Wednesday, July 15, 2009

RNA Conference 2 - Veronica Henry and Pictures of Friday Night

Veronica Henry – ‘From Ambridge to Honeycote’

Veronica opened with the fact that she was in the naughty kitchen the night before but she behaved unlike some others (here read a look directed at your scribe). Her early life was as an army brat and with all the moving her comfort and constant companions were books.

She did Latin at uni but found running a nightclub more fun and was asked to leave. However the upside is that she met her future husband in the nightclub. She then went to a secretarial school which led to a job as production secretary with the Archers and this opened a whole new world which eventually brought her to scriptwriting and television.

All of which proved brilliant training ground for novel writing. This began when she decided that she wanted to have a family.... The first novel began as the idea based around a brewery and the family that owned – sort of beer meets Dallas.

Veronica went on to tell us how her experience writing for tv informed her novel writing. First the story structure is the same and it was when she was doing a few episodes of Holby City that one went awry. She was sent on a course for naughty writers given by John York to get writers back on track.

Out of this course she has held onto the ten questions to focus on your characters and get things working again.

1. Whose story is it – from whose pov are you telling it and why?
2. What emotional state is he/she in the beginning? Is it sufficiently far enough away from the end point?
3. What does she want and what does it tell us about her character?
4. What is the inciting incident and why does it affect her more than anyone else?
5. What obstacles are in the character’s way and what character traits help her overcome them?
6. What’s at stake and what will be lost if they don’t achieve the objective?
7. Why should we care? – people have to be flawed but we must be able to relate, they must be human, the reader must feel they are redeemable
8. What do they learn and how do they change?
9. How and why do they change?
10. How does it end?

Victoria ends with a HEA (my kind of book). So when she is floundering she pulls out the questions and applies them to all the characters – there needs to be an arc for each one.

She begins with a setting and a theme. She is not a huge plotter – she builds a main frame with the main plot points that she wants to reach and some set pieces she would like to include but not necessarily where they will go. She does this on a four sheet of A4 paper.

She likes to take the scenic route but doesn’t want to be too undisciplined.

The most important thing for a new book is the trip to Paperchase to buy a new clean notebook – the excitement it builds. They are all perfect in head but once on the page the characters develop flaws – very much like real life. Characters aren’t what you expect, but run with it – it’s an adventure.

She writes chronologically now but didn’t before. She is now strict except when stuck then she may jump ahead just to get writing – get the writing muscle moving and to build confidence again.

She writes in 20k word chunks which then then locks away until the end then she can come back to it with a fresh eye. If she keeps going over the old words she avoiding writing the new.

She tests herself with new writing tricks – to keep changing and evolving as a writer.

She doesn’t want to get stuck in a rut; she makes herself work harder; she will stick to the brand but wants to shake it up a little.

She gives maybe a page or two of what she knows will happen to editor so that the editor knows what she getting and it doesn’t change too much. The journey can change but not who ends up with who.

The scariest thing is to dump six months work in the bin.

Titles are so important and she finds them hard. Fantastic titles sell even if the book isn’t. The title should encapsulate what the book is about. Long titles are the fashion at the moment.
Current book – MARRIAGE AND OTHER GAMES. The story is in the title and it fits her brand which is a little mischievous but nothing too weird. She stays away from covers unless there is something so wrong.

Regarding branding she said just be yourself, know your voice, be true to your genre and know who you are.

Now a few photos from the bar on Friday night.

A peak inside one of the naughty kitchens!


Flowerpot said...

I so wish I'd been there Liz but it was my mum's 80th birthday party so couldn't. Looks great. And thanks for the review!

ChrisH said...

Another really helpful and informative post. Thank you very much, Liz.

Julie Cohen said...

More pics! More!!!

Cat Marsters/Kate Johnson said...

Hmm, yes that is me with my shoes on the table...

Debs said...

Thanks so much for the report, very interesting.

Love the photos too.

liz fenwick said...

A pleasure to write them up as it helps me too and makes the conference feel like it lasts longer.

Don't worry Julie - I have more pics :-)

Yes, those are your feet on the table Kate!

Biddy said...

Gosh! Me drinking?!?! Again?!?!? It was fabulous conference and great to be in the naughty kitchen and meeting Veronica.

Lane said...

Another great report. Thanks Liz.

Jenna Dawlish said...

Thanks for posting these Liz. You are a star. It's great to see what went on as I would have loved to have gone.

Have been reading your posts while doing night time feeds. Helps pass the time!

Will be eagerly reading the rest.