Wednesday 25 May 2016

I've been to a marvellous party.

The Romantic Novelists' Association throw a good party. The summer one, which took place last week at the Royal Overseas League in London, also included the presentation of the Joan Hessayon Award for the best new novel this year. (Won by Clare Harvey for The Gunner Girl). Yes - that's the award I won, four years ago for Never Coming Home.

That trophy
A lot has happened since then and not much of it to do with writing. As regular readers know, there has been a whole heap of personal stuff, culminating in an operation in March. I'm recovering slowly, and beginning to think about my writing career again. So the party was something of a stepping stone. A promise to myself that it would happen. I sat down for most of the proceedings, and was teetotal, but still had a great time. I saw loads of friends, my publisher and my editor and prospective editor. I got to hold the Joan Hessayon trophy again for a few minutes (thanks Jan). That is always a big thrill and part of the promise that I will get back out there, with more books. I also have to re-start my academic career, which is another story and a potential challenge for the writing, but I'll have to sort that out somehow.

Kate's Untied Kingdom shoes and
mine are the spotty one with the bows. 
Chatting with Roger Sanderson - 

So - it was a start. I still have a long way to go.

One step at a time.

The pictures here are courtesy of RNA New Writer and photographer extraordinaire John Jackson. As always after an RNA 'do', there are dozens of photos sloshing around the Internet which give a real taste of the atmosphere, I've been totally vain and picked two that I'm in from the many John took.

The official RNA photos are also to be found HERE  Including one of me as a Choc lit editor sandwich - between Lusana, who has done a fab job on the novella, which will see the light of day - we promise - and Jane, who will edit my new romantic suspense, when I manage to produce one. I don't remember it being taken, but I'm glad it was.

Another little piece of that promise.

One step at a time.

Wednesday 18 May 2016

Killing your darlings

Another piece of advice to writers that I have a little trouble with.

Do you really know what you're doing?
I think originally it was intended to apply to what might be called 'flowery' writing and I understand that long descriptions and repeated phrases are something that a writer needs to avoid. But I've also heard the phrase offered in a way that seems to imply that if there is anything in your writing that you feel particularly pleased with, then it is bound to be rubbish and you should delete it immediately.

All writers have black moments. Writing a coherent story is not easy. The book on the page is never the perfect book that existed in your mind before you started to write it. And it's easy to think that the whole thing is c**p when you are maybe one third in and are really having to work to keep the plot straight, and the characters motivated and when the reason for keeping the hero and heroine apart, which seemed to be so substantial at the beginning, now seems wafer thin. Like I said, hard work. And moments of doubt happen, but it usually all comes right in the end.

I'm wondering if a better way of looking at that 'darlings' phrase is not that you must let things go, but that you can be ready to let them go.

I'm currently playing around with a new novella in a lighter vein than my romantic suspense. I'm doing it for fun, and maybe something will come of it. It was meant to be a simple plot, revolving around a wedding.

Simple? Can I do simple? Hah!

And, of course, it has got me in a pickle. Happily steaming along, I realised that a fairly memorable encounter between the hero and villain in the first few pages meant that they were not going to be meeting as strangers later in the book - at least, not unless I did some serious sorting out. So I had a choice. Get rid of the first encounter, or change the plot. Now that was killing a darling, if you like.  I've changed the plot. Even so, I'm going to have to trust on the readers' goodwill and a bit of suspension of disbelief along the line, but the whole thing is pretty preposterous anyway and doesn't stand up to close scrutiny, so here's hoping.

Of course, if I decide that it is only for fun, and will not get anywhere near a reader, then it won't actually matter.

It's keeping me amused.

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Write what you know.

A piece of advice frequently offered to writers.

And one that caused me an awful lot of problems. For a considerable time. 

A blameless career in local government is not often the material of which novels are made. And the bits that were not blameless were far too confidential ever to be used in a book.

So where did that leave me? Confused, dear reader. 

The advice is kindly meant and possibly bound up with the idea that all author's first books are largely autobiographical.   

But - when you think about it, the advice really does not hold that much water. Crime writers don't rob banks and commit murder - at least, not the ones I know. Fantasy writers do not live in a world populated with strange and fairy creatures. Well they do, but it's all in their head, and probably best not go there. 

Of course, if you are an expert on something, or live an exciting life that gives you a whole heap of experience to draw on, then that's great. But the rest of us?

You do not have to write only what you know. It took me a while to work that one out. You can substitute ‘knowing’ with research, which is one way round the problem, and a delightful and much praised source of procrastination beloved by authors everywhere. But even that only gets you so far.

Scary stuff?
That’s where imagination comes in. But also ‘knowing’ on a different level. You may not ‘know’ how it feels to be pursued by a serial killer, but you probably know about being afraid – even if it is only for a few moments on a fairground ride.  Emotions. We can all call them up. Love, hate, embarrassment, longing, loss.

So - I’ve given up grieving over the fact that I don’t take this advice. I do grieve over the time spent in the past grieving over it though.

For me, now, it’s the story that counts. I worry about getting facts right – and the very worst kind of worry is about the things you don’t know you don’t know – think about it.  

The book has to entertain, and preferably keep the reader on the edge of their seat.

But if I haven’t actually lived it?

These days, I try not to let that worry me.

Wednesday 4 May 2016

What are you writing at the moment?

You mean apart from this blog?

It's an interesting question, one that writers get asked a lot. That's because they are, you know, writers.

So I'm a writer. So what am I writing?

Well ...

Like I said, that's an interesting one. It's not that I have not been working, it's just that it's not in any organised fashion. As regular readers will know, a lot of stuff has happened recently to impair my output, from pressure of other responsibilities to lack of brain matter.

So at the moment I have a totally different type of novella suspended in editing. I don't want to complete that process until I can be sure of doing my absolute best with it before I sign it off. At present I can't, although I hope that I may eventually be getting there. This summer? I hope.

I have lots of ideas on the boil. Too many, probably, but I actually also have two full length romantic suspense novels which are both one third written - one a stand alone, which is a plot I have been nursing for some time, and one which is the first of a trilogy and which I hope will become part of an interconnected series. They are ready to pick up, when I am, but that's not yet.

And I also have a few chapters of another light romance, featuring some of the characters from the novella that has not yet been released into the wild. The light stuff is fun, and not quite so demanding as the romantic suspense, but still demanding enough.

So that's what is on the table. You'll will notice that there is a word recurring in all this.