Monday, 16 July 2018

The Romantic Novelists' Association Conference

Last weekend I was in Leeds Trinity University at the RNA annual conference. It’s the highlight of my writing social calendar is it gives me the opportunity to catch up with writing friends spread across the country, attend lectures and go to appointments with industry professionals.

I stayed in student accommodation. Here is the view from my window.

I went to lectures given by the ladies from Mills and Boon and a very entertaining talk by Mark Stay.

The highlight however had to be two lectures which prompted light bulb moments for me. Alison May gave a lively talk about self-editing and how to do it effectively. Fiona Harper spoke about the structure of romance books and how the three act structure applies to love stories, using pretty woman to illustrate her points.

I also finally met in person two people who I originally met online. Jen Gilroy who travelled all the way from Canada for the conference and Tora Williams. Some other delegates are travelled from Switzerland and Norway while we were treated to speakers from the US.

It was a full on weekend that didn’t stop and I’m sure the ideas will percolate through my writing for some time.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Time Flies

It’s been too long since my last post. Time flies when you’re having fun, so the saying goes. But I don’t think I’m alone in the belief that time is passing faster and faster and that life is busier and busier.

My current work in progress is developing well if at a pace that is a little more sedate than I would prefer. So when I read a twitter feed about how long it takes to write a category romance book, I was intrigued. A category romance is approximately 50,000 to 55,000 words and you can see the complete thread from author MaiseyYates on Twitter here.

I write a lot! I HAVE written a lot for the past eight years. And here are some of the ways I manage that schedule.
When I sit down to write a book I count out how many days I have to write it. Then I subtract weekends. Birthdays. Days I know I have a hair appointment and will be too busy to actually get words, etc.
Then I take my word count and divide it up by the number of days I have to work on the book. On the calendar, I may have 45 days. But if only 30 of them are writing days, I go with the 30.
Another thing I do is I pad my daily count. If I have to write 1667 words to write 50K in 30 days, then I might make my daily count 1800. This helps me stay ahead for when things happen. When edits hit, when life is just hard, when my book isn’t cooperating.

So that’s 30 days to write the first draft of a book. NaNoWriMo is based on exactly that premise. But that time frame doesn’t begin to take account of planning, plotting, rewrites, revisions, or edits. What happens when life gets in the way, the writing slows or, heaven forbid, the characters start keeping secrets? Deadlines loom and stress levels rise which is a great way to kill creativity.

Some writers will sit down at the keyboard and write until they’ve hit their daily word count.

But what about the pantser? That writer who may have to delete thousands of words when the story goes astray. I class myself as a half breed, part plotter, part pantser. The unwelcome realisation that a story is going astray is swiftly followed by a sinking feeling knowing that delete button will be getting some heavy use.

So what’s the answer?
In my view, pacing. Both in terms of writing and time at the keyboard.

Writing a novel is definitely not a sprint but more like a marathon. A writer needs stamina to finish a book and persistence, talent and a fair degree of luck.

Knowing what I want to say has always been and will only ever be half the battle.

How do you plan your writing?

Friday, 16 March 2018


Yesterday I achieved something I had previously considered impossible. I completed a 5K run with Cybi Striders running club after completing a Couch to 5K programme with the club.

Now that may not be a huge deal for some people but as someone who is very much deskbound by virtue the nature of my writing, I never considered running was something for me. Add in a profound lack of fitness and I considered the very idea of running for any length of time ludicrous. But every week I turned up and met an amazing group of people in the process.

At the end of every session, we had homework slips with details of the amount of running we needed to do in between our weekly sessions together with motivational quotes. The last one was:

One of the greatest feelings is accomplishing something that you once thought was impossible.

It proves that with determination and persistence, we can reach our goals and when we do, the sense of achievement is incredible.

So here’s to the impossible and may we keep trying to make it possible.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Happy World Book Day!

World Book Day gives us a wonderful opportunity to remember the books we love as well as an opportunity to think about the next book we want to read. I read books for the way they make me feel. Emotions are why I write after all. So here is my roundup of books which have stayed with me even though it might have been years since I’ve read them.

An Unexpected Countess by Laurie Benson gave me a hero, Hart, to fall in love with.

The Duke Secret Wife by Kate Walker was the first Mills and Boon book I ever read and the image of the heroine, Isabelle, at the opening of the book is still with me.

The Humans by Matt Haig made me laugh and cry and feel uplifted.

To kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I think this one speaks for itself.

Letters to the Lost by Iona Grey is an epic love story which weaves World War II with the present day.

Do you have any books that have stayed with you?

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Happy New Year!

Are you making any New Year's resolutions? While I've had publishing success with my short stories over the years, that call for my novel is still proving elusive, so I only have two resolutions this year - to read more and to write more, which I think is good for a writer! While that blank page can be full of possibilities, it can be terrifying at the same time. So I thought I'd share two messages for 2018 with you.

Wishing you all success, health and happiness for 2018.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

What does Christmas mean to you?

Religious considerations aside, my favourite part of Christmas is that pause between Christmas and New Year. For me, it’s time to take my foot off the pedal and enjoy some time without the usual pressures that everyday life seems to bring. Cold frosty walks, cosy evenings in with the family and a book and some time to write. The only thing better than pursuing my dreams of writing is knowing that I have been blessed with a family who understand and support my writing journey.

So warmest wishes from me to you and I hope that this festive period gives you a chance to do whatever makes you happy.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Writing, fitness and stationery

Writing, in my experience, is much like fitness. If it’s not used, the risk is that inspiration dries up and words feel clunky but worst of all, confidence goes.
Previously, I’ve tried to write something every day. It helps keep me in the story even if it’s only 100 words, but after yet another rejection, my confidence dropped to an all-time low and the crows of doubt began circling far too close for comfort.
I was in trouble. Like running through stitch, I told myself to press on, sitting at my laptop believing inspiration would come.
It didn’t. I was trying too hard and forcing it.
I gave myself time off. I gave myself permission to write rubbish which is harder than it sounds. My inner editor was chomping at the bit to have something to do. Time off, too, wasn’t easy. I even flirted with quitting. Turns out I couldn’t. The characters in my head wouldn’t shut up and their story was desperate to come out.

I have a particular predilection for stationery and so reverted to pen and paper. Something clicked. There’s nothing quite so organic as feeling the words appear. I began writing anywhere and the drip, drip feed to my story breathed new life into my writing and I’m getting back into my stride. Finally I can give voice to the characters in my head. The fact I'm indulging my stationery habit is a pleasant offshoot!

I love this quote from Anne Lamott because with every book I've written, the process has been different. So why should this one buck the trend?