Saturday, 30 July 2016

A Fresh Start

Is it me or do the seasons seem a bit out of sync this year? It's nearly the end of July and already the wildflowers on my balcony are past their best bloom.  They still look pretty though, especially on a sunny Saturday morning, and they attract the bees and other pollinators in droves.  Insect-friendly plants are both attractive and essential and, in my work in conservation, I meet lots of people who are letting parts of their gardens 'go wild' in an effort to give nature a home when its natural habitat is under more threat than ever before. So go on, do your bit for nature and plant some wildflowers next spring :)

I find, like nature, my writing tends to go in seasons too. I usually start a new book with clockwork timing - January, May and September. This year, like the seasons, I am also a bit out of sync for several reasons.  Having put my last book to one side, and jettisoned my recent partial for the foreseeable future, I've taken a few weeks off to consider two very important questions:  1) Do I want to go on writing, and 2) If so, what do I want to write?  These aren't unfamiliar questions, of course, to anyone who's tried or is still trying to make it as a writer. And, if the answer to the first question is 'yes', then there is always hope of publication one day.  But that then leaves the tricky answer to the second question.

I toyed with several options - revisiting a book I began ten years ago, reworking a recent but unsuccessful submission, or starting something completely fresh.  And, in pondering these options and deciding  a new story was the way to go, I discovered that inspiration doesn't necessarily follow. Sometimes - a lot of the time, actually -  you just have to stare at the page until the words come. Or in my case, jot down reams of ideas until one of them takes root and begins to germinate.  Whether it will blossom into something as fragrant as the flowers on my balcony, however,  remains to be seen!

Friday, 15 July 2016

RNA Conference 2016

The annual Romantic Novelists' Conference is one of the highlights of my calendar, and this year was no exception. Held at Lancaster University, the venue was lovely even if the weather wasn't exactly sultry and summer-like.  Getting together with good friends over a bottle or three of Prosecco was the absolute high spot of a wonderful couple of days. The sessions were interesting and inspiring, among them HQ Harper Collins 'Reaching the Top in Commercial Fiction,' Vasiliki Scurfield on 'Writing the Foreign Hero' and Kate Walker on 'Emotional Punch.' One of the most illuminating sessions, from my point of view at least, was Sonia Duggan's workshop on 'Rekindling your Romance with Writing.'  Having been writing for almost ten years and as yet unpublished, this one really struck a chord with me.  Sonia gave us an exercise on composing a Dear John letter to our writing and what I wrote both surprised and shocked me and, for the first time, I was able to view my relationship with my work as just that - a relationship.  And, like any long term love affair, keeping positive during the low points, going on believing and investing in it, can be hard for published and unpublished authors alike. So I came away from this eye-opener with the realization that my attitude and commitment towards my own writing could do with some serious TLC. A wake up call is never a bad thing for a writer! 

Writing friends Rachael Thomas and Gina Hollands at the HQ session

The importance of a synopsis

Like most writers, I hate writing synopses.  I find them hard and it's even harder to keep them down to a page of A4 while getting every...