Sunday, May 29, 2011

The novel: An Update!

Last night wasn't my usual Saturday evening.

It was, for a change, rather exciting! Two hundred and ninety-four pages later and I had on my desk eight months of hard work and sheer bloody-mindedness!

I would love to think that sat there is pure gold. A novel ready to go. By the end of next week I'll have a book deal. But no. Believe me, really, it's a no.

Why not? Because writing is not easy. It has a long way to go until it really is the novel I want it to be or anywhere near a publishable standard.

So what happens from here? Read on...

Where it all began

Ok, I'll admit it. This isn't the first time I've had a crack at novel writing. Back in the days of University (a decade ago now!) I started my first novel. 

So when I decided to start writing seriously my plan was to re-do that novel. Only I knew that I wasn't capable of doing that without learning the craft of writing. So I decided to try smaller projects first to help me improve. This is where the blog and setting goals came in.

Then back in September/October last year I had a bit of a light bulb moment. Only it wasn't a light bulb it was a dream. I dreamt up a story and a title, 'The Shortlist.' Well that was rather handy and I decided to start writing that novel.

And now?

Well it's miles away from the original idea and has the working title of Grace Escapes. I'm saving The Shortlist for book number two!

So having started in a completely muddled order I can celebrate the fact that in its present state it is at least:
  • About the right length
  • In an order that makes sense 
  • Has page numbers
So that's a start. So what else do I need to do? Well, quite a lot. Starting with this list:
  • Re-structure - I need to go through and systematically look at the storyline and re-structure it. Some of it works - some of it doesn't.
  • Research - There are several things I need to find out for certain without glossing over them.
  • Texture - On occasions (call it bad habits) there are parts that read more like a script than a novel. I've learnt what my bad habits are in shorter pieces but its so easy to let them slip! Show don't tell, Miller!
  • Magic - Every work of fiction needs that little bit of magic. The sparkle that makes it stand out. 
  • An irresistible hero - When I started this I did it from one point of view. I've now added the hero's point of view. It is much better for this but I need to more clearly define his story.
What next?

I'm very lucky to be a member of the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers' Scheme. As part of this you get a full appraisal of your manuscript from an expert. The deadline for this is the end of August. As you can imagine they get a mad rush at the end of August with the majority of the 250 manuscripts getting submitted then.

So even though most of the time you get advised to walk away from your manuscript and come back to it, I am in fact going to plough on. I already know some of the structural changes that need to take place so I am going to plan this first. I'm hoping to have it sent off before I go on holiday on 2nd July! I have a feeling that may be a tad overly optimistic given the research I want to do but it's what I'm going to aim for.

My precious!
So that's where I'm at! I have to apologise for being rather quiet on the blog front. To try and make up for it I have promised to fill you in on the storyline so watch out for some posts in the coming weeks about that!

Friday, May 20, 2011

The RNA Party - And what a party!

On Wednesday I attended my first ever RNA party and thoroughly enjoyed it. There was so much going on I thought I would give a run down of my highlights.

  •  The Tweet-Up: A group of us met up beforehand. It was great making some new friends and meeting people I've known for months but have never met: Talli Roland, Rachel Lyndhurst, Lucie Wheeler, Janet Brigden, Liz Crump, Jane Holland, Vanessa Savage. Head over to their blogs where you may find pictures of the actual event.
  • Waiting outside The Ritz for a taxi. Talli was almost taken out by the revolving door before we gave up.
  • The moment seven of us crammed into a busy tube carriage and half of Jane Holland nearly got left behind! 
  • When I tagged on to Talli in an effort to find the bar and ended up circulating the whole library before we found it (great way to meet several people in a rush - we were thirsty.)
  • Taking flat shoes and changing into heels when I got there. This may be my wisest moment yet.
  • Listening to the announcement of the Joan Hesseyon Award  - Charlotte Betts with The Apothecary's Daughter.
  • Meeting so many lovely people in such a short space of time who are so willing to help out those on the NWS.
  • A bag containing a wine bottle (not mine) - anyone who knows about this will know what I mean!
  • The taxi ride back to Waterloo Station with D.J. Kirkby and Rachel Lyndhurst. We arrived and got a Burger King like all classy ladies would.
  • Getting home and reading everyone else's blogs and realising exactly how many people I didn't get to talk to!

It truly was a fantastic evening, brilliantly organised by Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson. For more pictures and highlights check out the RNA blog.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guest Author: Sue Moorcroft

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming author, Sue Moorcroft onto the blog. This is to celebrate the arrival of Love & Freedom, Sue's new book, due out on 1st June. I asked Sue to tell us about her research:

Why do we love research?

What’s not to love? Let’s face it, spending time in and around Brighton in gorgeous sunny weather, taking photos and making notes – well, it doesn’t sound like hard work, does it?

When I decided to make the heroine of Love & Freedom, Honor, an American looking for her English mother in England, I wanted the English part to be in a setting that would appeal to American readers, too. I didn’t fancy London or Scotland, popularly supposed to be the only parts of the UK that Americans recognise (! yeah, right) so I picked on Brighton, sometimes know as Little-London-by-the-Sea. Brighton is rich in history and eccentricity, things that play their parts in the book and that I thought readers from another country would enjoy.

Writers vary in the way they choose their settings. Some choose real places; others create entire countries, or even worlds. I’m comfortable with a technique halfway between these two as I create fictitious towns or villages set in proximity to real places, and my characters move between the two. The real places provide authenticity and the created places give me freedom. I have to worry a lot less about whether you can really get from A to B in twenty minutes or whether a business I depict as a grotty pick up joint, will be recognised.

I began with a big old book of road maps that I keep in my study for the purpose then, when spending a few days near Arundel whilst deciding where exactly I was going to settle Eastingdean, bought a map of the Sussex area and an A-Z of the city of Brighton & Hove, which have been much thumbed. Finally, I drew a map of Eastingdean itself. It’s a seaside village just outside Brighton – if you drive east along the coast road through Rottingdean and Saltdean, it’s just there, before you get to Peacehaven.

Over the course of several visits, I built up a collection of leaflets and maps from Brighton Tourist Information, books on Rottingdean and Arundel, parish magazines and, essentially, bus and train timetables. These are still in a box at the bottom of one of my bookcases. I suppose I only ever used ten per cent of what I began with – but boy did I use that ten per cent. Stuck three hours away from Brighton in my study, they were invaluable. Like most writers, I also use the Internet for a certain amount of research, especially about businesses, aerial views and local activities.

And I spent hours and hours walking in the area. Along the Undercliff Walk from Rottingdean, past Saltdean – and, oops, Eastingdean wasn’t really there. I was surprised, more than once. I took hundreds of photos with my digital camera and my phone, which I loaded on my lovely Mac when I got home, so that I could check out the undulating white cliffs, the beach, the breakwaters, Saltdean Park and lido, the concrete steps from undercliff to coast road, the hotels, the wildflowers – pretty much anything I could think of whilst I was there with a camera. I spent hours around Brighton itself, too, on the beach, the pier, in the city and the Lanes.

Later in the process, I walked everywhere that Honor walked in Brighton, Rottingdean and Arundel, drove the roads along which she was driven and took the bus rides that she took. And I ate fish and chips on the pier. Just for authenticity. You understand.

I had one last, really handy, source of research – my son lives in Brighton. So I could ask him to check out tides and sun direction and all that stuff. And when my editor queried whether Honor would be able to see the derelict West Pier from the entrance to the Palace Pier, he went down and rang me from the very spot. ‘Not unless she’s about seventeen feet tall,’ he said. Oh. OK. Change that bit, then …

Love & Freedom will be published by Choc Lit on 1 June 2011. You can preorder it now or read the first two chapters. And you can listen to a recording of the FREE prequel chapter here.

Sue Moorcroft writes romantic novels of dauntless heroines and irresistible heroes for Choc Lit. Combining that success with her experience as a creative writing tutor, she’s written a ‘how to’ book, Love Writing – How to Make Money From Writing Romantic and Erotic Fiction (Accent Press). Sue also writes short stories, serials, articles and courses and is the head judge for Writers’ Forum. She's a Katie Fforde Bursary Award winner.
Check out her website and her blog at for news and writing tips. You’re welcome to befriend Sue on Facebook or Follow her on Twitter.
All of Sue’s Choc Lit novels and Love Writing are available as ebooks.
Thank you visiting the blog, Sue!  

I have already started reading Love & Freedom and it's a fantastic read! The great news is I have one copy to give away. 
Just comment on the blog below - UK only.
Please leave some way of contacting you. 
This will close on 27th May - Good Luck!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

100 Stories for Queensland: Paperback release!

It's finally here! Today is the release of the paperback issue of 100 stories for Queensland. I have blogged about this a few times before as my story In A Jiffy was accepted for publication. It is great to be involved with a project like this as it is all for a good cause and the excitement of seeing my short story published in a book amongst so many other well known names!

It is available for sale on Amazon for £9.99 and all profits are going to the Queensland Premier Flood Appeal. My story is about the contents of a parcel but you'll have to read it to find out what is inside the parcel and what happens as a result...

Please help support the cause and get your copy today!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Growing Up in Wartime Southampton:The book launch!

On Sunday I spent a lovely afternoon at James Marsh's book launch for Growing up in Wartime Southampton: Someone Else's Trousers. James is a member of the writing group I belong to, Writing Buddies. I met James for the first time last April and at that point he had received his contract and needed to whittle down his word count. A year later and all his hard work has come to fruition. Not forgetting all the years of hard work before that!

It was really nice to see James celebrating the successful publication of his book. Now I have my signed copy I am really looking forward to reading it. Not least because James has shared little snippets over the year I have known him.

Well done, Jimmy! And to echo Jimmy's mini speech: Here's to Someone Else's Trousers!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Bed time Stories: Writing Competition

A Vogel are running a 'Write A Story for Bedtime Competition!'

This runs until later this year with monthly prize and then overall winners. Terms and conditions can be found here.

I'll leave you with that challenge whilst I get back to the novel! Must. Not. Get. Distracted!

Good Luck!