Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Another OMG Moment

Today, a friend of mine e-mailed our writers' group to say she was mortified to have sent out a query to an agent whose website said they were closed to submissions. 'How could I have made such a Rookie mistake?' she says.

Haven't we all done something similar? Like send a query in Bookman Old Style Font instead of Times New Roman, or attached the first twenty five pages instead of chapter 1 to 3. Or maybe even sent the synopsis as an attachment instead of as part of the e-mail?

We press the 'send' button and the panic sets in - Then we twist ourselves in knots and imagine the agent has assigned us to a Blacklist on some secret database accessible only to other agents, saying, 'This author ignores instructions!'

So we e-mail all our author friends on how dumb we have been and what to do - and they all mail back to commiserate and reassure us there are plenty more agents out there who don't know what idiots we are.

Then we stress over whether we ought to re-submit, because the agent might recognise our name and delete the query as a reflex action? Or will another sign go up on the database. 'This author is still deluded enough to think I am going to read their query - despite previous blunder!

The nice part of this story is the agent e-mailed my friend back - and of course said friend panicked and thought she was going to be 'yelled at or something' [quote] for breaching the rules, and guess what - The agent wants a partial.

What senstive souls us authors are and how we live in dread of upsetting the superior beings that are Literary Agents.

And by the way Dearest Kate, this post is definitely not about you!!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Ghosts at Ham House?

Last June, an article appeared in the Elmbridge Guardian with a photograph of a ghostly image a tourist captured on camera at Ham House. A visitor and his girlfriend described hearing a deep growl while on a tour of the lower floor. Something compelled the girl to take a photo as they left the room.

He said: “We were walking out and I just felt I couldn’t be there. I had tingles down my body but my girlfriend felt the need to take a picture. When the couple got home and uploaded the snap, they spotted a white, orb-like shape in the picture of the empty room. He is convinced his photograph is the “capture of the century”, as he believes it shows the duchess, her dog and her cane, which residents claim to have heard tapping along the floorboards.

Ham House, built in 1610, has a history of hauntings, with the Duchess of Lauderdale and her dog the subject of numerous sightings through hundreds of years. The house has been subject to a year long investigation by paranormal investigators which recorded a number of phenomena that remain unexplained.

In September 2004, for instance, ghostly footprints materialised on the wooden floor of the inner hall. A guide in the house says people have written to the trust asking, 'Why have I got to leave my dog outside when I saw one indoors? And every time they said they saw a King Charles Spaniel. Many visitors say they notice a faint smell of roses in the stairwell, the Duchess's favourite perfume.

Hmm.. I wonder if Elizabeth Murray knows I am writing about her?

Monday, 12 April 2010

Complex Plotlines

I am told that I don't write standard romances because my storylines are too complicated. This confuses me somewhat, because even if a couple have conflict to work through to fulfil their goal of being together, how can they do so without interaction and relationships with other people who affect their lives?

As a result of visiting blogs and writing sites to see where I am going wrong - if indeed it is wrong to have more than one storyline running through a novel. One article reads:

'Action is not story. Events are not story. We don't have story until we have a determined character with a goal who faces mounting obstacles along the way to achieving that goal.
If your hero's goal is to find a hidden family treasure, then create events that prevent him reaching that goal. Don't have him solving a murder, save his best friend from a gangster and build a racing car from a kit at the same time. Pick a single, central conflict.'

The above make perfect sense, [except the 'Events are not story', bit which I am still struggling with], and certainly applies if you are creating a novel from scratch and can control the influence one character has on another and restrict their own actions in the context of the novel.

As I write historically based fiction, major events tend to drive my stories - e.g. the family I have chosen to write about faced a particular conflict due to the English Civil War. I have tried to restrict this conflict to the specific goals of my heroine, but the trials and tribulations of other members of her family are inevitably bound up in what she is going through.

I have included other, relevant characters whose external conflict due to events impact on my heroine, but the internal conflict is exclusively hers to give the story focus and make readers care what happens to her. Real life, however, is not simple, or clear. A story doesn't always revolve around two people and loose ends rarely get tied up in the final chapter.

Is this making a novel 'too complicated?'