A glimpse at our writing spaces – I’m pretty sure that one of two of us have had a tidy up before taking the photos. And some of us, not. :-)
The last couple of months have seen a few changes for me – I’m back to the day-job now as my writing bursary period has come to an end. It was wonderful to have so much time to write and I’m hugely grateful to Literature Wales for awarding me a bursary. I achieved more than I hoped to – my work-in-progress has moved on and been through a whole new re-write and edit and I’m almost ready to press send… and I’m keeping everything crossed that the faith shown in me and this book will be rewarded with some good news.
I also attended Crimefest in Bristol last month – my first ever crime writing conference. I’ve always loved attending the annual RNA conferences but as my current book is a domestic noir / psychological thriller, I was keen to hear other writers in the crime/thriller genre speak about their books and their writing. Each day of the conference began with a debut authors panel and as an unpublished writer, it was interesting to hear about all the journeys to publication. The conference is for readers as much as writers so I got to discover dozens of new authors I can’t wait to read – and, of course, I ended up spending far too much money at the bookstall! As well as all the interviews, panels and spotlight sessions, there were several drinks receptions hosted by publishers plus a reception to announce the CWA Dagger Shortlists. I didn’t make the pub quiz or gala dinner this year, but I’ll definitely be there next time!
As well as dabbling in crime, I’ve been indulging in a bit of flashing… Flash fiction is my other writing love – when I find myself floundering in a 100,000 word ms, writing something 500 words long – or 300, or 100 – is a breath of fresh air, a pit stop, a power nap. If I write a tiny flash piece, I go back to the novel refreshed. National Flash-Fiction Day is on 27th June and I’m happy to report my story Useless Without The Other Half will be in the upcoming NFFD anthology http://nationalflashfictionday.blogspot.co.uk/2015/06/presenting-landmarks_17.html
Almost more rewarding than any of that was the eureka moment when the fragments of ideas floating around for my next book came together – so my next couple of months are now set: After I’ve sent off The Murder House, I won’t allow myself too much time for obsessive in-box watching because I’ll be straight onto the first draft of the next one! I’ve bought the post-it notes, a new notebook and three new pens. I’m ready!
Dear Auntie Romaniac,
I have recently decided to re-write one of my books but change the genre of it. What started as a light hearted romance, has morphed with each edit into a darker, more serious novel. Whilst I have edited and gradually changed things, I feel it needs a complete overhaul to cross that bridge from one genre, to another. But how do I do this? Do I start chapter by chapter, or attack it like a first draft again?
I just don’t know where to begin.
Sue: I’m not sure how I’d do this. Maybe, I’d go back to the very beginning of the process and make sure I knew the motives of the characters and the outcome I wanted. Then I’d take it scene by scene, ensuring that each scene fulfilled the motive/outcome criteria and rewrite it darker. It may be some scenes need to come out completely, others need tweaking and others a complete rewrite.
Vanessa: I’ve been through a similar process, Lucie – trying to make a book much darker. The way I tackled it was to write the new scenes it needed in a separate document so I could get a feel for the new direction, then added in scenes and chapters from the old ms to the new draft, rather than the other way around. I treated it like a whole new book.
Catherine: Long answer: I would try not to get too wrapped up in labeling what genre the story is and concentrate on what will make it work. I know our books need to neatly fit into genre categories, but overall a story needs to work sentence by sentence. I would write an elevator pitch first of all, then do as Sue and Vanessa have said and work out what stays and what goes. Keep your elevator pitch pinned up near your desk so you don’t deviate from what the story has set out to be.
Short answer: Gin.
Advice always gratefully received.
It’s an OUT OF THE OFFICE Life Cycle of a Writer this week, but unlike our Ce, who was in an office on her out of the office day, our lovely Jan Brigden is out-out of the office.
If you peer into the dark, deep edits cave, you’ll see a twinkling light and you’ll hear the tappity tap of the keyboard.
Jan is in the midst of her first-ever edits, preparing her debut novel, As Weekends Go, for publication with Choc Lit.
Receiving your first editor’s report can be both scary and exciting. It’s not just about getting your head around the structural changes and rewrite, it’s about understanding the process, and learning the correct terminology, such as stet – a term used to request the retention of the original word or phrase, rather than use the suggested change. But, like the first day in a new job, once you’ve located your desk, the coffee machine and the rest room, everything else falls into place.
Jan is doing a fantastic job, and we’re sending supplies of cake and tea, delivered by pulley system so as not to disturb her, and enthusiastically, if quietly, waving our red and white pom-poms to cheer her on her way. When she leaves the edits cave, we’ll whip her straight down to the health spa for a much-needed dose of vitamin D and obligatory pampering.
It’s all part of the life cycle of a Romaniac writer … xx
Life is not a fairy tale…..
When I was a child I was entranced by the idea of magic. I believed in fairies (and Father Christmas) for far longer than is reasonable or rational. I talked to the fairies in the garden and they answered me. I admit I never actually saw one, but I suspected – because pansies have faces – that they lived in the pansies. So I talked to the pansies and they’d nod or shake their heads. Proof. And as I got older, even though I kind of knew it was all nonsense, I stubbornly clung to the faith, more because I wanted it to be true than really believing in it.
And, of course, my favourite reading was fairy stories. I can still recall the smell and feel of those books. I had a volume of Hans Anderson’s fairy stories – a Collins classic, with the dark green plasticised cover. And I had a volume of the collected stories of the Brothers Grimm. This was a heavy, old hardback, with thick, deckle edged pages the colour of weak tea, and I suspect the famously ‘grim’ stories had been heavily expurgated, to make them more suitable for young minds. I don’t recall ever being frightened or disturbed, but I do recall being disappointed about the way many of these classic tales (Anderson’s and Grimm’s) concluded.
I was always making up stories, peopled typically with knights and ladies, princes and princesses, and fairies of course. But I didn’t write anything down until I was nearing the end of primary school, and even then it was my big sister who gave me the idea. She was writing a Regency romance, and it suddenly struck me that writing it yourself was the perfect way to make a story turn out the way it should. This is how I caught the writing bug.
Throughout my teenage years I wrote ‘books’. I never finished anything. But what interests me now, looking back, is why I was I writing the kind of story I was writing. I read Georgette Heyer, Daphne DuMaurier, even Jane Austen. Young Adult didn’t exist as a genre in those days and – other than adult fiction, which I moved onto fairly swiftly – historical romance was all that seemed to exist for teenage girls. But unlike my sister, I wasn’t interested in writing in that style. I was far more strongly drawn to write darker tales, set in the present, of self-destructive bad boys, rescued and redeemed by the love of a girl who sees the good in him. I suppose I was influenced by pop music, films, TV and teen comics (although these were disapproved of in our house and I rarely read them).
In some ways, I think I still write in the same vein. I am no longer romantically drawn to the haggard hero, at deaths door, either through his consumption of drugs or drink, or as a result of a horrific motorbike accident due to speeding. (This was never due to weakness or degeneracy, by the way. He would have been lured into these self-destructive behaviours to “forget” some tragedy in his life.) But even though I’ve left these poor emaciated and emotionally damaged wraiths behind, I still prefer to write contemporary stories about people with faults and failings and emotional baggage. I write stories with an edge about real contemporary life.
I used to describe my books as gritty, but came to realise this conveys the wrong impression. I’m not Martina Cole. Despite my teenage tastes, I don’t write about ‘Crims’ and ‘Toms’ and seedy lowlife. I’ve never lived in that world and I don’t know it. I don’t even watch East Enders. But I don’t shy away from issues. I prefer to write as truthfully as I can about real people in a world I recognise, dealing with the stuff we all may have to deal with. A world where people don’t always make the right decisions – where actions have consequences – where we muddle along and sometimes, all we can hope for is the best. What I write is ‘romance for grownups’. This is not to say there are no happy endings. There may not be a transformation scene, where the beautiful, but innocent and humble heroine is given the sparkly crinoline and marries her handsome, rich and perfect prince. But in my books there is hope, and a light at the end of the tunnel. There may not be a promise of happy ever after – who can guarantee that in real life – but, by the book’s conclusion, my heroine is always a good deal happier than she was!
FLY or FALL
Eleanor – known as Nell – thinks of herself as a wimp. Even though her life has not been easy, she clings to the safety of the familiar. Married young and dependent on her teacher husband’s wage, Nell has stayed at home, in Battersea, with her children and her increasingly invalid mother. Following the death of her mother the family’s fortunes suddenly change. Trevor, is wildly enthusiastic about their ‘move up in the world’; he plans to give up teaching and move house away from London. Nell, however, is gripped by a nebulous fear of some unknown disaster waiting to trip them all up, but her husband, steamrollers her objections.
Now in her early thirties, and living in an unfamiliar landscape away from old friends, Nell feels cast adrift. She is increasingly aware that Trevor is no longer the man she married, and their young teenage twins, Jonathan and Juliet, are grumpy and difficult. The women she meets, Felicity and Katherine, seem shallow and promiscuous. The new house is unwelcoming and needs modernisation; she’s thrust into a continuing chaos of rubble and renovation. Patrick, one of the men working for the building firm, is infamous as a local Lothario, but he doesn’t make a pass at her. At first she’s grateful – she’s not that kind of woman – but her feelings towards him grow increasingly confused and ambivalent.
When Nell takes a bar job at the local sports club, she is exposed to an overheated atmosphere of flirtation and gossip. Influenced by her new friends and the world in which she now moves, she begins to blossom and to take pleasure in the possibilities which seem to be opening up for her. She meets and forms a deeper friendship with the quirky, new-age Elizabeth, a very different character to her other friends. As Nell begins to enjoy herself and to become enthusiastic about her life, it seems her husband is on a downward trajectory, on the opposite end of a cosmic seesaw. When she is pursued by a beautiful and enigmatic young man, called Angel, she is tempted into behaviour she would never previously have imagined herself capable. The earthquake, felt as a tremor of apprehension at the start of the story, rumbles through her life and the lives of those around her. When the dust settles nothing is as she previously understood it.
FLY OR FALL follows the dismantling of all of Nell’s certainties, her preconceptions and her moral code. Unwelcome truths about her friends, her husband, her teenage children and even herself are revealed. Relationships are not what they seem. The hostility between brothers is exposed and finally explained. And the love that blossoms unexpectedly from the wreckage of her life is doomed, as she acknowledges the hair’s breadth between wishful thinking, self-deception and lies.
By the conclusion of FLY OR FALL everything has altered for Nell, the woman who doesn’t like change. But she has rebuilt herself as a different person, a braver person, and she has embarked with optimism on a totally transformed life, a life that offers the chance of love.
Gilli Allan started to write in childhood, a hobby only abandoned when real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge but, after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon Art College.
She didn’t work on any of the broadsheets, in publishing or television. Instead she was a shop assistant, a beauty consultant and a barmaid before landing her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. It was only when she was at home with her young son that Gilli began writing seriously. Her first two novels were quickly published, but when her publisher ceased to trade, Gilli went independent.
Over the years, Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the community shop in her Gloucestershire village. Still a keen artist, she designs Christmas cards and has begun book illustration. Gilli is particularly delighted to have recently gained a new mainstream publisher – Accent Press. FLY OR FALL is the second book to be published in the three book deal. The first was TORN, published in 2014, and LIFE CLASS is coming out later this year.
To connect to me:
TORN: MyBook.to/gilliallansTORN (universal or http://www.amazon.co.uk/Torn-Gilli-Allan-ebook/dp/B00R1FQ1QE)
As we look forward to warm weather, balmy days, and writing in the garden, we take a look back at the last eight weeks of the Romaniacs Life Cycle of a Writer.
Laura: Having subbed book 3 to my publisher, and following wrist surgery, I took a short break from writing, enjoying the Easter holidays with my family. A major thrill was when I visited the local branch of Waterstones to find Follow Me Follow You on the central table and on the shelf next to one of my favourite authors, Erica James. Although I’ve not been writing, I have been mentally planning book four and am keen to get started. I’m still searching for a title …
Sue: Since having The Half Truth published, I took an extended writing break which I blogged about here. The past two weeks have seen me tentatively dip back into an old WIP that has been kicking around for 3 or 4 years. I think, finally, I can see the end on the horizon.
Jan: Having recently signed with Choc Lit as a result of my novel As Weekends Go winning the Choc Lit and Whole Story Audio Books Search for a Star competition, I had a mild panic upon receiving my first structural edits report … BUT … upon meeting my lovely editor for a coffee and a chat, who brilliantly explained how the suggestions would help strengthen the novel, I feel really excited about cracking on with the revisions.
Debbie: It’s no secret that I’ve been treading treacle for over two years. The only time I seem to get any quality words down is when I’m on holiday, away from domestic chaos! Determined to get the WIP I’ve been working on for almost four years finished once and for all, I went to Cheshunt for Tamsyn Murray’s, ‘Live, Breathe, LOVE Writing,’ workshop at the middle of April. Julie Cohen and Miranda Dickinson were inspiring and motivational guest speakers (as well as slave drivers!) and I met some lovely kindred spirits including Bernadette O’Dwyer and Helen Walters whom I’ve been acquainted with on-line for several years but never met in person.
The main message was simple. Get it finished! Stop being frightened, stop making excuses, stop procrastinating and stop allowing those crows to peck on my shoulders, telling me I can’t do it! ’ Most important is to keep writing until I type, ‘THE END.‘
It was just the kick up the butt I needed and, with the spurring on of Bernadette and Helen, I’m now up to 86,364 words and writing four or five days a week to get it off for the RNA NWS before the end of August deadline. Continue reading
This week, it’s Laura’s Life Cycle of a Writer, and she’s far from twiddling her thumbs.