Just when she thinks I've sent her my 'definite, definite' idea for book two I go and send her another one!

I blame her.

She told me that book 2 needs to be 'even better' than book 1, so she's indirectly responsible for my frenzied attempts at meeting that standard.

I have to keep reminding myself that I was never 100% sure what I was doing with novel 1 and had no idea whether or not the story would work so mustn't put too much pressure on myself to come up with the 'perfect idea' for book 2. That said, having already written and ditched 20,000 words of my first attempt at book 2 I certainly don't want to make that kind of mistake again! I want to get it right.

The good thing about idea 3 is that it's already very visual in my head. One of the tips I once read on plotting a novel is to see it in your head, like you're watching a film. I pretty much lived in the film version of novel 1 while I was writing it so I think it's a good sign that I can already 'see' a lot of the locations and characters in idea 3.

Of course my agent hasn't actually replied to my email about idea 3 so she may hate it for all I know.

Or maybe she'll tell me she likes idea 2 best (which would be disappointing because I'm pretty sold on idea 3 now!).

Either way I know she's going to be talking to my editor about book 2 tomorrow.

Ah, the waiting and nerves don't stop do they?

p.s. A little coffee break tale of mine is out in My Weekly, now!

Monday, 27 October 2008

If getting an agent was the best news in the world...

...then this is the GREATEST news in the world.

I have a publisher!!!!

My amazing, fantastic, believes in my novel like no one else, agent has got me a 2 book deal with one of the UK's top publishers.

I can't believe I just wrote that.

I can't believe it's real.

I can't believe that, in a few weeks, MY PUBLISHER is going to take us both out for lunch to talk about my book and their plans for it!

Including *shakes head in astonishment* issues like cover design.


I've designed the cover in my head dozens of times but they'll be talking about it for real! An actual, non-imaginary cover that will have my name on it.

My book.

I really truly can't believe it.

And I haven't signed a contract yet so I suppose it's not 100% official yet.

But my agent seems to think it is.

Her most recent email to me was titled: "You are now going to be an official author"

It's still sinking in...*

And don't get me started the other talk. Talk of selling the rights to other countries and some of those countries actually showing interest.

It's more than I can take in.

*And even now, blogging about it. I feel like I'm jinxing it and I'll wake up in the morning and someone will tell me I dreamed the whole thing. But I didn't. I have my agent's email to prove it's real. But just in case I dreamed that too...don't wake me up!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

More on romantic fiction...

First off, thanks so much to everyone who sent me Birthday greetings yesterday, either on here or via email/facebook/text (oh the wonders of technology!). I had a lovely day, received lots of great presents from friends and family and spent the evening laughing my head off at a comedy club. Perfect!

Anyway, back to the post...

I think the programme "Reader, I married him..." (about romantic fiction) might have been shown a little while ago but I only just discovered it on BBC 4. For anyone that doesn't have the watch again function on their TV you can watch it online here:

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Happy Birthday to Me!

I've been ill with a cold and chest infection this week and have been desparately willing my body to get well for my birthday today. If there's one thing worse that being another year older (yes, I finally understand why, when I was a child, my mum never got very excited by her impending birthdays) it's being ill on the actual day. I've been ill on my birthday a few times over the years (one of the joys of being born in cold and flu season!) but am pleased to report that I feel much better today (red nose excepted!).

Anyway, one of the side effects of being ill this week has been insomia. I haven't been able to get to sleep until 4 or 5am every day. That was a huge pain in the bum at first but recently my insomnia has started to bear fruit. On Thursday night I created a synopsis for the new book 2 (quite a vague synopsis but a synopsis nevertheless) and last night, during a marathon 'Anthony and Cleopatra' watching session (I'd forgotten how long a film it is!) I outlined the first nine scenes of novel 2!

This is very good progress and it's exactly what I did when I was writing novel 1. I knew the beginning, I knew the end and I only had a vague idea what happened in the middle but I knew enough about the first few scenes to get writing. Now all I need is an okay from my agent (on my synopsis) and I'll start writing. And you know what? I can't bloody wait!

On a personal level I'm not too happy about being another year older but there is cause for celebration. This has been my best writing year ever and, in the future, when I look back on this birthday, I'll always associate it with wonderful things happening to my writing career.

And yes, there is news on the search for a publisher front. But nothing official yet (and possibly for some time) so watch this space...

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

What makes a great love story?

That's the subject that was explored in the latest BBC 'Imagine...' programme, fronted by Alan Yentob.

To quote the programme blurb:

"What makes a great love story? Imagine looks at the great books, films and pop songs that have tackled the thorny issue of love, pain and desire. Lancelot and Guinevere, Wuthering Heights, Pride and Prejudice, Lady Chatterley's Lover, 24 hours from Tulsa, Casablanca, Brief Encounter and Lolita are all great love stories. But what makes them special? 'A great love story has to have a fly in the ointment', according to Pulitzer prize winner Jeffrey Eugenides.

Other contributors include best selling authors Sarah Waters, Helen Fielding, Jane Austen's biographer Claire Tomalin, Burt Bacharach's lyricist Hal David, screen doctor Robert McKee, psychoanalyst Adam Phillips and literature professor John Sutherland"

You can watch the programme using the BBC's iplayer here:

(available to watch online until 9th December).

I found it to be a really thought provoking programme, particularly as love is something that features heavily in novel 1 (and is also the subject of novel 2). What particularly interested me was the debate on whether or not a love story should have a happy ending. Helen Fielding (author of "Bridget Jones's Diary") argued that there should be happy endings in light entertainment and Robert McKee (author of screenwriting bible "Story") agreed that romantic-comedies should have happy endings but that true love stories are more powerful for having tragic endings.

I have to admit I'm a fan of both types of story. Some of my all time favourite films end tragically - Casablanca, The English Patient and The End of the Affair for example - but I do like love stories in books to end happily (mostly).

I won't give away how novel 1 ends (or it'll spoil it for you if/when it gets published) but what do you think? Do the best love stories end happily or tragically? Which ones stay with you the longest?

And which modern love stories (post "Pride and Prejudice" and "Wuthering Heights") have you most enjoyed and why?

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Blog award/meme

Thank you to Paige, Lily and Womag (and someone else, sorry got a bit lost in blogworld trying to find you) for giving me this blog award . I promise to get back to blogging about writing very soon but my brain is too wrapped up in novel 2 to blog about the process. The plan is to blog about the difference between plotting a multi-character novel in the 3rd person (novel 2) verses one main character 1st person (novel 1) but don't hold your breath. I've got a fair bit of work to do yet!

One thing I can say is that public transport is doing amazing things for novel 2. I've been inspired on the train, in a taxi and I nearly missed my stop on the tube the other day because I couldn't stop scribbling into my notebook.

Anyway, this is the blog award I was given:

And, because you get nothing for free in this life, I have to answer some questions to earn my award (using only one word answers). So here we go:

1. Where is your cell phone? Sofa

2. Where is your significant other? Who?

3. Your hair color? Brunette

4. Your mother? Supportive

5. Your father? Hero

6. Your favorite thing? Yeses (as in 'do you want to buy this story?' or 'are you my agent?')

7. Your dream last night? Confusing

8. Your dream/goal? Bestseller

9. The room you're in? Living

10. Your hobby? Writing

11. Your fear? Illness

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Content

13. Where were you last night? Life-drawing

14. What you're not? Short

15. One of your wish-list items? House

16. Where you grew up? Army

17. The last thing you did? Type

18. What are you wearing? Jeans

19. Your TV? Widescreen

20. Your pets? None

21. Your computer? Laptop

22. Your mood? Optimistic

23. Missing someone? Gran

24. Your car? Nonexistant

25. Something you're not wearing? Socks

26.Favourite store? Jewellery

27. Your summer? Variable

28. Love someone? Many

29. Your favorite color? Blue

30. When is the last time you laughed? Today

31. Last time you cried? Friday

Now I'm supposed to pass this on to seven other bloggers but it feels a bit like the whole internet has already done this so...if you haven't consider yourself tagged!

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Breaking the Block

The name of this blog is a bit of a misnomer.

I haven't been writing.

Infact, I haven't written anything for a very long time.

My contribution to my Story a Fortnight group has been zilch (and I feel particularly guilty about that) and as for my novel writing... what novel writing?

For a while now I've been wrestling with novel #2. Not physically as I haven't actually touched it for months. But mentally. What to do about novel #2?

I'm just not in love with it.

I'm not in love with the plot, the character or the premise.

That's why I found getting those first 20,000 words out such an ordeal.

My heart wasn't in it.

But I was scared to ditch it because it fits so well with novel #1.'s paranormal and that's about the only way it fits. Because, when I re-read novel #1 recently, I realised that what novel #2 lacks is a premise that touches me. Novel #1 makes people who read it cry. There's something about novel #1 that touches people. It explores love, loss, hopes and dreams. It's about selflessness and sacrifice.

Novel#2 is about 'going after your dreams'.

Which isn't a bad premise per se but it's not one that touches me profoundly. Nothing I've written so far has made me laugh out loud or brought me even vaguely close to tears.

And I don't want to write a book I'm not in love with.

I can't.

So I been thinking about an alternate novel #2. A novel that is paranormal but has stronger themes.

And I was scared to ask my agent if, maybe, possibly I could ditch novel #2 and write a replacement.

I shouldn't have been scared because my agent immediately replied saying she didn't want me to write something I wasn't in love with and could I run the idea for new novel #2 by her?

So I did.

It was only a vague idea. It didn't even have a plot.

But she said she liked it. And she liked my temporary title for it.

And I felt heartened and set about trying to think the novel through, trying to work out the plot.

But my brain refused to co-operate and I hit wall after wall after wall. My brain, my creative centre, was empty.

And I seriously started to think I'd never write another novel.

Then, tonight, I got out my 'how to plot' book and read a bit. Still my brain was blank. So I picked up one of the books that I won in Lucy's prize giveaway ("Morality Tale" by Sylvia Brownrigg) and, as I read about a world so far removed from my idea for novel #2 that they couldn't be more different, I had an idea.

And scribbled it down in my notebook.

Then I went back to Sylvia's novel.

And had another idea.

And suddenly...suddenly...almost magically...I knew what replacement novel #2 was about. I know what the premise is and it explores themes that really touch me.

I don't, exactly, know what the plot is yet but I know what emotional journey two of the characters need to go on.

And I feel like a huge weight has been lifted.

And I feel a teeny, tiny bit excited.

So my solution to beating writers block? Read something totally unconnected to what you want to write.

What are your solutions?

Sunday, 5 October 2008

My first book launch (aka Lovely Caroline and Lovely The Friday Project)

(photo shamefully stolen from Liz!)

So, I couldn't let another day go by without blogging about Caroline's book launch the other week.

I'd never been to a book launch before - I was supposed to go to the Your Messages (which contains two of my flashes) book launch earlier this year but was ill - so was really excited about finally getting to go to one. Not just about attending a book launch but about attending Caroline's book launch and meeting up with some of my fellow Novel Racers. When you're a writer there are so few occasions to be sociable with other writers that I leapt at the chance to go along.

And a bloody good evening it was too.

The second I stepped off the escalator on the third floor of Borders, Oxford street I spotted CC Devine and Jude (who I'd never met but recognised straight away. God bless Facebook!) and then (oh dear, it's a bit of a blur now), Leigh, Juliette (and the Ginger Guitarist), Kate, Cathy and Helen (and the man I mistook for The Welshman. Sorry about that). In fact, there were so many of us that knew each other the circle we formed as we got together for a gossip and catch-up, glass of wine in hand, took up most of the space at the top of the escalator!

And then lovely Caroline arrived! (with her lovely family)

Poor thing. She looked a tad bewildered at the mob that descended on her the second she stepped onto the floor but she looked the picture of elegance in her black dress and heels (I want to be an elegant author damnit!) and her family so was damned adorable I wanted to squeeze them all! I had a quick chat with Caroline and then she was whisked away (where I'm not sure) and we all chatted a bit more, drank a bit more, then took our seats. The book launch couldn't have been more different from the gallery showing I went to a few weeks ago. It was so wonderfully friendly, fun and chilled and I felt like a real part of it instead of a casual observer.

Anyway, Caroline reappeared from wherever she'd been hiding and her editor, Clare Christian, said a few - wonderfully supportive - words and then presented Caroline with some flowers and a present and then Caroline said a few words (which were really lovely) and then sat to read from her new novel, Black Boxes.

And then I felt nervous for her. Actually I wasn't nervous for her (she seemed so assured). I was nervous for me. Wondering how the hell I'd ever manage to do a reading in front of ALL THOSE FACES with a microphone in front of my mouth. And I felt a bit sick at the thought but I tell you what, I learned a lot about doing a reading from Caroline. She read so, so beautifully. There was such a lyrical, melodic quality to the way that she read and the rise and fall of her voice, the words, that transfixed the audience. I didn't want her stop.

But she did. She had to. She had to answer some questions on her book! And then a representative of One in Four (the charity Caroline generously supported with the proceeds of her novella Disraeli Avenue) said a few words and thanked Caroline for her support.

And then we queued to get our books signed and I met Liz Fenwick at last (and lovely and effervescent she was too) and her friend Biddy, Pierre L blog-reader extraordinaire AND I got to meet writing legend Sarah Salway at last (and discovered, via a Facebook connection, that we both knew someone not connected with the writing world) AND I got to meet the superfit journalist Julia Buckley whose blog (and magazine/newspaper columns) I'd read but never actually talked to in the virtual world.

So finally, signed book in hand, it was time to go. And there were lots of goodbyes and hugs and "we should do this again" and then I got lost in Black Boxes all the way home (it's the kind of book that sucks you in and you just can't stop reading). I haven't finished it yet as I'm currently reading about 3 books at the same time but I can't wait to dedicate a rainy Sunday afternoon (and I get the feeling there will be a lot of those over the next few months!) to lose myself again in the world of Ana and Pip.

And why do I love the The Friday Project nearly as much as I love Caroline? Because of this...

... my prize for winning Caroline's Black Boxes photo competition. Will you look at that loot! How wonderful to get my hands on so many books that I've read about on the net and wondered about (and wanted). And two mini twixes too! Clare Christian sure knows the way to a woman's heart. Books and chocolate. Perfect! :o) Thank you so, so much.
p.s. Sorry if I've forgotten to mention anyone I met/talked to at the launch. It's all a bit of a bit of a blur now and not just because of the wine involved!