Saturday, July 31, 2010

Home again

I'm home from our short trip to Denham. We had a nice day out in London on Thursday - this was Miss La's reward for working hard at school so we spent the morning at Covent Garden browsing the shops, watching the street entertainers etc. Then in the afternoon we went to Hamley's. This was a curious mix of wow! and umm. The store is badly in need of a major refurbishment but the staff were nice and there is quite a good range although it wasn't as big or as varied as I'd expected. Didn't see any bikes, scooters, skateboards, very few board games although I could have missed them. Lots of TV themed stuff but disappointing range of Sylvanian family things and none of the bigger Barbie themed stuff. Didn't see very much in model trains or airfix either.
Friday we went to Henley on Thames where they were readying the town for today's regatta. It was interesting playing spot the yummy mummy.
Friday night was the big event - Jessica (my former cp) and Simon's wedding reception. Jess looked gorgeous in a white strapless classically styled dress with her three adult bridesmaids in an eau de nil shade of green. Very simple but very lovely. Little Charlie isn't so little any more - why do kids have to grow up so quickly? and we had a fabulous time. Once I can get hold of the camera cables I'll download some of the pictures.
The last week hasn't been great here for all kinds of reasons so it was nice to get away for a few days doing things that really matter, being with family and seeing friends. Here's hoping this next week gets even better.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Re- entry

It's always weird when you finish a book. I've been so immersed in Kate and steve's life at Myrtle cottage that I've kind of lost touch with what's happening in the wider world. Today though, I cleaned my desk - hey, there was wood under all that paper - who knew?
I'm attempting to fill out passport applications for the belles. This is a challenge - they have the 'wrong' sort of birth certificates, and were entered on my old passport when they were babies something which appears to throw HM passports into a bit of a tizz over which bits of paper I need to submit. It's all very complicated and very expensive.
The eldest belle is still recouperating after her toe surgery - she has to go back on Wednesday to have the dressings changed and see if she can be a bit more mobile.
My former cp, the talented and lovely Jessica is getting married on Friday to Simon and we're heading off to the wedding! So excited and thrilled for them both.
I'm so looking forward to my holiday at the end of August - I really need to be by the sea now and to have a break - it's been a very busy year. Plus we have the eldest belle's GCSE results yet to come.
My advance copies of Just Look at Me Now are here and Amazon are shipping already! Plus, it's £2 cheaper on there than the shops!I hope people will like this one :)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Just pressed send

It's finished. Me, You and him is now in my lovely agents in-box to wait for her verdict. Now the nail-biting begins.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I've finally finished my first round of aditing on You, Me and Him. In the process I removed the epilogue and added over 7k to the main book. I changed around the order of events in the last two chapters so they made more sense and strengthened the ending. I layered in more emotion and upped the stakes in some key scenes. I smoothed some transitions and enlarged on the dialogue sequences.
My next round now is to seek and destroy the words I love a little too much and make sure the story is hanging together well. This bit is like sanding the whole thing down to get rid of any splinters or snags that might snare an unwary reader.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Does anyone like synopsis writing?

I suspect there is a resounding no echoing back towards me. I've come to regard them as a kind of necessary evil. I'm lucky in that most of the books I've sold I've sold on a blurb rather than having had to produce a proper grown up synopsis. Every now and then though marketing, or my editor needs me to be a bit more definite about what I intend to write. Then it's tricky. I started off writing synopsis after the book was done but that clearly is no good when you are hoping to sell on proposal. The problem I had was that once I'd written the outline or synopsis I felt like I'd told the story and the book was done. Then I tried writing just the first three chapters and then the synopsis. That worked better although I often find the finished book isn't quite the same as my original plan.
I struggled a lot with the format of synopsis writing. I went to lots of workshops including a wonderful one by Sarah Duncan, a few years ago at an RNA conference. Now I've evolved my own set of rules. I never write one thats longer than two pages - more than that is a novella and really - who needs that? I don't describe every little incident or character - I stick with the hero and heroine and any secondary character who is key to a turning point in the plot. I make sure the growth in the character arcs is clearly shown through the plot turning points. I make sure the resolution is clear and the conflicts are clear.
Here is my original synopsis for Animal Instincts - you'll see the ending is different in the book, but hopefully this shows what I mean:
Down-to-earth Clodagh Martin is quite fond of her glamorous actress step-sister Imogen, providing Imogen isn’t actually around her for very long. So when Imogen shows up drunk on her doorstep at two in the morning with a bottle of champagne announcing that she’s come to visit for a while, Clodagh isn’t very pleased.
Staying at the Rainbow’s End animal sanctuary with a disapproving Clodagh isn’t Imogen’s idea of fun either. She would have preferred somewhere less smelly and infinitely trendier to hide. Unfortunately, a combination of debt, a humiliating public scandal involving a live TV show and too much alcohol has left Imogen with very little choice but to throw herself on Clodagh’s mercy until everything blows over.
Clodagh has enough problems of her own to worry about. The sanctuary she loves is broke and the animals she has, a foul-mouthed parrot, two gay donkeys and a goat called Mr Sheen, aren’t enough to draw in visitors. Former bad-lad-made-good property magnate Jack Thatcher seems very keen to acquire the land. He also appears very keen to date Clodagh, but she’s not sure if he wants to get his hands on her or her property. A worrying string of arson attacks and vandalism have left the sanctuary in a perilous state and she’s not certain that Jack is as reformed a character as he’d have her believe. A disastrous relationship some years before had made Clodagh very wary of getting involved with anyone again.
Co-ordinator of the volunteer helpers, Susie, is another thorn in Clodagh’s side. While her help with the animals is invaluable, her fetish for all things ‘green’ and apparently irrational disapproval of Jack are driving Clodagh mad. Jade, her colleague is more amenable and friendly.
Imogen, however, is convinced she can turn around both her own and the sanctuary’s fortunes. She decides she can resurrect her acting career and save the sanctuary by proving to the public that she’s a reformed character. Much to Clodagh’s despair Imogen sets up a series of events designed to convince the world that she’s now a dedicated and sober animal activist.
Journalist Marcus Keyes is certain there’s a story behind the new Imogen and much to Clodagh’s dismay he begins to turn up like a bad penny every time something happens at the sanctuary, either planned or unplanned.
Imogen secures a television appearance for herself and Clodagh where she announces an open day at the sanctuary. Immi also begins to date Marcus. The ensuing publicity from the television appearance brings in more money but also more press attention and not all of it is positive.
Jack finally persuades Clodagh to trust him and she tells him about her past, including her previous abusive relationship with her university tutor. In turn he tells her the truth about his father and how he came to inherit his property business.
Things take a more serious turn back at the sanctuary when the entrance kiosk is targeted for the next arson attack. Clodagh and Jack discover the blaze as they return from an evening together. Clodagh becomes convinced that the attacks are linked to a bid to force her to sell the sanctuary’s lands. The prime suspect is a building company who have bought up the neighbouring ground and secured permission to develop it for housing.
Marcus does some investigating as Immi suspects that one of the volunteers may be the saboteur. Suspicion initially falls on Susie but it is her colleague, Jade, who turns out to be the prime suspect. Marcus discovers Jade’s father is a councillor with financial interests in the firm of house builders who acquired the fields.
With autumn approaching and the peak of the tourist season almost over, Clodagh and Imogen need a last push if they are to keep the sanctuary running through the winter.
Together with Marcus and Jack the girls press on with the last event, a barbeque, car-boot sale and open day at the sanctuary. At the same time they set a trap for Jade, knowing she will be unable to resist trying to sabotage the event.
When a firework goes off inside the donkey’s pen, setting fire to the stable, Imogen, for once, puts aside all thoughts of her appearance and helps Clodagh rescue the frightened animals. Marcus and Jack catch Susie red-handed as she leaves the scene.
The press coverage of the fire helps Imogen resurrect her career and offers of work for her flood in. With the both Immi’s career and the sanctuary both safe Clodagh is finally able to see her future with Jack.
So you can see - it's sort of the same but different. How do you find synopsis writing?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My writing Process

Since I've had a few people asking me about my writing process I thought I'd talk about how I write. There is no right or wrong way to write, everyone develops their own way of working. I always find it interesting to hear how other writers work myself, and often I'll pick up a few tips or think 'yes, I do that'.
I think all of my stories come to me from the central character. I'll often have read something or watched a TV news programme or overheard something that sparks the idea but the important thing to recognise is those are often the triggers for the external aspects of the plot.
For instance, in Animal Instincts one of the catalysts was knowing about a local animal sanctuary that was always struggling for funds, did great work but needed a lot of help to keep going. Clodagh, in the story is faced with just that dilemna - she needs to raise money or she loses everything.
But although that features in my plot - the crux of her financial woes is that she has trust issues (internal conflict) So when Jack offers to help, is it because he has an ulterior motive? Will he try to take advantage of her weakness (as she sees it)?
The external plot alone wouldn't provide enough interest to drive the story and make it an engrossing read. The emotional journey between Jack and Clodagh around the issues of trust do make it sustainable over the course of the book.
The theme song for the book was the Sugababes - Because I know how I feel about you now.
So, I get the external aspect of the plot idea - then I usually hear the heroine's voice in my head and I'know' who she is and what her issues are - this tells me the course of the emotional journey she needs to make during the book.
At this point I usually write a blurb - this is a back of the book type paragraph that sums up the story - what will make it interesting - the hook for the book. I also do a lot of thinking at this point about the shape of the story and the elements I need to include.
My agent or my editor might ask me for a synopsis at this point and I'll talk about those tomorrow. For now I'm interested in your process? I write funny - how do you write?

Monday, July 19, 2010

More aditing

This part of my writing process is always for me the most intensive part. I enjoy seeing the characters really round out and start to live rather than exist on the pages. I'm currently at chapter twenty-two and I've added 3.5k so far. This has been as tiny nuggets of backstory, extra lines of dialogue, small pieces of description to set the scene better, rephrasing of clumsy words and making sure I'm showing and not telling the story so that the pace continues to move on. When I reach the final part of the process - my backwards edit I'll ensure that each scene has moved the plot forward and that the end of the book is as strong - if not stronger than the beginning. It takes a long time and it's painstaking work but the results are very satisfying. I'm really excited about this story - it's a bit different and out there but still within the expectations I think from readers of the kind of story that I write. On to the next chapter!

Saturday, July 17, 2010


Sigh, so I axed the ending of the book. It wasn't the true ending, at least not for me and subconciously I think it was colouring the whole story. I chopped the last 1.5K and popped it into a separate file for now and I'll look at it again when I reach that point. I then started over with my revisions process at the beginning and now it's all flying again. The story is making sense and I think Kate and Steve's relationship is better, stronger and more believable. Even with losing 1.5k I'm still almost 1k up on where I started and I'm only on chapter seven. I should easily hit my target word count. I always adit rather than edit my work as I write really quite sparingly when I do the first draft. All the colour and emotion gets added later as I gradually layer in what I want. For me the process is like making a watercolour - you make a sketch then add softer colours and hues washing them in until you build a picture.For other writers I know it's more like working in oils where they build the first draft with a palette knife and then take off the layers of paint to reveal the details. Both ways work but I'm an aditer, a water colourist. Which one are you?

Friday, July 16, 2010

One home

Miss Boo is now back from Germany, complete with dirty washing, what looks like a whole new wardrobe and a new pair of shoes. The eldest belle is enjoying her tour of Scotland with Mr Nell. We get daily phonecalls plus we also got a video and a postcard. Miss La enjoyed being a lonely only but secretly I think she's glad to have her sister back.
I'm working my way through my adits. I'm undecided about the ending of the book but I think my thoughts are getting clearer the more I progress. I'm halfway through my first round of changes and I know I need to tinker with the first third a little tiny bit more once I've gone through once. Then will come my grammar and tightening edit where I lose all those words I love too much. Right now I've decided they spend far too much time drinking tea so I'm losing a few of those scenes so I can rework them and make them more interesting. A good few days should have the story where I want it and then I'll have to see what my agents verdict is - gulp!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What the postman delivered!

Yes, I have a copy of Just Look at Me Now in my hot little hands. It's a real book - all pink and girly and pretty. Sometimes pink, girly and pretty is good.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What I did in Greenwich - part Two

Workshops! The conference was opened by Katie Fforde and she was followed by the lovely Jan Jones with a celebration of members achievements. I love this part of the conference. As a unpublished writer I absolutely loved to hear who had made sales, got an agent, won a contest. It gave me hope that my name might be one of those read out one year. We then had a panel of members with one author representing each decade of membership from the sixties onwards. This was fun as we noted what had changed and what had remained the same.
On Saturday the first workshop I attened was Jay Dixon's Adding Colour to your novel. As someone who writes a rather sparse first draft I found this interesting especially when she discussed colour in the Middle Ages and the symbolism of colour.
Then I gave my own workshop on secondary characters.
Then it was the fabulous Kate Walker talking about conflict - a useful reminder to me on internal conflict and upping the stakes.
After lunch I played hooky for an hour and went for a wander around Greenwich so missing one of the workshops I'd planned to attend. I returned in time for Imogen Howson's talk on What Samhain are looking for. As a Samhain author I was interested to know if they were going to be interested in taking more romances at the heat level that I write at. A big factor in why I haven't sent them anything new for a long time. Immi is always a mine of information and I love working with Samhain so that was good.
Then I went to Liz Fenwick and Kate Johnson's Social Media workshop. I am very undecided about Twitter and I'm still undecided about it but at least now I know more information.
Sunday was a fab day - Two brilliant workshops.
Sarah Duncan - Mind the Gap crossing the publishing divide. Very useful tips and good practical advice as always from Sarah.
This was followed by HW Fisher Money Matters - financial advice for writers - very useful!
I wish I could have stayed longer but maybe next year...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Phew - or what I did in Greenwich part one

I'm back from Greenwich. It was a very hot weekend. I was totally convinced in the small hours of our first night there that I was going to die. Our rooms were so unbearably hot and sticky. I had so many showers I'm sure I've shed at least five layers of skin. The setting was stunning, totally fab and there is a real buzz about Greenwich itself, loved the market. This year the gala dinner was at the Trafalgar tavern on the Friday night. Gorgeous inn - olde worlde, very lovely views across the river. Unfortunately Olde Worlde meant no air con or even fans so we were as cooked as the chicken we got for the main course. What bit of food there was was quite nice but it took forever to be served. We sat down at 7.30 and it took till 10.30 before pudding reached us, in the heat. Alcohol however flowed freely so we all felt very merry but starving. So starving that our table went to Mc Donalds on the way home to sit in the air conditioning and scarf french fries. (There seemed to be a potato famine at the Trafalgar - never had a main course that was just chicken and peas before. I did however have a bean on my plate so the rest of the table were jealous)A few of us went on to the Comedy club which turned out to be an olde school type disco where several M&B authors who shall remain nameless to protect the innocent danced around there handbags till the small hours. The rest of us collapsed in the upstairs room where it was cool and there were comfy sofas.
Thankfully my workshop seemed to go okay the next day and we had some lively discussions as we dissected the character arcs of secondary and minor characters in Pride and Prejudice and looked at how they worked within the main story.
After lunch a few of us went for a wander around Greenwich market and along the river cooling down, acquiring cute dresses and tops and generally recovering from the day before. Dinner that evening was a barbecue in the courtyard. There was a lovely breeze and the barbecued food was quite pleasant but was hopeless for some of my friends who had dietary restrictions. Sadly also for me the jugs of Pimms had been contaminated with apple so after my first sip when my tongue started to swell up I decided to pass on the drinks. By now with the walking involved around the campus which was very spread out my hip had begun to rebel so a group of us retired to the stickiness of our kitchen for tea, coffee, biscuits and cake. There wasn't any pudding at the barbeque although there was a rumour that some people had found profiteroles.
We had a lovely and lively discussion on all kinds of things before finally getting some sleep.
Sunday arrived all too soon and after two fab workshops (which I'll tell you all about tomorrow)we were graced by an address by Joanna Trollope (Who was scarily and painfully thin to the point of looking seriously ill)She gave a thoughtful and intelligent speech with some provocative statements. We then had the best meal of the conference before returning home via a complicated route involving many escalators, and trains.
Jan Jones and Roger Sanderson do a fantastic job organising the conferences and this was a wonderful setting which I'm sure we'll all remember for a long time. Their hard work was much appreciated by all of us and we're looking forward to Wales in 2011

Friday, July 09, 2010

Thursday, July 08, 2010


I now have lists everywhere. Shopping lists, to do lists, packing lists, timetables argh! I'm packing for tomorrow's RNA conference at Greenwich. I'm travelling with a fellow Wombourne Writer and new to the RNA friend, Vik. My eldest and hubby are packing the caravan with stuff for their trip to Scotland - they also leave tomorrow. Middle belle is heading off to Germany on Saturday so I have to pack all her stuff and get everything ready for her grandparents to take her to meet the coach. Youngest belle is staying with the house/fish sitters so I have to get her some treats so she doesn't feel left out until I get home on Sunday.
I must remember to charge my phone, put Boo's euro's ready, check my powerpoint and load it on a stick, take my notes, make sure Mr nell and eldest have their cycle helmets as they intend cycling a lot while they are away.
I also need to decide what stuff I'm taking and get my nails done (very important)I'm so looking forward to seeing all my writing friends again and catching up on the gossip and news.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Hump day already!

Time seems to be accelerating again. Last night my middle belle took part in her schools talent show, modelled after Britains Got talent. She'd passed the first audition and was one of the ten acts in the final. She sang all on her own on the stage in front of 200 people - pretty good for a very shy person. Today was the eldest belle's pre-op check appointment ready for her toe surgery in two weeks time and tonight it's my local writers group. Somehow I fitted in the day job too.
Once i get home from the RNA conference I plan to start my read through and adits of Me, You and Him ready for my agent to see. I've thought of loads of things I need to work on and I'm itching now to read through and get cracking but this resting time is really important in my writing process. It gives me time to look objectively at what I've written and can see more clearly what i need to work on to make it better. I have got another story though now niggling at the back of my mind so I gave way yesterday and opened a file for the first paragraph. I think Allotment Wars will be my next wip.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The mysteries of life

Such as where is all the youngest belle's washing? What happens to all the odd socks? Who used all the milk? And why do you always know where something is until you actually want it?
It's all too much for a Monday morning. I need to go and have my hair cut so that I look human in time for the RNA conference on Friday. Oh, and I need to buy more milk.

Friday, July 02, 2010

That Friday Feeling!

The lull between finishing a first draft and tacking the first read through and adits is always a strange period of readjustment. Add in how crazy busy my life is and it's no surprise that I feel a bit like an underwater swimmer who's suddlenly popped out onto the surface of the pool.
Today is a day off from the day job and I need to get various bits and pieces ready for the middle belle's German trip and eldest belle and Mr Nell's Scottish tour. I also need to finish my preparations for my workshop at the conference and plan my hair and nail appointments. Those are my treat to myself after the past few weeks of mayhem. My aditing of Me, You and Him will start as soon as i get back from conference and my aim is to get it completed by the end of July. During this time I also have eldest belle having her toe surgery and a trip to my lovely friend and long standing former cp's wedding - can't wait! Hope I don't cry - weddings make me go all mushy. We're combining that with a trip to take youngest belle for a day out in London - sightseeing tips and ideas very welcome!