Monday 31 October 2011

250 Words for Wednesday...Eeeek!!!!

As I mentioned on my weekend post my latest writing dilemma- trying to write 250 words on a set theme-for this coming Wednesday evening's Manuscript of the Year Competition at Nottingham Writers' Club.

Now every October I'm wracking my brains to come up with an idea, each year the theme is different, but we do know the subject from early September. Sometimes the result emerges much quicker, but not this year.

Members hand in their 250 words of prose on the night with a pseudonym, and whether they need a male or female reader. We have 4 readers, two men and two women who read each entry, and if there's not too many entries that year, they are read a second time by the other male or female reader.
It does illustrate how different a story can sound with another reader.

The winner is the entry that gets the most votes from the audience on the night- we often have visitors to meetings and they are able to join in the fun and vote.

Earlier in the year the Committee asked members for theme suggestions, and in the month or two following that a longlist/shortlist of possibilities was compiled- depending on suitability.

The criteria for suitability is that the suggestions give scope for interpretation by the writers. The Committee vote by e-mail for their preferred suggestion, until there is a winner.

A couple of years ago we were given a set line that had to appear somewhere in the story, but didn't count toward the 250 words...That was difficult, but it produced a wide variety of stories- a perfect example of how 15+ writers tackle the same theme totally differently.

The list often also provides the theme for the annual Verse of the Year Competition for the poets among the membership in the following March.
This year's Verse theme was 'Sat-Nav'. The competition was won by Keith- who blogs as 'Dream it, then do it' and another member Graham. As the vote is anonymous we couldn't ask for another vote to decide, so they got to share the trophy...

So to this year.
My problem is my character, she keeps providing me with snippets and the circumstances keep changing, as does her name. But I do have the last line...

So, now I have until Wednesday lunchtime to finally get my story together.

Friday 28 October 2011

Reading or Writing?

I was trying to decide which of two ideas to blog about today. First, I thought I'd share my latest writing dilemma, trying to write 250 words on a set theme, but then I saw an article online and thought I'd prefer to chat about the idea discussed.

So the 250 word issue will be Monday's post.

The article that caught my attention was 'I’m not ashamed of what’s loaded on my e-reader – are you?' by  in The Telegraph online, book section.

Now this appears to have come about from a survey- though who compiled it isn't mentioned, so judge it how you will.

" Meanwhile, a quarter of us are too embarrassed to admit to owning the e-books we are actually reading – mainly thrillers, mysteries and fantasy."

I find that admission surprising as the people I know with e-readers wouldn't be embarrassed to admit owning such books in digital form. So perhaps the people who answered the survey were high-brow types whose usual (admitted) reading matter is literary fiction...

It's understandable that sales of erotica in e-book form would have increased. In the view of some of the population, anyone seen reading erotica (with their revealing covers) might be considered disgraceful- to put it politely. While many readers and writers know that it is a popular genre, and if you want to buy it and read it then, fine, no problem.

There are likely to be quite a few classics that have been downloaded for free, Charles Dickens, Jane Austen and the Brontes among them. I know I have quite a few classics on my e-reader.

Here is a small  selection of e-books I have on my pocket reader currently- I have more in my reader library that I've read and taken off my reader, so I only have the ones on there that I'm reading, or have yet to read.

  • Around the World in 80 Days - Jules Verne.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo- Alexander Dumas (I read this as a teenager, along with The Three Musketeers).
  • Delight and Desire- Joanne Maitland.
  • Diamonds and Pearls- assorted writers (brilliant book).
  • Four in Hand- Stephanie Laurens (a favourite, always makes me smile when I read it).
  • Georgette Heyer's Regency World- Jennifer Kloester (I have a book copy too).
  • Innocent Courtesan to Adventurer's Bride- Louise Allen.
  • Loves Me, Loves Me Not-Romantic Novelists' Association (another must have).
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy- Douglas Adams (I've actually finished it now).
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell-Susanna Clarke.
  • The Uncommon Reader- Alan Bennet.
  • The Unlacing of Miss Leigh-Diane Gaston.
You get the idea. I won't bore you with all the current 71 books...:-)

So what books have you got on your e-reader? Are there any on your e-reader that you would not want to admit to owning? (If there are, you don't have to tell all.)

Now I'm off to browse some e-books by a couple of authors I haven't read before...

Wednesday 26 October 2011

The OFT Decision on the Amazon/Book Depository Merger is a Disappointment...

I think there are a lot of readers and writers who will disappointed today; the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) has cleared Amazon in its intention to take over the Book Depository. They will not be referring the take-over to the Competition Commission.

You can read this article on the Bookseller website that explains some of the reasoning for this decision.

The Booksellers Association, one of a number of organisations who sent representations to the OFT during the consultation period this summer, are concerned that Amazon could put its competitors out of business, now the take-over has got the go-ahead.

"Tim Godfray, chief executive of the BA, said: “ Amazon now has even more power to put its bookseller competitors out of business and, having done that, it will be in an excellent position to increase prices and/or reduce choice.” "
The BA website didn't have anything about the OFT decision in the news section of their website at the time I posted this, so here's to The Bookseller again.

I'd be very surprised if Amazon hadn't been preparing for the merger in the meantime, so I don't expect its completion to take too long now.

Amazon features in the financial news today, with the announcement that their third quarter's profits have slumped (that's July to September) - likely due to their investment in the new Kindle devices, Fire and Touch.

This time next year it may be an entirely different situation.

So for those book buyers who don't want to buy from Amazon, now is the time to support small booksellers, or go to the publisher and buy direct from them- a lot of them are offering this now.

Monday 24 October 2011

Saturday at Sally Quilford's Pocket Novel Workshop...

I had a busy Saturday attending Sally Quilford's first Pocket Novel Workshop in Chesterfield. Now it's not far from Nottingham, 30-40 minutes by train, so off I went. I have to admit I haven't been on a train for over 20 years, so initiously I was a bit anxious...

I needn't have worried, I arrived in one piece at Chesterfield and followed Sally's directions to get to the Market Hall building. Chesterfield is clearly a thriving market town and I'd like to visit another time.

Anyway I got to the room we would be in and Sally and her daughter were there to welcome us, and they provided tea, coffee and biscuits- as it had been an early start for all of us.

We were a mixed bunch of writers, from those who had an idea for a pocket novel, to those who were broadening their writing horizons- our number included two males.

Writers are always told to study their market, so we started with the differences between the My Weekly pn (pocket novels) and those produced by People's Friend. One big difference is 'kissing'; there's no kissing in the PF version, while the My Weekly pn editor is very happy with kissing (more about that shortly).

So we got down to some writing. First our heroine- we wrote about who she is, her background, description (if we knew what she looked like) and anything relevent.
And it's not easy if you don't already have a character in mind, or you do have a character but don't know anything about them yet.

We then repeated the process with out hero- I only had a name, but realised he was actually a character who'd been lurking in my mind for some time (I'd teamed him up with another heroine originally but realised they were not right together).

Our next task was conflict-both internal and external-  difficult when you don't know your characters well.

The secondary characters came next. I've found my secondary character usually acts as a support to both my hero and heroine, rather than one for each, or creating problems.

And finally the kissing scene. We all groaned at the thought of producing this. When you consider you've just started to discover your hero and heroine and then got to get them kissing without the normal lead in!!!!

But we survived and all too soon the day was over- we did have a break for lunch, Sally was not that cruel...

We all learnt so much, but if you want to know, you'll have to find out from Sally. She hopes to do others if she can arrange them, and you can always contact her about her online workshop- see Sally's blog.

It was a great day and among Sally's suggestions were links on Womag writer's blog, the current  pocket novel guidelines and Douglas McPherson's interview with the My Weekly Pocket Novel Editor Maggie Seed (which originally appeared in Writers Forum ).

Friday 21 October 2011

It's Good to Be Friendly...

As Ange at Fonts and Fiction has kindly given me the Friendly Blogger Award I have taken some time to consider who to pass this on to.

So in no particular order as they say...
Steven Chapman- he's fun and is a friend to charity- he's growing facial hair during November to raise money- but be warned he writes horror...

Sally Jenkins- who is another friendly person who shares info and competition news.

Jennifer Thomson- a caring and compassionate friendly person- don't worry about the zombie bits...

Shirley- a lovely friendly person who shares her writing highpoints and actually is a very good poet too.

Rosalind Smith-Nazilli- besides writing she shares her knitting ideas in a friendly way...

Other friendly bloggers have already been highlighted by other winners, and  I too would have added them to my list, among them,  Patsy, Teresa, Sally and Keith.

Friendship is wonderful, online and off. So thank you all.

Monday 17 October 2011

Reviewing My 2011 Progress So Far...

I've been reviewing my writing progress for 2011 and decided I couldn't reveal my conclusions to date without recalling the parameters I'd set myself in mid-December last year- ten months ago...

So my four targets were:

1: Get a short story published- somewhere.

2: Work on at least one of my novella length stories.

3: The novel- open to decision.

4: Enter some writing competitions.

Now I have to say I've only managed two of my four targets, though the other two have received attention to a slight degree.

The first, get a short story published hasn't happened, as the contender needs a little more work and my accident interfered in a big way.

The work on the novella is underway, and the novel has had some thought- although I haven't had time to put the decisions into action.
I tidied up the synopsis where I could, and with the first three chapters entered it into the annual romance trophy competition at the writers club- I put it in to make up the numbers this year, so I already know some of the faults, but it will be interesting to see what comments it receives.

So number 4, enter some writing competitions has been the other area of progress. In January I entered the Words with Jam last few lines of a story competition. And today I finished revising my 150 words for the Mail on Sunday Novel Competition- the start of, so that will be in the post tomorrow.

If you want to enter, there is still time, you have until the 28th October to get your entry in. Details here.

So I'm going to be getting on with my novella for the remainder of the year.

This coming Saturday I'll be at Sally Quillford's Pocket Novel workshop, which I'm looking forward to and I'm sure I'll learn a lot.

Hopefully next year will be more productive.

Saturday 15 October 2011

Yes, I Am A Writer...

I do know some writers who would deny themselves that description, but the majority of my writing acquaintances accept it.

Friday evenings I browse the online newspapers for book related items that might interest friends and provoke discussions. That was how I came across this article  'Am I a writer' in the Guardian books section by Rick Gekoski- who has had a number of non-fiction books published, and is also a book dealer.

His daughter, a forensic psychologist with numerous articles to her name ( and also a published author) said to him she was not a writer.  " "It's just a job of work," she said. "There's no art in it, no imagination or creativity, and no fuss. Writers always make a fuss.""

Now perhaps that is the scientist speaking, but is 'art' the difference between factual writing and fiction?
Do writers make a fuss? Though we don't have any explanation of what type of fuss she means, so perhaps we can ignore that statement...

I suspect it is really about how we define ourselves and the terms 'writer', 'author' and 'novelist'.

This is my personal view of those terms, so they won't necessarily reflect another person's opinion, or the dictionary definitions.

I am a writer because I write (with an aim to be published). Perhaps that moment when we say we are a writer-when someone asks what we do- is when we embrace the description and accept the mantle of writer as part of our identity.

When it comes to the difference between an author and a novelist, is it only me who feels that an author is anyone who has published a book, while the novelist is a term more applicable to writers of 'literary' fiction?

I'm interested in finding out how you view both yourself and the terms mentioned, so please share your views.

Wednesday 12 October 2011

E-Book Romance Sales Rise...

Digital sales of romance books are rising and publishers are realising that romance pays.

Mills and Boon adopted digital early in 2008 and now their paperbacks are also sold as e-books at the same time. Previously when a book was published it was only available in print form for a limited time. If you missed a book by a favourite author then you'd probably have to find it second-hand, or hope it was in a clearance deal sometime in the future.

Now they're available with a few clicks of your mouse and credit card details.

E-books are especially useful if you're researching a particular publisher for future submission; you can read their current publications without creating a pile of books on your table.

Random House's Ebury imprint have recently launched their Rouge Romance list, so when mainstream publishers start embracing e-book romance then it tells you it's a growth market.

One of the reasons given for more romances sold in e-book form is anonymity. You get your e-reader out on the bus or train and no one around you knows what you are reading, it could be Erotica or Dan Brown and there's no tell-tale cover to be seen by the person opposite you.

Now I have to say when I've seen someone on the bus reading a book I do look to see what they're reading, but usually it's not the cover I look at, but the top of the page for a book title...Sadly living on a bus route that passes a university most of the books I see aren't that exciting...

More e-readers are being produced, especially in the US where e-books began selling a few years before the UK, and there are a number of publishers enjoying the boom in e-book sales.

For a writer digital has provided more market opportunities, and not just with their own Kindle books.

Read some figures here.

So, do you think e-reader anonymity helps?

Monday 10 October 2011

A Friendly Blogger Shares A Thought...

First I have to say thank you to Rosemary Gemmell for nominating me for The Friendly Blogger Award.

Since I have been blogging I have made a lot of new friends, so thank you all.

As so many of the blogs I too would have mentioned have already
been suggested by other nominees I thought I would do something
slightly different- so I hope you don't mind...

When Steve Jobs of Apple and IPhone fame sadly died last week,
there was a clip on the BBC News of a speech he gave to graduating
students at Stanford University in 2005 accompanying the news report.

If you want to read the whole speech (and it is worth reading) the Guardian published it at the weekend, so look here.

Some of his words really stuck in my mind, and for a writer they are a good reminder. (Quoted from the Guardian item.)

" " And, most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become." "

Saturday 8 October 2011

Author Talk at The Book Festival- Kate Walker...

I mentioned on Thursday that I was intending to go to a book festival, here in Nottingham on Saturday, so I could attend a short talk by Mills and Boon author Kate Walker.

Well I did go, despite the miserable weather.

I met Kate while we were waiting to go into the Council Chamber for the talk, and I have to say she's a lovely friendly person.

All the talks scheduled in the chamber were only 45 minutes, so by the time people arrived, sat down and Kate passed around some freebies supplied by Mills and Boon (a bright pink Biro and a copy of a Riva book- a new M&B series aimed at younger women) and from Kate a bookmark, we had about 35 minutes.

Obviously with the time limit Kate was only able to give a quick run-down on writing a romance novel, but that was helpful for anyone there who considered writing a Mills and Boon novel.

"The books are constantly changing and adapting" which helps explain why they are still publishing romances over 100 years later.

The New Voices competition was mentioned- the closing date is in a few days apparently. But Kate was sure it would run again next year.

Also highlighted was that M&B are looking for your (individual) voice in submissions.

The important words for writing a romance are: characters, conflict, 'emotional punch' and a happy ending- whether there's marriage at the end of the story, or not.

Kate's current book 'The Return of the Stranger' is a rework of 'Wuthering Heights' that the publisher requested.
Now we all know the original story doesn't have a happy ending, so Kate needed to write a happy ending for her version- and we got an explanation of how she went about it in the Q&A session at the end.

I now have a signed copy of the latest book, and the cover model DOES have a neatly trimmed beard and moustache and looks very brooding in an attractive way... :-)

Kate's next book, due in March 2012, will be her 60th title, so I will be looking out for it when it is published.

I came away enthused, and reassured that I have got the right elements in my novel. I just need to work on knowing my characters a bit better.

So you'll know what I'll be reading this coming week...

Thursday 6 October 2011

Moustaches For a Reason...

Not on me I'm glad to say...

If you read any historical romance the only time the hero appears unshaven is when they have had a life threatening injury and are unconscious or in some situation where shaving isn't possible.
Okay that may be a bit of an exaggeration but the hero doesn't usually have a beard or moustache. Even in Victorian settings, when facial hair was more fashionable, the heroes still seem to be clean-shaven.

Now you may wonder why I'm mentioning facial hair in a writing context, well there is a good reason.

A fellow writer on the Talkback forum-Steven Chapman- will be growing a moustache for the whole of November. He is taking part in the Movember fund raising event for The Prostate Cancer Charity.

"During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and other cancers that affect men."

I live in a house of males- hubby and four sons- plus the numerous attractive males in the creative part of my brain, so it's not quite so strange to be giving a donation.

Steven reasoned that if all the people he knew gave even 50p each it would make a good amount.

So if you know a man who wants to take up the challenge, then point them in the direction of Movember. Or if you prefer you can make a donation to an individual, a team, or just a general donation- you'll find a link on the Movember page.

*  *  *

I'm off to the New Writers UK Book Fayre and Festival on Saturday and hope to see the talk by Mills and Boon author Kate Walker.

So my weekend post will be a little late...

Monday 3 October 2011

Why Do My Ideas Want To be Novels?

I had a slight problem the other day. A character that is going to be in my entry for the annual Mail on Sunday Novel Competition intruded into a piece of flash fiction I was writing. Suddenly Jennifer became Miranda- who on earth was Miranda? The character I was writing about at the time was most definitely a Jennifer...
Later that night as I was settling down to sleep Miranda explained who she was and that she was in my competition entry.

Now the competition mentioned above only requires 50-150 words of an opening to a novel with the word ROW used- fortunately the novel doesn't also have to be written, because if it did it would have to go on the waiting list...

This is where my problem starts- and this happens a lot now- what I think is going to be a short story will, by the time I've jotted down the ideas, have become part of a much larger and longer story. And I know from past experience that a story that goes that way just doesn't work by itself...

I know I should be glad that I have all these stories and characters buzzing around in my sub-conscious and I can fill my notebooks up with details to return to later, but I'm beginning to worry whether I can ever manage to come up with an idea that stays as a short story and doesn't want to be anything longer.

When I started seriously writing again- after many years of nothing-it was as much as I could do to write a 1,000 word short story, but as the years have gone by the natural length of my stories has increased: 1200-1300; 1,500 then 1,900 and now I'm having difficulty trying to get a story I've been working on to a 2,000 word length, when it actually needs to have another couple of hundred words, but it will then become an in-between length- not liked by some magazines...

Perhaps this is just a phase my writing is going through and in a few months I'll be coming up with nothing but short story ideas.

But at least I've got the ideas, so now I need to get on with some of them.

If you are interested in the start of a novel competition, Womag published the details on her blog last month, so go there. Good luck if you enter.

Saturday 1 October 2011

Does Super Thursday Make You Buy Books?

Super Thursday (29th September) was the day when publishers released over 225 hardback books. The aim: to get high sales in the run-up to Christmas, so a number of 'celebrity' books are guaranteed to feature just as they have in earlier years with varying degrees of success.

I know publishers need to make money from these high profile books, but imagine how much help a similar publicity campaign would be for the ordinary writers out there...

In the days surrounding Super Thursday there have been mentions on the television news channels, in newspapers and online making buyers aware of some of the books coming out.

But will it work this year?

Book sales have recorded month-on-month falls of a few percent and it's not unreasonable to expect it to continue.
Money is tight for a lot of people in 2011 and I wouldn't  be surprised if a lot of promotional discounts are needed to boost sales nearer Christmas. In 2010 there were a number of celeb bios that had been expected to do well, but didn't. I'm sure there were more than a few advances not recouped in sales.

Every year more people leave their Christmas shopping as late as possible to pick up bargains when stores start getting worried that their stock isn't moving and they start making 20-30% reductions or specific weekends with similar reductions.

Plus the last few Christmas's have seen a surge in the purchase of Kindles and the resulting rise in e-book sales has followed. Hardbacks seem to have suffered the most with the e-book effect.

Of course fans of a particular author will probably buy the latest novel in hardback rather than waiting until it appears in paperback; and a buyer perhaps looking for a Christmas gift for a family member might purchase a celebrity biography because they know that person likes that celebrity (and if it is on offer then even better).

So will you be buying any of the Super Thursday books in your local bookshop, or will you go online for the best price? Perhaps you'll opt for the e-book version. Maybe you won't be buying any hardbacks...

I'd be interested to read your comments and you can post as an anonymous user if you prefer.