Tuesday, 30 April 2013

The Benefits Of Blogging

I half expected that when I got to Z in the A-Z Challenge I would be zonked. In actual fact I'm feeling Zealous and I want to keep posting and reading and finding new and interesting blogs.

It was a pretty intensive month and I won't post everyday but I have come to realise that blogging is valuable in ways that I never really considered before starting out:
  1. The more I write the better I hope to become with words. (Especially using them economically - I don't get time to read long posts, sorry).
  2. I have a voice and I can dare to declare my thoughts and dreams.
  3. Blogs are a reminder of my declarations and give me a chance to really think about the things I want to achieve.
  4. I will help and encourage others (hopefully) by talking about my experiences and drawing on real examples.
  5. I will learn from others bloggers and network with some very interesting people.
Thanks to Arlee Bird, the organisers of the challenge and all the fabulous people I've met and spoken to!

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Monday, 29 April 2013

About Writer's Block

Monday morning and I wasYearning for one decent sentence to get the novel writing off to a good start. But nothing came. Not one single word or idea. I was dry. There was nothing to write. Help. It happened to me for the first time. Writer's Block.

I took a deep breath and told myself not to panic. A few deep breaths later and I was still looking at an empty page. I checked my emails. As I was on-line anyway I decided to Bing 'Writer's Block' and get some advice.

The biggest tips were:
1. Eat something, you need a rush of energy to get you started. Did that. Still nothing.
2. Have a rest, you are tired so your imagination won't flow. Did that. Still an empty page.
3. Write something completely unrelated. Wrote an email to my friend in Florida. There is nothing on my page!
4. Read, someone else's writing, the words will stimulate you. I picked up Maya Angelou and just felt intimidated.

This was no good. I went out, bought two things I didn't need. A large packet of crisps and a large tub of natural yogurt! When I got back home I made a blueberry and banana smoothie with the said yogurt. I turned on the television and watched the first thing that came on, ate crisps and drank my smoothie. Hey presto, ideas started to flow again. Laptop back on and off I went.

My conclusion is that crisps and smoothies help you beat writer's block - No, that's not it. In fact I'm non the wiser about how to unblock Writer's Block. If it happens again - do I buy yogurt and crisps? Or something entirely different?

The discouraged Nenene suffering from writer's...
The discouraged Nenene suffering from writer's block continues to lament the disappearance of Yomiko (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do you have any tips to beat Writer's Block?

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Saturday, 27 April 2013

I Heart Writing - Fact

Writing journal
When embarking on the A-Z Challenge at the beginning of the month I thought a theme would give the challenge purpose but of course I wanted to stick to the subject of writing. What would be the point in writing about chocolate? As much as I love it, I'd get stuck once I got to X, which is where we are today.  I chose the theme of feelings and emotions.

So, the letter 'X' and feelings, huh? Easy - xoxo!

That's how I feel about writing. Weeks ago at my Writers' Workshop someone asked the question 'why do you write?' and one person said 'because I want to be published.' It was important to her that publication would have to follow as there would be no point otherwise. Well aside from that (and lets face it, most writers want to be published) you have to love it too.

I think if you love what you are doing, and I don't necessarily mean writing now, it will show in what you produce. You will put everything you have into what you do and people will find that passion spilling out of your words, your music, your painting - or whatever else it is. If you don't love what you do, then what's the point?
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Friday, 26 April 2013

Writing Can Be Bad For Your Health!

The A-Z April Challenge is almost over and I'm Weary. As if writing a book wasn't enough of a challenge. Well I'm never one to do anything by halves and I have to say I have really enjoyed the challenge. But noticed how stiff and tired I was becoming from all the posting, reading blogs and keeping up with the novel (not to mention all the other stuff that goes in my world).

I thought this might be a good time to remind the many people who spend hours at a computer or laptop that we have to watch our health. It's so easy to forget sometimes.

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Thursday, 25 April 2013

Do You Need A Writing Buddy?

I'm feeling Valued by my writing buddy who, every now and again, buys me little gifts to show her appreciation for the support I have given her as she wrote her first novel and now as she seeks a literary agent.

But it works two ways of course. My writing buddy started off as one of the handful of people that read my first novel and offered their feedback. Hers was very detailed and extremely helpful and I offered to do the same when she decided to write her book. We email each other sections of our work, maybe a chapter or two and we both send back our suggestions/comments/feedback. We meet fortnightly as far as possible for breakfast and have a feedback session that we both come away from feeling energised and have a direction to take our writing forward with. Because we've gotten together so often over the last few years we know the other's style/plot/characters etc and the feedback is usually spot on - for both of us.

Writing can be very lonely at times. In my experience a Writers' Group can never be as in depth as the invaluable help you can get with the right writing buddy. I suggest you find one - now!
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Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Submitting Your Novel - Checklist

As I get closer to submitting my latest novel to agents I'm feeling Uneasy.

No-one likes to receive a rejection letter. And whilst the chances are high that quite a few will land on your door mat before you get that agent or publishing deal, here are a list of things I will do to make sure I stand a chance of someone looking at my manuscript.

I will:
  1. Have my submission proof read/edited/had a report by a literary consultant
  2. Seek out agents/publishers actively looking for books in my genre
  3. Did some research on by target audience
  4. Read lots of novels by authors who write in my genre
  5. Not submit any more or less than the agent/publisher has asked for
Some of these might seem pretty obvious but I've read too many posts by agents who are exasperated by writers who never read their submission guidelines and try to do quirky tricks to get their manuscript noticed. Don't.  I will read their guidelines several times!

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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

What Is Women's Fiction?

Thoughtful. As writers we are told to know our genre when we are writing so that pitching it to an agent or publisher will be easier and targeting our readers when marketing will be more effective. That all makes perfect sense. So when writing my first novel I had to think about what sort of writer I really am. Who do I target if I want people to buy my book?

After a lot of thought I realised that I am a writer of Women's Fiction.

Women's FictionMy definition: subjects that are of greater interest to women than they would be to men! And to clarify (but only a little). It's about relationships, family, women's issues, development and growth of characters after a struggle, includes characters that women can identify with. The story can be from any decade, country, place or time. It can include, murder, mystery, suspense, intrigue, romance, comedy, tragedy.

That's my 'in a nutshell' answer.

What is Women's Fiction?

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Monday, 22 April 2013

Struggling With Your Pitch to a Literary Agent?

Supported and Supportive is my 's' word for the today's A-Z Challenge.

As I prepare for the 2013 Winchester Writers' Conference in June I'll have a couple of appointments with agents and will have to send a them a pitch.

Another 's' word came up several times whilst trying to write this pitch. Yes. Stress. It's not easy to write a pitch. Not for me anyway. So a writer friend (who was facing the same problem) and I got together over a weekend. Each session we worked on the pitch of one and the next day the other. Two heads instead of one. By the end of the two sessions we both had pitches we could be proud of.

I had looked at several of the 'How To Write a Pitch Letter' type guides on line and decided to use the one in the Mslexia website. (It's also worth having a look at this one by Nathan Bransford)

If you haven't got someone to bounce ideas off then both of the above are really useful.
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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Music To Inspire The Writer In You

Rejuvenated is how I felt today when I put my music before my writing. I noticed there was a definite imbalance when it came to my creative pursuits. If you've just discovered my blog then you won't know that I am a singer-songwriter as well as a fiction writer.

The two go well together, but I've neglected the musician in me for too long. So today I worked on a song. In my first novel Holding Paradise one of my characters is a singer-songwriter (funny that) and I've written a part of her song in my novel. I decided a while ago that I would record an acoustic version of her song, so today was the day to complete the lyrics. Then I worked on chord progressions and then an arrangement. Tomorrow I will sing my ideas to my husband and music partner so that he can improve on my chord choices and help me get the music together.

It won't stop me completing my 1000 words of novel writing . Like I said the music has rejuvenated me and I'm rearing to go.

What do you do to keep you writing? A long walk in the country? Open water swimming. I'd love to know...

Friday, 19 April 2013

How To Finish Writing A Novel

In a Quandary. That's how I feel today. Yesterday I talked big about getting my novel finished by the end of June. I'm not going back on that but I thought it might be a good thing to qualify my method. I proved I could finish a novel as this is number two (or will be). So how did I finish writing a novel?

Here are my tips:
  1. Get your notebook out and write the outline and that includes an ending (you can change anything later - it isn't set in stone).
  2. Who are your main players? Write a short paragraph on each of your characters big and small and get to know them.
  3. Let your ideas/scenes/dialogues play in your head before you even start writing and when you do - allow the scenes to play out differently than you imagined. Let it surprise you.
  4. Each time you write a chapter or section, make a note of what happened, when you introduced someone new, dates you used and places visited. That way when you need to think back it's all documented and you don't waste ages searching for when Mr So and So first got the X-ray that proved he swallowed a penny. (You know what I mean)!
  5. If a scene gets too difficult - leave it, sleep on it. Something will come. If it really doesn't then you might be barking up the wrong tree.
  6. Write everyday. Sometimes setting a word count per day can help motivate you.
  7. Edit as you go. I find it less of a chore than trying to edit a whole novel.
  8. Tell yourself you can do this and write until you come to that 'the end' page.
  9. Read it over.
  10. Let people you trust read, comment and critique. And then edit!

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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Don't Talk! - Write!

English: A jar of coffee-covered chocolate beansPurposeful is my P word for the A-Z April Challenge. Now that we are more than half way through the challenge - if you were paying attention you would have found out quite a bit about me. i.e. I'm being published this year for the first time, I'm looking for an agent, I'm writing my second novel, I like chocolate and I have a big bum. Some might say that the purposeful way in which I eat chocolate might be part of the reason I have a big bum but I'm going slightly off my point!

I have set myself a target to finish writing this second novel by the end of June. I am about a third of the way through now and I've been skipping quite a few days. I want to knuckle down and get this baby finished so that I am prepared for the floods of literary agents that will be knocking on my door to represent me.

I will set myself writing deadlines that I will stick to. I will limit my internet activities to just one hour a day. I will turn off the TV. I will do my research. I will not reach for my chocolate supplies until I fulfil my writing quota for the day. I will finish writing this novel!

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Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Do I Need A Book Trailer?

O is the letter for today's A-Z Challenge. For me it stands for Open-minded.

A few weeks ago I was dead set on the idea of making a book trailer. But to be honest I hadn't even heard of book trailers until I started this blog and started reading the blogs of other writers and discovered them that way. Now my head is full of question marks on the subject.

I asked myself: How did I discover books before I discovered book trailers? I never saw them when I discovered new authors, new titles, many of them I've loved after buying them. But as  a new writer trying to find my place in the market, don't I owe it to myself to keep up with the times? I've already story boarded my trailer but haven't shot anything as yet.

So my question to you, dear reader is (and thanks for stopping by) Do I Need a Book Trailer - and why? Thanks in advance for the advice.

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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Know When to Edit - and edit again!

My N today for the A-Z Challenge is Numb. It's how I felt after a recent meeting with my Writers' Workshop. I'm always willing to put myself forward and read out loud, even though it scares me to death, my mouth goes dry and the words start dancing across the page and all my confidence drains away! (Just talking about it and I break out in cold sweat). But the point is as writers we need feedback, someone to bounce ideas around with.

A few weeks ago I read the start of my novel and it went down really well. The course leader said I should give a master class in opening chapters. Mine is a complex story with 9 main characters. After reading this week I was met with a barrage of criticism. Phrases like 'I think you missed a trick here' 'I feel disappointed after such a good start', 'you have so many characters I feel like I need to make notes.'

All of this was like a nail in my coffin and I stayed awake most of the night wondering what I could do about it. Then I woke up and the answer hit me like a safe dropping on my head. Edit!

Of course, edit. Just because you had your audience gasping for more in one chapter you shouldn't get complacent. They were right. I had lost what I started with and I needed to edit like crazy to get back to the level I'd already managed to achieve. Nothing annoys me more than a book that starts with promise and leaves me bored and cheated as I go along.

So I'm in edit mode. I tend to edit as I go along rather than just clatter away for chapters on end. The plot lines are all there in my notebook. I just need to maintain the intensity and interest. But I really need to edit!
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Monday, 15 April 2013

Why Do You Write?

Because I am Moved. It's that simple. I was asked this question in my Writers' Workshop and here is my answer:

I'm a singer-songwriter so I've been writing songs for a long time. I get ideas for stories popping into my head whenever I am influenced by something that has happened in my life or in the life of someone I know. It could be the vaguest of topics and somehow a story will spring to mind. Up until a few years ago I wrote these stories as songs but a bigger and more involved story formed in my mind after listening to stories about my mother's island in the Caribbean and it wouldn't work as a song. It was bigger than that. So my novel Holding Paradise was born. Strangely enough the story I thought I was going to tell just kept transforming itself until my characters were writing their own dialogue, living their own scenes, right there on my laptop and I couldn't let it lie.

I never intended to pursue publication until after a year or two of writing I wondered if I had any talent as a novelist and asked people to read my drafts. I got a very good response and I began to see myself as a 'proper' writer.

Although I have a publishing deal (and that's fantastic) I write because I'm passionate about it and I want to become better. My song writing improved in time and this year I'm not only looking forward to seeing my book in print but also a second album that I am equally proud of.

I know I won't always be able to sing but as long as I can produce the right words, I will always write.

Straight after finishing my first novel I wrote a collection of short stories as a follow up. I am now a quarter of the way through my second novel. There's no stopping me!

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Saturday, 13 April 2013

5 Of My Favourite Writers' Quotes

Lazy is what you could say I am today. My excuse is that I'm shutting up so that the important people can say it for me instead:
  1. 'Ultimately, literature is nothing but carpentry. With both you are working with reality, a material just as hard as wood.'
    [Gabriel García Marquez]

  2. 'I don't know much about creative writing programs. But they're not telling the truth if they don't teach, one, that writing is hard work, and, two, that you have to give up a great deal of life, your personal life, to be a writer.'   [Doris Lessing]
    'You can approach the act of writing with nervousness, excitement, hopefulness, or even despair - the sense that you can never completely put on the page what's in your mind and heart.  You can come to the act with your fists clenched and your eyes narrowed, ready to kick ass and take down names.  You can come to it because you want a girl to marry you or because you want to change the world.  Come to it any way but lightly.  Let me say it again: you must not come lightly to the blank page.' [Stephen King]
  4. 'Write about what really interests you, whether it is real things or imaginary things, and nothing else.  (Notice this means that if you are interested only in writing you will never be a writer, because you will have nothing to write about...)' [ C S Lewis]
  5. 'I know that I'm a real writer because sometimes I write a story just because I want to; not because someone's told me to ... Nothing stops me writing except flu.' [Fay Weldon]
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Friday, 12 April 2013

The Winchester Writers' Conference 2013

Keen is the word that describes my mood today. (If you are taking the A-Z April Challenge you'll know what I mean. If you're not then just bear with me). It describes my zeal to find me a literary agent.

Experts tell me that writers' conferences are a great help in the search for an agent and I've applied to attend the Winchester Writers' Conference 2013

I've posted this for anyone not familiar with it and it's not too late to apply!


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