Saturday, 19 December 2020

Christmas Reading

Christmas this year is going to be very strange after the events of 2020 and Covid-19. Last December seems a lot longer than just  a year ago and the way of life under the pandemic has almost become normal now.  I never really do very much over Christmas, anyway, apart from take some time off work, have a rest from routine, and catch up on things I don't have time to do at other times of the year. But one of my favourite indulgences over the festive period is reading and this year is no exception. 

One of the books on my reading list is The Turning Tides by Jane Fenwick, the second in her trilogy of  seafaring sagas set on the north east coast of England. I got to know Jane and her work when I created a website for her a couple of years ago and since then her books have become a must on my shelves, both for their engrossing story lines that really draw you in and also for her vivid and evocative sense of time and place. 

I'm also revisiting some old and well-worn novels. As I'm writing historical fiction at the moment, I've been delving into the books of my go-to historical authors.  So I'm planning to re-read Katherine and Green Darkness by Anya Seton and Forever Amber by Kathleen Winsor over the next couple of weeks, not just as background to the period but for the enjoyment of being swept far away, for an hour or two at least, from the wind and rain outside the window to the colour and pageantry of the distant past.   


Merry Christmas and all good wishes for 2021!


Friday, 30 October 2020

The Dreaded Chapter Five

I blogged about this a couple of years ago and I don't know whether to feel disheartened or vindicated to be blogging about it again!  Because there is a certain point in every book where a brick wall appears; for me this happens at chapter five, every time. Why?  I think many writers - at least those aiming to send off those first three chapters to publishers or editors - tend to work so hard on the opening section that they experience a bit of a slump in the following chapters, or lose their way temporarily.  Having carved out the characters and set up the conflict that will keep them apart until the end, the task is now to keep them apart yet bring them together at the same time.  The 'getting to know you' stage has to be delicately balanced in order to sustain the underlying conflict between the characters, and add in even more challenges for them to overcome on the road to that Happy Ever After. So it is completely understandable that a writer might run out of steam faced with this task. The way through it and out the other end is, of course, to keep writing and keep believing, and have the wisdom to see what's not working, and to cut out that hard-wrought yet unusable writing.  And, as a bit of light relief, maybe indulge in  some brilliantly-written historical novels, like those of the wonderful Edith Pargeter, who makes it all look so easy!

Friday, 7 August 2020

A trip to the past

I've changed direction slightly in recent months, or rather, added a new direction to my writing. While I'm still writing my dual time novel, set in 1916 and 2016 (conveniently avoiding the Covid-19 pandemic!), I'm also editing a historical novel I began back in 2013.  There are a lot of eye openers when you go back, either to re-read or re-write something you wrote several years earlier.  If your journey as a writer has gone as you'd hoped and planned it would and the intervening years have been one of growth and experience, then the first thing that jumps out at you when reading earlier efforts are the weak spots in the story, the lack of character depth and often the immaturity of the writing. I saw all three when I looked over my 2013 partial manuscript, which was depressing at first, but reworking it now, I am also heartened by the improvement in my writing and the maturing of my voice over the last seven years. 

Having focused on contemporary novels over the last decade, I'm also discovering the delights of writing a book set many centuries ago, in this case, in the 13th century.  There's a certain satisfaction in creating characters who lived a different way, wore different clothes, ate different foods and held different beliefs. And, of course, writing a historical novel requires an element of historical accuracy too, which has to be blended into the timeless story of love and romance. So, as well as doing some serious reading around the period, including Ian Mortimer's wonderful Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, I'm also delving into some historical fiction.  Among the books I've enjoyed recently are Beguiled by the Forbidden Knight and The Blacksmith's Wife by the very talented Elizabeth Hobbes and The Rebel Heiress and the Knight, a lovely debut novel by Melissa Oliver, all published by Harlequin Mills and Boon. 

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

End of Chapter Three!

This is my favourite point in the writing process.  You've got the setting down, established and gotten to know the characters, and the conflict that is keeping them apart - and bringing them together - is hopefully paved and ripe for exploration.  And the chapters ahead is when the characters really start on their journey, discovering each other and themselves along the way to the happy ever after.

At least that's the theory!  So many times in the past, I've hit the saggy middle around about chapter five.  I'm the sort of writer who can't skip past blocks in the road but have to work through them before moving on, and I've often remained stuck in the middle for  far too long.  I participated in a  series of Facebook seminars in April, run by editorial coach Joanne Grant, and one of these sessions dealt with the saggy middle and offered some really useful tips on how to deal with this if it happens. So I'm hoping, this time, I won't  have to ;)

This current story is a bit different to previous ones and is set partly in Rome. I've enjoyed doing the online research on this beautiful city very much, although I'm always aware that research can equal procrastination!  I was fortunate enough to visit Rome back in 2014; maybe - if my book ever reaches publication - I'll celebrate with a return trip!  In the meantime, there's the virtual RNA conference to look forward to next month.

What's your favourite part of writing?

Image (c) The Telegraph

Friday, 17 April 2020

A new book

In these days of Coronavirus, the support and camaraderie of friends and colleagues is invaluable, and I've been blessed with more than my fair share. I'm relatively lucky work-wise, being a freelancer who operates from home most of the time anyway, but my sympathies go out to those in less certain circumstances.

Writing is, of course, a very solo occupation but in these unsettled days, when people are dying daily and everyone's life is turned upside down, it has become almost a life-line. I've taken a lot of heart and encouragement from the emails of writing friends and the network of writers on social media sites like the RNA Facebook page. At times like this, social media really does what is is supposed to do - connecting people in a positive and healthy way by sharing stories that keep us optimistic and hopeful that this will be over sooner rather than later and that life - and writing - will be back to normal.

One of the positive things for me personally to come out of the lock-down are Joanne Grant's editorial coaching videos, which she is running every Monday morning on Facebook throughout April. Having been in the doldrums for several months and wondering where my writing is going, if anywhere, I tuned into the first session and found it really helped to focus my thoughts and intentions.  Just writing down the weekly goals Joanne asks us to set ourselves and thinking about the tips she gives got me out of the stupor and back into the study.  The result being that I began a new book this week and, for the first time in a long time, feel very excited about my characters and their story.

I don't know where this book will end up yet or whether it will be my first foray into self-publishing, but just getting up in the morning and sitting down to writing, however little - and it is very little at this stage - makes the whole day better.

How are you coping with writing in the lock-down?

Keep safe and well xx

Sunday, 22 March 2020

Light and Dark

It is ironic, that with the lovely spring weather arriving at last, so does Covid-19.  And it's not just ironic but idiotic and incomprehensible that yesterday Snowdonia saw its highest recorded visitor figures ever!  Other tourists spots in Britain, like Cornwall and Scotland, and seafronts everywhere, are also being inundated by visitors, who haven't quite got the message it seems. Being stoic is one thing; but selfish and stupid quite another. Coronavirus is here, it's spreading and it's a killer, so stay at home people and help keep those who are less resilient among us safe!

Granted, self-isolation isn't much fun but there's nothing wrong with enjoying the sunshine in your own garden or taking a walk in your own neighbourhood, maintaining a safe distance, which I've just done today.  The sun does make things seem less dark, and seeing nature blooming all around is a reminder that life continues in its cycle. This pandemic will pass eventually and life will get back to normal.  Until then, stay well everyone xx

Sunday, 19 January 2020

New Decade, New Direction?

It was a lovely clear, crisp and sunny afternoon today in the Dyfi Valley, so I ventured out for a walk, following a part of the Wales coastal path.  The sun was warm on my back and there were hardly any people around, just the sounds of the waders and geese across the river on the RSPB wetlands of Ynys Hir.

I do love this time of year - at least when the weather is like it is today - because January heralds the start of a new year and all the possibilities that holds.  And 2020 is particularly significant as it is a new decade and a good opportunity to look back over, not just one year, but ten years and see how far we've come, or not!

Sitting here now, looking at a spectacular sunset, I am thinking a lot about my writing and how that has fared over the last decade. The rejections, of which there have been plenty; the 'almost theres', of which there have been some; the beginnings of books which, initially so promising, never got beyond three chapters; and the industry one-to-ones, which veered between encouragement to indifference; and at the end of it all, publication seemingly as far away as it's always been.

It's all part and parcel of the life of a writer, of course, but sometimes, inevitably, we look back, take stock, and wonder if we're on the right track at all. Happily, nothing is ever wasted in the business of writing and growing as an author is part of the wonderful journey towards that hoped for publication contract.  Overnight successes are as rare in writing as in any other career but, even after twelve years of writing, giving up isn't an option.  Perhaps a new direction might be the way ahead for 2020?

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...