Saturday, 23 April 2016

A Writing Weekend in Cirencester

Well, truth be told, not much actual writing was done, as last weekend was another of Malaga workshops fabulous courses. This time it was at the Royal Agricultural University  at Cirencester,  an idyllic setting in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside. The college itself dates back to 1845 and is the oldest agricultural college in the English speaking world.   Its long history was evident in the mellow stone buildings and old oak beams, and everywhere had an austerely welcoming feel to it. The rooms were rather lovely and the Tithe barn bar quite stunning and we had it all to ourselves on the Friday night, when much wine and good conversation was enjoyed.





The course tutor was Kate Walker  and, as always, she had a wealth of  knowledge and experience to impart. We were working on beginnings, middles and ends, which was great for me, as I usually hit a sticking point somewhere around the middle of my books. So a lot of attention was given to plotting and pace and Kate handed out some useful worksheets to keep on us track during the whole process of writing a romance novel, or any novel come to that.

 




I also managed to get some final editing done on my current WIP  while there, ready to submit the full ms to Harlequin Mills and Boon the following Monday.  Getting up at six am, making a coffee and settling down for a couple of hours of editing in my spacious and comfortable room was a pleasantly productive way to start the day.   Back home, I intended to have a couple of weeks off writing before starting something new, but the best laid plans . . .  Inevitably, I came away from Cirencester full of energy and enthusiasm and so I've given in and have begun making some notes for my next book - with a sexy Italian hero this time ;)


Friday, 1 April 2016

Easy as A B C ?

Anybody who's a fan of Everybody Loves Raymond will know Peggy the Cookie Lady, who prior to the annual cookie fundraising sales, drums her Brownies in their ABCs - Always Be Closing!  When Ray pinches her selling spot, the best in town, she soon shows him she's not a woman to cross!



However scary her character, Peggy's ABC mantra is a very useful one for a writer  - if you change the words to Always Be Completing.  I've heard many an aspiring author talk about their drawers full of first chapters or partials and I can never quite understand this strategy.  Writing is a learning curve, an ongoing process, and how is a writer supposed to develop if they never get past the first chapter or two?  Every novel has a beginning, middle and end and, while they might get brilliant at honing that vital first chapter, or even the first three, what about the rest of the book?

Having completed five unpublished novels to date, I would always recommend finishing a story once you've started it.  Even if you've submitted a partial, and it doesn't seem wise to carry on until you've heard back from the publisher or editor, leaving it to one side and, worse, starting something else is a mistake, in my opinion.  What happens if they like your partial and request to see the full?  It has to be finished, honed to the best possible version you can do, and ready to go.  Even if it is rejected eventually, it can always be reworked later down the line, or it might just be that an editor asks you do revise and resubmit and it still gets rejected.  That's not always as negative as it seems on the surface, because in the process, you'll have learned a lot and grown as an author, and those lessons can be applied to your next book.

It's important to enjoy the journey towards publication, and completing your novel, giving your characters an end to their story, is part of that enjoyment. It's also an achievement to be proud of!  Completing is hard work, yes, but for me anyway, it's crucial and getting there is one of the most satisfying and empowering things about being a writer.  Anyone else agree with me?