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Tag: editing

My Writing Process – Blog Tour

I have only been writing seriously for about a year and yet in this short time, I have made so many new friends through Twitter, through my blog and most importantly, through my writing. One of those friends is Sandra Danby who very kindly asked me to take part in this blog tour about my writing process (I still can’t quite believe it’s me writing that last sentence). I ‘met’ Sandra through her blog ‘Notes on a Spanish Valley’ and we became friends through a shared love of rural Spain. Sandra is also a serious writer and is just about to publish her first novel. You can find out more about her writing by following this link to her writing blog here.

My hope in taking part in this blog tour is to help other writers, maybe ones like me who are just starting out and wondering how to go about things in this strange new world of writing 😉 Next Monday, 21st April, 2014, please take a look at the blogs written by my friends and fellow writers, Cat Lumb, Heidi-Jo Swain and John de Gruyther (find out more below).

What am I working on at the moment?
Nashville Book CoverI have just finished a second proper draft of my debut novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ (FHTN), a contemporary romance about a music teacher who decides to pursue her dream of becoming a successful singer/songwriter of country music and finds love along the way. It has been a bit of a slog to get it to this point but I’ve done it! In January, I joined the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association which means that I can submit a manuscript to them for a professional assessment. The deadline for sending the manuscript in is the end of August but I’d like to send it sooner than that. FHTN is now out with my lovely beta readers and I await their comments on what I need to do next which I should have by the end of this month. I am then going to do a final edit in May and send it off to be professionally assessed by the end of the month. When I’m not working on FHTN, I am busy writing my second novel, ‘Seeking Approval’ which is also a romance but with a completely different theme and I’m about 60,000 words in.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?
DSC_0886This is a really interesting question for me because a lot of the romances I read are chick-lit romantic comedies but I write more serious romance stories, which I can only refer to as ‘Contemporary Romance’. My characters so far seem to be on journeys of discovery about themselves and what they really want from their lives. I was inspired to write my first novel after watching the TV series ‘Nashville’ and discovering a hidden love of country music within myself! Since I started, I have seen two other stories come out with a Nashville setting so obviously, it inspires other writers too. I have always been a singer and it was great fun to include my love of singing and song-writing in the story. My second novel is partly set in France, which I have always seen as my second home as I have family there and took my degree in French many years ago. Whilst lots of romance writers set their stories in France, the background to my story is a bit different though with my character helping someone else to trace her family history and find her mother.

Why do I write what I do?
?????????????There is only one answer to this: I confess that I am a soppy romantic at heart! I have always loved reading romances and for me, there is nothing more enjoyable than a ‘Happy Ever After’ (HEA) ending. I enjoy all kinds of romance story too, from comedies to, dare I say it, more erotic stories like ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. I seem to spend quite a lot of time explaining why I liked that particular trilogy but whilst I like a bit of hot sex – who doesn’t? 😉 – what I enjoyed most about the story was the romance at its heart. I find it enjoyable to see all the different ways that writers come up with for bringing people together and the new boom in self-publishing has made many more stories accessible to us all, which in my view, has to be a good thing. The other good thing about romance stories is that they’re timeless in their appeal. Everyone has been or will be in love with someone else at some point in their life and I find it life-affirming to write about it.

How does my writing process work?
2014-Participant-Square-ButtonI wrote my first novel by the seat of my pants, although I didn’t know that’s what it was called at that point! I just sat down every day and kept writing until it was finished. I knew it would have a HEA ending but I had no other plan than that. When I got to the end, I realised that there were so many plot-holes, I might never manage to fix them all. With the help of Scrivener, the writing software package and an author’s advice about writing a synopsis, I had a go at rewriting the story and the result is what is now with my beta readers. It still needs a lot of work doing to it and I will do what I can in my final edit but then I’m going to hand it over to the RNA, for some professional advice. At the moment, I am taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo to continue my second novel which I started writing in November NaNo last year. I wrote just over 50,000 words then, at a rate of 1,667 words a day for the most part. The discipline is hard but so worthwhile and what my experience so far has taught me is that I need to outline, even if only briefly, before I get started. That way, I can write much more quickly when I do start. If I didn’t have a day job, I would try and write 1,000 words every day or edit for four of five stints a day with short breaks in between. As it is, I do still have a day job and I fit in what I can when I can.

On Monday, 21st April, 2014, it’s the turn of three more writers to tell you about their writing process. Please visit their blogs then to find out how they go about it.

Cat Lumb Cat is a thirty-one year old Yorkshire lass living on the wrong side of t’hill in Stalybridge, Manchester, with her wedding-phobic fiancé and a rescue dog who is now her shadow. She began writing again after being diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalitis (M.E) in 2009 and since then has written two and a half novels and a selection of short stories. In the past year she has blogged for Manchester Literature Festival, been short-listed in a Writing Magazine competition and is an active committee member for the Huddersfield Literature Festival. She can also read ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs. 😉 She can be found on Twitter as: @Cat_Lumb

Heidi-Jo Swain Heidi-Jo has always wanted to be a writer but was in her thirties before she plucked up the courage to tell anyone, enrol on her first creative writing course and submit a variety of short stories to the online writing community, Shortbread Stories. In 2013 having attempted to write one novel the urge to write another was just too strong to resist.

Now writing and blogging feels as natural as breathing and she is currently editing her debut novel The Cherry Tree Café in preparation for submission to the Romantic Novelists’ Association having secured a place on their New Writers’ Scheme at the beginning of 2014.

Plans are already well underway with her next novel The Skylark Serenade and having almost finished plotting she intends to begin writing after submission to the RNA. Heidi-Jo blogs every Saturday about her writing week, her random list, her dreams of seeing her novels published and everything in between.

John de Gruyther Following a mild case of redundancy John didn’t want to return to the finance sector. So he took the time kindly afforded to him by his former employer and he started to write articles. This went quite well so he decided to call himself a freelance writer and finally commit to his long held dream to write a novel.
He is currently working on his novel, a book of poetry, an illustrated story and various articles for online sites and magazines, including his “A Novel Approach” features for Star Trek Magazine.

Camp NaNoWriMo Update – week 1

2014-Participant-Vertical-Banner Last November, I took part in National Novel Writing Month for the first time and wrote just over 50,000 words for my second novel, which is provisionally titled ‘Seeking Approval’. ‘What’s it about?’ I hear you cry. Well, it’s about a girl who splits up with her fiancé when she finds him cheating on her with her sister. This is not the first time her sister has betrayed her and just when she thinks their relationship will never be the same again, she finds out that she is not her sister but her cousin. Despite their differences, she helps her ‘sister’ to trace her family history and along the way, she becomes clearer about her own identity and what she wants from her own life.

Since the end of November, I have been concentrating on rewriting and editing my first novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’ and so, now that FHTN is with beta readers, I thought I would use this month’s Camp NaNo to pick up with my second novel. I have set myself a goal of writing 25,000 more words this month because we’re off on holiday for almost a week and about 1,000 words a day for the remaining days of the month seems achievable. This first week, I have written just over 8,000 words so I am on target to reach my goal but it really has been hard getting back into it. Finding the time to write that much every day has taken real discipline on my part and even though I had created an outline back before November, it really isn’t detailed enough. I found this out to my cost when I was writing a long section all about a family tree and I had to take a lot of time out to work out dates and places of birth for numerous different characters. It all came together in the end and I wrote much more quickly afterwards but it has made me realise once again how important it is to me to know where I’m going. It would also have been brilliant to have a piece of ‘family tree writing’ software 😉

In fact, I’m still not really sure where the story’s going! I am thinking about it all more though in the time between writing and this helps me when I finally come to sit down at my desk and write my words for the day. I’m enjoying the research I’m doing as well because the story is partly set in France and in an area which I know very well because I have family there. However, there are so many little things you realise that you’re not entirely sure about, even down to where the nearest service station is to the town you’re referring to and I want those things to be as accurate as they can be. I’ve also been including some snippets of French which is what I took my degree in and because of my family, is almost as good as my English but I still find myself checking little things. I want to make sure my French is correct as well because I don’t like to see mistakes in other books with French in so it’s important to me to get it right.

All this is keeping me very busy as you can see but I’m enjoying it nevertheless. Before I go, I wanted to let regular readers know that I will be scheduling next week’s blog post for the very first time because I will be away on holiday but I have been invited to take part in a writing process blog tour. So look out for that post next week which will include the details of three other writers and their blogs which I know you will want to read more about.

If you’re doing Camp NaNo, how’s your first week gone? Do let me know in the comments and as always, thanks for reading and have a good week, y’all 😉

How I used story structure to help me write my synopsis

writinghardworkLast week’s post was all about doing the research for writing my first synopsis. I had been meaning to do it for some time but once I’d finished my first round of editing, there was no longer an excuse not to get on with it. After reading loads of articles and getting lots of different advice (as always), I went back to an article I had read about story structure because it was proving really hard to write a synopsis when the story still didn’t seem quite clear in my head. Unsurprisingly 😉

The article I read was about Dan Wells’ 7 Point Story Structure. You can read about it in a number of places on the internet but this link was especially useful because it includes videos and some worksheets too.
http://theselfpublishingtoolkit.com/seven-point-story-structure/

I took the worksheet and filled in all the stages of my story and suddenly, once I’d done that, I had the makings of a synopsis. I suppose you could argue that what I’ve written is really the outline of the story which I could/should have written from the outset but hey, this was my first novel and I have learnt so much since then. I was a pantser then but would definitely outline every time in the future. Having written the outline though, it’s not a huge step to create a one page synopsis. Of course, if a longer synopsis is required, this approach wouldn’t really work but it would help you to get started.

I would really like you to take a look at my synopsis and tell me what you think. Remember it’s my first go at it so it will need some more work and as I work through my revisions, I will adapt it but some feedback now would be much appreciated. I hope it helps you if you are trying to write a synopsis and if so, please leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading.
Nashville synopsis

A review of the first year of My Writing Life

As the end of 2013 approaches, it seems like a good time to review what I have achieved this year and to set some writing goals for the coming year.

I started writing my first draft of my first novel in April 2013. I finally finished it in October and by this time, I had learnt that first drafts are usually not that good so I would have to spend the next several months editing what I had written. At first, I felt only despair at the mammoth task this would be but then, after a lot of research, I knuckled down and got on with it. Unfortunately, I had thought that I would be able to do this at the same time as taking part in NaNoWriMo 2013! Mad fool, I hear you cry. Well, I came to my senses pretty quickly and decided that I would just use November to read my WIP aloud and make editing notes as I went along. This became my first round of edits and I will have completed this by the end of the year. Yep, by tomorrow. I feel very proud of that, as well as the fact that I was a NaNoWriMo winner, writing just over 50,000 words of my second novel. I have also managed to find two critique partners to accompany me on my editing journey and I know their help is going to be invaluable next year.

In June 2013, I started to blog about my writing life. I wanted to write about my experience on this journey, sharing what I learnt along the way and I am amazed to see that I have managed to blog every week since then. Not only that, I have found new things to say and have made a few good friends along the way. I really enjoy writing the blog as well and I enjoy reading other people’s.

I also joined Twitter and started to build a following by following other writers and people dedicated to helping writers. I have found this much more fun than I expected, although it has also become a bit of an obsession!
It has been a year in which I have learnt so much and most of it from other writers, for which I am very grateful. I am looking forward to the new writing year immensely.
So my goals for 2014:

  • To finish editing my first draft of ‘From Here to Nashville’, hopefully by April which would be a year since I started writing it. I would like to have it professionally edited ultimately and I have a couple of ideas about how to manage this.
  • I plan to work hard with my critique partners to make my work as good as it can possibly be.
  • I would like to finish the first draft of my second novel too. I don’t have a deadline on this but it would be good to have finished it by the time NaNoWriMo 2014 comes round!
  • I would like to attend a writing course or two this year to help me progress my learning.
  • I am thinking of taking a proofreading course as a way of supplementing my income now that I work part-time. It would be great if longer term, the proofreading could pay for some of my other goals 😉 I am realistic about this though (honest!)

A good year then, all in all. I hope your writing year has been good and that you have set yourself some sensible goals for next year. Best wishes to you all for 2014 and thank you for reading 🙂

First Person Point of View – good or bad?

I haven’t had so much time for editing this past week, what with it being the end of a busy term AND nearly Christmas, but I have been plodding on with it bit by bit and reading as much as I can around the subject. Then the other day, I came across an article about point of view in novel writing. Its main point was that new writers often make the mistake of writing in the first person and this reveals their lack of experience. Cue much soul-searching as, of course, you have probably guessed that I have written my debut novel in the first person. All the self-doubt came pouring in as I read through to the end of the article, which assured me that only truly experienced, brilliant writers can pull off writing in the first person. On top of this, a new critique partner I found this week told me that they had only read one novel written in the first person and so felt a bit unsure about commenting on mine because of this aspect. So, I decided to do some more research and came across this article, which was a bit more reassuring but still gives me cause for concern.

My concern stems from the fact that I have encountered some of these very problems, for example, the stream of consciousness and the limiting single perspective. It wasn’t ever a conscious decision for me to write in this point of view but now I can see that I might have made my writing life much harder by doing so. However, many books have been written this way, as the article suggests, which is why my new cp’s comment surprised me. I would have thought they would have read many more books written from this perspective than just the one they’re thinking of.

I am left wondering therefore, whether I ought to rewrite the whole thing now and if this would improve the novel immeasurably because it would give me much more freedom as a writer to be writing in the third person. I would be interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this matter and look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, I will let my brain process it and consider how to deal with this latest turn in my learning curve.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and thank you, as always, for reading 🙂

Editing procrastination for the unpublished writer

Like most people, I expect, this past week has been absolute madness and for me, it won’t stop until I reach the end of term on Friday. This week, we have our KS2 Music and Drama production at school and today, we had our dress rehearsal. It didn’t go well 🙁 but everyone kept telling me not to worry because it would all come together on the night (tomorrow! eek!) I should know this by now because I  have a fair few productions under my belt but I still feel very nervous at this point every year. This is simply because after all these months of rehearsals, I want everything to go right for the children, as well as for me and the other people involved in bringing this together. The two performances this week are the culmination of a lot of hard work and I would like everyone to go out on a high.

This got me thinking that this must be how it will feel when I finally finish editing my first novel. I am still soldiering on with it, hoping that what I have done so far will be worthwhile. However, I know that I haven’t even begun to deal with the really nitty gritty editing yet. I am really just proofreading because I know I am skilled at this and I find it very easy. I have been bookmarking all the other editing advice I have seen over the past couple of months, to use later when I do the REAL editing. This is procrastination at its best. I have nearly 100 such articles bookmarked so far! I have posted on this before but I really think that there is just so much advice out there about editing, amongst other things and yet, no definitive guide to the whole process. As a new writer, this is what I feel I really need in the absence of an agent, let alone a publishing contract. There are many people blogging about the poor quality of some self-published novels but even if you are fairly literate, if you’ve never written a novel before, you really won’t know the first thing about how to edit it on anything other than a superficial basis.

I will start to work my way through these articles over the holidays and because I’m a methodical sort of person, I know the job will get done but whether it will be to my satisfaction when I finish working my way through, is another matter. Still, all part of the learning curve, I suppose.

Has anyone else got any experience of editing for the first time that they would be willing to share, including any book recommendations? I really would love to hear from you 🙂

I’m a NaNoWriMo 2013 winner and it feels great!

I finally finished NaNoWriMo 2013 last Friday, having written a grand total of 50,007 words of the first draft of my second novel, provisionally titled ‘Seeking Approval’. It felt so good to meet the goal I had set myself of writing a minimum of 1,667 words every day during November. I think there was only one day when I didn’t write and so I was able to catch up again quite quickly. I worked really hard to follow the advice and keep my ‘inner editor’ at bay, only changing what I absolutely had to in order to keep writing. Some mornings I would wake up, knowing there was a massive plot-hole and that I wouldn’t be able to write any more until I had fixed it so I did that but nothing else in terms of editing. The final story is pretty solid so far and I think that’s partly because I wrote an outline, this time. I haven’t stuck rigidly to it but it certainly helped me when I found I was getting stuck and gave me the push I needed to keep going on several occasions. I suppose that I had a certain clarity of vision when I wrote the outline and that helped me when things got a bit ‘blurry’ further down the line.

I took the weekend off from writing to recover a bit, and to put up Christmas trees, you know, essential stuff like that. 😉 We have a family tradition of putting the tree up on the first Sunday in December (lucky for my kids this year!) and so I had an obligation. It was fun though and allowed my brain time to think about what I needed to do next in my writing life.

So, today, I have gone back to editing my first novel, ‘From Here to Nashville’. I am still in the first phase of self-editing, which I have designated the ‘reading aloud’ phase, following all the advice I’ve read. This has flagged up lots of little things that I will tidy up afterwards. I’m still only about halfway through though – it really takes a long time to read aloud, which I’d forgotten. I reckon it will take me to the end of the year to finish this phase and then I’m going to have a go at all the editing levels suggested by the other writers I follow on Twitter. I will post links to these as I go through, in case it’s of help to anyone else.In the meantime, I thought I might try my hand at a Christmas short story, taking inspiration from many other writers out there who seem to be doing the same. I’ve never written a short story so I think it would be a good discipline. It will also take my mind off the two things I’m waiting to hear back about: a first chapter critique for ‘Nashville’ and also, whether it has been accepted for a free manuscript assessment. Busy, busy, busy.

What’s your writing life like post-NaNo? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Bye for now.

The End of NaNoWriMo is in sight

Just under a week to go now till the end of my first NaNoWriMo and I am on target to finish my 50,000 words by the end of November. I am so pleased that I have managed to achieve this but there have been a few ups and downs for me during the month, as I’m sure there have been for other NaNoWriMos.

At the beginning, the idea of writing 1,667 words every day seemed hard. Where would I find the time, especially on work days? However, it was the excitement of starting a new project that kept me going in the first week and despite having one day when I didn’t write at all, I still caught up and kept at it.

Then as I moved into the second week, I got into a routine and I was surprised to find that I was adding ‘Writing’ to my list of things to do each day, making time for it alongside all the other things I MUST do every day. Once it took on that importance, I suddenly found that I was getting faster at typing as well. I haven’t participated in any actual word sprints via Twitter but I have been completing some sprints of my own and the sense of achievement I feel every day as I update my word count on the NaNoWriMo site and I study my stats is so gratifying, it’s almost ridiculous 🙂

My story has flagged a little at times and I know I am going to have to do some serious work on it when November is over but I have kept writing and that is what’s important. So by this time next week, I will be back to editing my first novel with a  vengeance. I have been reading it out loud during November, as my first stage of editing and there are many, many chapters to go! I have also applied for a manuscript assessment to help me with the structural edit I know it needs so I’m really keeping my fingers crossed about that one.

The final thing I want to achieve by the end of the year is to sign up for and complete The Society for Editors and Proofreaders ‘Introduction to Proofreading’ course. This is step two in my plan for my new writing life and will start me on the road towards step three next year. If anyone else has done this course, I’d love to hear how you got on with it.

Good luck to all NaNoWriMos out there for this final week. Feel free to let me know how you’re getting on.

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 🙂

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.