Thursday, May 31, 2007

Novel Racer - David (DOT)

Well another brave racer has come forward! One of the latest, David (DOT). He's one of the four men we have racing with and the only one brave enough to step forth. Well done! Here's his profile:

"The truth is I fell into writing because I wanted to grow my hair long. This was back in the sixties, you understand; it would be a miracle if I could achieve that now though it would indubitably make me my fortune. So I looked around and picked on advertising as the place for me. After a relative short period by today's standards I got a job as a copywriter. By some fluke, I was good at it. And, for a young person, being a creative in an agency is fun. You're overpaid, spoilt, indulged and generally treated like minor royalty - least you were. In addition, in those days I had no concerns about the general morality of promoting big business because no one had invented phrases like 'multi-national corporations' or 'global marketing'. Indeed, for a brief and it has to be said, unhappy, period I worked at the same agency as Salman Rushdie, Fay Weldon and Dorothy Sayers once had - can't get more respectable.However, I secretly longed to do proper joined-up writing but never had the confidence to really go for it. One problem with copywriting is you never write in your own voice and that is what I lacked. So, when my elder daughter dutifully set off to attend university, I thought why not me. Essay writing might help me find my voice. So I applied to Sussex, was accepted and loved every moment. It certainly created a strong bond between my daughter and self as we would phone each other at periods of low ebb for encouragement. It also did wonders for my confidence."

Sitting in Vermont at my best friend's desk listening to the sound of a rushing river and looking through the fog to the's not too bad. Flights were OK and the Time Traveler's Wife is good but still missing Kate's book. I also managed to do a big rejig on August Rock before the wine hit on the plane!

I won't be here tomorrow as I will be beside a lake in new Hampshire for the wedding :-)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Novel Racer - A. Writer

I am hoping that a few more racers will step up but if not then A. Writer's ,,profile is the last. Here she is:-

"I started writing in mid-2005 after I went into my local WH Smith to buy a book and I didn’t see one that grabbed my attention. I thought it was a whim and that I’d get bored of it after a few days. I was always being told that the ‘wee anecdotes’ that I told people were really funny so I made them into a story. I typed the first 10k words on a palm top computer and that’s when I realised that I might actually want to do this properly. I saved up for a laptop, got it late 2005 and I haven’t looked back since.

It took me about a year to write the first draft of ‘If Not Now, Then When?’. A very personal story of timing and relationships in the chick lit genre. So far about 14 people have read the first draft and all responses have been positive.

Recently, due to personal circumstances I’ve had to postpone the editing ‘If Not Now, Then When?’ and the writing of my second book. I am now exploring the option of short story writing and possibly continuing with the idea I have for book 3.
I currently have two fictional blogs (links can be found on my blog) which are slowly gathering a fan base. I use the ‘fic-blogs’ as a showcase for my writing.

Trained in journalism, I never thought I’d be a creative writer. In fact at college I dismissed a creative writing course saying, ‘Bah! I’ll never do that!’ How wrong I was!
I enjoy writing and I can see me doing it for many years to come. If I never get published so be it, but to know that I have a copy of my book sitting on my bookcase is something I’m very proud of. "

I am sitting in Gatwick airport as I write. Must dash and buy some make up in a moment as I left mine in Cornwall. No doubt the dd has discovered this and is covering herself in it.

My frustration this morning was that I had to leave The Self Preservation Society at home. It's a hard back and I'm pushing the carry on limits as it is! I was almost half way and just loving it. But I also knew it was a book I didn't want to leave behind. So I grabbed the Time Traveler's Wife which has been on my TBR pile for some time. I've started but as I hate flying I don't think it will keep me laughing like Kate's book was!

I am still working on the revision and changes are coming thick and fast. This morning at 5:30 when I was printing off (until I ran out of ink) I was reading Jenny Crusie on the He Wrote / She Wrote Workshop. She was talking about beginnings. She despises prologues. August Rock opens with a very short one. I sat back and doesn't have to be a prologue. I could bring a flashback forward and bring it all to the front. So I am about to chop and change again. I have done a great deal of this in the first 30,000 words and I'm having a ball. Right now there is no pain associated with it. I keep sitting back and asking can I make this stronger........and the answer is yes!

A quick thanks to Cally to posting her experiences with ghosts. Because of these I have altered my ghost sequences quite a bit. (There will be more of the ghost issue when I come back to the critiques I've had).

So, I may be here tomorrow depending on connection. If not don't panic if you don't see me until Tuesday. Just think of me partying :-)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Novel Racer - Isabella - Novice Novelist

Well two more racers have come forth! Today we have Novice Novelist, Isabella,

"I was born in Belfast, moved to Australia when I was 10 and then back to the UK in my thirties with a fair bit of travelling and moving about in between. The longest I have ever lived in one place is 12 years which I thought was a really long time but I’m beginning to see that it isn’t. I mention the above because everything I write seems to be about finding your place in the world and the importance of friendship. I think that strong friendships make you feel that you always have a home even if you aren’t actually seeing some of your mates on a regular basis. One of my best skills is the long distance friendship – I would win Olympic Gold!!!!

I have had a sporadic relationship with writing for most of my life. It has gone through several phases. I was a playwright for about 7 years and had a couple professionally produced and used as texts for acting students. I was fortunate enough to have a couple of arts council grants to write full time but I found that in my mid twenties this was not for me nor did I have the self confidence to be doing it in such a ‘serious’ way. So I went back into the ‘normal’ workforce and then fell into journalism – something I have been doing on a freelance basis for around 15yrs now. It has only been in the past few years that I have returned to fiction. I got an idea that I realised wanted to be a novel and I’m currently around 61,000 words into it. I live in hope of having a first draft finished by the summer but life frequently gets in the way!!!! I dream of having the ideal work/personal/writing balance!!!

Novice Novelist"

Now I apologize. I am a day out this week. Yes, It was a bank holiday here yesterday which always makes it different but the unexpected happened. It was sunny in our part of Cornwall so I spent most of the day working in the garden. Bliss. Then the whole family went to see Pirates of the Caribbean. Bliss. So please accept my apologies.

I had promised to continue my revision process but it must go on hold this week. Today I head back to London then off to States for best friend's wedding. I don't know what my connections will be and I won't have my reference materials. So I may be blogging or I may not. However I will be tomorrow when I have a. writer's profile :-)

Have read my revision and so far so good. It works and it fits!!!!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Writing Meme

Callytagged me on this writing meme in the week. It was funny but when I was reading hers I was feeling how useful it would be to look more closely at how I write. I felt it might help me identify some strength's and possible weaknesses therefore I was pleased to see my name at the bottom. Thanks Cally I have enjoyed yours and the the others I have read this week.

1. Do you outline?

No, I mind map my ideas on the story and on each character. At the beginning I find an outline too structured but now am looking at doing it once the first draft is complete so I have a handle on what I have written.

2. Do you write straight through a book, or do you sometimes tackle the scenes out of order?

I write straight through. Although I always know the end of my books I haven't a clue what will happen on the way there so I need to write in a linear fashion otherwise my brain would become more addled. If by some chance I think of an idea ahead I jot it down in my journal of add it to the mind map

3. Do you prefer writing with a pen or using a computer?

Computer. I gave up long hand in university although I keep a journal with all my scratching in it which I love. It's one of those moleskin ones.

4. Do you prefer writing in first person or third?

I have always written in third but I am toying with the idea of first for the next idea bubbling.

5. Do you listen to music while you write?

Occasionally classic but generally not as I find I become lost in the music too easily. How ever I can listen when I am revising???? Go figure that one. Maybe it helps my embarrassment when I read my work aloud to have other noises nearby????

6. How do you come up with the perfect names for your characters?

My main main characters seem to be born in my mind with names already. That is first names. last names came be more problematic. For secondary characters - it can be as scientific as whose name I see in the paper that morning.

7. When you're writing, do you ever imagine your book as a television show or movie?

Absolutely. When I write the whole thing plays in front of my eyes. i don't see the screen or the keyboard but the scene I am writing. It is all very visual for me.

8. Have you ever had a character insist on doing something you really didn't want him/her to do?

Yes and always with interesting results. At first I used to fight this and now I let it run and see where it leads me. I can always change it later!

9. Do you know how a book is going to end when you start it?

You bet. I write woman's fiction and I'm an optimist so there will be some sort of happy ending. it's just the bits that get to me to that ending that I often haven't a clue about!

10. Where do you write?

Currently the dinning room table. It really doesn't matter to me. I just bring chaos with me where ever I write.

11. What do you do when you get writer's block?

When my subconscious hasn't caught up with where I am in the story is when it hits so I need a little down time to walk or drive or read.

12. What size increments do you write in (either in terms of word count, or as a percentage of the book as a whole)?

At the beginning of the book about 1000 words a day but as I progress into the book that increases to 2000/3000 because I have a clearer idea where the story is taking me.

13. How many different drafts did you write for your last project?

Well, we all know I just finished draft one of A Cornish House and I am on draft 5 of August Rock so I think the answer is as many as it takes to get the damn thing right!

14. Have you ever changed a character's name midway through a draft?

Yes many times. While writing August Rock I had to change Judith's last name to Chambers because the previous incarnation was to close to someone famous. Hint, google the name before you become to deep in the story. I also have to change Tristan's last name because there was another house with the same name in the area that I am writing about. Secondary character's name get chopped and changed frequently with me!

15. Do you let anyone read your book while you're working on it, or do you wait until you've completed a draft before letting someone else see it?

Yes. Some times its good to have some feedback at the beginning.......

16. What do you do to celebrate when you finish a draft?

A bottle of bubbly, a long hot bath with a good book. I don't read much when I am writing the first draft.

17. One project at a time, or multiple projects at once?

One at a time. I rely on my journal to capture the ideas for the others while I focus on one.

18. Do your books grow or shrink in revision?

Good question. If I am doing a Sol Stein revision they shrink but having done that a few times now my writing has become stronger. However since plot is my weakness my books are now growing with revision as I add in more complications.

19. Do you have any writing or critique partners?

No. I tried but I just couldn't be critical enough of someone else's work. I'm too nice by nature.

20. Do you prefer drafting or revising?

Both. Hah, I never thought I would say this. I love the rush of the first draft but I'm learning to love seeing that become something better and stronger! I'm mad I know!

Now I need to tagged five other people for this meme...... so I tag (you are free to ignore me!) Fiona Harper, Julie Cohen, Bernardine Kennedy, Therese Fowler and b. e. sanderson . If you are in the UK , Julie's Little Black Dress book Spirit Willing Flesh Weak is being given away today free in the SUN newspaper! I read it last year and loved it so go get your free copy.......

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wobble Wobble

Now for once this isn't a writing wobble so in theory I probably shouldn't share it with you but I shall. My best friend is getting married for the first time next week and I am over the moon for her. If anyone deserves happiness she does. It's been a long time in coming. I'm not wobbling about that at all. BUT I am wobbling about the wedding and party itself. I left the States nearly twenty years ago now. Lots of things have changed in those twenty years - I have the most wonderful dh in the world, three fabulous healthy children, I have seen and lived in many exotic places in the world, I have run a voluntary association of over eight thousand volunteers for multi billion dollar company and gone nose to nose with the CEO over family policy, and I have now written three books. All wonderful stuff and I try to hold onto them, I really do.

However then the wobbles takes over big time. Twenty years ago I was beautiful and two and a half stone lighter. Since the scanner is dead I can't give the before and after evidence. Let's put it this way I was good enough to be the second frontispiece in colour for Country Life back in 1991. So now years on I am feeling less than happy about myself. Wednesday I had my hair done which helped and yesterday I ventured into Marks & Spencer to find something that would do........ it was depressing beyond words (although I have thanks to India and Neris's Idiot-Proof Diet I lost ten pounds in three weeks) .

You see some of these people I have snogged in the past and there are few others who may turn up at the party that I might have fancied the pants off of and well I am now fat and forty-four with evidence of it blatantly on view doesn't help! Now all I can hope for is that time hasn't been to kind to them either but then that's not nice..........

I do remember the day is not about me and I know my friend will shine like the sun in her happiness and I will hopefully forget how I feel and just think about her but until then I will wobble like jelly.........

Now back on to writerly things.........yesterday I finished Any Way You Want Me by our own Novel Racer Lucy Diamond! I had to finish it. I have been savouring it at the end of each day but when at the hair dressers I read a huge chunk - wonderful. On the tube to M & S I nearly missed my stop so when I came home I thought sod the revision I need to know how this ends. Lucy, damn you - you made me cry. What a great read. It's irreverent, fun, sassy and compelling. Thanks :-)

So I didn't revise yesterday. I had a mental break which is probably not a bad thing as my head is spinning with more and more ideas of how to kick August Rock into shape. Today I should make some more progress although I will be printing out the 30,000 words I have thus far reworked to see if it makes sense. Plot improvement is the aim of this rewrite. My days in Budapest were spent being tourist in the morning then studying over Donald Maass's book Writing the Breakout Novel and making notes. Little bells were ringing continuously as I read. I now have written enough to understand what he meant. I know that sounds a funny comment, but just as with Sol Stein and over writing I don't think I had written enough fiction in a long time to understand what DM was throwing at me.

So back to the SS rewrite. I was pleased with my rewriting results. The script read better and was stronger but I was terrified to send it to Lucie again in case it wasn't good enough. I didn't want to blow my one chance to be read again if it hadn't worked. I ran into Lucie at the Romantic Novelist Association Winter Party and said as much to her in person. I told her I was thinking about sending it off to Hilary Johnson's Advisory Service (again which I heard about through the RNA). Lucie said a client of hers' used them and Hilary was good so go ahead. Next step that sent me on that route was a comment in the RNA magazine Romance Matters by a best selling author which said something along the lines that many writings don't invest enough in there work at the start. Writers need help along the way. That sold me. I took the money my parents had sent for Christmas and topped it up with my dh's pressie and sent August Rock off and tried to forget about it over the holidays - hah!

Early in January the script came back and I wasn't told to put it in the bin. The reader didn't pull any punches. So she wrote:

You write very fluently and pleasantly. (thank you SS, that part of the rewrite worked)................

She goes on to describe the difference between a plot based novel and a character driven one:

Although a lot of things happen in the course of the August Rock I'd actually put it in the second category (character driven), because the main events of the book are so clearly signalled in advance that there isn't that much suspense as to how things will eventually turn out. To a certain extent this is a failing in the story. (This is clearly a major difficulty with my writing but I have been taking heart from reading the Cruise/Mayer Workshop that Jennifer writes this way first then fixes it - so all may not yet be lost for me!)

Your dialogue is good and I'd like to see more of it. Aim for a balance of sixty/forty dialogue to narrative. (working on that as I rewrite now).

She goes through each major character and tells me the highs and the lows and where I fail particularly at my secondary characters......

In conclusion she says:

You write well. August Rock is a pleasant and literate read with no loose ends and a collection of characters who make amiable companions. But - and I'm afraid it's a big 'but' - I felt that the book didn't make enough demands on me. I liked the storyline and the characters who appeared in it. But because the end was so clearly signalled at the beginning there wasn't enough incentive to read on. It was a little to predictable and the pace too even. I would have liked more twists, more surprises, more spanners in the works, more to indicate that things might just be in danger of not turning out the way I expected. As the book stands I don't feel that it if offers enough commercial opportunity for a mainstream publisher. It's a near miss rather than an absolute certainty. Sharpened and tightened and with a few more variations of pace the book could well make the grade.

Well, I sat back and tried to absorb the report of six single spaced pages of criticism. It all seemed too much at that point. A few ideas rattled around in my brain but her parting comments were. Put the work aside and work on something else then come back to it. So I put my heart and soul in to A Cornish House and left August Rock aside. Well, almost as there were a few issues raised that led me to Caroline Upcher. That I will tell you about later.

I want to go back to Lucy's book above because as I read Anyway Way You want Me I could clearly see what my reader had been talking about. Lucy lead me and my emotions on a merry ride that kept going off in unexpected and some times expected routes. However when the expected happened the next event threw me into doubt again. I found my emotions engaged even though some of the things Sadie was up to were frankly repulsive to me yet I loved her and wanted her to make it through. That is what I need to achieve with August Rock. I don't just want a pleasant read. I want emotions engaged.

Now, you are thinking this post will never end! I have been tagged several times over for a few things but mostly for eight random things about me. I've been tagged on this by Jess, Lisa, Cally and Rachel

1. Each player starts with 8 random facts/habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged, write a blog post about their own 8 random things, and post these rules.
3. At the end of your post you need to tag 8 people and include their names.
4. Don’t forget to leave them a comment and tell them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

So here are my eight random things...

1. Having just read Jess's latest post about the best romantic smooches on reminded me that I won the best kiss in my dorm in university. We all puckered up with red lipstick and kissed the wall. My 'perfect' pout won!

2. I am an optimist - the glass is half full and preferable filled with good wine

3. I am a closet country music fan

4. I embarrass my children as frequently as I can just because it's one of the best things about being a mum of teenagers ( I still can't believe I'm old enough to have teenagers)

5. I am still 28 years old it's just that my body doesn't know it

6. I am an only child and therefore wanted to have six children that is until I gave birth to my first one!

7. I love reading Green Eggs and Ham aloud to children

8. I love being a writer!

I won't tag anyone else at the moment as I think most people have been tagged but if you haven't jump on board and let me know!

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Novel Racer - Nichola

Well, when I started the Novel Racers profiles back at the end of April with Jane Henry, I didn't how much fun it would be. I have enjoyed each and every profile and loved seeing a slightly different side of each racer than they show on their own blogs. With Nichola's profile today we will have seen at little bit more of seventeen of our racers. Unfortunately this is it for the moment as the other racers are clearly shy. Here is Nichola,

"I learned to read when I was about two so my bookwormery started early. My gran used to put newspapers and books in front of me, some the right way up, some upside down, to see if I knew which was which, and apparently I always gave her a funny look when she presented the newspaper the wrong way up! She said it was just a silly game but as I grew older, I started devouring books. It’s an addiction I’ve never kicked.

I’ve written stories since the age of about six or seven, never wanted to do anything else with my life. Mrs Perry, one of my primary school teachers, read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to us during story-time and I was intrigued; I nagged my mum to take me to the library for a copy of the book so I could read ahead. The day I realised stories could have that effect on people was a watershed – and when I realised people actually pay for stories; you can write books and make money from it, I was amazed (and excited).

It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I completed my first ‘proper, grown-up’ novel though – 150,000 words of sheer rubbish. My friend Alistair said at the time, “How many people can even say they’ve written a book?” but it’ll never be published, at least in its current incarnation – it breaks every writing rule in the book (if you’ll pardon my pun).

While I was at college a few years ago, one of my assignments was to write the first chapter of a novel and my tutor encouraged me to finish it as she was fascinated by the main character – that one chapter eventually grew into Bird of Prey for which I’m now seeking representation and while I wait to see what happens there, I’m working on something else.

When I’m not writing, I read a lot of course – at the last count I owned just over 450 books so I’m always entertained. I have my own two-bedroom flat, which is just as well, with all the bookcases I need!"

Now yesterday I left you with me and Sol Stein's miraculous book Solutions for Writers. I read the book with high lighter in hand kept thinging OMG that is what I have been doing wrong. The I set to work and before Sol Stein August Rock was almost 91,000 words and by then of the edit it was 87,000 (this subsequently went back up to 89,000 when I worked with some plot issues).

Yesterday I left you with the gift that Lucie had handed me, Sol Stein's Solutions For Writiers. So first I will give you a one sentence demonstration of what this edit did for my writing:

(pre SS) A bee landed on the map. Judith watched its big fat body loaded with pollen try to set off again to find something that was more like a flower than the road map she held. Its wings eventually gained enough momentum to take off in search of greener locations.

(post SS) A bee landed on the map. Judith watched its fat body loaded with pollen try to set off to find something more like a flower. Its wings eventually gained enough momentum to take off in search of greener locations.

The difference is obvious. The sentence is stronger. The image more powerful and it flows. The reader soesn't become lost in a mess of words.

Now the prologue which you have read before is currently staying the same as my last rewrite but to show you the SS cutting I'll post both here for comparision and you can let me know which you think is better!

The first version:

Judith sat on the damp sand watching the incoming tide lap over her pale feet with their bright red toenails. Those red toenails fought so fiercely with the brilliant white lace of her wedding gown yet the tears in her eyes caused it all to blur to pink. She didn’t like pink. Not that anyone cared that she didn’t like the colour. The church was filled with pink flowers. Pink lilies to be precise and the scent of which still filled her nostrils despite the brisk sea breeze coming with the tide.

As she stood in the doorway of the church, all she could see was various shades of pink. Flowers andribbons adorned every pew. The altar was barely visible for all the massed blooms in every shade of the wretched colour; particularly pale pink. Little girls spinning around her knees were covered in pink dresses with pink stinking lilies clutched in their fists.

The heat of the early June afternoon intensified the cloying scent of the lilies to almost overwhelming levels as the soprano above in the choir loft hit the high notes on some hymn she couldn’t remember. Amidst all the pink covering the altar, stood her fiancé, John, in morning coat with a pink waistcoat which beautifully matched the fluffy pink dresses of the flower girls circling her.

Even her maid of honour was covered head to toe in pink with more lilies and carnations clasped in her hands. In her own hands, she held a decadent bouquet of more lilies, carnations, roses and other pink flowers which reached the floor in their cascade. She saw her hands tremble and sweat so much that she almost dropped the entire candyfloss mess on the tile floor.

The salty water of the Gulf Stream took the stiffness out of the lace by her toes so that it
collapsed on her legs. Now she felt at peace with the damn dress; limp, wet, and shapeless like her. A seagull dive bombed in front of her forcing her to wipe her wet eyes so that she could see if he was successful. He was and despite herself she smiled. At least someone got what they wanted.

Now for the latest version:

Judith sat watching the incoming tide lap over her red toenails and wet the brilliant white lace of her wedding gown. Tears caused it all to blur to pink. She didn’t like pink. Not that anyone cared that she didn’t like the colour. The church was filled with pink flowers. Hundreds of lilies to be precise and their scent still filled her nostrils despite the brisk breeze coming in with the tide.

An hour ago she stood in the doorway of the church; all she could see were various shades of pink. Flowers and ribbons adorned every pew. The altar was barely visible for all the massed blooms in every shade of the wretched colour; particularly pale pink. Her fiancé, John, stood among them; tall, blond, perfect yet even he had not escaped the colour with a waistcoat matching the flower girls spinning around her knees clothed in pink dresses with pink stinking lilies clutched in their fists.

The heat of the early June afternoon intensified the cloying scent of the lilies to overwhelming levels, as the soprano in the choir loft hit high notes on some hymn she couldn’t remember. In her hands, she held a decadent bunch of lilies, carnations, roses and other pink flowers which reached the floor in their cascade. She saw her hands tremble and sweat so much that she dropped the candyfloss mess on the floor.

The salty water of the Gulf Stream took the stiffness out of the lace so that it collapsed on her legs. Now she felt at peace with the damn dress; wet and shapeless. A seagull dive-bombed in front of her forcing her to wipe her eyes so that she could see if he was successful. He was and she smiled. At least someone got what they wanted.

The first version has 360 words and the second 299.

Now the current revision is coming on well, dare I say it. Iam enjoying it obviously madness has hit. I never dreamed I say that. I listened to Michelle Styles,, but I could never understand it. (BTW way she is blogging about why she finds McKee's Story so useful to her writing - it's well worth a look). Now I do. First with each revision I see the script becoming stronger and hence can see the benefit of the slog. Two, I now have a better understanding of what I need to be doing. So this current rewrite I am focusing on plot......

That's all I'll say for now other that if you have time pop of to Therese Fowler's blog,, for a great insight into who does the story belong to? Pertanent to me for A Cornish House.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Novel Racer - Caroline Smailes

Now most of was have been In Search of Adam impatiently waiting until publication date on the 15th June 2007, but poor Novel Racer Caroline,, has been tearing her hair out. However with all the pre-publication stress she has managed to come up trumps on her profile:

"I’ve always written (diaries, stories and poems), but I never had the confidence to do anything about my dream to be published. I was quite precious about my work when I was younger. Then as I became an adult I still wanted to write, but my life seemed to be circling around being a mum and an academic. I guess that I began to take my writing seriously when I started my MA in Creative Writing in September 2005.

I finished the final draft of In Search of Adam during a holiday in France in August 2006. I had no idea what to do next. My husband designed a website for me and I put on extracts from the novel. I felt that I needed something more interactive and a friend suggested that I started a blog. I launched the blog and the website on August 20th 2006.

I had been blogging for about three weeks and had left a comment on another blog about a book called 'e-luv' by Dave Roberts. He was a Friday Project author. Clare Christian came to my blog and then to my website from my comment on e-luv. She emailed to say she’d read the extract from my novel and wanted to read the full manuscript. It was a Saturday night. On the Sunday morning I emailed the full manuscript to her and by the Monday evening she had offered me a contract. Since then I have had an eight month roller coaster ride with a number of highs along the way. In Search of Adam will be launched in hardback in three weeks time.

As part of the Novel Race I am writing a novel, Black Boxes, which is a story in two parts - box one and box two. It is based on the idea of the black boxes that are extracted from a plane wreck. The reader is to unravel the story to find the cause of the 'crash.' The voices are of a mother and a daughter, focusing on sounds and lost words, but there is an added visual twist thrown in. It's another dark novel and I really hope that it’ll be finished as a second draft by the time ISoA comes out. But part of me is holding back and full of fear as to how ISoA will be received.

I still can’t believe that all of this has happened. I followed a dream when I started my MA and last week I held my novel for the first time. That is a feeling that will stay with me. I dread waking from this dream."

Now as my saga goes on my huge debt to the Romantic Novelist Association will become clear. At their summer party last year in the beautiful library at the Society of Mechanical Engineers on Birdcage Walk. It was a brilliant evening but extra special since my friend Fiona Harper won the New Writers' Award for her first book, Blind Date Marriage. I was so excited it was almost like I had won. So in celebratory mood I drank a touch too much. Soon the crowd had thinned down and I was able to find the food. It was reaching for something to sop up the alcohol that I met the lovely Lucie Whitehouse, then of Darley Anderson. We started chatting and to be honest it was the alcohol talking. We spoke of love lives- hers that is and other ramblings of the alcoholically infused and then she asked me what I wrote. I mumbled about Cornwall and the Helford River. She loves the area and asked me to send it to her. I floated out of the building with Biddy Coady to a pub. Finally when that closed on us she pored me into a taxi home. The next morning with large head I composed a simple cover letter and posted her the 19 pages and synopsis.

Now, I didn't expect an immediate response and I needed to send the whole manuscript off to the New Writers' Scheme of the RNA. I went off to the conference in Penrin quite buoyant. The first to come back was the report from the New Writers' Scheme. My heart sank. When the letter begins, " I enjoyed reading August Rock, Elizabeth. There is much that is good here." I thought, "Oh, shit this had gone to an agent and an editor and it's utter crap." I then took a step back and looked at the good points and the many bad points and consoled myself it wasn't a write off. The reader ended with this:

"In short, Elizabeth, I did think that August Rock showed great promise. What I feel you need to do is have a rethink about a) your characters and b) the main thread of Tristan and Judith's story (especially Tristan's) Bring the romance up to date and avoid cliches..........It's a feat in itself to write a novel of this length and as I said, there is a lot here that is good. Toby's story is excellent - very touching and convincing. If you can achieve the same with Tristan and Judith, you'll have have a very strong story on your hands."

So having read and digested all the bits. I knew my writing style was heavy. I was telling not showing yet I didn't know what to do about it. It's a phrase that is bandied about all the time but I thought having had that criticism for the script the before, First Love Second Chance, I had learnt my lesson. Clearly I hadn't.

Now I didn't want to hear from Lucie. It was the end of August and not a word. I just knew it was such crap that she couldn't be bothered to respond and would avoid me like the plague at all future RNA functions. I knew I was still too close to August Rock to begin a rewrite plus I didn't know where to begin. However the seeds for A Cornish House were growing daily.

I was in Cornwall when the letter arrived in London. Bravely, I think I asked the dh to open it and read it to me. I was shaking waiting for dire words. Her delay had nothing to do with my crap writing but her own success at the same. Her first book, The House at Midnight was coming out in Germany. (It comes out here in January 2008)

So here' what she had to say.......

....plot is i think is very strong indeed...........a strong heroine, a damaged man, tragic deaths, a mystery, a supernatural short, I think the plot is just right. (my comment here - this is off 19 pages and the synopsis)

Now for the bad........

....your writing is over explanatory and damages the pace and your ability to keep the reader's interest................(Here she took one sentence as I had written it and showed me how to make it stronger - light bulb moment) There are several idea repeated here and they make the writing feel very flat.

Then she pointed me to the direction to fix my writing style.....Sol Steins' Solutions for Writers and as a bonus said if I did a substantial rewrite she would be happy to look at it again!

I was straight to Amazon and was heart broken when it would a month before I could get this book in my hands. In the interim I mind mapped A Cornish House. When it arrived I was glued to it and fired up. Finally I could see what the reader had spoken of and what Lucie meant. I went on to slash and burn my way through August Rock which was brilliant fun!

Tomorrow I will tell you how it went and some examples of of it improved my work.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Novel Racer - Jen at Spiral Skies

I think Novel Racer Jen,, opens her profile the way we all feel when asked to write about ourselves!

"Oh dear… what to write?

Oddly enough, I never doubted that I’d be a writer. From a young age, ‘I love to write’ was a standard response when asked about my pastimes. All well and good but, well, I never actually did any writing. I bought heaps of books about writing and sometimes even read them but that was as far as it went. Hopeless.

Why didn’t I write? Now there’s a question. I suppose I thought that I could write and, if I did, I’d be good at it. But there again, if I actually wrote something, I might turn out to be rubbish. As someone surprisingly lacking in confidence, I took the easy way out. I didn’t write a word. Ever.

During a funny turn one morning, however, I signed up for a short poetry-writing course with the OU. I did ok. I then did their fiction-writing shortie: if I got a decent mark, I would take the plunge and sign up for the scary ‘big one’ in Creative Writing. If I did well in that, I would write the novel I had started as an assignment. I got a distinction. Yay! Maybe I wasn’t rubbish after all.

So, biting my nails and wondering how on earth I was going to manage this novel-writing lark, I happened upon the Novel Racers. And I’m doing it: I’m really writing. ‘Look at me, I’m writing a novel’, I think as I tap away in the dark at the crack of dawn.

I feel proud to be part of the Novel Race – not just the published among us (which are increasing rapidly, how fab!) but the others like me, pottering along and trying to type with our fingers crossed. The Novel Racers support is great; I doubt I’d have got this far without it.

So, while others have finished their first drafts or submitted to publishers, I’m bumbling along and have reached the 25% mark. I shall continue my daily torture in Retail Hell, continue my neglect of the housework and keep at it. Tap tap tap. A hundred words here, a hundred words there. Watch this space!"

First to say that strangely the revision went well and was actually fun yesterday. I do have that feeling that it is totally crap but then again that is what all writers seem to think all the time. However this truly could be so I will look on the bright side - I went from nought to 12% in the day!

Now as promised a little history of August Rock. The idea began when we were in our boat (a 15 ft dory) just in Falmouth Bay just out of the Helford River. I was looking at the charts and asked my husband what was this thing August Rock? He pointed to a buoy and I said yes so what? He replied that August Rock could only be seen during the very low tides in August. I thought cool sounds like a tittle for a book. August Rock was born.

That was at the end of August and the combination of many things churned about in my head until driving in the rain on the way back to London for the start of school that the whole story began in my head. American Judith Chambers flees her own wedding and escapes to the wilds of Cornwall to help Tristan Trevenen to catalogue the papers of his recently deceased father Petroc Trevenen, garden historian of note. He needs this done so that he can complete probate and sell this glorious historic estate on the Helford River.

I wrote 15,000 words before Christmas. Researched historic Cornish Gardens (none of which ever made it into the book!) and wrote the remaining 85,000 from January to the end of March. Now here comes the part where I cringe. I was at the March meeting of Romantic Novelist Association where a panel had spoken about the state of the current market. The panel consisted of and agent from Darley Anderson, a best selling novelist and an editor from Orion. When the talk had finished everyone swamp the agent from Darley but the lovely editor from Orion was left standing on her own. Now those of you that know me, I am too well brought up to leave someone alone so I went to chat - not to sell. However she pulled out of me what I was writing and she liked the sound of it. Asked if I had an Well, send a few chapters anyway....I said I would. She said don't rush but to finish it etc.

Needless to say I went home and worked like a demon. Polished as I knew how to then (utter crap) and had a few friends check the first three chapters (only 19 pages) for typos and so on. Then I held my breath and sent it. A few months later her reply came back.....and it was very polite no thanks and hopes that I found and agent soon. Exact words .... "It's an atmospheric read, and the character of Judith is strong but at present we have such a full schedule we really have to pick and choose."

Now you are wondering why this is cringe making.....well I'll tell you about the agent tomorrow and all will become clear but let' just say that my naivety knew no bounds.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Novel Racer - Chris

Here's the profile of the newest addition to the Novel Racers - Chris,

'I knew that I wanted to be writer when I won a tin of chocolates in a competition at school so what did I do about it? Well, I went to UEA but didn’t do the prestigious creative writing course, I went into a so-called proper job because I needed the money and along the way I sold a couple of articles. All this time I was writing books in my head and, except for a couple of failed Mills & Boons, that’s pretty much where they stayed even when I joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

After a family bereavement I finally woke up to the fact that unless I took a professional approach to my writing I’d end up living half a life, always wondering what might have been. Last June I picked up the twenty thousand words of a typescript that I’d been mucking about with for years and sat down to finish it. In February I sent it to Hilary Johnson, who I’d met through the Romantic Novelists Association, for an appraisal by her Authors’ Advisory Service.
Hilary passed the book to an agent and I’m nervously waiting for that outcome. Slight understatement – I’m nearly climbing the walls – so the novel racers are just what I need to make me get on with Novel 2.

In the meantime I’ve had non-fiction work published by Honno in an anthology, ‘Strange Days Indeed’ and now know the thrill of holding a proper book, to which I’ve contributed, in my hand! '

I'm still smiling from the launch of Wanna Be A Writer on Saturday. I haven't finished the book but I have already decided it would be required reading for anyone contemplating this crazy life!!! Jane Wenham-Jones lays it all on the table with such humour you are given a true picture. God, help I am still continuing!!!! By the way I skipped to the back and she's running a great contest there - go check it out ;-)

On the writing front, my fingers have hit the keys again. I have thought August Rock through and have started the re-write. As I mentioned my goal is to have this rewrite complete in time for the Daily Mail Novel of the Year contest. With all that is currently going on in my life this may be unrealistic. Their deadline is 2nd July. I am moving house on the 10th July and before that I have half term, my best friend's wedding in the states and a dirty weekend with my dh in Venice plus the RNA Conference in Leicester! However I'm going for it as I have lose to lose but my sanity.

Over the course of this week along with the few profiles I have left (hint hint). I will be sharing the feedback on August Rock that I have had - the good, the bad and the ugly. In some cases I will show you have I have learned from this feedback and finally what I am doing now to kick this baby into shape. Hopefully by doing this it will cement it all in my mind. So rewrite number 5 is in full swing!!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Wannabe A Writer

Some days I love being a writer - even if I'm unpublished and today's was one of them. I went to the book launch for Jane Wenham-Jones' Wannabe a Writer. It was at Borders on Charing Cross Rd and it was a blast. I arrived and spotted some friends, Bernardine Kennedy and Katie Fforde. While scoffing a glass of wine I met Amanda Brookfield and had a brilliant chat about writing and plot twists. Her book Relative Love is now added to my tbr pile.

While chatting with her Kate Walker arrived looking lovely and we had a great chance to catch up. I finally met Kate Harrison! I now have a signed copy of her latest book The Self-Preservation Society and it has a bumpy cover :-)

Lesley Cookman arrived and Margaret Kaine plus Judy Astley. As Jane had interviewed so many writers it was amazing to see Helen Lederer, Erica James, Maria McCarthy, Jane Bidder/Sophie King, Sue Moorcraft, Daniel Blythe, Karen Howeld, Victoria Connelly and Adele Parks. I know I missed a few. Then there were the wanna be's there Pia Tapper-Fenton, Henriette Gyland, and Biddy Coady. It was wonderful fun and the book is great. I was killing myself laughing as i read it on the way home on the tube! Now I know why writers are such fun :-)

Friday, May 18, 2007

News Flash - Racer Rachel Green To Be Published!

Rachel left a comment on my blog that announced her news....... She tells us that Ungodly Child the first Harold and Jasfoup novel is about to be published!

She also is a finalist in for the same novel. Way to go Rachel :-)

Novel Racer - Cally

Here's one of newest Racers, Cally,

"I’m in my early thirties and am one of those annoying people that claims to have been writing since she knew how to. As a child I loved to write and draw and created lots of little ‘books’ that I hole-punched and tied together with wool. I even sent one off to Penguin when I was eight. It was rejected, of course, but I received a lovely rejection letter (probably the nicest one I’ve ever received) and it didn’t deter me from writing more (ah, for that kind of youthful determination again!).I’ve continued to write on and off since then (mostly terrible, terrible poetry during my teens and early twenties) and started my first novel in 2004 – a YA effort. About 52,000 words in I suffered a big plot wobble (was it too dark for a YA audience?) and stopped writing to think about the plot and…never got started again. Instead I started writing short stories which I instantly loved writing because there was much less slog and you could produce a complete story so quickly. Since then my stories have been published in print and online and last year I was Runner Up in the Woman’s Own short story competition and my story and photo (eek!) were published in the magazine.In February this year I saw the ad for the Waterstones/Cosmopolitan chick-lit competition and decided to enter. I’d had a kind of chick-lit with a twist idea for a novel for a while and it needed writing. It’s probably too ‘out there’ for the competition but I’m loving writing it (despite my constant protestations to the contrary) and I’m determined to finish it. When it’s finished I’m going to go back and finish my YA novel. 52,000 words is too much work to abandon so cruelly!"

So, I am waiting to hear from all the other racers. I have one more profile to post and then we're finished.........come on and don't be shy!!!!

I'm back from Budapest and its good to see the sun shinning here. I am all fired up to begin the rewrite of August Rock. I read Donald Maass's book Writing the Breakout Novel. This fueled my notes and now begins the transformation! I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Novel Racer - JJ

Where to start with today's Novel Racer, JJ,
Maybe with the porn star name incident. How she knew this twist on life I won't venture to guess - but you take your first pet's name and then your mother's maiden name and voila you have your porn star name! I won't repeat mine here..........too embarrassing for words. So with that little introduction here's JJ in her own words:

"I’ve wondered all my life about what I should do for a career. I’ve never stopped looking in the recruitment pages of the newspaper. It’s interesting to think it might have been obvious all the time, but I resisted writing because my mum encouraged it, and I didn’t know if I wanted it for her or me.

My few years in conventional employment were spent in an archaeological charity and a university, while beginning and aborting writing novels. While I was at home with small children I was offered the chance to broadcast some talks for Radio 2’s Pause for Thought. I wrote and recorded around 6 or 7 talks in total, got paid and had a day and half away from babies.

When my second child was two I realised I was going stir crazy so I started a part-time foundation course in Art and Design, which led to a full time degree in Fine Art, specialising in Sculpture. I discovered while making art that I didn’t need to write, and since not making art, I learned that I positively need to write. It seems I need one or the other.

I’d been lurking in the shadows of Kate Harrison’s blog for a long while, and I took the plunge and emailed her about joining the novel racers. It has been an enormous support in preventing me from declaring my crapness and quitting again."

Budapest is still lovely although the temperature has dropped thanks to a wild storm that blew through early evening. I have been taking it very slowly and just enjoying wandering through the city. I spent several hours in the National Museum yesterday. I find it fascinating to see what partings they choose and what their subjects are. Why? Well, it reveals what parts of history are most important to them them for one and two looking at the subject matter shows the focus of the Nation. So what was feeling coming out of the museum? Well, there seems to be a huge emphasis on the individual as the portraits were stunning. The landscapes were beautifully rural. What I walked away loving was the beautiful wooden carved altar pieces. Stunning.

So you may have noted there is a new progress meter on the side bar. Why you ask? Well, I am still undecided about how to proceed with A Cornish House but I know what I need to do with August Rock. Then there is the matter of the Daily Mail Novel of the Year prize, Now I know I haven't a hope in hell of winning but it does give me a target. The deadline is July 2nd. Now I know that A Cornish House is a better novel than August Rock but there is no way I can whip that baby into shape by 2nd July however it might just be possible with August Rock. So I hope to be sharing with you the struggle to rewrite August Rock for the fifth time. If any of you have any insights into rewriting then please share. Any one else taking a stab at the Daily Mail competition?

One final note, fellow Novel Racers, I need your profiles.......please send them. Thanks :-)

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Novel Racer - Kate Kingsley

Today's Novel Racer is Kate Kingsley,, and she has a wedding coming up. Reading the stresses she is going through through reminds me of all the one I have happily forgotten from almost sixteen years ago. Here's Kate in her own words:

"For as long as I can remember, I know that I wanted to be a writer. As a child I would read voraciously, and I made a few early forays into writing: I would take a book, any book, read a few pages and then rewrite them in a style which I found more to my taste. This early attempt at developing technique lead to a varied selection of adaptations, from Jeffrey Archer to Kafka by way of a chapter of an encyclopedia on wolves.

And then at some point it all stopped. I don't remember when or why. I continued to immerse myself in books, studying Literature at university and going so far as embarking upon a Masters in contemporary literature with a view to full time academic literary study and teaching. But the writing stopped. This was probably due to fear of failure, and I was extremely self-conscious about professing any authorly ambitions as I expected to receive a guffawing "You! A writer! Don't be so daft. Who do you think you are, anyway?" in response.

The idea never truly evaporated, and I sometimes wonder if denying my innate inclination to write may have contributed to the aimlessness of the years following university ~ when you dare not do the one thing you long to do, everything else seems a bit pointless. Eventually I realized that it was better to be laughed at then get to the age of 97 having never tried to live my dream. Around them same time, felicitously, I read a few awful books, and I just KNEW that I could do better. Some gentle encouragement from a poet friend and my fiancé, combined with an idea that buzzed in my head like an angry wasp and refused to go away until I wrote it, and here I am working my way through the first draft of my first novel, which is centred on a fictional rock band, The Deadbeats, in 1960's Newcastle. The draft is coming along slowly but surely, as over the last few years I took on a part-time psychology degree along with my full-time job, and I find that I am guilty of stretching my available time (and sanity) to snapping point.

I am currently writing under the (not quite my real) name of Kate Kingsley, although I have had a few modest successes with short stories and poetry under my "other" name. I suppose I started the blog under a variant identity because that little germ of self-consciousness is still there, and I didn't really want any family friends stumbling upon it and demanding to see what I'd produced so far. Hopefully I shall soon be in a position to "reveal" myself, but I have to admit I am rather enjoying the super-hero type dual identity!"

Budapest........well fabulous. Today as I write the sky is again blue and my head is ok. Once released from the clutches of the conference the Dh and I wandered the hot city streets looking for the perfect cafe to sit and sip a cold glass of wine. This was incredibly difficult because this part of the city is filled with open air cafes. Finally we elected one near the Cathedral where the view was great, the wine cold but questionable, and the salami fabulous. The view was stunning of the cathedral with piercing blue sky behind.

Then on the recommendation of an acquaintance we went to a restaurant called Nosztalgia. Well, it was. The decor was reminiscent of the pre WWI with live classical music being lead by a feisty violinist. I have posted a rather dodgy snap of the interior. The food was good but the atmosphere was a pleasure........such fun to half close your eyes and picture life here a hundred years ago. The closing of eyes had nothing to do with the copious quantities of the wine :-) Can't blame to the picture quality on that either. I wanted to capture it without flash!

Jen asked in the comment to the last post how my writing dilemma was going..........well, after a discuss with niece (28)and nephews 26 & 23) I am thinking about YA again. Why? You ask what books they remember and its the ones they read in their teens...........

Monday, May 14, 2007

Novel Racer - Rachel Green

Well, a new week and onto the next Racer, Rachel Green, Rachel I think has the most intriguing hobbies....Here she is in her own words:

"When someone mentions ‘the voices in my head,’ most peoples immediate reaction is to smile politely and look for the nearest exit, hoping that the person they’re talking to doesn’t have a machete hidden under their hospital issue nightgown.

Not so with writers. We call those voices ‘muses’ and quickly learn to turn their suggestions into prose. Great reams of prose. Sometimes rubbish, often mediocre and, very occasionally, an absolute gem.

Can I help it if my muse is a demon? He’s been promoted since he’s been with me and has even guest-starred in a couple of stories by other writers. Not that I’m jealous. I just wonder what he promised them.

My current WIP is the story of a young lady who becomes a werewolf. She has a few problems coming to terms with this, not least of which is how to hod a teacup when you’ve lost your opposable thumbs.

Jasfoup stays with me until tea-time, after which he allows me to pursue my other interests: Historical defence (rapier, saber, cutlass) and, recently, kobudo (Eastern weapon forms). Once in a while I actually see my family too: two wives, two kids and two dogs. My wives are the tall ones without hairy feet."

My weekend was wonderful but busy beyond words and as I write these words I am sitting in a hotel in Budapest! We just arrived after a rising at 4:45 this morning. Knackered? Me, no. I am just trying to find my bearing before venturing out in the 33 degree Celsius sunshine. So this week I will be blogging from Budapest. It has a ring to it -doncha think?

A huge thank you to Kate and Lucy and all the racers for awarding me the prize. I don't feel I should have it but I would never say no to books! The real winner was Kate Harrison followed by Zinnia. So Zinnia, email and I'' share the prize :-). Now Budapest waits!

P.S. Caroline, I am now searching for Adam in Budapest........will post picutres later.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Novel Racer - Kate Harrison

Kate is a founder of the Novel Racers along with Lucy Diamond and also a multi published author who sits in my staggering tbr pile. Her latest book The Self Preservation Society is out this month. Here's Kate in her own words:

"I’ve always been a writer – but until about six years ago, my writing was mainly confined to scribbling notes from my beach-towel while I was on holiday. My day job, and studying for an Open University degree, left very little time for fiction.

Then one Christmas, rather underwhelmed at the prospect of yet another re-run of Only Fools and Horses, I had a story idea about a school reunion – and, in particular, a reunion of people who all have very conflicting memories of their school days…I wrote in between Christmas crackers and sherry, and soon had a few chapters under my belt. I finished that first draft in just over three months – was very pleased with myself! Though in retrospect I now realise that doing the first draft is only the first stage in a very long process…

That book became Old School Ties and since then I’ve had two more published, and my fourth novel, The Self-Preservation Society, is out this month. I’m more nervous about this one because it deals with a theme which is very personal to me: fear. I’ve always been a real scaredycat – and I know it can hold you back in all sorts of ways. I think being published and, in the last year, achieving my dream of becoming a full-time writer, has definitely helped me become a little braver.

I’ve just finished my fifth book, and this one is a bit of a departure for me as it’s a real Sex in the City style comedy (my other novels are more thirtysomething focused). And once the edits for that are done, I will begin my sixth, which I have to write by the end of the year. As a former journalist, I need deadlines, though I slightly scared by the ones I’ve set myself. Wouldn’t swap this life for the world, though. How amazing to get paid to make up stories. I’m still pinching myself!

I’ve just finished my fifth book, and this one is a bit of a departure for me as it’s a real Sex in the City style comedy (my other novels are more thirtysomething focused). And once the edits for that are done, I will begin my sixth, which I have to write by the end of the year. As a former journalist, I need deadlines, though I slightly scared by the ones I’ve set myself. Wouldn’t swap this life for the world, though. How amazing to get paid to make up stories. I’m still pinching myself!"

Thank you Kate and Lucy for their foresight to set up the Novel Racers. it has made writing this year a more pleasurable and less lonely experience.

Today is confirmation day. It's early. I'm cooking and cleaning. Just hope I remember to enjoy the day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Novel Racer - Zinnia Cyclamen

Now we have Zinnia Cyclamen, I have to confess I just love her name and find her day job fascinating. So thus far we have had three published novelist, five aspiring which include a sheep farmer and a humanist funeral celebrant. Did I mention we are a diverse lot? Here's Zinnia in her own words:

"I am a humanist funeral celebrant. I hear so many wonderful stories through my work that I began a blog in July 2004 to share some of them. The blog quickly became popular, with several mentions in the Guardian and a place in the Bloggie shortlist for 'best written blog 2005'. This was all a big surprise and a bit overwhelming. I decided to scale down my blog, partly because I didn't want the pressure of belonging to the blogerati and partly because I got bored with only writing funeral stories. At the same time,largely as a result of the encouragement of my lovely commenters, I started to write a novel. It is, of course, about a humanist funeral celebrant. I finished the second draft last month and will receive feedback from two pairs of readers in mid-May - eek! I hope to have a final draft ready to send to agents before the end of this year."

If you were wondering about the ordering of the profiles, I am just posting them in the order they arrive in the mailbox.

Life has stepped up a pace and role of mother and organizer of all has taken over at present. My parents are here. I'm chasing boys for their confirmation tomorrow. Friends arrive from Italy what is writing exactly???

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Novel Racer B.E. Sanderson

Next Racer up is B.E. Sanderson. I love her blog,, as it is mine of information about the writing life. She scans all these wonderful writer blogs that I don't have time for and links the good ones. So here's B.E. in her own words:

"B.E. Sanderson... For writing, I go by my initials. I like the anonymity it provides and besides, my first name is a little too milquetoast to strike anyone as a competent writer of thriller and mysteries. It sounds more like I should be home baking for the kiddies. "Ma Sanderson's Chunky Chocolate Cookies" or some such thing.

Although I've thought about being a writer since I was a kid, I never quite got the gumption to finish anything. I started my first book - co-authoring with a friend - when I was fourteen, and it's sitting in a folder in my garage. Over the years, I've started several novels - mostly romances - and never finished one. Then three years ago, I sat down at my computer and started what would become my first completed novel. (Oddly enough, I started the book two weeks before I met my husband, and finished it four months after we were married.) Since that time I have completed another book, plus I'm close to finishing my third, and I have a fourth about half done. Unfortunately, none of my books have been published, but I'm working on remedying that situation.

My first two books are literary-thrillers. What can I say? I like taking a big problem and solving it while wrapping some important ideas around the storyline. My third novel is closer to straight literary, but since I am horrible at defining genre, I'm leaving the final determination to my beta readers and critique partner. Currently, I've split off into a mystery. Basically, I have a lot of ideas for a lot of different genres, so I expect I'll be writing whatever comes to mind for a long time to come."

Hectic time here as my parents have just arrived in time for the boys confirmation on Friday and did I mention that I will be in Budapest next week :-)

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Novel Racer - Lucy Diamond

Lucy is one of the founders of the Novel Racers with Kate Harrison and I was so excited when I returned from holiday in Florida that I rushed down to the local bookshop, Nomad, and bought book. In fact I was so excited I took pictures which are now posted for the world to see! I'm reading Any Way You Want Me Right now. It's great! Here's what Lucy has to say:

"My name is Sue Mongredien and I blog at I write children’s books under my own name, as well as some of the Rainbow Magic stories (as Daisy Meadows), and I have just had the exciting-but-terrifying experience of seeing my first adult novel make it into the shops – it’s called Any Way You Want Me and it’s published under the pen name Lucy Diamond. (Only £3.99 at Amazon at the moment...go on, treat yourself!)

Like Julia, I used to work in publishing, as an editor of children’s books,before leaving to travel around the world for a year and a half, getting myself into all sorts of dangerous situations and scrapes in the name of adventure! These days, I live in Brighton with my partner and three young children (aged six, four and two), and am self-employed, working two days a week, with the rest of time on Mum Duty. I am currently working on my third novel and a new story in my Oliver Moon series."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Sometimes you Get What You Need

I certainly don't need the grey skies overhead today but that's what we have! I don't need the pile of laundry and the towel that the cat did his business on because I, in sleeping state I didn't see him in there when I went to the loo at 3:30, locked him in. However I did need to pop over to He Wrote She Wrote on the Crusie/Mayer Workshop today. Now I wrote A Cornish House quickly trying to put all that was in my head down on paper with out stopping. This was good but now I have in front of me 92, 500 words that need one hell of a lot of taming. I do have good strong characters, I have good setting, I have good lively dialogue, I have good sexual tension but I haven't got enough twist or suspense or surprises or whatever you want to call it. So, do I pare it all down and write a YA focusing on one characters version of the story or do I step back and organize my story. Do I look at my original premise and see if I can attain that my twist my view on the story.

That brings me to Bob's first installment on plot- Narrative Structure Now normally I read Bob's bits and nod my head but there isn't a light bulb moment. My mind seems to works more like Jenny's. I like the way she addresses a story however this morning Bob made sense. I struggled in my story to have an antagonist. In my mind map that was going to Serena but as I wrote she was a protagonist as much as Madde. This confusion clearly shows in the current draft. I need to step back and decide who is the bad guy here and then look at the story from her pov. This will improve my plot according to Bob. Here it is in his words:

"Another thing to consider is this: If a novel is a problem that needs to be resolved, who usually introduces the problem? The antagonist. Taking the point of view of the antagonist during outlining can help you focus the plot of the novel. Your protagonist will be reacting to the antagonist’s plan until the critical moment at which the protagonist starts to act."

I think if I start to resolve this I will immediately tighten the story. I need to take a line. Who is the bad guy? Now if I go the YA route that is clear. Madde is. She is the wicked step-mother who has up-rooted Serena from her life in London and brought her to Cornwall. Fits the bill quite nicely really ( I can see my reader's thinking here). Now I can see that my original plan, Serena as the antagonist, is trickier. Madde is the adult. She is calling all the shots except those that fate throws at her - husband dying to cancer, step daughter landed on her lap, inheriting a house in Cornwall. She is much more the master of all in her life including Serena. Serena's antagonism to her may not be enough to pull the story through and this is clearly where I have failed. Can I, now that I see it - fix it? Because in my heart I still want to write this story as I envisioned it.

Back to Novel Racers tomorrow when normal life returns in the UK.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

That Holiday Feeling

It's a long weekend here in the UK so the weather has gone off..... bl...dy typical. It has been a glorious week and now that Saturday is here it is cloudy and damp.......yuck.

I have loved learning more about my fellow racers. As one racer pointed out in the comments you see a different view of them than on their blogs......true and that's part of the reason for doing it. The other for me was to just highlight how different writers are yet we all work to the same goal. More writers profiled next week!

How's my writing going you wonder. Well, it hasn't been. This week I promised myself that I would read A Cornish House. I have read to page 68. Not very far you say. True. Interestingly it is not because I am disgusted with it. It's not bad - so far. It's because at the back of my mind I have this question lurking - should this be rewritten as a YA novel with Serena's pov the whole way through??? My reader, who is well qualified thinks this is the way to go. I respect her opinion. Serena is a brilliant character and I do handle her well - even I can see that in the first 68 pages. But then I ask myself do I really want to write YA? The answer is I don't know. First I have not read much if any really - unless you count Harry Potter. However I have two readers of YA in the house. I find myself wondering how I would feel about them reading Serena's story. I didn't hold back on her. Her language is colourful and her thoughts direct which I felt in an adult novel is fine. How would I feel about my kids reading it? Not quite as sure but that is not enough to put me off entirely. I can see how the book could be very well told from Serena's view point, but if it sold the publisher would need to know I have more in me and at this moment I don't know if I have more YA's in me because this is new territory. I certainly know I have more women's fiction in me.........The war inside rages on.

On another point, the reader flagged up my biggest weakness as a writer. Before I go into that I want to say she also highlighted my strengths and didn't tell me to pack it in. But I do have a big weakness, my plots are to predictable. You can see the end from the beginning. One knows that Madde will end up with Mark and likewise in August Rock you know that Judith will end up with Tristan. I need to shake it up a bit more. This was on my mind last night when I watched the film, The Holiday. It's light, probably not unlike my plot, when an unexpected thing was thrown in and suddenly I thought that's what my books need. (Spoiler ahead if you haven't seen the film) This moment was when Cameron Diaz goes to Jude Law's house and she hears noise. One assumes he's entertaining a woman as that is what we have been led to believe about this character but no it turns out he's a widow and the noise are his two daughters. I didn't expect it and I enjoyed their story line in the film more after that. Light bulb moment? Maybe........

So I have done a fair bit of navel gazing this week. I have wondered if I have what it takes to write a really gripping novel. I have proved I can write and parts of it I can do well. I have also proved that I can learn from past mistakes. In August Rock my secondary character weren't as well drawn as they could be - in A Cornish House that was one of the strengths. My dialogue is good. My voice is good. Pacing is right except that its too predictable. Do I have it in me to fix this key flaw? I'd like to think so but it remains to be seen. So while I am wrestling with the YA question I'm feeling I should go back to A Cornish House as I conceived it and see if I can fix the problem.........

Finally on craft note - over on C.S. Harris's blog,, she speaks about how she dealt with two scenes that weren't working. She then tells how she fixed it. I found this really helpful especially as I will be doing a scene by scenes analysis soon. Well worth a look.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Novel Racer - Sheepish

I have to confess that I love Sheepish's name. I think it's brilliant and I think the fact that she managed to get one of Caroline Smailes' "Have you seen Adam?" badges on Number One sheep is even more brilliant. Here's her blog where you will find more pictures of Number One sheep........and other things :-)
"Hi I'm Sheepish and I'm a Pisces. When I was little I loved reading and writing but somehow I ended up taking a Chemistry degree and became a scientist. Then 15 years ago I moved to France and became a Sheep farmer. Now the creative side of me has finally escaped from the closet and I am attempting to write a novel. It's hard going because I am very self critical even these few lines has taken a long time!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I like challenges though. I ran the London Marathon at the age of 37[quite a while ago now!!] even though I hadn't been a runner before, and I still run 4 times a week. I became a sheep farmer even though I had no previous experience. I started a blog even though I am an IT virgin. Now I am a writer, I know I am because I've said it out loud!!!!!"
Well, that is the end to our Novel Racers this week. I am still missing many profiles - so Racers come forth, I know you are out there!
Over the weekend I'll catch you up with my writing issues........HELP!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Novel Racer - Hera

The lovely Hera from is up next.

"I am in my mid twenties and living in East London. After college I thought I wanted to work in journalism and worked at a newspaper for a year, but it wasn’t the path for me. I left feeling stifled by the deadlines and direction limitations. I went on to study psychology and since graduating I have worked in family support for various councils and charities. A couple of years ago I decided I had neglected my teenage ambition and wrote a book. I was just happy with the fact that I managed to get that many words on paper (at school I was the girl who used to add adjectives to essays to meet the word count), but I didn’t feel ….purged. This year I’ve decided to do it again, but to write about something that means more to me. I’ve had some great experiences in my job and I also want to highlight some of the brighter sides of social work, if only for myself."

Hera has established a date night with her lap top to make sure she gets her writing time in. I think this is a wonderful idea :-)

I finally finished the Suite Francaise last night. I found the second half of the book utter compelling but I have to confess the first half didn't grab me. I couldn't keep up with all the different character and truly didn't care about them. Had it not been for book club I never would have finished and I am pleased I pushed through to the end.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Novel Racer - Helen

Next brave Racer is Helen of Redder's Ramblings ( .......

"The West Wing has a lot to answer for. I loved the series with a passion that I did officially go into mourning when it all ended. The programme inspired me to do something with my life. For a while I thought it meant I should go into politics but having to knock door to door put me off that.
I had been toying with writing for some time. The first time since school that I sat down and wrote some fiction (I’m discounting the creative writing I wrote as a marketing professional for the firms I worked for) was when I had to take early maternity leave. I showed the writing to my husband who thought it had been written by somebody else and I’d nicked it. He was amazed when I told him I wrote it. I chose to be flattered by this response, after all my blood pressure was already high.
My pregnancy, house move and baby then put paid to my writing for a while, but it was still there at the back of my mind. Then, one day, whilst realising I was going slowly insane, I sat down at my computer and wrote. It was a cathartic and liberating process. I subsequently joined a creative writing evening class. Wanting to up my credentials in non-fiction writing too so I could do some freelance work I signed on with the London School of Journalism.
So that’s where I am now. Writing my first novel, some short stories and training to write feature articles as well as some freelance marketing…"

She didn't mention she used to make these fabulous cakes and post pictures of them on her blog causing me to head to nearest shop looking for some divine confection.........thankfully she has stopped (that comes from my writers waistline!)

Reminder that the flash fiction contest is on over at the Maht's The Moon Topples The topic is growth. Now maybe looking at Helen's fabulous cakes I could write about the growth of my waistline since committing to writing!!!!

Finally I am reading A Cornish House. Thus far not despairing.....but watch this space.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Novel Racer - Lesley Cookman

The second brave Novel Racer is Lesley Cookman. Lesley has her second novel, Murder At The Laurels, coming out 21st May. With this in mind I asked Lesley a bit about her heroine Libby and her love of whiskey.......Here's what Lesley had to say:

"Libby Sarjeant jumped fully formed into my mind with the first line of a novel about twelve years ago. She stayed, the first line and that particular novel bit the dust. Then I wrote a few pages of something else to submit to Anita Burgh when she was speaking at a writers’ weekend. She liked the few pages. Then I entered the World One Day Novel Cup. This was only run twice – too gruelling, I think. I wrote a 24,000 word novella in two 12 hour sessions, and there was Libby and the basis of Murder in Steeple Martin. (We made the top six.)

It turned up again, in a different guise, as the dissertation for my Master’s Degree, and three years later it finally emerged from its chrysalis as a full blown book. And now there’s a follow up. Murder at The Laurels also had a former life. A chapter used as part of a writing exercise during the Master’s Degree gave me the central idea, and now I’m writing the third book, due out in November, using a musical play I wrote four years ago as a springboard, and pantomime, my speciality, as a background. Motto: Never throw anything out.

Libby and I both like whisky and red wine and we both have theatrical connections. Other than that, though my nearest and dearest (and even those not so near and dear) would disagree, we’re NOT alike. Oh, no, we’re not… "

The profiles are coming in......many thanks. Be brave those who sent me anything yet otherwise I'll be haunting your blogs!!!

On my own writing front. Printed out A Cornish House yesterday and will sit with bright coloured pen and read today........