Thursday, 10 January 2019

New Year, new tasks

A belated happy New Year to you all. As Christmas and New Year passed me by thanks to a nasty bout of flu, I’m glad to get back into my writing routine. My plan for January is to edit my last novel after receiving feedback from my Reader under the New Writer’s Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists' Association. My Reader’s report covered characterisation, plot and themes, and contained lots of great advice and guidance. So January will be a busy month as I give my inner editor permission to run free.
What are your plans, writing or otherwise, for this month?

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

The Dirty Draft

Before you ask, no, I haven’t changed genres and embarked on writing an erotic novel √† la Fifty Shades. It’s a way of writing and it’s been my most recent revelation. 
A dirty draft is a first draft of a novel or piece of writing that Nikki Moore describes as “a raw first draft that is full of plot holes and peppered with spelling and grammar mistakes and it doesn’t matter. Because it’s not the finished product.”

On Libert√† Books blog, SophieWeston describes writing her first novel not realising what she had was a cracking dirty draft.

The very talented and multi-published Kate Walker has extolled the virtues of the dirty draft for years in her creative writing courses but only now have I had the courage to try it and I’m converted! A dirty draft means complete freedom to write without worrying about the flow of the story, whether scenes are in the right place or if the character's view point is correct, among other things.

The best part - my latest book is following this path naturally and the story is flowing. I’m trying not to think about what it’ll look like at the end or even beginning to imagine the work involved in editing it. But it will be written!

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Lessons Learned in my Latest Book

As work on my latest book draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on how different my writing process has been for this book when compared to the others. Each book I’ve written has followed a different process. In my early days, I would write a chapter and have to polish it before I could move on. Things have changed since then.

My favourite part of the writing process is planning the book. The time when all the ideas pop up and the characters come into focus is magical for me. Writing the first draft is a close second. The first draft is only for me and I can let go in many ways. But then comes editing. I do not like editing. It’s painful even though I know it’s a necessary part of turning out a book. I find too many things wrong with the manuscript and begin to consider my decision to write at all. 

A few things changed with this latest book. So I thought I’d share them with you in the obscure hope that someone somewhere might find them helpful.

  •          I started writing immediately I arrived home after doing the school run without checking on emails, social media or what was going on in the world. No distractions and straight into the story.
  •          I created a very limited collection of music that immediately sucked me into my characters' worlds.
  •          I gave myself permission to keep the format loose. Scenes were written out of order, full sentences weren’t always present, and description was added later.

But the moment I'm done, when all the revisions on my list have been ticked off, that’s something that can’t be beaten. The recognition that I've created something out of nothing. 
Now I plan to have a day or three off before starting my next story and in the meantime I’m going to read and read and read, oh, and er, clean the house!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Back to School

It’s back to school week for most kids in the UK, my daughter included, and I have gone from a busy, often noisy house, to one that is eerily quiet. It was a busy six weeks and although we didn’t have a family holiday (it’s the busiest time of year on the farm which means we never get away in the summer), we had day trips and met up with friends.

I love spending time with my daughter. She’s interesting and fun. The hardest part about the holidays, however, was finding time to write. Life seems to be getting busier. So I faced the realisation I would have to find a way. I heard it said once that writing time isn’t found it’s made.

So here are my fails and wins:
1. Staying up later. I quite liked the idea of this one. I imagined myself tapping away at the keyboard under the light of my work lamp while the house around me was utterly silent. It didn’t work. I was just too tired.
2. Ignoring the housework (for a while). Instead of getting the housework done first thing to get it out of the way, I did it in the evening, when there was no real need to think too hard.
3. Writing in shorter bursts. This was a hard one. I prefer a solid amount of time to sit down and write. I get stuck into my work in progress and get the words written. Not so easy in the school holidays. Some days, there would be barely 5 minutes to spare, other days, I might squeeze in 2 hours if I added up all the short bursts. But with practice, I got into writing mode quickly.
4. Getting up earlier to write. This one was hard but effective and I didn’t touch emails and social media during that dedicated time.
5. Writing long hand. I would get my notebook out and jot down some thoughts, snippets of dialogue or character traits. In many ways, this is linked to writing in shorter bursts. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but at least I was thinking about the story and it’s so much easier to get into writing mode if I remember what my characters have been up to.
6. Play dates. They entertain each other when they’re together and when my daughter’s away with her friends, hey presto, writing time.

The sad reality however is the knowledge that every year is different and what worked one year doesn’t necessarily work for the next as she grows up but one thing doesn’t change – I’m definitely a happier person once I’ve had some writing time.

Do you have a way of carving writing time out of the day?

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.