Sunday 22 November 2015

November Update

Details of what I've been up to this month ...  

Guest Blog Posts

As well as working hard to finish my latest book, I've written guest blog posts for other authors. Are there any you've missed? 

for Terry Tyler

Does my star sign influence my writing process?

for Elaina James

I love visiting Conwy because of all the fabulous history. In this Halloween special, for Elaina James, I talk about the various ghost stories associated with the town. Some may have been faked to attract the tourists. But others ...

for Daniel Riding

In which I talk mainly about myself, as usual ...

Book Launches!

The Novelistas had a double book launch with A Christmas Cracker by Trisha Ashley and The Captain's Christmas Bride by Annie Burrows.

Trisha Ashley and Annie Burrows

Books and Goody Bags!

The cake!


Finally, did you know you can now read both my mini-novellas for free? Head to my Freebies and Price Promotions page for all retailers' links - not just Amazon!

Never miss a post! See that little box in the left-hand column, near the top, that says 'Follow by Email'? If you add your email address, you'll receive my latest blog post almost as soon as I've written it.

Sunday 15 November 2015

How I Write (or, how I learnt to be a planner rather than a pantser)

I hadn't intended to write a blog post this weekend. I'm putting the finishing touches to my latest novel and I'd already skived off on Friday to meet up with Novelistas Ink for Trisha Ashley's and Annie Burrows' joint book launch. But when we did our usual 'round robin' where we talk about what we've been up to over the past month, I mentioned my writing method and the whole room went silent.

OK, to be a little more truthful, one Novelista interrupted me mid-flow (which is very hard to do) and said, 'Does anyone else write like that?' And then the room went silent.

So, how do I write?

Well, to backtrack a little, with my first novel, A Girl's Best Friend, I just sat down and wrote it from start to finish with no planning whatsoever. I had a full-time job, so I wrote it during my lunch break and at evenings and weekends. In fact, I still remember one of the guys at work leaning over my shoulder, reading what I'd written and saying, "That will never sell."

A Girl's Best Friend took eighteen months to write. Books 2, 3 and 4 were written in  much the same way, but by then I was at home looking after my children and each book took a year to write.

With book 5 (Nemesis) I hit a snag. I'd always had trouble getting started on my novels and had lots of half-written stories in my drawer. From my second novel I'd got into the habit of writing a brief synopsis and writing from that, so I knew where I was going and what was happening, and who the bad guy was - although he/she often changed! But I wanted to speed up. It was still taking me over a year to write a novel and I wanted to write faster. I have a bad habit (I know it's bad, all the writing guides tell me so!) of writing each chapter, and polishing it BEFORE moving onto the next one. So I thought, 'I'll write a first draft, very quickly, without pausing, without looking back, until I'm finished.'

It was a disaster! I got halfway through (about 50,000 words) and it wasn't the story I'd envisaged at all. Because the heroine was fifteen when the story started, and I'd just written 50,000 words of her being fifteen, it was turning into a Young Adult. I had to scrap the whole lot and start again. 

OK, so when I say 'scrap' here's another tip for you. When I delete huge chunks of text I start a new file called 'outtakes' and paste them in there, in chronological order so I can find them again. (The 'find again' bit is important, because occasionally I change my mind and need to put some text back again.)

Nemesis was eventually re-written, in  much the same way as I'd written my previous books. The 50,000 words I'd cut out wasn't wasted, as about 20,000 of them made it back into the book as flashback scenes. And, despite all that angst, it remains one of my favourites!

Book 6 (Something Wicked) was going to be a novella, so I decided it was a perfect time to trial a new writing method. I knew I wanted the story to be 30,000 words long. I looked back at my previous books and checked how many words per chapter I usually wrote, and then worked out how many chapters I was going to need. I then wrote a very detailed synopsis, with a page outline per chapter, explaining exactly what was going to happen. And then I started writing.

It worked! It actually bloody worked! If I realised I'd become stuck on the same chapter, polishing and re-polishing, I just moved onto the next one. If I didn't feel like writing a particular scene, I moved on to one I did feel like writing. There was even one point where I wrote the last chapter and began working my way forward - which is why I call Something Wicked 'the book I wrote backwards'. Now I write all my books this way.

I have learned two things from this: 

(1) Ignore all the 'how to' books and write in the way which suits you best, which makes you happy and gets your story finished. 

(2) Don't tell your friends your weird and wonderful writing ways, because if they don't use the same method, they're liable to think you're crackers.


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Sunday 8 November 2015

Last Orders

The inspiration behind the pub in Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Although I now live in Wales I grew up in Hampshire, where every village had a pub—or six! Nightclubs were expensive, so my friends and I would head to a different pub each Saturday night, taking it in turns to be the designated driver. There was The Swordfish (surrounded by pine trees and overlooking the sea) and The Belle Vu, which we loved for the long list of cocktails we never quite got to the end of. The Rising Sun, beside the River Hamble at Warsash, was handily within walking distance but my favourite was The Lone Barn at Bursledon.

As the name suggests, The Lone Barn was a real 19th century barn, which had been moved brick-by-brick from Winchester and relocated beside another pub called The Fox & Hounds. It was very rustic, with farming tools hanging up around the walls, a flagstone floor and a couple of stuffed owls perched up high on the exposed oak beams. At least, I hope they were stuffed—they certainly never moved! The seats were either hacked from wooden barrels or long wooden benches, and every Easter a hot cross bun would be nailed to one of the beams for good luck. Where The Belle Vu had fancy cocktails, with more piƱa than colada, The Lone Barn’s speciality was fruit wines, with every flavour you could imagine.

The Lone Barn made such an impression it eventually made it into Smoke Gets in Your Eyes as ‘The Stables’. Unlike The Swordfish and The Belle Vu, which were both turned into flats, The Lone Barn is still there, much smarter now, as part of a pub/restaurant chain.

I wonder if the stuffed owl is still there?