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Tag: writing

New York, New York!

A week ago today, my writing blog tour post was published in my absence because I was on a trip to New York with my family to celebrate my 25th wedding anniversary. I was amazed that I had even managed to successfully schedule its publication in the first place and secondly, I was surprised by how my Twitter friends just took it up and so kindly retweeted it on my behalf. This trip was important then for another reason: it brings to an end my first full year of writing and what a year it has been. In fact, this is my 52nd post on this blog as well so I have many, many reasons to celebrate 🙂 I arrived back to the comments from my beta readers on my debut novel, From Here to Nashville as well and these were really encouraging, even more so than on previous drafts so I feel like I am making progress. I am still busy with Camp NaNoWriMo this month which is going pretty well for novel number two and then in May, I will be editing FHTN with a vengeance so I can send it off to the RNA for assessment.

In this post then, I’m going to write a diary celebration of our New York trip because it symbolises the culmination of so many things for me and also because I know you want to know what we got up to. Right?

DSCN8421Friday As you may know, the island of Manhattan divides into Uptown, Midtown and Downtown and very conveniently, we were staying in a hotel right in the Midtown area, a few minutes walk from Penn station, the largest station in America. Our train from Newark (how brave were we?!) brought us into Penn on that first evening and soon, we were checked in and ready to go….to bed! It was about 10.30pm US time so we’d done well to stay awake that long (3.3oam UK time).

On the Saturday morning, we woke up feeling refreshed and ready to explore Uptown so we set off walking up 7th Avenue towards Times Square. It didn’t take us long to work out that the streets go horizontally (our hotel was on West 29th Street) and the avenues go vertically. That first day alone though, we walked almost 50 blocks up to Central Park and found ourselves regularly doing this every day. Anyway, we reached Times Square in about twenty minutes, having photographed every yellow cab in the city on the way and stood there for quite some time, just absorbing the chaos! DSCN8429 I suppose it’s a bit like Piccadilly Circus or Oxford Street, in that it’s one of those iconic places that tourists just have to see. It was chaotic but it was fun as well and it was funny how our two teenage daughters gravitated towards what must be one of the largest Disney stores in the world (two floors no less!)

DSCN8455By the time we reached Central Park, the sun was out in full force and we were having to remove some layers of clothing and put sunglasses on. The park was beautiful and we enjoyed a good stroll around the western side of it leading up to the John Lennon memorial and then, we went on to the American Museum of Natural History, known to all of us from one of our favourite films, A Night at the Museum. We spent a lovely afternoon there, exploring all the exhibits, although we were a little disappointed that none of them do actually move 😉 After that, it was back to the hotel on the subway for the first time, for a rest before dinner and bed.

Sunday was our day to explore Downtown and we had booked to go to Ground Zero first this morning.DSCN8506 I hadn’t heard much from anyone about the 9/11 Memorial and I was glad about this really because it allowed us to come to it with no preconceived ideas. I had expected it to be a moving experience of course but I had no idea just how moved I would be. It left me with an overwhelming sense of sadness for such a tragic and pointless loss of life.
From there, we walked down Wall Street and towards the free Staten Island ferry, which sails right past the Statue of Liberty on its journey to and from the island. We had a pretty good view of the statue but we were still quite far away from it. We’d decided not to RSCN8537visit Liberty island itself for a number of reasons but I think if we do ever go back, that’s something I would like to do. We spent a nice couple of hours having lunch on the island before taking the ferry back and making our way to Brooklyn Bridge.

When we came out of the subway there though, we could hear music playing and were drawn towards it to find out what was going on. We didn’t realise what a treat we were in for. There was a small group of street performers, dancing and performing acrobatics, with various members of the public being ‘persuaded’ to join in and it was a lot of fun on a Sunday afternoon. We made our way, along with hundreds of others, on to the bridge after that, to admire the fantastic view of the skyline and we even saw a couple get engaged whilst we were there! Another wonderful day was drawing to a close. However, that evening, we’d decided to try and go to McGee’s restaurant to fulfil one of my younger daughter’s dreams of eating in the restaurant from ‘How I Met Your Mother.’ We weren’t that confident of getting in and had prepared ourselves for the upset that would surely follow if we didn’t but luckily we did and as we sat in one of their famous booths, drinking cocktails, it felt good to be alive.
DSCN8579Monday Our Midtown day began with a looooong queue to go up the Empire State Building but it was definitely worth the wait and I was also glad that we had left going up until we had been there a few days and could recognise some of the famous landmarks from up on high. We only went up to the 86th floor (!), deciding that going to the 102nd floor wouldn’t necessarily add to the experience, and what a fantastic experience it was looking out across the whole of New York. I love going up a tower of any kind in any city but each one brings its own rewards and this one was no exception. The good weather was still holding and so we had lunch in Madison Square Park, having sung Kirsty MacCall songs as we walked along Madison Avenue. It was lovely sitting in the park watching all the people walking their dogs and cooing over each other’s babies. People watching is one of the best things in life, I think and New Yorkers are very entertaining, friendly people.
The afternoon was taken up with a visit to Grand Central station and the New York Public Library, both as impressive as we’d expected. That evening, as we sat in a lovely pizza restaurant, recommended to us by our Time Out guide, I told my family about my idea for my third novel! What was great was that they all loved the idea and chimed in with suggestions as to how I could develop it. I was so pleased that I’d managed to get their full attention for a start but also that they had liked the idea and I’m now itching to get on with that story 🙂

Tuesday The day of our wedding anniversary dawned and with it came some light rain and slightly cooler temperatures but hey, we’re British, we’re RSCN8643used to that. We spent the whole day at the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, admiring the vast collection of modern art before taking a cab back to the hotel to prepare for our evening entertainment – we had managed to get tickets to see ‘Once: the Musical’ on Broadway! I can’t begin to tell you how excited we all were and even though it was raining slightly header as we walked up there, it did not dampen our spirits in the slightest. We had front row seats in the mezzanine and it was such a wonderful show and experience. The cast were truly talented and the music was fabulous. It was wonderful and a lovely way to mark our big day. When we came out of the theatre though, we couldn’t believe the change in the weather. It was snowing! We had to dash through it (literally!) to get to the restaurant but we survived and ended the day with a delicious meal and lots of lovely memories.

Wednesday Finally, it was our last day. After the brief flurry of snow, we woke up to a bright but slightly chilly day, perfect for walking down to Greenwich Village and having lunch looking out at Washington Square Park. We said goodbye with regret to New York, having loved every minute of our stay. I hope that we’ll get back there but for now, the memories of this trip will serve me for a long, long time.

As always, thank you so much for reading and if you have any memories of a trip to New York that you’d like to share, I would love to hear them.RSCN8570

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 😉

Kicking off 100 Happy Days with my Birthday

DSCN8244Well, yesterday was my birthday and it was such a lovely day with my family that I decided to start my 100 Happy Days Challenge. We have so many great things coming up that the time seemed right. We went to visit a wonderful National Trust property yesterday in Wisbech in Cambridgeshire, called Peckover House. The gardens were superb and the house was a little gem from the Georgian era, with an interesting history. I really enjoyed the visit and I felt I came away with a few new story ideas at least. My family spoilt me and we enjoyed a good day together, watching a soppy rom-com when we got home and then sharing a delicious home-cooked meal in the evening. My husband and I cuddled up to watch the latest episode of Nashville before bed, bringing the day to a perfect close. I have such a lot to be thankful for.

On the writing front, I have now finished the proper second draft of my debut novel. Yippee! It still needs so much work but I really feel I need help to complete what I hope will be the final draft. I’m going to send it to my writing friend, Cat, to read and to another of my friends who I know will give me an honest opinion. I expect them to have a lot of comments which I will have to take on the chin and try to incorporate before I send my manuscript off to the Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA). As I have signed up to do Camp NaNoWriMo in April, I will have to manage my time very carefully to get all these things done. I do have until the end of August to send my manuscript off for the RNA New Writers’ Scheme Assessment but I’d rather send it before then if I can.

My aim then is to send my second draft off to my readers today and move on to some planning for Camp NaNo which starts a week tomorrow, eek! I can then work on my Camp NaNo project for ten days before we go off on holiday to New York and a further fourteen days when I get back which should be enough time to meet my goal of writing 25k in April. Then, in May, if not before, I should be able to do a final polish of my RNA manuscript, sending it off by the end of the month at the latest. Phew! It feels really good to lay out a plan like this to motivate myself to keep moving forwards.

I was lucky enough to receive two lovely writing related presents for my birthday which will also help to keep me motivated. One was a subscription to Writing Magazine which is full of all kinds of helpful articles for the new writer like me. The second was a place on another of Write Stars’ writing courses which I’ll be attending this coming Saturday. I’ve also signed up to ‘attend’ a webinar this Thursday on getting the most out of Scrivener which I’ve been using for a while but I know I could get so much more from.

So another busy week beckons and I think I’m ready for the challenge. What have you got coming up on the writing front this week? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂

Prepping for my first April Camp NaNoWriMo

Screenshot 2014-03-10 10.23.32It is coming up to a year since I started writing my first novel. This time last year, I hadn’t even heard of NaNoWriMo. I just sat down at my computer one day, inspired to write a story and got on with it, by the seat of my pants. Then I heard about Camp NaNo coming up in July and decided to set myself a goal so that I would keep writing. By then, I already had 70,000 words but I was finding it tough to keep going. I had no idea that writing would be so hard 😉 So, I set myself a modest goal of writing 10,000 words last July which seemed manageable whilst I was still working full-time. Once I had a goal and it was written down somewhere, I knew I would meet it and I did.

In November last year, I used my first proper NaNoWriMo to start my second novel and wrote just over 50,000 words on that story in the month. Since then though, I have written nothing further on it because I have been busily rewriting my first ‘pantser’ novel. Next month’s Camp is going to be for novel number 2 then but before I can go back to it, I must do some PLANNING! Having written one story and half of a second one, the most important lesson I have learned in this past year, is that I am a natural planner when it comes to writing, as with all other things in my life. I so bitterly regret not having planned my first story. So when it come to starting the second one, I tried to outline what I was going to write before getting started. I did write an outline of sorts but what I then wrote did go off at a bit of a tangent and I know there is a lot to fix in the 50,000 words I have already written. Aargh!

I am therefore going to have to spend a bit of time this month getting myself ready before I write again. The thing is, I don’t really have the time to do lots of rewriting before I start but if I just carry on, there will be a ton of rewriting to do when I get to the end! I have decided to start by re-reading what I’ve got so far in order to identify any potential plot-holes, making notes on my Scrivener file where they occur so that I can pick up on them later. After that, I’m going to just get straight on with writing. I have read a lot of advice about outlining before writing and the common theme that comes up is that you are ‘allowed’ to veer off course from what you originally planned and so I’m going to give myself the freedom to do that. It’s not like me but maybe that will be good for me, to just follow my characters and see where they take me. I’ll just have to hope they won’t take me so far off course that rewriting further down the line becomes a nightmare!

Are you taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo this April? If so, what are you doing to get ready? Leave me a comment in the notes below. It would be great to hear from you. As always, thanks for reading 🙂

Three Ways Evernote can help you as a writer

EvernoteMy husband has been telling me how good the app Evernote is for a while now and how he thinks it could help me. This week, I finally started to pay attention to what he was saying when I read this article on Lifehacker, called ‘How to use Evernote for writing fiction.’

I had a quick read through the article and immediately picked up three ways that I thought Evernote could help me as a writer which I want to share with you today.

1. Evernote’s Web Clipper Even in the short space of time in which I’ve been writing, I have started to gather lots of bits and pieces of information to help me in my writing process. I have been bookmarking interesting websites, following other WordPress sites which then pop up in my reader and subscribing to some via email. This gives me a lot of reading material and I try and keep up with it all as best I can but never quite manage to finish reading.

As a result, I have a whole reading list of ‘How To’ articles to re-read later and when I have something specific I need to do, like writing a synopsis, for example, I find all the articles I bookmarked about that, sift out the least helpful ones and then find myself left with about half a dozen really useful articles to help me do the task in question. Now, I know that I will have to write a synopsis again at some point (unfortunately!) so what I’d like to be able to do is to keep all these articles together somewhere, other than just holding them on my reading list on Safari for ever or printing them out and storing them in a file to gather dust. This is where Evernote comes in 🙂 This facility allows you to ‘clip’ an article you want to keep and to store it for good without it cluttering up your desktop or your house. You simply clip the article from the internet using Evernote and it saves as a note. I can then create a notebook called ‘How to write a synopsis’ for example and then clip all the relevant articles into that notebook for future reference. This took very little time and now I have them all stored in one place.

2. Synching to all devices Evernote syncs on all your devices so you can access everything you’ve stored in it wherever you are, allowing you to read, write, take notes, look at images, listen to sound files and so on. I downloaded Evernote on to my Mac and on to my ‘phone and have already made good use of the synching facility. It’s a free application too which is even better for the impoverished author 😉

3. Capturing Images and storing them for research When you’re out and about, you can use Evernote to snap photos of anything you see that inspires you for your writing project. When you get home, you can then sync your devices and these images will be on your computer for you to use as you will. I will then copy images into Scrivener which is where I do my writing and may use these for characters or setting to give me ideas.
There are other ways of doing these things of course but what I like about Evernote is that it allows you to keep related things in one place and from an organisational point of view, I think that is very helpful indeed.

Do you use Evernote already? If so, what’s your favourite aspect? I’m looking to pick up tips! Or maybe you use another app which you think is just as good. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading 🙂

Why I Write

DSC_0176I have two children and I was very lucky not to have to work when they were small. Of course, there were days when I thought I might go mad with only two young children for company but mostly, I just enjoyed that time whilst I could. Once my youngest was at school though, I started thinking about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, finally deciding that I should retrain as a teacher. I had thought about it many times in the past but it was only through volunteering in my children’s school that I came to realise that this was a job I could do and perhaps enjoy.

A year ago, I had been teaching for about four years when a personal crisis came in the family. This only confirmed for me what I had been thinking for some time, which was that my own family and my own life, were coming second to my job. As anyone who is a teacher knows, it can be all-consuming. You never get to the end of your to-do list and the paperwork is overwhelming at the best of times. Add to this the constant scrutiny and it can feel like a very miserable job indeed. I made a decision then that I would ask to go part-time. Whilst I waited to hear the school’s decision and I struggled to deal with the personal crisis, I started to write my novel.
Writing became an escape for me. I found it calming and therapeutic to write and in no time at all, I had a complete first draft on my hands. Suddenly, a new world had opened up before me and I wanted to know more about it. In September last year, I switched to part-time working and now, on my two days off from work, I try and write as much as possible and I try to write/edit on every other day as well. My life feels more balanced and I have more time and energy for my own family.

My ultimate goal is to publish my novel now and to finish the other one I’m in the middle of writing. A lot of hard work lies between now and then but whilst writing continues to help me make sense of my life and what I want from it, I will keep on doing it. I’m not afraid of the hard work at all, although it is daunting to be learning something new (as I’ve documented on my blog here 😉 ) but with each achievement comes satisfaction and that makes it all worth it. This week, I finished my one page synopsis for example and sent it with the first two chapters of my novel to the Bath Novel Award competition. It was a long hard slog writing that synopsis but now I’ve done it, it feels great and I feel ready to go back to my rewriting.

So, in summary, I started writing to help me through a difficult time in my life and now that I have passed through that crisis and come out the other side, I am glad to say, I find myself doing something so enjoyable that my only question is why didn’t I do it earlier? Who knows? But I truly believe that now is my time to spread my wings through writing and I plan to make the most of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read my story. If you’d like to share your story about why you started writing below in the comments, I’d love to hear it.

Why you should attend a writing course

DSCN8178At long last, I have attended my first writing course and I wanted to share with you how useful it was for me at this stage in my writing journey. The course was run by a company called Write Stars and was one of many that they run throughout the year. See their website here.

This particular workshop was run by Katherine Garbera, a prolific romance novel writer, published by Harlequin with more than 60 novels to her name, and the objective of the course was to help us introduce more passion to our writing. We were a small group and Katherine encouraged us all to share what our current writing projects were before we began. The atmosphere was very positive right from the start with everyone expressing interest in each other’s writing activities and Katherine was so encouraging of us all.
The format for the workshop was that Katherine would introduce an element of romance writing, for example, how to write the first kiss between your characters and then she would read out one of her own examples to give us the idea. We then sat and wrote our own version and we had plenty of time for this. Not one of us sat there unable to write. The explanations Katherine gave were so helpful and carefully structured so as to enable us to get straight on with it and her years of experience really showed. We then shared our writing with the rest of the class and listened to their feedback. I found it so heartening to receive positive comments and it was such a confidence boost!

We also had lots of time to ask questions of Katherine and of each other and I felt we bonded very well as a group. It was so good knowing that we all shared the same insecurities as writers. I felt I learnt a great deal on this course and I have already put quite a few things into practice since returning home.

So if you have been thinking about attending a course, I would encourage you to get on with it. You will learn something, you will interact with other like-minded people and you will probably make some new friends. Not only that but the whole act of sharing your writing will hopefully make you realise what a good job you’ve been doing so far and that will boost your confidence enormously, which has to be a very good thing 🙂
Have you been on any good writing courses? Let me know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading 😉

How to stay sane while rewriting

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Image credit – Flickr – Becca Peterson

Fear seems to be the theme for a lot of my posts so far this year 🙁
I have been steadily rewriting my first draft for a while now, in fact for the first part of my story, this is more like rewrite number four and every time I think I’ve got it in the bag, I realise that there are still far too many aspects of the story that aren’t quite right yet. Admittedly, I have sought external feedback and now I’m having to take that feedback on the chin, which is proving to be very hard. It feels like I will never be done with the rewrites and that fills me with gloom and fear. I am normally a very optimistic person, a great feat considering I have been married for nearly twenty-five years to someone whose favourite band of all time is The Smiths and favourite singer, Morrissey, by extension 😉 I have spent my life being a glass half-full kind of person but since I started my first novel, I have found myself feeling daunted by the uphill struggle that writing involves. Naturally, I have spent some time wondering why this is and here is my conclusion.

Although there is a wealth of advice out there, there is no single tried and tested method for writing a novel and you wouldn’t want there to be. It’s just that there are so many choices. Should you outline or fly by the seat of your pants? Should you just write until you finish then edit or should you edit as you go? Should you aim for a beginning, middle and end or should you have five plot points, maybe even seven? I could go on but I can see you nodding and don’t even get me started on punctuation! I’m just reading Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’ at the moment and whilst I’m enjoying this book by one of my writing heroes, even he would agree that he doesn’t practise what he preaches (see what he has to say about the use of adverbs, for example). As a result, the whole writing process is very confusing for a new writer. It will all be such a relief when we’re writing book number two and we know what to expect!

I read an interesting article by an author called Ryan Casey about five steps you can take to make rewriting less painful. You can read it here. Three of his points really stood out to me, as follows:

  • I found his suggestion about creating a rewriting outline very helpful. He talks of the ‘beat sheet’ idea put forward by Roz Morris in her book ‘Nail Your Novel – Why Writers Abandon Books and How You Can Draft, Fix and Finish with Confidence’. Interestingly, I had been trying to do this very thing in an Excel spreadsheet myself, having seen a synopsis tackled this way by a writing friend. I say trying because I was copying and pasting my scene descriptions from my Scrivener document and it was taking so long, I had become bored and given up! I have decided that I will try and finish this to help me get my head round what I have put into each scene so that when, I said, WHEN, I need to go back and change things, it might be a bit easier.
  • Interestingly, he suggests setting a target of rewriting two scenes a day, in an effort to be realistic about your targets and goals. I have been doing much more than this, steaming ahead on my days off from work which is my precious writing time. The result of this approach for me has been that I now have so much more to put right following the feedback I’ve received. I am under some pressure in that I have joined the RNA’s (Romantic Novelists’ Association) New Writers’ Scheme and this means I have to submit my manuscript for assessment by the end of August at the latest, although I would prefer to do it sooner. However, I think I have to slow down and be patient if I want the end result to be as good as possible.
  • Finally, he suggests that we should work on a new project to boost our creative energy. I have left my Nano 2013 novel untouched, pretty much since the end of last November and this point made me realise that I miss it 🙂

I now have some new goals to help me and hope that I will be able to get back to it with renewed enthusiasm. I know this is new advice and we’re all feeling overwhelmed with it but the trouble is, when you don’t know the answers, what else are you going to do? Of course, we will all do what feels right for us individually and only in doing so, will we know whether it was right or not. Writing this first book to completion will be trial and error and we will either make it to book two or we will give up between now and then. I sincerely hope that what I have learned so far will help me get there and if I have helped you too, then so much the better.

If you’re stuck in the middle of rewriting, let me know how you’re getting on in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Facing my fear of writing

egg-timer-154763_150I am now well into the process of rewriting my first draft. I have written a synopsis I am happy with and last week, I started rewriting, following the synopsis as closely as I could. On Monday and Tuesday, which are my days off from my day job, I got so much rewriting done, it was scary but then I reached the point where I could go no further without a massive rewrite and reorder of several chapters. Since Tuesday, I have done no work on my novel at all, even though I have had plenty of opportunity to do so. I wanted to write but I was struggling to put the new scenes together in my mind and I realised they might affect the timeline of my story quite dramatically as well. I felt like it was going to be too difficult, if not impossible to do this writing and so I simply stopped.

By yesterday, I had decided that this could not carry on, I had to do something about it, but what? First of all, I made sure to get all my jobs done so that I would have a clear day for writing today. Unusually, I have to work tomorrow but I didn’t want to miss out on one of my writing days so I checked off that goal by the end of the day. My plan was to make a start on writing this morning at nine o’clock and to write as much as possible throughout the day. Well, nine o’clock came and went as I wasted time on Twitter and put off having a shower. I was getting very annoyed with myself but seemed incapable of doing anything about it. Then help came from an unexpected source, although it was another writer so I shouldn’t have been surprised since I have found many generous writers on this journey so far 🙂 Helena Fairfax is another romance novelist and member of the RNA and she told me about a technique she uses to help herself get down to writing. It’s called the Pomodoro Technique and you can read about it on her blog here.

The basic idea is that you write or edit or do whatever other task for twenty-five minutes and then take a five minute break. When you have done four stints, you can take a longer break. This is said to improve your mental agility and I should really have heard about it before but haven’t, although I have come across similar things. Somehow though, this has allowed me to face my fear and to conquer it and I have now done six, yes, six, separate stints today and may well fit another one in before cooking dinner. By working in bite-sized chunks like this, I have kept focussed, putting my ‘phone and my computer on silent, and I have felt such a great sense of achievement at writing that difficult chapter and coming out the other side.

The trouble is that there are so many distractions and it’s easy to get side-tracked and I’ve often felt very disappointed when I come to the end of the day and find that I have done so little. Now I must admit to feeling a bit smug today but do you know, I think I deserve it 🙂

With grateful thanks to Helena. I hope this helps you too as you face the fear but if you have another tried and tested technique, do let me know in the comments. As always, thanks for reading.