Wednesday, 11 January 2017

It's a numbers game.

You don't have time to stop for tea!
Have you noticed? For people who are meant to deal in words, writers are awfully hung up about numbers. Sales figures, chart positions, numbers of books sold, number of books published. So far, so business driven. Except maybe the last which is perhaps more of a personal milestone event. The Romance Writers of America will give you a name check in their monthly magazine for  5, 10, 25 35, 50 and 75! which I think is a lovely gesture.

But the biggest obsessive number for writers?  Seems to me to be word count. Come on, how often have you seen a Twitter or Facebook or some other post in triumph or despair for a daily, weekly or whatever, count achieved or missed? There's even a month when it becomes a public obsession in the writing community - November, the famous, or infamous Nanowrimo when authors commit to totals and share war stories. I've never done it myself - far too scary - but I know those who have and lived to tell the tale.

But how many words are enough? And how long is your piece of string, Mrs Jones? You can bet, however good your total is for today, there will be someone who can better it. Do these people eat, sleep, go to the bathroom? When you start out you are told by the finger-waggers, and there are some, even in the writing community, who are, in general pretty nice people, that you must do a certain total, every day, even if it means getting up at even stupider o'clock than you do now. It scared me then and it depresses me now.

Because, you know what -  (To use a phrase of the moment, which I've heard continuously on the radio and keep meaning to put into conversations in a book and keep failing to do so, because it is not my speech pattern, except I just did, Result! Yes, I know this is not a book - shall we get back to the point!) I've finally come round to the idea that word count is a very personal and changeable thing. The answer is it's whatever you can comfortably manage while being satisfied with the quality. I'm writing at the moment.(Don't hold your breath, the day job restarts this week.) My daily comfortable word count, derived from years of experience, is somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500 words. That's a 'whole' day with those life pauses - eating, taking in the washing, putting out the bins and so on. Other days - it's whatever I can scramble. Last week I looked up at 11 pm and found out I was still writing. I manage about 3,500 that day, but that was an exception.

A very wise fellow author, who I worked with but never met, (the joys of cyber working) who was an award nominee for non fiction, to whom I was moaning that the only time I had to write was on the train into work and was therefore only managing 200 words a day, pointed out that by the end of the week I had 1,000 words. It cheered me up, and I've never forgotten it. Problem comes when the regular word count is zero, but that is another story.

So the point of all this rambling seems to be that you write what you can, when you can. But it probably won't stop you counting the words. It hasn't stopped me.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

New Year, New dreams?

Hoping for a few rainbows this year.

I've never been very big on New Year resolutions, although I have in the past sat down with paper and pen and taken stock, and maybe made a few plans and goals. Not lately though. And I'm not sure yet about this year.

Truth time. I may be too scared to. In the last couple of years life has taken one of those turns - you know the ones, where you can't be sure where, and when, you will next get the chance to sit down and drink a cup of tea, never mind do the big stuff.  So many things have been cancelled, abandoned or set aside with an indefinite re-start date, that now I'm kind of afraid to set a timetable on anything.

I am trying. I go back to the 'day- job' - the PhD, which still has two years to run - on 9th January. And I have two sunshine books in the pipeline, so I hope at least one of those will see the light of some actual sunshine in the real world. And there's that Christmas novella, and I have plans and some partially written manuscripts for romantic suspense novels, one of which, with a fair wind, should  be underway before the end of the year. And there it is - with a fair wind. Because life, in the nature of things, gets in the way.

I suppose that list of things is a plan, of a sort. But at the moment I'm not prepared to give them status higher than dreams. Can they come true?

If you have made New Year resolutions, then I wish you all the will power, hard work and a sprinkle of luck to make them happen. If, like me, you're hovering, not quite sure where to put your feet, then I hope we get all the luck and confidence to move on, but the resolve to hold on to the dreams, if it turns out that 2017 is not the year.

But let's hope, and dream, that it is!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A Christmas thriller?

As I mentioned the week before last, I have what might become a new novella in the works. A Christmas novella. (Don't panic, it will be next Christmas.) It began with a discussion on kidnapping over lunch that started off an idea, and as it was coming up to Christmas that seemed a good time to set it. (Atmosphere and all that.) And snow will be involved. Which is a bit of a surprise, as I do not like snow very much. But it will mean that I might get one of those pretty glittery snowy covers that Christmas books always have. I will try not to get bloodstains on it. As it is my hero who is getting kidnapped there had better not be any blood - or at least, not much.

So, I have a bit of a challenge going on. Romantic suspense is not generally the first thing you think of in relation to Christmas spirit. Cosy crime seems to get away with it, and ghost stories are part of the Christmas tradition, but thrillers? We're back to that body count again. I'm also determined that it will be a novella - 30,000 to 40,000 words, as I have other stuff I want to do, like getting back to a full length romantic suspense, not to mention the day job. But I'm wondering if that is enough for a thriller? I have a gut feeling that a true thriller takes a bit longer to develop. A novella? Too much menace too soon and it's horror, not enough and its crime rather than suspense?

Anyway. I am going to have a go. I have an interesting hero and heroine and a four year old, and a cat, and  a lot of snow, which is a surprise to them as it was to me.

And Devlin from Never Coming Home is going to make a cameo appearance. 

And there is going to be a helicopter ...

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Winter Solstice

Less of the dark ...
Today is the Winter Solstice. If you're in the northern hemisphere today is the shortest day, longest night. Once it's passed. it's all down hill until the sun comes back. I, for one, am very grateful for this, as I hate the short, cold and dark days of winter, despite my fondness for writing dark stories. When I mentioned on Facebook recently that this would be the shortest day and I would be pleased when it had come and gone, a lot of people 'liked' and commented, so I am not alone in looking forward to the return of the light.

... and more of the blue sky and sunshine!
Which is not to say that the Solstice does not have a certain fascination. Old Celtic customs, ceremonies, and celebrations of the dying of the year, often involving light and fire, have their attraction. It's a time of transition too. And any kind of border, in place or time, is potentially interesting to a writer - sites of change and possible peril. Advice to would-be writers often suggests that the protagonist of the book should be at a point of change in their lives, and if you write the dark, spooky stuff then ancient lore and magic adds to the atmosphere. You're plugging into something that has a long history and trails it's own echoes with it. And of course there are the stone circles - Stonehenge being the most notable - which are aligned to the Winter Solstice.  It's remarkable that there was sufficient precision all those thousands of years ago to make that happen. Stone circles are a mystery in themselves - not least how they were transported and raised, so it's not surprising that they still have a deep seated pull, even in 2016. I'm sure there were the usual druid groups at the stones this morning when the sun came up.

Wales is quite good for folklore and atmosphere and amongst the (many) plans I have for future books there is a series that will have some of those overtones - or should it be undertones - build into them. I'm looking forward to writing them, but it won't be for a while yet, unfortunately. In the meantime, there is research, which is always fun, even if it does come with short days attached.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Using the Experience

Atmosphere and emotion.
As you know, I don't put real people in my books, or situations lifted from real life, if I can help it. Writing romantic suspense, a lot of it has to come out of my imagination, so it's not a problem. What I do use is ideas and experiences.

Like the very long lunch a week or so ago with some friends, in which we discussed kidnapping someone. Yes - we're writers, this is what lunch is all about. The idea sort of stuck, and by the time I was on the train home I had an idea for a novella - I hope it will be a novella - that begins with a kidnapping. The hero is the chosen victim, which is going to be fun, if rather uncomfortable for him. I've actually already written the first bit, and it was very enjoyable. So, there you go. I'm weird. But you know that. 

And last week I was at the Millennium Centre for a matinee of Kiss Me Kate - Cole Porter's fabulous music, which I have been humming ever since, especially the rather heartbreaking love song, So In Love. And that's going in a book, too, as I realised that it spoke to me about the hero of the full length romantic suspense that I'm hoping to get to next year. He's a musician with a baby grand piano in his hall - it's a big hall -  and of course he ends up playing the song and thinking of the heroine. Which is me being sentimental, not weird. Maybe one day I'll get to use I Hate Men too, but that's for another day and another story!

So - it's writing what you know, but it's not about simply lifting something out of real life, at least, not for me. Overheard conversations give me rhythms of speech, not the words, songs give the emotions - and that's a key. How does it make you feel?

For me, that's what writing is about.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Can I come to the ball?

It probably hasn't slipped your notice that authors and publishers are promoting their Christmas releases. Lots of seasonal stories to be enjoyed at this time of the year - and given as gifts. Very important, that. Significant dates in the calendar - Mother's day, Valentine's, Christmas - they are all times to gently, and maybe not so gently, suggest that the present of a book is a Good Thing.

Which gives me a problem. When I write romantic suspense I'm a bit more difficult to invite to the party. You might take me on holiday, but a high body count is not considered the Right Thing for a romantic or sentimental occasion. Even though they do have a love story involved. So I'm left out in the cold, with my nose pressed up against the window, watching everyone else have fun. (And sales) Awwww!

But, I hope, not any more. Now that I have branched out and have begun to write lighter stuff as well as the dark, I'm hoping that will change. You will. of course, be kept up to date on progress. Then can I come to the party?