Friday, 21 February 2014

The 1st Draft is Done!

Yes, the 1st draft of the novella is now complete.

While I've completed short stories and flash fiction, I've never actually completed one longer piece of work...

I actually started this first draft in June 2011. But there was a big break in there while I was getting over the bus accident, so I've only been working on it intensively for the last 12-15 months.

Obviously putting the word count on my blog has kept me in line!

It's also been a learning experience. Previously, I'd tried to do too much at once with my other longer projects, so thought I'd try the general planning and skeleton 1st draft approach.

It worked for me.

I did character sheets for my main characters - but I've discovered more about them during the writing process too.

Each chapter had a general outline, so I knew where I thought incidents and important events occurred- even then I found that a few things changed order, or I needed an extra chapter here and there for scenes I hadn't foreseen, but realised I needed.

As I went along I made a note of anything I needed to research, or query for the correct term, descriptions, or form of address.

And I went through doubts about my abilities - and sanity!

Yesterday (Thursday) I finished my first draft at 29,005 words in 17 chapters.

The same day I received the answers from the official office that deals with Baronetcy's. It's taken a while because it seems everyone understood their place in the inheritance stakes in the early 19th century (when the novella is set) so my questions had to be referred up to someone else who knew the definitive answers- the Garter King of Arms.

(I may tell you about the Baronetcy system another time.)

The good news, is that I won't need to make big changes to the plot/sub-plot.

The bad news is that I have to provide my antagonist with another reason/s for what he does. But I can think of a few things that would qualify in Edward's case...

Otherwise it's minor adjustments in certain scenes.

Next I need to go through and list the research points/queries, so I have everything I need to know for the 2nd draft...

I'm going to have a short break from the novella while I get on with sending out a few short stories- they just need minor revisions, but have been waiting long enough.

Also it's the Romance Trophy competition at the writers' club this year, so I have a synopsis and first three chapters of another romance to get on with for that- the deadline is the end of June.

Now I now know what works for me:

  • Writing for an hour, three hours or anything in-between for as many days as I can each week.
  • Not worrying if something isn't quite right, or I don't know the answer to my query immediately.
  • Listening to my characters and what's working well - and what is never going to work.

Fingers crossed for the next draft...

Friday, 14 February 2014

Romance is in the Air...

Happy Valentine's Day to you all.

I was the happy recipient of a large Valentine's day card, and a box of Black Magic chocolates when I got up this morning. My darling husband had left them on my chair at my desk... No possibility of missing them that way...

Reading the online newspaper headlines, before I ventured out into the yucky weather, I came across a hark back to the past of Mills and Boon.
Love and Romance

Apparently there is a Mills and Boon archive in the University of Reading's Special Collections.

There has to be an archive somewhere considering how long they've been in existence...

In this archive there is a book, 'Boons Mots: An Anthology of Artless Extracts from the writings of Mills and Boon's Authors' signed by The Editors...

There are a number of extracts from various novels by their authors, including Violet Winspear, who began her Mills and Boon career in 1961. There's even a questionnaire from her that it seems she sent to the editors.

She was obviously aware of writing for the readers when you look at some of the questions she asked.

Her questions went from A-Z, and Z had 4 sub-sections.

My favourites are H, and P... :D

Of the quotes, I did smile at the extract from Violet's 'The Passionate Sinner'. Perhaps the editors were just having a bad day, or remembered the questionnaire!

The writers' club I attend, once had a couple of Mills and Boon authors. Our bi-annual trophy for a novel is in memory of one of the long serving members, Gwladys Bungay, who was published by M&B as Gwladys Duke.

Whatever you may think of the article/extracts, it just shows that writers have always had same creative issues...

photo courtesy of and by grauer razvan ionut

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Now to Writing the Love Scene...

I know I could leave this until later, but I write sequentially, whether it's a first or last draft...

So I'm now at that stage where my hero, Hugh, has resolved his conflict, and Sarah has remembered enough to make sense of the past, so getting the pair of them together shouldn't be difficult, should it?

The storm has made it easier to create the opportunity, but why do two confident people then suddenly turn shy!

I know some writers, and readers, prefer the action to stop at the bedroom door. I've no problem with that.

I think it really is about the characters and how they feel. If you know your characters well then you'll know what is right for them.

I've never had any doubts about my current couple in the novella, they've clearly been attracted to one another from the moment they met again; and as their relationship has progressed, on the few occasions they've been able to kiss you could see the lighted fuse slowly heading for the powder keg...

But give them the opportunity to be alone together and for Hugh to propose...

I really can't blame either of them for this temporary hiccup, as they've both got issues that they've had to deal with. And their story is set in a time when there were moral expectations for young women.

When I went back to the scene today they were making progress, but I think they will only let the reader stay for a while before they demand privacy; they'll tell me when enough is enough...

As the final part of tying up the past has still to be finished to reach the happy ever after (HEA) it will only need one more chapter to complete the draft.

I know I said Chapter 16 was going to be the last one, but I was wrong, it will definitely be Chapter 17. :D

I've no doubt that when I begin the second draft and put in the missing scenes, some of the current chapters will change number. I may even end up with a couple more than I have now...

Sunday, 2 February 2014

First Novel Award for the Bridport Prize 2014...

Must say a big thank you to Claudia on the Writing Magazine, Talkback Forum, for letting everyone know there were details available of this addition to the competitions on the Bridport Prize website.

This is the Peggy Chapman-Andrews Award for a first novel extract ( first chapter of a novel, minimum 5,000 words, maximum 8,000 words in total, plus a 300 word synopsis), with a £1,000 prize, expert mentoring and possible publication.

This will be a popular competition, so only the best will get through to the longlist and shortlist...

Entrants must be resident in the UK, 16 years old or over. Nor currently represented by a literary agent.

They can either have a completed, or a part-written novel. But do be aware that for the latter case, if you progress through the competition to the longlist stage, you will need to have a minimum of 15,000 words available, and for the shortlist a minimum of 30,000 words.

The longlist will only consist of 20, sifted by the Bridport Prize readers from all entries. Those 20 will go on to The Literary Consultancy and A. M. Heath Literary Agents, who will shortlist to 5.

The winner and runner-up (receives £500, plus other elements) will be chosen by them and the named judge, Alison Moore. There are qualifying criteria for the winner- not agented or previously published a novel (self-published is okay, as is being published in another genre, such as short stories, poetry, non fiction).

(Full details of entry, prizes, terms and conditions can be found via the above link.)

Bridport's entry fees are high, £20 an entry. Entries can be submitted online or by post (see the relevant links in the Entry Format section of the terms and conditions).

Closing date is 31st May 2014.

There is a lot to read on both the main page, and the one with the terms and conditions, but do read them fully.

When you have to pay a high entry fee, it's a shame to waste both your time and money by missing an essential piece of information that could result in your hard work being disqualified.

If you enter, good luck.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Connections and Respect...

Having got back into a steady routine of writing and blogging, my life was thrown upside down last weekend by not only losing my broadband, but my phone line too.

Okay, I know. If my phone line goes then so will my broadband. Unfortunately it happened the other way round for me...

I should add that we suspected our loss of service was 99.9% related to the engineer (from our provider) who was putting a broadband line in for one of our neighbours, as we lost our broadband about the time he would have been connecting up to the box in the pavement.

All the cables run under our pavements where we live, so we don't have any telegraph poles with wires running across.

But the provider's fault system requires you go through the testing routine, and of course their instrumentation said our broadband signal had no drop-out (!!!!) and the problem was our phone line-further tests then went on to blame our house wiring, and warnings that if the engineer came out we'd be liable to pay nearly £130 if it wasn't their equipment at fault.

So from Friday evening until the engineer arrived early Tuesday morning we were stuck. You get a lot of other things done with no phone calls, or Internet to distract you. (I read three e-books on my kindle.) But my desk had to be moved right up against my bookcase!

Very pleased to say that the engineer quickly found that the problem was outside, and as we'd suspected on the Friday when we started losing our service, it was related to what the other engineer had done.

Took about an hour+ to fix and test- even that wasn't trouble-free, but eventually we had a working phone and broadband line.

But it has taken the rest of the week getting the bandwidth back to where it was. And don't mention how many e-mails there were to sort through!

It's only when you lose your broadband that you realise how much of everyday life has moved online.

We communicate with friends and acquaintances from all over the UK, and in other countries, as if they were in another room. We use the Internet to interact with companies and services, even publishers! It's often easier to contact a company online than it is by phone...

The Internet has opened up so many resources that writers, a hundred years ago, would either have had to make a time-consuming trip to access the location, museum, gallery or specialist library and spend hours finding the information needed, or send lots of letters to get the answers.

My loss of broadband for those few days certainly increased my respect for those early writers. Their books may have been shorter word counts than we produce now, but they put as much, if not more effort, into producing their manuscripts.

It also makes you realise how much we take access to information for granted.

If the Internet hadn't been invented how many of those essential services and goods we writers depend on, would not have been invented? How many companies and organisations that employ, and sometimes support, people (including writers) may never have come into existence?

That's slightly scary...