Thursday, 29 October 2015

'The End'...

Yes, that's it, today I was able to write THE END at the bottom of chapter eighteen. I know there's still a lot to do, but that's for the future now.

I've enjoyed the break writing a contemporary romance, but I've not been interrupted with ideas as I am when I'm working on a historical.

Yes, I'm looking forward to getting on with the Nottinghamshire story now; it's been calling to me, demanding attention. Entering the first chapter in the New Talent competition only confirmed the feeling I wanted to get back to it.

My aim is to work steadily through the second draft making changes, adding the missing characters, and scenes that I knew I needed -because my mind was blank about what I was aiming for at that point.

Over the weekend I'll be changing the images over on my big cork board.

The big board was really helpful with the contemporary story- so I hope it will work with my Nottinghamshire story too.

Even if I had a couple of days- or even a week- when I couldn't add to my word count, my characters and settings were by my desk, always at the corner of my vision, remaining in my thoughts. I never lost contact with them, so I was able to pick the story back up quicker from where I'd stopped at the end of the previous writing session.

Here are the lessons I've personally learnt from writing these two first drafts:

  • Even a couple of hundred words a time soon adds up to a chapter, and then another.
  • Just because a character says or does something unusual, there will be a reason later on.
  • If a scene isn't working, make a note what it should be about and move on to the next bit.
The End is just The Beginning...
  • Don't worry about chapter length; end it when it feels right.
  • Some scenes/chapters will be easier to write than others.
  • The middle will always feel like you're climbing a mountain.
  • When you see the end approaching, don't slacken the pace.

I'm going to catch up on reading a few new books on my Kindle too, while my mind is clear.

image courtesy of njaj and

Sunday, 25 October 2015

First Draft- Last Chapter...

I'm late posting today because I was grabbing some uninterrupted time to get on with finishing the last couple of chapters of my contemporary romance.

Pleased to report I'm now on the last chapter, so I'll hopefully finish it this week or next.

Still working...
It is only the skeleton of the story with a few muscles and veins added here and there, but it will give me plenty to work on. There's still a few research areas to follow up on too.

I'm already feeling the tug of disappointment that I'll be temporarily saying goodbye to my hero and heroine from this story.

But the good news is I'll be getting back to one of my Serena Lake historicals. Serena has been a little neglected while I've been so busy this past couple of months.

I'll be able to return to my Nottinghamshire based story with renewed enthusiasm, despite my first chapter not making the shortlist of the New Talent Award.

Yes, it's disappointing, but that chapter does need more work. Plus I won't have the constraints of a set word count to conform to.

I'll be leaving chapter one as it is, for the moment, while I start with chapter two for the second draft.

Draft two is going to be a lot of work as I'll be making changes, adding and removing scenes, and developing a few of the minor characters- now I know what they're doing.

The last two years have been a big learning process, but I now know what works for me. I'm no longer allowing myself to get held up because something isn't working. I make a note about it and carry on with the scene beyond it.

I've learnt to listen to my characters, but interfere when they're getting out of hand.

Now I just need to keep putting in as much time as I can on the rewrite.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Sci-fi Night Review...

If you saw my recent post about the Sci-fi night that was taking place at the writers club I attend, last night (21st), then you might be interested in a few things I learnt.

I haven't yet downloaded the photos I took- that's a job for the weekend when I have the time to go through and check each one- usually it's just a case of cropping parts of people or objects caught on the edges of the picture. And I promised a couple of the authors I'd send them a copy of those they appear in.

I found out:

That there is hard sci-fi and soft sci-fi; the former is the really technical stuff that requires a lot of research (and probably a lot of technical understanding). While the latter, soft version, is more about the story/characters, often using the issues of the current time on a futuristic scenario, but usually not needing research. 

(I'm working from memory here...)

World building; be consistent, even if you bend the laws of actual science. You can make your world do whatever you want, but you must be consistent.

Stephen Palmer (one of the guest authors) emphasised that for the mid-teen reader, plot and character were the things that mattered.

The good news is that sci-fi is no longer just male authors- as it was in the last century, and there are a few popular female authors in the genre.

Coincidentally 21st October 2015 was Back to the Future Day- the first film of the 'Back to the Future' trio.

There were lots of books for sale, and attendees had time to talk to the many authors who set up their table with their books. And every ticket holder got a goodie bag which included a couple of books.

Even though sci-fi isn't my thing, it was a good evening and I enjoyed it...

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Reading to an Audience - Start with the Basics...

Recently I shared an article from Stylist magazine on my Facebook account, and it had quite a number of views. It was a top ten tips for speaking in public.

It's not surprising that the subject is popular, as writers need to do a lot more promotion now than they needed to ten years ago.

Though some writers may be more confident from past experience, or they have a daytime job that requires them to stand up in front of an audience- whatever their ages may be...

I have to admit that I had a head start, so it wasn't such a shock.

When I was in secondary school x number of years ago, I was part of the drama group, and it was a great way to learn basic skills, breathing correctly, standing up straight and projecting your voice, and taking on the voice of characters- but in my case the biggest problem I had to overcome was talking too fast.

All those are the same skills writers need to learn, or develop. But you don't need to practise in front of an audience, you can do it by yourself at home.

I'm a firm believer in reading my work aloud during the editing phase, as you can hear when text doesn't flow, phrasing is awkward, or you've changed tense/viewpoint, but you need to read slower to pick out the issues, so try recording yourself reading out a passage, then play it back, or ask a trusted friend to listen to you.

Is every word distinct, or are you chopping off the ends of words, and rolling them together? When you're conscious of what you are doing, you can pick it up, slow down and try again until you get the right pace for you.

Practise and eventually it will become automatic.

Breathing: stand up straight and breathe in slowly until your lungs are filled- if you put your hand flat just below your rib cage you can feel the rise as you breathe in. Then let your breath out slowly- you do need to concentrate.

When you have that under control then the next time you breathe out use that to propel your voice- choose a simple short word, 'pop' for example. So often, it seems, we're not aware of how much our voices are capable of until we try- this will.

If you are reading your own work out you can of course add reminders to your manuscript. Apart from printing in a larger font, you can add spaces between paragraphs, insert (PAUSE) at appropriate points, and underline anything you need to put emphasis on. Practise your pace.

Microphones seem scary, but you just need a quick test to find the right distance between you and it using your regular reading voice. If the microphone is not on a stand then get someone to hold it, as juggling a microphone and turning pages it not a good image and will get you flustered- not what you want or need.

Do you see the common word now? Yes, it's practise.

I've been fortunate to have generous writer friends who have shared their advice over the years, and I've put it into practise when I've been on the local BBC radio station (promoting a book I was in with another local writer), as well as other literature events like the Lowdham Fringe.

There's a lot more you can do, wear bright colours so you aren't lost against pale walls or furnishings for example.

 You may be an introvert, but you can pretend you aren't. Master the basics and build upon them...

My first public reading as a writer
in 2012 at the Lowdham Fringe

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Discovering Sci-fi in Nottingham this October...

Now I have to admit that the nearest I've ever gotten to sci-fi is watching Star Trek and it's many incarnations, Stargate - and versions of, plus Farscape and the occasional film.

Well I'm fairly sure I'm going to be learning a lot, later this month, as the writers club I attend (Nottingham Writers' Club) are holding a Sci-fi Night on the 21st October, 6-9.30 pm.

If you're in the UK you might be familiar with the annual Edge-Lit event held in Derby each year, and Alex Davis who is the mastermind behind it.

Alex is involved in the sci-fi night in Nottingham too, as both publisher- of Boo Books- and a master of ceremonies during the evening.

There will be discussions with authors, a Q&A, readings, time to meet the authors, buy books- and get them signed. There's a bar at the venue, so even if alcohol isn't your tipple, you can get tea or coffee, as well as soft drinks.

So far the authors appearing and taking part are:

Ian Douglas - website.

Sophie Sparham - website.

Gav Thorpe - website.

Roy Bainton - Amazon.

Stephen Palmer - website.

Alex Davis - blog.

If you know anyone who is into sci-fi, do mention this event to them.

The venue (The Nottingham Mechanics) is close to public transport links, and the nearest tram stop is a few minutes walk away, so there's quick and easy access straight to Nottingham Railway Station.

Tickets are available in advance via Eventbrite: here. £5 in advance, or £7 on the night. But whichever option is chosen, all ticket holders will be receiving a goodie bag at the event...

This is a one-off event, so don't miss it...

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Setting New Targets...

After a couple of days relaxing- well sort of- I'm planning the week ahead so that I can get back to writing those last couple of chapters.

As much as I've enjoyed writing the contemporary romance, it will never be my first preference- unless an idea could only work in the present.

I'm really looking forward to getting back to my Nottinghamshire story before the end of the year; the competition entry reminded me why I enjoy it so much.

October is usually when I start considering my goals for next year.

Having put in the intensive work revising and editing the first chapter I learnt a few things about myself.

  • I can too easily procrastinate and end up wasting the day. So I'm going to set myself mini-targets for each day. No dawdling...

Of course there will be days when less will get done than others, as real life does still have to be taken into account: appointments, shopping for food, collecting medicines, get-together's with writer friends and those unexpected crisis etc.

  • Do those elements that can be classed under 'professional development'.

In some ways I've been doing this a while. Attending writers' conferences, online events, workshops, talks, and other opportunities.

I'm part of the Wednesday evening #writingchat sessions on Twitter for one hour- it's fun, but I've also picked up helpful information from the other writers taking part.

Recently I've joined Anne Rainbow's RedPen (thanks to a link provided by Patsy Collins).

  • Be more open to opportunities that occur and not be scared to take them on. 

  • Most of all I'm going to believe in myself. Entering the recent new talent competition has definitely contributed toward that.

I think that's enough to keep me going for the next twelve months... :-)

My Targets...

Image courtesy of Vaximilian and

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Hitting the Deadline...

I did it!

My entry into the New Talent Award was emailed to the competition address this afternoon, and the small entry fee paid.

The competition is part of the Love Stories Awards, and administered by the Kate Nash Literary Agency.

For anyone who may have missed the details, the competition was part of this year's Festival of Romance, but when the festival weekend was cancelled, the new talent competition carried on under the Love Stories banner.

This year's competition is looking for writers of the future, so I really couldn't ignore it...

I've learnt a lot from the experience of editing the first chapter for my entry, which will help me in the future when I'm editing my other stories.

A couple of weeks ago when I gave up on my first choice and opted for my Nottinghamshire story, I didn't think there was too much to do. But I was so wrong.

I hadn't realised how much I've learnt since I finished that first draft, nor how the characters had continued to develop while I was away from them.

All that was needed was an opening chapter, nothing else, and as I was almost ready to start the revisions on the Nottinghamshire story anyway, I had nothing to lose by trying.

Well four versions later I was ready to do the final checks this morning (Thursday). The maximum word count was 2,500 words, though I was a couple of hundred under that by the time I finished.

After every set of changes I made, I read the chapter aloud, so five hours later, when it was ready to send, I think I'd gone through it vocally ten times...

It won't be perfect, but it was as good as I could get it for now.

Of course I'd like to make the shortlist, but if I don't, it won't be the end of the world. I still have the rest of the story to revise and edit, and as I've learnt over the past fortnight, change can be good.

I'm looking forward to a restful weekend, then I can get back to creating the happy ending for the couple in my contemporary romance. Once that first draft is complete and put aside, I'll be back to the historical and chapter 2... :-)