Thursday, 13 December 2012

Hold Tight

My journey to becoming a published author continues. Today I turned in my final manuscript and author photo. (Just between you and me - I did enlist a panel of four to help me choose the best one. And I'm still worried about whether or not the best one was chosen). I feel a sense of relief even though my manuscript goes off on the journey without me for now. I'm guessing that at some stage, after the Christmas holiday, I will be handed back a proof and will have my baby back for further tweaks. I'm hoping not too many - we shall see.

So where does that leave me?

Actually in a very nice and cosy little place. I'm not stressing about trying to get a publishing deal and I can just relax and carry on writing - for now.

So it's back to the editing of book number two. I think last time I said I'd post some excerpts and I promise I will do once I've edited a bit more and happy with my progress. Looking forward to the festivities of the season and to what my publishing journey will bring. The future beckons.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Inspirational Reading

I came across this article and found it quite moving in itself. I just love the idea that a piece of writing can influence us in such a way. It also inspires me to become the best writer that I can possibly become. Read on...

How a book inspired me to find happiness

There are books out there so moving, so insightful that reading them leaves a permanent mark on the soul. I discovered such a book.

Change is scary and it can be a daunting prospect to walk away when you have no idea where you're going to end up, especially when you're as heavily in debt as I was, but spurred on by the example of Santiago, I did. The signs had been there for a while that the conformist life my then husband wanted was not for me. Santiago had found what he was looking for by being brave enough to start searching and even if my quest wasn't as successful as his, I knew I had to try.
Within the space of eighteen months, my life as I'd known it - my job, my marriage, my home - had been completely erased and I'd found contentment, at least for a while.
Fast forward a few years and itchy feet had seen me move to New Zealand, a country so many view as paradise. The reality was anything but. My experiences there seem like something out of a nightmare, sometimes so incredible that if they hadn't happened to me, I wouldn't believe they could be true. Life as a migrant can be very isolating and people aren't always welcoming towards a newcomer to their country, no matter how much you try to fit in. The first year was far harder than I could have imagined - my oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's and struggled to adjust. Hearing from friends who'd emigrated that the first two years were the hardest, I promised myself to give it more time, but life Down Under was harder with every passing day and I was desperately lonely.
I started weekly yoga classes and the couple of hours' escape it afforded me helped keep me sane, but all the meditation in the world couldn't change the reality of a poorer standard of living and six months' rain every year. My soul yearned to be where I belonged, but emigration is a huge upheaval and I had children to consider. Was it fair to take them back when everyone thinks that New Zealand is a great place to bring up kids?
One morning, I noticed the little green volume on my shelf. 'The Alchemist' was calling to me once more and as I reread it, the story worked its magic on me once again. It was time to recognise that New Zealand could never truly be home. I contemplated the moral of the story - Santiago had travelled the world in search of his treasure only to discover that what he'd been looking for was right back where he started all along. I knew what I had to do.
I took my children home and we've been happy ever since. My treasure might not be gold, but I find it in the green of the rolling hills, the water running through the stream in my garden, the simple act of breathing in the Welsh air. I could have saved myself so much pain by coming here first instead of New Zealand, but as Santiago is told, if I'd have done that, I would have missed out on so many adventures. Santiago realised that life is generous to those who follow their destiny and that's what I've been doing for years. It may have been hard at times, but it's also brought me fond memories, beautiful children and a wealth of riches money can't buy.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Happy Writer

I'm celebrating. I have finished writing my collection of short stories. Hooray. I enjoyed writing the five stories this autumn, so much so that I launched into them before I'd even finished my second novel. Which, by the way, still sits somewhere in Word, waiting for an ending. And, whilst I'm at it, a middle too.

The short stories are a spin off from my first completed novel, Holding Paradise, which is published next year. During the editing process of H P I couldn't help wondering what would happen if I brought to life a few of the characters who had an important role but there was no space in the novel for me to give them a back story. Hence the short stories were born.

The grandmother figure in H P is given centre stage in the first story, The Long Way Home, and is the love story of how she met her first love at age 16 and how a devastating hurricane, The First World War and a lie keeps them apart. (I will publish some excerpts very soon).

My next big task is editing the stories. Something I'm hoping will be easier than a 99,000+ words novel that H P was. At least I can take it one short story at a time! Somebody tell me it will be easier - please.

So I've got that happy feeling again. The one I had when I knew I'd finished H P. A great feeling and I never want it to end.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Getting Published - The Big 'J'

Well this is it. Now that I have my blog up and running and now that one or two people have actually dropped by, I thought it was time to talk about the The Big 'J'. (Or The Big Journey to anyone thinking what the hell...). The journey begins roughly from the day I was offered a publishing deal and follows me until the day I hold the finally published novel in my impatient little hands.

I start off as a singer-songwriter, mother, wife, insomniac, yoga enthusiast, runner, chocaholic and singing teacher (no particular order). Let's see what happens when I get there. Will I still like chocolate?

I thought it would be easiest to start with a recent article I wrote for The Brit Writers' Award Magazine. So here it is:

It's been said that there's a novel in everyone. There was certainly one in me and the idea for which had been floating around my mind for quite some time. After twenty, yes twenty, years I decided that this was it, I would have to write this novel because it would drive me crazy if I didn't. Three years ago I turned on the laptop and there was no stopping me. After two years, two working titles and several rendezvous with my laptop at 2am, I'd finished the first draft.

By the time I'd gotten to the third draft I was feeling rather pleased with my achievement and started fantasising about become a published writer. That's when I panicked. Someone else would have to read this. Someone would have to judge me. Could I cope with rejection? I enlisted my first reader, my husband, who was impressed. But husbands are world famous for lines such as, of course I didn't forget your birthday and no your bum doesn't look big in that dress. So I decided to seek further assurances. 

The next stages of my journey I would highly recommend. Firstly, get the opinions of a group of willing, or even half hearted, friends to read and comment on your work. After some very valuable feedback I realised I needed to take the drafting phase a stage further. I chopped and changed several scenes, said farewell to surplus characters and story lines and re-wrote some of the dialogue. It's hard for any writer to have to remove favourite scenes but sometimes it's a must and you have to be strong. I was close to tears when I'd seen how much I'd axed. All that hard work and effort, gone. But I was convinced I'd improved my manuscript. The next stage was seeking professional opinion. 

Literary Consultants will read and give you a full report on your novel, whether it be a certain number of pages or the full manuscript. Of course there's a price but they won't pull any punches. I chose just one from the list I'd drawn up and, on their advice, it was back to editing. 

A few more tweaks and I was finally satisfied that I'd done all I could do – I was ready to start approaching Agents and Publishers and sending out my manuscript. I did my research and made a shortlist. I decided to try four avenues, three agents and a publisher. An affordable amount in envelopes and stamps for a struggling singer-songwriter. Before picking up the phone to contact my shortlist, I decided to do one more thing. I sent the first three chapters to the Brit Writers' Award Agents and Publishers Referrals Services. 

After an appraisal by the APRS, who showed total faith in my novel, I was offered help with tightening up my submission package and they then referred my manuscript on. Following their advice and help I was looking at the possibility of signing to publishers Indigo Dreams. It was the most surreal week of my life. Floating down the road in a haze of disbelief and equal amounts of unsuppressed glee I found myself at the local post box with a signed contract in my hand and the wonderfully overwhelming feeling that in 2013 I would be a published author. Me. 

I've stopped rewarding myself with bars of celebratory dark chocolate, those pat yourself on the back glasses of alcoholic beverages and I'm knuckling down to more writing. I'm writing with more confidence than before. Going with the flow. Not beating myself up when the ideas don't come. I know they will. When they do I head for the laptop and just go for it.

Friday, 30 November 2012

I'm A Writer Get Me Out Of Here

There's only one thing worse than writer's block and that is having too much to write...

When I finished writing my first novel and whilst in the process of drawing up a list of agents I could approach, looking at publishing companies and going through the long hard process of editing my novel to the best of my capabilities, I would also keep up my running.  I run along my local canal towpath and, sometimes, the river.
It was whislt runnig that I hit on my second book idea - strangely, it's about a runner - and I rushed home and drafted the whole plot in a tatty notebook. I ran the idea by several people, wrote some opening chapters which I asked a couple of people to read and they liked my idea. So, I couldn't wait to start writing this second novel. But that all came to a standstill when trying to get the first novel off the ground took precedence and also took me to an editing frenzy of the first book in an attempt to get it just so. So - second book idea was shelved for the time being.
But whislt editing the frist book, I found myself deleting various, superfluous plots and stories but, painfully so. I liked those scenes but they didn't help the novel along, I felt at the time. So I hit on the idea of keeping those stories and making a collection of short stories and use the ideas I had to delete from my first novel. That meant second novel idea was still taking a back seat that was even further back on its shelf than ever before. I got so engrossed in the short stories collection that I couldn't stop writing them (I'm on the last one now) and I would only wave and smile at novel number 2 from my desk each time I put the laptop on.
The point of this long winded post is that I'm missing novel number 2 but I still haven't got time to write it. I wondered if it was possible to spilt myself into several versions of me so that I could do all the things I want to do and not feel like I'm missing out on something.
So I suppose I have to take comfort in the fact that at least I'm witing something. And having too much to write is better than having writer's block - right?
Happy writing!

Monday, 26 November 2012

I Wish I Was Wonder Woman

Whilst I'm over the moon that my first novel is going to be published next year, my publisher has just given me a list of things to do before the publishing process gets under way.

By profession I'm a singer-songwriter, I also teach vocals. And I won't begin to list all the other things that happen in my life because, well, I just don't have the time to.

How is it done? How can I balance my music, my writing, my family, friends, drinking red wine and a long list of really, really important things?

This is a particularly busy week for me and I'm finding it hard to keep my composure. I practically barked at my son who wanted to show me a karate move before my husband took him off to his class. I hope he forgives me. I don't know how tactful a person can sound when they've just said, "stop talking, I'm working."

So let me just take a breath and try out one of my old, tried and tested coping skills. Make A List. That's what I do. I remember now. Just write everything down that you can possibly, but most of all, realistically, do in one day. Remember that within some of those 24 hours you will have to sleep/rest. Be generous about that part of your day because it can help you cope with the next day better. Tick your jobs off as you go and if you don't get it all done then stick those jobs on the list for tomorrow.

That's what usually works for me and I have to remember this everytime I have a week like this one. By the way, I have 10 new songs to learn for a gig that's in three days. Well, two days now because it's getting pretty late.

But I did take courage in this Guardian Article

All my tasks are ticked off for the day. Now for some rest. Tomorrow beckons and so do all my jobs.

How do you cope?

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Writing Circles

So, tomorrow morning is Yoga Morning - that's what I call Sunday's now. Every other Yoga Morning I go to my writing circle straight after yoga. I'm packing yoga mat, laptop, notebook and sometimes croissant. I know the coffee will be on and a warm welcome from my fine writer friend.

You notice I say friend - not plural. That's because there are only two of us and rather than calling ourselves a Writer's Circle we are the Writer's Line. I figured two people do not a circle make.

As writers we all the know the importance of seeking opinions and getting feedback from others when you're writing. I am lucky to have a few people I can pin down and obtain valuable feedback from. It helps the writing process sort of in the way reading your work aloud does - only better. Having the Writer's Line is like having your own personal editor. Someone who knows and understands your style and sometimes knows how you wanted to say something even if you didn't get it right the first time.

We are very protective of our Writer's Line and when it looked like other people wanted to join we had to close ranks. If they brought their own croissant,or better still, croissants all round then they might be worth considering. A new member would make us the Writer's Triangle, next thing you know we'd be a square.

How many people will it take before we could consider ourselves to be a real circle and how many croissant would we need?

Friday, 23 November 2012

Writing Routines

I came across this today

Maya Angelou shares her day with Paris Review in 1990:
I write in the morning and then go home about midday and take a shower, because writing, as you know, is very hard work, so you have to do a double ablution. Then I go out and shop — I’m a serious cook — and pretend to be normal. I play sane — Good morning! Fine, thank you. And you? And I go home. I prepare dinner for myself and if I have houseguests, I do the candles and the pretty music and all that. Then after all the dishes are moved away I read what I wrote that morning. And more often than not if I’ve done nine pages I may be able to save two and a half or three. That’s the cruelest time you know, to really admit that it doesn’t work. And to blue pencil it. When I finish maybe fifty pages and read them — fifty acceptable pages — it’s not too bad. I’ve had the same editor since 1967. Many times he has said to me over the years or asked me, Why would you use a semicolon instead of a colon? And many times over the years I have said to him things like: I will never speak to you again. Forever. Goodbye. That is it. Thank you very much. And I leave. Then I read the piece and I think of his suggestions. I send him a telegram that says, OK, so you’re right. So what? Don’t ever mention this to me again. If you do, I will never speak to you again. About two years ago I was visiting him and his wife in the Hamptons. I was at the end of a dining room table with a sit-down dinner of about fourteen people. Way at the end I said to someone, I sent him telegrams over the years. From the other end of the table he said, And I’ve kept every one! Brute! But the editing, one’s own editing, before the editor sees it, is the most important.
And it occurred to me that I don't really know what my writing routine is. Do I have one?

I know that I feel an urge to write everyday and I mean everyday, but the opportunity doesn't always present itself because the rest of my life has to have some space. Is this wrong of me? If I call myself a writer then shouldn't I have my laptop handy no matter what. Write a chapter in the cue at Asda? Am I a real writer?

My answer to me is yes you are and you've got notebooks, short stories, plot lines all over your office to prove it. (I always have a notebook with me). Just because my routine isn't written in stone, I shouldn't worry. I write. I write and I enjoy it when I do.

I'm working on my final edit of Holding Paradise before the publishing process gets going and I've been writing a collection of short stories which budged my second novel idea off top spot. I'll get back to that one when I get the short stories out of my system. Shouldn't be too long now.

So - when do I write? All the time, actually, but at no fixed time. It could be 4am, it could be after I've said goodnight to my husband, it's usually whenever I am alone in the house. One thing I know is, I love to write and if I could never find the time at all...well then I wouldn't be a writer.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Learning to Network

I can't avoid technology no matter how bad I am at it. I signed up for a Twitter account last night and am still suffering the trauma.

Yesterday, so that I can start promoting my book (not due to be published until next year) I networked a bunch of friends from Facebook for some help and advice and got a wonderful response. Some of them got back to me with some great ideas about who I could approach and what I could do. That's what prompted the desire to start Tweeting and I already have two followers. I suspect one is spam so I'll have to find out how to weed that follower out.

I've been reading only good things about Twitter for writers and authors. That goes for readers too.

I found these links from Book Baby helpful and so might you.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Let's Begin

Today is my birthday. A good day to start my blog, I thought. Just as I was always waiting for a good day to start writing my book. That day took a good ten years to come.

You see I had this idea for a story. I wasn't sure of the idea was any good or not but it wouldn't leave me alone. And you may wonder why it took so long to write. Now that it's all complete, I know why I couldn't have written it earlier. It just wouldn't have come out the way it has now. I went through several trial runs in my mind, possible beginning words and chapters, how it should end and who should my main characters be. What should I call them and what would they look like? Well the answer was simple. Wait and see what comes out.

After a few false starts in notebooks I can't even find now, I began. Then I stopped, started, continued, read, re-read and one day I was finished. Or so I thought. I wasn't quite happy. The people I'd asked to read it were impressed but something inside me told me the story still wasn't being told right.

I sat back for days and pondered my dilemma. Then a new way of working the plot came to me - as if by magic - and I went straight into edit mode once again. The ideas were coming thick and fast. The book was writing itself, telling the story right this time. Finally I was happy.

My book, Holding Paradise, will be out in 2013 and published by Indigo Dreams

The journey continues as I enter the world of publishing, marketing and promotion. I'm in for the ride of my life but I'm ready and I'll be back to let you know how it goes.