Life Cycle Of A Writer: Crossing the Finishing Line

Never has there been a more glorious moment than writing these two short, little words:

IMG_1615

It is not the first time I’ve reached THE END of a manuscript, but this one has been something of a HERCULEAN effort. I had the idea for Baby Number Two in 2012 and after mulling it over for a while, I wrote the first chapter to enter into the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Much to my surprise, the first chapter was shortlisted and I was invited to attend the New Talent Reception prior to the Awards dinner. Looking back on my iPhone pictures these two photos are next to each other:

IMG_0259

My lunatic grin at finding I was shortlisted

IMG_0260

The reason I look quite so crazed in that photo?

I took this test on the day I was heading up to the New Talent Award Reception, so no champagne for me then. It also put a stop to any writing for some while, because that faint little line turned out to be twins and throughout pregnancy I was a) not able to write because my brain was mush and b) I didn’t want to jinx anything, which was silly and irrational, but that pretty much sums up emotions during pregnancy.

It was only once the twins arrived safely that I managed to consider writing again. This story that I’d created over a year ago needed to be written. But how, with twins? I talked about that on my last vlog and turning to the traditional pen and paper route worked for me. Gradually, at every given opportunity, I have scribbled away and have managed to get those 3,000 words to roughly 80,000 words.

It’s taken me nearly 3 years and I managed to produce two children quicker, but at long last I can say I’ve reached THE END.

Now truth be told, I should take this opportunity to recline on the sofa for a very long time. I’m pretty sure I need to, but as parenthood doesn’t allow that, and certainly not in the day time then I’m continuing to fill every spare minute and am already 100 pages into editing. Because crossing the finish line is a great feeling, but I’m still chasing the dream that everyone gets the chance to read this story.

Catherine x

Jan Brigden: Winner and Contracted Author!

424171_2997879859652_2014874345_n

Jan Brigden. Contracted author.

 We’ve had a WILD weekend at Romaniac HQ, celebrating the doubleplusgood news that our lovely, wonderful, talented

JAN BRIGDEN

is the WINNER of the Choc Lit and Whole Story Audiobooks Search for a Star Competition,

with her contemporary women’s fiction novel, As Weekends Go,

and

JAN HAS SIGNED WITH CHOC LIT!

We are beside ourselves with joy and are eating cream buns and chocolate cake with great abandon.

Time for more G&T cup cakes?

Time for more G&T cup cakes?

Jan – we wanted to congratulate you on your well-deserved success and we cannot wait to see your debut published.

Many, many congratulations :D

Love,

The Romaniacs xxxxxxx

Romaniac Group Heart Pumping

Bee and Let Bee: Carol Anne Hunter

We are delighted to welcome Carol Anne Hunter, author of Project Me, to Romaniac HQ. Get your cake and coffee, put your feet up, and enjoy this beautiful story.

Let’s bee having you, Carol Anne …

Carol Hunter Author Pic

My novel, Project Me, a comedy about starting again at fifty, was published last year. I’ve received the usual feedback from friends and family but one two-para piece of romantic rambling about bees is regularly cited as a stand-out point. The thing is, I stole these two paragraphs from a random short story I wrote a couple of years ago, changed the wording a little and used them as a device to give my character hope when she was near breaking point. The ploy worked a treat. So in the hope of warming away your winter blues and giving you something to look forward to, here is the latest version of the whole story. Enjoy!

 Bee and Let Bee

Every spring they arrive along with the first buds to lodge rent-free in the air vent under the back steps.  They don’t ask for much except a place to commune and peace to get on with it, and I’m happy to oblige; to let it bee.  I’ll let you into a secret.  The lavender bushes under my windows were planted just for them.

Sometimes when it’s sunny I relax on my lounger and watch my ultimate flying squad bizz in and out.  I fancy the little ones are on their maiden voyage, newbees on a practice flight if you will, with a remit to ransack next door’s hanging baskets before being sent further afield in search of richer pickings to bring home as part of earning their stripes.  Poised on the latticed concrete grid it seems they’re calculating ambient temperature and wind speed whilst waiting for some in-built air traffic control to signal the all-clear for take-off.  This is no long runway lumber-up-to-speed, more a dodgy diagonal ascent, their bumbee tartan bobbing on the breeze like tiny paragliders struggling to stay on the flight path.  Some take off on their very own junket, others do a double-take when they catch a whiff of my lavenders and hightail back, dancing on the downdraft before they home in when they’ve sized up the source of the scent.

Then come the jumbos, the 747s with their black and yellow corduroy, bombing out of the vent in loose formation.  Maybe they’re scouts setting out on a mission – as Captain Kirk might say, to seek out uncharted flower beds; to boldly go where no bee’s gone before.

I well remember the day of The Great Fly-Past when a no-mark rookie went off-course almost tipping yours truly off her deck chair.  A swatting offence in my book, since I swear I heard the tiny wheeze of laughter.

Now, that there’s what you’d call a right cheeky bee.

Landings are an art form.  Their panniers full of fragrant pollen I watch them on the home stretch, circling the runway, waiting for clearance to land.  Then it’s one in, one out as another launches itself through the latticework and up over my head.  And I’ve never, ever witnessed a mid-air collision.  Then autumn comes around and they all buzz off.

Why people talk about the birds and the bees when referring to matters carnal is anybody’s guess.  These damsels don’t procreate therefore the hive is more workhouse than joy house.  Only their queen is fertile and reproductive, nurtured as she is with Royal Jelly provided by the wing-women who attend to her every need.  She also has the option to choose her offspring’s gender, something we humans with all our science and technology have yet to achieve, and she chooses girls over boys, who are kept dormant until their – ahem – services are required.  In this uber-sexist society the females work as a collective, much like Mormon sister-wives, and share the feathering of the nest, the raising of the nippers and the bringing home of the proverbial bacon.  The one thing they don’t have in common is a husband.

Get rid of them, friends advised, they’re a nuisance.  They aren’t.

They’ll sting you.  They haven’t.

They’ll burrow through the wall and get into the house.  They can’t.  I know; I checked.  They’re all talking out of their bumble.

So, all is harmonious.  They mind their beeswax and I mind mine.  Live and let live, I say.   Bee and let bee.

Roll on March.

-0-

I so hope I’ve left you with a rosy glow!

 

Carol Hunter Project Me CoverProject Me by Carol Anne Hunter is currently available from Amazon.co.uk at  amzn.to/1yea08M and Amazon.com at /amzn.to/122tym1

Email me at carolannehunter4@gmail.com

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/carol.hunter.357

Twitter page:   https://twitter.com/carolannehunter

Combined website/blog – www.carolannehunter.co.uk

 

Dear Auntie Romaniac… Plotting panic

Dear Auntie Romaniac …

Keyboard

I’m just beginning to think about a new book idea. I’ve bought a new notebook and a new pen and I have some vague thoughts in my head. Now, what I usually do is have a beginning and an end in mind, a setting and an idea of my main characters and armed with that, I begin writing and the story forms as I write and as I really get to know the characters. The problem is, I then end up with lots of scenes and chapters that are really just character studies, or nice descriptive bits, which don’t advance the story and my second/third drafts involve major re-writing. I have tried advance planning and plotting and character questionnaires but I struggle until I get into the minds of my characters by writing them. How can I plot and structure my book when I don’t really know the characters yet?

Vanessa
x

Sue: I always plot heavily before I write, but I have found if I can get to know my character really well beforehand, this makes life easier. You could ask your character a number of questions, or give them some moral dilemmas – these don’t necessarily have to be part of the story, but they will help you know your character thoroughly before you start writing. Maybe, write the first draft focussing on the plot and then go back and weave character traits, thoughts, feelings and reactions in afterwards. 

Catherine: I think I’m still learning on this, like you, Vanessa. I use a bullet point story line method. I start out by planning what is going to happen in the novel and I scribbled it all out in a notebook. Each bullet point is about a paragraph of information and that eventually becomes a chapter. I haven’t stuck to it rigidly, but it has given me a framework to go by, so each chapter I know what the purpose of those events are and where it will eventually lead. In my second draft I will add more detail and check the timeline, something I could have done prior if I’d been more organised, and that’s something I will try to do with the next one.

Laura: It’s a great question, Vanessa. I tried detailed planning for the first time for book I’ve recently finished, using the three act structure, brilliantly explained by author, Fiona Harper, at a Romantic Novelists’ Association conference. Here is a great series Fiona wrote for the Pink Heart Society in 2012 about that. I usually start with an idea, then bring in the characters, and sketch out a rough picture in my head of what I’d like to happen. Often parts of the plot don’t come to me until I’m inside the story. Even having planned book 3, I struggled with refining the end. How was it resolved? I talked through it with Catherine – she was my captive audience in my car for five hours – Some might say that’s extreme advice, but I’m only suggesting talking it out as the method, not the kidnapping. It really helps me to talk through the story with trusted friends. However, I do like to get to know my characters well before I start writing. I use enneagrams to determine their personality traits. This was one of the many tips I picked up from the fab Julie Cohen a few years ago. This gives me an instant insight into what motivates my characters, and a foundation on which to build.

Jan: I’m a serious plotter. To touch on what Sue has suggested above, I create and then interview each main character, posing various questions and scenarios. This gives me a great sense of who they really are, how they think, their gut feelings, motivations, private versus public reactions. I then roughly draft out what will happen in each chapter, as in ‘harmony versus tension’ scenes, points of conflict, timelines, etc, making sure I have a good idea of balance and story pace. It probably sounds a bit regimental, Vanessa, but even though I’m methodical in my approach, I do keep an open mind when I’m writing, to allow for any unexpected diversions. That’s the fun and beauty of telling the actual story – you’re never 100% certain where it may lead you. I wish I could come up with a magic solution, but I suppose it really is a case of trying every option, every which way, until it gels for you.

Life Cycle of a Writer: Seeing The Light

 

*Blink* *Blink*

IMG_1236

I’ve emerged from my writer’s cave. It’s sunny, bright, and I’ve discovered spring has sprung, my children have each grown an inch, and so has my waist.

My third novel, currently titled, What Doesn’t Kill You, has left the building. I’ve spent quite some time with it, holed up in my cave, ensuring I delivered it to my publishers on time. I was in plaster when I started writing the book, having undergone ulna head replacement surgery December 2013, and was a tad impeded to start with, spending months in casts and splints. I had planned to complete the book in nine months, but it’s taken a year. That’s a record for me. My first novel, Truth or Dare? took a steady six years, (something like nine drafts from start to publication), and Follow Me Follow You took eighteen months. During those times, my children were younger and less independent, and I was my mum’s carer, so, like many writers, I wrote as and when I could, often sacrificing sleep.

I am beginning to wonder if there is vampire blood running through my veins.

IMG_5250What Doesn’t Kill You is the first book I’ve planned from the onset. I have a problem with timelines and find I always have to go back and rewrite because I’ve made a mess of the timing of the story. Often, the whole thing happens in a week, or less. I believe I’ve cracked it this time, but I guess the proof is in the pudding. I used different techniques and methods from those employed for the first two books. I put large sheets of static white paper on the wall and divided it into three, using the three act structure as the basis for planning; I wrote a brief description of each chapter, which I now call scenes, in a notebook, because I knew where the story was going, and at the very end, when I knew what needed to happen, but couldn’t fix the order in my head, I suddenly understood the sticky note method. My version is a little different in that I wrote down the pertinent points on a piece of paper, then cut them into strips and played around with the order until they worked, but I’m going to try the sticky notes method for book four.

I feel as if all the wonderful advice I’ve been given and the techniques I’ve been shown have come together on this book and I’m keen to put them into practice from the start of book 4. I think it’s fair to say I’ve seen the light in more ways than one.Planning Close Up

Perhaps I can write the new book in nine months.

While I mull over the ideas and characters for the next book, I’m going to take plenty of exercise, enjoy oodles of much-needed family time, and catch up with a few books worth of reading. I promised myself the reward of reading Celia’s Little Boxes and Rowan Coleman’s The Memory Book.

I’ll be in the library, on the rowing machine, with the children and Gajitman if you need me …

Laura x 

Sue Fortin, Inspired by …

So many things and people have in the past, and continue to, inspire my writing, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

photo (8)Going way back to my childhood, I suppose my first influence was Enid Blyton. I loved her books, especially anything where a mystery was involved, ‘The Secret Seven‘, ‘The Famous Five’ and my favourite series, ‘The Mystery of ….‘ books. Later on, I became a fan of Agatha Christie and more darker authors, such as, Minette Walters or thriller writers like, Chris Kuzneski and James Patterson with his ‘Women’s Murder Club’.  As you can see, mystery and thrillers have been a long held passion of mine.

At the other end of the scale, I do enjoy a good romance and it was through reading Jilly Cooper‘s ‘Riders‘ that I learned how, over a period of time, you could turn a villain into a hero – think Rupert Campbell-Black. Through reading Sue Moorcroft‘s novel ‘Starting Over‘ I discovered the Romantic Novelists’ Association and I was delighted to be able to join under their New Writers’ Scheme. Without the support of the RNA and the wonderful people I have met through it, I’m not sure I would have made it this far in my writing adventure.

Special thanks must also go to Julie Cohen, Sarah Duncan, Sue Moorcroft (again :-) ) and Margaret James as I have attended or been enrolled on courses delivered by each of them at some point over the past four or five years. Words of encouragement, advice and general support is much appreciated – they’ve fulfilled their end of the deal  by inspiring me to continue with my writing, now it’s up to me to fulfil mine.

Sheffield Julie Cohen

Julie Cohen, RNA Conference, Sheffiled 2013

It’s not only people who inspire me but the whole world around me, locally, nationally and internationally. Absorbing everything around me, consciously or sub-consciously, it all go into the Ideas and Inspiration Pot.

I couldn’t close without saying that daily, not only do my family and fellow Romaniac girls encourage me to keep writing but readers do too.  Hearing how much someone has enjoyed one of my books both humbles me and inspires my writing.

Sue

x

 

 

 

Life Cycle of a Writer : Editorial Revisions

Hello!

Today I’m vlogging about receiving revision notes from my editor, Charlotte Ledger at HarperImpulse. If you have three and a half minutes to spare, please do take a look.

 

 

 

Sue

x