Thursday, 9 November 2017


 In the long lull of no blog entries before my recent NaNo confession, I wasn’t twiddling my thumbs. Honest. Story One has been on submission with publishers and I’d been further-tuning that first draft of Story Two, to send it to Lovely CP for feedback. Fingers have been on keys, mind has been off the submission cycle.
  But I’ve also had a real treat. I booked onto BookCamp, a writing retreat in Somerset, run by writer Cesca Major. I had four days away, being a grown up, in a beautiful barn conversion, where I was fed by someone else (aahhmmaaggaahhdd bliss!), connecting with other writers, in this case -coincidentally- all Romance writers. There were published authors there; a couple who I already knew and others who it was a pleasure to get to know, and then two of us who are unpublished but who everyone was really generous to with their advice, as they’d all been in the same position at some point.

  I went without anything specific to write, where others were working towards a daily word count on their WIPs. What I got was some thinking space to consider various ideas of what to write next. I also got views on the genre and industry and other writers’ experiences of publishing. It was a fab week and one I’d like to do again if possible (not least for the wine-charged chatter in the hot-tub or dinnertime stories/intrigue) and certainly one I’d recommend.  

  Further details on BookCamp can be found on Twitter at @Book_Camp

(* The cake is Cesca's teatime Triple chocolate Malteser cake, which jacks you up and spawns words from your fingers like you wouldn't believe. I was tripping on the sugar for days... Photo credit and cakery thanks to Cesca Major.)

Sunday, 5 November 2017

I am officially a nutter

 For the last many years, when November has loomed, I have looked at NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) and considered it. For all of 30 seconds. Tops.
  Look at it; 50k words in one month. It isn’t even a long month. And it is so close to Christmas and the schools do so many things I have to pitch up to in this time. So I say to myself, “Don’t be a nutter. Don’t even embark on this ridiculous task. It’s doesn’t fit into your life at the moment. Maybe one day when the kids have flown.” Instead, I wish the NaNo-nutter’s well, waving at them from a distance as they embark on their journey of lunacy.
  Only not this year. For some reason, back in the summer, when November and it’s tasks seemed so far away, I thought it might be a good idea to get another vomit draft under my belt, to rest in a drawer and mull for a year or so. The words would be rushed and messy and ugly, but there would be a germ of something there to grow a story from later, rather than angsting around desperately seeking an idea when I need it.

  I know I can write 50k words in a month. I’ve done it before when I’m in a drafting phase, but the timing has always seemed difficult – or maybe I just don’t like the pressure of having to do the 1667 words a day. I have resisted whole-heartedly and quite happily, thank you very much.
  And I did resist this year too, when the actual event came nearer. Even though I had discussed it with Lovely CP and she’d signed up, and I’d convinced DD2 to have a go at Junior NaNo, (Deflecting? Moi?) I still didn’t sign up until the last second. Most likely this was because I hadn’t actually formulated any sort of plan, (and I do prefer a plan,) or perhaps it could just be because I am just plain chicken.
  But, I did sign up, and therefore I have to out myself as a nutter. We’re five days in, and I’m vaguely on schedule, but I’m having to find ideas from one day to the next already, and the words are – as expected- rushed and messy and ugly. I might not make the 50k, as life has a way of getting in the way, or I might just manage to hit the target by the skin of my teeth, but I’ve decided that if I can at least get to know these new characters say 30k better, then that has to be a win of sorts and I’m going to have it.
  Anyone else taking part in this mad endeavour?

  Onwards, nutters!

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I have time to read again!!!

The blogging has been very thin on the ground this first half of the year, and it was already thin on the ground before that. I had to stop the TBR piles and Gut reactions, because it all got too much. I was busy trying to fill my head with things, so I could cough out a new first draft. Which I did in 9 weeks. Hurrah!

 And now it is mulling and I am ignoring it while it mulls and I shall fill my little head with other people's writings. I have just thrashed Amazon and stuffed my kindle.

 These are some of the titles that are on there. Sonya Lalli's The Arrangement releases on the 10th of August, so that'll  be added then.

You'll have to excuse the deranged layout of this post, but I genuinely seem to have no control over how my pictures turn up. I was hoping to do some kind of slick montage thing, but had forgotten that I have no technical ability whatsoever.


Monday, 22 May 2017

Writing Stuff

  I haven’t been here in a while, but please don’t take it personally. So as not to neglect the blog totally- although I know I’m do a fair job of it- I wanted to poke my head above the parapet to at least let you know that I am, honestly, busy doing wordish things.
 The story so far; 
 Story One is currently on submission with publishers - actually out there in the world, begging for attention, hoping someone out there might love it and want to give it a home. I’m trying not to think about it, as I’ve been assured that waiting is par for the course. Besides, it is absolutely out of my hands now. So this is me not thinking about it, la la la la la la lahhh…
  In the meantime I’m working on Story Two. I thought I’d be able to dive right into it, but that wasn’t the case. I dithered and procrastinated for a while. Now I think I needed the time to replenish and refill the thought banks. I did however make copious pages of scribblings in my notebook and last week I started whacking words on the page. There’s 14k banked as of Friday, which is pleasing, although who knows how many of them are any good or likely to stay. (I try not to read back straight away so they can mull and so I'm at least a little surprised when I come back to them.) I’m attempting to follow the plan I had last time of 2k words a day Mon- Friday and if I don’t make the 10k target then I have to do detention during the weekend to make up the shortfall.

What I did do before starting, amid all the note-taking (and actually many of the notes were prompted by this) was reread the "How to.." books I studied during The Great Rewrite, so as to have them in mind from the start. There’s three of them and they are, in the specific order that I read them; John Yorke’s magnificent Into the Woods, which anyone who wants to be a storyteller IN ANY FORM should read. It looks at Why stories have the structure that they do; Larry Brooks’ Story Engineering is a mechanical approach to the actual structural nuts and bolts. He’s bossy but clear about what you should know from the beginning, in order to write more efficiently and deeply; Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood takes screenwriting principles and applies them to novel writing. Screenplays are generally super tight with their plotting and structures, that there’s lots to be emulated and she's also good at pointing out generic plotting traits. I’ve found them all ridiculously useful, in fact, learning from them has had me asking myself what the hell I was thinking before. I’ve told myself I won’t start any other stories EVER without rereading them first.

This one by Libbie Hawker, is another one which added itself to that pile just recently. It’s a short read (thank goodness!) and I imagine one that I’ll dip in and out of to keep myself on track. Also one I’d recommend.

   And then there are the podcasts. Maaaan, I love my podcasts... 
I think I spent a week trying to make the transition from the note-making to the bum-on-seat-and-typing stage, and flailing simply through The Fear and dealing with my Inner Critic, who can be a bitch. The podcasts have really helped. I’ve mentioned The Bestseller Experiment before, which is great for feeling part of a community and learning about publishing on the whole, but I’ve now also found The Worried Writer, where novelist Sarah Painter talks to published writers about how they write and more importantly how they deal with the worries, The Fear and the procrastination. I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been to see that every writer has this and essentially it's part of the deal. Knowing this made it easier to step over it. And having binge-listened to numerous episodes, I was finally able to overcome it or at least quell it enough to start. Have a listen. They’re both entertaining and useful, although Sarah’s voice is sometimes almost too soothing!

  The TBR pile is the bit that's failing at the moment but frankly, with kids in exams, there aren’t enough hours in the day, and something has to give. But then maybe having a chunky pile staring at me isn’t what I need at the moment and only picking up the ones that really appeal to me is more beneficial.

  So that was my update. Hope you are all well and the words are flowing for those of you who write.

Let me know how you’re doing! Chuck me your “How to” book and podcast recommendations too please.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

*Cue tumble-weedy silence" My lack of Spring '17 TBR pile.

 Given the fail of last season, I need a catch-up period. Therefore other than what was left over from the last pile, I’m not posting a new one. I will be reading- but I’m just not sure what yet, although that kindle of mine is rammed. There'll be a pile for summer though. My shirking will only last the one season.
 I’d love to hear what you have planned for your Spring reading though. 
Share please!

Friday, 24 February 2017

Winter '16 Gut Reactions

I failed!! Completely and utterly. The Winter TBR pile contained eleven books but due to The Christmas Rewrite, I managed very very little recreational reading. (I did, however, consume three writing-craft books, which took some time.)
Of the seven Christmas books listed I managed all of two. Yes, two. In a holiday. So poor.
Of the others mentioned, I managed another two. I know, I know...

Lovely Santa CP gifted me three which I leapfrogged in, because I am particularly naughty like that. They were;
I’ll be home for Christmas – CRISIS anthology (YA)
Holding up the Universe by Jennifer Niven (YA)
Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland (YA)

 Easily (the competition is small) the joint Book of the Season are Holding up the Universe and Our Chemical hearts which were top-rung YA novels. Loved them. One of them doesn’t even have a happy ending – which is tantrum territory – but get this- I didn’t mind. That’s how otherwise pleasing it was – or else I’m just growing up a bit…

 Given I read very few, there’s only a couple of other thoughts;
-          One was just too worthy, which detracted from the enjoyment.
-          I love quirky forms of storytelling and one of these had that. But the quirky form in this case made it quite hard to read, distorting the flow of the narrative, which I doubt was the desired effect. I'm verging on feeling that the form was trying to disguise an underdeveloped story. Overall it felt like a case of 'form over experience.'
 That’s it. Epic fail, but it was for good reasons, so no apologies.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Funny stuff for your ears.

Having given the focus to The Bestseller Experiment in my last post, I also wanted to give a nod to a few of the comedy podcasts that I've been listening to.

 The Guilty Feminist is a fave; comedians Sofie Hagen and Deborah Frances-White "covering topics 'all 21st century feminists agree on' while confessing their insecurities, hypocrises and fears that underlie their lofty principles."
So much of what they observe is spot on and absolutely recognisable. And so so funny.
 My dad wrote a porno, has me barking with laughter in the car, scaring other drivers, as Jamie Morton reads an erotic novel his 60 year old father has written, OUT LOUD to his friends Alice Levine and James Cooper, who critique. And they do critique; constantly, harshly and widely as it is truly awful on many many levels. (I’m claiming that one as a writing-related piece, as their deconstruction of Rocky Flintstone’s Belinda Blinked, is both hysterical and informative about the pitfalls of scene construction. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it… As an aside Belinda Blinked is actually available on Amazon. The reviews are entertainment in themselves.)

And then there is Standard Issue, which is a supplement podcast to Standard Issue e-magazine. Comedian Sarah Millican set the magazine up in response to all the women's magazines out there, with the aim of it being "for all women, and not making you feel shit about yourself." These podcasts have female comedians in conversation, covering all sorts of issues and opinions, with intelligence and humor. They chat, following me around the house, as I do my chores with my phone in my back pocket and they never fail to make me smile and laugh.

Anyone got a podcast to recommend?