Monday 28 November 2011

The Leveson Enquiry...

As I've been staying indoors due to the cold air making me cough so much, I've seen some on the Sky and BBC News coverage of the Leveson Enquiry in the afternoons.

As a writer, freedom of speech is important. We're all aware that there are writers in the world who are imprisoned, even tortured or killed for writing the truth, having an opinion or just disagreeing with those in power.

So I suppose you could say the fact that the Leveson enquiry is taking place and is broadcast on national tv, shows our country is reasonably healthy in the freedom issue.

Most writers- whatever their form of media- know the rules. Admittedly, one writer's personal red line won't necessarily be the same as the next man or woman. Individual moral codes can't be legislated...

I was speaking to a freelance journalist earlier this year, and our conversation moved to phone hacking as it was in the news at the time.

The view expressed was that it was not just the one newspaper, and that laziness was a contributing issue.

Today there are databases. Information can be gathered with a few clicks of the computer mouse. There's no longer any need or time for journalists to go out into the community and look for the news.

In fact many local newspapers have either closed down, or are satellites of the big newspaper groups.

Celebrity sells. Publishers wouldn't pay millions for the biography of an ex-politician, reality star, or high profile actor, if they couldn't guarantee sales in the hundred thousands... Nor would the shelves of  newsagents be littered with magazines, emblazoned with lurid celebrity related headlines, that keep being bought.

The people who have given evidence to the enquiry- both ordinary and well-known (including Harry Potter author JK Rowling) have clearly suffered from abuse by a minority.

When it is all over and the recommendations are made for the future, I hope it doesn't go too far in restricting what can be written. Investigative journalism is very important in uncovering misdeeds and bad practise.

But something must be done- good journalists should not be tarred with the same brush as the bad journalists.

Friday 25 November 2011

Being Realistic About Your Writing...

As I write it is 12 days to Awards Night at Nottingham Writers' Club, combined with the annual  restrained Christmas party... I've had a slight relapse on the health front and now need an inhaler for a short while, so hopefully I'll be feeling 100% by the party.

After the awards we have finger food and a few quizzes with chocolate type prizes for the winner/s or the winning table. And this is truly when the hidden competitive streak comes out in all of us- in a good natured way of course. :-)

Chocolate and writers just seem to go together...

It's also the evening I should be getting the comments on my romance trophy entry returned to me. This year it was judged by writer Sue Moorcroft (who is also one of the judges in the Fiction Workshop section in Writers Forum magazine).

So I'm looking forward to seeing what Sue thought about my entry. I am prepared for good news and bad. Though I won't read the comments properly until the cold light of day when I can calmly absorb them.

Once my novella in progress is completed I'll go back to the novel- as I've been contemplating it for the past year and learning more about my characters- and think I'm ready to proceed with it...

I'm realistic enough to know I need to be honest about my writing, and need to make clinical judgements about it, as a well-known novelist suggests.

A L Kennedy in the Guardian has written an article on looking closely at your work and seeing not only it's good points, but the weak areas as well. There are some interesting suggestions included.

We all have areas of writing that we are better at, but it doesn't mean we will always see all those weak spots, so honest but supportive writer friends can be invaluable.

So on Awards Night I'll be clapping the winners, and looking forward to the prospect of another writing year, learning more and steadily improving...

Wednesday 23 November 2011

Back To The Writing-Chapter Endings...

After a few busy weeks, plus the nasty chest infection, I'm now getting back to the writing.

Yesterday I finally completed chapter 2 of my novella (admittedly it's only the first draft) but I found myself ending the chapter at a point I hadn't expected- though when I looked at my outline, I realised that I'd planned it that way-  I just hadn't noticed that was how my sub-conscious had seen it...

I know I used to worry (unnecessarily) about where to end my chapters when I started writing again- many years ago.

Now the characters always decide for me and refuse to co-operate if I try to go beyond their cut-off point. Of course it doesn't mean it's going to stay that way in the rewriting, but as a progress point, it works for me.

Like most other areas of writing, you read, you inwardly digest and improve by doing. Basically, I'm continually learning and adapting as I find what works best for me.

Then there are the boundaries for the chosen genre- final length, and any specific editorial requirements- beside a great story that the editor can't resist, obviously... :-)

So this year I decided I had to be flexible. But as you can see from the chapter 2 mention above, I'm still trying...

Monday 21 November 2011

Self Publishing with Kindle...

I've lost count of how many e-mails I've had from Amazon promoting their latest Kindle e-reader in the past couple of months- you can't escape it. Admittedly their e-readers do seem to be popular Christmas gifts.

Whenever I check the stats for my blog there are regular hits for my Kindle posts, so I thought I'd add another one.

There is a great article (in the December 2011 edition of Writing Magazine) by Kindle author Lily Childs explaining how to format your book for uploading, what to do once it's ready and lots of other useful information.

Lily has just published her second Magenta Shaman book via Kindle and has started to build up a readership for her novels.

Now I'm not the most technically minded person, but I think even I could do it following Lily's instructions...

The December issue of Writing Magazine is worth getting hold of as it has a section solely related to self-publishing, including an article by Malcolm Welshman about generating publicity for your book- yes he did dress up as a rabbit, I saw the original video...

If your newsagent has run out of copies of the December issue, you can buy a copy at the Writers Online website, and a digital edition is available for a reasonable price here.

It will be some time before my work is ready for Kindle, so I better go and get on with writing it... :-)

If you've Kindled your book/s do let me know (in the comments box below) if you think it has been worthwhile...

Saturday 19 November 2011

It's That Time of Year Again...

Yes, Christmas approaches...

There's financial crisis in Europe as well as the UK, and no doubt there are a lot of writers who are watching their pennies this Christmas.

A lot of shops are offering discounts to tempt buyers, and if you have any store loyalty cards you can build up points throughout the year, that you can use for buying Christmas presents- and treating yourself.

What might be good presents for writers?

Here are a few practical suggestions:
  • memory sticks
  • packs of paper for printing
  • notebooks
  • pens
  • a supply of chocolate- okay, a large bar is always appreciated any time of the year...:-)
If you want something different then there are some fun gift items for writers at The Literary Gift Company and I really like their mugs- there's even one that says 'Go Away I'm Tweeting'...

It was my birthday recently so I think I'm going to get myself the t-shirt with 'Careful or you'll end up in my novel' on the front.

An ideal gift for horror writers is surely their Edgar Allen Poe mini journal with a suitably eerie cover.

You can find a great selection of writer gifts at CafePress -my particular favourite is the small mug with 'do not interrupt inner dialogue in progress'.

About 7 to 8 years ago I used to do articles for an online magazine (sadly no longer in existence, as the editor went in a different direction and eventually closed the magazine) and at this time of year, I used to produce a gift buying guide for readers, with a variety of gifts from under £5 to over £20.

It was hard work but great fun finding a variety of gifts suitable for all ages...

So have you ever been given a gift specifically because you're a writer?

Monday 14 November 2011

It's Monday and...

Usually by Sunday night I know what I'm going to talk about on my Monday blog post, but nothing came to me yesterday...

Now I have to admit there's a good reason for that. My cold of the past few days became a nasty chest infection and yesterday morning I was so ill I ended up with the one man ambulance car coming out to me to check my chest pains weren't a serious problem.

Everything was fine and I just needed to see the emergency doctor for antibiotics.

I'm now on my second day of medicine and I'm feeling much more human. But it did cross my mind yesterday, that if I'd lived in earlier centuries, the outcome of my chest infection would have been very different- and eventually fatal...

Which brings me to mentioning Rosemary Gemmell's, Romancing History blog, where today's subject is Garrow's Law and The Old Bailey. If you haven't seen it before, it's worth watching.

Friday 11 November 2011

BWA- Transparency vs Protection...

Anyone who is switched on to the blogsphere will have heard or read something over the past few days about the Brit Writers Award organisation (BWA).

Now let me make it clear from the start there is nothing to suggest that they have done anything illegal or immoral, just that they have been unwilling to answer reasonable questions about their 'Agents Division' service, and statements they've made about partner-agents etc...

You don't hire a builder to construct your home extension on the basis of statements made on a website, in an e-mail or flyer put through the door- at least not without checking they have the appropriate qualifications, experience in the type of building you want done, and knowing what you're getting for the money you're paying.
If you don't ask questions then you only have yourself to blame if it goes wrong and you realise you've wasted your money...

Services to writers are the same.

Writers know that editorial services can be worth the money spent, if it helps improve their book before it's finally submitted to agents or publishers. If the service claims to be connected to agents, then it's not unreasonable to ask who the agents are?

Sadly BWA had been unwilling to answer questions, (and that has made many writers suspicious, I'm sure). Even today (Friday)when they responded to questions put by Jonathan Telfer (Editor of Writers News and Writing Magazine) their answer, while extensive, did little but explain why they felt the need to use non-disclosure and employ a solicitor to make legal threats of defamation to certain bloggers...

Nowadays Consumer organisations advise potential buyers to ask questions before purchasing or engaging the services of any individual or organisation- be it a caterer, carpet fitter or a plumber!

If the organisation wants your business then they should be doing all they can to make it easy for you to decide in their favour; those that don't, lose business and word spreads.

Writers are consumers too, so don't be surprised when they ask questions...

(Update: request from Harry over at the Writers' Workshop blog )

Thursday 10 November 2011

The Trials of Being A Writer...

At the moment my brain is on go slow, so this blog will be brief.

The dreaded winter bugs have finally got me, so instead of belly dancing today, I'm at home in the warm taking it easy.

I'm going to catch up on my reading until my head is less clogged up. I wish I could be one of those writers who can soldier on when they're ill, but I can't.

I mentioned on Monday that I was reading 'The House of Silk'; well for UK listeners, Radio4 at 10.45pm The Book at Bedtime slot is featuring an abridged version of 'The House of Silk' read by the brilliant Derek Jacobi.

So I'm trying to read enough each day to keep ahead of the nightly slot...

Meanwhile, pop over to Quiller's Place to read about an important ongoing issue, and read as many of the links as you can.

Monday 7 November 2011

Buying Books for Christmas- If You Can Wait That Long...

I've finally had to admit that Christmas is creeping closer and I've started looking at what might be ideal for the family. There are always a few books somewhere in the wrapping paper on Christmas morning, so I've been surfing the web and browsing the high street bookshops to see what's available.

The high street book retailers are certainly competing with online prices at the moment in a way they haven't in past years.

Waterstones have introduced their new pricing policy, and I do like their discreet stickers showing the  price reduction on their books.

WH Smith are doing a big price reduction campaign too and they have quite a few new hardbacks at half price. I bought the new Sherlock Holmes story 'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz, for myself. I started reading it over the weekend and I'm really enjoying it.

As I read, I couldn't help but hear the voices of the late Edward Hardwicke (who died in May this year) and Jeremy Brett ( 1933-1995) who became the personifications of Watson and Holmes to many tv viewers who watched their adventures (1984 to 1994).

One of my teenage sons has already asked to read the book when I've finished it...

I'm also looking forward to the autobiography of Elisabeth Sladen, (who sadly died in April this year)best known as former Dr Who assistant and journalist Sarah Jane Smith in CBBC's 'The Sarah Jane Adventures'.

I think this Christmas is going to be good for book buyers and readers when you see what is available, and you add in the e-book choices too.

Are there any books you are going to buy this Christmas? Will you be buying online or will you be spending your money at high street booksellers?

Sunday 6 November 2011

The 250 Word Result...

Well Wednesday evening went well for all the 17 entrants with their 250 words on the theme Stormy Weather.

There were quite a few stories with stormy marriages- including mine, though in mine the marriage was in the past. The entries that did well in the voting were the humorous ones.

Sadly I didn't win- in fact I didn't even get one vote... :(

But the story will not be wasted. As I suspected I wanted to rewrite it the moment it was read aloud. So I'm going to let it ferment a while before I tackle it again, and perhaps find a home for it (somewhere) when it's been rewritten slightly longer.

Friday 4 November 2011

A Magazine Must-Have...

This week the centenary issue of Woman's Weekly is in the shops- you can't miss the blue and pink cover with 100 across the front. (It's dated 8th November 2011.)

It's brilliant for enthusiasts of nostalgia, or anyone interested in researching any decade of the 20th Century.

There are a couple of pages of front covers showing how they've changed and I certainly remember the pink background header title from the 70's and 80's- and the knitting patterns...

The beauty and health sections from the past were certainly an eye opener. Obviously science has brought many discoveries over one hundred years, but all I will say is I'm glad I wasn't a baby in 1916!!!

The reproduction of the first issue that's included is about A5 size and the print is small, so I'm not going to try reading the articles and stories without a magnifying glass handy. But the adverts of 1911 do make their 21st century counterparts seem quite tame...

I'm sure there will be lots of inspiration for stories from this centenary issue...

There are some links for the website given in the magazine but they don't seem to be working at the moment, but meanwhile the website can be found here.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

250 Words- Why Did I worry?

The 250 words I mentioned on Monday finally came together Tuesday lunchtime.

My character was still giving me hints a couple of hours before I finalised the story.

I had actually tried three different openings in the previous fortnight, and actually those elements did feature in the final cut, so they weren't wasted.

In fact it was only as I was getting to the heart of my character that I made a discovery- it altered the angle of the story entirely...

My only problem was that by the time I had edited it to a state I was happy with, I found I had 251 words.
Now when a competition says 250 words is the maximum, then 250 words it is, so mini panic over I looked at a few of the sentences which could be jiggled around. In fact I even moved the position of one sentence completely and it worked so much better.

Eventually I found a way to lose one word, so I finally had my 250 words.

Now I can't reveal any details yet, but maybe tomorrow I will share it with you. Though no doubt I will want to rewrite it when I read it again...