Friday, 30 January 2009

Everyone can write a book, can't they?

Was just alerted to this and found it very amusing:

Almost makes me want to tell taxi drivers that I'm a writer just to see if the conversation ends up being like that one.

Incidentally I always talk about my day job when they ask what I do for a living. It almost always silences them because

a) no one outside my field really understands what it is that I do
b) it's a really quite boring topic of conversation

One thing I won't be asking taxi drivers again is, "How's business at the moment?" I asked that the other day and then had to endure a 20 minute rant about the economy, the Government and "Gordon ******* Brown". The only time he drew breath was when he parked outside my flat and told me the fare!

p.s. There are some other good articles on that site so check them out when you've finished smiling ruefully.

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Oh and...

I finished reading The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn this week. I bought it because it was shortlisted in the Melissa Nathan awards for comedy romance and if there's one thing I'm intrigued by it's how to write a good romantic-comedy (it's what I'm hoping my books are after all).

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that Matt Dunn's book is very funny indeed. It's absolutely chock full of witty one-liners. Okay so a few make you roll your eyes but I actually laughed out loud several times whilst reading it on the train, and that's not something I do often!

The other thing that's great about the book is the voice. You always read about how agents and publishers are after a great 'voice' in new fiction and this book is a very, very good example of a new, different, consistent voice.

Oh yeah, and the book is set in Brighton. Can't say I've read many books where, in my head, I'm going "I know that street! And that one! And that stretch of the pier." Very refreshing. Also very useful to see how he dealt with the setting as my second book is also set in Brighton.

My only disappointment was that the ending felt a bit rushed but that didn't water down my enjoyment of the rest of the book. Highly recommended, particularly if you're a romantic comedy writer yourself.


I totally forgot. I have another excuse why my word count is so poor. A really valid one this time.

I did the edits on Book 1 last weekend.

My editor was right - there weren't many at all (thank God).

I added more description, deleted some confusing bits, clarified a few things and reinforced a strand of the book that had become a bit too weedy during my edits. It was wasn't a scary process at all but it was a bit odd to immerse myself back into a book I haven't so much as flicked through since October last year. The only downside was that I liked it a lot more than I thought I would.

Why's that a downside you ask?

Because it made me doubt Book 2 a teeny tiny bit. As I was reading Book 1 I started thinking, "Oh dear, I'm not sure Book 2 is going to be as moving as this book" and "The main character has much greater goals/obstacles in Book 1 than the characters have in Book 2" and "It all seems to slot together so easily in Book 1" but you know what? Book 1 is polished within an inch of its life and I'm only writing the first draft of Book 2. It isn't supposed to be as good as Book 1 at this stage.

Yeah - I'll just keep telling myself that...

Slowly, slowly, not catchy monkey

Progress on the novel is still slow, or at least slower than I'd like. My social life is conspiring against me hitting the 26,000 word target I set myself for the end of January but I have just hit 22,500 words which is 25% of my first draft so that's something. And I've still got two days left to add a few more words.

So where were we?

Oh yes, a week ago I promised I'd write something about the Flash Fiction event I went to in Brighton with Leigh. It was above a pub, near St James St, Brighton and Leigh and I arrived in plenty of time. So much time in fact that we managed to grab a drink and a table to have a bit of a gossip catch-up before we were allowed upstairs.

The venue itself was perfect - small and dark enough to be intimate (not with Leigh, that would be wrong ;o)), but big enough to fit a good 30 or so people. There was a raised stage at one end with a microphone and stand, and a projector screen behind it. The MC for the night briefly introduced the event, then read out two stories from authors that couldn't be there (she wasn't best pleased about that, but her annoyance made us all laugh) and then introduced the authors that were actually there.

So what did we hear? I'm struggling to remember now...ehr..oh yes, there was the funny piece read by an American man about a character who buys a T-shirt with the slogan "Drinking for Jesus" and the extremes he goes to to do things 'for Jesus', then there was the story about a David Bellamy style observer watching animals/people copulating (I got a bit lost but Leigh seemed to find it amusing) and then there was the woman who read a story about a male character't remember. Anyway, each story was accompanied by an image or photograph, projected behind them, that had been designed specifically for their story.

And then there was a break, and then some more stories and all in all the whole thing was over in an hour and a half. Both Leigh and I commented that we wouldn't have liked to hear even more stories. There's something very mellow about being read to, it reminds you of childhood (if you were lucky enough to be read to as a kid). One of my friends called it "Jackanory for adults" when I described the night to him and I think that just about sums it up. It was also a very friendly place to be and Leigh and I got into conversation with a man who was keen to give us all the gossip about the event!

Anyway, we're definitely going again so if anyone is in the East Sussex area (or visiting) and fancies going to the next one (in Feb hopefully) just let me know. Oh yeah and I'm far to0 chicken to submit or read out any of my own flash fiction but we'll see - maybe after I've been a few more times (would reading drunk be such a bad idea?).

So what else?

After months of wondering "Is it worth it?" I've signed up for Twitter. As far as I can tell it's a bit like the Facebook updates but famous people do it too so now I'm signed up to received Stephen Fry and Johnathan Ross's 'twitters' (how the other half live and all that) as well as some fellow bloggers. You can see my own twitters in the sidebar of this blog (on the right hand side) and can 'follow me' by clicking on the link below them if you want. Oh and thanks to SpiralSkies I now have a cool little widget on my desktop that makes a pinging noise and shows me any new twitters that people have posted. So yes, another distraction from writing but what can you do...

I may, or may not, be going to India for work next month so I've ordered myself a Samsung Netbook so I can write while I'm away/on the plane. I can't afford to let my word count slip anymore than it already has! Looking forward to receiving what I hope is a dinky little laptop, instead of the monstrosity I currently use.

In other news my sister recently commented on the 'comedy blunders' that are occurring more and more regularly in my life and said 'oh well it's all potential material for your books I suppose'. She has no idea how right she is ;o)

word count: 22,501 / 90,000 (25%)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Bad writer! Bad blogger!

I have been a bad blogger.

I haven't updated for 10 days.

I've also only written 2,043 new words of my novel.

Considering I'm supposed to write at least 500 words a day to hit my target of completing the first draft by 6th June (exactly 5 months after typing the first word) I'm not doing well - just a measely 204 words a day average for the last week and a half.

But I have an excuse.

Of course.

I've been busy!

There was the short story book launch I went to last Wednesday, then drinks in the bar of the Grand Hotel on Friday, then a wedding reception on Saturday, then cinema on Monday, then a Flash Fiction event with Leigh yesterday (more on that later) and well, here we are on Wednesday again.

Time does indeed fly when you're having fun, but I'm not going to feel guilty about it.

For a start I promised myself that I wasn't going to be hermit-like when I wrote this novel (unlike novel 1 when I wrote nearly every night and completely knackered myself by the time I'd finished the first draft 3 months and 3 weeks later!) and it's good to get out and experience life or you've got nothing to write about.

And there's the fact I've still got 10 days to get to my end of January target (26,000 words) so that's only 600 odd words a day instead of 500.

So it's do-able, I've written more than 20,000 words and I'm happy. I haven't got the 'don't care about my characters much' vibe that I had with the old book 2 (which is pretty much why I stopped writing it) and I like how jumping from character to character (I've got 2 characters in 1st person POV and 2 more in third) stops me getting bored with any one story thread. Whether it actually works or not I don't know - but I'm not going to think about that until I finish the first draft and read it through.

So what else?

The first bit of my advance arrived in the post the other day (from the Brazil deal) and very exciting it was too! I couldn't stop looking at my cheque (in case you're interested, your agent writes you a cheque after taking off their cut and any foreign tax/charges that may apply). In fact, so excited was I at the the thought of buying myself some jewellery to commemorate this momentous occasion (and the more down-t0-earth thought about the size of my overdraft that swiftly followed!) I quickly took it to the bank and paid it in.

And then realised that I should have photocopied it first. As a souvenir.


Ah well. I'm sure whatever I buy myself as a memento will do nicely instead of a piece of black and white paper!

What else?

My agent got in touch to ask if I'd do a magazine interview (for a new writing magazine that's come out/about to come out) about my experience of finding an agent/getting a publisher etc and I said "Sure!" (am hoping it's one I can do via email rather than face to face so I can think about my answers first!). Anyway, the mag wants to do it in April apparently but we think it would be better if it were published in September/October when my book comes out. Publicity and all that.(God, can't believe I just wrote that. Do pinch me - hard - if I ever start to sound a bit wanky about this whole getting published thing!). So anyway, we'll see what happens with that.

And...what else?

I got my edits from my editor! (should probably have thought about that before brazenly stating I could hit 26,000 words of novel 2 by the end of the month!). On the upside she really hasn't given me all that many to do. I think it's about a page and a half and she told me that her average is about 6 so I should be very pleased. I am! Luckily none of the edits are overly complicated - just to add a bit more description (my weak point!) and some queries about character's motivation to do something or say something. Basically, hopefully, I won't have to sweat over the edits too much (famous last words and all that).

And now it's wayyyyy after bedtime (normal people's bedtimes anyway) so I'll post about the flash fiction event Leigh and I went to the next time I blog. Which won't be in 10 days time.


20,224 / 90,000 words written (22.5%)

P.S. Sorry I didn't get round to commenting on all the comments on my last blog post. But I am very relieved that I'm not the only annoying person in the world that comments on the writerly devices used in TV shows and films! I think it means that writing is well and truly in our blood now - which is a good thing :o)

Monday, 12 January 2009


Not much to report today. I've been writing and writing and writing a bit more with the occasional break to watch episodes of the first season of Prison Break (I don't know why I ignored everyone who told me it was great, it's fantastic! Very violent admittedly but compulsive viewing).

Talking of Prison Break and other great TV series - has anyone else found themselves applying things they've learned about writing to TV shows and/or films? While I was watching Prison Break yesterday I found myself thinking, "Aha, the reason they just put that scene in was to give X the motivation to escape when previously he wasn't interested" and "Oh look, just as things were going well for Y they go and throw a new problem at him - more conflict to overcome" and "Oooh, nice bit of backstory there to make Z seem more sympathetic."

No? Just me?!

Anyway, despite my TV viewing, I have been writing and I've just hit 20.1% written. That's one whole 5th of my novel! Having a word count target for each week/month is really useful as it means I can give myself the odd day off here and there by upping my word count on the other days and I'm bang on target to hit 26,000 words written by the end of January *crosses fingers*.

At the moment I'm desperate to hit more than 20,000 words as that's where I dumped my previous attempt at novel 2. I will not be superstitious, I will not be superstitious! Better get on and start plotting the next few scenes then as I don't actually know what happens next...

18,181 / 90,000 words written (20.2%)

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The golden ticket has arrived!

That's what my agent wrote on a comp slip when she forwarded me an envelope with my name on it. It was stamped with the name of my publishers and inside I found...

...a ticket to the 2009 Author Party!

It's so fancy I let out a little squeal of excitement when I opened it. It's thick card, A5 size, gold around the edges, embossed with the publisher's name in silver and the type in swirly black (and my name written in pen in the top left hand corner) and it says the date (mid Feb) and the venue (I'll reveal all when I've been) and...

6.30-8.30pm Champagne

Two hours of champagne?!


Oh my god. I just KNOW I'm going to drink too much and talk crap...or fall over...or make a fool of myself...or tell people my book is rubbish...or cry...

Actually I'll probably just find a nice corner to hide in and then gawp at all the famous author types swanning around (whilst feeling like a bit of a fraud).

Can you tell my head's spinning with excitement (and nerves)?

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Dead plots

Very interesting post from Justine Larbalestier (author of the "Magic or Madness" trilogy and "How to Ditch Your Fairy") here about what to do when your plot feels a bit dead or you're just horribly stuck.

I like the fact that she uses the square brackets device too (see my previous post) but the piece of advice that most struck a chord with me was the idea of drawing a summary of what's going on in your plot.

Part of my day job involves redesigning text-based learning so that it appeals to different kinds of learners, particularly visual learners. As a visual learner myself, I find it really helps to draw or see concepts instead of trying to digest reams of text (which is probably why I 'see' all my novels as films when I'm writing them) so I'm definitely going to take Justine's 'stick figures, squares, squiggles and straight lines' advice on board the next time I get stuck (because there will be a next time, there always is!)

Oh - and even if you're not interested in find out how to go about re-starting a dead plot do go and visit Justine's blog anyway. She's declared January open season on writing questions - so go ahead and ask her for some advice if there's a question to do with novel-writing you desperately need answering.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Take a Break

Just a quick post to say that my story "Gran's Balloon Magic" is out now in Take a Break Fiction Feast along with TWO from fellow Story a Fortnight member Karen. The really exciting thing is that all three stories were written to prompts within the group. It's a SAF triple bill!

In other news I'm still plodding along with novel 2. Actually 'plodding along' is a bit unfair as I am enjoying writing it (apart from a brief freak-out after I'd written the 9 scenes I'd plotted and wasn't sure what happened next!).

One thing I am doing differently from novel 1 is that, whenever I hit a chunk of the novel that makes me want to stop writing (like a paragraph of description or a bit of back story that I'm not sure about yet) I'm putting a note in square brackets

[put in something about B's relationship history here].

Then carrying on writing.

I just don't want to ruin the forward momentum or get horribly blocked by agonising over tricky paragraphs. I just want to get this draft written!

So far so good and I'm on target for getting the first draft done by the beginning of June - I'm just trying to avoid looking at the scary post it note on my wall that says "15,000 words a month"!

13,479 / 90,000 words written (15.0%)