Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Composer Competition

Fancy hearing your short story read out on radio?

Then enter the competition run by 'The Verb' on BBC Radio 3.

All you need to do is write a short story of no more than 1000 words which use the names of all four composers- Mendelssohn, Haydn, Purcell and Handel in the most inventive, imaginative and cunning ways possible.

Closing date May 11th 2009.

More details here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio3/theverb/

There doesn't appear to be a cash prize but winning the competition and getting your story read out on the radio would look fantastic on your writing CV (or query letter to an agent). My story 'SuperEd' was read out on BBC Radio Cumbria a little while ago and it was wonderful to hear someone else interpret it and give it a voice.

Why not give it a go?

p.s. Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments on my proofs arriving. Sorry I haven't replied to you all but I'm trying to press on with the first draft of book 2. Only 5,000 words and I'll hit 3/4s of the way through!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Look what I've got!!!

Yep, the proofs for my novel!!! (click on the images to make them larger)

I can't begin to tell you how excited I felt when the postman handed me an ever-so-slightly battered package with my publisher's stamp on the front and a lumpy, book-like feel!

I'd already seen a print-out of the front cover (NB: this isn't what the final cover will look like, it's all about the blurb for the proofs!) so that didn't come as a surprise but it was utterly magical to open something that looked like a book, felt like a book and smelled like a book and find my words inside it!

And I was sooooo scared that those words would seem really, really rubbish once they'd jumped from my computer screen into a real, live book but - you know what - they didn't. I flicked through the book (being careful not to bend the spine, Elaine & Caroline!) and read random passages and I just felt SO DAMNED PROUD. Yes there were sentences that I could have improved, yes I spotted the odd adverb and adjective that could have been replaced with a stronger verb, yes I might have skimped on the description every now and then but...I just didn't care!

Of course now I'm utterly convinced that book 2 is utterly rubbish in comparison and I'll never write anything decent again but, if I'm honest, there were times when I doubted book 1 too. I don't now. Now it's the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen.

And I wrote it, one word at a time.

I have to remind myself of that as I plod on with book 2 (which is horribly behind schedule but let's not mention that!). It might look ugly now (and believe me it's a bit of a minger) but, hopefully, one day, it'll be sitting pretty next to book 1.

Yes, I just need to keep telling myself that.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

In other news...

The new title of Book 1 is now official!

I found out it had been officially changed by googling myself (sssh, I know you do it too) and finding that my details have been posted on my publisher's website (which was very exciting!), along with the new title of book 1.

I'm sooooo happy. I know this title is the name of a fairly famous film but it's absolutely perfect for book 1.

Want to know what it is?

Look at the little Amazon widget underneath my profile (on the right of this page). If it doesn't seem to have changed from the old title click on it to be taken to the Amazon page.

I'm still gagging to see the final design of my book cover and have been haunting my email inbox for days but nope...no news yet. And no news on when the proofs will be available either but I'm told it will be soon.

AND...in other news. My publishers have published a holding page for Book 2 on Amazon! I'm only 62% of the way through the first draft (as of today) but it's there, with a publication date and everything.

I'm so excited I might be sick (although that might be the fact I've eaten my own body weight in chocolate this Easter).

Novel 2 wordcount: 55,762 / 90,000 (62.0%)

Monday, 13 April 2009

Sorry for not blogging, I've been thinking about sex instead!

More specifically, I've been writing about it.

There's no sex in novel 1 but I always knew there would be in novel 2 and I've been dreading waiting for this moment for some time. As it drew closer and closer I started to get the fear. What if I write really bad sex and end up getting nominated for the Bad Sex Awards? What if I write really mushy lovey-dovey sex that makes my readers want to throw up in their mouths a little bit? What if the sex I write is too explicit and makes my agent blush?

And then the biggie...

"What are my parents going to think when they read it?!!"

I brought the subject up with my mum on the phone last week, or maybe she brought it up and asked if there was any sex in book 1. Anyway, I can't remember but the subject came up and my mum voiced her opinion which was something along the lines of,

"It's perfectly natural darling. Everyone does it. Your gran used to read the Danielle Steeles that Auntie Joan would send over from Canada and she didn't raise an eyebrow. You've got nothing to worry about."

You'd think those reassuring words would make me feel better wouldn't you? They didn't. They just made me think about it even more.

There's always a danger, with whatever you write about, that people will think it's somehow autobiographical. None writers don't realise that when you're writing from a character's point of view you inhabit them in the same way an actor inhabits a character they're playing and what they say, or do, is true to the character and not you. Yes, small parts of yourself might slip in (ooer) here and there but our characters are normally more outspoken, daring, witty or feisty than us (particularly if you're writing romantic comedies). If I wanted to write 80,000 words about me not only would I a) bore myself silly but b) I'd call it an autobiography and not fiction.

So anyway, when I sat down to write the sex scene this week I did the only thing I knew would get me through it - I poured myself a glass of red wine - and it was all going so well during the build up, the first kiss, the removal of clothing but as soon as I typed the word "nipple" my brain started screaming "YOUR MUM'S GOING TO READ THIS! YOUR MUM'S GOING TO READ THIS!" and I suddenly felt self-conscious (more self-conscious than my characters that's for sure. They were steaming drunk).

So I did the only thing I could do.

I had another glass of wine.

And then another one.

And finished the scene.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Two years worth of writing links

I've added quite a lot of writing links to this blog over the past 2 years and thought it would be a good idea to put them all in the same place (mostly so I can find them!) but thought some of my more recent readers might find them useful too so...here you are...

The writing links I've found most useful

1. Plot

i) What to do if your plot gets stuck - http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/2009/01/05/jwam-reader-request-no-3-how-to-get-unstuck/

ii) Creating a plot outline - http://hollylisle.com/pdf/Lisle-Plot-Outline.pdf

iii) The 3 Act Structure - http://www.musik-therapie.at/PederHill/Structure&Plot.htm

iv) Narrative tension - http://ezinearticles.com/?Creating-Narrative-Tension-in-a-Novel&id=88160

v) Tips for adding tension to your novel - http://www.fictionfactor.com/guests/tension.html

vi) The Hero’s journey - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth

vii) How powerful is your novel? - http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2007/07/vw3-turn-up-wattage-story-power.html


2. Writing encouragement

i) The secret of writing success - http://sallyquilfordblog.co.uk/2008/12/new-year-message-and-writing-secret-of.html

ii) Even hugely successful chicklit authors like Jennifer Weiner have been rejected - http://jenniferweiner.com/forwriters.htm

iii) Jasper Fforde, rejected 76 times over 10 years - http://writerunboxed.com/2007/06/22/author-interview-a-conversation-with-jasper-fforde/

iv) Write as though you’ve got a gun to your head - http://spreadtheword.org.uk/index.php?id=miscellaneous&text=1053


3. Agents/Editors

i) What they want - http://writeblogspotcom.blogspot.com/2008/09/road-ahead.html

ii) When should you fire your agent? - http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/06/when-to-cut-ties-with-your-agent.html

iii) When agents ask for revisions but don’t offer representation - http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2008/05/revisions-before-representation.html

iv) Do agents look at wannabe author’s websites? - http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2008/03/talking-websites.html

v) BBC website on how to lay out a novel for submission to an agent/editor - http://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/scriptsmart/novel.pdf


4. Characters

i) Body language cues to emotion (useful for show vs tell) - http://www.joannawaugh.com/Craft.html

ii) Create images of your characters - http://www.channel4.com/entertainment/t4/microsites/M/makingfaces/yourface_createMate.html

iii) What makes a sympathetic character? - http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/artsympathy.htm

iv) What makes a compelling character? - http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/2008/06/character-and-plot-inseparable.html

v) Matching a character’s name to their age - http://babynamewizard.com/namevoyager/lnv0105.html


5. Gadgets & software

i) WRITE or your computer will bleep at you! - http://lab.drwicked.com/writeordie.html

ii) Free writing software - http://www.spacejock.com/yWriter.html

iii) Create a ‘word cloud’ of your novel or short story - http://wordle.net/create

iv) Semi-colon quiz - http://www.bristol.ac.uk/arts/skills/grammar/grammar_tutorial/page_44.htm

v) Do you write like woman or a man? - http://bookblog.net/gender/genie.php

vi) Get your computer to read out your novel/story for you - http://www.naturalreaders.com/

vii) Online editing software - http://www.autocrit.com/


6. Writers block

i) http://www.copyblogger.com/writers-block/

ii) Writers block vs chronic procrastination - http://www.slate.com/id/2191312


7. Publishing

i) How do you get your book into the supermarkets? - http://www.danutakean.com/blog/?p=245#more-245

ii) Don’t expect to earn loads of money - http://emmadarwin.typepad.com/thisitchofwriting/2008/02/not-just-singin.html

iii) “Things I’ve learned since my first book was published” - http://cmpriest.livejournal.com/879864.html

iv) Author tries to promote his first book - http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/fiction/article2151594.ece

v) Snowbooks publishers – “How We Choose What We Publish” - http://www.snowbooks.com/weblog/2007/06/how_we_choose_what_to_publish.html#more


8. General advice for writers

i) 35 traps writers fall into - http://www.rachelsimon.com/wg_common.htm

ii) Writing a novel - http://www.fictionfactor.com/novel.html

iii) Really informative videos on writing and getting published - http://www.videojug.com/tag/writing-and-publishing

iv) BBC GetWriting site - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/getwriting/minicourse

v) Writing fiction for 8-12 year olds - http://www.ianbone.com.au/pdfs/NovelsYoung_IanBone.pdf

vi) Writing tips - http://www.lisagardner.com/tricks/index.htm

vii) Writing advice - http://www.caroclarke.com/writing.html


9. Random stuff

i) Have a nose at other writer’s rooms - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7754115.stm

ii) Guardian newspaper ‘How to write’ articles - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/series/howtowrite

iii) The Book Show on YouTube - http://www.youtube.com/profile_videos?user=TheBookShow

iv) Test your vocab and help charity at the same time - http://www.freerice.com/

v) Are you right-brained or left-brained? - http://www.news.com.au/perthnow/story/0,21598,22492511-5005375,00.html

vi) What drives writers to write? - http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article2615414.ece


10. Editing

i) Kill your darlings - http://brendacoulter.blogspot.com/2008/01/how-to-kill-your-darlings-without.html

ii) Rewriting a novel - http://justinelarbalestier.com/blog/?p=890

iii) 3 steps to edit your novel - http://www.autocrit.com/pdfFiles/ThreeStepstoEditingYourNovel.pdf

iv) Editing - http://www.caroclarke.com/rewriting.html

v) Revision Toolkit - http://theresefowler.blogspot.com/2007/07/revision-tool-kit.html



Cream Teas and Covers



I've got a ton of photos of Prague to post but I'll spare you my holiday snaps to tell you some writing-related news instead!

On Monday afternoon my publishers (my paperback editor, a marketing person and a PR person) took me and my agent to Liberty's for afternoon tea. And very tasty it was too - two fruit scones with jam and clotted cream and a big ol' pot of Lady Grey.

The food was great but it wasn't the most exciting bit. THAT was seeing a print out of the first draft/design of my book cover!

I swear my heart stopped for a second as my editor reached into her bag. What if I hated it? Could I lie convincingly if it was the worst cover in the world? Or would I cry?

I needn't have worried. I absolutely loved the cover. I don't know if my editor is a bit psychic or what but it was JUST as I'd imagined it. Even when I started writing Haunting... I had an image of a house and a sky and stars and that was just what they'd come up with. AND it looked a lot like the cover of Lisa Jewell's "Ralph's Party", the book I mentioned as one of my favourite ever chicklit reads when I was interviewed by Helen for Trashionista!

I would have happily agreed to have the cover I was shown immediately published but my editor said there were a few more tweaks they wanted the illustrator to do to it first - including shrinking the house down a bit, adding in more sky and a London cityscape, moving the title up into the sky and adding glitter! I was so pleased I can't even begin to describe the feeling, and seeing my name there, on the cover, was just surreal. Even now I can't stop staring at the cardboard 'book' printout they gave me. One day I'm going to see a cover a bit like that in the bookshops....I just can't get my head around it.

The other thing they showed me was the print out of the proof. That was slightly different from the cover although it did have some sky and a cityscape on it but the majority of the front cover was taken up with blurb and the title. On the back was the synopsis (same one as Amazon) and a pink box with stuff about how the book makes you laugh one minute and cry and next and some stuff about me as a writer. In less than a months time that will converted into a proper, hold-it-in-your-hands proof that will be sent to reviewers! Aaaaggh! That's exciting and scary at the same time. I don't even want to think about people reading my book critically. Ever since I got my agent I've heard nothing but positive things about my book (which was hugely surprising but wonderful) and now I have to brace myself for some more varied opinions!

The other news I received was that the title is going to be changed - again! - but I really, really love the new title. It was one that was on my list of suggested titles and I'm really pleased that the sales team think it's a better title than Haunting... I won't say what it is yet - I think I'll save it for when I've got a final, final copy of the cover to post on this blog but I will say that it does share a name with a 1970s film but there's no book with the same name. Yet.

What else? The marketing girl had a chat with me about some ideas for online quizzes and competitions for when the book comes out (watch this space for more details nearer publication time in October!) and the PR girl asked me to start thinking about anything interesting or unusual about my life that could feature in an article in a women's magazine. My mind went instantly blank... in fact I'm still trying to think of something! I rang my mum earlier this evening and berated her for not bringing me up in a circus or letting me be raised by wolves or something!
Anyway, I chatted for my publishers for a good hour and a half and then my agent and I had a good old chinwag over some more tea. It's the London Book Fair in April and she's hoping to get me some more foreign sales. I am hugely grateful for the one's she's already got me (and really excited about seeing the foreign covers when they are published), any more would just be a bonus!

I haven't made huge progess with novel 2 in the last week (because I was away for most of it) but seeing novel 1 come to life has really inspired me to make novel 2 as good as I can make it. Of course it seems pretty damned shoddy in comparison to novel 1 at the moment but the most important thing right now is just to get that first draft written.

A while ago Beth posted this quote on her blog and I've stuck it in the front of my notebook to inspire me whenever I start worrying that book 2 is a bit crap:

"You have no confidence? No one who is any good has confidence. So tell me what makes your particular lack of confidence so special." - Anne Enright.

Puts me right in my place!
Novel 2 wordcount: 47,157 / 90,000 (52.4%)