Monday 30 January 2012

Sleeping On It...

The last few days I've been trying to resolve a couple of issues.

I've been pondering how I can resolve the start of my Dorset novel without losing the elements I have that work and are needed- immediate setting and character elements. But those I don't want to lose, if I can absolutely avoid it, for getting that opening impact...

The deadline for the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition is the end of March, so I must get on with the changes I know I need, but as often happens another piece of writing is getting in the way...

So as I've settled down to sleep the last three or four nights I've told my mind to concentrate on the first chapter problem and forget anything else- repeating it two or three times as I relax.

And yes, my sub-conscious has sorted it out. I now know where I'm going...

Then strangely enough this afternoon as I sat looking at my computer screen just wondering if I could work out why I couldn't find the final 70 words for solving Jason's problem (this was the other piece of writing that I was supposed to forget).

It suddenly struck me that it was because Jason was in the wrong place. Yes the cabin had a bed in it, but there was no room for anyone to hide. But, if it was just a bedroom then I could add a dressing room and the problem could be resolved within my word limit.

Now you've probably guessed, that as I solved that issue and completed the 'story' in the 200 words allowed, I realised it's actually another 'inspiration scene' that will have to go into my story ideas folder for future development...

Just proves what happens when you sleep on it...

Saturday 28 January 2012

News of a Writing Romantic Fiction Workshop...

As I've been talking about romance novels in e-books this week, I thought you might like to know that there's a Writing Romantic Fiction workshop being held in Nottingham on Saturday 19th May,
10 am-4pm (including a 1 hour lunch break).

Nottingham Writers' Club is hosting the workshop and the tutor for the day is Mills and Boon Presents author, Kate Walker.

Kate had her first novel accepted in 1984
and celebrated 25 years as a professional author in 2010.
Kate Walker
Here are some details of what the workshop will include...

It gives an introduction to all the skills needed for success, from initial research to the final submission of the typescript. With advice and exercises, Kate will guide you through creating realistic characters, sustaining pace and conflict, packing emotional punch, writing sex scenes and crafting a satisfying ending. If you're just starting out writing romantic fiction or you've written a manuscript or two, this one is for you.
The workshop also covers the main aspects of writing romantic fiction that from her experience of teaching over the years seem to create the most problems for unpublished writers.

(Information courtesy of  Kate Walker and Nottingham Writers' Club)

If you're within travelling distance of Nottingham and are interested then you'll find the details here .

There's a (PDF) booking form with the details of how much it costs, and it's easy to download and print off.

I'm really looking forward to the day...

Thursday 26 January 2012

New source of E-Book Romances...

More publishers are expanding their market for romance novels in e-book form.

Last September Random House's Ebury imprint launched Rouge- their digital romance list. Books went straight to digital rather than the traditional print copy first.

Now Piatkus is launching Entice, their digital romance list with some books moving to print versions later.
Other romance sub-genres will follow, so there will be something for everyone who loves 'romance'.

A number of popular romance novelists whose books are published in the US, have had UK editions with Piatkus- they're the larger size paperbacks you see in the Romance section shelves of Waterstones. Among them authors Stephanie Laurens (who was a Mills and Boon historical author for a number of years), Jayne Ann Krentz and Mary Balogh.

Besides reissues, it looks like it is going to be an influx of books by American authors, but just as it seems to be difficult for a UK romance author to get their books published in an American edition, it's probably just as difficult the other way round too.

The romance reader is certainly going to have a lot to choose from. But is it neccesarily going to be good for the unpublished romance writers in the UK?

It will be interesting to see what happens...

Monday 23 January 2012

A Sweet Award...

I want to say a big thank you to Rosemary Gemmell who has awarded me the Irresistibly Sweet Blog Award.

These awards are a great way of making new friends and learning a lot from other bloggers.

Now the picture alone makes me feel hungry-which is not good when I'm trying to lose weight...:-)

So before I pass the award on, I have to find 7 things you may not know about me...

1. When I was in the Brownies, I was an Imp. I only got to be the Sixer about three months before I had to go up to the Guides.

2. I have Maltese ancestry.

3. I once got lost on a day trip (as a child) and was found watching a Punch and Judy show by the Cutty Sark- the Tea Clipper in dry dock at Greenwich.

4. I went on a camping holiday with my triplets when they were only 7-8 months old- this could explain why they don't like camping...:-)

5. As it's the start of the Chinese New Year- I'm a Pig/Boar.

6. My ears are not pierced- I wear clip earrings.

7. I was in the choir at Secondary School. Sadly I can no longer hit high notes...

Now here are my nominees for the Sweet Blog Award:

Scribbler Maxi's Musings

The Blogathon Challenge

StForce's Writing Blog

SK Adams

A Likely Story

Saturday 21 January 2012

KDP Select- Is it For You?

I know a few writers who have put their Kindle Direct Publishing books into this scheme and have seen a good response to their fiction and have recommended it.

But is it worth signing your KDP book up to the lending scheme?

If you haven't heard of the scheme or have and aren't sure if it's for you, then you'll find this article by author Caroline McCray (on the Publishing Perspectives website) a useful introduction.

Basically you are taking part in a lending scheme. US Amazon Prime members can borrow a book once a month and if it's your book you will get money from the Kindle Owners Lending Library Fund-you need to read how this is worked out.

But like everything, with advantages there are also disadvantages...

You have to offer exclusivity to KDP Select. So if you sell your e-book via your website, Smashwords or any other place, you'll not be able to for the 90 days you're signed up to KDP Select.
If you are selling your book in a hard copy, or any other (non-digital) format, you don't have the same restriction on selling elsewhere.

I can see that the scheme would mean your work would reach a wider audience- and we all know how word of mouth can sell books- but you can't absolutely guarantee it will result in more sales. For many it has, but there are probably books that don't or get very few.

It could be seen in some eyes as Amazon having found another method of dominating the book market.
But, when even agented (new) writers are not being taken on, because publishers seem to be wanting 'exceptional' books, you can't blame a writer for doing whatever they can to get their books to willing readers...

Thursday 19 January 2012

Best Laid Plans and Words..

This week just hasn't gone as I planned.

The plan for this week was: Monday- do any admin and any other outstanding tasks; Tuesday and Wednesday- concentrate on my Dorset novel.

Unfortunately one of my sons developed a bad infection in his injured knee-the result of  a slide on the AstroTurf in P.E last Friday. It was serious enough to need antibiotics, and of course he then experienced a few of the known side effects of the medication, usually whenever he moved about- dizziness and nausea. So he was home and I just couldn't concentrate as much as I needed to, when my brain was in worrying Mum mode rather than Writer mode...

This week was also manuscript night at the local writers' club.

I always enjoy hearing other writers' work, and Wednesday night's manuscript meeting turned into an interesting evening. A club competition judge had told a member that her monologue was not a monologue, but a story, and she wanted to know why her entry (that was then read out) wasn't the monologue she believed she'd written.

One of the long term members Phil C. suggested a brilliant description of what a monologue is- he calls it a 'think-alogue'.

I was leading the meeting last night, and was fortunate that everyone joined in, giving helpful feedback to the members reading their work (especially when they had specific knowledge of a targeted publication, subject or of a genre) and willingly sharing their insights.

Writers' groups don't suit everyone, but I know that I've learnt a great deal over the years from published members and visiting writers alike. Being able to enter competitions- especially in the first few years- where my efforts were among 8-14+ others, I didn't feel as intimidated and put off trying something that I might not have attempted without that impetus.

It's all about progressing as a writer and gaining confidence in your abilities, and it does take time.

Even now I'm still learning...

Monday 16 January 2012

The Dreaded Synopsis-There's Hope For Me Yet...

If you've been following the tale of my Dorset novel, you may know that among the comments I received back from the judge of the competition (at my writers' club) the synopsis was mentioned.

I've always known that you had to include what actually happens at the end of the story- no, will Jean triumph in her battle of wills with Albert? You have to say if Jean does succeed or not. (No, Jean and Albert do not feature in my synopsis. :-) )

Then there's the issue of which type of synopsis- basic or detailed?

I'd gone for the more detailed type, when a basic version would have been fine. (Though even my detailed version I submitted, I'd edited down a bit.)

So looking at my synopsis I'd included the right things, but added in a lot more I didn't really need- but it did show me my plot hung together, so it wasn't wasted and I can refer back when needed.

 The main reminder for the new synopsis- 'broader brushstrokes'.

And this happily leads me to a new e-book coming out at the end of the week, 'Write a Great Synopsis' by Nicola Morgan. You may have read her Help! I Need a Publisher! blog- if you haven't, you're missing out on interesting posts.

I was very fortunate to get an early copy of Nicola's latest e-book to read, and I did, straight through. At the end my response was, 'so that's how you do it'. It really was like blinkers being removed and realising the synopsis is not scary at all.

It takes you from the basics- what is a synopsis? Through to how to write one, and even includes a section on synopsis for non-fiction. But the part I found really useful were the examples of a couple of synopsis from before and after.

I rarely recommend books to other people unless I'm really enthusiastic about them myself, as I am about this one. For any writer who has ever worried about writing a synopsis, stop worrying and buy this book as soon as it's available- you won't regret it. :-)

Now I need to get back to Dorset...

Friday 13 January 2012

Non-Fiction, Apostrophes and Sad News...

It's been a while since I did a round up of interesting items I've come across while scanning the literary news, so here are a few links for this weekend...

I came across a short piece on the Bookseller website about the 'stand-out' books commissioning editors are looking for this year.
The Andrew Lownie literary agency have the views of twenty editors on what they are hoping for this year in non-fiction.
* * *
Apostrophes- especially when they're missing or in the wrong place completely.

Well there's been mixed views on bookseller Waterstone's intention to drop the apostrophe in their name. Managing Director James Daunt said that it was "a more versatile and practical spelling" for the digital age of e-mails and URLs.

You can test your skills with apostrophes at the start of  Philip Hensher's article 'Leave the apostrophe alone – it makes sense' in the Telegraph online. Admittedly now that Waterstones is no longer owned and run by its founder Tim Waterstone, the remaining bookstores are technically Waterstones...

And after all the comments about them changing the big W to a small w in 2010...Well they're going back to the big W.
* * *
Sadly, the death has been announced of crime writer Reginald Hill. His Dalziel and Pascoe characters were brought to the screen by actors Warren Clarke and Colin Buchanan.

Though I haven't read any of his books (crime fiction not being my preference) I tried not to miss Dalziel and Pascoe when it was on the BBC.

What was probably unknown by many (including me) was that he wrote other work using a number of pseudonyms.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

Feedback is Important...

As you may know I've been waiting to hear what comments judge Sue Moorcroft wrote about my romance novel entry that won me the Nottingham Writers' Club  Romance novel trophy, late last year.
 (This was just the synopsis and first three chapters submitted.)

Well today I got the comments in the post (thanks to the club Prose Secretary, Christine).

Now I was stunned to win the award in the first place, so I was even more amazed when I read the judge's comments.

Like any feedback there are things I can do to improve the work, and there are certainly a number of those comments- many of which I was aware of, having had time away from the novel.

So I hope you and Sue don't mind me mentioning the really good comments. :-)

It has a "Thomas Hardy-esque plot" and the really pleasing bit for me, was this: "I get the feeling that I'll never be bored or find the action lacking. The writer has a good way with pace and momentum."

The dialogue 'shines out.'

And I've demonstrated 'excellent viewpoint control.'

"This is a promising opening, heavy on plot, pace and focus, and demonstrating a feeling for the nuances of craft."

The comments on the synopsis were as I expected, it was a bit more of a detailed synopsis (outline) than the basic version needed. (I know a good book to help sort that out.)

The feedback has certainly confirmed a few areas that I need to work on- as already mentioned.

The other less obvious value of the comments is this: confirmation of how much I've improved my writing skills, so I know my novel is progressing in the right direction.

Monday 9 January 2012

Stand Alone or Serial Romance?

I've read a lot of romance novels over the years (apologies for the cliché) and they've been a mixture of both types of books.

Every novel should stand alone even if it is one of a series-who wants to have to read half a dozen books to find out what happened with everyone else, to make sense of the current book?

I know Mills and Boon Presents often had mini series- brothers, a set of close friends (male or female)- characters from one book popped up in a secondary role in the others in the series.

Certainly some (originally) US published historical romances I've read, and enjoyed have followed family groups- Jo Beverley's, Mallorens, Stephanie Laurens',Cynsters, and Johanna Lindsey's Malory family stories. And some times you do need the family tree the authors' provided (in the books or on their websites) just to keep the relationships straight in your head...

I've lost count of how many Regency spying groups there's been with anything from four heroes up to half a dozen. Sadly I think that category has been over-used...But they're fun to re-read.

Perhaps it's the influence of all these books over the years, but my novel does have a secondary character who has his own story too, and his lady love has an interesting brother... But that's for sometime in the future when the current novel is complete.

I don't read as many contemporary romance novels as I should- I have a few on my e-reader to get on with-so perhaps these are more stand alone.

Or is this one of the difference between the categories, or even between romances published in the UK and the US?

As a reader, do you prefer single novels, or do you like to read a follow-on novel centred on one of the secondary characters from the previous book?

Friday 6 January 2012

Promoting Your Characters...

Now we all know that promoting your latest book is very important for sales (and future books perhaps), but have you considered promoting your character as a way of getting interest in your book?

Writer Rosalie Warren has started promoting her new fictional character from a ghostly tale- MarieT's story is about her upbringing by sisters/nuns, who may be ghosts...

She has her own Twitter handle @MarieTGhost and a blog Brought Up By Ghosts

Now perhaps this is something that is much more effective for children's/YA fiction. But do you think it would work for other genres?

We all know that writers need to use social media to promote their work, and I think this is quite a fun and different way to do it, engaging potential readers.

So what do you think of this? Would you try it, or do you think it might not work as well as usual social media methods?

Personally, it's an interesting idea...

Thursday 5 January 2012

Novel or Short Story...

At the moment my brain is in novel, rather than short story mode. Though I find that when I'm working on longer pieces my new ideas seem to be short story related, and vice-versa.

As I mentioned previously I've been getting on with combining all the information on my characters for my novel (before I rewrite Chapter 1) and it's been helped along by using the odd twenty minutes or an hour (as available) working on the information, between other tasks.

(I'm still waiting for the competition comments- but I hope to get them from the prose secretary via the post, soon.)

While I can't write the novel without quiet, I've discovered that combining the scattered information doesn't need the same depth of concentration as actually writing the story does; so I'm making a little more progress than I expected. And the list of questions I'm answering has given me some insights into my characters that I wasn't previously aware of.

So meanwhile, my short story attempts are on hold, but I'll certainly be making a note of this useful blog post by Sally Quilford, 'The Key Elements of a Short Story', so I can check I'm not missing something when I get back to them...

Monday 2 January 2012

Planning for My Novel...

This is actually the first Christmas/New Year holiday when I've had any quiet time to write.

As my Dorset novel is going to be getting attention this year, I decided to repeat the useful planning I did earlier in 2011 for my novella- character sheets and chapter outlines.

It's not that I don't have this information, its just not in one concise form that's easy to refer to- it's on bits of paper, in notebooks and the synopsis and first three chapters.

So I decided to start with getting all my character sheets together, and actually completed about three hours-before the computer got taken over for editing photos by my OH...

I've been using the Character Fact List from 'The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing' and found it really helpful for my novella characters.

So knowing my novel characters still had weak spots, it was surprising to realise that over the last twelve months a lot of my hero's grey areas had finally emerged from the gloom, and I now only had minor points to clarify.

My hero Marcus, has always been much clearer than his love interest, as so often my hero is the first character to step forward when I have an idea. But I think that's just how characters develop for me.

As for my chapter outlines, I do think I'll need to jiggle a few bits about, as aspects of my plot have developed in an interesting- and probably more exciting- way.

(I used to be amazed how a writer could have the whole story in their mind before they began writing, but now I can see how it works.) 

There are aspects of the plot that I haven't resolved yet, but if it works like it did with similar aspects in the novella, then I'm not too worried about sorting them when I get to them.

On Wednesday I hope to have the comments back for the synopsis and first three chapters of this novel- which won the NWC Romance Novel trophy in December.
I'm prepared for the bad bits as well as the good...

Sunday 1 January 2012

Happy New Year...

Just a quick post to wish you all a HAPPY NEW YEAR and a successful 2012 for whatever you do.