Getting that Friday feeling…

I’ve finished!

I mean I think I’ve finished… I’ve written several drafts, re-structured and revised, added some pretty bits, deleted some rubbish bits and I think it’s time to say the words out loud.

My book is finished.

I think.

As we’re talking about our works-in-progress at the moment, I thought I’d share with you an extract from my diary – a week in the life of my book and my head as I get into final edits. But only because today is Friday. If today was Tuesday or Thursday, you’d have no chance.

Monday
I think I’ve finished. Yes, I really do think it’s finished… I shall spend the rest of the week having a final read through before the book goes off to Lovely Agent. Here we go – Chapter 1 … Hmmm… not bad. That bit’s quite good. Ha – I actually like this – in fact, it’s GREAT! Look at me – I can write! In fact, it’s more than great, it’s a work of TOWERING GENIUS! It’s the BEST BOOK EVER!

Shall celebrate with cake and wine.

Tuesday
Oh. What’s this? Who wrote this? I didn’t. Did I? This is terrible. Awful. This is the biggest pile of rubbish EVER! Who sneaked on to my computer and wrote this? Who replaced my lovely book with this nonsense? Was it YOU?? This is awful. The worst. I’m going to burn it all. I’m going to burn my laptop as well, so no one else ever has to read this DRIVEL!

Shall commiserate with cake and wine.

Wednesday
Hmmm… Well, maybe it’s not that bad. Maybe if I just re-write this bit and that bit, it’ll be okay…

Shall ponder this over cake and wine.

Thursday
I can’t write. Why did I ever think I could write? I’m so stupid. I haven’t seen daylight or tidied my house for a year and for what? 90,000 stupid, meaningless words that don’t even make sense! My book is terrible. I am terrible. I’m going to take up cake decorating or scuba diving instead.

Need to buy more cake and wine.

Friday
Inspiration! YES! Middle of the night, cats miaowing, children crying, husband snoring and the answer came to me… I know how to fix everything! Just a few final tweaks and the book will be PERFECT! Brilliant! BEST EVER! I LOVE writing… Love it, love it, love it. Even more than cake. And wine.

Talking of …who ate all my cake and drank all the wine?

This is the abridged version. Take the above, repeat over the course of a year, add a few swear words and a lot more cake and wine and you’ll get a truer picture of my relationship with my work-in-progress. Why do I do it? Why do any of us, published or unpublished? Is it worth it? Yes, of course it is – it’s worth every pain-filled moment just for the pay-off of that Friday feeling…

Please, someone, tell me it’s not just me that goes through this???

Anyone?

Vanessa x

Dear Writers. Can you help?

Dear fellow writers and friends

I have a conundrum. A crippling problem that seems impossible to overcome, try as I might, these last months.

It appears I’m suffering a huge dose of writers block. No, not just some temporary glitch in creativity. It’s a ruddy great chasm that’s growing bigger every time I look.

Other than the occasional blog or two, the most writing I’ve done lately is to complete the application to send to Jan Jones for the RNA Summer Party! Yes, this is serious and that’s why I’m here, appealing – no, pleading – for help and advice.

It seems these days I’m more barren than rain in winter or a tree in February, yet despite my over-analysing tendencies, the reason isn’t clear. You’d think I should be flying through the re-write of my WIP, knowing an agent (Jane Judd) is waiting to see my full MS following last year’s Festival of Romance New Talent Awards. Maybe that’s the trouble. Maybe I’ve become so intimidated by the thought that an agent of this calibre might want to see my novel, it’s putting me under pressure to create some sort of giant masterpiece and has interrupted my flow of creative juices.

Perhaps it’s the other stuff that’s going on in my life at the moment that have contributed to my lack of self-belief or confidence. With divorce imminent and on-going health problems, it’s hardly surprising my pen doesn’t flow freely. My writer friends humour me, telling me writing will be my salvation and a distraction. I might even find it cathartic, but bottom line is; it’s not happening, it hasn’t been for months and if anything, it’s getting worse.

You may think these are excuses for the weak, un-disciplined and un-motivated but I promise you, I used to be the most motivated, disciplined person ever. So where has it gone?

This is my third full re-write of this WIP and I won’t give up but I don’t have chance to let it rest in a drawer for a few weeks. I can’t give up, knowing I have an agent who wants to read the finished MS. Every day I switch on the laptop, re-read the latest section I was working on and tweak and twiddle. Then I twiddle and tweak a bit more… then delete. Somehow I’ve developed this huge monster who has crippled my fluidity and no matter how many times I try to give myself a good talking to and get a grip, nothing works. In fact in six months, I’m still on chapter three of the re-write and can often spend a whole day on a particular sentence or paragraph, or research, trying to get it right.

I know it’s pathetic, especially considering there are still another thirty chapters to go. Writing is as much about the mind as it is the pen. But how do I conquer whatever’s causing the drought in my writing, and splatter the crows that sit on my shoulders some days, pecking away at my confidence and self-belief, and get it back on track.

Do you have any answers? If you’ve been here, did you feel the same; as if you had forgotten everything you’d learnt about the craft of writing?

A lot about WIP’s is self-belief and I can see my story in the ideal shape and form in my minds eye yet I can’t get it down on the screen or onto paper.

I know what they mean now about a ‘labour of love.’ Should I continue labouring, keep up this persistent modifying in the hope that I’ll seize the very sentence or scene that will inspire me and drag me by the eyeballs to speed across the page, furiously typing away, and progress to the next chapters and beyond. Or should I stop taking myself so seriously, forget about judgements, lighten up, write drivel if necessary, which can then be honed and fine tuned at a later stage. Well, ‘Writer’s Write.’ If only it were that simple.

Come on fellow writers, RNA members, aspiring authors or anyone interested in the creative word. Can you give any advice/snippets to help answer this rookie writer with the question ; is there such a thing as ‘writer’s block?’ And does anyone have any pearls of wisdom on how to push through the pain of re-writes on a WIP?

Yours in hope

Debbie

xx

Subliminal Messages In The Bedroom

When I confess to being a writer, people often ask, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’

They always look disappointed when I say: ‘Err.. I dunno!?’

So where did I get those ideas and decide how the storyline would go or where it would be based?

Eek! Can you tell I’m useless at talking about my novel because my mind goes into a blind panic when I get asked questions along those lines. It’s a bit like trying to unweave a tapestry of synapse connections that occurred without me noticing, but as I created them I really should be able to talk about them. Instead my tongue goes a bit mushy, sensible words coming out sounding like ‘Falafel’ on repeat. And that’s just talking to my friends. You should see me trying to chat to editors and agents. In fact, I may get one of the other Romaniacs to record an attempt. That way, if I never end up with a book contract it’s OK because I’ll be an overnight You Tube sensation.

As we are having a WIP spotlight week and I don’t have to talk out loud (falafel, falafel, falafel) I should take the opportunity to tell you about mine without a falafel in sight:

Originally this WIP was called The Shortlist. It was going to be about two friends who were working their way through a list of activities in order to find the perfect man. When I started this novel, I had no idea about plotting so I merrily plucked one item from my list – travelling – and started writing that section of the book, but then when I was several thousand words in it was no longer the dip in, dip out section it should have been and had taken on its own life.

Instead it’s become Miles Between Us. It’s part based in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park outside of Sydney, Australia and part based in Southampton, UK.

In a nutshell (I’ve never managed a nutshell in my life – look at me gabbing in between brackets to prove the point):

When there are more than miles keeping Grace and Adam apart, will they ever go the distance?

Ah – there we go – writing it down is so much easier and less cringe-worthy.

Anyway, you may be wondering about the title of this post? Well part way through writing this I realised I had for months/years had a cartoon postcard above my bed of the hostel where the story is based. When I spotted it I wondered whether subconsciously the place had crept into my mind and it was inevitably where the story would end up. Anyhoo, whether it did or not, I figure it’s a much better answer. Where do you get your ideas? From subliminal messages in my bedroom!

What about you? Do you get tongue-twisted when talking about your work? Please say it’s not just me.

Catherine x

Special Assignment – The story behind my debut novel

I love speaking to different writers about what sparks their imagination for various plotlines.

The idea for my debut novel stemmed from a creative writing course assignment I completed a few years back.  “Hooray!” I remember thinking, as it plopped through my letterbox, “Only one more after this and I’m done.” I’d so enjoyed the course and had no plans at that stage to draft a novel; I was simply revelling in exploring the different avenues writing presented and, if I was lucky enough, might offer me.

Boy did I struggle with that particular assignment though. It was seeing the words ‘STAGE PLAY’ that did it. As in writing the opening scenes of one. Gulp! I could only pick two characters, giving my tutor minimal description of them and their surroundings, using only the specified number of dialogue lines (which was rather stingy, if I remember correctly!) to showcase their personalities and the tension and conflict within their situation.

Erm… Right…Okay…

Well, with little faith of doing it much justice, I set to it as enthusiastically as I could.

My scenario involved a jealous husband and his wife’s best friend. He’d secretly invited her round on the pretence of discussing his wife’s surprise 30th birthday party. Instead, he confronted her about some gossip he’d heard regarding a recent weekend trip the two women had taken together.

For all my concerns about this assignment, the feedback I received on it was some of the most positive I’d had.

Which also prompted the question: What DID happen during that weekend away?

Suddenly an outline started to take shape in my mind, swiftly followed by characters. I’d always veered more towards reading novels with multiple viewpoints, so instead of just focusing on the wife and her best friend, perhaps I’d give their respective partners their own subplots. Base the story mainly around that one weekend. Create an emotionally charged clash of agendas, plunging them headfirst into moral dilemmas that would test their loyalties, their scruples, their mettle.

By now, I’d started naming people, visualizing locations and venues, pondering mischievous secondary characters, thinking about the aftermath of the weekend and how explosive it could be…

And so began my story.

Thank you Assignment 19. You hold a very special place in my heart.          

Where did your plotlines spring from? I’d love to know.

Jan x

Trying not to write like a butterfly…

Andi Archer just wants to fall in love with a man she can trust. Liking the man would be a bonus and fancying the man would be a great result but all she wants is to be able to trust him.

ImageAfter a life time sacrificing her own happiness for others, Andi suddenly finds herself betrayed by those closest to her so she decides to put herself first for once and make drastic changes to find her own happiness in love.
Andi will do what it takes to find a man she can trust, even if that means changing who she is to fit the mould.  But Andi soon remembers that trusting someone often comes with heavy prices to pay.

This writing malarkey isn’t easy is it?

I’ve got so many ideas and so much passion to write them that I find myself wanting to jump from one story to another. For me, it’s a big challenge to stay focused and finish one project without turning into a literary butterfly.

Image

For now, I’m managing to keep that butterfly at bay and channel all of my energy into writing my WIP.
Since I started writing the novel in January 2011, the characters have changed and the plot has developed. These changes are definitely for the better but it means I have more detail and sub plots that I need to keep track of and watch that they don’t fizzle out.

The advice I received from the Romantic Novelist’s Association, New Writer Scheme last year was excellent and I have definitely taken the advice given on board. At the moment I am running through my novel and polishing it up ready for my submission again this year.

Fingers crossed!

Liz x

What’s in a name?

Finding a name for your book is hard.

You can go through months, even years, of writing a novel and never settling on a name. I wrote my first novel in a little over two years. In those two years it was called, A New Beginning, Rule of Three and in the more frustrating times when nothing would do, it was simply saved on my computer as Sophie’s story. I then stumbled upon Head over Heart and it was perfect. It felt right and it played on the theme of the book very nicely. Sophie has to choose whether to follow what she thinks is right (what her head is telling her she should do) or what she knows to be right, in her heart. It also plays on the phrase, ‘head over heels in love’ which is how she falls for the hero. So Head over Heart stuck.

Book two is still in the early stages and is simply saved as Caitlin&Adam at the moment. I won’t know the title until I get further in, maybe even two, three drafts along. But it’ll come…..I hope!

But it is not just book titles that stump me sometimes, you have to name your characters too!

The heroine and hero of book one was easy, they have always been Sophie and James. Robert was always called Robert too. It was the secondary characters I had problems with. Tracey started life as Sarah, but as pointed out to me in a critique from an author friend, Sarah was of a similar length and looked the same on the page as Sophie, so would maybe confuse the reader. This is when she became Tracey. Which ironically fits her much better, she should have been Tracey from the start. June also changed to Anne, as June and James and Jennifer (who is now Mandy) all started with J and would also confuse the reader. I liked S’s and J’s, apparently!

But when it is a secondary character, it is easier to change names and keep writing. For my second book, my current WiP, I couldn’t find my heroine. Adam was there straight away. Whereas in Head over Heart, Sophie came first, in this book the hero was first on the scene. Quite fitting  actually, as he is a paramedic! I always knew Adam was going to be a paramedic. I don’t know how it began but I always knew that was his job. I knew his personality, too. Adam has always been Adam, he doesn’t suit any other name.  I didn’t know Caitlin. Who started as Zoe, bypassing Sal along the way. I couldn’t place her name right. It just didn’t fit. I didn’t have the right job for her (she started as a beauty therapist, did some office temping but is now an owner of a bakery) I just didn’t know who she was.

I spent days agonising over her. I couldn’t move on and write about her when she didn’t have a name, a personality or even a job! I then spoke to a friend about it and throwing caution to the wind I said to her, ‘you do it, you name the character.’ She reeled off 5 or 6 names but as soon as she said Caitlin, I knew that was her. It was perfect. She strolled into my brain in an apron and holding a tray of cupcakes and I knew her.

So I finally had names and an idea to work with. It is still in the early stages but it’s got a destination and we are getting there slowly.

How do you find naming characters and thinking up titles?

Lucie x

Chocolate, Superheroes, Sex and the Seaside.

Work in progress? Well, not exactly; not in this house anyway, and definitely not on this grey March day in the Midlands. Sitting here at my desk, eyes propped open with matchsticks and dreaming of hot buttered toast with maybe just a hint of Marmite, I know it’s decision time.

After a manic burst of activity sending off my chocolate-themed novel to a publisher, posting the same story to the NWS, dispatching a children’s novel about social networking superheroes for editing  and finally resorting to tidying my felt-tip collection, I’m  now in that messy and uncomfortable place known as a quandary. Even the word sounds squelchy and smelly. Things are getting so desperate I’m thinking I might just forget the writing and have a go at revamping my disastrous blogspots (three attempts so far, two Google, one WordPress; all very dull.) And there’s even  some ironing that’s beginning to look quite tempting.

The problem is, what happens next? Is it time to dig out the dusty chapters of my Sex at the Seaside story? And why, you might ask, was it abandoned in the first place? Well, here’s the thing. My hero and heroine, Cassie and Thomas, were about to get to know each other a whole lot better when I left them to stew, and the big issue is that I really want to see my name on the front of a published novel. My real name.


That probably sounds like a perfectly normal wish. And it would be, if I wasn’t a primary school teacher – in a Catholic school. Think of the conversations in the playground. We do a lot of Hail Mary-ing and a fair amount of crossing ourselves, but the parents don’t expect their children’s teachers to write graphically about sex. Our policy is to just say no, quite frankly. Sex education involves a lot of talk of cuddly bunnies and, more weirdly, sticklebacks. Don’t ask.

The chocolate book has got some mildly steamy bits in it but I reckon I might just get away with it if it ever gets on the shelves. Thomas and Cassie are a law unto themselves though – there’s no saying what they’ll do next. He’s a very wicked hero – his clothes just seem to keep dropping off him, and as for Cassie – well, the girl’s no better than she should be. (Cue Catholic-Mammy-type sniff; think Mrs Doyle if it helps.)

Just to make everything even more complicated, I’ve got another finished novel hanging around which isn’t too rude but isn’t actually very good either. It does represent long hours of toil though and some of it’s ok…really…
So, helpful fellow bloggers, these are the choices;
a) start a brand new romance and try to keep it reasonably smut-free,
b) finish the Sex and the Seaside story and think of a really good pen name (such as Ruby Redpants or Nina Naughtybottom),
c) write a sequel to the superheroes story, which obviously has no sex at all because that would be sick and wrong…
d) revamp the not-very-good book,
e) run away to join the circus,
I would very much appreciate your comments. I’m off now to make toast. I may be some time.

Best wishes,
Ruby