Friday, 30 December 2011

Goodbye 2011

You know something, I truly think 2011 has been one of my best years ever! I know that's a huge statement to make; to understand why (and in the words of Dr. Doofenshmirtz), you'll need to know a bit of the backstory:

Many, many years ago (although if you're thinking black-and-white, come forward a bit) I wanted to be a writer. I also wanted to be a recluse - I saw myself writing in an attic, with fingerless gloves, churning out works of genius. One day I met a boy who was a musician, and my dreams changed a bit. I now saw myself writing alongside my musician, who would serenade me with songs he was writing. I saw myself sitting in cafes in the long summer months while other people were working, and working in my pyjamas in front of a log fire in the winter avoiding the rain and snow outside.

Reader, I married him.

And then, reader, we had children, a mortgage, bills... and proper jobs...

For years and years, we had proper jobs, jobs that were okay, but also - a lot of the time - less than okay. Hubby was a teacher, I worked in a library. I still wrote, but not a lot, and certainly not enough to have a body of work to send out. My dream job was now just a hobby that I did in the evenings when there was nothing on the telly. And Hubby didn't sing at all. For years he didn't even pick up his guitar....

In 2010, he was inspired to start playing some gigs in local pubs. Then he started playing a few more...

Then - then! - this year, he gave up teaching! It was a big step - we thought about it hard, then took the plunge. I'd already changed my job - I'm now a fitness instructor - and had a lot more time to write. All of a sudden that dream from many, many years ago has come true! (Although I can't claim to be a fully-fledged recluse - what with having a family, friends and a job - I do have fingerless gloves.)

I've been reading other blogs recently where people have not had a good 2011, and I don't want to give the impression that this has been an easy thing to do. It's not, even now. We've had to cut back a lot, budget and re-budget, do without. When a pub cancels a gig at short notice, that's our food money gone. It's scary... it's very scary. But we're happy. We've realised as a family that we can do it - although as a Man City fan giving up Sky Sports in their current spate of glory has been difficult.

So, for that reason, 2011 has been fantastic and I think I'll miss it. I hope 2012 will be just as good.

And I wish that every one of you will find ways to make your dreams come true.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Merry Christmas!!

I tried so hard to get back to my laptop and write a proper Christmas post, but - obviously, as it's the 28th already - I failed. Next year, I'll schedule a post. I might be super-organised and write my Christmas post in October, just to make sure.

I hope everyone had a great time - eating and dranking, overdosing on cake and chocolate and Morecombe and Wise Christmas Specials (probably UK only for that last one) , and spent a great time with their families with no arguments!

I did - a lovely day at my in-laws - but then I got ill. Again. Right now my arms, legs, throat and some of my bones are very sore. I managed some sale shopping yesterday, which - as always, for me - meant buying things that weren't in the sales at all. Every year that happens!

And today, Hubby's cooking Christmas Lunch 2. Yum, yum, can't wait! I just hope my tastebuds hold up long enough for me to enjoy it.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

National Short Story Day - 22nd December

This is just a quickie post. I'm just not getting to my laptop much at the moment, for all the obvious reasons.

The 22nd has been declared National Short Story Day by Arts Council England and Creative Scotland.

(The web site states 22nd is the shortest day, which would make sense as short stories are also short, but I'm sure the shortest day is the 21st, so to be on the safe side - in case the dates have been messed up somewhere - I'm posting this today! If I'm wrong, then I'm simply giving you a day's notice.)

Check out the website, listen to some short stories, follow some links, grab your favourite short story collection and read. I'd love to hear who your favourite short story writers are and what your favourite story/collection is. Mine is Margaret Atwood, and my favourite collection is Ali Smith's The First Person.

In case this is my last post before Christmas:


Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Running out of words

Before I start this post properly, I've recently realised that Blogger doesn't show me all the blogs I follow, and if I refresh the page, it shows me a different selection. This means that, unfortunately, I sometimes miss new posts, and therefore don't read and comment on them. I try to make an effort to read and comment on as many posts as possible, because you are all so wonderful at reading my posts, so I felt really bad when I realised I was missing some. I can't see a way around it. I don't want to go through the hassle of de-camping to another blogging site - I'm used to the features on here, so for the moment I'm staying put. I just wanted to explain.

So - back on topic - I've run out of words. I used them all up on my 'novel' of 45,000 words, and now I'm reading it over and supposedly making notes for the next draft, and I'm stuck - no words. I can see where I need a lot of work - I've managed to scribble Major Rewrite! over quite a few of the pages, but I couldn't see how to start, how to change it. My failsafe tecnique is to lie in bed at night and let my mind drift as I go to sleep. On a good night, I have to turn on the light and scribble notes - sometimes, full sections of text - before lying back down and repeating the process. Even that's not working.

Okay, I thought to myself, no biggie. I'll write a short story instead... No words. I have a blank page. I have a pen. But my imagination isn't playing.

I even did the ironing. Voluntarily. That's how bad it is.

The problem is, this has happened before, after finishing a long piece of work. I didn't write anything for six months. No re-drafting, no new work. Nothing. Last time, I didn't have a blog. This time, I do! I'm hoping that if I keep writing here, evenutally I'll find some words and kick-start myself a lot quicker. Otherwise, I might be forced to take in other people's ironing.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Before I start my second draft...

In my last post, I was being secure when I was supposed to be insecure. Now, today, I'm feeling insecure! Let me share the problem:

I've written a novel - granted, it's very short at the moment at only 45,000 words. Four beta readers read it, liked it (at least that's what they told me) and made a few suggestions which I happened to agree with anyway. The fifth reader was my hubby who said it was a brilliant start to a psychological thriller, but that  I stopped it too soon, and another 100 pages and a really big twist would make it perfect.

Now, I hadn't tried to write a psychological thriller. I don't read psychological thrillers; they're not my thing. Anyway, because the story I've written is very character-based, I suppose - at a push, although I could never bring myself to call it such to an agent or editor - what I've written is... literary!

My hubby reads a lot of Jeffrey Deaver who writes thrillers, so maybe he's just hard-wired to need a dramatic twist. But... am I missing a trick by not writing in this amazing twist (although I have no idea what that twist would be)? I wrote something of a 'aah' moment, but it's not very obvious because hubby didn't get it until I explained it. Hubby's asked me to read a Jeffrey Deaver novel, which I will, because he says that will give me a better idea of what he's talking about.

So, my problem and my question is: should I stick to the story I wanted to tell, or take a right-turn into a completely different genre? Is the label literary something that other people apply to your work, or is it possible to write for that genre? Do you have to be much cleverer than I am to even consider writing something literary?

I'm hoping, when I start to re-read the novel myself, the answers will come naturally. But, in the meantime, if you have any comments, I'd love to read and consider them.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

In Security!

(I wonder how long I can stretch out puns on the word insecurity?)

Well, it's that time of the month again, the first Wednesday of the month, when I lay bare my insecurities.

But, this month, I'm not sure I have any - in fact, as the title suggests, I'm pretty secure.

At the risk of repeating myself, my current level of security stems from signing the contract to have a novella published early next year. Someone likes my work! They like it so much they want to show it off to other people!

It helps that it's a story that I'm particularly fond of. Some things I write are good - more than good, very good (big LOL :-)) - but some grab me (like my favourite Thorntons chocolate), some make my spine tingle as I read the closing lines, some have characters that have truly come alive for me. When one of those stories is accepted, it's like receiving a fantastic school report for my kids, or watching them excel in their school play.

So everything's good.

But, of course, as a writer, I also think a lot. And in the back of my mind, I've been thinking what if they change their mind, what if the company folds? When I read the original email, one of the negative thoughts I immediately had was what if they made a mistake and think they're accepting a different story by a different author?

But, then, as a writer, I think... wouldn't that make an interesting story?

Thursday, 1 December 2011

My 100th Post!!!

Okay, I know this is my third post in four days, but I couldn't wait... It's my blog's centenary! 

Wow - one hundred posts!

So much has happened in the last 16 months - two competition wins and now on the verge of having a novella published. Who'd've thought it! Certainly not me!

When I first started this blog I had three followers for a very long time - three very important followers, because if it hadn't been for them, I doubt I would have lasted very long. I simply hadn't appreciated the work and time I had to put in to gain more. As you can see from this post a few weeks ago, I've only just figured it out.

In those early days, some posts were never even read. I know!! It's like baking a cake that never gets eaten, or buying shoes that'll never be worn.

So, now... I've started to feel a bit sorry for those poor lonely posts, so to mark my centenary here they are, in all their original glory. Be gentle with them, they're very shy! (I have purposefully not read them, so that I wouldn't be tempted to self-edit.)

My writing day - first appeared 30 July 2010

Hmph! - first appeared 25 August 2010

There's always something new to learn - first appeared 30 October 2010

A general chat - first appeared 16 November 2010

Here's to the next 100 posts! My hope by the next anniversary is that I'll have my novel ready to submit, I'll be in the middle of submitting or even publishing a trilogy of novellas, and I'll have a stock of new stories to enter into the many competitions I've bookmarked over the next six months. That'll be enough to keep me out of trouble!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Another award!

Many thanks to S.L. Hennessy at Pensuasion who has given my blog this award ----------->

I nominated her blog for an award in my last post, but if you didn't check out that link, you've got a second chance (so no excuses now!)

I have to nominate 15 blogs to pass the award on to. In doing this, I know I'll double up on people I've nominated in the past. And probably, by now, you all follow each other anyway. But - hey! - here goes:

Sarah at Empty White Pages
Linda at Excuse Me While I Note That Down...
Julie at Gypsy in my soul
Morton S Gray
Rosalind Adam is writing in the rain
Amy at Stuff and nonsense
Teresa at The Wittering Woman ..
JA Bennett at A Book, A Girl, A Journey
Jaxbee at Agenthood and Submissionville
Melissa at Have You Heard
Melissa's Imaginarium
Siobhan Minty
Alynza at The Write Journey

Okay, that's 13, but I'm happy with that. And I believe I've found some new blogs to share with you. Enjoy!

Monday, 28 November 2011

Liebster Award

A few days ago, Rebecca Bradley at Life In Clarity gave me a Liebster Award. Rebecca has a fantastic blog about the process of writing and submitting. She's also very supportive when I'm being less than positive about my own writing. So thank you so much for this award, Rebecca!!

The rules for this award are as follows (copied from Rebecca):
In accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to:
- Thank the person who gave them the award and link back to that person's blog
- Copy and paste the award to their blog
- Reveal the 5 blogs they have chosen to award, commenting on their blog to break the news!
- Hope those people in turn pay it forward by accepting and awarding "The Liebster Blog Award" to bloggers they would like to honour

This award is for anyone with fewer than 200 followers. :)

So here are my chosen blogs:

Murees Dupres at Daily Drama of an Aspiring Writer

Suzie F at My Not So Secret Writing Life 

Jenny at Fulfilling Dream

Marta Szemik Blogging On Her Writing
S.L Hennessy at Pensuasion

I've selected all of these blogs because they are really great reads, and because their authors regularly comment on my blog, and this is my way of saying thank you for that. I love your comments, and I love that feeling of finally being part of the writing community, as opposed to just sitting at home with my laptop!

Apologies for not writing individual thank yous, but I'm in the throes of a nasty headache. (I started this, then realised I probably shouldn't have!)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011


I'm going to be PUBLISHED!!!!

I'm going to be eBooked, Kindled, iBooked, PDF'd!!!!!!!!

I'm afraid - especially after that big opening - I'm going to be a bit vague on the details for now; I don't want to say too much too soon, just in case... well, you know... the realist in me always expects the worst.

But this was the point of starting a blog in the first place, following the journey from being unpublished, through the writing, editing etc, to final product. So, hopefully, as the hard work starts over the next few weeks, I'll be able to share my thoughts and feelings about the process.

The story in question is the one I mentioned here, about tagging it as Romance, so I guess that gamble paid off.

So far, I've signed the contract and emailed it back to the publisher. And I've spent a lot of time grinning. If you've seen me in person, you can probably vouch for the grinning! And right now, I'm just waiting for confirmation that the contract has been received. I just hope I haven't tempted Fate by posting this, but I couldn't wait any longer!!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I haven't jumped around for a while!!

I'm going to be PUBLISHED!!!

Monday, 21 November 2011

Time travelling

Since I'm now looking at Romance markets for some of my stories, I thought I'd do some research into the genre. I was amazed at the variety; practically any genre can have romantic leanings, apparently - including westerns, horror and suspense.

The one that intrigued me the most was time travel, because apart from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger I can't think of another example within fiction, and I'm not sure she deserves a whole genre for one book. I'm sure you'll all be able to correct me and list hundreds (please do!).

The problem with time travel stories is that there are many ways to tie the plot in knots so it doesn't make sense - I'm sure you must have wasted hours of your youth, as I did with my friends, discussing the Back to the Future trilogy - although I don't remember anything glaringly obvious in The Time Traveler's Wife.

One of my mum's favourite films from years ago was Somewhere in Time, with Christopher Reeve. It's a lovely film, a tear-jerker, perfect for wet and windy Sunday afternoons. But - just a slight but this time- the opening scenes put my head in a proper spin. An elderly woman approaches Christopher Reeve and says something along the lines of "My love, please come back to me".

This makes Reeves curious, and he goes off to investigate this woman and discovers a picture of her when she was younger. He falls in love with this picture (as you do!) and decides to travel back in time to meet her.

Now, it's that opening paradox that jars slightly. If he'd just looked at this woman, called her crazy and not given her another thought, he'd never gone back in time to meet her, which means she wouldn't have spoken to him in the present because he would have been a stranger. Which means, there would be no film,... so I can kind of understand why they did it.

Anyway, that was a very long-winded way of saying that you really have to think about your time travel plotline! I'd really love to read your comments on this - I could talk time-travel for hours. Just give me a moment to pour the wine!!

Friday, 18 November 2011

The way my stories write themselves

I've just finished the first draft of a short story.

Originally, I had a 24 year old man coming home from a year of travelling to find his mother has just died. A couple of days later and this man is now 19 and housebound. How does that happen? I have no idea.

My ideas form so subtly that it takes a while - musing on the bus, or while trying to get to sleep - for the actual characters to form. When I started writing the 24 year old version, the words plodded along - there was a lot of conversation, a lot of catching up with old friends and family, and a brand new niece, but not a lot was happening. I'd hoped the mother would become important, but I just couldn't bring her to the fore.

Then suddenly, I started again. New, blank piece of paper, and the 19 year old sprung out and steered the story with his snide apathy, quite unlike the amiable character I'd assumed for him. Now he's chain-smoking and argumentative despite the fact he's reliant on people to help him move around the house. Oh, and the mother is now missing, not dead.

Essentially, it's still the same very vague idea of familial relationships. Practically, it's totally different. I love writing!!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Short story in progress

It was all going so well. I had the title (that always comes first), I had my character and his voice. It took a while to work why he had the voice he had, but it came to me in a flash of inspiration. A small amount of research later, and I was sure I could carry off this idea!

So far, so good.

I had the other characters scuttling in from the side-lines and making themselves indispensable to the plot. Fantastic, I thought, this is going well. Done by Sunday... I thought.

Then what? Nothing!

After days of rampant writing, of waking up in the night to make notes, it was all flowing so well. Then... my two main characters are sitting at their kitchen table - father and son, an awkward relationship - in an awkward silence. The mother/wife has gone missing. The police are involved. Father and son are staring at a piece of toast...

Can you sense the tension? Can you hear the emptiness of their relationship? I could. I can. But... then it all stops. I have no idea where to go next, how to get them up from the kitchen table and to the end of the story. I know what happens then - titles and endings, I'm brilliant with those; it's just the pesky bit in the middle that has me tearing my hair out.

The truth is, I paused. I stopped for a day or two because of work and other busy-ness (as opposed to business, which it technically ought to be, but looks wrong) got in the way, and then my pen didn't want to start again. It's not writer's block, it's much less severe than that, it's writer's blip. But that's annoying enough when you're in the zone and everything's flowing.

I'm hoping by writing about it here I'll kick start myself... I hope!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

My niche?

In this post, a couple of months ago, I bemoaned the fact that I didn't seem to fit the current market. I wasn't mainstream enough for the mainstream; I wasn't experimental enough for the experimental market; I definitely didn't fit a genre.

Not long afterwards, I submitted a piece of work - I took a risk and suggested it might work as Romance/Contemporary. Now, I had no problem with Contemporary, because it's set today; but Romance was more of a gamble because it's not a happy-ever-after piece that I assumed Romance readers required.

Then - then! - it occured to me that if I marketed at least some of my work as Romance, I'd immediately be challenging, daring and surprising - the words that confused me so much in my last post - within that genre.

Have I - eventually - found my niche?

Oh, and if you're wondering, the gamble paid off and I've had some positive feedback on my submission; although I'm not sure whether they agree with the Romance/Contemporary tag yet. I'm hoping I'll have some news about it in the next couple of months!

Thursday, 3 November 2011


I have thirteen followers!!! Yay!!!

So, a big welcome to my brand new followers Maldita, Melissa and Robyn! At the moment, I can't figure out how to follow people from Friend Connect - is it possible?

Please have a look around my blog and make yourselves at home. Sorry I haven't tidied up, but I wasn't expecting visitors.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

An insecurity too far?

This is my post for this month's Insecure Writer's Support Group.

I've been hesitating over writing this post, for reasons that will soon become apparent.

I'm insecure this month - and last month, to be honest, but I chickened out of writing about it - about my blog. And, yes, I'm aware this will come across as a Please follow my blog post; but it's not meant that way - hence the hesitating (and initially writing something else that didn't ring true, deleting that and writing this).

I look at the blogs I follow, and the blogs I continue to discover through IWSG, and they all seem to have lots of followers; some of them are younger than mine, and yet they have hundreds of followers. I'm not going to admit how many I have, but think of a number and chop it into little pieces and you might be close.

Okay, so that's enough self-pity. Now for some self-help:

Problem 1. I have a blog, but I have nothing to say. The point of this blog was to document my expanding writing career. I started it in July 2010, when I was being quite successful - this year has been less so. My current novel is being read by some fantastic readers which means I don't have any joys of editing posts to write; I'm buried in research for publishers, which is tedious enough to do let alone talk about; I have no new projects.

Problem 2. Possibly people view my blog because they think I'm a proper writer (ie. published) and quickly realise I'm not. From a networking point of view it's like Tom Cruise befriending the guy who played  fourth- man-walking-dog in Eastenders last night.

Resolution 1. Perhaps I need to go back to the original premise, which was to record for myself the twists and turns towards success, and ignore the stats. (I've written before about my love of the stats; it's turning into a poisonous relationship.)

Resolution 2. For my part of the bargain, maybe I can slightly change the focus - I could include more links, more snippets of useful information, more... erm... I'll give it some more thought.

Thanks for reading - and apologies for the self-pity. Normal service resumed soon!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Coincidence in fiction

The other day, our car broke down on a busy dual carriageway. While my husband was on the phone, and the kids and I were standing in the rain on the grass verge, a good Samaritan stopped and offered us a tow home. At that very moment, my brother-in-law passed by, and gave me and the kids a lift home while my husband was precariously towed.

My brother-in-law was only passing because the route he'd been taking to work was dogged by tractors, and his first meeting of the day ran over.

It occurred to me at the time that we'd been very lucky. But then it occurred to me, because I'm always on the look out for story ideas, that the coincidence of my brother-in-law passing would be a step too far for fiction. Luck is not a plot devise. Or, at least, that's what I've been told by all those 'How to Write...' books.

In fiction, the characters have to get themselves out of trouble - in fiction, being rescued by a knight in shining armour should be reserved for Snow White and Rapunzel (although even Rapunzel had the foresight to grow her hair and, therefore, help herself). When contemporary characters are in peril, too easy a solution makes the reader feel cheated: a lottery win when we were never told they played, a screwdriver pulled from an oddly placed pocket of an evening dress... In fiction, we'd probably have been left with the choice to wait or walk - neither very appealing.

So, question, do you feel cheated by a plot that's too easily/coincidentally resolved?

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Versatile Blogger Award

My blog has been awarded the Versatile Blogger Award, by Teresa at The Wittering Woman.

I now have to tell you seven things about me (I assume they should be interesting, but that's a step too far), and then nominate fifteen - FIFTEEN!! - blogs to pass the award on to.

So here goes:
1) I love the book Pride & Prejudice. I LURVE it. I read it at least once a year, and if I ever find myself ill in bed, I bring out the BBC Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle version. I own two copies of the book - one is a beautiful copy that was given as a leaving present from my job in a library.

2) I swapped a job in a library for a job in a gym.

3) I got very excited the day I managed to leg press 100kg at the gym. Since then, I've backtracked somewhat - but my goal is to get to 105kg. Oh, and complete a pull-up.

4) I support Manchester City - so I'm quite happy at the moment.

5) I hate shopping, even when I have something to shop for - I usually get frustrated and go to Thorntons for a hot chocolate (they give you a free choc with every cup - why go anywhere else?!)

6) I love listening to bagpipes.

7) I'm very bad at following new blogs, and therefore might have trouble finding fifteen blogs to nominate. My goal for the long, dark winter months is to make new blog friends!

# # # # # # # # # # # #

Phew! That was hard. I was trying not to repeat the facts I gave in a previous post. I think I managed (note: no link to that post so you can't check up on me).

When Teresa accepted her award, she said that she might repeat some of the blogs that her awarder mentioned, and I fear I may do the same. I was going to try not to award blogs I've awarded before, but after trying that for a couple of minutes, I only got four, so I've included a couple from previous losts. They're all great, and nominated because of that reason: I don't follow blogs I don't enjoy.

S. L. Hennessy at Pensuasion
Rosalind Adam at Rosalind Adam is writing in the rain
TOM VOWLER at How to Write a Novel
Suzie F. at My Not So Secret Writing Life
 Alex J. Cavanaugh at Alex J. Cavanaugh
Sarah Pearson at Empty White Pages
LindaK at Excuse Me While I Note That Down...
Jenny at Fulfilling Dreams
Amy at Stuff and nonsense
Sally at Quiller's Place - View From The Shed

And a totally random one about fitness and training:
Team Aegis at Aegis Training | London Personal Trainers - Fitness News and Views

Eleven. Not bad. But time to address Number 7 in my list of facts about me!

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The Man Booker Prize 2011

Julian Barnes wins the 2011 Man Booker Prize with a novella! Yippee!

That's all I really want to say. I write novellas, and therefore I'm expecting a huge surge for shorter fiction. (Actually, I don't write novellas - I write novels, but they seem to be complete at around novella length, if that distinction makes sense.)

Except there probably won't be a huge influx of shorter fiction. Julian Barnes probably got this novel published because he's a successful writer and his editor was indulging him. Not many publishers entertain the idea of novellas, or indeed short story collections, from unpublished writers, and I wonder how many wonderful writers are being missed with this policy.

The cut-off for novel-length seems to be different depending on the genre and the individual publisher. 70,000 here, 85,000 there - which makes it, once more, difficult for the writer: I don't think any new author writes for a particular publisher, it's a rather limiting approach should that publisher say thanks, but no thanks.

To refuse to even consider a novella submission seems odd to me: "We really love this story, Ms Writer, but you need at least 30,000 more waffle and padding to be of interest to us."

Why? How would 30,000 words of staring out of windows, brushing teeth, considering the minutae of a tedious train journey enhance the story? Answer: it probably wouldn't. But a nice thick book would stand out on the book shop shelves, and they could sell it for £2.99 more than a shorter book.

I could easily add 30,000 words to my 44,000 word WIP, but it would compromise the style and the impact of the story.

All I can hope is that this is the start of something new within the publishing industry. Fingers crossed!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Over to you...

Following very quickly in the footsteps of my last blog/rant, I'm just wondering: what is the daftest/weirdest/most hair-pullingly ridiculous celebrity book you've ever seen? (I'll take novels 'written' by the celebrity or autobiography.) There's no prize, apart from the joy of ranting!

I'll get the ball rolling with Katie Price, not least for being four years younger than me and already having four autobiographies!!!

Over to you...

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The silly book season

This!!!! Tyra Banks becomes a best selling author

I suppose it's telling that the article is in the Fashion section of the Telegraph and not the Culture section, but...!!! I just want to fall on my knees and scream 'Why!!!!!!!?'

You can see I'm irked by my irrational use of exclamation marks.

Firstly, I'm irked because Tyra Banks is a best seller. Straight away. First book. Bam! Thank you very much, just put all that lovely money over there. Many, many thousands of writers are barely scraping by and Tyra Banks - who's worth quite a lot, I should imagine - just makes a mint.

Secondly, I'm irked because I'm sure - well, I'd bet a packet of Revels, but not a triple chocolate cheesecake - that someone may have suggested writing book to her. Gasp! I'm not sure she's gone home after a hard days modelling, or judging, and poured over a half-completed manuscript, desperate for the right words. Second-and-a-half, I'm not convinced she went anywhere near a pen, not alone anyway.

Thirdly, I'm irked (and I seem to have lost my thesaurus) because her characters are "aspiring models Myrracle, Desperada, Zarpessa Zarionneaux, and Theophilus Lovelaces", and that just smacks of a seven-year-old girl playing dress up.

And lastly, and this is possibly the biggest, I'm concerned that serious literature will get overlooked in the mad celebrity-led publishing party. Who - really! - buys these books, this book? I'm also concerned - as I am with TV news coverage and some newspapers - that we are being dumbed down without our knowledge. If all you see on the shelves are books by Ms Banks, Katie Price et al, that's all you think there is; and finally you'll stop seeking out Margaret Atwood, Ali Smith, Alice Munro (chosen because that's what I can see in front of me - other very good writers also exist!).

Yes, fiction should be about entertainment - but surely entertainment can make you think, empathise with another viewpoint, become irate on behalf of a downtrodden character. Since the days of Shakespeare we've been encouraged to embrace characterisation and plot.

I'm not sure Myrracle or Desperada will find too many issues to deal with.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Location, location, location

Years ago I read Madeleine's Ghost by Robert Girardi, bought solely because I loved the front cover. I've read it several times since, because I equally loved his evocative descriptions of New Orleans and Brooklyn. He has a wonderful knack of bringing these places alive and making even the most mundane of daily occurances feel exotic, just because it's happening in a different country. (While searching for the link on Amazon, I discovered he's written lots of other books, so I've now added them all to my list of books I need to read.)

I got to thinking, "Well, actually, Brooklyn isn't that exotic." Probably the people who live and work in Brooklyn don't think it's exotic at all, it's just home.

I set myself a task of writing about my hometown. At the time, I had a story that I was already working on which was set around some generic inner city canal. Luckily, my hometown has a river, so I switched location, changed some of the descriptions to match the real area and hey presto! - I had an exotic town.

Except I didn't. Because in the meantime, I'd started writing another story that linked with the first one. And my descriptions got a bit out of hand. My narrator added in a manor house that doesn't exist in my hometown. And then this same wayward narrator added a war memorial in a town square, which also doesn't exist.

Writers, I believe, do this all the time: it's called creative license, and means I can play around with geography as I wish. But by playing around so much - and actually missing out the most famous feature of my hometown - I'm left with a place that, while being very important to the stories, cannot be named; and I'm left with stories that haven't become as exotic as I'd hoped.

Although, maybe if I find a reader who lives in Brooklyn, they'd see the romance that I found in their town within the pen of Robert Girardi.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Insecure, Moi?

The premise of the Insecure Writers Support Blog is here, so I'm not going to explain it again. There's also a link on the same post to all the bloggers taking part, so please have a look and check out a few of them!

So, why am I insecure this month?

Because I didn't win a competition. In fact, I didn't win two.

My writing 'career' has been a little bit hit and miss, as you can see for yourself if you check out my Writing CV. There's lots of activity - like last year, for example, when I placed in three competitions - followed by a vast desert of non-publication. Every time I reach this desert, I feel like my writing life is over, done, finished. (As a writer, I feel it's my duty to be melodramatic!)

This year, as with every other year where this has happened, I've been locked away working on longer pieces of work, forgetting to submit - or not submitting at all, while telling myself I really ought to - to magazines. So I know there is a legitimate reason - ie. it's my own fault! But that doesn't help - I don't want rational thought. I want to wallow! But, on the other hand, while I'm wallowing - I mean, working hard on the bones of a novel - new names are emerging, new talents are changing the goalposts and moving the short story market on a few notches.

Competitions are my lifeline, my one way of proving I still exist - it's much easier to send out entries to comps than to research markets and email covering letters. So, when I don't win, don't come second or third, don't even make a mention on the long-list, I wonder if I'm still really here...

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Music to write to

After reading Sarah Pearson's Musical Stories series, I've been considering the part music plays in my own writing - and using it as an excuse to share some links. I love music - if there's none to be heard, I create my own personal soundtrack in my head.

It occurred to me, while writing that last sentence, that some of my current writer's block issues might be to do with not playing music while I write at the moment. There are two reasons for this. Now that I'm writing in the dining room and my hubby's home more often during the day, I don't want to disturb him. Also, as he's a musician and currently writing some songs for an album, I might miss something fantastic blasting out from the other room.

But perhaps the time has come to plug myself back in. So, to get me started, here are some links, and some memories.

Years ago, I was writing a novel, which will never see the light of day. It was a pretty depressing novel, and I played the same album on a constant loop, Try Whistling This by Neil Finn. As the novel progressed, and my depression deepened (yes, the story is that depressing), I listened to this album more, and thought the album was equally depressing. It's not, it's wonderful - it was definitely a case of fiction skewing reality. The song that most seemed to mirror the main character is this one, Last One Standing:

This next song I used to listen to on the way to work. It sent shivers down my spine. I had a image of a girl floating just beneath water whenever I heard it. But it was like a dream, I couldn't quite catch it to work out what the story was. I just had this image. Finally the story came, only fairly recently - I'm still reading and tweaking. The song is called False Alarm by Cherry Ghost, but I could only find a German YouTube which is why it's announced as Charry Ghost, Fals Alarm:

This last song didn't inspire a story, but it was what I was listening to all the time while I wrote Beth . Click the link and search 'Beth' - it's on the page, way down. I just think it is one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

So, I hope you've enjoyed these choices - embarrassingly 'easy listening', I hadn't realised! What songs have inspired you? (Don't worry, Sarah, you don't have to answer - your list would be long far too long :-))

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Finishing one story/starting another

I thought it was about time I wrote about some of the good stuff about writing. I'm concerned you all think I'm pulling my hair out all the time, and I'm not... I'm really not.

Today's Really Good Thing is that I finished a story that I wasn't sure I'd ever finish. I've been mentioning it for a while, possibly on this blog, definitely on Facebook (the premonition story). I was writing it in a very ad hoc way, which meant when I wrote the last sentence and decided I ought to read it all the way through I was a little apprehensive. I've been writing from a chopped up story (the original is twice as long!), cutting and pasting key paragraphs - I was literally cutting with scissors and sticking paragraphs together with cellotape (I'm at the cutting edge of technology, me). I was a little worried that I'd used the same paragraphs in several different places... and I haven't. Phew, the relief! I'll leave it for a couple of days then maybe print it out and read it from the page.

Because the story is now half as long as it used to be, I'm searching for ideas for another story to make up the word count for the collection. I've got several stories lurking in a filing cabinet that haven't seen the light for a good few years - I'm so wrung out from this current story, I haven't got the strength to start anything from scratch. A couple of these old stories are very weird indeed, but that kind of suits the way the collection is going, so tomorrow - after the gym and before work - I'll grab my huge sheaf of muddled up pages, curl up on the settee and see if I can't make a jolly good story!

Sunday, 25 September 2011


Something has gone badly wrong with my time-and-blog-reading management. I look away for two days and suddenly everyone has written a post, or in some cases two!! I guess sitting and staring at a blank piece of paper, alternating with online Sudoku, is not the way to write/blog.

I will, from now on (and this will make more sense if you read my last post), only write at the table, and set aside specific time to read blogs. There, sorted. Time-and-blog-reading management back in order.

But, apologies to anyone who's blog I've ignored in the past few days - I'll try harder this week!

Thursday, 22 September 2011

The trouble with writers block when writing to a deadline

The trouble with writers block when writing to a deadline is that the deadline comes ever closer, and the work stays the same length, to put it simply. The deadline I have is a self-imposed one, in a way - I'll be entering it into a competition, if I ever finish it. But if I don't finish, it's not the end of the world. There are other competitions, other stories I could enter instead.

But, I came round to the thought that if I can't meet self-imposed deadlines, how will I ever cope when I'm faced with a real live deadline from a real live publisher (as opposed to the dead publishers who are always on my case to submit stuff :-))

Part of the problem is that I've been without my study for over six weeks, so everything I used to have at hand is now scattered around the house. I started off setting myself up at the dining table, and that was quite productive; but now I sit cross-legged on the settee, with rough drafts and notebooks all over the floor, and the lure of Homes Under the Hammer. I know it seems like I've answered my problem, but I'm sure there's more to it than that.

The story I'm working on was written and complete; but then I re-read it and hated it. I'd somehow slipped into a sort of stream of consciousness, which doesn't suit me, too much waffle. Easy, I thought, a cut there, a rewrite here, and it would be sorted. It's a little less easy than that. I can't get the voice right, I can't get the plot worked out the way I want it. I know the ending, it's the getting there that's difficult.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

A lovely mention on someone else's blog

I love using the usage statistics on Blogger for making me feel good. I like seeing how many people are visiting - there's even a graph!

Because I check these stats quite - ehem - regularly, I notice when new people visit. And I follow the links to their blog to check them out too. So image my surprise, and delight, when I followed this link and specifically found this post!

So, thank you Pam Torres for your kind comments about my blog.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

And then there was one...

Phew! That was a busy few days. Now I'm all alone in my blog, sweeping up, putting chairs back upright, and taking the empties to the recycling centre!

It was good though - thank you to everyone who stopped by. I know I enjoyed 'meeting' lots of new bloggers - and I'm hoping to keep up with all of these new blogs. Don't know whether I'll get back to any actual writing though.... I'll have to be very strict with myself and maybe - argh, no, don't do it - turn off the wi-fi.... (If this was a soap-opera blog, there would be much staring into camera, Acorn Antique-style right now.)

On the whole, I realised I'm not as insecure as I thought I was (although my hubby will find that very hard to believe). And I also realised that I was giving out advice to people who had the same worries as me, even though I don't listen to that advice myself. Though, when other people gave me the same advice back, I thought 'Oh yes, they're so right!' In my job as a gym instructor, I give out advice all the time. And, I make sense. Yet I'm so appallingly bad at taking that advice myself. Even though I know it's good advice and should listen.

I put a lot of myself in each and every piece of work I write, so some of my doubts come from the fact that I'm sharing all my foibles. I don't write autobiographically, but there will be an idea that I've had, a comment I've made in real life, a situation that has happened included. I can't not do that. By nature of being a writer, you open yourself out and ask people to delve into your psyche.

But... that's the bit I like best!!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Insecure Writers Support Group Post

On a day when I was feeling particularly insecure, I discovered this, The Insecure Writer's Support Group, which I found mentioned on Sarah Pearson's blog. Perfect timing, Sarah, because today I am feeling particularly insecure. The idea of the group is to post - on the first Wednesday of the month - about my insecurities as a writer, and to help other people battle theirs.

Today's insecurity is the one I usually have, and have probably mentioned before. I don't think I fit today's writing. I'm not a genre writer, which leaves those odd groupings such as literary, experimental. I consider myself to be mainstream when confronted with other genres, but mainstream publications don't. I fall between the cracks. I even fall between the cracks of magazines that claim to publish people who fall between the gaps!

I've been searching new markets, and found editors who wanted dangerous writing, who wanted daring and surprising, who wanted to be challenged. I don't do that: I write stories about ordinary people doing - on the whole - ordinary things. And then - then! - when I read the stories that are all of these things, sometimes - sometimes - I don't understand them.... ssshh... don't repeat that too loudly, will you?

Therefore, today's insecurity is that I'm a fake and a fraud.

My other insecurity is that I've totally misunderstood what I should be doing for this support group. One thing I think I understood correctly, is that I should include the list of other people who have signed up. So, here it is - at least I'll have lots of new blogs to look at while I'm wallowing in self-pity:

Monday, 5 September 2011

Yay September!

I love September. With the kids back to school (sorry, I had to mention them, they take up a large part of the summer), it feels like a brand new start, even more so than New Year or spring. I worked in a college for a very long time, so I have a feeling that the September feeling will always be with me.

Because of this new start feeling, I've given my blog an overhaul. I hope you like it. If the contrasts give you a headache, let me know and I'll change it.

I've got my usual September list of things to do, both around the house and writing-wise. I'll focus on the writing stuff here, because I'm sure you don't want to read about my front garden issues!

- I finally got around the submitting a short story to a magazine. Just the one, but it's a start. I'm currently revising another two to send out, hopefully by the end of September. I also want to research new markets, and I'm looking at international markets as well as British.

- I've just had feedback from one reader on my novel, and the manuscript is now in the hands of another... cue more nailbiting! Although, having spent four months writing it, it's quite nice not to have to look at it for a while.

- I've got an idea for something, but it's so small, so sketchy at the moment, I can't even decide whether it's a short story or something longer. I've had the first couple of paragraphs written down on the pad beside my bed for a couple of weeks. I keep re-reading it, but nothing else is following just yet.

- I'm going to have a back massage and facial next week. I'd love the luxury of being able to do this more often, but at the moment it's definitely just a huge treat. It's kind of a writing thing - honest!- my mind doesn't relax during massages, it works overtime. I ought to take my pad and pencil with me.

I hope everyone else is feeling as motivated and ready to work as me. It's a great feeling having too much to do, isn't it?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Tasting the Grass

I'm taking down the story that was published here, because I hope to include it in a collection of short stories.

I am not deleting the post entirely because I had some lovely comments that I selfishly want to keep.

Apologies if this isn't the post you were expecting.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Things that scare me...

Are books dead, and can authors survive? - Guardian 22/8/11

This scares me. It scared me on the 4th October 2010, when I wrote about something similar, and actually I haven't really got anything new to add. But the above article did remind me how much I hate the idea.

Thinking back to the way there has been so much uproar over libraries closing, the majority of people feel the same way as me. You don't need a building to house ebooks; therefore, if you want the building, you want the books that are inside them.

When I was younger, imagining my life (in a freezing attic, wearing fingerless gloves) as a writer, I never pictured myself uploading files to a computer. I imagined opening a big box full of first editions. I imagined hardbacked books, with crisp white paper, with a beautifully illustrated front cover. (Do front covers exist in ebook format?) I imagined being able to give my friends and family complimentary, signed copies. (How do you sign an ebook?)

I have not yet had any form of book published. The longer it takes, the less likely my mother will ever get that signed copy - unless something drastic happens.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill

Once again, I'm reviewing - loosely - a book that's been around for a while. Since 1983, in this case. I'm currently writing a ghostly short story, so I think I was drawn to this book because of that. The actual ghostly occurrences in The Woman in Black are few and far between (I think there are probably more in my short story - perhaps I've overdone it), but it's a great example of building atmosphere and tension. I read it in one sitting, because I couldn't bear to put it down.

Although it was published in 1983, the setting is much earlier, and the style even earlier than that. It works because the roundabout style sucks you in, so you're slap bang in the middle before you even realise it, much like - I assume - if you were actually being haunted. The comparison I want to use is on the tip of my tongue, but I can't remember (I've just scanned my book shelves, and it still won't come).

Anyway, moving on...

My own story is also quite a traditional ghost story, albeit told by the point of view of the ghost. I don't know how that happened, sometimes the voice is fully formed before I work out how to convey it. Now that I've read The Woman in Black I'm re-reading what I've already done, just to make sure I'm pacing the action correctly rather than holding back too much, or dropping everything onto the page at once.

Sometimes, I really feel as though I've left trying to get my work published far too late. Sometimes I have the idea that I'm just a little, tiny, weeny bit .... ssshhh .... old-fashioned...

Sunday, 14 August 2011

... and also my Year 7 English teacher and my cat!

Aw shucks! I just got over the thrill of being awarded the Liebster award when my friend and fellow blogger Amy at Stuff and Nonsense, who I awarded with a Liebster award on Saturday, awarded me a Stylish Blogger Award.

The premise of this award is that to accept it, I must tell you ten things about myself that you don't already know, and then nominate further bloggers. Ummmmm..... As I'm quite an open person, so I'm not sure all of these revelations will come as any kind of surprise, but I'll do my best:

1) I'm somewhat superstitious, but not in the normal ways. I never kiss anyone over a threshold, I have to be on the same side of the door, and if I go out but have to return to the house - forgotten keys, umbrella etc - I have to sit down for the count of 10. Admittedly I don't walk under ladders, but that's not for superstitious purposes, I'm just so clumsy I'm afraid I'll bump into it and cause havoc.

2) I fully expect one day to be walking down the road and for a full Grease finale-style song-and-dance routine to spring up around me. The rise of iPods has gone some way to making me even more hopeful.

3) The first single I bought was Chesney Hawkes' I am the one and only.

4) My first crush was David Essex.

5) My second published short story was basically a sex scene with a bit of plot tacked on the beginning and end. I was 19. My mum read it, said it was good, then wrapped it in cling film. She did the same to a Beatrix Potter book. I'm still not sure what this says about me, my mum or Beatrix Potter.

6) I am proud to say I have never watched a single episode of Sex and the City, nor either of the films.

7) I haven't eaten any chocolate for two - possibly three - days, which is a minor miracle for me. And now I've realised, guess what I'm thinking about?

8) I cannot sing a single note in tune, but that doesn't stop me singing in the car while my singer husband drives. I think he's learnt how to tune me out now.

9) Everything else I could write here is too embarrassing, so I'm going to stop here and leave you wondering!

And now, it's time to nominate my bloggers (which will be different to the last selection, of course):

Rebecca Bradley at Life in Clarity for always having a friendly word to say, being positive, finding time to comment on blog posts, and therefore showing me how to be a great blogger.

Sally at Quiller's Place - View From the Shed for organising the MYWYN challange and being incredibly supportive and encouraging to new bloggers and writers.

Sarah at Empty White Pages especially nominated for her dedication to her current series of literary musical references.


Saturday, 13 August 2011

I'd like to thank my mother, my husband and my teddy bear...

Rebecca at Life in Clarity has given me and my blog a 'Liebster' award, which I'm so excited about. When I'm sat here babbling away, I never know how many people will ever read it. To know someone thinks my blog is great, and great enough for an award, is lovely and warming. Rebecca's blog is also a great one, which I love reading, so check her out too.

Here are the rules of the award:

The Liebster Award (meaning “friend” in German) is meant to connect us even more and spotlight new bloggers who have less than 200 followers – but hopefully not for long. The rules are:

1. Show your thanks to the blogger who gave you the award by linking back to them.
2. Reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.
3. Post the award on your blog.
4. Bask in the love from the most supportive people on the Internet – other writers.
5. And best of all – have fun and spread the karma!

Here are my choices:

Jen Campbell at This is not the six word novel who probably has far more than 200 followers now on account that she writes, within her blog, a very successful list of 'Weird thing people say in bookshops'. She works in a shop and people say weird things to her.

Amy Cockram at Stuff and Nonsense who uses her blog to review books in a very warm and witty way. We studied A-Level English together, although she remembers so much more than me!

Maria Perry Mohan at Gaelikaa's Diary has a wonderful way with words. She is part of a group of bloggers who choose a weekly topic to write about. As a result, her blog is varied and interesting.

Valerie O'Riordan at Not Exactly True who won the 2010 Bristol Short Story Prize.

Linda K at Excuse Me While I Note That Down who started her blog in May and notes all the ups and downs of writing - rejections and good ideas all in the same post!

Monday, 8 August 2011

Handing over my baby

Tomorrow I will be handing my novel in progress over to my lovely reader. (But don't let flattery sway you, Helen!)

I know this is important, especially with a novel. So far, from the very first germ of the idea around the middle of February, it's taken me six months to get to this stage (which is actually the shortest time I've ever taken to write anything over 10,000 words, so I'm quietly impressed with myself). Because a novel is a huge investment of time and energy - there are so many drafts and read-throughs still to complete - I need a reader to make sure I'm on the right track.

I know this is important, but I hate it. And I have no idea why. It really is like passing your precious new-born baby to a friend. You know he's in safe hands, but you're edgy until he's back in your arms.

To distract myself, I've given myself an impossible deadline to have a collection of stories ready to submit for a competition at the beginning of September. I thought they were pretty much complete, but now I've decided to rewrite the majority of them. There might not be a lot of blogging going on for a couple of weeks - instead I'll be battling inner demons, talking to ghosts and committing the odd - literary - murder!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

A murky pit

I haven't posted for a while, because I'm so immersed in the murky pit of my novel that I'm afraid any words not directly linked to it will just come out as jibberish.

I'm currently trying to take my 44,000 word novel up to commercial novel length. It's hard because I thought I'd told the story, and now I realise I missed bits out. Bits that I assumed, at the time of writing, would be easily filled in by the reader, and now realise probably wouldn't be unless they were reading it with my head. And, really, I don't think many people could handle being in my head.

The term murky pit is not supposed to be a negative comment - it's more the feeling I get when I look up after several hours with my head in the computer or huge folder of paper. My head is swimming, I feel jetlagged. The black words on white paper dance about, and I'm sure they re-order themselves when I'm not looking.

The fact that this part of the process has coincided with the start of the school holidays, a heap of decorating and therefore a whole lot of furniture not in its rightful room, AND a chocolate craving the size of Antartica, means my head really isn't in the right mood for blogging too.

(I've also just realised I totally missed the Booker longlist announcement, so I have absolutely no opinion of it whatsoever.... And I call myself a writer!!)

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Day 80... things that I've learnt...

So, today is the last day of the MYWYN challenge of writing 80,000 words in 80 days. You'll notice I'm blogging instead of writing any more of the novel - although, there'd be more words to my overall total if I included all the blog posts I've written since 1st May. However, I haven't counted, so I'm not adding them in.

The grand total is.... 43,457 words!

I thought, as I've already psycho-analysed my attempt, that I would list the things that I've learnt during this challenge:

- my family like clean clothes, but they're not so fussed about ironed clothes (until 5 minutes before they're due to go out!)

- the school day is not very long at all

- red pens have a habit of disappearing just when you really need them

- I write best with Absolute Radio, but Homes Under the Hammer works just as well

- I can't write without editing as I go along

- I'm probably not cut out for novel writing, but I've got my fingers crossed that a publisher is at least curious enough to read it.

Well, I think there are enough lessons there for one day.

I've really enjoyed this challenge. I've enjoyed the actual writing every day, the companionship of knowing others are attempting the same thing, keeping up to date via the Facebook group and everyone's blogs. I'd like to thank Sally Quilford for setting up this challenge, and I'll definitely be joining in with the next one. And also thank you to all the new followers of my blog on the back of this. I hope you've enjoyed reading my exploits as much as I've enjoyed reading all of yours!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Ode to my study...

This is the room where I've spent the past eight or nine years. I've written two novels in here and countless short stories. On that computer I've opened emails telling me I've won 1st and 3rd prizes, or been shortlisted, or totally failed and should never darken their doorstep again (Okay, that last one is a lie, but isn't that how rejections sometimes hit you?)

In the window, you can see the outline of a Captain Jack Sparrow wobbly head. In the pen pot I have a purple wand that a late colleague gave to me the day we dressed up for Comic Relief, and an orange feather.

The opened file is the novel I've been working on for MYWYN, the 80,000 words in 80 days challenge.

Most of this is going to be packed away in boxes, including my absolutely wonderful desk...

This perfect room - this sanctuary - is to become a bedroom for a pre-teen boy, who will make it smell and fill it with dirty clothes and muddy shoes and half-eaten snacks. The door will be slammed a lot more than it's used to, and the paintwork will have to contend with a lot more Blu-Tac than it's ever dealt with before. My poor study... I'm not sure it knows what I'm letting it in for!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Random thoughts on what I think is Day 74

On Day probably 74, I've got to the end of a third-ish draft and have 42,351 words of my novel(la) sorted. The second draft was printed out and covered with blue ink additions and rewites. Then I put it aside for a couple of days and out came the green pen, and further re-writes.

I think what I really need is one of those pens with 15 (?) colours in it, like I had at school. As I remember it, there was one year at school when everyone had one of those pens; it became a necessity, although I don't ever remember using many of the less common colours, mostly because they were too light/faint to be clearly read. But right now, with this penchant for covering one manuscript with colour-coded rewrites, it would be very useful.

I'm just about to print this newly completed draft, and then the coloured rewrites will happen all over again. Printing it out is always a big thing for me. For a start it will take a wad of 189 sheets of paper (which is a lot, when by now I though no one would be using paper - that's what they told us in the 1990s!), and also it makes what I've written so far permanent. I can't distance myself from it. If I stumble across a section which doesn't flow, which is just plain daft, it's mine - I can't deny it.

In much the same way, I'm also delaying passing it to anyone to read. I love having people read my short stories (although I do pace or walk out of the room) because I pretty much know my short stories are ok. But I'm not a novel writer, however much I would like to see, at some stage, a couple of them published, alongside - hopefully - a few collections of short stories...

I have my dream back-catalogue already in my head - is that weird?

Well, that's all for this post - I told you it was random!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

The Catcher in the Rye

I'm currently reading The Catcher in the Rye. I've never read it before, but it always appears on 100 Greatest Novels and other lists of that ilk; so when I saw it on the library shelves this week, I thought I'd give it a go.

As a novel, it's okay. Yeah, I'd go a far as saying it's all right. Granted, I'm probably not the target audience JD Salinger had in mind when he was writing it: I'm female, I'm a lot older than the protagonist, and I'm sure that being a teenager in the 40s was a lot different to being a teenager in the 80s/90s, when I was doing it.

But, probably because of the things I've just mentioned, I wonder how it's become a classic. I'm on page 75 out of 192, so perhaps something exciting happens in a minute, but so far it's been a pretty staid, safe analysis of two very carefully observed days.

I know the word classic is subjective. For me, classic novels are To Kill a Mockingbird, The Handmaid's Tale, maybe something by Dickens. A classic novel, for me, should show me a situation from another perspective, leaving me thinking about the subject... and possibly even teach me a something. It should be a book I could read over and over again, and still find something new within the pages.

Maybe because The Catcher in the Rye has been in my consciousness for so long, I've built it up to be something it could not possibly be. I didn't know what the story was before I started reading - maybe I was expecting to be blown away, and I wasn't.

Now, I'm left wondering whether fiction can fulfil that desire or whether, because of the age we live in, only films with their 3D effects can provide that. I hope not. There are still books that leave me spellbound - maybe these are the classics of the future.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Something nifty I saw on someone else's blog...

Except I can't remember whose blog it was, or I would give them a shout out here. Sorry, fellow blogger!

Anyway, it's nifty, and it's on the right hand side of this page ---->

It's a Follow by Email button. I know a lot of people who read this blog are not signed into Blogger/Google or whatever else it is (I'm feeling so computer literate right now!), but possibly they would like to know when a new post is available. This - I assume - will allow them to receive emails when I update my blog.

Now, I need a guinea pig to sign up and tell me whether this does happen as easily as that.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Day 60

Apparently it's Day 60 of MYWYN and I should be happily swimming around in 60,000 words. But I'm not. I'm paddling about in precisely 39,103 of my novel plus 2450 words of a short story. A grand total of 41,553 words since the beginning of May.

Ummm.... what happened?

Well, as I said at the start, I didn't expect to write 80,000 words for the same novel. I've never written that much. That would be akin to writing a saga, with sequels, for me - because I write very bare prose. It works well in short stories, and I've found it can work well in longer length pieces, including novels, if I plan it right and don't ever expect to sell it - because unless the font is very large and the paper very thick, it would look very slim on a Waterstone's bookshelf.

Not that it hasn't been done. I own novels that are less than 150 pages. But to manage publication I think you need to be a tried and tested author who fancies a bit of a change.

But that's beside the point. This post is to ask myself where I've been going wrong - not gone wrong, you'll notice. The challenge still has another 20 days to go, and I fully hope to get over 45,000 words. The first problem is I've done a lot of research - not too much, which is a different problem altogether. I do what I need, when I need it. But I didn't fully understand how much research I'd need to do to write maybe one or two paragraphs. This is more a problem with the planning, and not realising the full extent of the story I was hoping to tell.

The second problem is starting with a distinctive voice. It fitted the opening chapters well, but has become forced and stilted as I continue. I'm having to revise as I go along to keep the voice true. Now, I have no idea which bits are still in voice and which aren't. Hopefully that will be clearer when I read the whole thing, but I have no idea how I'll resolve it.

The third problem is simply trying to write 1000 words every day. Although, that is also the joy. I started full of hope and expectation. But life does get in the way. A child is off sick from school for a day. Suddenly the house looks as though it's never been cleaned. All the clothes in the world need washing. A husband changes jobs and is around the house all the time. (Admittedly - in case he reads this - we've been able to keep out of each other's way quite well, but sometimes it's nice to go out for lunch, or have a coffee, or go to the DIY shop, or do DIY or...)

So, the problems have all been my own fault, to some extent. Not terminal, but certainly something I can learn from.

Well, now that's sorted, I'll get back to it. See you in 20,000 words (-ish)!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Ideas Fairy

I haven't spent much of my blogging time talking about the process of writing, and a lot of time talking about me writing. There are a couple of reasons for this, predominantly most of my early followers are my friends (coerced here from Facebook), and most of my friends are not writers so the process wouldn't be that interesting to them.

Another reason is the fact that I don't think there's much I can say about writing that would add to the myriad of more competent and professional writers. I am not a professional, although I long to be so. Maybe my blog just doesn't have a place on the interwebby thing, but - tough! - I'm enjoying myself :-)

Today I've been thinking about where ideas for stories come from. I remember years ago reading someone (and I have no idea if this was a writer, publisher, agent or interested other) say that the majority of first novels are autobiograpical. (I think, in this context, majority implied all). I've written 3 complete novels, and I'm half-way through a fourth - all unpublished, it goes without saying. None of them have been autobiographical. I'm reasonably proud to think I haven't fallen into the first-time author trap.

So, if not autobiographical, where have my ideas come from? Mostly from what-if scenarios. From a young age my imagination was very active. I remember wondering what would happen if my dad didn't come home from work, if a plane crashed into my garden, if I discovered a long-lost cousin was the singer for the latest boy band. That last one turned into my first novel, as I mentioned briefly in the comments of this post.

I used to lie in bed at night trying not to have these thoughts, especially the ones about family members dying horrible deaths. I thought I'd tempt fate - my mother was always talking about tempting fate, and this seemed exactly what I was doing. Over the years, I've figured out I'm not likely to cause the end of the world as I know it by having a few daydreams, but it's still one of my most lucrative sources of ideas!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Memories of writing, part 2

So, from having a lovely desk in a freezing cold flat, we bought a house (after several months back at home with my parents), and we had babies. I put my desk in the second bedroom, amongst all the boxes that never seemed to get unpacked from the move, but I didn't write for months, possibly years. I missed writing, but not that much - certainly not as much as I would miss it now. I suppose I was just too busy changing nappies.

And then, finally, I ended up in my beautiful study, with grass green walls, 2 pictures of flowers on the walls, shelves, books, a three-drawer filing cabinet and - best of all - my large beech corner desk from Ikea. I loved decorating it; I loved buying all the accessories like bins and an in-tray!

I hide away in there, I close the door and waste time on the Internet and play Sudoku... But inbetween that, I write reasonably prolifically. More prolific since I gave up a job in a library, working Monday-Friday, and became a fitness instructor. I now have the ultimate luxury of at least 2 clear days every week just for writing! I put on music - still Aerosmith and Meat Loaf, but also a lot of new music, and without having to change it around every 45 minutes.

I'm now practising writing on my lap. I'm writing this on my lap whilst also watching Simon Schama on the Hay Sessions which I recorded. It's warmer down here in the living room. It's lighter. It's closer to the kitchen. I'll be able to interact with my kids more; although they might not like that when I ban endless repeats of I'm in the Band. I'll also get a lot more distracted by the housework, mostly because I'll be able to see it needs doing.

But, I guess, that's the point of this post and the previous one: I adapt, people adapt, life adapts around us.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Memories of writing

I've started on the path to losing my study: I've bought a laptop. Soon we'll buy a new bed, decorate and install my eldest child in the room that has seen two and a half novels and countless short stories written. I know I've been lucky to have kept hold of this room for so long, but it's still sad to see it go.

The imminent transition to writing on my lap got me thinking about all the places I've written since I started writing.

First I wrote on my bed when I was thirteen or fourteen. I shared a room with my sister and I had the bottom bunk which meant I wrote hunched over and in semi-darkness. I listened to albums copied on to 90mins tapes, an album on each side, dodgy sound. I remember listening to a Poison/Meat Loaf combo, and an Alice Cooper/Aerosmith one. Over and over, turning the tape rather than putting in a new one. The height of technology came when I got a double tape player, which meant one would roll seemlessly into the other, then I could turn them both over.

My mum had an old electric typewriter, which I attempted and failed to use. I spent an awful lot of time Tipp-Exing letters out.

Around that time, my dad bought a printer. We'd always had computers (Vic 20, Commodore 64, anyone?) but finally we acquired a word processing programme and a printer. The printer, however, was a graphics-only one. It only had a certain number of dots, and they didn't go below the line of normal text - so the tails of the 'y's, 'j's and 'g's sat on top of the line.

That printer was replaced, and finally I had manuscripts I could professionally send out! Yay! Cue first sale, and second sale, happy writer... then a bit of a lull.

When I moved into my flat with my now-husband and a friend, I commandeered part of the living room for a brand new black-ash desk. I don't feel bad about taking up a large part of the room, because it was the coldest place in the whole flat. The room itself was so cold I was convinced there was a ghost (add that to the fact that our clocks never kept time, ghosts were a sensible explanation), but also my desk was against the wall that backed on to the communal - and unheated - stairwell. I would often be found writing dressed in my coat and a long red scarf. Cue, despite the frozen fingers, a couple more sales, a happy writer... and then nothing...

Next time... Moving into my current house!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The fun of research

Or in my case, the fun of choosing a subject you don't have to research. Alas, I have to research, and it's hurting my brain.

To recap a little: my current WIP that I'm writing for the 80,000 in 80 days challenge is heavily influenced by the characters' reaction to the news. Fine. Except, I need to go back to 2004. I'm currently trying to find out what happened in late 2007, early 2008. But, and this makes it worse, just the bad bits. I can find lots of news, but I need devastating news. (I know this doesn't sound like the most optimistic novel you'll ever read, but I'm sure there are more depressing ones out there.) I find myself disappointed when all that happened was an election or a state visit.

I normally don't research. I think I've mentioned this before. My characters all live in a tiny bubble for the duration of the novel/short story without any outside influence. This, I decided, probably makes them very 2-dimensional; and I wanted to fix it and make the characters in my new novel more rounded. The problem with this remit for research is it's so broad. Usually - I suspect, having never done it - writers research how to blow glass because a character is a glass blower. Or when a particular flower blossoms, so they don't confuse their seasons.

Researching everything that has happened in the course of a five year period is overwhelming to say the least. I'm starting to think my normal avoidance of the outside world is much more preferable.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Back into the swing of things

I know when it's time to update my blog, because my meagre traffic reduces to zilch, zero. This has almost happened again, therefore I post now.

I say almost because, for some reason that I have never managed to fathom, this post about spelling  is the most popular. It has, since it was written had about 70 views (which for this blog is quite a lot). This week, it's had hits from Iran, Norway and USA. All from Google. So there must be a search term people are using to get sent my way, but I can't work it out. Maybe you can suggest why...?

So, yes, this post is called Back into the swing of things because I've had a week off with my kids for half-term, and - and - the 6 weeks holiday is upon me in seven weeks' time, I was reliably informed by a friend.

That gives me seven weeks to get the rest of my novel written (there's another 40 days to go on that), read and polish three novellas that I'm hopefully submitting in August time, and enter six competitions - therefore readinh and polishing those six short stories, or writing new ones.

Three, two, one... go!!!!

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Day 28

My full-of-good-intentions resolution to submit short stories hasn't got off to a flying start. I was a little disheartened to be not included on three competition short lists this week, which knocked my sense of being able to write anything good ever.

So, I've been concentrating on the novel challenge. After typing The End sometime last week, I printed it out - all 149 pages of it - and have been reading through and scribbling notes all over it. I've added some sections, I've worked out more research that needs to be done, I've rearranged sentences so that they now make sense. I'm going to ban myself from working on the computer until every page has at least one note on it. Then I'll let loose and see how many words I can add.

I've used this method before, but without the willpower of not touching the computer. I've sat down, altered a sentence or two, but then immediately wanted to type it up. Hopefully, the way I'm working through the chapters this time will make a much more fluid read by the end.

A benefit of working on the page is that I can curl up on the settee, music playing in the background - actually, that should read foreground - with a cuppa in my hand, and enjoy the words I've written. It's much more comfortable that sitting at my desk in my cold study, rubbing my hands together to get the circulation flowing again.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Submissions are the logical next step

After reading Jen Campbell's blog  it's occured to me that with all this novel writing malarky - and prior to that, some novellas which took up a lot of time - I've stopped submitting short stories to magazines. I still enter competitions, which - if you win - takes care of actually earning some money, but there was a time when I knew which were the best magazines to submit to, submitted prolifically, and I got a fair number published.

Now, I have no idea.

I think I stopped submitting regularly when every third new website seemed to be a literary journal of sorts. I've never been all that comfortable with online publishing, and it just seemed as though quantity was more important than quality - the choice was overwhelming. I've probably mentioned this aversion before, and I know the reasons seem very lame. The biggest reason is that I'm a set-in-my-ways 30-something, and I like holding magazines and books in my hand. It gives me much greater pleasure to see my name printed on a page than on a screen... because (another lame reason) I can write my own name on a screen!!

Seeing my work laid out on paper, properly type-set, with an illustration or two, just seems proper. But, after reading Jen's post about all the stories she's having published imminently, I feel like I'm being left behind. So, my mission, set in stone here today (albeit a bloggy stone) is to submit work to magazines again.

Now, all I have to do is work out which ones.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

About Libraries

I'm currently reading through the novel stuff I've written already, because I had a horrible feeling I was losing the voice.... and I was right, I am. But it should be easily solved.

Anyway, because the writing stalled for a moment, I thought I'd talk about libraries again. If you remember, my last post about libraries was somewhat controversial, not least because I used to work in a library and a lot of the people who read this blog are librarians. I don't remember saying the words 'all libraries should be burnt to the ground and Harry Potter slaughtered', but that's what seemed to be implied.

Well, my local library has now closed one day a week, taking the current opening times to four and a half days a week. I'm fine with this - at least I am when I can get my head around which day it's closed. I'm fine with this because back in the day, it was only ever open for four and a half days a week, and everyone was happy with that.

But - oh, yes, it's a BUT all right - I do object to the plan I read in my local free paper earlier this week. A plan - but hopefully not the plan - is to further reduce my local library hours to fund other, smaller and less patronised libraries further down into Cornwall, to restore their opening hours to what they were before the cuts. Er, why, Mr Cornwall Council Man? Is that not a little unfair? Are we not all in this together?

My guess is that as the library also houses the Cornwall Council One Stop Shop, they're considering reducing the opening hours even further so they don't have to talk to us at all.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Day 12

Wow - day 12 already, and I'm still - for the most part - managing to write something meaningful every day (apart from today, that is).

My word count currently stands at 16,097! (I feel this should have a drum roll and someone announcing the figures like they do on Comic Relief, but I'll make do with hearing the voices in my head - please feel free to announce this number Comic Relief style too.)

Yesterday evening I hit another wobbly plot problem, so out came my trusty fountain pen. Somehow, writing longhand, with a pen that I love to use, helps the words and ideas flow better than through a keyboard. My wobbly plot problem came from the fact that one of my characters is deeply upset by world news events (all the bad war stuff and climate change - for those who know me.... yes, it's a little bit me, but I'm not going to react the way my character does). And in writing all this in my minamalist style I realised I was missing out a lot, and probably not conveying the true horror my character feels.

So, do I change the style, do I make his problems not quite as bad...?

At the moment, I haven't decided. I cheated, and wrote an entirely different section instead. It made me feel good that I was writing, and made the problem vanish, if only for a little while. I haven't added it to my word count yet, as it's all very scrawly longhand with lots of crossings out.

Today, instead of writing, I had a chat and hot chocolate with a friend, and then went shopping.