Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Being Heard Above The Noise

Writers, have you ever had a manuscript rejected because the editor/agent did not like your 'voice'?

All new writers are told that in order to make it as a writer you have to find your Writer's Voice. And did that ever make you think, well of course I have a voice. If I didn't then I wouldn't be able to tell a story, right? Well that's true in a way but in some respects as a writer you owe it to yourself to consider what your voice is, how you can develop it and how to avoid mistakes in your telling of the story.

As a new writer myself, my first novel is being published on 14th March 2014, so somewhere along the line I found my voice. Luckier still a publisher thinks it is one that readers would like to hear.
Writer's Stop
 My biggest tips to finding your voice:

  • (I hate to bring it up again because everyone and his dog puts this one first but...) READ. Lots, often and think about what it is that made you like/dislike/love/loathe/feel indifferent to the piece.
  • Write often. A lot of what we start off writing should not be seen by anyone. They are trial runs for the real thing. Don't be in rush to get editors etc to look at your work until you can describe the type of writer you are: witty, quirky, full of angst, easy going, fast paced action, poetic and full of imagery. You get the picture? If you don't know who you are as a writer, chances are any agent reading your work won't know either
  • Write what you believe in and don't follow trends. By the time you've finished your story a new trend will have started. Who knows - if you stick to something you have faith in you may well start your own trend. 
  • If a story is not sitting well with you and you find it hard to continue and ideas that were flowing seem to dry up, consider whether this piece really suits your voice. If you can't imagine yourself enjoying it then no-one else will. Leave it on a back burner. You may be able to resurrect a character, plot line or scene to use somewhere else. Don't be afraid to stop writing a story.
  • Read your work aloud. If it does not sound like you in conversation with your ideal reader (more often than not that person is you) then something is not quite right. Re-work it so it feels right to say out loud. That's you, your writer's voice is there when you know it sounds good.
But don't panic. Every one who claims to be a writer has a voice. Discovering what yours is and what stories it tells best is a satisfying and truthful feeling. So keep at it.

For a useful article about Finding Your Writer's Voice Click Here

Happy Writing

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Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Writers on Research - When Enough is Enough

Researching information for your novel can be one of the most enjoyable things you can do outside of writing it. Or it can be one of the most tedious.

When I sat down to write my first novel - Holding Paradise - I just opened up the laptop and started to type away. I had the general idea for the story in my head and just let it pour out onto the pages. It was the most liberating feeling in the world. I was making it up as I went along but at a certain stage, and because my story harks back to 1936 and comes forward to 1998, there came a a time when I needed to check some facts to make it authentic.

At a time when the writing is getting too much and you need a break, if you need to research a subject for the novel, this is a good time to do it. As I wrote several drafts of Holding Paradise and took the novel through so many changes before I was happy with how I told the story, there was plenty of time to stop and research. But with Holding Paradise the story didn't rely on too much historical detail as it really is a story about relationships.

As I begin novel number two, and knowing how much the story will rely on local history (starting from the 1950s) I really need to be clear on my stuff.

My first port of call has been the trusted Internet. Whilst a lot of writers can find out practically anything sat in front of a computer, I find a good book gives me something very in depth and detailed. On the Internet I find I jump and change sites and get confused by the end of the session. A long laborious session on-line can sometimes lead you nowhere or with very little solid information. Books have been researched already! All you have to do is read the relevant parts.

So 1950s West London - where to start? My story will take us through to the 1970s and as I was just a little girl then I can see myself needing those history books. For me it is important to research a lot of my material before I make a proper start on the novel (I've got some opening lines, characters, an in my head outline and outcome of the story). But I want to get the feel and atmosphere spot on from the word go so research comes first this time.

My Plan For Research before I begin to write:
  • Look up my subject areas on line
  • See what books or magazines this leads to
  • Go to the local library in the area my story takes place and research local history and look at maps of the time
  • Take walks in the parts of West London the story takes the reader
  • Find anyone with sound historical information on my themes and interview them (might be a relative or friend or someone they know so will do some asking around
  • Dip into further research as required as I begin to write
Research no-no's:
  • Don't be tempted to throw in great facts you find if they are surplus to your story
  • Don't let your novel read like a lecture or history lesson
  • Your story is made up so let your researched data roll off your tongue as if you were there
  • Keep it to the minimum your subject will allow - writing is far more important
  • Don't get frustrated if you can't find exact details, if your story sounds realistic then no-one will take you to task over a minor detail
Most of all, have fun and write. I'll keep you posted about my research
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Friday, 15 November 2013

Write Time Write Place

Some writers might say that the week I've had was just par for the course for most writers. As a new writer I couldn't confirm this but it has been one of those weeks.

Let me break it down.

  • As you will know I have been beavering away at novel number two. I started it with gusto earlier this year and then a case of Writer's Block had me stumped. I summoned up my best attempts (see previous posts) and continued on, determined to power through to the end. But alas. Nasty novel number two has me beat. I gave up on it! *gasp* But when I did so I had no knots in my stomach, no wrenching feeling that it was a mistake I'd regret for the rest of my life. No - it felt right. 

My Tip: Don't be afraid to put your idea in a drawer somewhere. You might be able to come back to it or use some of the ideas or characters, settings, themes etc on another story. Or maybe not. But if it feels right - give up.

  • Novel number one will be published in Spring 2014! So come March I will finally become a published author and I can't tell you how excited, nervous, happy, dizzy and extremely proud that makes me. Yoohoo!
My Tip: If you believe in a story you'll feel it and even if you suffer from writer's block you will finish it and with enough determination you will get it published too!

  • I have had another idea for a new novel number two! So very different from the one I ditched. I need to do a lot of research for this story as it looks back on 1950s London and I want to get it right. I'm very excited about this story and it is going to be truer to my voice than the one I gave up on. (More about this in future posts).
My Tip: Write the story that feels right for you at the time. Don't just hammer away at an idea that does nothing to feed your soul.

Happy Writing Folks (and reading - lots of that to do on my Creative Writing MA!)

Writer Wordart
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Saturday, 9 November 2013

When The Writing Gets Tough

On Writing
I'm at that sticky first draft stage with my second novel and trying to get to the finish so that the real writing can begin. I seem to be reading an awful lot of books about how to write a novel but seem to be avoiding the main issue of actually just writing the blessed thing! [Note: On Writing by Stephen King is quite a good one.]

I still have a few books in the wings that tell me how to write but nothing beats just getting down to it. My plot is straightforward but I have lots of characters so every now and again it seems a bit too much. This week I got tough on my plot and characters and tried to get them all in shape. I'm seeing some good results.

My list on how to stop dithering and WRITE:
  1. Turn off all Social Media, the TV, your family, the oven and the phone (land & especially mobile).
  2. Stopping for cakes and chocolate (add wine and any self indulgent treats to this list) is not a way to limber up the brain for writing.
  3. Re-examine the plot.
  4. Name your characters, write their CV onto a post card. Write another post card detailing what happens to them.
  5. Write out main events in the story still to cover.
  6. Write out minor events in the story still to cover.
  7. Write these events into chapters.
  8. Voila, your fist draft is complete.
  9. Leave it to simmer.
  10. Read it all through and gear up to starting the second draft.
  11. Pat yourself on the back and eat comfort foods (but don't get carried away) then get ready for the real writing to begin.
I hope this helps you - it certainly helped me. Everyone is out this evening and I can't wait to write some more.

Happy Writing Folks!
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Monday, 4 November 2013

Guest Author - Carol Fragale Brill

It is my pleasure to welcome Women's Contemporary Fiction Author, Carol Fragale Brill to the blog today. Carol will be talking about two of her novels and some of her experiences as a writer.

What was the thing that influenced you to start writing?

I have loved stories ever since my parents read me Grimm’s Fairy Tales and Black Beauty at bedtime when I was five or six. I know Grimm’s may not seem like the stuff sweet dreams are made of, but mostly they read the ones about princesses being rescued by the prince. I started dreaming about writing a book when I was 20-something. It took me another 20 years to join a creative writing critique group and get started. And, I’m still a sucker for happily-ever-after love stories.

Tell me your success stories in terms of publishing/self-publishing?

Most of my writing time is devoted to my novels, blog, and book reviews for New York Journal of Books, with a little time left over to write and publish the occasional short story. After writing and rewriting my novels many times over a 15 year period, self-publishing both in less than a year is a huge accomplishment for me.
My favourite successes regarding shorter works include an excerpt from my newest novel, CAPE MAYBE being recognized by Poets and Writers as the Maureen Egen Prize first runner-up for fiction—so close! One of my writer friends referred to the prize as my best rejection to date.
My short story “Violets”, a reimagined excerpt from PEACE BY PIECE, was published in The Best of Philadelphia Stories after being voted a reader favourite.
What are your top writing tips for any aspiring writer?

Put in the time to study craft—characterization, plotting, show don’t tell, creating a sense of time and place. When I started writing creatively, I had no idea there were so many elements to writing craft. Once you start to understand craft, grab a few books in your genre and read them like a writer, dissecting how the author uses craft to create emotion and drama. Also, the support of other writers is so valuable. Find critique partners, join a writing group, and open yourself up to feedback. Perhaps the most important lesson is learning that writing is just the beginning, rewriting and working with a professional editor is where the story becomes what it is meant to be.

What are you working on now?

I just wrapped up self-publishing CAPE MAYBE in both paperback and e-book. Now I’m neck-deep in marketing, encroaching on my writing time. I am thrilled— and a little intimated—that many PEACE BY PIECE readers want a sequel. It’s funny because from the day I started writing PEACE BY PIECE, I was always sure the story ended where I ended it. Now, readers have me wondering if there’s more in store for Maggie, Thomas, Izzie, et al.

What do you draw on for inspiration?

About 15 years ago, I read Julia Cameron’s THE ARTIST WAY, doing one lesson per week over the summer. The week after I finished the book’s twelve week course, I joined my first creative writing group. I often go back to the wonderful tools in THE ARTIST WAY—like morning pages, where you do a mind dump on paper to clear the cobwebs so the creative juices can flow, or an artist date, where you take yourself out to play to recharge your batteries.
I can’t remember if it is Julia Cameron, or Anne LaMott or Natalie Goldberg, but I heard one of them say writer’s block isn’t about being blocked, it’s about being empty. I try to remember that and do the things like walking on the beach with my husband, reading women’s fiction, watching humming birds and dolphins, that fill me up and rekindle my creativity.

Please tell me anything else you'd like the reader to know about you.

I keep a box of 96 crayons—a gift from my husband—on my desk. There’s a line in PEACE BY PIECE where the main character, Maggie says, “I never had a box of 64 crayons.” After reading that line in a very early draft, Jim bought me my box of 96—complete with the built-in sharpener. That green and yellow box is a constant reminder of his support, and I often skim through the box reciting the names of the colors when I need creative inspiration.

And, I enjoy interacting with readers and hope you will comment here, and on my Facebook page and My Blog

I am also available for in-person and virtual book club visits and talks.

Thank you Carol!

Follow this link to find out more about Carol's books on Amazon