Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sunny Sunday at Windsor

Following in the tradition begun by my virtual blogger friend, Marsha, here is a cameo of life in and around London.

I'm about the go out and enjoy one of the few hot, sunny weekends we get here in May. We'll find a pub by a river in Windsor and sit with a drink beneath a willow overhanging the water. Then simply spend the afternoon wallowing in the peace and quiet of an English Sunday in the shadow of Windsor Castle. A really beautiful and awe inspiring place close up, it's very easy to imagine all the ancient kings who used it as a base in Medieval times.

Windsor is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Ten British monarchs lie buried in St George's Chapel: Edward IV, Henry VI, Henry VIII, Charles I, George III, George IV, William IV, Edward VII, George V and George VI.

Oliver Cromwell captured Windsor Castle after the Battle of Edgehill in 1642, and for the rest of the Civil War it became a prison as well as the headquarters of the parliamentary forces.

In 1648, Charles I was held there before his trial and execution at the Banqueting House in Whitehall and his body was brought back for burial in the chapel during a snowstorm. For all you history buffs, there's plenty more here: Windsor Castle

Constructed on a hill, the streets flow downward towards the river and the old Victorian railway station has been transformed beautifully into a mall beneath a glass roof filled with curio shops, bookshops and every cafe and restaurant you can imagine.
At 11.am most days, everyone congregates below the castle to watch the changing of the guard - a sight which never loses its magic. In the sunshine, England is the best country in the world.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

What Is The Perfect Length?


For a novel? [and apologies for those who were expecting something infinitely more racy.]

The concensus of opinion of all the writing articles I have Googled appears to be - It Depends!

Incredibly helpful - not. I admit I began this post whingeing about having to cut another 18,000 words from my current wip to: 'appeal to a wider publisher base'. In no position to argue, I will accept this rigid criteria: After extensive searching for ideas, I found this blog from Darcy Pattison with this post on
6 Techniques for Cutting a Novel’s Length
which I dived on gratefully.

Here are some gems:
Use chapter breaks - instead of living minute by minute with your characters - Take key events and give your readers credit for being able to make accurate assumptions about what happens in the interim.
Start scenes later and leave them sooner: Readers will correctly assume the mundane things that happened before or after the good stuff. i.e. we know the main character plans to or is headed to visit another, that scene can begin with an important line of dialogue from the middle of their conversation instead of the arrival and broaching of the subject.
Writers don't want the reader confused: But sometimes, details obscure. When those details are removed, the action feels more intense because the whole scene moves faster.
It can be acceptable to tell: Ms Pattison quotes her editor as saying: “Sometimes I wish ‘show, don’t tell,’ had never been invented.” Choose judiciously. Sometimes, Ariel didn’t need to have her skin go clammy and the nape of her neck prickle — she could just be scared.

I do, however, have a question: What about the 500 page tomes which sit quite happily on my bookshelf with the labels, 'debut novel' on the cover?

If every paragraph was crucial to a scintilating plot, I could understand why not a word might fall foul of the editor's red pen. In my opinion as a reader, most of these books tend towards the self indulgent with whole chapters that veer off subject and would benefit from a ruthless cutting session without losing any of the plot.

So where do these 'rules' come from and more importantly - who breaks them and will they read my novel in all its 98,000 word splendour?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

What Real Writers Say

Sarra Manning, [and yes, that is how she spells it] an author of eleven YA books who has recently published her first adult novel, was interviewed in the Sunday Supplements this week on the subect of writing a novel. What she had to say about the craft was interesting. I paraphrase here as the article is too long to include everything.

SM-There is no such thing as writer's block
She describes it as self doubt, nerves or sheer can't-be-botheredness, and advises writers to simply type through the pain.

ME - Tried that – and I end up with three thousand words of gibberish that gets edited out in the next session. As for the lazy aspect – well of course I am, or I wouldn’t spend my life on the sofa at my laptop – I’d have a paying job!

SM-Your house will become immaculate:
Ms Manning contends she uses housework as a diversionary tactic to solving the plot crisis in a chapter.

ME -
Nope – I simply switch to blogging, forums, critique group or playing ‘Pharaoh’ and pretend the dust bunnies are no bigger than they were yesterday.

SM-Everyone will tell you about Trollop's work ethic:

That he wrote for three hours a day and if he finished a book with five minutes to spare he'd start the next one. People will trot out this anecdote and criticise your less industrious ways - but that Trollop didn't have the distractions of Facebook!

ME -
See item above.....

SM - You’ll put on weight:

Because writing is solitary and sedentary occupation.

ME -
Tell me about it!

SM - Writers’ groups are an unnecessary evil:

Editors warn their clients to stay away from them and to resist showing your work to anyone until it’s finished. E.g. If you are writing chick-lit, why would it matter if a sixty year old man who has papered his flat with rejection slips has a major problem with your plot?

ME -
I can see the point in that – but I wouldn’t be without my critique group. When I submit the chapter I have agonised over for days as to whether the protagonist’s love crisis was credible or not, they come back and ask, ‘Didn’t she have green eyes in the last chapter?’

SM - Writing the book is the easy part:

The really hard stuff like finding an agent, getting a deal and obsessing over your Amazon sales rating - is tougher.

ME -
There isn’t an author I know who wouldn’t agree with that!



Friday, 22 May 2009

Shamelessly Nicked From Another Blog


But It made me laugh so much I have to share it......

Me: Deb, do you have any lip gloss?
My Sister: DO I HAVE LIP GLOSS?!
*pulls open her purse to reveal approximately 10,236 lip glosses*
Me: Uh, I’ll try this stuff.
My Sister: OH! It’s good! It’s called “VENOM”. I got it for Christmas.
Me: Oh. Awesome. *applies lip gloss* *pause* *one minute of silence*
Me: Deb?
My Sister: Yeah?
Me: Is it supposed to, like, burn?
My Sister: Yeah, it totally does that.
Me: Is it, like, one of those lip glosses that are supposed to plump your lips like collagen by irritating them?
My Sister: What? They have lip glosses like that?
Me: Yeah dude. Are you telling me you’ve used it for the past few months and never questioned that?
My Sister: I never really thought about it.
Me: You never thought it was weird that a lip gloss was setting your lips on fire?
My Sister: Uh. No. I guess I didn’t.
Me: BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, MY LIPS ARE ON FIRE RIGHT NOW.
My Sister: Well.
Me: ON FIRE. I MEAN, THIS KIND OF PAIN IS INTENSE.
My Sister: I…
Me: ONNNNNNNNNN FIRE!!!!!!!!!! I AM GOING TO DIEEEEEEEEEE! I NEED A TISSUE TO WIPE IT OFF! OH MY GOD THE BURNING! THE BURNINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!
My Sister: Wait. Your lips actually look bigger though.
Me: THE BURNNNNNNNIIIIIIIIIIIN—Wha? Seriously?
My Sister: Yeah.
Me: Oh. I guess I’ll leave it on then.
My Sister: Totally.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Where To Now?

It's a strange and difficult time writing wise – which happens to most writers I know - with a new book out there awaiting an insightful publisher to pick up - well why not, it might happen - which way to go next!

My critique group are enthusiastic about one of my wips, but I have been made aware that historical fiction of this genre is not being published at the moment. It robs the work of the excitement in some ways, not to mention the urgency of doing the re-writes, but I still love the characters enough to finish it.

I do in fact have a story mapped out on a spreadsheet and a second is a germ of a idea based on a ‘Famous Woman of the 17th Century’. The principal, time, characters, setting and so on are in my head but I have no idea where I am going with it to make it a compelling story. As for actually writing it – bleah, I keep looking out of the window and not getting on with it. Hours at the laptop are one thing, but hours staring at the keyboard are something else entirely.

Someone tell me I’m not alone!

Thursday, 14 May 2009

RNA Summer Party 2009


My agent invited me to attend the Romantic Novelists’ Association Summer Party in St James last night, which proved to be an interesting and informative occasion. I met some incredibly nice authors, well of course they are nice I hear you say, who unanimously decreed I must join the Association. Their enthusiasm for the support and facilities offered by the group was infectious and I will most certainly do so.

I caught up with some familiar faces, Jean Fullerton amongst them, and also met some fascinating new ones, like Sarah Mallory, and Kate Johnson, who is every bit as warm and lively as her saucier alter ego Cat Marsters. OK, that’s enough name dropping.

Although I don’t write Romances as such, this group offer a wealth of experience, information and some lively conversation about the writing and publishing world. I’m sorry I didn’t succumb sooner. I'm now off to bone up on the conference in Penrith scheduled for July.

Friday, 8 May 2009

The May Fair

King Henry III

An historical post this week, about the reason I’m not going to be able to step outside my front door this weekend or park in my own street! The fair is put on by the Showmen's Guild of Great Britain, who are due to roll into town this weekend with fairground rides and stalls.In 1269 the right to hold a fair at Beaconsfield on the Vigil of the Ascension and for six days afterwards was granted to the

abbess and nun of Burnham Abbey in the reign of Henry III.[the son of King John] they held the fair every year over an eight-day period.

This was shortened to two days when Henry V renewed this grant in 1414. In 1551 Sir John Williams was given the right to hold a fair on the Vigil and on the next day. By the end of the eighteenth century, fairs were held on Holy Thursday and on

13th February when a cattle market was also held. In 1863, the date was set at May 10 or 11 if it fell on a Sunday –which it does this year

The majority of houses and cottages in the Old Town flank the four ends (Aylesbury End, London End, Windsor End and Wycombe End) date from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The flint and bath stone parish Church sits at the crossroads, the centre of the fair. The earliest part is its pinnacle tower which dates from the 15th century. Most of the rest of the church was restored in 1879. In the churchyard is the box-like tomb of Edward Waller, the poet, for whom the Hall Barn estate was built on his return from France in 1680 and who died in 1687.

Beaconsfield Church

London End is rich in ancient buildings, the King's Head dating from 1713, the White Hart, the 17th-century Burke House and London End House, a former inn dating back, in part, to the 16th century. The first stop on the way out of London, Beaconsfield used to be an old coaching town and retains its wide streets. Many buildings retain the arches where carriages would enter into the yards with stables at the rear.

Monday, 4 May 2009

How Do You Write?

As a member of several author groups as well as writing critique groups, the question is often asked: How do you write a novel?

By this I don't think they mean open the laptop, settle down with a cup of coffee and then quietly open a vein, [or maybe I do!] but where do you start?

As a historical novelists, I am often asked if I complete all my research first, making copious notes to refer to throughout the writing process. Or do I look something up as it's needed?

Do I start with an opening scene and let the characters write the novel themselves as their thought process become part of me? Or do I set out a chapter by chapter structure with the goals and conflicts laid out in order to be strictly followed?

I have met, well some I have met, but most of them only virtually, both types of writers. The seat-of-the-pants type and the ones who use novel writing software to plan every conversation, dscription and piece of action. Then there are writers who have no idea where their characters will take them but are drawn into their world where the solutions miraculously evolve. Then ther are those who write the ending first and work backwards.

I'm a planner. I sketch out each chapter and list the scenes, decide where I am going and set off in that direction. I don't always end up where I expect to,. Sometimes my characters change and do some evolving of their own, so their roles become either more instrumental to the story or less so.

I'm not saying I have to work harder than those authors who formulate a basic idea and then let the words flow out of the end of their fingers, but in a way I envy them. So which kind of writer are you?