Thursday, 31 January 2008

Blogger Template - help!

As you can see I've changed the look and feel of my blog (I wanted it to reflect the colour and layout of my website). The thing is - I don't like having all the links etc on the right hand side and want them on the left. When I drag and drop the elements on the right to the left hand side Blogger won't let me (it puts them above or below the content).

Any ideas?

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

I made someone's day!

What a lovely surprise. Karen posted the following on her blog earlier today:
"I was passed this rather lovely award from the fabulous Lane, which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I'm going to pass it on to Calistro, because her's was the first blog I ever came across, after typing Writers Writing about Writing into Google (look, I was young and naive and still looking for the Magic Formula okay?) and it was so interesting and fun that I kept on reading."

How nice. I don't think anyone's ever told me I've made their day before (although I've told plenty of editors the same when they've rung me up to say I've won a prize or they're going to publish summat wot I wrote).

So - my turn now (why do I feel a bit like I'm in the playground handing over the class hamster?) . I'm going to give it to 'Nice Caroline' who made me laugh out loud with description of her dinner-time conversation with her children.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Rewrite

Excellent, I did more than I thought tonight. 2,399 words re-written.

Maybe I can get 25% done by the end of this week? Or maybe not...I'm busy on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. Okay then, 20% it is.

15,263 / 86,570 words re-written (17.6% of novel)

Sunday, 27 January 2008

Rewrite

Ehrm...okay, so I didn't manage to get my rewrite of novel #1 up to 20% done but my weekend didn't exactly go as planned. I did manage to get 2,266 words done tonight though (another 2.6%).

So, 14.7% of the rewrite done. Tomorrow night I'm going to push it up to 15% and my aim for next week is to get it to 20% done.

12,864 / 87,374 words rewritten (14.7% of novel)

Friday, 25 January 2008

Mememememememememe (Six things)

Is it called a meme because it's all me, me? No idea, but I was tagged by JJ and Sally so I'd better do it. Luckily it's not as long as the last one (and it might push it off the end of this page so it won't look like I spend all my time filling out memes!).

Anywhoo.... here we go...

The small print: Link to the person that tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on his/her website.

1. I was nearly expelled from sixth form for my messiness, refusal to wear the correct school uniform and general 'bad attitude' (I blame hormones. I was a perfect student before I turned sixteen).

2. I'm a compulsive hoarder. I find it really, really hard to throw things away.

Christmas cards from six years ago?

Yep, still got 'em.

Presents I don't like given to me by people I love?

I keep 'em all.

Writing magazines from two years ago that I think I might go back and consult again (but never do).

A huge box full.

It just goes on and on. I find it soooooooo hard to throw things away but, because I'm moving house at some point this year, I'm trying hard to be strong. Last week I had a huge breakthrough when I gave a charity shop a suede jacket I bought when I was 18 (and haven't worn since). That jacket has moved house with me eleven times and I was determined it wouldn't move a twelfth time!

The strange thing is a huge parts of me wants to be all minimalist and zen-like and not form emotional attachments with material things but I can't help myself. I'm too sentimental.

3) My extended family is huge. I have no idea how many first cousins I have in total but think it's over 50 (my Grandmother on my mother's side had eleven children - and she wasn't even catholic).

4) When I was ten years old I had a couple of out of body type experiences and thought I was an alien for about six months.

5) I nearly drowned whilst white-water rafting in Nepal 2006. For several weeks afterwards I had recurrent nightmares that I was trapped in a small room and would wake up pounding my fists against the nearest window in an effort to escape.

6) You know how, when you're little, you'd get different awards for swimming a certain number of lengths? When I was eight our games teacher took us all out onto the sports field to try out for the throwing awards. The first award was Bronze - 10 metres. Child after child stepped forwards, threw the ball and easily achieved the required distance.

I picked up the ball and chucked it as hard as I could.

3 metres.

I tried again.

4 metres.

Another go (kids started sniggering)

2.5 metres

"Okay," said the teacher. "Throwing overarm obviously isn't working for you. Why don't you try throwing underarm instead?"

Frustrated and close to tears I stepped up to the line, extended my arm behind me, swung it forward and threw it as hard as I could...

It curved beautifully through the air and landed ten metres...

BEHIND me.

I decided not to try out for the silver and gold awards.

Ahem. Okay, enough about my embarrassing past. I now have to tag six people. I'm not entirely sure who's completed this so, er, am going to have to guess who hasn't done it...

So I tag Sarah*G*, Lucy Diamond, Karen Clarke, L-Plate Author and Jude.

If I haven't tagged you and you want to do it consider yourself tagged!

[Edited to add: Oh dear, I just realised that this meme was supposed to be about querks/habits and not about random facts about me. Ah well, that'll teach me not to read the small print properly. Can't be bothered to rewrite it. Hmmm...that phrase sounds familiar.]

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Rewrite

As some of you may have noticed (Hi Helen!) I've been posting lots of links this week and haven't mentioned doing any actual writing or rewriting.

That's because I was either too busy or I was too tired (a pitiful excuse if ever I heard one!).

On Monday evening I just didn't feel like writing (after a big rewriting sesh on Sunday).

On Tuesday evening I didn't write because I was busy (this is a reoccurring Tuesday thing)

On Wednesday evening I didn't write because I didn't get home from work until 7.45pm and I was too tired.

And tonight I wasn't going to do anything because I was supposed to go to a friend's for dinner. But, at the last minute, dinner was cancelled so I had no excuse...

I sat down and I wrote a 1,900 word story for this round of Eurofiction (it had to be in at 8pm!). I was so pooped afterwards I was tempted to call it a night, but I couldn't stop thinking about the fact I hadn't done any rewriting since Sunday.

I opened Word and started rewriting. Not loads admittedly but another 1 percent.

This weekend I plan to write another 8% which will take me to 20% done. I'll feel like I'm getting somewhere then.

Helen/everyone - feel free to give me a kick up the arse via the comments when you notice I'm procrastinating. It works!

10,638 / 87,316 rewritten (12.1% of the novel)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A hit!

The fiction editor of Take a Break Fiction Feast rang me earlier to say she wants to publish one of my stories in an upcoming edition.

Yay!

Not sure when it'll be in the shops but will let you know.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Rewriting

Also nicked found on Notes From the Slushpile is a link to this great article on rewriting by Justine Larbalestier:

http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/?p=890

(Quick aside to the author of NFtS: I promise not to nick any more of your links! You've got a fantastic blog and I'll be visiting very often now I've found you. Just wanted to post this link here so I can easily refer to it again. p.s. Congrats on getting an agent!)

All you need to know about agents (and then some)

Oooh Lookie! Some fantastic video interviews with Jonny Geller (literary agent with Curtis Brown Literary Agency). Very, very informative.

http://notesfromtheslushpile.co.uk/

p.s. He turned down Adele Parks and sent her a rejection letter with some notes about where her novel fell down. She rewrote her novel and sent it back to him six months later. And he liked it - and signed her. (Think I'm going to I watch that particular clip over and over again!)

Even the big guns get rejected and rejected...

...before they become bestselling authors.

Am hugely cheered after browsing Jennifer Weiner's (author of "Good in Bed" and "In Her Shoes") website and reading point 8 on this page:

http://jenniferweiner.com/forwriters.htm

If you've been subbing to agents you should go and read it too. It's hope on a web page.

Monday, 21 January 2008

The five stages of the final draft

Thanks to B.E. Sanderson I recently discovered the blog "Living the Romantic Comedy" and this particular post made me grin a lot:

http://livingromcom.typepad.com/my_weblog/2007/04/the_five_stages.html

Taking Adam for a tube ride

People who take the tube get bored.
They look around a lot.

They read other people's newspapers over their shoulders.

They read the overheard adverts again...and again...and again.

They'll read pretty much anything.

Which is why I've pinned my "I've found Adam" badge to my coat.

Because I know they'll read it.

And because I'll get a kick out of seeing the confused looks on their faces as they think "who is Adam and how and why did you find him?"

Have I joined a cult?
Has Jesus changed his name by deed poll?
Have the Counting Crows lost their lead singer?
Have I dug up the bones of the first man on earth?

Of course they'll all be too polite to ask. But if they do I'll say,

"You too can find Adam (my child). Just go to your local bookseller on 1st February and all will be revealed. Alternatively you could visit Caroline's blog"

Hmmm...maybe it would be better if I got little business cards printed out saying all of that...because people on the tube don't talk to each other and they'd think I was weirdo. Which I'm not (much).
p.s. Yes I know my coat collar is covered in fluff. Life's too short to pick it off!

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Because I'm a geek...

...I took the test again. Still no idea how Lily got in the hundreds though!

88 words

free Touch typing

Rewrite

I work best when I set myself targets and deadlines. On Thursday my novel was 5% rewritten and my aim for the weekend was to speed up a bit and get the rewrite to at least 10% done.

I figured that as I'm going to have to do a second rewrite anyway (doing the rewrite in bursts means I'm going to have to re-read the entire novel anyway to check it still flows) I can't afford to be too precious about this re-write. I can't spend ages over every sentence. What I have to do now is to read it through, mark what needs particular work and then fix it.

The total novel word count has dropped as I've had to cut out big chunks of text that would be better placed later on in the novel, so I'm not worrying about that too much at this stage.

So...I did a couple of thousand words last night and a few more today. Total words rewritten: about 5,000! It seems this new approach is working (at least in terms of speeding up!)

9,767 / 86931 rewritten. (11.2% of the novel).

And now I'm going to watch American Idol. Nothing like a bit of trashy reality TV to relax the brain.

Dreams of the dead

Several months ago I had a conversation with a friend about dreams, specifically dreams about close family and friends who have died.

"Some people believe that dreaming about dead people means they're still watching over you," he said.

"That's lovely," I replied.

Last night I dreamed about my gran who died several years ago.

I dreamt she wandered into her outside loo to do some paperwork and started having a chat with me. Unfortunately I was sitting on the loo at the time (she didn't seem bothered).

It would be lovely to think my gran is watching over me...just...not...you know...all the time.

Friday, 18 January 2008

1st hit of 2008!

After feeling the tiniest bit grumpy for the last week my mood has suddenly improved!

An email from Aesthetica (The Cultural Arts Magazine) to say they're going to publish my flash "Waiting for Julia" in the issue due out on 1st February (available in all good Borders stores).

It was about this time two years ago that Aesthetica published my flash "Odd Socks". It's a fantastic, professional magazine jam-packed with arts, music and fiction features and I'm so pleased they're going to publish some more of my work.

In fact I'm delighted.

Children's story competition

Can you write a short story for children? Can you do it by 31st March?

Then check out this comp:

http://www.childrens-writers.co.uk/competition.htm

The top prize is £2,000. Nice!

Speedy Gontypist!

When I was eighteen I asked my Mum if I could have a gap year before I started university. She said "Yes...." and I started to imagine all the great adventures I'd have trotting the globe.

Unfortunately she finished her sentence "... only if you do a course. How about a nice admin/secretarial course? The skills will come in useful when you get a temping job during the university holidays."

Secretarial? Job? University holidays?

I was aghast. But I didn't want to go straight to uni so I eventually agreed (never did use the skills during the uni holidays though. Instead I picked strawberries, sorted post at the Royal Mail and worked in bars like other students!).

My shorthand skills are long forgotten but touch typing is the one skill I'm so glad I've got (and it probably helps explain why I wrote novel #1 relatively quickly).

So when JJ posted a link to a touch typing test on her blog on I immediately hurried off to see how fast I am:


79 words

How fast are you?

Thursday, 17 January 2008

Stop, start, stop, start

That's how I feel about rewriting my book.

I sat down tonight to get some more done and promptly ground to a halt after a couple of words.

"Waffly" my notes said.

I looked at the text on the screen.

"You can't do this," the devil on my shoulder said. "Just give up, watch TV instead."

"Bollocks," said the angel on my other shoulder (it's a foul-mouthed angel but it's my angel). "Of course you can do it. Just try."

So I did. And when I read it back it did sound a bit better.

Another couple of hundred words later I came across a passage marked "reorder this."

"Ha," said the devil. "This bit is really really tricky. Wouldn't you rather sit on the sofa for a bit?"

"Don't," said the angel. "Just get this bit out of the way and then you can have a break."

So I fixed the passage and paused, more than ready for my break.

"How about a bit more," said the angel. "Why don't you try and complete 1,000 words of rewrite tonight?"

"Don't bother," said the devil. "Do it at the weekend instead. You've got loads of time then. Go and have a sit down, you deserve it."

"Just another 400 words," said the angel, "that's all."

And so I did another 400 words and POOF! the angel and the devil disappeared. 1,000 words tonight means 5% of the re-write has now been completed. Only 95% to go!

Now do excuse me while I go and sink into the sofa and watch something mindless on TV.

Another blimmin meme in lieu of a proper post

Because...er...*cough*...I haven't done any rewriting since my last update (I will though...very, very soon) here's a meme I stole from the lovely Juliette:

What's the last thing you wrote?

Is rewriting any good? I suppose, technically, I deleted and then wrote so yes, the last thing I wrote was the first two chapters of novel #1

Was it any good?

I bloody hope so! There's a lot resting on it being good.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?

"Weedy", a 'book' I wrote when I was eight.

Write poetry?

Only very, very occasionally.

Angsty poetry?

Not since I was in my late teens/early twenties thank God!

Favourite genre of writing?

For me to write? Commercial Fiction. It's the most fun and the least torturous (although recent moany posts would seem to suggest the opposite)

Most fun character you ever wrote?

That would be the main character in novel #1. I like her A LOT.

Most annoying character you ever wrote?

The main character in my short story "Monocular Man". He had a lot of unsavoury characteristics.

Best plot you ever wrote?

I'm hoping that's the plot of novel #1.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?

The end of novel #1 (I hope)

How often do you get writer's block?

Too freakin' often.

Write fan fiction?

Are you calling me a geek? No.

Do you type or write by hand?

I type but I write notes/outlines in a notebook by hand.

Do you save everything you write?

No I write entire novels and then shut down my computer without saving them. Oh...okay...sometimes I've started a short story and it's gone no where so I don't bother saving. That said I do have a folder called 'abandoned openings' so I pretty much save everything unless it's really dire.

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?

Rarely but I did with "Monocular Man". I wrote half the story and then got stuck. One year later The Lancet sent out a call for stories with a medical theme and I thought Monocular Man would be a good fit so dug it out of the archives and finished it.

What's your favourite thing that you've written?

Novel #1 will be when I've rewritten it.

What's everyone else's favourite thing that you've written?

Oh God, no idea. A stranger sent me a message during the Your Messages project to tell me she really liked one of my flashes (it was one that was later selected for the anthology), so that was nice.

Do you even show people your work?

Less often than I used to. I showed the first 5 chapters of novel #1 to one of my internet writing groups but that's it. I used to show all of my short stories to my other internet writing group but I've got better at judging/critiquing my own work so don't feel the need quite so much these days.

Did you ever write a novel?

Was someone not paying attention? Yes, I have.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?

Not a straight romance, no. Teen angsty drama? Sort of. It was the second novel I ever attempted. I never finished it and it's still only 50,000 done (out of about 80,000).

What's your favourite setting for your characters?

It depends. In novel #1 there is a house that's pivotal to most of the drama so I'd have to choose that.

How many writing projects are you working on right now?

Officially - one (the rewrite of novel #1) but I'm also writing a short story every two weeks for a short story competition and I'm longing to get back to novel #2 but it's on hold.

Do you want to write for a living?

Does Kylie have a small pert bum?

Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Er *cough* yes.

Ever written something in script or play format?

About ten years ago I wrote a 10 minute film script for a Lloyds TSB competition. It was about a Downs Syndrome couple that accidentally steal a baby. Funnily enough it didn't get anywhere.

What are your five favourite words?

I...WANT...TO...SIGN...YOU. No? Okay then - Serendipity, loquacious, anomaly, fluff and bum. (only one of those is my favourite word. I made the rest up off the top of my head).

Do you ever write based on yourself?

There's a bit of me in all my stories/novels.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?

Shouldn't that be 'which character that you've written'? Um...dunno. A short story that hasn't (and will never) be published.

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?

I go down the library and steal them from out of print books. No? Okay, I make them up using a mixture of people I know/have known, people I've watched on the street, people on TV/in film, all sorts. They're a big hotch potch of everything I consciously and subconsciously absorb.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?

No, my dreams either make no sense or are terrifying.

Do you favour happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?

I love a sad ending me but I have to admit I LOVED writing the ending to novel #1.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?

Ehrm...I think I may have entered a short story competition where you had to use a photo/picture as a prompt...so yes.

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?

Well I find writing in gobbledygook quite hard to read back, so yes.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)

Yes, for a text competition. I had to write a story in a certain number of characters and the only way I could do that was to resort to text language (I felt dirty afterwards though)

Entirely in L337?

You what? What the hell is that? (you really do think I'm a geek don't you?)

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?

Considering I have no idea what you're on about I'd say it probably is.

Does music help you write?

It depends on the scene. Sad music helps me write emotional scenes and angry music helps me write angry scenes (can you see a link here?) but, when I'm writing a tricky scene (i.e. I'm not entirely sure what I'm about to write) I find any kind of music too distracting.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.

No, I'm shy. Oh, okay, this is from my short story "What Shall We Do with the Bodies?" NB: This is not a representation of my, er, lighter works! P.S. I can't quote anything I've written so I had to cut and paste that.

"The mice are splayed open, cut from neck to anus and pinned by their hands and feet to chipboard mounts. The lab is empty of students. I saw them carry out their task, I watched them cutting and slicing, plucking and pinning. I saw them wash their hands and leave. Now it's just me, Mrs Green and twelve dissected mice with their innards on the outside. "

And now, because I'm evil ,I'm going to tag five people for this ridiculously long meme so I choose: SallyQ, A.Writer, Lane, HelenMH and Leigh. If I haven't tagged you and you're a complete masochist (or a bit short of blog topics) consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

One for Novelists in the North-East

(of England that is)

As part of Tonto Books' new fiction project, they are launching their North East New Novelists contest. Two lucky writers will win publishing contracts and see their novels published by Tonto Books in January 2009. The contest is open to all writers currently residing in the North East of England who have not previously had a novel published.

Find out more here:

http://www.tontobooks.com/writers/

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The Rewrite

I was going to take a week off writing before I started my rewrite but, seeing as I hadn't actually read my novel since the end of November anyway, there didn't seem much point and I got started yesterday.

I've re-written nearly 4,000 words since then (roughly two chapters) and read and marked up the first 50 pages (lots of scribbles in the margin that say "waffle", "boring" and "make this funny"). It hasn't been easy but, because I'd already edited the first 3 chapters roughly 50 million times, there wasn't a huge about of rewriting to be done. Mostly I've been tightening the prose, cutting redundancy and repetition and working on making it more amusing.

My biggest challenge will be to rewrite chapters 4-31 (ha!) but there's no hurry.

My new motto: polish, polish, polish and when I think it's gleaming, polish some more.

Films 2008

So, carrying on my idea of blogging about all the books and films I've watched this year...

I watched two films on DVD last night (warning my reviews will include spoilers so ignore this post if you want to watch either of the films).

The first was...

Half Nelson



Starring: Ryan Gosling

About: About a teacher addicted to crack and the friendship he has with one of his pupils. Set in New York

What happens: Lots of lingering shots of a fairly miserable-looking man wandering round his apartment, teaching and smoking crack (not while he's teaching). Lots of shots of a young girl playing basketball, getting money from her brother's best friend (her brother is in prison and is keeping schtum about his friend's involvement in the crime). Not a lot of dialogue. Then, slowly, a relationship builds up between the girl and her teacher (he also coaches basketball) that takes a new turn when she discovers him smoking crack in the toilets after school after he ran into an ex-girlfriend (who is no longer on drugs) after a match. Then...um...shots of the different school kids talking about human rights...altercations between the teacher and the brother's friend...the teacher has sex with another teacher and a weird scene where the teachers family has a drug orgy. And...um...then I lost interest and I can't remember what happened at the end!

Verdict: This film was filmed in a documentary style and, in my opinion was all about the 'art' rather than the story. There were soooo many lingering shots with no dialogue it drove me crazy. What was weird was that Ryan Gosling was very good, as was the actress that played the young girl, but there just wasn't enough human interaction to hold my attention. It reminded me of books I've read with loads and loads of atmospheric description (often metaphorical) and no real scenes between the main characters.

Score: 4/10

The second film was..

La Vie en Rose




Starring: Marion Cottilard, Gerard Depardieu

About: The life of French singer Edith Piaf.

What happens: The film starts by showing Edith Piaf collapsing on stage then goes back to show her childhood. She was taken from her alcoholic mother by her father and deposited at a brothel where she lived for an indeterminate amount of time before her father returned to collect her and take her to the circus (where he performed as a contortionist). After her father is kicked out of the circus they are forced to perform on the street for money. At first it's just her father's act but when the crowd demands to know what she does Edith starts to sing. It doesn't take long until she's discovered by Gerard Depardieu's character. What follows is a hell of a lot of heartache including the death of her mentor and, later, her married lover. The film shows Piaf's raucous personality, her relationship with alcohol and, ultimately, her determination to sing, no matter what. The closing scene of her singing "Je ne regrette rien" was incredible.

Verdict: I'd always imagined that Edith Piaf was an elegant middle-class woman and the truth is very, very different. Hers was a fascinating and difficult existence and although I never entirely warmed to her as a character (I'm not sure why) I couldn't tear my eyes from the screen. The structure of the film was a little annoying (it continually jumps back and forward in time) but that was a minor annoyance. So desperate was I to watch the end of this film that I stayed up way past my bedtime and only went to sleep when the film ended at 3.45am!

Score: 8/10

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Openings and a re-writing tip.

How effective is your novel opening? Does it raise a question? Does it tweak the reader's curiosity? Does it force them to read to the end of the paragraph/the end of the page/ the end of the chapter to find out what happens? Does your novel opening make your novel unputdownable?

Say a reader walks into their local bookshop and they're after a novel to read during their summer holidays... there's Sophie Kinsella's new novel, Kate Harrison's new one, Rowan Coleman's new one, Lucy Diamond's new one, Jane Green's new one and....your novel (if you're writing women's fiction). How are you going to persuade a book buyer who has read and loved Sophie,Kate,Rowan Lucy and Jane's novels to buy yours?

She know she can trust the published authors to deliver a stonkily good novel because she's read and enjoyed their novels before but she's never heard of you before. Your novel opening needs to be at least as good at the published authors, if not better if they're going to buy your novel instead. This advice remains whether you're writing women's fiction, crime, horror or sci fi.

So, re-write tip one: Raid your bookshelf/the library/your local bookshop and read the opening lines/paragraphs of published novels. If a handful of novels grabs you - work out why they grab you. Does your novel do that?

If you've edited your novel so many times you can no longer read your novel objectively here's a tip from Sol Stein's "Solutions for Writers":




Take the first page of your novel and, where you've written:

"Novel Title"

by

Your Name

Replace "Your Name" by the name of a writer you admire / your favourite writer. Change the font, the layout, the size, anything to make the page look different from the page you've edited to death. Now print it out. Tell yourself you've been asked to review the new book by your favourite writer and read the opening. Are you gripped? Do you want to keep reading or...are you a bit disappointed? If you're not gripped and you're disappointed in your favourite writer you need to rewrite your opening.

This tip is also useful for re-writing your entire novel. Get it into your head that you're reviewing a novel by someone else. Make it by your favourite writer, someone in your writing group or even one of your friends. Read it as though you're an expert that has been paid to make someone else's novel better (a book doctor). Do any passages bore you? Do you skip ahead at any point? If you're doing that your potential readers will too. Mark any points where you're bored or you skip ahead and keep reading. When you've finished reading the novel you can go back and re-write.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

What Readers Expect and What Publishers Want

There's an interesting discussion going on in one of my writing communities at the moment about two book deals and the pressures authors feel when writing "that difficult second novel". Apparently publishers are very keen, when they offer a two book deal, for the author to follow up their first book with one that is very similar in tone/theme because readers who enjoyed the first book will want more of the same in the second book (and the third book and the fourth book etc.) It's how you build up your readership.

And that got me thinking... is my second good similar in tone and theme to my first book? Well, it's another book that involves the supernatural (although explored in a different way) and there's a love story (but again quite different) but, is the second book similar in tone to my first book? I went back and re-read the first chapter of novel #1 and then looked at what I've written so far for novel #2. Guess what I discovered? Completely different tones. For a start novel #2 wasn't particularly funny and I'd meant it to be at least a little amusing (novel #1 is distinctly light-hearted, particularly at the beginning). Now I know I shouldn't be revising anything at this stage but, as I said in one of my previous posts, I can't settle into writing a book unless I've got the opening right. So... I went back and revised the first page, adding in an extra 200 words or so of what I hope are amusing observations. I still haven't quite finished but that's okay, this is the type of editing I really enjoy.

Don't get me wrong I'm not trying to write two identical novels - far from it - my novels can't be identical because my two main characters couldn't be more different and, because both novels are in the first person, they have different voices so whereas character #1 would say something in a breezy, light-hearted manner, character #2 has a much drier, slightly sarcastic sense of humour. So both novels have humour, but different humour. As long as I keep the humour that's all that matters (in my book anyway).

So anyway, three bits of advice that came out of the discussion:

1) If you create a fantastic character in novel #1 (and that book gets signed by a publisher) be ready with ideals for more novels involving that character. Apparently publishers really go for series that are based on a really popular main character (just look at the success of the Shopaholic series)

2) If you've finished novel #1, are looking for an agent, and are about to start novel #2 have a good think about your idea and whether or not the two books reflect your style. Obviously you're not going to write a chick-lit novel first and then a horror book or a thriller (well, you could, but good luck with that when you tell the publisher!) but think about whether or not the readers of book #1 would also enjoy book #2. If they wouldn't you might want a rethink.

3) Don't forget about novel #3. One of the writers said that, when the publishers were considering her first novel, they asked for synopsises and the opening chapter of novels 2 and 3 as well before they made their decision (and she hadn't started either of them!).

Current word count for novel #2 : 4,531 / 100,000 words (4.5% done)

Monday, 7 January 2008

Publisher actively seeks submissions shocker!

This was just posted in one of my writing communities. If you've tried the traditional agent route and not had any luck or if you'd rather not bother getting an agent give them a go. Bear in mind that if you do contact an agent in the future they'll ask you if you've sent your novel to any publishers (they are unlikely to re-submit your novel to a publisher you've been rejected by).

Snowbooks are an award-winning independent publisher and not one of the 'big' names out there but the upside of that is that they can give you individual attention and they genuinely seem to care about the authors/books they promote. I recently read a proof copy of one of their books and I was blown away by it (I'll be posting a review when the book is published in March) so rest assured they publish very good stuff.

Anyway, this is Snowbook's call for submissions:

Snowbooks is actively seeking submissions for full length fiction. Rather than saying which genre and formats we're interested in, I'll say which we're *not*:

Poetry
Short stories
Novellas (less than around 75,000 words)
Children
Romance / Saga
Young adult

We're particularly interested in:

Commercial fiction (make of that what you will)
Original fiction (ditto)
Horror, esp. vampires, werewolves, zombies, apocalypse
Sci fi
Fantasy
Historical fiction
Thrillers

But don't fret too much about genre. If you are worried that it's not right for us, send it anyway - what's the worse that can happen? We require first three chapters to manuscripts@snowbooks.com. No synopsis, no extra bits necessary. This is for the autumn winter 2008 season so we'll be making relatively quick decisions.

A change of plans

I wasn't planning on writing tonight as I had other plans but my stinking cold swiftly put an end to that. Instead I decided to fire up my laptop and have a peep at what I've written so far for novel #2...and ended up writing another 1,171 words.

I've stopped midway through what I think is a pretty heart-breaking scene. I don't know what it is about me but, at about the same wordcount in novel #1, something similarly devastating occurred (not the same thing but it still had a huge impact on the main character's happiness). I feel so moved I can't actually finish the scene! It's weird isn't it, a few blog posts ago I wasn't in love with my main character and now I'm having difficulty ruining her life because I don't want to hurt her and the other character I've introduced! I guess I fall in love fast.

Part of me thinks I should plough on with the scene while I'm feeling the mood and the other half thinks it's a good place to leave it so I've got a good scene to finish the next time I write. Hmmm...am going to have dinner and see how I feel in half an hour.

Current word count: 4,317 / 100,000 (4.3%)

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Films and Books in 2008

I have a truly appalling memory and the majority of books and film I read/see are swiftly forgotten (unless they have a profound effect on me). Someone will say to me "Have you seen/read X?" and I'll reply "Yeah, I have" and then Mr Someone will proceed to talk about how a certain scene/character in the film/book was funny/moving/terrifying etc and I'll have no idea what they're on about because I can't remember.

Because of my terrible memory I've decided to record all the films I see and books I read in 2008 in this blog so I can refer back to it if necessary. This will probably be very boring for blog readers but, hey-ho, just skip past my book/film entries if you like! Oh, and stop reading if you see the title, want to see the film/read the book and don't want to find out what happens as I'm going to include spoilers.

So, first film of 2008:

I Am Legend

Starring: Will Smith, a dog, a woman (actress unknown) , her daughter (unknown) and lots and lots and lots of crappy zombies

About: A man who survives a virus that wipes out everyone in New York (turning everyone not immune to it into a zombie).

What happens: Will Smith wanders around A LOT, talks to his dog A BIT and generally does not very much for 99% of the film until a) the zombies fight back b) his dog is bitten by a zombie dog (and Will Smith has to strangle it) c) a woman and her daughter turn up and offer to take him to safety. Action sequences spoiled by flashbacks to when Will Smith's wife and children leave NYC and their helicopter is hit by another helicopter. Will Smith dies at the end of the film (hooray).

Verdict: Absolute pile of rubbish. Really, really boring. Wish Will Smith had died halfway through the movie instead of the dog (would rather have watched a dog run around NYC instead of Will Smith). Also the CGI Zombies are awful. I felt like I was watching a video game.

Score: 1/10 (the dog was quite cute)

Hooray for rubbish Sunday TV

Lack of distraction meant I wrote 1,810 words today, despite a stinking cold (my nose is so red it looks radioactive).

I'm not going to get chance to write again until Wednesday night so I thought I'd try and pull out the stops this weekend and get as much done as possible. Total word count so far: 3,146 /100,000 words (or 3% of novel #2 written).

Now I'm going to reward myself by watching a film...

Saturday, 5 January 2008

That's more like it!

1,149 words of novel #2 written tonight. After a slightly stuttering start the other day I feel like I'm getting a bit more into my stride now. Despite the fact I finished editing novel #1 back in November last year it's quite hard shaking off the memory of my old main character and stepping into the shoes of my new one. It's a bit like I was in love with my old character but we can't be together any more so I'm trying to fall in love with someone new but I'm finding it hard (because I still have strong feelings for my old character). That said I know that the more I get to know my new character the more I'll love her until, eventually, my old character will just be a warm memory and I'll be madly in love with my new character.

Does that make sense to anyone other than me?

Unlike novel#1 where I knew exactly what was going to happen in the first three chapters I'm not 100% sure how to write the first few chapters of this novel. That said, at the moment, I'm enjoying the experience of feeling my way into the story and not knowing exactly what's around the corner. It makes the novel more exciting to write.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Momaya Press

I received my copy of the Momaya anthology this morning (a much nicer surprise that the pile of bills that arrive with it!). It contains my story "C is for Cuckoo" but also stories by fellow bloggers SallyQ and HelenMH. It's the first time, I think, that I've been in an anthology with people I "know" and very nice it is too (even if it is slightly disturbing to see a huge photo of my face leering out from the bios at the back).
I haven't got time to read it today (I'm helping with a surprise birthday party for my sister's partner) but I look forward to dipping into it over the weekend (Sally and Helen's stories first of course!)

You know you're a writer when...

Someone in one of my writing communities recieved this book for Christmas:



and posted a few examples from the book. They made me smile so much I had to reproduce them here (the last one is the best).

You know you're a writer when...

You'll never forgive your parents for your happy childhood

You have kept every letter you ever received and copies of every letter you've ever sent, for when you're famous

Something bad happens to a friend and you're glad she's not a writer, so you can use it

You watch your husband intently while he reads your pieces. When he laughs, you say "What part are you up to?"

You're at the movies when you get an idea for your novel, so you scratch it into the bottom of your popcorn cup with a car key

You read with a pen in your hand and scan the newspaper holding scissors

Writing is the only thing that makes you happy, and you hate writing.

Novel #2 begins!

Well, it's only a piddling 187 words but it's my 187 piddling words.

I fired up YWriter about an hour ago and started entering character profiles for my main characters (seven at the current count). That in itself was useful as I hadn't totally thought through all the characters and being asked what each character's goal was (and what was at stake in order for them to achieve their goal) forced me to answer a few questions I hadn't previously been able to answer.

Openings are important (I can't properly get going until I've nailed the opening*) and I spent quite a long time typing out a sentence, deleting it, typing a new sentence and deleting it until finally I had an opening I was happy with. The opening needs to set the right tone for the novel, set the scene and pull the reader in. Nothing too heavy, not too much exposition, just a quick, easy introduction to my main character.

It's late so instead of forcing myself to carry on I'm going to leave the novel mid-scene so I've got a nice easy scene to complete when I come back to the novel tomorrow.

I entered the word count and completion date into the software - 100,000 words by 30 June (as I cut 10,000 words from novel #1 during editing I figured I should aim high to allow for choppage) - and apparently I have to write 561 words a day between now and then to achieve that. I like the sound of that. It means I've got a bit of lee-way. If I write 1,000 words in one day I could, in theory, take the next day off. That's the kind of schedule I like the sound of!

* of course the opening will probably change in the re-write but it has to be right for 'right now'

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Why...

...when I've got so much writing to do (and a whole day off to do it) did I decide it would be a good idea to paint my flat instead?

It's called procrastination (and now there's paint everywhere)

Must write something tonight...

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

New Year's Resolutions 2008

I hope everyone had a fantastic New Year. I survived a crowded pub in North West London and a night of cider, champagne, absinthe, an evil paparazzi*, dancing bar staff, terrible europop and a curry explosion at 4am**

Now the headache has finally cleared I can start thinking about 2008 and what I want to achieve writing-wise and personal-wise (is that even a word?) so here we go...

Writing Resolutions for 2008

1. To complete the first draft of novel #2 (current acronym TPDA) by the end of June. I wrote novel #1 in 3 months and 3 weeks and it damned near killed me (very few nights off writing = no social life). This time I aim to write novel #2 quickly but not as though I have a gun to my head. Six months sounds like a reasonable amount of time, particularly as novel #2 will be written from the POV of three characters (whereas novel #1 was written just from one character's POV) and will probably be a little more complicated.

2. To complete the edit of novel #2 by the end of the year.

3. To sign with an agent and get a two book publishing deal (is that a resolution or a dream? Either way, it's something I'm aiming for in 2008)

4. To write short stories when the mood takes me and not because I feel I have to churn them out. I want writing short stories to be fun again, rather than a bit of a slog.

5. To only send short stories out to paying markets (or publications for charity) and be more selective about the competitions I enter.

Personal Resolutions 2008

1. The downside of doing so much writing in 2007 is that I spent most of my time glued to a chair and, as a result, the tape measure tells me I have developed 'writer's bum'. I need to sign up to the gym again and get running again to lose a few pounds.

2. To re-learn how to relax. This kind of ties in with point #1. In 2006 I discovered the joys (?) of pounding a treadmill. A half hour run three times a week (accompanied by angry rock on my mp3 player) really, really helped my stress levels (as well as slimming my bum). Last year I stopped going to the gym and, funnily enough, my stress levels went up (and not just because I was wasting money on a gym I didn't go to!). I also need to turn the TV off more and listen to music and read. Reading is much more relaxing than TV.

3. To take the time for non-writing related hobbies. Writing used to be my hobby - something I did for fun - and then I decided I wanted to get my short stories published and then I wrote a novel (and obviously wanted that to get published) and suddenly more was at stake and writing wasn't just for fun anymore. I enjoy art, craft, painting and knitting and find them really relaxing but I don't spend nearly enough time doing them.

4. To move to London. People who know me will know I've been saying this for a few years but yes 2008 will be the year I move back to London. It will!

5. To make more time for my friends. Writing is a solitary profession and everyone needs a break now and then!

So that's that - I've set my resolutions in stone, well, posted on the 'net, so no going back now.

In other news the beginning of novel #2 came to me on the train home today and I scribbled down a hundred words or so into my notebook. Time to set up the the new wordcounter me thinks! :o)

* only evil because he was the one proffering the absinthe and a strong East European drink called Unicum! He was actually a very funny man.

** Not as gross as it sounds fortunately.