Life Cycle of a Writer: Seeing The Light

 

*Blink* *Blink*

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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

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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

Life Cycle of a Writer – In the Waiting Room

It’s my turn to give an update for our Life Cycle Of A Writer series this week …

I was due to send a new edit of my work-in-progress off to my agent at the end of January – this has been delayed by a few weeks as I moved house and it’s taken me a while to find my way through the boxes to my desk!  Also delayed by the fact I keep thinking I’ve finished, then waking up in the night with new ideas so I go back to re-edit. But I think I’m nearly there and the latest edit will be going off to Juliet at the end of the week and I’ll be back in the waiting room refreshing my emails every five seconds and biting my nails waiting for feedback.

I think all writers spend time in that waiting room, whether unpublished or published, agented or not. We wait for responses to agent or publisher submissions, we wait for feedback, we wait for editorial notes, we wait for the day our books are finally published, we wait for reviews, we wait for sales figures. We wear out our computer keyboards refreshing that email in-box and we jump every time the post hits the mat.

waiting room

I often fill the waiting time by entering writing competitions – this is also good for my poor agent who, otherwise, would end up getting a squillion needy emails a day from me looking for updates/news/reassurance. Entering writing competitions also adds to that email checking excitement – the next email that comes through might not be spam, it could be news of a shortlisting or even a win!

Last year, I entered a lot of competitions (I’m not very good at waiting) but also had a lot of shortlist success which is another kind of reassurance – I found myself on shortlists of competitions I’ve come nowhere in in previous years: The Harry Bowling Prize, the Yeovil Literary Prize, the Mslexia Novel Competition, the Brighton Prize, the Caledonia Novel Award. For me, it’s a sign I’m heading in the right direction with my writing – a sign I need at the moment as I’ve changed direction and this book is a psychological thriller. Previously, I was writing women’s fiction, but with dark themes and ideas and I could see I was heading for a cliff edge where I needed to decide whether to step back and go lighter or make the commitment and jump. Talking through my ideas with lovely agent Juliet, I could see where this book wanted to go – it wanted me to jump, to fully embrace the dark side. The clue was in the title – my original working title was Hunting the Light, which is maybe what I was doing, nervously standing at the edge of that cliff, but it didn’t work for the book so I’ve re-named it The Murder House, taken a deep breath and jumped off the cliff.

standing on the cliff edge

I was thrilled last week to find The Murder House in the final four of the inaugural Caledonia Novel Award so I think taking that jump was the right move. And I’m also hoping that with The Murder House in its new edited form, this year will be the year the waiting ends.

Vanessa
x

 

Anniversary Celebrations and Giveaway!

CHEERS!

CHEERS

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Can you believe it? Today, The Romaniac blog is a whopping three years old. Three years! We have had the most amazing journey over those years, both with each other and with all you lovely lot, too.

When we launched our blog, back in February 2012, we never imagined we would receive such a warm, welcoming response from everyone. It has been truly amazing.

Over those three years we have each grown as individuals. Some of us have won awards, some of us have bagged an agent, some of us have started new careers and taken writing into a new direction. There are some of us who have taken the plunge and crossed genres and even those who have decided to write in a few different ones. A few have had publishing contracts and we’ve even given talks!

We’ve each had our ups and our downs, but you have all been there, standing firmly by our sides and supporting us throughout it all. For this, we are truly thankful.

One of the things we have achieved as a group, was the publication of our first Anthology, Romaniac Shorts. A collection of 22 short stories rmshrt1563x2500pxand flash fiction, penned by all 8 of our lovely Romaniac girls. There is a real mix of genres throughout our Anthology, a little something in there for everyone’s liking. All our proceeds are split between Dyslexia Action and the Romantic Novelists’ Association and we are delighted to be sending each a cheque this month for the first year’s royalties.

Which brings me onto the exciting giveaway we have. In celebration of our three years on the blog, we are giving away a fantastic book bundle. The bundle consists of a SIGNED copy of Romaniac Shorts (signed by all 8 Romaniacs), Follow Me Follow You (Signed by Laura James) Closing In (signed by Sue Fortin.), together with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and a mug; ideal reading companions.

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All we are asking of you, to be in with a chance of winning this book and gift bundle, is to do one/or all of the following:

LIKE our Facebook page and comment ‘I’m in’ (link HERE)

COMMENT on this blog post with the words ‘I’m in!’

RETWEET the giveaway tweet on Twitter.

*The competition will close at midnight on February 20th and a winner will be picked at random shortly after. Due to postage costs, we are afraid that we can only offer this to UK participants this time. Apologies to those unable to enter, we thank you for your understanding and support. *

All that is left to say is a huge THANK YOU to each and every one of you for your continued support and encouragement over the last three years. Here’s to many, many more.

Love,

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Dear Auntie Romaniac … How Many Drafts Is Enough?

 

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Dear Auntie Romaniac …

I get anxious when I read about how other writers have deconstructed and reconstructed their work-in-progress several times. I tend to be a slow first draft writer and tweak as I go along. My inner editor loves to play, and I am compelled to rewrite sections of what I consider to be the first draft, before I’ve reached the end. I aim for my second draft to be the one I send out to my publisher.

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What constitutes a draft? Is it a draft only once I’ve written ‘The End’? I also wonder if rewriting it mentally and altering notes, scattered in pads, sheets of paper and on my phone, count as drafts.

Dear Auntie Romaniac – it’s a minefield. Please help me through it.

Thank you.

Laura x

Good morning, Laura!

I’m usually a fairly fast writer, but with very little time to spare at the moment, my normal style (of writing a couple of chapters and then next time revising/editing and so on) has had to change.

Recently, my WIP, with which I was seriously stuck, was given a hefty edit by the marvelous Mandy James, and she gave me so many pointers and hints to improve it, that I’m now bowling along at a cracking speed and trying not to get side tracked by too much in-between editing. 

The final product will probably have had at least six or seven complete edits and overhauls. I’m aiming to finish the first complete draft by the weekend and bounce it back to Mandy. She did the same job on Little Boxes, and her ideas for storyline revamps and tweaks are second to none.

My advice to anyone struggling with numerous drafts is to get a trusted reading buddy or editor. Our very own Jan Brigden is also a super talented typo queen, with a grasp of grammar that most of us can only dream about.

Wish me luck, and the same to all of you out there trying hard to get the words down before life gets in the way,

Celia

Lucie – I really feel your pain, Laura. I, too, have often wondered this exact thing. For me, I think you know when you need to edit. When I wrote my first book, I wrote it chapter by chapter and had it critiqued this way. This was because I was doing a writing course and so my tutor (who was the very lovely, Margaret James) was checking it as I went along. So my first book was slow to complete. And then, because it was my first book, it went through a number of edits; through the NWS, through private critiques and personally editing. It will still probably need another one when my agent sends her edits through to me. And then, if it is ever accepted for publication, no doubt it’ll have another edit with their editor!

However, when writing nowadays, I tend to find that there is less editing. I don’t know if it is because I know how to structure a story now and my writing, generally, has improved, but I tend to blast out a first draft as quick as possible and then begin editing. I try to get as much of the story down in the first draft so that I can concentrate on the edits. I find it easier to get the story down as a whole, keep the flow going, and then worry about fiddling with it after. I try to only read back a scene or two, before I start writing for that day, just to get back into the story, and then continue. If I thought too much about editing previous scenes before going forward, I fear I would be stuck in a rut, two steps back, one step forward.

So, I do think it is a personal thing. Some people edit as they go, some, like me, get the story down, typo’s and all, and then polish the rock into that diamond. :-)

Vanessa: I usually go for a dirty first draft that’s only around 60-70,000 words. I leave that to brew for a while and then go back for a more polished draft. I then look at structure and pace and plotting, kill some darlings and produce a third draft which is getting close to what I hope is the finished thing! (I say this, but I’m currently on draft four of my wip!) I think how we write and how we edit is going to be different for every writer and no way is the right or wrong way.

Debbie – Oh, Laura, this is a dilemma many will relate to and as someone currently on the fourth re-write of a WIP, I can sympathise.

I can hear myself saying, ‘Just one more draft and it will be complete …’  But one more draft turns into another, and another. Of course not every writer is a perfectionist, but it’s worth remembering that re-writing a novel has the potential to become infinite with rewrites, and remain ultimately unfinished. Only you can break a cycle of rewriting and editing your work in the constant battle for satisfaction. We’re all different, although most writers I know are of the same mould.

I went on an Arvon course last year. Uber experienced writers, Kate Long and Simon Thirsk were tutors. Simon did a reading from his novel, ‘Not Quite White.’ There were post it notes and red pen all over the pages of his copy and when someone asked why, he admitted that after every reading he did (despite being Costa Book Award shortlisted and bestseller) he could always find some word or line to tweak!

Since then I’ve stopped twiddling with my WIP as I go along. It’s hard, but when I start on a draft I keep writing – something, anything – until it’s finished. The aim is to get the main bones of the novel down. I’ve learnt that most writers, even the most accomplished, need at least two drafts (preferably with a few weeks or months ‘breathing space’ between the two.) Then, after, ideally, another two edits and read through, once you’re as happy as you can be, stop tweaking and twiddling and get a friend/writing buddy, or if you’re lucky enough to have an agent or editor, and let them read it.

Sometimes we can become bogged down with the intricacies of the story or become so close to it we no longer see blatant errors. Taking a step back can help see it in a different light or often a second pair of eyes from a trusted opinion and someone not too close to a beloved piece will help give an insight into some points we may not even have considered.

Take it from one who knows, if you wait until you’re completely happy with your WIP, it might never see the light of day. So believe in yourself. All the best to you.

 Great answers. Thank you.

How do you approach drafts?

 

Laura E. James, Inspired by …

At Romaniac HQ recently, the conversation of our writing influences and inspirations came up.  Although we all started off writing romance, our influences have come from the four corners of the writing page.  We thought we’d share them with you over the course of the coming months.

Laura is kicking off the feature this week …

 

Sheila O'Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura & Jill Mansell

Sheila O’Flanagan, Veronica Henry, Laura & Jill Mansell

Laura: It’s no secret I attribute the lovely Jill Mansell as one of my major influences. I adore the way her novels can make me laugh on page one and cry on page two. It’s a skill to which I aspire, despite writing ‘romance without the soft edges’. It was through Jill’s books that I discovered the RNA and subsequently joined the NWS. Had I not read and enjoyed Good At Games there’s every chance I wouldn’t have my own books ‘out there’.  Other influences are Sheila O’Flanagan, Joanne Harris, (I thought Blackberry Wine was genius) Alice Sebold, Erica James (another author whose writing has me in tears), and Jodi Picoult - I love how she tackles huge issues. I’ve been extremely fortunate to meet Jill, Shelia O’Flanagan and Jodi Picoult, and recently, with much excitement and a necessary degree of fangirling, I discovered the audio version of Follow Me Follow You shares the same narrator – Antonia Beamish – as Erica James’ Summer At The Lake.

Laura & Jodi Picoult

Laura & Jodi Picoult

Since joining the RNA, I’ve met so many wonderful authors whose work was new to me but who have helped and inspired me – Sue Moorcroft and Julie Cohen, who are not only skilled writers, but fantastic tutors, Margaret James, Rowan Coleman, Carole Matthews, Miranda Dickinson, to name a few, who are all accomplished in their art and extremely generous with their time and encouragement.
Outside of the RNA, historical novelist, Isolde Martyn, and my writing pals at Off The Cuff, have been a major influence, teaching me different approaches to writing, and continually supporting my efforts. Before Off The Cuff, I had no idea what Flash Fiction was, and now it’s one of my favourite disciplines.

And I love the wide variety of styles my wonderful Romaniac friends share, and the safety net they provide when it comes to writing outside my comfort zone.

Books that made an impression and stayed with me from my youth? Enid Blyton’s Folk of the Faraway Tree, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm, and George Orwell’s 1984. It would be interesting to revisit them and see if these

Paloma Faith

Paloma Faith

authors influenced my writing, or if it was the pure joy of reading such excellent books that put the cartridge in my fountain pen.

Finally, it would be remiss of me not to mention Kate Bush, Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox and Paloma Faith, whose music and lyrics are a constant source of inspiration, and in my humble opinion, examples of superb writing.

You are all an inspiration and I thank you from the bottom of my inkwell.