#1stdraftdiary and #Nanowrimo Week 2

Pants! That is the only way to describe my word count this last week.

PANTS!

Not even small thongs, but huge enormous Bridget Jones type pants. Knickers. Belly warmers. Call them what you will.

My word count was …228 words! 228. Yup, I hang my head in shame. It happens. Or doesn’t happen.

However the things that I did instead were very useful and important, so that’s my excuse.

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Last Friday I set off for the RNA’s Conference in Lancaster. I hobnobbed (is that a real word?) with published authors, those that I look up to and aspire to be like, agents and editors too.

I went to multiple sessions on how to improve my writing craft, how to add in authentic crime elements, how to promote my brand across social media etc, I did speed dating for a critique partner and more.

It was an extremely useful weekend, better than getting words on a page.

(And I sat next to Liz Fenwick for dinner. She’s lovely!)

After the weekend I caught up with sleep, children, husband and household chores. I wrote blog posts, and numerous posts on twitter etc.

I polished my submission for Books And The City #Onedayoriginals -one day in the year to submit your book. That took up a lot of time. Fingers crossed it was worth it.

I have also started two books – Iona Grey’s ‘Letters To The Lost’, and Heidi Swain’s ‘Summer at Skylark Farm’, both very good. I also read a short story by Jojo Moyes ‘Paris for One’. Excellent entertaining short read. Everyone needs to write a Paris love story at some point. I wonder what mine will be?

 

And the wip? Well it is working away in my brain. It is not lost or forgotten, but it is hard to get back into it again. Especially since I needed to focus again on my previous book ‘Something To believe In’. One of the pieces of advice I got at the conference was to go ‘darker’ if you can. And we’re not talking about hair colour either!

Clio Cornish from Harper also said she likes sad endings, so, since I was about 10k short for the #BATC #Onedayoriginals I changed the ending.  In the submission piece, I have allowed my hero to die at the end, so the poor heroine doesn’t get a HEA, but she does move on in her journey  of bereavement and the end is uplifting. She will be able to put her new confidence in herself to good use, and how she overcome her grief the first time, to get on with her life the second time. I know it is sad, but I have come across people in life who do have to work through two bereavements. Life can be pretty crap for some people, they seem to have been dealt a bad set of cards; but yet they are often the kindest, most empathetic people I know. Because they have experienced so many emotions they are a better person for it. I hope I can show this in my heroine. I am having a panic now that this means it’s NOT a romance. Oh dear.

Whilst doing research in how to have him die in the hospital I asked a friend for help. She’s a GP and was able to give me great advice, but I do fear she thinks I’m slightly cracked now. Sure, I’m a writer. What’s new?

Anyhow, here’s hoping next week is better.

Drop me a line to tell me how you’re all getting on.

 

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First Time at an RNA Conference – a post for Newbies

 

I am just back from my first ever RNA Conference and I can’t believe what an amazing time I had. So, whilst I can still remember it all, I am jotting down a few reminders.

Can you go if you’ve never met anyone before?

Absolutely! The RNA have a First Timers group, organised by Kate Thompson who, prior to the event sends welcome emails and organises a kitchen party on the first night. In other words, they look after you!

Kate will answer any question you can ever think of, sends lists of things to bring, and is a great point of contact if you are feeling lost.

In amongst the information you get on arrival, there is a list of names and rooms, so it is easy to catch up with anyone else you might have had previous contact with. And for the majority of first timers, I would say you will know someone, either online, twitter,fb, etc, or you’ve met them at a Chapter meeting. And if you’ve not made it to a Chapter meeting yet, try and get to one, because its great fun.

Everyone is so chatty, and ready to talk to brand new people that you won’t feel like a sore thumb. It is great to sit down next to a complete stranger and start chatting. The best introduction I kept hearing, after introducing yourself of course, was, ‘are you published?’ because basically we like to know these things. Writers are an inquisitive bunch!

You get a goodie bag which includes all the information you might need, plus free books! Yay! It also has little goodies like chocolate and sweets (always a good thing) and lovely extras like bookmarks, postcards, and I even got a mirror! So a big thank you to all who donated items.

The kitchen party on the Friday night was a great way to find friends, especially over a bottle of wine. Note I said bottle, believe me, it’s rarely just a glass! But that’s fine, because its so much easier to bond with a glass in your hand. I met most of my flat mates at the kitchen party, and they were busy helping me get my elevator pitch honed before I left.

If you are a member of the RNA New Writers Scheme, this conference is a gift! Well, not actually a gift, you do have to pay, but there is so much there it is like having Christmas in July. You learn so much, you rub shoulders with published authors and you can book one-to-one sessions with agents and editors. Now that is like winning the lottery!

What were the highlights of the weekend for me?

Well, (a little fan-girl moment), sitting next to Liz Fenwick at dinner one night, and then Janet Gover the next night! Basically seeing published authors knowing I’d read their books and they were actually here! Meeting Iona Grey who signed a copy of her book, and making a brand new set of writer friends who I will be able to keep up with on social media until the next meeting.

My Top Three sessions;

  1. Speed dating for a critique partner with Immi Howson, with was great craic. Although, as a suggestion for next year, I think if it was held after dinner with a glass of wine it would be perfect!
  2. Joss Sterling’s session on YA – so informative and creative, coming up with mash-ups of different tropes. Again great fun.
  3. A session on editing with  Helen Bryant from Cornerstones; I learnt more about editing in that one session than I had in a long time.

 

So all in all, it was a really fun but exhausting weekend, but worth every penny and I would highly recommend it. I feel as a new writer in the New Writers Scheme, actually being there, meeting authors, seeing agents and other professionals and getting such a wealth of information, can only help me move my writing career along immensely. So if you are serious about your writing, and you want to get published, do think about going, and don’t be put off if you don’t know anyone.

I will be there next year, and one day I will be published.

Book Review of The Cherry Tree Cafe by Heidi Swain

heidi swain cherry tree cafe

I totally adored this book. The writing was sublime and it slipped through my brain like cherry jam on whipped cream!

The beauty of Heidi Swain’s writing is that she laid out such a satisfying, compelling world, that by the time I had finished reading, I was entirely convinced I should set up my own craft cafe. And let me tell you I can’t even crochet!

Heidi managed to fabricate such a  desirable little cafe, with bunting and cake, and sewing and scones and also a totally gorgeous couple that I fell totally in love.

The Cherry Tree Cafe was a contender for the RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Scheme Award for debut authors, and although didn’t win, in my opinion, was just as good as the winning book, The Gunner Girl by Clare Harvey. See post here.

I would give this book a huge ten out of ten, and I am totally looking forward to her next book coming soon.

 

Things to do when you finish writing your book

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On Sunday night at about midnight, I actually hit the final ‘submit’ button and sent my second book off to the RNA’s New writers Scheme to get critiqued.

Now as far as books go, ‘Something To believe In’ was written in fairly quick bursts last summer when I was off for the summer hols. I kept telling myself it was a Christmas novella, after I’d seen a submission request from Carina press. What did I have to lose, after all, they were only looking for the first chapter, or maybe it was the first three. Anyhow I thought up a story and bam, I wrote that story.

I sent it off, waiting with baited breath to be told, (in my dreams), that I was an amazing writer and I had won. Well of course that didn’t happen, but at least I’d entered, even with only three chapters, and it was fairly simple to finish the rest of the book off since I kept telling myself it was ‘just a novella’.

And really, it did only take a few weeks of intense writing to get it down on paper, all 57,000 words of it. I had done it. My previous novel had taken about 10 years, so here at least was progress.

I sent the story off to a couple of great readers who helped me shape it a bit more, and I thought I might self-publish it in time for Christmas.

But then I lost my nerve.

What if it wasn’t that good?

How can you tell if it is good? What if your version of good, is actually another person’s crap?

Self-doubt crept in big style and so I did nothing.

Christmas came and went, I was still a member of the NWS so I thought, well, I’ll submit it for critique and then I’ll see. Maybe if they say it’s fine I’ll self-publish in time for this Christmas. And I thought it was finished,

And I thought it was finished,  but life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at you.

The story is about a woman, Precious Grainger, who loses her husband and her Dad in the same house fire, and how, 5 years later she is still stuck in her cycle of grief.

I posted in my online writing group the synopsis that I wanted to use and I was asking for some feedback. One of the members commented how she would like to read it as she’d always found that a compelling and fascinating topic, how would a person deal with  multiple bereavements like that?

Well that made me sit up and think. I hadn’t even stopped to think how she might really be feeling, other than using it as a useful plot line to hang the story on, I hadn’t gone deeper.

Within a few days of this comment, my family was thrown into the most dreadful bereavement of our own. It wasn’t a multiple death like in the story, but it was still a shocking, unexpected, ripped the family apart type of event. It was a tragic event that should never have been a death, the event shouldn’t have led definitively to the end result. They might have lived. Now that is a tragedy.

And it made me see the story with fresh eyes, and it wasn’t finished.

Now I’m not saying I have produced a deep, powerfully moving epic story of love and loss, it is still a modern, contemporary christmas romance, but it is a different story with more depth, than the original one I started out with last summer.

So I wrote some more, added extra scenes, thought more about it. And I’m glad I waited, the story needed time to mature, to sink into my subconcious a bit more and develop, ferment, prove a bit more.

Perhaps when it comes back with its critique it still won’t be ready, it will still need more work, but I’m glad I hit submit. Because the other thing I have been working on in the last year, is that the bits I worry about constantly, my inner critic, are rarely going to be what everyone else is worrying about. The ‘what will people think’ scenario. The is it good enough? Because you know what? Everyone else, well women mainly, are all sitting at home thinking – am I good enough/ is this good enough? Will people like me/my work/my children/my craft?

We have to stop thinking like that. We have to do our best, strive, work at it etc, but then we have to let it go. And just get on with life and enjoy it, enjoy the creativity for what it is.

I have written another book, and its time to set it free. Some people will like it, others will hate it, but it will have no life of its own if I don’t hit ‘send’ and submit.

If I keep creating and never finish things for fear of failure, or if I finish but never send off, or if I talk about self-publishing but never do it – now that would be failure.

So now that this book has gone it’s time to have a bit more fun. Write a few short stories, for fun. Submit some stories, finish stories that have been piling up in my head for months and months and get on with life. And enjoy it. And stop tormenting myself with the ‘am I any good’ game.

Write, craft, create. But have fun and set your creativity free.

Read books. Bake. Enjoy life. And then sit down and start your next book.

I have been reading ‘Big Magic’ by Elizabeth Gilbert. Can you tell?

 

New Year – New start

Welcome to my blog. I am planning that 2015 is the year I finally get my finger out and get published -for real!

I have spent far too many years starting this novel or that one. This has to be the year I actually finish one.

All those characters that sit in my head, half finished, unloved, well they don’t deserve it. This year I will set them free.

I am very excited that I was able to join the RNA New Writers Scheme 2015. Perhaps this will be the jolt that spurs me on.

Anyhow, come and visit again when I will update you all with my news.