Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Slack Summer

I entered my latest novel in two competitions in spring, with no news from either. I surprised myself with how disappointed I felt, even though I would also have been the first to admit that my submissions were flawed (my first synopsis was terrible!) and that there must be much more talented people out there. But that doesn't stop you dreaming, does it? And then the discouragement hits hard.

I've dusted myself off and am still editing my first draft into a second draft. I might be lapped by a sloth, soon...but I enjoy it when I get going. Time is tricky to find but in September all my children will be at school, which will make a huge difference to my life in every way. I'm looking forward to getting some regular writing time without feeling guilty (as long as the laundry pile doesn't grow to dangerous proportions).

I'm ready, when the second draft is done, to start a few shorter projects. I love having writing to look forward to. May you also have something to look forward to this summer!

Saturday, 13 February 2016


I've started reading a new book (second time around) which I hoped would only taint my style in the best of ways.

It's the wonderful 'Big Little Lies' by Liane Moriarty, which is a masterclass in voice, pace, character, plotting...for me, it has everything I'd love to achieve, including a wonderful feel-good element despite being (essentially) about a murder.

But yesterday I'd edited  my own work in progress  and (I'm a bit ashamed to say it, so I'll whisper it quietly) I was actually pretty impressed with the chapter I was working on. I thought I'd done a good job. I actually got a little fizz in my tummy, because I could imagine it being good enough for someone else to read; I could imagine self-publishing it, or even sending it out to agents.

Aha, I arrogantly thought to myself, I CAN write! Maybe only in flashes, and I let myself down frequently, and there's laziness in there that needs editing out, but if I can get better at plotting and character, I might actually achieve my dream.

I can't tell you how good that felt.

And then I went to bed. And read the first chapter of Big Little Lies.

And realised how far I am from being a decent writer.

Liane Moriarty is incredible; there's no pretension in her work, and her characters are so fascinating and likeable and true-to-life even when they're doing or saying things that really ought to put us off. Important information is drip fed with the lightest touch, so that things she doesn't want us to notice yet aren't registered at all, and all this with a sense of humour that makes her books a true delight.

I'm in awe, and also feel very discouraged. I'm not sure I've even found my voice yet, but the one I have is very bland and dull in comparison.

And now, back to editing...

Friday, 12 February 2016

Impossible settings

When thinking about setting, how carefully do you imagine the buildings you use?

In past pieces, I've often 'borrowed' my own home, or the homes of friends, but in my work in progress, I imagined a house, and thought it was fairly clear in my mind. Now I'm working on editing, with some time between writing and editing, I've found I've messed up a few times. Clearly I was simultaneously holding in my mind certain floor plans that simply won't work as the one house.

Does it matter? Will a reader ever notice? I'm not sure about that. But it matters to me. I want my world to be as real and 'honest' as possible (for a fiction!).

So today's job has been to sit down and sketch out a floor plan, based on what I've edited so far (the first three chapters - please don't mock my slow progress! At least it's progress!). It was surprisingly tricky, but now I have a little floorplan, I can check every time my characters are walking around that the study hasn't switched from the back of the house to the front, and that the party wall needs to be the opposite side of the house, unless the study is going to have no natural light. I hadn't anticipated the little every day details that might rely on knowing this kind of stuff, as deeply as you do know the lay-out of your own home.

Next time, I'm going to 'borrow' houses from Rightmove, and use real floorplans from real houses to fill with my charcters. This has got to save time, and it will be so much better than trying to work it out retrospectively.

Maybe you invent your own floorplans, and do a better job than I have (it wouldn't be hard). But I think it will help to spark my imagination to use real plans that aren't actually my neighbours' houses, or the house I grew up in.

I wonder if there are any more planning problems to find during this edit? So much to learn!

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Present Problems

Sadly I'm not talking about gifts, but tenses.

My novel is written in the past tense, although I did experiment with the present tense early on. I've just been reading someone else's present tense novel. It really tainted my work...

Every time I sat down to edit, I found the present tense had crept in. It happened every time, while I was reading that particular book. It made me wonder if I'd made the right decision in the first place, although I think I have. It doesn't take much to make you question yourself, though, does it?

I shall choose my reading material a bit more carefully while I finish editing, though. What drives you mad while you're editing?

Friday, 5 February 2016

Novel competition

Good Housekeeping is running a novel writing competition at the moment, with a closing date of 31st March.
Entrants must be unpublished and never have had an agent. You need to send in a full synopsis, 5,000 words of your novel, which must be crime/thriller or women's fiction, a 100-word mini biography and a completed entry form from the magazine.
First prize is a book deal, though there are also runner-up prizes, so this is one well worth entering if you fit the entry criteria and have a novel ready to go!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Getting on track

To my own surprise, the times I've planned to write this week, I actually have! I only procrastinated for about half an hour on day one, and then I've been rewriting and editing and tweaking to my heart's content.

I did cheat a little; I followed a lesser view-point character, and I've already completed her voice, from start to finish of the novel. It does mean I feel fairly confident (for second draft purposes!) that her voice is consistent and I've not had her repeat information and so on. I got rid of a few of my authorial tics as well, though they might have passed as hers!

It's given me the appetite and courage to go back to the start and begin the heavy editing...

I've heard many writers say they love the editing process, but it is heavy work for me, and not something I look forward to.

However, I have plans...I was successful at applying to the Romantic Novelist Association's New Writers' Scheme, which is open every January. The fee covers a reading of my manuscript, which is far more reasonable than using a critique service. (Although it has made me anxious about whether there is enough romance in my novel to fit the criteria. Always afraid of failing one way or another..!) So I've set myself a deadline for finishing this edit, and may even fit in time to produce draft three before I send it for reading. I'm sure this will help to keep me 'on task' through the weeks ahead.

It's to be hoped so, for my imagination is sparking hot at the moment. I seem to see 'What if?'s everywhere, and some may be worth pursuing. Some are probably not worth the paper I've scribbled them on. But I'm keen to explore some of them this year, too - perhaps in short stories - but I can't focus on them until my novel is 'done'.

I'm also trying to organise my life so that I can join a writing morning in a nearby town in a couple of weeks. A writer has booked a hall and offered for other writers to join her there, either just to write, or to have someone to talk things over with as they write. I can make good use of either option, and I'm looking forward to it. I just need to sort my child-care to free me up for a couple of hours.

I'm sure things like setting myself a deadline and planning to attend writing events are crucial to keeping me on track with my writing goals for this year. What helps you to focus?

Friday, 27 November 2015

Thinking of Scrivener?

Bronchitis, compulsively early Christmas preparation, upcoming birthdays, work on the house, divorce proceedings... sometimes you can't find time for yourself however hard you try. But half an hour a week is better than nothing!
I've been working on editing one voice throughout my current work in progress. It's a teenage voice (because it's not that long since I was a teenager...it should just have been a fun nostalgic stroll...ha!) and quite distinctive from my own. So I'm editing her sections as a single  narrative. I know they contain the information I need, but I want that consistency of expression and tone, so I'm going to get her polished first! It also feels like a manageable way to start the mammoth editing task.
Because I've used Scrivener, it's also easy to work this way. I'm very much a beginner when it comes to Scrivener - this is the first project I've done using it, and my steam-powered laptop doesn't always make it easy, especially since it's as prone to viruses as my kids are. However, I've just read this fabulous post for Scrivener beginners, and hope it might help you, too, if you fancy trying Scrivener out! (There is a free 30-day trial of Scrivener if you want to take it for a test drive.) I enjoyed this blog post so much that I've ordered Scrivener for Dummies...soon I, too, will be expert!