Wednesday 29 June 2011

The Novella Progresses...

I've been keeping to my planned writing sessions for the novella and it has certainly made me think hard about my characters and who they are deep down.

Dragging the depths of my brain hasn't found anything too disturbing, it's just jiggled a few ideas around and made me review my previous thoughts on certain characters, elements that were there but hadn't been so obvious before now made more sense.

So, happy with the character sheets I moved onto my chapter outlines.

I had my synopsis, but it was a basic synopsis and the story had developed more since it was originally written.

So I started with Chapter1: written in bold. Well I knew what happened in this chapter, what I was aiming to show and why, it was already written and had been sat untouched for a couple of years.

But I'd not been happy with my previous attempt at writing Chapter 2, so had abandoned it.

Even though I knew the story I was going to write, I just couldn't decide how to start chapter 2, so panic!!!

Reminding myself I didn't need to write chapter two now, just the outline I took a deep breath and started typing. Very quickly I was outlining the next chapter and suddenly the first four were done.

Once I started I was surprised how easily it all came out.

Three pages in total and the story outlined in 15 chapters.

(I type with a couple of fingers, so my chapter outlines of just under a thousand words took two hours.)

I certainly feel more confident about this project, but I suspect it won't fit the pocket novel formula by the time is is done.

But the end is a long way off yet...

Sunday 26 June 2011

At The Book Festival...

I'm now feeling human again after a good night's sleep so can recall the day...

book festival,white,banner,gate

The weather started out very overcast and from past experience at the festival Saturday knew that it would be quiet if the sun didn't shine.

There were the usual book stalls from assorted antique and collectible old books to new ones. I have to put imaginary handcuffs on myself when looking at the old books- but that's not strange in writers I'm sure...

I did find an Arthur Mee's The King's England series book for Nottinghamshire. My copy from 1949 was only £2.50, and there are lots of useful snippets in it.

There was a lovely little book on the meaning of flowers, the illustrations were by Kate Greenaway but at £15 it was too costly, though I considered the 1970's copy of the same book at £10, I still decided to pass.

That did generally seem to be happening. People were looking but buying less than in comfortable years, whether you were talking new or recycled.

Well we got the sunshine and the side of the marquee was opened up to improve airflow and space. But there were a few showers to deal with during the afternoon.

There were sudden gusts of wind as well, so leaflets on our stall went flying and on a few occasions I was seen to crawl about on the grass to reach under tables and chairs to retrieve them- and no there are no photos (I was in charge of the camera this year).

I never got to any of the talks, but as you can see from the photo they were well attended.

marquee,people,grass,white,book festival
Overspill at the talk

In fact many of them had a person holding up a sign behind their back at the marquee entrance saying sorry, they were full.

Members of the literary community supporting the Alan Sillitoe Statue Fund spent the day selling raffle tickets- there were a number of prizes that consisted of books and bottles of alcohol...

The winner(s) of the Alan Sillitoe Short Story Competition were also announced. The short list had been judged by writer Nicola Monaghan and David Sillitoe. As they couldn't choose between the top three stories the first prize was split between the three writers who received £60 each- one apparently donated their winnings to the statue fund.

I stopped to say hello to crime writer Stephen Booth during a gap in the book signings- he always supports the Lowdham Saturday in some form.

There were storytellers dressed as characters from Southwell Workhouse and they stayed in character even when walking around the festival- very impressive.

My NWC colleagues had (like me) spent time talking to people interested in writing and others interested in members books that were on sale.

By four pm I was getting tired and was glad to be finishing for the day.

So if there's a book festival near you, it's worth going along...

Saturday 25 June 2011

It's Been A Long Day...

Well I'm back from my day at the Lowdham Book Festival- sorry to say you'll have to wait for the photos and details.

I like a lie-in at the weekends and the 6am start was only managed with a large cup of coffee.

And now I've stopped and sat down all I want to do is yawn...

So when I'm recovered I'll download the photos I took and gather my thoughts on the day.

But the good news is that I won three books in the raffle...

Thursday 23 June 2011

Lowdham Book Festival...14th June-14th July

This coming Saturday (25th) I'll be leaving my family at home to spend the day at the 12th Lowdham Book Festival, Nottinghamshire. It runs from 10am to 5pm.

The writers club has a stall and I'm usually one of the volunteers that man it. Club members are able to sell copies of their published books, or provide promotional material for their e-books. Then there's the advertising for the writers club itself.

It can be a long day and like any event you have to be there early to set up, so no lie-in for me this weekend.

The festival takes place at various locations around Lowdham, and on Saturday most of the activity is in the village hall and the marquees behind it, though a few other buildings along the main road are used too.

If it's a warm day it's fun to bring a picnic and find a patch of grass to sit down and enjoy the atmosphere before launching back into the day's offerings.

I'm hoping to get a break to go along to the 2-3pm slot where Jasper Fforde is in conversation with Stephen Booth.

Also there will be an exhibition of memorabilia, books and photos celebrating the life and works of Alan Sillitoe. This is all part of the campaign to raise the £50,000 needed to commission a statue to be placed in Nottingham.
There is a raffle (with proceeds going toward the fund) and the results of the Alan Sillitoe Statue Fund Short Story Competition will be announced -with readings from the successful stories.

I was very fortunate to have met Alan in 2008, he was a charming man, very unassuming, and I think a statue is a great way to honour his memory.

All events on the day are free and there's a tent for children to listen to stories and be creative. There's two chances to see children's writers Tom Palmer and Helena Pielichaty.

Plus there's always book stalls- new and second-hand (I take a large bag with me so I can carry my purchases home).

If you want more details of the day then look here.

So if you get the chance to visit, enjoy yourself.

Monday 20 June 2011

Kindle Direct Publishing- Good and Bad News...

KDP is in the news again.

Today the Bookseller highlighted a million KDP e-book sales by John Locke. Now that has obviously taken work, but he has written nine novels- his latest  is called How I Sold 1 Million e-books in 5 Months.
I suspect he'll get a lot of sales from that one too. But well done John Locke.

A lot of writers have taken to selling their books with KDP and Smashwords, and they're enjoying the opportunity to finally get their work to readers and to earn money from their writing.

But some are holding off taking that step. That could be because of the latest complications on that emerged in the US press late last week. SPAM- and let's not be polite, piracy.

A report appeared in the Los Angeles Times on the 16th, 'Spam is clogging Amazon's Kindle'. The article mentions thousands of e-books being produced without the need for any writing of their own. They use PLR- Private Label Rights (not to be confused with the UK's Public Lending Rights PLR).

I read an explanation on a US blog that this system allows for content to be bought and reused in any form, even an e-book if so wished. Now as long as the original writers have provided that work for use in this way and are happy, then fine.

But it's claimed these books, often priced at 99cents alongside normal priced e-books, results in you having to look through quite a few books to get to those original, hard work put into writing them, e-books...

Sadly there are scam artists who are getting e-books by writers who are selling well, then republishing them with a new cover, and a  new title, but aimed to appeal to "a slightly different demographic" (Paul Wolfe, an Internet marketing specialist, quoted in the LAT article).

Stealing someone else's work and selling it, is PIRACY- plain and simple.

Carol Arnell who brought my attention to KDP originally (and did a Q&A on the subject) has knowledge of this.

"I've just had an email from someone who has found their Kindle book being given away for free on a site. She emailed the site last week - Of course it is a false address as she hasn't heard back."

Obviously once a writer discovers their book being sold by someone else on Amazon they can report it, the fake work is copyright infringement to start with so removing it for that reason shouldn't be an issue.

Carol added: "Thinking back to my one of my author friends whose book has been stolen, and the book is now being downloaded for free somewhere. I cannot see what the hacker would gain by doing this. They're not making any money from it. I can only think it has been done through jealousy. The author concerned has sold many thousands of this book on Kindle."

This highlights another problem. If a hacker resells your e-book under another identity they will be getting the 35 to 70% royalties, so there is financial gain behind their actions. They are clearly guilty of piracy.

But what is the reasoning behind those who provide the books for free? Envy? Belief that the writer gets enough from legitimate sales so they won't miss the ones the hacker gives away? Or are they just ignorant?
Whatever their reason they are certainly ignorant.

We all know how quickly the issues on KDP can soon be repeated by the version. Writers have been finding it increasingly difficult to advertise their books on the Kindle forums because problem posters have led to clamp-downs.

Now successful sellers are going to need to be aware there may be pirate copies of their work for sale, or being given away for free.

As for the free copy thieves- checkout the provider for their sites and complain about their piracy.

Amazon will have to do something to stop the piracy under their nose. They have too much to lose if they don't...

Saturday 18 June 2011

Supermarket Fiction...

No I don't mean unbelievable claims that Supermarket X has the best deals this week- they all say that. I'm talking about supermarkets selling fiction.

My nearest place, the green A, many years ago started out selling a few new release paperbacks by the checkout. They were usually crime fiction by authors that were guaranteed to sell. There was a selection of Mills and Boon too and a few seasonal books at relevant times of the year.

Then my local store got extended and along with the electronic goods, stationery and home wares, they started stacking the shelves with books- just like the book charts are displayed in WH Smith's; attractive,  enticing, and cheaper, so you will pick them up, browse and then decide to put them in your trolley.

Of course they were only following the moves made successfully by the big T.

Nor has it stopped there, Argos started selling children's books...

Now, publishers seem to be cosying up with the supermarkets- with the announcement that Avon ( a division of HarperCollins) has signed an exclusive three-book deal with Sainsbury's.

I find it a little disturbing to have an Avon associate publisher saying  “It's been wonderful to support the Sainsbury's team in further developing their own brand publishing initiative with a move into fiction.”
(Bookseller article)

Call me old-fashioned but I still associate supermarkets with food selling. Yes I admit I've bought electrical goods and stationery at the supermarket, but I just can't bring myself to go there to buy a book.
If I'm going to buy a book in a shop then it should be a bookshop, not a bright noisy Muzak playing supermarket.

I know writers should be glad of any deal that is going to bring thousands of sales of their latest book, but at what price?
Selling in a popular supermarket doesn't necessarily mean you'll get future readers and sales from it, but are you going to worry if those sales push your latest book up the sales chart, and guaranteeing the publisher wanting your next book?
If you're offered the opportunity, of course you will take it; in the current publishing climate a writer would be very foolish (and brave) to turn it down on principle.

When it was cheaper for the owner of a small bookshop to go to his local supermarket and buy copies of the latest Harry Potter at vastly reduced prices, because he wasn't going to be able to sell stock from his normal supply chain at such a reduced price, then you have to wonder if selling to supermarkets is good.

Read 'Publishing's supermarket sweep' in the Guardian's Book Blogs and see if you agree with its writer on the subject.

"these issues fade into insignificance against the single biggest (but rarely acknowledged) problem in publishing today: most of the biggest firms are dominated by cynics and fools."

He goes on to claim they are risk-averse to originality and new writers. (Now that sounds plausible.)

Sadly all such moves can do is speed up the loss of remaining local independent booksellers, leaving the book buyer to choose from online, or something in their nearest book chain.

Otherwise it's see what the local supermarket has negotiated deals on...

Thursday 16 June 2011

Character Analysis...

I've been making progress with my new approach to my characters- writing a character fact sheet for each one. I've always done a character sheet, but not in such an organised way.

Now I've yet to apply it to a short story-but I will.

So far I've been concentrating on my novella. I was a bit concerned that I had a more detailed analysis of my hero, than the heroine who is the main point of view.
So I'm going to have to sit her down and probe her secrets.

If you're having difficulties with a character it is useful to sit them down and interview them- imagine you are sat across the table from each other with a glass of wine, or whatever your character likes to drink, then just start a conversation.

A writer friend suggested this to me many years ago and if I ever have someone in my novel who is reluctant to reveal something, I've found it is a useful strategy.

Of course it might not work for everyone, so what other sources are there?

If you just want a quick reference have a look at '45 Master Characters' by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. It's the type of book you either like or hate; find useful for generating ideas about your characters or feel they can be stereotyped- it just depends upon your own level of ability.

Writers' blogs are also great sources of advice so look through the lists of blogs others follow. You will find some gems to refer back to.

But as we're talking about character here, have a look at Kate Kyle's Gone Writing blog, especially her post from February, 'How to build believable characters'.

By the way, if you intend to try the interview technique mentioned above, just don't do it (aloud) if anyone else is around- specifically a non-writer... :-)

Monday 13 June 2011

Why Are Women's Magazines Stopping Short-Story Slots?

If you're a regular reader of the Womag blog you'll already know that many short story markets have gone and others have restricted submissions to writers who have previously sold to that magazine.

(I know I'm not the only who has yet to make that first womag sale, and now our options have been further limited by these changes.)

There are overseas markets, but when you're still trying to get that  first sale, or further sales after that first acceptance, submitting to those other markets can be a little intimidating and daunting.

So what is the reason for the decline in fiction slots? I would like to hear your views on this too.

Personally I don't think it is just one thing...

Look on any magazine shelf  stocking the weeklies and you'll see a good proportion with sometimes bizarre straplines- basically revealing the dirty laundry of  numerous women, who slept with their brother-in-law/ran off with their mother's boyfriend and so on.

Then there are the celebrity gossip magazines spilling the latest on Cheryl Cole, or a television personality undergoing a trauma in their personal lives. Let's not even mention unfaithful footballers' illicit love-interests.

Fact: Sex and celebrity sells.

Publishers want their magazines to sell well, otherwise there's no point in employing all those people and with the increasing printing costs it would be cheaper to shut them down.

So they must make money.

Editors are under pressure to give the reader what they want; be it the latest miracle face cream, that must have accessory or outfit. The latest news on Eastenders or Coronation Street, or any other popular soap.
And to keep up with the above mentioned gossip and 'real-life' stories.

(Do you think these supposed real-life stories are there to make the reader feel better about their own lives?)

Demographics- Many of the young aren't interested in reading the traditional end of the women's magazine market- they want the celebrity culture that they (perhaps) aspire to.

So where will the future readers of short fiction come from?

As a young woman I read Cosmopolitan, but I also read Woman and Woman's Own, and Woman's Realm (I think it became part of Woman's Weekly) not only for the articles but especially for the fiction.
I could afford to buy that fiction at a time when there was less choice in book genre and the prices of those books available was  fixed.

But today the choices for the young spending their money is immense, film releases, music and digital downloads, nightclubs, mobile phones that access the web and send e-mails and so much more.

They aren't going to suddenly start picking up women's weeklies just because they (will eventually) hit 40...

This may be a battle that writers cannot win.

But if you're willing to try, pop over to Patsy Collins blog and follow her suggestion on her 11th June posting.

There is news of a Facebook crusade on both Patsy's and Womag's blog, so follow the links above.

Friday 10 June 2011

Office Furniture Envy...

Today I had to go and buy a new chair to use at the computer.

Now it's not that I have suddenly gained an office to do my writing in- if only- no my swivel chair was falling apart and it had to be replaced.

Have you seen how much adjustable swivel chairs can cost? I'm not talking executive types either- I don't have room for those anyway. They cost!!!

I didn't need new, second hand would be fine and within my budget.

So off we went to the Office Equipment place, based in an early 20th century building that looked like it was once a large expensive car showroom with attached garage.
Within was a cave of delight for any writer.

Filing cabinets of assorted sizes and designs. Big desks, curved desks, desks with draws and shelves, and then the chairs: black, orange, brown and blue; the plastic sort you find in church halls and schools and the metal legged sort that wouldn't look out of place in a hospital waiting area. There were a few bucket chairs in black imitation leather and a reception sofa...

It was hard to concentrate on the chairs when my eyes kept lingering on the other equipment, but I forced myself.

I bought a used operator chair with adjustable height and back, and enough wheels to move the chair with ease and still swivel.

There's even room for my wide posterior to rest comfortably on the blue seat.

My dear hubby lifted it into the back of the car for me and drove us home.
Then it was a couple of hours before I actually got to sit at the computer in my 'new' chair as the males in the house got to it first...

In the meantime I will dream of the day when I can have my own office... :-)

Wednesday 8 June 2011

A Little Light Reading and Listening...

All writers need to read, but as I've said before I do sometimes worry that I don't read enough, but today's prize winner I can honestly say I know the story.

Congratulations go to the winner of the 2011 Orange Prize for Fiction, Téa Obreht.  A first-time novelist and apparently the youngest winner of the prize, which will hopefully encourage more writers.

I heard her winning book 'The Tiger's Wife' serialised on BBC Radio4 a few months ago and it was worth listening to. I'm not sure that I would have continued reading it if I'd tried it in print form, but give me a 'prize' book in an audio format and I'm fine.

I've actually started reading an Agatha Raisin e-book- Agatha, a Cotswold amateur detective, is the creation of M C Beaton. In the last few years I've heard other people say they've enjoyed the books, but never got round to picking one up myself.

That was until a few weeks ago when I happened to tune into Radio4 Extra (used to be BBC7) and heard one of the books being serialised. (Agatha is voiced by actress Penelope Keith.)

I may eventually read the first book and work through the series, but I've started with the 'Fairies of Fryfam'- this story follows on from the book being serialised on the radio this week. So far I'm enjoying both...

(I did not know, until I was looking the books up, that M C Beaton is also Marion Chesney- I've read her historical romances over the years.)

Audio books seem to have become popular recently. When I've been looking for possible e-book purchases there will frequently be an audio version also available. You can buy and download them to your computer, your IPod or an mp3 player, it's no longer just cassette tapes or Cds -but if you intend to buy one do check whether it's an abridged (shorter) or an unabridged version (full length) of the book.

The best thing about the audio format is you can do the housework, shopping or even travel on crowded public transport while you listen to a good book...

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Which Novella to Work On...

Once again I have some peace and quiet to write- the school half term holidays are over and I'm determined to get on with one of my longer projects before the summer holidays begin.

But which one?

I have one novella that I started over two years ago. It's set in a fictional Nottinghamshire village in 1802. While the premise of the story is not original-most have been done before- I think my idea will work.

One of my characters in waiting-Hugh- finally gets his chance to appear.

As I already have a synopsis and the first chapter written, I thought I'd start with this as the time away has helped and I'm ready to move on with the story.

I'd actually entered it in one of the writers' club competitions the year I started writing it- 2009 (just to get an opinion on the story idea and characters- I only needed a synopsis and the first chapter) and the critique was helpful, so I'm going to work on this first draft and see how long it comes out.

It has potential to be a pocket novel, but whether it will be long enough- 50,000 words, I'm not sure.

So tomorrow I'm going to plan out the chapters and work on my character sheets so I avoid my flat characters issue- I'm really trying.

And if anything or anyone tries to interrupts me I will be ignoring them...

Friday 3 June 2011

Romance is Healthy- On the Page or Off...

I've been reading romance books for many years - all I'm admitting to is that it started a long time ago...

My long term relationship with romance novels really began when I picked up a Mills and Boon in my city centre library, from then on I was hooked.

Recently Sally Quillford highlighted an article by Claudia Connell that featured in the Daily Mail. Sally rightly called it patronising and I agree with her, romance writers don't automatically wear twin sets and have blue rinses, or any of the other suggestions.

Now the Guardian has an article discussing claims made by a religious Psychologist on the effect that reading romance books has on women- "women can become as dangerously unbalanced by these books'  entrancing but distorted messages as men can be by the distorted messages of pornography".

Romance books have always suffered disparaging comments, and the term 'bodice-rippers' usually features as it did in the Daily Mail article. Ripping bodices to me suggests aggressive sexual violence, that isn't romance.

I don't see Psychologists suggesting that authors of crime novels are all balding nerds, dressed in black who really want to go out and murder numerous people in the most horrible ways possible...

(Okay, I know I got carried away there, but you know what I'm saying.)

Romance writers are inventive-I'm not even going to try counting how many sub-genres there are. They're smart, helpful, very knowledgeable and they like a happy ending.
(In this current world that's something that should be applauded and encouraged.)

Romance writers took on the challenge of e-books early and are getting the sales to prove it was a wise move.

Your choice of romance reading can have the intimacy go on behind closed doors or in full view of the reader, but it is never tacky- porn is.

To paraphrase something someone else said on the subject, what's so bad about love and monogamy?

Wednesday 1 June 2011

Poetry and Me...

As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I don't write poetry. (I have read and enjoyed poetry by Byron, Keats, Tennyson and the occasional piece by Robert Frost.)

Now I admit I did try writing it last year. One of our best poets in the Writers' Club held a workshop to encourage more potential entrants to the monthly poetry competition.

I foolishly said I would try. Even more foolishly I promised that I would finish the poem and enter it into one of the 'open' category competitions that had a deadline of two months hence.

The entry went in and the judge made a few positive comments, but I think he was just trying to be encouraging- at least he didn't say it was rubbish...

Now you may wonder why I'm talking about poetry. Well tonight I am in the Chairman's seat at the writers' club, and the guest speaker is poet Carole Coates.

Viv, who arranged the booking, mentioned something about everyone needing pen and paper. I think there might be a practical element later in the evening.
As I will be sat beside the speaker I won't be able to hide, so I think I'd better quickly brush up on my poetry terminology. :-)


I survived.

I enjoyed the readings, and then after the break we did a number of simple exercises. The free writing pieces did actually give me ideas and I'm sure once my brain has worked on the phrase I wrote- " The curse of DNA" I might be able to construct something. Though I suspect that will turn into a story-eventually.

But to be honest, I will never be a poet...