To Novella or not to Novella? That is the question

On today’s Saturday Spotlight on The Write Romantics blog, we were joined by fellow-RNA member, Liz Harris. Liz became a published writer two years ago with a novel and novella published in 2012. She spoke to us about writing novellas and that’s what I’d like to talk to you about today.

If you don’t know what a novella is or if you do and would like to find out more, you may like to start by checking out our blog post from Liz:

http://thewriteromantics.wordpress.com/2014/04/19/saturday-spotlight-guest-slot-writing-a-novella-by-liz-harris/

Got it? So, in very stripped-back terms, it’s basically a novel but a lot shorter, with fewer characters and one main plot rather than a sub-plot or several running alongside it. A writing friend had her first book published last year as well as a novella and said that the novella sold really well. This could be because it was a Christmas one and, with the stress and hectic-ness (if that’s not a word, it should be) of Christmas, perhaps readers feel they have time to read a Christmas-themed novella but not a full novel. I’d echo that. I like the idea of reading a Christmas novel each year but find my reading time is so limited that I started one Christmas novel in 2010, started it again in 2011 and finally read it all the way through during Christmas 2012!

It all sounds like a good idea doesn’t it? Fewer words = double the number of books I could write = more sales (if I get published or, if not, when I self-publish).

Except I’m stuck for an idea. I have several ideas for novels swimming around in my mind but, every time I think of one as a novella (i.e. shorter, more focused), the cast of characters have a fight with me and scream, “What about our sub-plot?” I’ll be honest and say that I’m struggling to think of an idea that isn’t too big. Let’s face it, my first idea for a novel became a trilogy and has since developed into a series so I’m not exactly from the school of thinking small and focused am I?

My wonderful writing friend and fellow Write Romantic, Jo, is currently working on a Christmas novella and she tells me she’s finding it great fun to write. I’m not sure whether the fun comes from the theme (surely anything Christmas-themed must be fun?) or the different approach needed so I must explore more. I feel I want to write one because I am someone who over-writes. My first draft of book 1 came in a little shy of 130,000 words so I had to do a lot of hard work to narrow it down to something closer to 100,000. A bit of focus on a novella could be really great learning.

I’m currently trying to write a short story which is presenting me with an even greater challenge for exactly the same reason. I’ve come up with the premise and my typical approach is to allow it to brew in my mind for a while before putting pen to paper. Whilst I can see how it could be a short story, the novelist in me has already made it bigger. I imagine the event in the short story being a chapter or two in a novel and can see great scope for developing the characters and sub-plots and I keep having to tell myself to stop getting carried away. Perhaps that’s where I’m going wrong. Perhaps I should stop fighting the bigger picture and write the short story but then write the novel featuring it. Maybe the short story could be a teaser? I’m sure I’ve ready many times that writers have done this; write a short story then create a whole novel from it. The thing is, I don’t think that would work with a novella as that’s like writing half a novel then padding it out with another 50,000 words by introducing another character or two and a couple of sub-plots. That really, really wouldn’t work.

Where does that leave me? I’m feeling quite comfortable with the idea of my short story being a springboard for a novel, now but I’m wondering if a novella perhaps isn’t for me. Or am I just thinking that because I’ve never actually read one. How can I make a decision about writing something when I’ve never read it? Perhaps it’s time to bob on over to Amazon for a few quick Kindle downloads. In the meantime, do let me know if you’ve ever written a novella and why. If you’re a reader of them, what do you like about them and can you recommend any you’ve really loved? Would be great to hear from you.

I now have a child-free and husband-free afternoon. The hoovering is done, the washing is on and it’s time to write. Perfect way to spend a bank holiday Saturday in my opinion, especially as yesterday was spent traipsing around a farm, zoo and playgrounds with my little one so it’s guilt-free writing time as her Nana will be entertaining her instead. Think I’ll just poddle downstairs and get my Easter egg first. Yes, I know you’re not meant to open them until Sunday but I dropped it on the floor and it broke so I have to eat it. Honest …!!!

Stop the ride! I want to get off!

For the past few weeks, I’ve been driving my husband mad.

Text from me late morning at work: “Has the post arrived?”

Reply from him: “Yes. No MS.”

Text from me: “Grrr”

It got to the point where he’d pre-empt my question and text me as soon as the postman had been. Then the news I’d finally been waiting for arrived at 11.31am on Thursday: “The manuscript has landed!!” Only problem was, I was out for the day at a local play park/petting zoo with my seven-year-old. And I didn’t think she’d appreciate me saying, “I know we’ve only been here for 45 minutes and you haven’t fed the lambs or handled a guinea pig yet but we’re going home so mummy can read her critique.” So I stayed. And looked at the lamas. Or are they alpacas? Never really been sure of the difference!

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At 3.30pm, I finally convinced her it was time to leave. Even without the MS waiting for me, I’d had my fill and would have been leaving about then anyway so I didn’t feel too guilty.

I eagerly ripped open the jiffy bag, curled up on the sofa … and my heart sank.

Oh dear.

It wasn’t what I’d hoped for.

😦

My day job is in learning & development. I coach people for a living. I train them for a living. I develop them. Feedback is something that I give and receive regularly and one of the things I really loved about the two reports I received for book 1 were that they were balanced. Both flagged up improvements that could be made (particularly the 1st one where I was still learning and knew I needed further guidance) but they also had lots of positives about my writing style, my characters, the story, my use of dialogue and so on. I’d expected (and hoped) this year’s report would be similar. But it wasn’t. Before I go any further, I will say that the NWS is an absolutely incredible opportunity and I’ve been so grateful for the feedback during my three years of membership. It is a privilege to receive feedback from experienced published writers and I feel that I’ve been able to take the feedback on book 1 and use it to fine-tune my first novel into something pretty special (I hope!) I don’t think I’d have been able to take it where I’ve taken it without the insight offered by both reviewers.

This year, however, has knocked me. The report was filled with opportunities for improvement and, whilst my reviewer said I had great potential within my storyline, I was left in no doubt that she didn’t think I’d exploited the potential. At all. Did I cry? Did I get mad? No. I just felt completely and utterly deflated. And numb. And that feeling continued for the next two days. For the first time ever in the eleven-and-a-half years since I first had the idea for book 1 and started to write, I seriously questioned what the hell I was doing thinking I could do this. Why was I investing hours and hours of my life in research and writing and submitting and hoping and waiting … when I clearly had no talent whatsoever. My writing pals, The Write Romantics, and I have often likened being an aspiring writer to being on a roller coaster ride. At the weekend, I wanted to stop the ride. I wanted to get off. I’ve never, ever, felt like that until now. I felt lost because, if I did stop the ride, what would I do? My life is writing. I’ve worked everything else round it. I love it. It’s part of me.

By Saturday teatime, I wasn’t feeling much better. The Write Romantics had rallied around and been incredibly supportive as always which helped massively. One of the group, Alex, suggested that I put book 2 and 3 aside and work on something different. I know what my 4th book is going to be about. It’s set in the same fictional town as the trilogy but it features a new cast of characters. She suggested I start to think about them instead. So I went into the spare bedroom and chose myself a new notebook from the huge collection in there (I have a thing for notebooks) and started to create the four characters. It was the best thing I could possibly have done because it was new material so it was exciting. Best of all, it made me start to believe that I could do it.

Last night, I decided to start working through my MS again and was surprised to find little pencil entries like, “Really lovely”, “Nicely expressed,” and “Love it!” Those little scribbles were just what I needed. Whilst my reviewer had focussed on all the improvement areas in the report, there were some things she liked but they were on the MS instead. Phew! Another Write Romantic, Jo, has also suggested that much of the feedback may be as a result of going blind into book 2 when there is a prequel. She could be right. My beta readers loved book 2 and are clamouring for book 3 but maybe you need to read book 1 first to feel this way. Alex hasn’t read book 1 so she’s going to beta read book 2 for me and Jo (who has read both) has asked an avid reader friend of hers to do the same. It will be interesting to hear their views and compare them to the critique.

How do I feel a few days on? I’ve asked the fairground operator to slow the ride down but I don’t want to get off it as I love it too much. I just hadn’t realised there would be quite so many bumps in what had seemed like quite a smooth ride until Thursday. I’m going to finish reading book 2 and making some minor tweaks and then I’ll factor in the feedback from Alex and Jo’s friend before I do anything major. Because, as my reviewer said at the very end, it’s only her opinion and, so far, it differs from the opinion of all those who’ve read it so what’s to say it’s the opinion to be listened to. Tricky. Very tricky. Watch this space for more news of where the ride takes me next!

 

 

Give me just a little more time …

I’ve been home alone for nearly an hour this evening. My husband left for archery 50 minutes ago and my daughter hasn’t been dropped off from her Nana’s yet. The cats haven’t yet reached point in the evening where they stare at me and squeak annoyingly until I relent and feed them so all is calm and quiet. Which would be the perfect time to sit down and write. Yet how have I spent this time? I need some tea so I managed to spend about 5 minutes putting a pie and chips (hmm, healthy!) into the oven but they’re not going to be ready for 20 mins so I haven’t spent any time eating yet. I’ve changed out of my work clothes which took all of a minute. And I’ve responded to a text so that’s probably about 7 mins accounted for. As for the rest? I’ve flicked around on Yahoo! news, checked my empty email inbox several times, done a Bitstrips on Facebook and stared at my news feed for a very long time waiting for someone to say something interesting. Which, incidentally, they haven’t. As in nothing has appeared as opposed to someone has said something that I rudely deem uninteresting.

So why am I wasting this really valuable writing time? 

Several years ago, I met a writing friend. As a single mum with a young daughter, she was taking some time out of work and I used to envy her the days she could spend in writing heaven, particularly when her daughter was at nursery and then school. I, on the other hand, was commuting several hours a day and working long hours in a demanding job so time was exceedingly precious. Yet we used to often discuss how funny it was that sometimes I could get more writing done in a week than she could and we concluded that, the more time you have, the more time you waste. Well, maybe not waste but you do find other things to do. When your writing time is snatched, as mine was, you tend to just knuckle down and make the most of it.

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I decided to pack in my crazy commute and long hours a couple of years back and after a couple of job changes, I’ve now settled into a role that’s very local. So local that I finish work at 5pm and am home by about 5.20pm. Luxury. Especially for someone who spent 4.25 hours of her day commuting this time two years ago! So now that I have the luxury of time, I should be getting a lot more writing done. But I’m not. Yet I am spending most evenings in the office in front of my computer so why am I not upping my word count?

Some of my time can be accounted for. I run a Brownie pack so that rules out a Monday evening and I need to spend some time planning. But I’ve been doing that for 4.5 years. It’s part of my routine. I also have responsibilities for The Write Romantics blog and regularly communicate with the group on our closed Facebook page (our support network). But we’ve just celebrated our one-year anniversary. So that’s part of my routine too. I’ve started this blog but, realistically, I post less than once a week and blogging is also part of my routine. In February last year, I started a bootcamp and blogged about it after every session until I stopped going in January this year. That’s four times a week! Now we’re maybe talking three times a month. So that’s also part of my normal routine and is a lesser commitment than it used to be.

So, I work shorter hours, I don’t commute, my other responsibilities haven’t changed (become fewer if anything) and I do spend every evening in front of the computer. Yet I’m getting less writing done. Deep down, I know the reason why. There are actually two reasons and, if we really need to give them a label, we’d probably say “crisis of confidence”.

Let me explain …

It took me over a decade to write my first novel. During that time, it got submitted to the NWS twice (to great reviews), went to some beta readers (also to great reviews), was pitched to two editors at the RNA Conference last summer (both of whom wanted the full MS) and is now out there seeking a publishing deal. I’m happy with the book and on up-beat optimistic days, I convince myself that it’s going to find a home because other writing friends who have submitted to certain publishers after me have had regrets already which would indicate I’m in a process and successfully progressing through various stages. (I hope! It sounds more pleasing than the idea that it’s still on the slushpile completely untouched!)

BUT … and it’s a big BUT which is why I’ve put it in capitals … I had that “difficult second book” to write. And I’d set myself up for an even bigger challenge by making it a sequel. A double viewpoint one too. All change! I’d learned so much about the writing process during the book 1 decade that I actually wrote book 2 in seven months! I had my beta readers lined up and I have to say that I was more nervous about them reading book 2 than I had been about book 1. What if they didn’t think it was as good? What if they didn’t like the dual viewpoint? (Which would be a big EEK for book 3 which would be told in triple viewpoint). What if they didn’t think there was sufficient storyline to make a sequel? My relief was incredible when they all loved it. Phew. The ultimate test, though, would be the submission to NWS. As I submitted early in the process (you have until end August), I naively thought it would be back with me in a few weeks. I was completely forgetting that the reviewers are writers themselves with their own deadlines and it was very possible I may be delayed by one of those. It turns out I have been although it will be posted back to me this week. I’ve therefore been in this limbo knowing that my readers liked it (yippee) but wondering if the critique may come back full of development areas. Until I know this “professional” verdict, I’m almost afraid to progress with book 3 (which I’m a third of the way through).

Book 3 is the final book in the series and, as I’ve already said, is told from three points of view but, in its early draft form, I’m looking at it and feeling it’s too episodic i.e. we run from something happening in person 1’s life, then to person 2’s, then back to 1, then 3, then 2, then 3 again and so on. It felt like something was missing. Then I realised what that something was. My main character’s character arc. She doesn’t change by the end of the book. She doesn’t learn something. Well, she does change and she does learn something but not in the way she should for a character arc to really satisfy. I know what the arc will be but that means shifting round some key events and, typically, they’re the events that have already happened which means some major re-work. Do I do this now or do I just finish writing then shift it around?

That’s it, then. That’s the problem. I’m scared of what my critique of book 2 will reveal and I’m being overly critical of what I think would be revealed if book 3 was about to be critiqued and both those things together have put me in ostrich mode where I’m simply avoiding writing because that’s easier than facing up to the fact that I may be a one-book-pony! Ok, ok, stop shouting at me. I know I’m not really. I know my beta readers loved book 2 and, actually, so did I when I read through it (so much more refreshing than having read book 1 about a million times) and I know book 3 has great potential but is just going to be a little longer and more challenging to construct than book 2. Mind you, as long as it’s not longer than book 1, that’s fine by me!

I’m actually feeling better for having put fingers to keyboard. It’s probably the most writing I’ve done this month and it feels good to let it flow. I’ve now had my tea, I’m about to wash my daughter’s hair and sort out bedtime routine but, at 8pm, she’ll be going to sleep and all will be quiet (once I’ve fed those pesky cats) so that’s a great opportunity to get cracking and do some writing. Face my demons. Conquer this thing. Although fellow Write Romantic Helen Phifer’s second novel ‘The Secrets of the Shadows’ was released yesterday and, according to my Kindle, I’m 32% of the way through it. Just like her debut, ‘The Ghost House’, it’s really gripping. Maybe I’ll just finish that first …..

We’re all going on a blog tour!!!

We’re not scared. With a pen in our hand and post-its too ….

Something slightly different on my blog this week. I was very excited to be invited to join my fellow Write Romantic, Rachael Thomas, on to join The Blog Tour. Her debut novel, A Deal Before the Alter (HMB), will be available later this year and I can’t wait to read it and follow her journey as she fulfils her dreams. Find out more about Rachael at http://rachael-thomas.blogspot.co.uk/

So, what I have to do is answer a series of questions and nominate three other writers to do the same. We’ll start with the three questions:

My Writing Process


What am I working on?

I am about one third of the way through my third novel, ‘Discovering David’. It’s the final book in a trilogy. Book 1, ‘Searching for Steven’ went through the RNA’s New Writers Scheme in 2012 and 2013 and is now out there fluttering its eyelashes and hoping to secure a publishing deal. Book 2, ‘Getting Over Gary’ was submitted to the NWS 5 weeks ago and I’m anxiously awaiting the verdict. Book 3 has been planned but I’m in the first stage writing process. The trilogy follows Sarah and her two friends Elise and Clare and explores the core theme of love but also the theme of friendship and how this can shift over time and circumstances. Book 1 is essentially Sarah’s story, book 2 is Elise’s and book 3 is Clare’s. However, each picks up where the other leaves off and becomes multi point-of-view to do that.

How does my story differ from others of its genre?

Most novels in my genre (romantic comedy) are one-offs. There are exceptions but the majority are stand-alone so I feel a trilogy is fairly unique. I also have further books in a series planned in that they will be set in the same place (fictional North Yorkshire seaside town Whitsborough Bay) but feature different characters … although the original cast may have cameo appearances!

‘Searching for Steven’ was also inspired by a real-life event which I think makes it pretty special too.

Why do I write?

I couldn’t not write. I have so many ideas and have always loved putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). My favourite tasks at work are always ones that require writing. I think it’s just part of me.

How does my writing process work?

My writing time is typically on an evening after my 7-year-old daughter has gone to bed and lunch breaks at work although 45 mins isn’t long to eat and write! ‘Searching for Steven’ was a massive learning process. I knew roughly what the story was, I knew the characters but I had no plan of how to get from start to end. Result? Ten years of work! I wasn’t going to put myself through that again. Book 2 was completely different. I planned out every chapter (about an A5 page per chapter), chartered it on a weekly planner to ensure I’d captured the days of the week, months and seasons correctly, and then wrote. Helped by doing NaNoWriMo in November last year, I completed book 2 in 7 months. Slightly different to the 10 years for book 1!

I’m hoping that April will see good news about Steven. Please!!!!

Next week, the following authors will be participating.

Helen Phifer, a fellow member of The Write Romantics and member of the RNA. Helen’s brilliant debut novel, ‘The Ghost House’ was published by Carina in October 2013 and her second novel, ‘The Secrets of the Shadows’ is out next week (and I can’t wait to read it). Visit Helen’s blog at: http://helenphifer.wordpress.com/

Alex Weston, also a fellow Write Romantic and NWS member will be tackling the blog tour on her Facebook page (thanks Alex) at https://www.facebook.com/alexwestonwrites?fref=ts

Sharon Booth, fellow NWS member (who, like Alex, kindly let me beta read her debut novel) will talk about her experiences at http://sharonbooth23.wordpress.com/

 

Thanks for reading!

Silence is golden when you’re a writer … or is it?

Wednesday evenings in my house are very quiet. Once my 7-year-old daughter has settled to bed and the cats have been fed, it’s just me and my writing because hubby goes out on Wednesday to do some shooting. Not guns. Arrows. He took up archery last summer and loves it. I usually really enjoy Wednesday evenings because I can just get on with my current WIP with absolutely no distractions and no feelings of guilt that I’m lost in my little world of imaginary friends while other members of the household may actually appreciate a bit of company.

But last night felt strange. Last night seemed overly quiet. Last night, writing was a struggle. And I realised that, for me, silence isn’t always golden. Silence doesn’t always help me write. Silence isn’t always my friend. I knew only one person could help me … Delta Goodrem. “Who?” I hear you ask. Long blond hair. Australian. Plays the piano. Started out in Neighbours in 2002. Used to be engaged to Brian McFadden (formerly of Westlife) and did a duet with him called “Almost Here”. Debut single was “Born to Try”. Know who I mean now? I confess that “Born to Try” isn’t one of my favourite tracks but I absolutely love everything else she’s done. I don’t know if it’s the piano or her particular vocals or the fact that I’ve listened to her albums so many times that I don’t need to concentrate anymore but Delta is the perfect soundtrack to my writing. Plus she writes about love and loss and emotional angst which is exactly what a romance writer needs. (Find Delta on https://www.facebook.com/DeltaGoodremMusic)

I’ve tried to write and listen to other albums and I’ve discovered that any old music won’t do. I can’t write to anything brand new or anything I’ve only heard a few times because I sit and listen to it instead of concentrating on my writing. I can’t write to anything too up-beat. And I can’t have any music on loud. I also can’t have the TV on because, even if it’s something I absolutely hate and would normally rather gouge my eyeballs out than watch (e.g. football or Newsnight), I’ll be drawn to the TV and completely unable to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Going back to last night, I will admit that, once Delta got going, so did my writing. Not particularly fast, mind, but it was better than it had been before I switched the music on.

This got me wondering whether I’m the only one who prefers a soundtrack to writing in silence and a specific one at that. So I asked my fellow Write Romantics. Aspiring writer Helen R lives in Australia (must ask her if she knows Delta!) in the suburbs and says she’s often distracted by the noise of hedge trimmers and leaf blowers so likes to put on music to drown that out although it varies as to whether it annoys her or revs her up. Lynne is similar – sometimes music, sometimes not although she’s found it can be helpful to listen to specific music to get her into a specific mood e.g. 1970s tunes if her novel is set in that time. Alex echoes this in that she does enjoy quiet but did delve into a bit of Scottish folk singing (listening to it; not doing it) when she was trying to perfect a Scottish accent in her debut novel.

Soon-to-be-published Rachael likes to listen to music when she writes, although usually something without lyrics to avoid them getting into her head. She finds that switching the music on helps her switch her mind into ‘writer mode’. Interesting. A bit like some writers making a drink in a certain mug, wearing a particular piece of jewellery or using a specific pen.

Successful novelist Helen P (2nd book “The Secrets of the Shadows” is out next month – can’t wait!) differs from us all. She tells me her writing space is in the corner of the room next to a huge TV so silence is not in ready supply. She needs to put her iPod on and drift away into her own world. What’s on her iPod? “I tend to have a playlist for each book. The last one had Frank Sinatra, Elbow, Barry White, U2, Nat King Cole, Kelly Rowland, Lady GaGa to name a few”. Eclectic mix or what?! Not sure I’d manage to write to all of those!

On the other side of the coin, Jaxx and Deirdre do believe that silence is golden. Jaxx even goes so far as to wear ear defenders to keep out the noise (I so have to see photographic evidence of that) and Deirdre needs “complete quiet” but admits that a busy main road and “a certain someone talking to the cat, singing, having TV up loud etc” pretty much scuppers her quest for peace.

It seems we’re a bit of a mixed bag although it seems we’re all united in avoiding the TV. That said, Helen R said that one of my favourite authors, Jill Mansell, writes with the TV on and it apparently gives her lots of ideas. I know that Jill writes long-hand rather than straight into a PC so I’m wondering if she can maybe find TV helpful in the ideas formation stage or whether she can switch off enough to do this at all stages in her writing. If you’re reading this, Jill, we’d love to know!

One more thing I’ll say about Delta Goodrem is that, not only does her music help my writing flow but she writes some amazing lyrics and some great song titles which would make great titles for a book. I find this quite a lot with music; I’ll hear a line or a title of a song and think “great title” and then, suddenly, there are all sorts of ideas about what the book could be about. I have a word document called “Potential Book Titles” and it’s full of ideas – many of them from songs – and a sentence or two about the book theme.

So, thank you Delta Goodrem for being the background singer as I work and thank you to the wonderful Write Romantics for helping me with this post. 

Over to you … is silence golden?

Becoming a writer is like 80s music. Really it is! Don’t believe me? …

I love dressing up. No! Stop it! I don’t mean in a saucy “ooh matron” fifty shades kind of way! I mean 70s gear, murder mysteries, theme party kind of way. And on Saturday night, I got to dig out my huge bag of outfits and go back to the 80s. The 80s for me were age 7 to 17 so meant my childhood, my first broken heart, friendships made and lost, my school years, discovering music and attempting to discover fashion. To be fair, I was briefly very trendy. I owned not one, not two, but three ra-ra skirts. I had a big perm. I had fluorescent socks (worn one pink, one yellow of course; bang on trend) and I had roller boots and a Sony Walkman. How cool was I?

So Saturday night took me back to those days. My hair is short these days so I attempted big and back-combed which wasn’t so easy but the neon was easier. Leg-warmers, net skirt, bangles, beads … absolutely gorgeous. And here’s the proof …

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Yep, pretty scary isn’t it. And also a reminder that I must get back on that diet. I’d been doing so well until I discovered the chocolate machine downstairs at work.

But what has all of this got to do with writing? I do have a point. Honest. I said I discovered music in the 80s and I still think this is the best era of music. Ever. From cheesy pop to new romantics and even a bit of Ska, I love it all. And my useless knowledge won us the quiz at our 80s night which yielded a prize of 4 main meals at the venue. Very nice. But that’s not my point. My point is that trying to become a writer is like the music of the 1980s. Bear with me …

Imagine (John Lennon): It starts with an idea and you begin to imagine your characters, your world, the dilemmas, the pain and the joy and, because I write romances, the happy ever after

It Started With a Kiss (Hot Chocolate): That’s it. You’ve got your hero and you’ve fallen in love with him. The moment he first kisses your lead, it’s like he’s kissing you too. Awww

I Know Him So Well (Elaine Paige & Barbara Dickson): It gets to the point where you know your hero better than you know your own partner. And perhaps even like him better than you like your own partner! Boy is it disappointing when your husband doesn’t behave in the same way as your hero (sorry hubby but you have a lot to live up to!)

Never Gonna Give You Up (Rick Astley): That moment arrives where you’ve written “the end”. You’ve edited then tweaked then edited some more and you realise that, unless it’s going to remain a computer file for the rest of your life, you’re going to have to let someone else read your manuscript. Eek! It’s very, very hard to let go for the first time

Relax! (Frankie Goes to Hollywood): That’s it! You’ve done it. You’ve submitted your MS for the first time, whether this be to a beta-reader or several or even a formal critiquing service. It’s time to relax. Except it isn’t really. Knowing that your ‘baby’ is being read by others for the first time ever is the most nerve-wracking thing ever. What if they hate it? What if they think you can’t write? What if you’ve wasted the last ‘X’ months/years of your life on a pile of grammatically-incorrect poorly-observed pile of twaddle. Relax is not the word

I Just Called To Say I Love You (Stevie Wonder): But then you get the call, text, email or Facebook message from your beta reader or critique service and it turns out you weren’t wasting your time. You can write. You have a great story. They loved it! You’re on your way!

The Land of Make Believe (Bucks Fizz): You do a final edit and you compile a list of agents and/or publishers to approach. You start daring to dream of that make-believe land where you can pack in the day job and write every day … and actually get paid for it. It’s time to send it out into the big bad world

Blue Monday (New Order): Your first rejection arrives. Blue Monday (or Tuesday, or Wednesday …) You expected it but it’s still hard because all you can think is …

Don’t You Want Me? (Human League): … and it appears they don’t. But you keep trying because you so desperately want someone to …

Take On Me (A-ha): Please take me on! Please!!! I’ll be a really good writer and do all the edits you suggest and meet all your deadlines. I promise. Just please take me on!

Then you get THE CALL …

Hello … Is it me you’re looking for (Lionel Richie). “She’s got it! Yeah baby she’s got it” (Venus, Bananarama). You know that Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now (Starship), The Only Way Is Up (Yazz) and Fame (Irene Cara) is just around the corner … except it’s not the fame you do it for. You do it because you can’t not do it. You have stories to tell. You have characters who need to tell them. And you couldn’t imagine a world where you didn’t let them.

So who’s going to Take On Me? I’m still wishing and Waiting for a Star to Fall (Boy Meets Girl). Please Don’t Leave Me This Way (The Communards). Say I’m Your Number One (Princess) and I’ll pack in my 9-5 (Dolly Parton/Sheena Easton). I’m Hungry Like The Wolf (Duran Duran) for this and, no matter how many rejections I get, I will Hold on Tight (ELO) to my dreams, just Wishing I Was Lucky (Wet Wet Wet).

I think I’d better end this post before I shoe-horn in any more 80s songs as even I can see it’s dripping in mozzarella now! Hope you liked my 80s references and they brought back a few classic 80s tunes to mind.

Please follow, share, comment. Thank you xxx

 

 

Welcome to my world: The one where I hear voices … but that’s normal. Apparently!

Thankfully the voices in my head don’t tell me to steal or kill or anything sinister like that. Typically they tell me nice things like how they want to fall in love and with whom. Yes, you’ve guessed it, I’m a romance writer.

I’ve been writing in one shape or form for as long as I can remember. English was my favourite subject at school, I was drawn towards essay-based subjects at college and university, then my subsequent career in HR was most satisfying when it involved writing. That could mean designing an interview script, job advert, training materials or a staff handbook because, to me, it was all writing. Strangely enough, though, I’d never imagined making a career out of it. Until 2002. I was working as a Graduate Recruitment & Development Manager for Thames Water and the manager who’d recruited me would often comment that my business reports would benefit from being a little more, well, business-ey instead of reading like a story. “You should write a book,” he’d say. Nice idea. Lovely idea. But what the hell would I write about? The genre was easy; romantic comedy. But the storyline? Eek! Where would I even begin?

It’s a well-used phrase “write what you know” so I pondered on my relationships to date. I was single with some good and several disastrous relationships behind me but nothing interesting or juicy enough to form a plot-line for a book. And then something happened. Something quite unexpected and, for me, life-changing. I was at a bit of a crossroads in my personal life. I’d split up with my partner of two years although we still shared a house that we were trying to sell (hmm, that was fun!), I wasn’t happy at work, and I had a dream of moving back home to the north to set up a teddy bear shop but I’d been turned down for redundancy and, of course, I couldn’t do anything unless the house sold. It felt like everything was out of my control. I couldn’t plan. I couldn’t hope. A friend who is very into new-age thinking gave me a gift voucher for a clairvoyant telephone helpline. I can remember smiling politely and telling her I’d ring it at some point soon … then dumping it in a drawer. But one evening alone in the house in late 2002, something made me take that gift voucher out of the drawer and dial that number. What that clairvoyant said sparked an idea for a novel and, once it took hold, it was like the boulder in front of the cave of creativity had been rolled back and the glittering gems of ideas were all there for my taking.

You’re going to hate me now because I can’t share exactly what the clairvoyant said. Not yet. Why not? Quite simply, it’s because there’s no copyright on ideas and I’m an aspiring writer at the moment; not a published one. I think I’ve got quite a unique premise for my story and, whilst I will share the full back-story if (when) I get my big break, I need to keep it safe for the moment. Hope you understand.

So I’m not a published writer but I said this idea came to me in 2002. It’s 2014 now. What the heck have I been doing with the last 12 years! Truth be told, I did nothing about it other than bat the idea around my head until summer 2003 but, by that time, I had left my job, sold the house, said a permanent goodbye to the ex, moved back to the north and opened a teddy bear shop (dreams can come true!) I bought an old PC for the shop and, on quiet days, I started to write my book. Straight into the PC. No planning. No preparation. No idea on what I was doing! I met my husband Mark and shared my writing aspirations with him. He suggested I sign up to The Writer’s Bureau. So I did. And I realised I knew nothing about writing. Show don’t tell? What’s that?! I got some great feedback from my first few assignments explaining I clearly had a talent but it just needed honing with the “rules” of writing. So that’s what I spent the next decade doing.

Novel 1 was a painful process in many ways because I changed from 1st to 3rd person and back again, dabbled in present tense before reverting to past, ditched a major character, unexpectedly developed two major characters (and with them, the prospect of a trilogy of books), and basically had no clear idea of how to get from point A to point B. But I got there in 2012 and took a huge leap in my writing journey by joining the Romantic Novelist Association’s New Writer’s Scheme (NWS). It was with great trepidation that I submitted my manuscript (MS) as this was the first time anyone was going to read my work. The feedback was really encouraging but the biggie was that it was a biggie … far too many words! I managed to cut about 20k words but developing a couple of unclear plot points ended up back where I started. In 2013, I re-submitted the same novel to NWS and got even better feedback and some very clear direction as to what I could cut. I hadn’t been ready to make the cut before but I felt ready last year.

Summer 2013 saw another major step when I pitched to two editors at the RNA Conference and both asked to see my full MS. How incredibly exciting!

Since then, I’ve submitted my MS to both of those editors, some agents, and some other publishers. I’ve had some rejections, I’ve had a “near miss” (which I may talk about on another post) but it feels close. I’ve had a note from one publisher to say my work is very much under consideration and I know that I must be well into a process with another two because I have writing friends who’ve submitted later than me and have already heard that it’s a no. Assuming MSs are looked at in the order they arrive (it’s possible they aren’t), then that would mean I’m progressing … for now!

Other than the critique and the invaluable advice from the RNA online community, one of the biggest benefits I’ve had through the RNA is meeting other writers. I’ve been extremely fortunate to join forces with eight wonderful writers who cover a range of genres from Mills & Boon to supernatural to crime/thriller. We run a blog together http://www.thewriteromantics.wordpress.com and provide support and guidance to each other on all things writing (and often non-writing). I love being part of that blog but wanted to continue to increase my social media presence by running my own. I’ll talk about books, writing and life in general and, hopefully, one day share some amazing news that I can call myself an author!

Thank you for joining me today. Are you a reader or writer? What would you like me to blog about? Would be great to hear from you.

Julie

Mum, Wife, Writer, Brown Owl, Arctophile, Chocoholic