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New York! New York!

I knew this title would grab your attention but it IS relevant, honest. Next year will see our 25th wedding anniversary and we have been pondering, with our children, where we might go for a special holiday break to celebrate. The thing is that our kids are now 12 and 16 and they’re looking for something a bit different these days and we’d like to go somewhere we’ve never been before. We’ve considered New York before but for some reason (mainly expense and timing), we’ve never managed to get there. Well, now the time seems right. It will be decent weather in April hopefully and if we plan this now, we might even be able to save up for a five day break between now and then. So I’m feeling very excited today and I keep bursting into song as I wander around the house, all Sinatra like, well as much as I can given that I’m female 😉

So how is this relevant to my writing I hear you cry? As you may know, my first novel is provisionally titled ‘From Here to Nashville’ and during the story, the two main characters, Rachel and Jackson, spend a few days in – you guessed it – New York! A trip to the city will therefore allow me to do proper research like a proper writer! Woohoo! I am really looking forward to going and we’re all buzzing with the things we want to do whilst we’re there. The only problem might be fitting them all in, oh and the fact that one daughter is vegan and the other would like to live on burgers but apart from that, we should be fine!

Otherwise, I have had a great NaNo week, keeping up with my daily word count and I feel quite pleased with the progress of my second story so far. My brain has also been constantly referring to my ‘Nashville’ story, putting right some of the plot problems I need to sort out in December when NaNo is over. I am also quite impressed with my own self-discipline today, writing this blog post so early in the day because I was inspired to do so and it feels good that this has become such an important part of my writing routine. I now feel warmed up to write my NaNo words for today and all before lunch-time too! I might have to go and have a lie-down after that.

Let me know how your NaNo week has gone or connect with me as a buddy. My user name is wood_beez48.

A week of incredible generosity from other writers :)

It has been a great week, this week and it really has all been down to the generosity of other writers. So I wanted to share that with everyone who’s writing this week but especially, with new writers like myself.

Firstly, I made contact with the lovely people at WriteStars and Rachel in particular. Rachel read the first chapter of my first draft and gave me some very useful and constructive feedback on it. She told me all about the courses run by WriteStars and advised me about the next steps I could choose to take from here. She did all this out of a generosity of spirit that was quite amazing to me and I really appreciated it. If I could have sent her a bunch of flowers, I would have done 🙂

Then, when my NaNoWriMo got off to a bit of a slow start, my new found buddies picked me up, dusted me off and gave me the confidence to carry on. Thanks to their kind words, I am now past 20,000 words and feeling much happier. I have set time aside every day to write, following the advice of pretty much everyone out there who’s done it before and I have put the editing of my first novel on the back-burner for a bit. However, I have found time to keep reading chapters aloud and making editing notes on the hard copy to see to in December, along with all the other comments I have received through one means or another.

Finally, this Saturday, I spent the day in Bedford (UK) at the annual Festival of Romance. This was my first time but it definitely won’t be my last 🙂 What a great day! I listened to authors reading extracts from their novels, chatted with them at the Romance Fair afterwards, asked questions of a panel of authors and received very positive advice from them and attended a workshop called ‘Getting Published’. What amazed me was how upbeat and open they all were about their journeys and how encouraging they were about mine. They were all so generous with their time and their advice and it was so heartening and gratifying to be helped in that way.
Since then, I have followed many of those authors on Twitter and received even more help and advice, when I would have honestly expected them to be too busy. The moral of this post then seems to be that writers like to help each other, wherever they are along their path because they remember how it feels to be starting out and they’re glad to give back to others.

So a heart-felt thank you to everyone who has helped me this week with my writing. I hope that this post gives you an extra boost to keep going through week two of NaNo or whatever writing project you’re currently engaged in and if there’s anyone you’d like to thank for helping you with your writing this past week or a website you’ve found useful, why not share it with us below? Have a good week 🙂

My NaNoWriMo nightmare – aargh! Lessons 1 and 2.

This week brought with it the start of NaNoWriMo 2013 on November 1st, of course. Having taken part in Camp NaNoWriMo in July this year and committed to writing 10,000 words for my first novel, I really wanted to do the real thing this November. Twitter went mad in the run-up to last Friday and little by little, I started to feel a bit daunted by the prospect of writing 50,000 words in 30 days. What had I been thinking?

Well, I got off to a good start. Firstly, I prepared a pretty good outline for my second novel, using all the fantastic advice about how to do it via Twitter. Then, on Friday, I concentrated on writing 1,667 words (the minimum daily word count needed to meet the 50,000 total by the end of November). I couldn’t believe it though when one of my NaNo buddies tweeted that she’d already written 5,000 words on the first day! I felt so inadequate and I told her so. She’s an experienced NaNo participant though and she knew she couldn’t write at all the next day so she had planned in advance to write twice as much on the first day. Lesson number 1 for me. However, I was in the same boat because I didn’t think I’d be able to write on Saturday either but I didn’t have time to write twice as much on Friday.

So, I am now one day behind and earlier today, I was feeling stressed and a bit miserable to be honest. Then, along came another NaNo buddy who couldn’t believe it when I said I was trying to edit my first novel at the same time as doing NaNo. She convinced me to let this one slide a little and to concentrate on getting the words down for NaNo this month instead and I realised I could give myself permission for this. I don’t have a deadline. The only person putting me under pressure is myself and I am working part-time as well as dealing with all the other stresses and strains of ‘normal’ family life.

So, lesson number 2 is to do what I can and to try and enjoy it. If it makes me feel miserable, it won’t be worth doing and I do so want to do it 🙂 My word count to date is 5,071 words which I’m pleased with and I will be back next Monday to let you know what progress I have made since then.

If you’re doing NaNo this year for the first time or the umpteenth, why not get in touch and share your ‘nightmare’ first week? I’d love to hear from you.

Is there such a thing as too much advice?

So, what have I been up to this past week, from a writing perspective that is? Well, I’ve read lots of advice about structural editing for one thing and to be honest, some days, it has left me feeling quite depressed. There is just so-ooooo much advice out there that I can’t see the wood for the trees – oh no, cliché alert!!! and too many exclamation marks too, aargh!!! Let’s get specific then:

  • I have dipped in to Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ and found that useful but will have to wait till I get to the end to see how I can apply it.
  • I looked at Alexandra Sokoloff’s site and tried to apply her method to my novel but although this is a useful structure, it just didn’t seem to work for me this time. I may use it for my NaNoWriMo writing this year though because it has a lot of merit and I’d like to give it a try. Have a look and see what you think.
  • I tried out the Snowflake method. The problem is, as you may have realised, I have already written my first draft and so I am trying to ‘impose’ these methods on to my novel after the event and that makes it doubly hard.
  • Finally, after looking at some really useful posts on this site, I found a method of plotting that seemed to work for me. Janice has a way of explaining difficult things in a really simple way that I understand, maybe it’s just me 😉 But judging by the positive comments on the site, I don’t think so. This method by Michael Hague – The 6 Stage Plot Structure – fits my novel really well and has left me feeling much more enthusiastic about checking my story for plot holes. It’s going to take me a while to carry out this editing stage but I do feel more confident about doing it now, thanks to Janice.

I have started to read my first draft out loud as suggested by many people on the internet as my first proper editing step and this has already helped me to pick up on some important points. For example, I write dialogue very formally – I always write ‘I have’ rather than ‘I’ve’ which is what we would say to each other of course so I have tried to correct that tendency wherever I spot it.

As this week is half-term week in my part of the UK, I am not sure how much writing I will get done with my own kids around but I wanted to keep up with my blog and I also intend to start NaNoWriMo on Friday, come hell or high water!

Another busy week then. Let me know if any of these methods work for you or if you have another suggestion for structural edits of your first draft. Good luck with your writing in the coming week 🙂

Attempting a structural edit of your first draft

Last week, I was overjoyed to have finished the first draft of my debut novel and was looking forward to the course I was going on to help me with the next phase. Then I found out that my course had been cancelled! Cue much disappointment and even despair on my part. What was I going to do?

As a beginner writer, I know that my first draft is going to need a lot of work on it and I don’t really feel equipped to do that on my own but I don’t have lots of money to spend on asking a professional to do it for me either.
So finally, after much hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing (not just figuratively speaking!), I knew I had to get on with it. I had come across a really useful website earlier in the week that someone doing prep for NaNoWriMo had recommended.

This got me thinking that I should apply this to my story to help me see where the gaps are and hopefully, begin to tighten things up. I found out that Alexandra has a couple of useful books too and I downloaded one of those today from Amazon, aimed particularly at romance writers.

I have spent a lot of useful time thinking about this today and it has helped me a lot but it is going to take me a really long time. I know that this is partly because I didn’t do all this preparation first and I truly regret that now but I have no choice but to try and get on with it. My aim is to make my novel better and so I am determined to plod on and do the best I can with the wealth of information there is on the internet and by buying one or two recommended books for writers as well. Wish me luck!

Are you doing a structural edit or have you tried to do one for one of your novels in the past? Have you got any tips you could share? Any comments will be greatly appreciated as always.

The Joy of Finishing your First Draft!

I have finally done it, finished the first draft of my first ever novel. I have written nearly 4,000 words today in a final burst of energy that I found somewhere but don’t ask me where! I guess it was knowing that the end really was in sight and that was spurring me on. So now I have to take all the advice I’ve been reading and leave it alone for a bit before I even think about editing. I’m OK with that as a concept but what else am I going to do with myself now that I have established this routine of writing as much as I can on my days off from my teaching job?

Well, this calls for a list, methinks.
1. I’m going to go on my first ever writing course on 27th October. This is the one I’m attending, just to remind you, if you’re interested. I am really looking forward to it, as I ponder the pitfalls of not only editing but polishing my story and making it worthy of publication. I am sure I will be talking about this a lot over the coming months.

2. I am going to take part in this November’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a  month, that’s 1,667 words a day in case you’d like to have a go as well 😉 Some of you may think me mad, hell, I think I must be mad but I’m going to give it a go and kickstart novel number two. I’ve even started planning it in Scrivener and talking about my plot with anyone who’ll listen! I feel really excited and optimistic about it too.

3. I am also looking forward to hearing how the first chapter of my debut novel has fared in the Festival of Romance’s New Talent Award 2013. I don’t feel quite so optimistic about this because I don’t have much confidence in my abilities as a writer as yet but I’ve paid for a professional critique of that chapter too and I hope that will at least be interesting. I should receive that report in December and then I can set to work on their suggestions, eek!

4. I am going to get on to the task of finding some beta readers for ‘From Here to Nashville.’ I feel a bit unsure how to go about this. So far, some family and friends have read the first part of my story, as well as a number of very helpful people on Authonomy. The family and friends have been kind, as I knew they would be but they haven’t offered much in the way of constructive criticism. I did have some useful comments on Authonomy but I was also finding some of the comments unhelpful at this stage of the process and in the end, I realised that I had just put my story up there too soon. It’s only my first draft and it needed to be finished before others started to criticise it. I was also getting people offering to read and review my story if I’d do the same for them but none of those people were rating or backing my book so it seemed a bit one sided at times. I have therefore reluctantly retired from Authonomy for the time being.

So plenty of to-dos on this list to keep me busy until the end of November and beyond. Please let me know if you are editing your first draft and how you are managing it. Or are you going to take part in NaNoWriMo for the first time and need a buddy to see you through? I’d love to hear from you.

The Soundtrack of my Debut Novel

If you’re a new blogger and fairly inexperienced in the writing life, like I am, it can be a bit daunting to keep coming up with new ideas for posts. I have set myself the challenge of writing a new post every Monday and have even managed to keep to this goal so far. This  extends to preparing this one today because rather than having my usual day off tomorrow, I am going to be in London for the day.

During the day, I am attending training for the Young Voices concert taking place at the O2 next January so I shall be singing and dancing all day. I’m really looking forward to that 🙂

In the evening, I am off with my family and some lovely friends to the Danny Elfman concert at The Royal Albert Hall. It’s going to be a brilliant concert and I just can’t wait!

But I digress, although only a little 😉 I recently discovered a great blog by Molly Greene and I read this post on her site this week which has given me inspiration for my blog post this week.

You may have guessed from the title of my debut novel, which is ‘From Here to Nashville’, that there might be some music involved and you would be right of course. The basic plot is that my main female character is a singer/songwriter from Dorset in the UK and she meets and falls in love with someone from Nashville, USA (not just any old someone either, without giving away too many clues)! So, there is a lot of music involved throughout and in fact, the story allows me to include some of my favourite country music songs. My MC, Rachel also writes her own songs but as yet, these are not recorded 😉

With my daughter’s help (she’s 16 and knows a thing or two tech-wise), I have put together a playlist for you. Do have a listen and let me know what you think.
Spotify playlist

Three Blogging No-Nos

I found this a really interesting post, even though I have only had a blog for a short while. I’m sure it is something that all bloggers wonder about, especially if you have something to promote as well. In my case, I’m writing my debut novel but I’m only blogging about my writing, not revealing what I’ve written at all. I wonder if I should, from time to time but some of my first draft is available on the internet and I’ve linked so I hope if people are interested enough, they’ll go and read it. But am I being too shy about it? Who knows? I only have a small blog readership at the moment so maybe this will become more of an issue as time goes by. Anyway, Scott Southard’s post was interesting to me so hopefully, it will be to you too 🙂

Booking my first writing course!

Since I started writing my debut novel this year, I have been considering a number of different writing courses to help me learn more about the craft of writing and also how to self-publish. I have picked up lots of information from the internet of course but I still feel that a face-to-face course would be beneficial. So I was very pleased yesterday to see a tweet about just such a course in London at the end of October.

I’d not come across this site before so that was a bonus and I bookmarked it at once, as well as following Charlie, who runs the site, on Twitter. What really persuaded me  to book the course is that it’s being led by Joanna Penn whose website I have been following for a while so I know that she really knows her stuff.

As well as this, it is perfectly tailored to where I am on my writing journey. The course is called ‘How to finish and publish your book’ and I am hoping, no, confident that I will have finished it by then so that I can really make the most of their advice on the day.

I have had a fantastic writing weekend this week and am really steaming towards the end now. My aim is to finish very soon so that I have a couple of weeks before the masterclass to rest away from my manuscript before starting the process of editing proper in November. However, by then it will be NaNoWriMo and the challenge I have set myself for this year, is to make a head start on the first draft of my second novel! Woohoo, how about that?! I am starting to feel like I’m a writer now, not just an aspiring one which is why I changed the title of my blog last week too 🙂

I hope your writing is going well. I’d love to hear from you about it so do leave a comment about the ups and downs of your writing week.

Sky, fog, and clouds on a textured vintage paper background with grunge stains.