Wednesday, 30 April 2008


They're like buses...


I just received an email from Norah at Take a Break telling me she'd like to buy another of my stories. It's shorter than the one she published earlier this year so I won't earn as much from it but still....

Wooooooooo hooooooooo!

*does a happy dance*


At long last...a hit! And there was me looking at the news section of my website thinking "I've got nothing to add for April, I'll have to leave it blank."

Anyway, Espresso Fiction have accepted one of my stories for publication in June. It's a story that was highly commended in the Jacqui Bennett short story comp a while ago but it a bit too out there to place in a woman's mag.

Espresso fiction, for a fee, provides short stories straight to your inbox. They actually pay their writers too. Not a huge amount (and certainly not as much as the women's magazines) but enough to call it a sale.

My aim for this year was not to give away any short stories for free* unless it was for charity. As a result the hits aren't rolling in as quickly as last year but that's okay.

Four hits so far this year.

*I will give away flash fiction for free but only if I get a copy the print mag in payment.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

The Three Sentence Meme

I was tagged by Jumbly Girl to do the three sentence meme. I'm not hugely sure what the point is but I've got five minutes to fill before I go out to watch a thrash metal battle of the bands competition (don't ask!) so here we go...

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

It's 1984 by George Orwell...

"The process of life had ceased to be intolerable, he had no longer any impulse to make faces at the telescreen or shout curses at the top of his voice. Now that they had a secure hiding place, almost a home, it did not even seem a hardship that they could only meet infrequently and for a couple of hours at a time. What mattered was that the room over the junk-shop should exist."

If you're reading this post and you've got a blog consider yourself tagged!

Monday, 28 April 2008

It's not as easy as it looks

I spent the early part of this evening typing up the twist in the tale story I wrote 3/4 of last week. I finished it, edited it, tweaked the word count and posted it on my writing community for critique.

It's a twist in the tale story, I wrote. Did you guess the twist?

The results were disappointing.
4 out of the 5 people who read the story guessed the twist!

One of my critiquers tried to be kind by pointing out You did tell us it had a twist.

Well yes, but the same thing happens in most of the magazines when they stick a great big rectangle in the top corner of the story announcing "Tale With a Twist"!

The readers will feel pleased with themselves for guessing the twist, someone else said.

Um yes. Maybe. But that's the not the point. The point of a good twist in the tale is for the reader to spend the whole time desperately trying to work out the twist and then exclaim "Wow, I never would have guessed that!" at the end. And that's what the editor will be looking for too.

I asked for more feedback - what was it that gave the twist away? What didn't work? What could I tweak to make the twist less obvious?

A couple of the suggestions I received were really good so I incorporated them into the story. Obviously I can't re-post it now to see if it works because everyone knows the twist but I THINK the twist might be a bit less obvious so I'm sending off anyway. If it wings itself back from Take A Break in 3 months time I'll know I didn't quite crack it.

So anyway, for anyone who's ever read a twist in the tale story and thought "Talk about money for old rope. I could knock one of those out in an hour." I dare you to try!

It's not as easy as it looks.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Trains, Trains, Novel Racers!! Trains, Trains

This weekend I've mostly been on a train...and then another train...and then a train...followed by a train and a train.

Up to London on Friday night - 1 hr on train, 30 mins on tube

Saturday - 20 mins on tube, 3 hrs on train up to Manchester, 3.5 hours on train back to London (via Birmingham?!), 20 mins on tube

Sunday - 30 mins on tube, 2 hours on train back to Brighton (via Littlehampton, double the normal journey time due to engineering works).

Total time on trains or train-like things (tubes) = 11 hours and 10 minutes!

And now I'm home. At last. Hoorah!

I may moan about all the train journeying but it was a wonderful weekend. Filled my gob with Chinese food on Friday night and then exercised my gob with much nattering to fellow Novel Racers up in Manchester on Saturday.

It was wonderful (and slightly weird at first) to see so many familiar faces (and some not so familiar) in one place. At first, all seated around what felt weirdly like a conference table, we all stared at each other in bemusement but then wine (and vodka and beer) was drunk and toasted sandwiches and chips were eaten and coffee and cake (damn, missed out on the cake) was consumed and then all of a sudden six hours had disappeared *justlikethat* and it was time to go home again.

Thanks to the lovely L-Plate for making part of the train journey speed by.

Highlights of the day:

  • Caroline's erotic confession and boob fixation (not one and the same!)

  • Rowan signing my copy of her new book

  • AWriter and LPlate's question on the way back to the station (I'm saying no more)

  • Clare's gorgeous pregnant tummy

  • JJ's wonderful hairstyle (I am jealous of your curls)

  • LPlate's champagne surprise

  • Doing my 'pout' face for Caroline, seeing the resulting photo and realising it look more 'grumpy' than sultry

  • Tattoo admiration and discussion (still curious about the hidden one Juliette!)

  • Forgetting to ask Ellie about her ghost (not a highlight of the day, but something I meant to talk about and forgot)

  • Zinnia's brilliant financial advice (I WILL get that sorted, honest!)

  • And, mostly importantly, meeting and chatting to everyone! I wish there'd been time to chat more.
I want to do it all over again and am really looking forward to another meet up in London.

p.s. I've got photos but don't want to reveal the face of anyone who wants to remain anonymous so will probably stick them on Facebook.
[Edited to add: Some of the other novel racers have posted this group photo so I figured I could too, but I'm not saying who's who! :o)]

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Novel #2

My plan was to write 1,750 words of novel #2 three times a week (so I'd finished it by the end of July) and a short story on one other day of the week but I'm already falling behind on my word count and it's only week 1!

I managed to write 3/4 of a story the other day (haven't finished it yet) and 1,487 words of novel #2 tonight but that's it. Okay so I've still got Friday, Saturday and Sunday to go but I'm unlikely to write much more this week. Tomorrow night I'm back up to London and then I'm off to the Novel Racers meet up on Saturday and am unlikely to get home until midnight. So that just leaves Sunday...

Can I write 3,763 words in one day and finish a short story? Ummmm...NO. But it's okay. Some weeks will be busier than others. Hopefully I'll catch up next week.

Still...I've now officially written more than my previous attempt at novel #2 (the 4,500 words I decided to delete) so that's good. Really enjoyed writing the scene I wrote tonight. It was a really emotional one (the climax of Act 1) and when I next sit down to write my main character will start the 'journey' that will carry her through the rest of the novel.

5,667 words / 80,000 written (7.1% of novel)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

And at lunch time today...

... I sat in this thing and read short stories. No, i dont know what it is either! It was interesting to watch people's reactions to it. 99% of men kicked it a bit to see how sturdy it was!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Why Writing is Like Having Sex When You're Married

Claire Allan (author of "Rainy Days and Tuesdays") made me grin with her post on why writing is like having sex when you're married (and I'm not even married!).

Have a gander:

Diary of a Mad Mammy

It feels like summer!

The sun is out and I'm having a late lunch in the park, notebook and pen in hand, cup of tea in front of me. The aim is to try and write a twist in the tale story (or at least a rough draft) in the next 40 minutes. Better get on with it!

Edited to add: I wrote about 3/4 of the story. Just need to type it up, write the ending and then DONE! Or rather...stick it in a drawer, wait a few days, read it through, edit it, print it out, stick it in an envelope, send it off and then DONE!

Sometimes it really is a case of sitting your arse down and going "Brain THINK, fingers WRITE".

Unfortunately I'm much more likely to sit on my arse and go "Brain WATCH SOME CRAPPY TV, fingers PUT CHOCOLATE IN MOUTH."


Monday, 21 April 2008

Story Group

This is now closed to new members I'm afraid. We need to keep the numbers under 15 or else we'll have too many stories (and words!) to read each fortnight.

If you'd like to go on the waiting list to fill a slot if anyone drops out just let me know.


Do you write like a woman or a man?

Here's another reason to procrastinate...

Cut and paste some of your novel/short story into this web page to find out if your writing style is male or female:

I tried it with a few stories I'd written from a male first person POV to see how effective my attempts at 'writing like a man' were. Mixed results. It thought some of the stories were written by a man, but most of them it correctly guessed they'd been written by a woman. Apparently it's all down to your word choices (not sure how scientific it all is).

All my novels have female main characters (first person POV) and the software said they were written by a female...which was a relief ;o)

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Word counts and Writing Groups

I had to force myself to do some work on the novel tonight. It's weird. I put off and put off and put off doing work on the novel but when I actually sit down, mute the TV, put on some music and start writing I always end up thinking "Hey, I'm enjoying this, why did I keep putting it off?"

Admittedly I haven't written a huge amount of words since Monday (1,700 in total) but I've only sat down to write twice and 850 words a go is okay. Not impressive by anyone's standards (particularly not mine) but all progress is good progess as far as I'm concerned, particularly as I'm effectively starting again after scrapping my first 4,500 words. Anyway, I'm over 5% of the way through now and the next scene is the big crisis that upsets the main character's life at the end of Act 1, so something to look forward to the next time I sit down to write.

My aim is to try and get the first draft completed by the end of July this year. To do that I need to write approx 750 words a day. At my current rate I'm not going to hit my deadline but if I can write 1,750 words 3x a week I will. That way I can dedicate 3 days a week to novel writing, 1 day a week to short story writing and have 3 days off. That sounds like a good writing/life balance to me. Just a shame I have to go to work too!

I finally got round to booking my train tickets for the Novel Racers meet-up this coming Saturday. The good news was it cost less than I thought (but I have to get a certain train on the way back or my cheapo return ticket is void) but the bad news is I couldn't book a seat reservation in either direction so I may end up standing for the entire 3/3.5 hour journey. Let's hope that doesn't happen. I've had quite enough train journey weirdness for one year.

Thanks for all the comments on the Womag Writers group. I'm going to set up a private blog in a few seconds so if you'd like to join please email and I'll add you to the members. We can thrash out exactly how the group is going to work once we're all in there.

Apologies if I've been a bit rubbish at replying to emails, facebook messages etc etc at the moment. I'm trying to spend less time on the internet and I'm finding it's helping my stress levels enormously. I've actually been spending a lot of time just lying on the sofa and reading. I'd forgotten how relaxing that can be. At the moment I'm reading Belle de Jour's memoirs that I picked up in a charity shop on Friday. It's a welcome break from reading fiction. Instead of being slightly distracted by my internal editor analysing why or how the writer did something I'm just reading and a opening read it is too!

p.s. Thanks for all the holiday suggestions. There are some I'm definitely going to try out in the future but, this May, I'm going to....the Isle of Wight again! I was getting a bit frazzled trying to find something so last minute and when I stumbled on a chalet for £200 a week near Cowes I snapped it up. If you're looking for a self-catering holiday too try (they're who I used). If you DO decide to use them please enter the code CT13050 when you book (I'll get £25 off my next booking :o))

novel 2 word count: 4180 / 80,000 words (5.2% of novel)

Friday, 18 April 2008

Womag Group

I've been thinking about this for a while...starting up a collaborative womag writers blog that is....and think now might be the right time even though I'm supposed to be writing novel #2 (see counter on the right, I've nearly written 5% now!).

Anyway, what I'm missing at the moment is the impetus to write short stories. I seem to thrive on deadlines (which is why Slingink's Eurofiction comp worked so well for me, I had to write one every 2 weeks. Also why I like writing for themed competitions, I have to get it in by the closing date) but I haven't got any deadlines at the moment. So what I'm thinking is...

1) Set up a closed blog for womag writers (via email invite)

2) Every fortnight one member of the group posts 10 prompts (story titles, first lines, phrases etc) and the rest of the group has two weeks to write a story to one of the prompts. We could even make it a challenge like "Write a 1,000 word twist in the tale to one the prompts" or "write a 1,500 word romance to the prompts" etc..

3) When two weeks are up the group members post whether or not they managed to write a story or not (it doesn't matter if it's rubbish and you decide to scrap it)

4) We keep a league table. So every time you manage to write a story within the fortnight you get a point. That way you're spurred on to write or fall to the bottom of the table. Maybe there should be some kind of forfeit or something? Dunno.

5) OR the stories are posted anonymously and the members vote for 1st, 2nd, 3rd and points are awarded (so it's kind of like Eurofiction in that your points accumulate in a table). If people don't want their names to be associated with their stories or rank we could use pseudonyms.

Basically what I'm saying is that I need some kind of impetus to write regularly. I need a deadline. But it needs to be fun. I need to write with the internal editor off and just get the stories out. If this system were to work anyone doing it would have 26 new stories within a year. That's a lot of stories. And some of them could well result in sales.

Are people interested? Do you have any opinions? Suggestions? I'm very open minded about how this could work. The only thing that I'm 100% sure of is that it must be a closed group. No lurkers.

What do you think?

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Six Word Autobiography

Tam challenged me to write a 6 word autobiography so here we go...

Happy, starting writing, became miserable bugger

Ha! Okay, here's a serious one...

Born a dreamer, died a dreamer

Nope, that doesn't work either. I'm not dead yet. How about...

Achieved huge publishing success aged 34

Okay, that's a dream. Here's the real one...

Dreamer, writer, worrier, celebrator, worrier, writer

I think that just about sums me up!

I tag L-Plate, AWriter, Sally, Leigh, HelenMH, JubbyGirl, Womag, Lane, LizF, Leather, Amy Appleton, Boob Pencil, CarolineS, LazyPerfectionista, Debs, Karen, Gonnabeawriter, SarahG, Ithadbetterbegood, Maddie, Cathy, Jen, Jude, NoviceNovelist, Zinnia, Helen, TappyLappy, Deadbeat, Hellcat, HesistantScribe, theladywiththelaptop, kerry, moondreamingdaisy and anyone else I've forgotten! (sorry, too lazy to link to you all!)

Monday, 14 April 2008

Novel #2

Last night I decided to type my notebook scribblings into YWriter. There were so many crossings out and scribblings I was finding it hard to read back over what I'd just written so I could continue the story! Transfering it all to YWriter helped clarify things in my mind and I polished the text as I put it in and filled in a few gaps. I also added some bits from my first attempt at novel #2 (the 4,500 words I scrapped a few weeks ago). I may have murdered ALL my darlings in that attempt but that doesn't mean I can't revive some of them for this version :o)

I'm not sure how this approach is going to work long term but it's working okay for now. At least I'm writing and that's the most important thing.

Novel #2 word count: 2,480 / 80,000 words.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Writers, Courses and Weird Stuff on Trains

I had a fantastic day yesterday (well, apart from the late evening part but I'll come to that later) and met up with Helen and Leigh (both absolutely lovely and neither of them big men called Dave!) to go on a one day 'Twist in the Tale' short story course.

And what a great course it was. Okay so there wasn't a magical formula for writing twist in the tale stories (damn!) but the process was de-mystified and we even got to try writing some openings ourselves. "No way!" I thought when Della asked us to write a few openings in 10 minutes "I can't just write something on demand. I need to have a think first!" but I managed to write three different openings from some photo prompts and even read them out to the group without swallowing my tongue. We brainstormed possible twists as a group and I think I've got at least one (if not three) possible twist stories I can work on and send out. Result!

After the course Womag joined us and we all piled into the nearest pub. Time flew as we nattered and nattered and nattered like old friends (despite the fact most of us had only just met) and swapped writerly gossip (yeah, wouldn't you like to know ;o)) and talked about what we were working on, what we wanted to work on, problems, markets, all kinds of stuff. Womag left first to go and get her dinner and the three of us continued to chat until we suddenly realised it was 7.30pm and we'd been gabbing on for three hours!

Leigh kindly drove me back to Littlehampton station so I could get the train home to Brighton and I only had to wait fifteen minutes for the 9.36pm train to leave. As I strolled down the platform I passed a girl in pink who was carrying a bag over her shoulder and lurching a bit. At first I thought she might be drunk but, when I heard her ask the guard which train it was I realised she probably had learning difficulties and thought nothing more of it.

About five minutes into the journey I heard some Geordie lads chatting to her. They were several seats behind me so I didn't look round but I was concerned for her and I worried that maybe the lads were mocking her or something but it seemed pretty friendly and lighthearted so I dipped back into my magazine.

A few minutes later the girl lurched up the carriage and threw herself into a chair around a table, two rows in front of me. She made a call on her mobile and seemed to be begging some guy to see her and telling him she was really sorry for something. At one point all I could hear was "Hello, hello, hello, hello, hello." Whoever she'd been talking to had put the phone down on her.

The train drew into Goring station and one of the Geordie lads approached the girl who was now slumped back in her seat.

"You said you had to get off here," he said.

The girl looked at him blankly.

"This is Goring," he said. "You said you wanted to get off here."

"Come here," the girl slurred, moving her pelvis provocatively. "You know you want to."

"No," the man said. "I don't know what you mean. We're at Goring love, you need to get off."

The girl continued to beckon him and I glanced across the aisle to the blonde haired woman who was sitting opposite me and she frowned. We were both worried. What was going on? What was wrong with the girl and who were the men? And was the girl drunk? She was now mumbling incoherently, she'd knocked her bag to the floor and there was liquid all over her table.

I stood up.

"Where are you going? What stop?" I asked the pink girl. "This is Goring. Do you need to get off?"

The girl shook her head at me, wriggled in her seat and mumbled nonsensical words at me. Her mouth gaped to the side as she talked and her eyes were wild and unfocussed. Learning difficulties or not she was very definitely off her head now. Whether it was drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two I couldn't be sure.

When the train pulled out of the station and the man turned to walk back down the aisle I asked him if he knew the girl. "No," he said, "but she was on the same bus as us on the way to the Littlehampton station."

I turned back to the blonde girl.

"We need to do something," I said. "She's missed her stop and if she goes all the way to Brighton she's in no state to find her way back."

"I'll get the conductor," the blonde girl said and disappeared up the aisle.

When I sat back down pink girl had disappeared. I looked up and down the aisle but there was no sign of her so I assumed she'd gone to the loo. I picked up her bag from the floor and put back the contents that had spilled everywhere when it had fallen - including an almost empty bottle of vodka - placed it on the table, then sat back down.

A few minutes later the pink girl wandered back down the aisle, followed by the blonde girl and a female guard. The guard took one look at pink girl, rolled her eyes and asked some questions that weren't answered. Pink girl lurched out of her seat and the guard and blonde girl backed away. As pink girl moved down the aisle she spotted me, clambered onto the seat beside me and tried to wrap herself around me, slurring "Yeah baby, yeah baby, yeah." I moved her away as gently as I could and told her to sit back down in her seat.

Unfortunately for blonde girl, who was now sitting in her seat, pink girl chose to sit next to her instead.

"Come on baby," pink girl slurred at her. "Come on baby. You know you want to."

Before we knew what was happening pink girl had undone her trousers, pushed them down to her ankles and started to pleasure herself.

Blonde girl looked at me in horror and I stared back at her, totally stunned. The guard hurried to the radio to tell the driver to stop at the next station.

"Help me," the blonde girl said as we pulled into the station. "I need to get off here."

She was standing up but, with pink girl touching herself beside her there was no way she could get back out to the aisle. I stood up but there was no way I wanted to touch or interact with pink girl. I had no idea what she might do next.

"You'll have to push past her," I said helplessly.

Blonde girl carefully pushed pink girl and practically ran down the aisle to the next carriage. I decided to move a few seats away too.

When the train pulled into Lancing station the guard had had enough. She got pink girl up and told her she had to leave the train. Pink girl, still in just her knickers, was ejected onto the platform.

"You can't do that," several passengers (including me) cried. "She'll wander to the end of the train and fall onto the tracks."

"I'm not having her on this train," the guard said, throwing her bag and trousers after her. "And I'm calling the police so chill out."

For the next couple of minutes we all watched, horrified, as pink girl repeatedly threw herself at the train doors, banging to get back in. As she did so her mobile, that had fallen under the seat where she'd been sitting, started ringing and the guard answered it. She talked to whoever was on the other line and told them to come and collect pink girl then opened the door so they could talk to her. Pink girl fell into the train.

"Come on baby," she said, flat on her back, staring up at the guard. "Come on baby you know you want to."

By this point the train had been in the station much longer than it should have an several passengers from the adjoining carriage had piled into ours and were standing around pink girl, staring down at her. Some suggested just throwing her off the train, others said she should be covered up. It was quite sick really, the number of people who turned up and stared as pink girl lay on the floor of the carriage with her hand between her legs. I just stayed in my seat. Too many people were getting involved and it was turning into a bizarre and slightly grotesque farce.

One girl, barely out of her teens, who claimed her mother worked in special needs stared down at pink girl and said, in a very matronly tone, "Put your trousers on right now or you'll be arrested and you don't want that to happen to you. Put your trousers on NOW."

Finally, finally the police turned up and lifted her out of the train and onto the platform. And the train pulled off. I heard someone mention something about pink girl 'just getting out of hospital today'. What kind of hospital I don't know.

I'm not sure how it's come across in the telling but the whole thing was really quite disturbing. I've never felt quite so powerless before. I couldn't communicate with this girl, no one could and I had no idea how to help. I was just glad when the police turned up and took over. At least then I knew she was safe.

Soooooooooooooo..... a very, very odd end to what, otherwise, was a wonderful day. Thank you to Leigh, Helen and Womag for making it even more special.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Catch up

What a week. And it isn't over yet!

I started the week by oiling the creative cogs and writing my first short story in forever (I even sent it off too!) then, on Tuesday, I went to see The Black Crowes at Brixton Academy. I'm not a huge Black Crowes fan but I absolutely loved their album "The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion". As a result I went along with an open mind. Would I love it or would I be the tiniest bit bored by song after song that I didn't know?

It was a mixture of both. They started well and Chris Robinson is a fantastic front man (very camp though, if it wasn't for the fact he used to be married to Goldie Hawn's daughter Kate Hudson I would have put money on the fact he was gay). He got the audience clapping, bounced around on stage and took the most theatrical bows I've ever seen at a music gig. He was also the skinniest front man I've ever seen and was dressed entirely in black, apart from the very long, very silver zip that ran down the front of his jeans and meant I spent half the gig staring at his crotch because it was so very, er, eyecatching! His voice was brilliant and I was in heaven when he sang Remedy.

Unfortunately however the band had a habit of dragging out 3 minute songs into 10 minute marathons with ever-so-slightly overindulgent instrumentals. The first time they did it the audience clapped in all the wrong places thinking the song was over and I was like, "Okay, they can get away with doing one extended song". But they did it over and over and over again. So much in fact that I started to get a bit bored and, because we were standing, my feet started to really, really ache!

So, overall, the gig started and ended well but was a little dull in the middle. I'm glad I went to see them but I don't think I'll be rushing to see them again.

Thursday night was an entirely different kettle of fish. I went along to see Portishead at Hammersmith Apollo, absolutely pooped from the late night the night before and a full day at work. Although I love Portishead I was fully expecting to nod off in my seat (standing was sold out). But...oh my god. It was AMAZING. Absolutely bleedin' amazing. The support act was, er, different to say the least (an instrumental band with a violin, banjo and accordion) and their French meets Russian meets Hebrew music was, er, ear piercing. So ear piercing in fact I decided to escape and get some drinks. Bloody hell. The bar was PACKED. It was 5 deep and you could barely breathe never mind move. Looks like everyone had the same idea.

Anyway, drinks in hand I returned to my seat just in time. The lights dimmed and a 3 appeared on the video screen behind the stage (the title of Portishead's 3rd album is 'Third') that then morphed into a giant P. "It's going to get noisy when the band come on stage" I whispered and bloody hell was I right. The entire place erupted with noise. The audience seemed to hold it's breath as the first song started (Silence, the first song on the new album) but it was when the band played the hits from the first two albums that the whole venue seemed to fizz with electricity and excitement. To hear classics like Sour Times, Glory Box and Numb was an absolute treat and when Beth Gibbons sat down with 2 of the band to sing "Wandering Star" the hairs on my arms and legs stood up. It was absolutely exquisite. I'd pay double to see them again. Their standing ovation at the end was very, very well deserved.

So, back to earth and back to Brighton today. It's an early night for me because I have to get up at 6am tomorrow (the earliest I think I've ever got up on a Saturday unless going on holiday) to go to a one day writing course in Bournemouth (not Portsmouth as I thought). It's just as well Leigh is giving me a lift! Really looking forward to the course and I'm hoping the secrets of a great twist in the tale story will be revealed (call me mercenary but it's a well paying market if you can crack it!) . I'm also looking forward to meeting Helen and Womag. It's going to be a great day but I'm already looking forward to a LONG lie in on Sunday!

I haven't done a huge amount of writing this week (just over 400 words of novel #2) but I had to squeeze that in during my lunch breaks so at least there's forward progress. On the upside I've had an idea for novel #3 that I'm positively fizzing about. It's got romantic comedy stamped all over it and, unlike novels 1 and 2 that have a bit of heartache in them I can go mad with the comedy. It's only a very vague idea at the moment but it's good to know I've got a backup idea if novel #2 doesn't work out.

Right, after this marathon post I'm going to leave you with something to make you smile. You know how you can watch a film musical and think "But no one ever starts spontaneously singing and dancing in real life!" apparently they do (brought to you by the people who did the people freezing in Central Station clip):

p.s. One more thing to add. I'm currently reading Lucy Diamond's Any Way You Want Me and I'm absolutely LOVING it. I can't put it down. I stayed up until 1.30am last night because I couldn't stop reading. It's sexy, it's real, it's infuriating ("Nooooo," I keep wanting to scream at the main character. "What the hell are you thinking!") and it's real edge of your seat stuff in parts (I was terrified for the main character at one point). I can't wait to see how it ends. What are you waiting for? Get your copy now!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

And tonight..

I am watching Portishead at Hammersmith :-)

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Tonight i am...

At a Black Crowes gig in Brixton. Yeah!

The coffee shop experiment part 2

Time: Lunch break
Location: coffee shop in central london.
People: loads, mix of tourists, students and families.
Noise level: HIGH!
Number of words written: None yet. Better get on with it instead of blogging abt it on my phone!

Hooray for wine! (and other bloggers)

The other night I decided to write an entry for a themed short story competition I wanted to enter. The deadline was fast approaching and I didn't have anything in my folders I could recycle. I needed to write something new.

I dutifully sat down at my laptop, flicked through my notebook and read the notes I'd scribbled down about my idea. Okay, so far so good. Not an amazing idea but not bad either.

I started writing.

Then paused to check the word count.

Only 369 words. Oh dear. The entry was supposed to be around 2,000.

I wrote a bit more.

Then paused to check my email.

There was an email waiting that made me very grumpy indeed.

I flicked back to my story, put my fingers to the keys and...


Blocked. Totally blocked. I didn't know where the story was going next and, in light of the email I'd just read, I was in no mood to finish it.

Bugger it, I thought. I'm going to have a large glass of white wine instead.

So I sipped (knocked back) my white wine as I surfed other people's blogs. Several people mentioned they'd finished their entries to the same comp and sent them off.

Arse, I thought. Why am I such a poor excuse for a writer? Why can't I even finish a short story?

I drank another large glass of white wine and turned my attention back to the screen.

"I'm going to finish you," I said to my short story, "even if what I write is total rubbish."

I put my fingers to the keys and typed and typed and typed.

An hour later I wrote 'The End' and went to bed (my head was spinning a bit I'll admit).

The next day I opened the story and read it through, fully expecting it to be total rubbish.

It wasn't. It was ever so slightly confused and I wasn't 100% sure what point I was trying to make but there was enough good stuff there to salvage the story. I started editing it and, when I felt it was as good as it was going to get, I posted it on my writing community and crossed my fingers.

They're going to say it's shit, I thought to myself. They're going to think it's the confused rantings of a drunk mind.

I tried not to think about it and went to do something else instead.

Several hours later I logged into the community to check if anyone had read it yet. Two people had. Eeek! But what had they said?

OHMYGOD. They liked it, they really liked it. It's a winner someone said. Moving without being sentimental the other person said. Just fix a few typos and send it off they said.

So guess what? I AM. Right now.

So hooray for wine. And hooray for the bloggers who inadvertently motivated me to finish it. It doesn't matter if I place in this competition or not. I'm just glad I wrote something that worked.

Hmmm. I wonder if I can drink my way all the way through an 80,000 word novel?

Monday, 7 April 2008

The Writer's Book of Hope

Okay so the other day I promised some little snippets from one of my newest acquisitions The Writer's Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication so here we go...

In chapter 4 'Exorcising Excuses' the author, Ralph Keyes, quotes several authors who could probably relate to excuse #2 'I'm Not Talented Enough'. I was surprised by some of the names that appeared. You probably will too...

"Do I have the talent to compare with our modern Russian writers? Decidedly not."
Leo Tolstoy

"I have never been so conscious of how little talent is vouch-safed me for expressing ideas in words."
Gustave Flaubert

"I have no talent. It's just the question of working, or being willing to put in the time."
Graham Green

"I don't think of myself as a naturally gifted writer."
Joseph Heller

So if some of the greatest writers of our time believed they had no talent what does it take to get published?


Keyes says,

"Natural gifts alone are no guarantee of the will to write, to say nothing of the audacity and the persistence. Productive writers don't need talent so much as determination...The ranks of aspirants who have deserted this battle include battalions of the gifted. Those who stay to fight another day tend to be more tenacious than talented. Successful figures of all kinds know many others with more aptitude than they, but few who are more determined."

Then later he says,

"A writer can get by with a modest amount of talent. But none can succeed without stick-to-it-iveness. "If they really stick at it," veteran editor Edward Chase once observed of those who are determined to publish, "eventually - like salmon swimming upstream - they're going to make it." That kind of determination is rare, however, more rare than native ability."

I know of a writer who was only published after she wrote her sixth book (her agent failed to find a publisher for books two, three, four and five) and another that wasn't published until she wrote her eleventh book.

Now that's determination!

The press is constantly full of stories of 'overnight successes' - authors whose first book provokes a bidding war and earns them oodles of cash and legions of fans almost overnight. These stories lead us to believe that we too can become overnight successes and, if we're not, we've somehow failed.

But how many of these 'overnight successes' are really true? How many of the authors who have had their 'first book' published to critical acclaim (or financial gain) also have rejected manuscripts tucked away in their bottom drawers? More than we're lead to believe I'm sure - it just doesn't make for a very exciting news story to report the years and years of slog a writer put into his or her craft before, finally, they got their big break. We've all heard the stories about the agents and publishers that rejected JK Rowling before she finally sold her first Harry Potter book (and only then for an advance of less than £2,000 pounds). Her determination to see her book published paid off. And how.

How determined are you?

Sunday, 6 April 2008

A spare hour

An hour to spare before my shiatsu this afternoon so i thought I'd try the whole be a writer in a cafe thing. So far so enjoyable. It's great to be out of the house and surrounded by other people while i write. I could get used to this :)
[Edited later to add]
671 words written while I was in the cafe. It doesn't sound like much but that's over 1,000 words now and my counter (created by Leigh) now registers 1% written!
I've decided to do something different with novel #2. I'm mostly going to write it long hand, in the notebook you can see in the photo above. I work from home 3 days a week on the laptop in my living room. I use the same laptop for surfing the net, writing and editing and, as a result, I'm spending upwards of 12 hours a day staring at a screen. And it's doing my head in.
When I was editing novel #1 I spent HOURS at this laptop, staring at the screen, tinkering with words, reading bits aloud etc etc and, as a result, I've started to associate the laptop with 'editing mode' rather than 'creative mode'. I'm hoping that by writing in a notebook I'll feel that brain-to-hand-to-pen-to-paper connection.
And so far it's working. When I was in the cafe earlier I felt like I did when I was at primary school and we used to write 'stories' in our exercise books (except I had a massive great skinny latte instead of an orange squash). I felt free, like I was having fun, like I was creating.
Editing (for me anyway) is always going to be hellish but writing a first draft should be enjoyable or else why bother? Why do something that makes you stressed and unhappy? No one's forcing you (or me) to be a writer. We do it through choice. The least we can do is enjoy the process.
There is stress in showing your complete novel to other people. There is stress in reading their feedback. There is stress in subbing your work to agents. There is stress in your agent subbing work to editors. There is stress in correcting proofs. There is stress in marketing your novel. There is stress in reading reviews. There is stress in frantically checking your chart position. There is stress in comparing the size of your advance to your actual sales and worrying if you'll be offered a second book deal or not.
But when you write a first draft you need to forget about what could and might and should be and just write. Writers write. They do it because they need to, because they have to and because they want to. And, if they're not complete masochists, they do it because they enjoy it too.
I'm tired of worrying about the 'business' of publishing and need to get back to what I love.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Show jumping Bunnies!

This is so random! Is it wrong that it makes me want to get a rabbit?


I don't want to speak too soon but I may have done it...I may have cracked my block.

Don't all faint but...

I just wrote 350 words of novel #2.

It's a start!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

If Your Life Was a Movie...

...What would the soundtrack be?

Found this on A.Writer's blog so thought I'd post it in lieu of a proper post!

So, here's how it works:

1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that's playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don't lie and try to pretend you're cool...because your not!
7. Stick the soundtrack on your mp3 player and listen away during the day.

Opening Credits: "High and Dry" - Radiohead

Waking Up: "The Day I Tried to Live" - Soundgarden

First Day At School: "The Humpty Dumpty Love Song" - Travis

Falling In Love: "Almeria" - Lucky Jim

Fight Song: "You Turn Me Round" - Aqualung

Breaking Up: "Where Friend Rhymes with End" - Ane Brun

Prom/Dance/Ball: "Please Forgive Me" - David Gray

Life's OK: "She Sells Sanctuary" - The Cult

Mental Breakdown: "That's Not Really Funny" - Eels

Flashback: "Dudley" - Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs

Getting Back Together: "At the Zoo" - Simon & Garfunkel

Birth of Child: "These Flowers" - Martha Wainwright

Wedding: "The Wraggle Taggle Gypsies-O" - Alison Moyet

Final Battle: "Warrior" - Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs

Funeral Song: "Fresh Feeling" - Eels

End Credits: "Yes It's Fucking Political" - Skunk Anansie

Hmmm. Not really any clever coincidences there apart from the 'Final Battle' song and the 'Breaking Up' song. I very much doubt I'd be feeling very 'fresh' at my funeral. Is there a song called "Stinky and a bit Rotten"?

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Books, books, books!

Oh I do love Amazon! Look what was waiting for me when I got home tonight:

and the The Writer's Book of Hope: Getting from Frustration to Publication by Ralph Keyes (the only book not written by a member of the Novel Racers!)

I can't wait to start reading. I already had a quick flick through the Writer's Book of Hope and there's some good stuff in there (stuff I'm sure I'll be regurgitating onto the blog over the next few weeks!)

Actually that book couldn't have come at a better time. I still haven't written a word. It's been 2 weeks and 2 days since I last wrote something - possibly the longest I've ever gone without writing since I got 'serious' about it in 2005. Not good. Not good at all. But it seems as though I'm not alone. Several other bloggers are going through a bit of a dry spell at the moment. Maybe it's the weird weather? Or the Rewriting blues? Who knows.

Still, I'm not going to beat myself up about it. Whenever I've felt a bit blocked before I've found that reading a lot can help spark up new ideas and enthusiasm.

In other news the final scores for Eurofiction have been released and, overall, I came 11th out of 56. That beats my ranking last year (14th) but, again, I just failed to get into the top 10 (by 1 point). Never mind, better luck next year. At least I got 10 new stories out of it. Stories I can hopefully sell.

I've got a fairly quiet weekend planned so I'm planning on putting my head down and getting some writing done, no matter what. Then, next weekend, I'm off on a writing course with Leigh and HelenMH (can't wait) and two weeks after that it's the Novel Racers meet up (yay!). Better get on with some actual writing then. No point calling myself a writer if I don't do any!