Archive for the ‘writing novel’ Category

Sorry I have been a little overwhelmed with the whole getting published thingamebob but now I am back to being just whelmed in a regular way – adjusting to life and a new career as a writer.

 

Just write!

I hear so many people tell me they want to write a book one day. Its ALMOST  getting on my nerves how many times I hear it. Either they don’t have the time or they aren’t emotionally or mentally in the right place to write. Here’s the secret to writing a book – you just kind of have to sit down and write it. Then you rewrite it, then you edit it and just keep going until its something you’re vaguely happy with (or you go crazy).

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Be open to change!

Without going into the specifics here, I kind of had a plot mapped out for the next book I wanted to write, I had gathered information, made some vague outlines. Then I watched a TV show and the plot was too similar to what I had planned and so I decided to scrap it (for now). That wasn’t annoying at all!!!!!

If you find yourself in a similar situation dont get dishearted – every story has been told before – you can either tell it from a different perspective or find a new angle – no one can write your story but YOU

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Don’t be afraid of research.

Watch, read, consume ideas, read news etc – its not time wasting, its research and its important – just know when to draw the line and when you are just stalling yourself.

So I’ve had a week to mull it over and have managed on the fly to come up with something else. I have spent that week watching documentaries, reading blogs, asking questions on forums, reading articles and news reports, watching dramas, anything and everything to try and trigger some kind of story in my mind from the initial concept idea.

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Adapt!

Your original idea may evolve and change – adapt to it and don’t see it as some kind of failure. Sometimes its the challenges and overcoming them that make writing fun!

So I had already kind of figured out a main character for the story I originally wanted to write. I managed to mostly transfer him over because all I had was a plan and a character bio. I had to tweek it slightly but it felt easier than starting completely from scratch – even though essentially its a completely different character.

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Outlining?

I really wanted a complete outline before I started – but as with everything I do – I got so into the characters and the story that i wanted to tell that I am FAR too excited to just sit on this and wait for the rest of the plot to come to me. I have a 30% idea and that’s enough for me for now. I think I probably end up planning the story in 4 or 5 stages.

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Just start!

I’ve written fifteen thousand words. that means I have roughly eighty five thousand to go (give or take!) All of that excitement I was talking about before? its been replaced with a crushing and daunting feeling mixed with the excitement of finding my characters and finding out what’s going to happen to them.

Personally I try and work on one project at a time, because I think its good to be immersed in your story.

Do it now!

The truth is there is no good time to start writing – you just have to get on with it – its all a learning process. I am still learning now!

 

 

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Here is a long overdue blog post about things that have been happening with me. The unexpected side of being a published author – both positive and negative.

First of all this may seem like I am complaining – I absolutely am not complaining! I have been so happy lately I’m beginning to wonder if I can drag my mind back down to the depths I need to go to in order to finish the second book… I’m sure I will manage!

Getting Lucky

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So I ‘got lucky’ and got published. Suddenly I find myself on a ‘side’ – I didn’t know there were sides! I am very naive when it comes to the politics of these things because all I have done is keep my head down and write. I have faced a little resentment from a couple of people, probably because I seemingly came out of nowhere, because I got lucky and published my first book which then rocketed into the charts and has been doing steadily ever since. Its taken me a while to crack this writing malarkey and I have had my fair share of rejection – but I changed what I was writing and tried to get better every time, if you learn from rejection its not quite so bad! So being jealous or resentful because I am not out marketing myself at every turn, being annoyed that this is some kind of cake walk for me- is rather silly because it was not an easy path – yes the last year has been utterly phenomenal – but it took me a long time to get there. I really haven’t just walked into this, its been my dream for most of my adult life.

Overcoming Shyness

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Getting over my crippling shyness – this has been the biggest obstacle for me. Both in writing and in self promotion I am very secretive and ‘closed’ and so it took me a long time to send off for an agent, it took me a long time to have enough belief in myself to do that. I have had to let it go a little and just trust that other people who know what they are doing believe in me and so I should stop trying to self sabotage and start behaving like an author would (whatever that means!} The anxiety I first felt of how peoples perception of me would change after they had read my book is mostly gone now. I don’t think its something that will ever truly go as its such a private thing. If a little bit of your soul doesn’t go into everything you write then you just end up with a hollow mash of well constructed sentences. I personally think its important to write what’s uncomfortable. Write the dark things because those are the thoughts that people latch onto and identify with.

Getting reviews!

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Reviews! Getting reviews for my book has been both amazing and challenging at times. I have had a lot of 5 star reviews – over 200 now (over 300 4/5*) which I am stunned by. You see I wrote the book that I thought I would enjoy to read, and its nice to see so many other people enjoyed it too. I have around 50 one star reviews – either I’m pretentious or my grammar is so appalling they couldn’t possibly get past it! Some of the other less favourable reviews have mentioned my use of the word saline – instead of tears – my mother also mentioned this to me. Its not something that I would get my knickers in a twist over if I read it in someone else’s work but point taken, I wont use it again! Also my daughter is obsessed with my use of the word wainscotting, because apparently no one knows what that is. I know I should be grateful to even have reviews – and believe me – I am! I have learned to laugh at some of my reviews, especially one who referred to me as Katerina DIEmond (in exactly that way!) and try and take some pointers for the future from others. I am not averse to constructive criticism (as long as I agree with it!). Still hard to read a dismissive review when you have spent literally YEARS working on something. Dont even get me started on reviews with spoilers in them!!! grrrr!

Meeting great People!

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I have met some great people since being published – this is possibly partly due to the fact that I feel I have the right to call myself an author now, instead of muttering that I like to write stories – which people just don’t get or take seriously. Being a published author gives me a feeling of legitimacy. I think generally I have been more open to new friendships. The support I have received from other writers is just brilliant. I have so many questions all the time which must make me seem like I have been living under a rock for my entire life. For the most part I have been quite moved by the support and sense of community I am experiencing. Also the book bloggers (who I didn’t know existed) have been so supportive as well – some have even become friends. As mentioned before there are a couple of people who I sense some deep resentment from but I see that as their issue and not mine as almost everyone else has been great. I have had one person get the hump with me for not promoting their book online but the fact is, I barely like promoting my own book – I certainly don’t want to promote something that I haven’t read. I don’t mind retweeting things that other people ask me to retweet – but I feel newly constructed or written tweets should be FROM me, about things I want to say or feel passionate about! The marketing side of things does my head in a little bit, I am so pleased I am not in charge of that myself. I really admire anyone who has the ability to both write great books and market themselves successfully without being pushy and in your face – that would be my main concern! I absolutely LOATHE clickbait and couldn’t bring myself to post any – even when I repost clickbait I put a synopsis in my post! it just seems so damn dishonest!

Having a great Agent and Publishers.

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I was a total novice and this is where I truly believe I did get lucky. My agent Diane Banks saw something in my book that she liked. My publishers Avon felt the same way. I sent off to a few Agents, and my Agent sent off to a few publishers for me to have landed with the team of people that I did was incredibly good luck on my part. I get warm squishy feelings about all of them (and I am not a warm squishy person). I think this was the best possible outcome for me – on all fronts! I think it shows in both my sales and the great working partnership I feel I have with both my previous editor and my new one. I have heard so many horror stories from other writers about shocking behaviour from both agents and publishers I didn’t realise it could be so bad! I would be utterly USELESS as a self published author, I probably would have sold about 12 books by now, and that’s even less impressive when you consider the size of my family alone. As it stands I have been in the Sunday Times Best Seller list 3 weeks in a row (what??!!) and I was a number one kindle best seller (??!!) I’m still holding into the top 5 on kindle although I feel that’s about to change as some great titles are being released over the next couple of weeks. My book will also start moving internationally soon and that’s just amazing, too.

Being a success!

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Well I always said I was more afraid of success than I was of failure. Its a new feeling but its a nice feeling. The main thing I am noticing is that the hard work has just begun. I had my own time and pace to get my foot through the door but now its there I have more books to write and actual deadlines instead of self imposed ones. I have had so many people ask me when the second book is coming out, its such a great feeling. I am so excited for the next few years of my life. I’m also so grateful to everyone who has been so incredibly nice to me. I was feeling a little fragile on entry into the world of being an author – on publication day I came down with the flu and was in bed for 4 days! intermittently tweeting a gif between naps through my fever.

Anyway – I’m on holiday at the moment so its back to the pool for me!

live long and prosper!

Well silly things inspire me. Sometimes it can be a music video, sometimes it can be a movie, or a tiny bit of dialogue. The mood of things is often inspirational to me. Trying to recreate a mood or a feeling for other people.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a little dark, for this reason I tend to gravitate towards slightly darker themes, both in music and films. I am also quite inspired by romance, not big gestures but small intimate romantic moments. I am a hopeless romantic trapped inside the mind of a slightly disturbed and over-active imagination.

I was asked to write a blog on music that inspired me while I was writing my book.I do listen to music when I write, a lot of other writers I have spoken to were horrified by this notion. How can you listen to lyrics? I also explained I sometimes watch TV while i am writing. Sometimes I do need to switch everything off but usually have something going on in the background.

So each one of my characters usually has a song that fits them, for me – usually based on mood – lyrics – feelings etc.

Between the Bars – Madeleine Peyroux

This song has always been a favourite of mine, moreover this particular cover of it. The original recording was by Elliott smith. I always thought of it as purely a love song until I met one of my main characters then it took on a whole new meaning. suddenly the lyrics were sung from the point of view of that destructive voice in your head that constantly reminds you who you are, deep down; coaxing you to stay the same as you have always been, never to improve yourself because you cant escape who you really are. That the only thing you can really trust is that you will fail at some point, its inescapable.

 

Pretty when you cry – VAST

Well this is a tricky song, but its beautiful in its own way. For me it explores the idea that somehow someone elses actions towards you can be your fault, as though you are forcing them to behave a certain way just because of who you are. Of course we all know this is nonsense, but that’s the delusion some predatory people have. It also makes me think of the overwhelming urge in some people to possess, violate and control something pure and innocent, because of their inability to be a human being. Of course by doing that you lose interest in them, you take away the thing you wanted and suddenly you don’t want them anymore. The hypnotic beat and monotone matter-of-factness of the vocalist adds to the mood of the predator – “This is all your fault you know, if you weren’t so vulnerable then I wouldn’t be forced to take advantage of that…”

 

Change (in the house of flies) – Deftones 

Possibly my favourite song ever anyway. But the theme of this is what gets me – again – the compulsion to make something ugly, to take away that which makes it beautiful. The need to witness that destruction. To essentially make something as ugly as you. Both physically and metaphorically.  Also a part of yourself hating that you have this inside you. Then replaying the guilt of your actions and waiting for the repercussions; wanting them. For me this fits several of my “victims” who have created the “ugly fly”.

 

Say it Right – Nelly Furtado 

I don’t know what the official meaning of this song is but for me it speaks to one of the most important relationships in this book. Which is two broken people who need each other, but are afraid to admit it. Its more of a feeling than the lyrics. The hesitant building of a relationship and that knowledge that this could be IT, the big one, the forever relationship. Also the understanding that if you both accept this is really happening that everything will change. That you can save each other. Also I think its about laying it all out there and saying “Look – I’m fucked up – are you SURE you want some of this? Because once you do there is no going back…”

 

Made of Scars – Stonesour

scar tissue is stronger than regular skin. This makes me think of a  survivor, someone who has been scarred in lots of different ways but still refuses to be a victim. Remember your past, use it to become a stronger person. Also the idea that everything that happens in our life shapes who we become.

 

46&2 – Tool 

OK, without going into the Jungian 46&2 theory  (look it up, its interesting) For me this song perfectly sums up the need to move on and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get there. Its sinister and sexy in the way it sounds (to me anyway) and that adds to the drama of it. The idea of picking your scabs (obviously these are mental scabs) but it has to be done in order to “shed the skin”. Rebirth through cleansing, confronting the things about yourself that need to be addressed before you can have a new life. Its about making the decision to move forward with your life but knowing there is no easy way to do that, that in order to do that you have to clean out the darkness and sometimes that means becoming the darkness. Being aware of every part of you so that you can get rid of the parts you don’t want anymore.

 

Exile – Show of Hands 

A beautiful song written by Steve Knightley. I spent a lot of time at folk festivals when I was a teenager, I saw this band a few times although this is not my video. This song was one of my favourites. It took on a new meaning for me after writing this book. Metaphorically it represents the loss of an important relationship  within the book. How one event that takes place immediately estranges one of the female protagonists and that suddenly she’s all alone. For me its about the father/daughter relationship that is suddenly impossible.

 

 

Bring me to Life – Evanescence

To be really seen by someone, to realise that as lost and alone you are that there is someone else who can reach you and accepting that you can come back from the brink of darkness. That your whole life is a prelude to meeting this person and that when you connect you will both be alive again. Even though that’s almost a literal interpretation of the lyrics   its a passionate song – begging to be saved – from yourself and the choices you have made, from staying hidden, from making yourself invisible. There are a couple of invisibles in the book and in a way the book is largely about when they ‘wake up’

 

How to disappear completely – Radiohead 

Firstly, the amount of Radiohead songs I could have included in this list isnt even funny. I personally find their music very evocative and moody, not just lyrically but melodically too. I picked this one because its just lovely. I think the lyrics speak for themselves and require no explanation. To me it sounds like a mantra you would say when you close your eyes, when something so terrible is happening that you need to take yourself out of that situation at least mentally.

 

Animal I have become –  Three Days Grace 

Again this idea that who you are is inevitable, that you have become something so vile that you are beyond saving, but so desperate for someone to save you and make you better even if you don’t believe its possible. Compulsion to do bad things because you are filled with rage and hate ; knowing what you are doing is wrong but being unable to do anything differently.  “Help me believe its not the real me” is probably one of the most important lyrics in the song for me – because thats the last link to humanity, the wanting to be better, just needing that validation is the reason  you aren’t totally bad, the moment you stop needing it is the moment you are lost.

 

Prosthetics – Slipknot (Explicit Lyrics)

Ok this is a dark one. Its heavy too. The first time I heard this it made me feel a bit sick (so naturally I love it!). From the perspective of a predator/stalker. I think its the collaborative nature of the lyrics that get me in this song. As though this stalking behaviour is somehow an agreement between two people. I feel as though this ‘relationship’ is something I have tried to recreate within the novel. As though Predator and Prey are both in it together, they know their roles. Also that sense of blame, as though the victim has created this scenario “You brought it outta me” – Aside from the lyrics I find the music itself quite desperate and harrowing.

 

Uninvited – Alanis Morissette

Falling in love is hard, especially when you are happy in your little bubble of loneliness, when you have written yourself off as someone who is unlovable. This song probably has more relevance to my second novel, although after reading the second novel certain things in the first novel will take on more significance (confused?!)  As someone who has read both I can tell you that this is happening in the first one although we don’t know that yet… Falling in love with someone unsuitable is also hard – it reinforces for me the idea that you just cant control that stuff!

 

 

 

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That’ll do for now I think but there are plenty more – maybe I’ll add more description after the book is released – struggling not to give you spoilers!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Well, its weird. That’s the short version.

Over the last few days I have been watching a lot of interviewers with writers and I realise that my story isn’t so different from many other authors. One of my favourite authors Karin Slaughter said in an interview that i watched that things turned around for her when she treated her submitting her novel as a business proposition, and nothing more.

Its hard to be emotionally detached from your own work. Occasionally I think about what I have written and I cringe a little, that is something that will never change. Its not because I think its crap, I don’t; but its more because its a part of me. I’m such a private person, the possibility that I may have to be less private is quite daunting and something I had to talk myself into. I would be happy never to meet anyone new, or to have to talk about myself or anything else that’s personal. All of my most personal thoughts and feelings are hidden inside my characters anyway.

I think there is an arrogance among new writers (myself included) when you start writing and you realise, actually I’m quite good at this. There’s a frustration that other people cant see the talent inside you that needs nurturing. There’s almost a feeling of entitlement that – I’ve written this – so you must publish it. Without any real understanding of what’s really happening out there. A lot of people think they can write a book, a lot of people start books that shouldn’t, a lot of people don’t that should. The fact is, its a business, and no one has to recognise anything about you, no one owes you anything. That attitude is going to get you nowhere fast. I have a friend who sent off to an agent, when the agent refused – they decided to self publish. I understand that gut feeling, how DARE you tell me my works no good – I worked hard for that. The truth is there are hundreds of agents out there, and there thousands of people like you, who think they deserve to be published. Your book might be amazing, it really might – we have all heard stories of mega successful books that were rejected a heap of times before they reached any kind of attention. Luck is most definitely involved, but only if you have put the work in first.

I have written a lot of stuff over the years, some short stories, screenplays, novella’s and then finally a novel. The first stage of the process was writing a coherent story (harder than you think!) that was also long enough to be classed as a novel. Then, and this is the part that cannot be taken lightly at all, you need to rewrite. This is not to say change everything you have written, of course not. I like to think of it this way – if you are anything like me – I get annoyed at the TV when things are implausible or just out of character. I try to look at my book as a reader and question myself, why did he do this? why did that happen? Youre not going to get everything in one go, but you will find some things to change – that doesnt mean you failed, it means you know how torewrite. So then you go through and answer your questions within the work or you delete the need for the questions. By the end of that you should have something that makes a little more sense. You can get some help by asking someone you trust to read it and give you HONEST feedback, that can be helpful. Its important not to see any suggestions for change as a personal attack but more a want to make your book the best it can be.

Then check for grammar etc – basically make it as professional looking a document as you can. I struggled with this as my punctuation is kind of terrible. But I bought a book on grammar and punctuation and tried to learn some of the rules to help make my book better. I knew that if I wanted someone else to take my work seriously I had to take it seriously myself. I know some people get offers on partially completed work – that could never happen for me – my finished product is always so different, I think that’s because I’m a bit slow and I cant always make all the best connections until the end of the story. with my first novel, I can honestly say I have read through over 100 times, and made changes – even minor ones, every single time.

After you have done that then you format it, paragraphs, spacing, chapter headings. basically you want it to look right. (again another struggle for me)

The I looked through several listings for agents that deal with Crime fiction and I picked several to send to. I followed the submission guidelines to the letter and sent off my work. What I was basically doing was removing obstacles in my way. If its not formatted properly then why would they read it? If they don’t accept submissions then why would they read it? If I have lots of obvious spelling errors then why would they read it?  If they don’t deal with my genre of fiction then why would they read it? Its important not to put obstacles in your own way and set yourself up for rejection, for the wrong reasons. Not because your work wasn’t any good, but because you sent it to the wrong people, or you lost interest at the editing phase. Don’t cheat yourself out of a chance for a silly reason. The hardest part is writing a novel, making it better and sending it off should be fun. I had completely geared myself up for rejection, after 15 years of writing I knew that the chances of me getting an agent were slim to none, every blog I ever read told me so. Of course now i understand why, because its important you understand how rare it is. Rare but not impossible.

I was lucky enough that one of the first agents I sent my novel to “got” my work, because the others that I sent it to just said no. That was where my luck came in, sending it to the right people helped, and I was lucky that my wonderful agent Diane actually saw and read my book. I had lots of complimentary emails and then was pitched to several publishers – again – none of them really “got” it, although I received a lot of praise – but all it takes is one. And so I’m getting published. I have had to rewrite again, with the help of an amazing editor and its quite different now to how it was when I finished it the first time. Having an editor was great, someone else to second  guess you so you don’t have to do it yourself.. (you know what I mean!) – while writing I think everything I write is pants – so its nice just to have specific things picked out – it means the rest must be ok.

The thing to remember about it is this – its a business. You don’t get published because you’re a nice person or because you tried really hard , you don’t get published because you really want to. You get published because your book is commercially viable as a product. Its because they think other people will like what you have to say and will pay to read it. The reason its commercially viable is completely noble and artistic, its not selling out. Its important to remember that its not personal when you get rejected.

 

Until next time…

Hi…its been a while – i know i know.

I havent had a writers block, more likely the opposite, a deluge of ideas without the faintest idea which ones I should be using and how to tie them all together.

Im at the tricky bit again, the bit where I have had all the thoughts that can possibly be had about which way my story is going but I havent written them all down yet, at least not in story form – more likely random words scattered around my office on post it notes and little scribbles in more notepads than is healthy for any adult to have. Occasionally i find notepads with whole chapters I had forgotten I had written, on completely different threads than the way I chose to go on my story. I have self imposed a deadline for myself of sunday night -0 and so my house is a mess, my whole family has run out of underwear because i havent been using the washing machine, i have just been peicing things together with very little success – and even less writing. I feel like I have too much to say and not enough space to say it in – which is nonsense because I determine the length of my novel, no one else.

I havent been well either, I developed bells palsy over the summer and half my face was paralysed – it was scary stuff and I couldnt use a computer for a few weeks because i couldn’t blink and so my eye would just stream with water. I was lucky that it only lasted around 5 weeks because i was told that it may take up to a year to clear up. On the plus side I got to wear a fetching eye patch on holiday and was dubiously eye-balled (pun intended) by airport security. Holiday was fabulous and despite finding out how weird it is not to be able to squint when looking at the sun – my face incurred no further damage aside from an eye patch shaped tan line.

I should be writing my story now – like right now – and suddenly it was an emergency to write this blog, because obviously you all couldnt cope another day without hearing my inane ramblings which are really just an elaborate procrastination tool. So, Im not going to allow myself to blog again until i have finished my first draft 9I use the term finish loosely) – I have lots of red highlighted text in my document that I may or may not keep, then the revisions come, which i generally find quite good fun – then the monotonous job of editing – which is particularly hard for me as most of it is guesswork. but judging from the feedback i had from professionals my editing was pretty damn good. The upside is this time i will be working with an editor, i dont know how I am going to feel about that, it will be a strange experience. But I do like collaborating with people – I like peoples perspectives on what I have done/ am doing. Currently my mother is reading my second novel even though the ending isnt finished – at first (like last time) she was full of praise but as it went on she starts getting bored and confused ha ha – i havent explained that there are things I need to remove and other things I need to explain better – I dontknow if she will get to the end.

lastly of course is my self confidence, which gets knocked further and further down with every minute that i spend writing anything other than my novel – so its time to go as I hear my conscience knocking again and I really need to meet me own deadline – until next time!

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Well i am by no means the authority on this. It takes me a long time to get the sex scenes in my stories right. Im not talking about erotic fiction here – I don’t know if i would be able to do that – i would get bored. Last week I had to write a crucial sex scene in my book, it was important to get across the feelings of both characters as well as insert (snort) the mechanics of the act itself. I was chatting to a very conservative friend of mine who said that she hated when sex scenes were too vague in books and so I pushed myself a little further in my descriptions than I normally would.

I think the difficulty for me is that in a normal scene you don’t write where peoples arms and legs are, and its not long before you just have a long list of “he did”‘s and “she did”s making it quite annoying to read. So what i did was wrote the mechanical elements – the ergonomics of the situation and then I diluted it with talk or thoughts or feelings. In the end i had about 800 words worth of lovemaking. It took me 4 days. A part of that was trying to find replacement words for things like knickers – which just didn’t work in the context I was giving them. Pants, underpants, underwear and shorts replaced the offending word in question.

By the time I had finished I was happy with my efforts. I think what made it harder (snort) is that while i am not a prude, there is an overriding fear of being judged on your own sexual performance – but that’s where you have to make sure you set up the characters and story properly so that people forget the person behind the words. Its a strange thing because i don’t read a sex scene in a book and think – jeez – that author is fucked in the head. The way I write doesnt really allow for the naming of body parts, and so I had to insinuate strongly what was going where and when. It would just look weird If I put the word penis (dick, cock, member etc) into the prose. I hope in the end i have done my characters justice because they really did deserve to have a good time, they had both been through a lot 😉

A friend of mine shared a sex scene he had written, complete with dicks and knickers and it worked in the context of the story he had written. i couldn’t actually think of any sex scenes I had read in books, now the only one i can even vaguely remember is the BIRDSONG one, which was beautiful.

I don’t really have any advice here only that I persevered and went beyond what i was comfortable with in order to deliver the scene I wanted. Its vague enough to still be poetic but not so vague that you aren’t entirely sure what the hell is going on.

So maybe its time for you to give me some advice. Do you have any rules about writing sex scenes? What do you think is most important? What annoys you when reading sex scenes in books?

I started writing a long time ago, but it was a secret, it was shameful. Who the hell did i think i was?  Is this a familiar feeling? It always amazes me the people who just out there and are writers, its like how??? aren’t you afraid of judgement? criticism? aren’t you afraid people will think you are a freak? So i used to write in secret. I remember telling my friend i was writing a screenplay, it was greeted by a scoff and a silence – like she had no idea what to say to that. I still have that screenplay – and one day Ill finish it and it will be a damn film! i worked on my craft hard and long, I have been learning to write for the pleasure of other people for around 15 years. and yet its only been a year that i have had the confidence to share and show my work. Its only a recent thing where i read other peoples work and think – oh right – my stuffs better than yours – or – i wish i could write like you (without getting down on myself at the same time)

It seems everyone is a writer these days – and a lot of it is shit – Im sorry but it is – Im not Tolstoy by any stretch of the imagination and I know where i sit in the market but there is a lot of unproffessional work being pumped out thanks to the ever increasing world of free ebooks and self publishing (some of its great though!)

I used to treat writing like it was my dirty little secret. hiding my documents, keeping my stories to myself – generally acting like some kind of junkie who had to keep her habit on the down low. I have even shredded books before because i didnt want anyone to find them and know i had written them  – not because they were shit – but because i didnt want anyone to think i was that self indulgent that I had the audacity to try and write a book.

Be proud if you write – I am nearly 40 and im not embarrassed by my habit anymore, I dont think there is anything wrong with little old me trying to impart my wisdom on the world. It wont be the best thing you have ever read – but hopefully if you do ever read something i have written – some part of it will stay with you – and thats all any writer can ask for.

until next time

I’l admit it, the idea of getting my book published is terrifying to me, and I am not even sure why. My mother has read my book already and so I’m not overly concerned with what she will think. My kids are too young but i am sure one day they will read my book – that does make my skin crawl a little but hopefully they will understand that mummy is not in fact a mass murdering psycho and its all just pretend – they are pretty smart and so hopefully… As for anyone else, well, I’ve written a book, i wrote it, me , not them. Write a book and get it published then tell me whats wrong with my book – obviously i dont expect any massively hostile confrontations from people about my story, sure people will talk behind my back and realistically I am cool with that. So where does this anxiety come from? I have no idea. It took a lot of courage for me to put myself out there, and I am open to criticism for sure. So why am I nervous? I think one of the big issues for me – is people seeing what I have written and looking through it to see me, to see what makes me tick. Its stupid really because i dont do that to other writers. i am a very private person and so it makes me feel very vulnerable – I dont like feeling vulnerable.

I got an email from my agent on friday saying 2 publishing houses were taking my book to acquisitions meetings (I had to look this up) and so thats a good thing, especially as 2 people want it – thats good, right? i dont know what to think in all honesty – its so easy to put self doubt on myself, far too easy. At what point do i start believing in myself?

Until next time

If you’re anything like me then you wait a lot. You wait for ideas to grab you, you wait for the writers block to disappear. You wait for distance from your script before you start to edit, you wait for someone else to look it over for you, you wait for their feedback. You wait until you feel ready to send your work out, you wait to hear rejections or offers of representations and then you wait for your agent (should you get one) to get you a publishing deal.

i wonder if its worse when you’re waiting for yourself or when your work is in others hands. Both can be frustrating. I remember when I was writing the first book i had a lot of people offer to read it for me, in fact I think I gave it to 5 people all together, only two of those people read it, and one was my mother (who skipped all the gory bits – which is about a third of the books) – so my advice is, don’t give it to anyone to read unless you are 100% sure that they will understand that it means something – because people flippantly say things and then don’t deliver (I’m guilty of this myself)

Having a writing partner was invaluable – my wonderful friend and writing partner J was the only person who actually read and critiqued my work from a readers point of view. It was almost finished by then but i did need someone to read it for plot holes etc. Because I had worked with J before for hours and hours in google drive – writing screenplays together I knew i could trust her to be honest with me. Writing with a partner is hard work because artistic egos can be an issue at first. i have a lot of respect for writing teams because it does take discipline to be that person as writing is naturally a very lonely art.

Sending my work off to agents, – well I was waiting for a lady i knew who was showing it to her agent – she had sent it to a “Reader” for me, which took a few weeks.  it was a couple of weeks after the reader before i heard back and then I heard back with a NO thanks – not our thing – which was fine, i was kind of expecting that. – even though you are always hoping for an offer of representation – you always expect the rejection – its better to be that way – trust me, Its fine to be disappointed when the rejections come – if your work is strong and you believe in it then just keep sending it away. Anyway the woman said she had another agent to show it to. this was about the time I got impatient – my work had been “finished” for about 3 months now and i thought now was the time to do it myself and send it away. So I sent it to a few agents – I was lucky that I heard back a week later to ask for the rest of my book and then a week later for offer of representation – which seems super fast but when you factor in everything else it really wasn’t.

So then my agent gave me some advice on things that needed tweaking or changing and i did that within a few days because really it was continuity issues over anything else and that just required perseverance rather than inspiration. Now my agent has pitched to 22 publishers and i find myself waiting again. Every day i check my email and every day there is nothing. My other half made me email my agent for an update just a week after pitching but I knew it was too soon. i don’t know how long its going to take so in the mean time I keep myself busy by writing blogs and trying to rack up my word count on the new books (which is at 56.5k thanks for asking)  and intermittently going on facebook to look at other peoples mind vomit.

Worse than waiting though, is not waiting.is selling your work short by sending it out before its finished. by not rewriting and editing because you are impatient. Do your work the justice it deserves by making it the best thing you could possibly write at this moment in time – not just something that “will do”

Good luck to me, to you and to anyone else on this crazy ride.

I always used to think writing from  first person Point of view was cheating, because its easy, you just put yourself in a persons position and then you let rip on your thoughts. Now I dont feel that way at all. As long as use the first person POV correctly its actually a very powerful tool.

There arent many books that I have read from a first person POV that have really felt that authentic, because there is a tendency for your character in your POV to know everything, but the truth is you only know your own perspective, and unless you impart the individuality of the character in that perspective then there is very little to be gained from writing in that way.

Probably the most famous first person POV book is Catcher in the Rye, and you are sucked into holden caulfields perspective of the world, and his perspective alone. Its probably been twenty years since i read that book and yet If faced with a small excerpt from it, I would recognise it immediately, Because the voice is so brilliantly distinctive.

Another book that stuck with me was John Fowles The Collector – such a dark book, again, I havent read it for a very long time, and I probably should read it again because I think i was about 14 when i read it and it kind of blew my mind a little. Its such a dark book. What struck me about the main character was that there was something wrong with him, his perspective was all wrong, he had a bitter view of the world and of the people in it, he saw himself as an outsider (although I think we all do) and it really struck me as imparting some of the things you think but you never say out loud. Thats where I think the first person POV is so useful, because you can create a language that creates the individual, unlike with dialogue.

A clockwork orange exemplifies this perfectly, the language is so alien and yet it doesn’t take long for the audience to understand it. It creates a feeling for the man ALEX and helps us to understand how he doesn’t play by the rules, not even the rules of language. Another book where the first person POV is used so well, to create the world inside the characters mind.

It took me a long time to make the transition from writing in first person to writing in third person with one persons perspective at the forefront, its an important skill to have – being an outsider looking in, but only having the inside of one characters thoughts to draw on. I never really understood why it was important not to change between perspectives in a chapter until I heard other people doing it – its very confusing and it pulls you out of the story if you have to keep adjusting the person you empathise most with in each “scene”. There are many older books that have an all encompassing view where you can see what everyone is thinking and feeling, but that actually requires an awful lot of skill to pull off and i wouldnt recommend it. Its pretty rare too.

I have recently read the outlander series, which i have mentioned before. The first book is exclusively written from the main characters POV – but this changes in later books and i feel that was because it became hard to explain how she knew things, and also her POV made her a little dislikeable to me, because she was a real know it all. I didnt feel like the first person POV was used in the way that I described in the other stories, i didnt feel like I was in a world inside her head, I felt like she was constantly relaying things to me that she probably wouldnt have known. This also involves her “husband” Jamie giving her a detailed account of the rape he encountered at the hands of Captain Black jack Randall – just so that she could relay the information to us, because otherwise there was no way for her to know. It just involved a little too many people trusting her. Dont get me wrong, i loved the book, I read the first 5 books in about 4 weeks, but i noticed a change in the writing style as the books went on. The only first person POV we get is from the original main character, but we get a few other third person POV’s including jamie her daughter and some bloke called Roger. This lead to a much richer and believable experience as a reader as we got to see things through other characters eyes. Although quite a few of them seemed to be obsessed with breast feeding fully grown men and this seemed to be an oversight to me, as though it could have been restricted to one or two characters as opposed to all of them. maybe thats just me though.

In my new book I have one character thread which is told from a first person POV and i have to say it was so hard to write. Where i used to find it so easy to do that, now I had trained myself to write the other way. What got me most was trying to create a person from the inside, not the outside view, because our opinion of ourselves is rarely the way others see us. For instance people are often telling me how laid back I am – this could not be further from the truth HA! So trying to impart how someone else sees you but also be in your own head, is pretty tricky stuff. Also being honest with the first things that come to mind, because you are no holds barred inside someones head, and thoughts come before they get filtered for public consumption, so dont be afraid of the horrible thoughts put them in the story and then you can edit them at a later time if you think they are too much.