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26 May 2009


Current Work: Non fiction article, fiction research
Listening to: Radio Sabasio, an italian station with english and italian music

Wideacre by Philippa Gregory

Learning for yourself

I'm writing an article at the moment which talks about my experiences of writing my first novel and what I might do differently next time. Whilst I've been preparing it, I've been doing a lot of thinking. There is such a lot of advice about writing. My article is not going to give any advice. I'm going to share what worked and what didn't for me. I don't think that anyone can take the moral highground on writing a novel. There isn't and surely can't be just one way. It has to be your way. You can try the things and ways that other writers have tried and which work for them, but as writers we must never think that there is that magic answer waiting to be presented on a plate. It's just not goint to happen. I have really, really enjoyed the process of writing my first novel, it was like trying to learn to walk all over again, painful at times when I wobbled and fell but I kept picking myself up and taking another step. Will it be different next time? Well, I'm sure for me it will be, this time like learning to ride a bike.

Confuscious says... Quotes on Writing

As you can see, I'm messing about with the style of my blog again. Well, the trouble is something always catches my eye and I've seen lots of quotes just recently which have been fluttering around in my head. So I shall use this section to share what has made me laugh, think and become inspired again.
"Writing a short story is a bit like catching a butterfly. The butterfly appears, hovers, disappears, emerges again. If you grab it, it will disintegrate. It has to be coaxed, gently, into a butterfly net." Rosamunde Pilcher

The Book Worm

I've not finished Wideacre yet. It's quite a thome (in my defence) and the weather here just lately has fried and dried most things, including my brain and my reading has suffered a little. I've had my two writing mags delivered, which I devoured under a shady tree and I've been doing some research for my next novel, so I have been reading. Just not enough purely for the pleasure. Hope to review next week.

22 May 2009


Current Work: Short Story competition (see entry), admin and queries
Listening to: A bee, buzzing around my head
Reading: Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory

Deadlines Looming:
Well, I've just spent a large amount of time this week, preparing a 2,500 word short story for submission. Having downloaded the rules and entry form I have just literally written the final word. Now as you should by now, know I like to live close to the edge. In terms of deadlines that is, anything else is a little too much. So I always without fail, leave it to the very last minute before completing pieces for competitions. I'm a little more focused with paid work as I that I see differently. I haven't won the competition yet, so I play with it a little more, let it 'cook' a little longer and therefore end up rushing it through at the last gong. Probably explains why I've not yet been successful. Well this one I thought I had in the bag. I had it in my head that it was an email entry, which is great for me, as it lengthens the deadline even more. So even though the rules stated the deadline as Friday 22nd May, I could quite easily have until at least 11.59 pm tonight. So I'm a little early! Nope, just re-read the rules. I have to post the entry with entry form to reach there by today. So, not a very successful day. Ho Hum.

Three Cheers for...

I have to finish Fridays off with some positives and this is no different despite my faux pas shared above. So what has gone well this week? In my defence, the weather has been incredibly warm this week, liquefying my brain and drying up my ink.
  • Suite 101 article submitted on Elizabeth Fry, quite a remarkable woman
  • Continued final proofing of manuscript for submission, on target for end of May
  • Communication with Writing Group continues about the arrangements for our first virtual meeting
  • Some positive replies to queries but no firm takers
  • Short Story written and edited 2,500 words
  • Three queries for submission

Less is sometimes more?

19 May 2009


Current Work: Drafting short story, final finishing touches to manuscript for submission

Listening to:
The bird life in my garden, currently a Hoopoo and a Golden Oriele
Wideacre by Phillipa Gregory

Weather and Things

There are a lot of things which affect my life as a writer. I suppose that goes for most people whatever their passion might be. I was communicating with colleague in Canada who told me it was minus 5 there and snow on the cards. Here it is rising 25 (in the shade) with a clear Wedgwood blue sky. The heat knocks me down for while until my body gets use to it. The worst thing is the lack of sleep, so that makes me grumpy as well. Not a good state for a writer. But this is just the beginning so I better get used to it! Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. The good weather I think also brings about a different creative side of me, which is happier and lighter which has got to be good. Hasn't it?

The Riddler

This week it has to be this editing thing that's bugging me right now. My other half has now finished proofing my first novel and I now need to polish it up and package it up and whizz it off. It just feels strange and I keep putting it off. I'm not sure why or even if this is a common state of affairs with your first novel. Somehow it's quite scary, it's not the rejection I fear for I'm kind of thinking that's a given. It's the thought of someone reading it, someone I don't know - but then I won't know what they think, will I?

The Bookworm
Well, I started Revolutionary Road last week and have shelved it after four days of perseverance. Maybe its just not the read for me at present, but it didn't capture my imagination at all. In fact I took a great dislike to the two key characters - Frank and April - and gave up. I'm now reading Wideacre and prospects are looking good for this one.

A Final Word.
Our elderly neighbour passed away at the weekend. She's not been well for some time and was at least in her late eighties but all the same - it's a different place. She provided much sage advice, inspiration and encouragement and shall never be forgotten. Arreverdici Bruna

15 May 2009


Current Work: Queries, Admin and Research
Listening to: A Classic FM CD - very pleasant too!
Reading: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates (hard going)

Writers Block
I don't tend to go with the Writers Block theory. I think that sometimes we don't know what to say but believe we can always write soemthing even if it's just a load of drivel. A little like this blog I suppose. I have sat here at my laptop with my fingers poised for action and nothing to say. So I thought that I would write that I have nothing to say but of course I have, I've just written, wait a minute...107 words since I started to type. So whilst I believe that sometimes I struggle to find the right words, there are always some words to write. If you know what I mean. Anyway, I try to just write myself out of the block which doesn't always produce the words or end product I had in mind, but at least I'm writing.

Three Cheers For...

It's been a tough week for my editing contract this week as we were short of an article. However with a concerted team effort, which included an author, we managed to ensure we had enough copy. But it has taken priority. As it should, I get paid for it.

  • Writing Group introductions have all been made and we're all feeling very positive about it.
  • Suite 101 article submitted Soldiers without Guns about the non-combatant role of women in the Secoond World War. Approximately 500 words.
  • Copy submitted to Diabetes Health about Diabetes and Travelling Abroad approximately 1500 words - another paid piece!
  • Copy submitted for approval to Dogs Monthly, approximately 1500 words
  • Query accepted for Writing Forum on the lessons learnt as a First Time Novelist!!
  • Short Story outline completed for competition deadline 22nd May (yes I know I like living near the edge)
  • Four queries prepared for submission by email
It's a really good feeling writing down what I've achieved over the week. I never feel as though I've done enough but when I look at the list, well I'm impressed. And thats not everything I do, research, emails, administration and looking after My Man Friday (yep, he needs looking after) and the 'estate'! Phew, makes me feel quite tired - think I'll go and lie down.

12 May 2009


Current Work: Editing (non-fiction), short story development, submissions
Listening to: The sound of grass being strimmed
Reading: Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

Keeping in touch
The life of a writer can be a lonely one and I've found that more particularly so since re-locating to a foreign country. In the UK I was a member of a writing group which tried to meet monthly and who were a great inspiration to me. We formed following a course we all attending on developing our writing skills and it just seemed a natural progression.
Anyway, I was recently featured in the Members Section of the Writing Magazine and I indicated that I would be interested in developing a 'virtual' writing group with other fellow ex pats. Well, this week we have finally started to get going. There are four of us all women, two in Italy, one in Spain and the other in Germany, so fairly European.

I've also had my blog accepted on a site called Authors Blogs, which provides a list of links to writers blogs where you might get some sort of virtual support. Staying in touch with other writers is important, not only for our development but also for a bit of support.

The Riddler
Mmm... this weeks conundrum has to be the use of the passive voice. In fiction writing it can obviously make things very boring and doesn't help to move the story on, so I try my hardest to rethink what it is I (or my characters) is trying to show. But in non-fiction writing and particularly academic writing, the passive voice is used quite regularly. This can make the reading a little laborious and sometimes I feel I've lost the will to read another passive sentence! I have to remember which hat I am wearing at the time.

The Book Worm

This week there are two. Well one and a bit. The first one is the 'bit' one. The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale only lasted on my bedside table for a night. It's an interesting subject - a story about a murder of a young child at the time of the establishment of the first 'detectives'. And its a true story. But its told like a report, based on the facts gathered at the time, has no dialogue to speak of and therefore I...fell asleep. It has a Judy and Richard nomination though and I don't doubt the skills of the author. Just not one for me.
Now for the second book...

Title: The Reader by Bernard Schlink
Characters: A young fifteen year old boy and an older, illiterate woman
Plot: He forms a physical relationship with her but then she disappears. He comes across her years later at her trial for crimes committed agains the Jews in WWII.
Setting: Post second world war years in Germany.
Perspective: From the young boy and the influence his relationship had on the rest of his life
In a Word: Short, (it's a translation), tepid yet interesting
Recommendation: The film may be much better, but I found this a little lacking.

8 May 2009


Current Work: Non-Fiction, Editing and Admin
Listening to: The frightening buzz of a large hornet
Reading: The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

Distractions are good for the mind...
I don't know about you but I feel guilty if I haven't sat myself down at the PC or for me preferably, with a pen and notebook, at least at some part during the day. But sometimes I think its a good thing to let things mulch and simmer away whilst you go and do something totally different. For me this week, its been painting. No, not Van Gough style, just kitchen wall style. It's spring and things are looking a little drab so we decided to cheer things up a little. So I've written what I absolutley had to and then let my mind wander aimlessly as I stare at a brightening wall. Its been a good exercise; I've sorted through lots of conundrums with characters and plot and had loads of ideas. I just hope I can remember them!

Three Cheers for...

Well as you can see these won't be high on the quantity stakes but perhaps more so on quality. I know, who am I kidding!

  • Non fiction article on Diabetes has been drafted and will be finalised today
  • One scene completed on WIP 'The Good Life' - about 1700 words
  • Outline and planning for short story preparation - about 1000 words
  • Suite 101 article submitted on 'Making a Writing Plan' - about 600 words
  • Key contacts made for the journal I edit for future submissions
  • 3 Queries drafted for submission
  • Payment and copy received for piece on 'Puppy Love'

5 May 2009


Current Work: Fiction and non fiction submissions
Listening to: My Man Friday tiling the kitchen
Reading: The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kater Summerscale

It's Not Just About Words
This writing business is not just about words and characters and settings. If you make money from your writing it's also about business. Yuk, I hate that work and I do not earn a lot of money from my writing. I don't write primarily for the money, but as a a spin off it's very welcome and if I'm honest it really helps our housekeeping pot (which is extremely small). So as I'm still in my monthly planning mode - and yes I do know its the 5th of the month today - I've been trying to set up a simple accounting spreadsheet. I won't earn enough money to pay tax and it's a bit like wagging the dog, but I prefer to keep things above board. You'd think that I'd be able to find ready made spreadsheet through Google. Well after an hour of looking at all kinds of crazy spreadsheets, I haven't found anything near easy enough. So I'll have to develop my own. I'm told this will use the other part of my brain, the one I don't use very often and the one that failed to produce the right results for my maths o'level, three times.(Yes, that's right, I failed it three times.)

The Riddler

This week, I'm puzzling over the use of cliches. Now I noticed during the writing of my novel, that I actually used them quite a lot. I wanted to write one now to show you what I mean but my mind has drawn a blank! Now when I discussed this with my Man Friday, he very sensibly suggested that sometimes a cliche is exactly what you need, especially in dialogue as we often use them ourselves. I suppose once again its a case of balance and need.

The Book Worm

Title:A Change of Heart - it's about a girl who needs a heart transplant so very apt. The key question is who's heart?
Author: Judi Piccoult - I've read most of her titles and loved them all
Characters: A murderer, the victims wife and mother who is also the mother of the girl needing the heart transplant, the girl (obviously), a lawyer and priest and a doctor. Other minor characters include other high risk prisoners, the lawyers mother and father and the sister of the murderer.
Plot: Its very character driven and so the plot follows each of the main players and their lives so you get to know them quite well. This is why I love JP's books so much, because I relate to the characters. The potential heart donor is the man who allegedly murdered the ill girls father and sister and he has been sentenced to death. The plot also covers quite eloquently religous beliefs and challenges some of the 'rules' of faith including Catholicism, Christianity and Judaism. I was amazed to discover an alternative religion which existed many years ago.
Setting: Various but particularly memorable are the prison scenes.
Perspective: The main characters of the mother, the death row inmate, the lawyer and the priest. Also one other prisoner, which gives the tale a different viewpoint.
In A Word: Thrilling, Thought-provoking (OK, I know its two but rules are there to be broken), Edgy
Recommendation: Well, as a fan how could I not?

1 May 2009


Current Work: Queries, Planning for May
Listening to: My Man Friday strimming the grass (in between the showers)
A Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult

Aim High
Well as you know, I've finished the first edit of the novel. Now I'm into checking facts, continuity and even thinking about the blurb and the artwork for the cover! Now that's what I call bare faced cheek, when it hasn't even been taken on, but if don't believe in it who will?

Who do you write for?
Going through this novel writing thing has taught me many things. Not only about the process, things I would do differently next time and generally making next time (and yes there will be a next time) easier. But it has also taught me a lot about myself. Me as a person and Me as a writer. I've discovered that actually I have quite a passion for the 'historical', though those who know me well, may be saying 'hysterical'. So this a genre I'm going to focus on. I also enjoy the researching, planning part as well as finding the ideas, so I'm not the 'plant' someone told me I was all those years ago. It's strange how once we are labelled by someone or something we tend to believe it, whatever changes. I know I have changed enormously in the last ten years. I used to write because I felt I had to, because it was expected. Now I write for myself first, then because I have to. And it feels good.

Three Cheers

Submissions and Commissions
  • Check out the latest Suite 101 article on 'Novel Editing' (what a surprise!!)
  • Commission to provide a piece on diabetes and travel for an American Magazine
  • Possible commission to produce copy on living with a dog with a terminal illness
  • Six queries posted (double this week to make up for last)

No of Words Written

  • 2000 words for the Good Life (Working title)
  • Continued outline for the next novel, no of words unsure
  • Outline for non fiction piece, around 1500 words
  • Daily Journal completed - roughly 1000 words
  • Short Story outline - 2000 words

And now I have to go and review April and plan for May. Will let you know on Tuesday the outcome!