Category Archives: Living the dream

Tunnel Vision

It was such a great week last week after the ‘new agent news’ and finally feeling as if I knew what I had to do next. So I found myself up and working at 5 am every day, after a break from that for a while, and fully in that zone: that fully immersive state we all relish if we can get in there! It does mean everything else falls away around you as you write, and some mornings I was aware of the hubby speaking until he probably realised I was not ‘in the room’ and off he’d go and next thing a coffee would plonk down beside my computer mouse. I have him well trained!

So edits under guidance completed along with new synopsis and off to my agent. I am now doing something I have never done before. Working out the plot intricacies of a sequel! I had always intended a sequel to this novel (not saying which one yet) but had not quite worked out what would happen. I spent three hours at 5 am scribbling and thinking. I am not there yet but something is slowly emerging! I often find I need to look the other way for a while to see it clearly as if plots like to take shape just out of shot. My mission for this week is to get something together and find my EUREKA plot moment when I realise what it has to say. And to be ready to start writing it!

Writing is a process of many stages.

  • Planning: advice? Never force it; let it come when it wants to, just nudge it along as I do not recommend waiting for your muse either.
  • Writing new material: is the really exciting part and my fingers get a buzz when I am in that zone. I think that is probably the most exciting phase. This is when the true magic happens and often things you could not have planned!
  • Editing: I relish because it helps your work to take shape and become something so much better than that first draft. And if you are lucky enough more magic creeps beautifully in 🙂

 

Many many rounds of edits later it might or might not be ready but it has to reach a point when you MUST let it go and if you have been working on the same thing for too long — rest it and write something else. We can get too close to it. My advice for anyone wanting a career as a writer and intending to find an agent and a book deal needs to let one novel go and work on a new one, especially when new to it. Get a critique, get solid editorial feedback and learn how to improve — but when you have reached that point know when to rest it and work on something new, taking those newly acquired skills with you. Agents want you for a career, not a single book. My fourth novel was the one that was finally deemed good enough to find a publisher.  But nothing is ever wasted because you have something to later work on.

So that is me, just wanted to pop by to report in mid-editing a manuscript for a client!

That is all. Happy Writing! Happy Week!

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Don’t Give Up

I began my serious journey from scientist to writer close to fifteen years ago. Eleven years ago  I saw my first short story published. My mission to seek an agent and have a novel published took writing four novels (it’s a thorough learning process) until one was deemed good enough to find a home with a publisher in 2013. An agent (after several near misses) followed in 2014 after my move back to Essex. I did the dance…

I had hoped then to finally see some of the other novels, including the new ones that followed, seek homes but it is not always as simple as that. My agent moved to a big agency and while she took me with her, her focus then shifted to non-fiction and I found my submissions and my plans slowed right down. That is not to say I was not writing, and I have had something published every year since that first short story was published — amassing over thirty short story successes. I have still won or been placed in competitions so that was keeping my belief alive. But it can feel as if you lose your momentum when nothing happens with the novels. You feel as if you are writing into a void. We all need to know we are heading somewhere.

As some of you know my life has undergone some significant personal changes over the past couple of years with meeting the new love of my life and then, of course, my focus was the wedding last year. While I did have some excellent feedback from my colleagues at Cornerstones about one of the novels and was empowered when I did the screenwriting course last year because my lovely tutor felt I was on the brink of a breakthrough, I was still uncertain of my next steps. Which novel to develop first.

So, I wrote a list of what I wanted to achieve in 2019. Apart from getting married, I decided I wanted to finally publish a collection of my short stories and that is now all put together. I will do a cover reveal soon 🙂 It is set for a July launch! Thank you Bridge House Publishing. Dancing 😉

I also said I needed to get a new agent. It can be demoralising thinking about starting again when you have already been through all of that. However, if you want something enough you do whatever it takes, right? And I was going to do just that. Luckily for me, I had a serendipitous meeting with an agent while attending an event that was part of the Essex Book Festival with friend and amazing writer, Fiona Cummins.  It was what I would call fated, happenchance perhaps… and lead to a request to look at my work. That lead to a meeting in London last week and… on Friday I signed a contract with the amazing top London agent Camilla Shestopal formerly of PFD but now with her own agency! We met at the Chelsea Art Club and two and a half hours just melted away. We connected. It was exciting, for both of us. Inside I was doing the dance again. It felt right, that’s all I can tell you.

So I announced the news from our weekend getaway in Brighton where we celebrated with cake (as you must… an ENORMOUS piece of cake for ENORMOUS news!) and now I feel as if I finally have a focus and begin edits today. I will not say which novel we are working on first, suffice it to say, I could not be more thrilled or excited.

So, writers: the message is clear: never lose sight of the goal even when life changes. Accept that life is change and there is no rush. Sometimes what happens is exactly what is supposed to happen. Oddly for me, good news always seems to come when I look the other way. It just kind of happened. We do not know what will come next but all I can say is I have a great feeling that this is the right time. I feel like a real writer again.

Validation is everything.

So, stay strong… and keep writing. Keep learning. Don’t give up.

My new pen pot bought in Brighton… nice eh?

Humming bird pen pot

Oh… and I am doing the dance! Dancing like no one is watching 😉

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Four Years On…

A lot has happened in the last four years since my debut novel was published. No more novels are out yet and that is a shame, but it is not that novels have not been written, just that things have slowed down since I was signed by my agent. I am hoping that 2018 is the best year ever by seeing progress in getting that second novel out there. So watch this space.

Well, today sees the 54th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination: the event that inspired, first the short story and then the novel While No One Was Watching. So it seems right to slip in another quick blog post for the rare few that follow this blog that did not buy the book, with a blatant plug! I launched it on this day at the same place I will be launching the Canvey Writers book this Friday. November 22nd, 2013 was, in fact, a Friday and we showed the famous news clip announcing Kennedy’s death at almost the exact moment it broke some 50 years before!

I did see that the book Kindle version is only 99p today so do download it if you haven’t yet and the paperback is also on offer too!!!

So here it is… !!!

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When To Delete {Editing Tips}

 

editing

All I can say is: be ruthless when it comes to anything that’s — clunky (awkward), redundant, superfluous, extraneous, clichéd, telling, overdone…

When it comes to having a nice fluidity to your narrative you have to ensure you remove things that simply don’t need to be there, simple! Take them out and if it still works then you are on the right track. Some writers think they have to say it in unique and interesting ways. While, to some extent, that might be true it can, if you work too hard, really feel forced. Then it simply doesn’t work! I have seen some wonderful metaphors and similes lost in a crowd of metaphors and similes! The trick is to use such devices sparingly and in just the right place. This gives them power. Got it?

 

Here are just a few things to ponder… I will talk about filler and the things you can lose from the actual story tomorrow!

  • Description — this is important for allowing the reader to really ‘see inside the moment’, to visualise it as you intended them to, but they don’t need every single detail drawn in for them — just enough and perhaps more importantly to create the right mood, or tone, perhaps, even, to create the right sense of danger if you are leading them to the edge of a cliff face, for example. Sparing, yet vivid wins the day! So it really does come down to how you use your words and which ones. And if in a moment of great tension then whatever you do don’t stop to admire the view, make the description an active part of the movement itself. Look at how other writers do it!

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  • Look at things like attributions; the ‘he said/she said’ in dialogue. You will find that a lot of the time you can remove these as long as you can stay with the flow of the conversation. Better to show some body language so we know who said it. And don’t write  ‘they paused’ — create the pause with an action! None of us stop and pause, well not really! Lose adverbs that are redundant if we can see how something is done or said. Lose different words for said when said is just fine (I have talked about this before!) Punchy and sharp!

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  • Lose clichés as these are considered to be lazy prose! The tears streamed down the face… ugh! How about she dabbed her cheeks or some other more interesting way to show she was crying!

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  • Telling tags: These tell why something is done or said when it’s usually obvious! She stopped the man to ask the time because she was worried she was late. Telling! If we see her rush and ask the time as she rushes we can see it, it’s shown! See what I mean?

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  • Lose ‘that’ and ‘very’ and ‘just’: a lot of the time … see some of my deliberate crossings out. Also see the use of italics when I think the word is more functional so I left it in…  The way that he said it made her smile; he was just so angry (more active?); she was very jealous (though better to show this through actions… right?) Also think about some of the adverbs we overuse! Like ‘suddenly‘… So often there is no other way to interpret the action so lose it and just show the action!

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  • Pleonasms: nodding the headshrugging the shoulders; thinking in the mind… Where else? Get the idea?!!!

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The message here is very simple: if you can lose it, lose it. That way the writing becomes sharper! 🙂 Only repeat expressions or use words that are less functional in a sentence when part of character voice and there is a difference as I will show you later in the week!

Happy Tuesdaying!

5e3d161f9093134762cfbc96928654db--every-tuesday-good-morning-tuesday

 

 

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Create Your Style Guide [Editing Tips]

Welcome to a new and busy week. I thought I would give some editing tips every day this week, of course, some of this will have been covered before but  I think it’s always useful as a reminder.

So hands up who uses a Style Sheet or Style Guide when they write?Do you even know what one is? 

A style sheet is a list setting out the decisions that your editor has made on aspects of the layout and language of your document, in order to keep the document consistent.

This is a really useful thing, especially if you intend to write this as part of a series and so how you do something in one book must be consistent across books as well as within the book.

As you come to edit your work you don’t just focus on the shape of the story and if it works, on filler, character development etc. When it comes to the nitty gritty bits of the narrative don’t just focus on the flow of the language and the construction of the sentences either, you have to think about how you represent things. So, for example, do you use a hyphen in ‘no-one’ like that or ‘no one’, both are acceptable. Which of the OK or okay forms do you use (ok is not generally an accepted form). Do you write -ise in words like recognise or realise OR the more US form of recognize/ realize and how is this in other forms of -ise/ize words. Do you use capitals in some of your expressions, like the Magic Sword, the Golden Knife. Do you capitalise the East and the West? Do you use a capital in Professor? University… here I would say unless part of the official address, his name, the university’s name then use a small letter — get the idea? US or UK spelling?

By writing these things down you can create a guide so you don’t have to remember because, inevitably, you will use forms interchangeably. The sheet helps you create consistency — which is key here. For a final edit/proof, it’s vital, especially if you plan to self-publish. But to submit you also want to show the highest level of professionalism. It’s very rare I am sent a ms with the writer’s own style guide but it happens from time to time and it shows me they appreciate this aspect is important.

 

It might include notes on what font is used, whether the text is left or fully justified, how particular words are capitalised or hyphenated, how much indent your indented quotations have, what is put in italics.

Especially if you’ve learned English as a second or other language, you will know that the English language is not consistent, and it doesn’t even have proper rules for some things! This can be really frustrating, as two people might do things in two different ways, BOTH of which are correct.

For example, in English …

  • We can use -s- spellings or -z- spellings in words like “organisation”
  • We can capitalise or not capitalise words like Chapter 1 or experiment 2
  • We can hyphenate or not hyphenate pairs of words like policy-maker

 

And that’s before you get to decisions like …

 

  • Are you going to use 20%, 20 percent or twenty percent?
  • Are you going to describe America as America, the United States, the US, the USA, the U.S. etc. etc.?
  • Are you going to use double inverted commas for quotations and single inverted commas for concepts, or vice versa?
  • Are you going to refer to other research as (Brown, 2003; Green and Jones, 2005, p. 23) or (Brown 2003, Green & Jones 2005:23) or any other variant

 

Now, the important thing with all of these is to keep it consistent.

 

More editing tips tomorrow!

editing cartoon

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Being a Writer :)

Logo Leicester Writes

 

Well, it looks set to be a busy second half of the year, with short stories to appear in no less than four new collections!

It starts this weekend when Mum and I will be travelling to Leicester to be part of The Leicester Writes Literary Festival! The winners’ anthology from their competition will be launched tomorrow and if anyone fancies it you can still get tickets! Here’s the link:

Winners’ Anthology Launch

I will be reading from my story We Went There. This is a new one of mine about a woman taking her dad, who suffers from dementia, to a home when she uncovers a secret… is he who she thought he was? Is she? And now she knows what will she do?

As I have so often said, writing does not have to be a lonely experience. But of course, a huge part of it is sitting alone in front of your keyboard tap-tap-tapping away! Successes are something to be celebrated since we all know how hard it is to have them, and so when you get the chance to celebrate them alongside other writers then you must!

I will be in good company with the other writers including winner C G Menon and second place Siobhan Logan, me as a humble third place 🙂 Also joined by highly commended Lynne E Blackwood and worthy runners-up: Karl Quiqley, Jack Wedgebury, Katherine Hetzel, Asha Krishna, Matthew Rhodes, Bev Haddon 🙂

Read what the judges had to say about the stories here: LINK

Judges were: writers Rebecca Burns, Divya Ghelani, Nina Stibbe, and Grace Haddon as well as bookseller, Debbie James.

It is a real honour to be part of this line-up and to have my story published by Dahlia Publishing, and edited by fellow writer and friend: Richard Sheehan. Can’t wait to meet everyone and celebrate our success! The book looks great; I have seen the proof and will read as many of the stories as I can before the event tomorrow!

We set off in the morning (so no Blog tomorrow) and then celebrate tomorrow night at the event, home Saturday afternoon. Can’t wait!

 

Leicster Writes

Do come along if you can… I will blog about it next week!

Have a great weekend everyone!

WHOO!

 

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Who Will Be My Friend?

Dreams never die and my dad is a testament to that! Some of you will know he is a Walt Disney artist (one of only a couple back when he started approved to work for Disney) and has illustrated many children’s books and comics over the years. He was a co-creator of the BBC’s Poddington Peas when he brought Paul Needs’s characters to life, some of you might remember.

I worked with him when my little press published The Jet-Set books at Paws n Claws for Born Free helping him to realise the dream of writing as well as illustrating his own characters.

Well I am thrilled to announce that he had another picture book of his illustrations and stories published this month by Chapeltown Books and how lovely this is for its illustrations and beautiful message that in today’s political climate is just what we need.

 

Who Will Be

The book is available on Amazon; here is the UK link! Dad will be doing talks in schools and has some planned at local libraries next month; this Saturday in Benfleet!

Do please spread the word… Dad taught me that age is no limit and if you have a dream… never give up!

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