Saturday, 5 October 2013

New Tricks

I've discovered, as a new mother, you need some tricks to get the words down on the page.  Whereas before ER came along I could write as soon as my job was done for the day... Now there is no end to my job, it's twenty four seven!

The first thing I've done is try to identify a time during which ER is asleep, but I am too awake to sleep (no matter how much I want to).  This is usually a brief window after six am.

Secondly I've been giving myself two word count targets a week.  A realistic one of maybe a thousand words and an ideal one which is where I really want to be.  This cuts down the chance of feeling like a failure and also motivates me to at least try and meet the realistic one.

Thirdly, my laptop and I are now casual acquaintances at best and my iPad with the Pages app has become my new best friend.  It's easy to get going, type one handed and put away safely.  I do type a lot quicker on my laptop, but the iPad is better than nothing. It also cuts down on social media procrastination as it takes longer to switch between the windows and I often can't be bothered.

These tricks have helped me keep going as a busy writer and so, to answer that age old question - do female writers need a room of their own?  No, just an iPad and some reasonable targets.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

It's almost Nanowrimo time again!

An author friend often asks me why I do Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) every year.  He quite rightly points out that I write every day anyway - so why do I need the pressure of a fifty thousand word deadline by 30th November?

I'll tell you why I am committed to Nano'ing every November. 
  1. Writing is a lonely pursuit. Although many people are writing and believe they have a novel in them, very few are confident enough to talk about it.  That all changes every November. I love the write ins and the forums.  They make writing just that little bit less lonely and more of a social pursuit - for thirty days every year.  I also have friends who I have met purely through Nano and may only have a virtual friendship with.
  2. It's a chance to take a gamble and write something new.  If it turns out badly I've only lost a month from my other writing projects.  I have found the best way to approach Nano is with the barest of an idea, maybe a picture or book cover, and just write, write, write. It doesn't matter what comes out, it doesn't matter if I think it is any good or not.  The only thing that matters is getting to fifty thousand words.
  3. I'm grateful to Nano.  Without it I might have more half finished books littering my flat as I kept skipping from project to project, waiting for the one that would be instantaneously amazing.  Writing isn't like that; it's hard and your first draft may suck.  What Nano taught me is the important thing is to finish a draft, without that last sentence you have nothing.  Once it is done you have options, without it you just have lots of good ideas you can't be bothered to finish.
I'm not sure what I will write yet.  I've been looking at pre made e book covers as I want to publish on Smashwords as I go (I've done this for the past couple of years).  I'm tempted by a few random ideas.  One thing is for sure, I won't know what to write until I start tapping away on the first of November and writing doesn't get more exciting than that.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Writing a Synopsis

Despite having written six novels in three years I have yet to submit one of them to a publisher, prefering to e-publish myself.  E-publishing certainly gives me greater control as a writer, from the cover to staying true to the stories I wish to tell.  However, with a limited budget of pretty much nothing you rely on word of mouth to get your book noticed.  I have done quite well - but I would like to do better and so decided perhaps it was time to look at more conventional routes into  publishing.

There has been one major barrier to my submitting to a mainstream publisher - writing a synopsis.  I have never been able to master the art of putting the whole story in such a condensed form and making it sound good!  However, a synopsis is a must to get a publisher or agent.  From what I've read it helps reassure them you know how to plot.

I turned to my old friend Google to help me and read a few websites offering synopsis writing advice.  This is the one I found the most useful and I have adapted the fourth option:

Paragraph 1: describe the background to the novel
Paragraphs 2 - 4: tell the beginning, middle and end of each thread of the novel in a separate paragraph (once sentence for each part)
Paragraph 5: the resolution to the story

Using this concept I found it much easier to create a synopsis and stick to the one page rule. I don't know whether it is good enough to attract a publisher, but it is better than anything else I have managed thus far!

Wish me luck!

Monday, 26 August 2013

Jasper Fforde on writing and getting published

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to sit down with Jasper Fforde and pick his brain about writing and getting published.  This is the man who gets on the best seller lists every time a new Thursday Next book comes out, so he knows what he is doing.

His first warning was not to write "me too" books, copying something that is already out there.  This is worth remembering these days where if one book becomes outrageously successful a glut of "me too" books follow as writers and publishers try to cash in on the originals success.  Jasper said there is always new ground to be broken as a writer.

He stressed not to let thoughts of selling the book be your main motivation for writing it - write to entertain yourself.  If you enjoy it, other people will.  If you write something that is not 'you' it will come through in the writing.  He drew the analogy of meeting someone for the first time; you draw conclusions as to what type of person they are and if you spend six hours in their company you know if they are being genuine.

Jasper said the most enjoyable part of writing for him is the "downward canter towards the end with about twenty thousand words left to go" and he said there is always a point in the middle of the book where you are not sure where the book is going.  This is when most aspiring writers give up.  This is the part you must continue through.  Your novel will have several threads weaving through it and one of these will get you to the end.  If you are finding it hard think about what the character really wants.

If you wish to be a professional writer Jasper warned of e publishing; your first few books probably won't be very good and if you put them on the Internet they will be out there forever and may put people off reading your later, better books.  He said it takes about eight to ten books in before you have really learnt your craft as a writer and have produced a really good book.  To help you get there he said writing something, anything, every day - a journal entry, a short poem...  Keep your hand in and practise your craft every day.

Jasper's advice in summary is - if you want a ten year career as a writer keep going and write every day.  By your eighth book you might have something good enough to sell.

I spoke to Jasper Fforde at the Fforde Ffiesta which happens every eighteen months in Swindon (home of Thursday Next).  The next one is in May 2015 and details can be found at 

A small group of seven people have now been challenged to complete a first draft of fifty thousand plus words by the next Ffiesta - although we are expecting one and a half books from Mr Fforde and one of the writers is creating a graphic novel so we've agreed half of it should be complete as it has the extra challenge of words and pictures - you can follow Roger's blog at 

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Post natal writing

Hello all, it's been a while. Six weeks ago Eden Rose was born and its pretty tricky writing with a newborn.  At the moment I am tapping away one handed on an iPad whilst nursing. I'm doing a lot of nursing - I feel like a dairy cow. It's hard to get the time to write at the moment. It puts me in mind of a quote I read somewhere (was it Mslexia?) in which a female writer claimed women had to be childless to be a writer. Of course, this sparked a furore - but was she in any way correct? I am certainly struggling with time (and fatigue) at the moment.  However, motherhood has not taken away my intellect, or passion - sometimes life just gets in the way for a while.  I refuse to see this period of my life as wasted writing time, instead I am seeing it as reading and thinking time.  It is easy to read on a kindle one handed and there is plenty of time for thinking - I've already plotted half of a new book.

Perhaps all writers should take a reading and thinking sabbatical once in a while? Maybe it could even help us refine our craft?

Saturday, 3 August 2013

The Guardian Great Sci-Fi Hunt part two - reflections

My last post was about this sci-fi hunt and since then a few things have annoyed me about this.   I followed Damien Walter (no relation) on Twitter and so kept up to date with his 'hunt'. I found it very disappointing.

He used it as an opportunity to (to my mind) criticise self-published indie authors.  These are writers who write for love, not glory, and just want people to enjoy their stories. Many are given away free.  These people cannot afford an editor and yes, mistakes will creep in.  I mean, I've seen mistakes in books published by large publishing houses - they happen!  He said the writing was not of a good enough standard - whether he got to fairly test this or not I can't say as there were a lot of books for him to read in a short period of time.

The 'winners' were (3 out of 5) published by independent publishers, not self published and so benefitted from editorial support, art, formatting and limited promotion.  Of course, the standard of these is going to be higher, they have a team around them to make it so.

He claimed only these five books out of eight hundred had any merit.  I wonder how he found time to read even the openings to eight hundred books in a matter of weeks.

I don't begrudge these winners, but I am disappointed this was not the opportunity for the unknown writers out there that it purported to be.  I'm sure for The Guardian and Mr Walter it was great publicity though as the sci-fi community is huge.

To all the truly indie authors out there - keep going and the audience that appreciates you will find you.

Friday, 22 February 2013

The Guardian Great Sci-Fi Hunt

Just a quickie and bit of a request.  Thanks to Twitter I have spotted The Guardian in the UK is running a scheme to find the best independently published SciFi/Fantasy novels.

Nominations are made via the comments box at the bottom of this page and this is where I need your help. I would love it (if you love PI as much as I do) if you could add a nomination or recommendation.  To comment you have to register with The Guardian which takes about thirty seconds (just remember to uncheck the boxes so you don't get marketing emails).

Self published writers find it hard to get word out about their work without great big publishing houses and their budgets behind them - this is a real chance for you to nominate all those self published writers you adore.

Go on!  What are you waiting for?

Not procrastinating, honest.

What?  I should be writing?  I am, can't you see?  Oh, my next novel.  Well, yes I am.  I just thought I would take a little break to update you on my current projects.

Paranormal Investigations 4 is obviously on my agenda - although the title has changed from Risk to Into The Realm of the Fae as the plot has adapted.  Unusually this novel does not take place in London - although there is another English town featured.  I won't spoil it by telling you where this is, although I know some people are really going to enjoy this setting.

When I was looking for possible book designers (my fabulous designer for PI has been extremely busy with other things of late) I found a pre-made cover perfect for a historical novel I had written (although it needs a good edit).
I could not believe my good luck, so I quickly emailed the designer to reserve it.  I then had to decide on a suitable title which I did with the help of Facebook and Twitter friends.  Sometimes I guess simple titles are the best.

I've been editing Marian since then and have finished the first half (65k words).  Unfortunately I have now realised that was the easy half.  I want to change a character in the second half and that takes a lot more concentration than I have at the moment.  So, I have switched over to PI4 which is a bit easier as I can just make stuff up as I go.  I also wrote Marian before I discovered 'my' way of working.  What I do now is write a 3-5k chapter at a time and then have a quick edit to make sure it is readable and then move on to the next chapter.  What I did with Marian was write the whole draft first - which is why it has taken me so long to begin getting it into shape.  It takes forever to edit 130k words, especially when you need to make some important changes!

What?  Oh, okay.  I'll get back to some actual writing then.  Don't forget - you can follow me on FB or Twitter and read PI4 as it's written here!

Oh, and don't ask about The Reed Bed - it's another WIP I have to find time to work on.  I can't resist the world of PI though, it sucks me in every time.  I'm sure historical Norfolk will pull me back in it's own time...