Welcome to my blog - a collection of thoughts and musings on the world of writing, books and all those wordy type things.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Madly Writing!


I'm so sorry there's been rather a gap since the last post, but I do have a fairly good reason...I won a competition - the UK Carina 'Write Christmas' one that I mentioned in a previous post! And yes, I'm still a bit stunned!

I got the call having just come round from some minor surgery, which made it all a bit surreal. I was so glad when they announced it on Twitter the following day

There was a little part of me that was wondering whether it had all just been me and the anaesthetic!

The chapters I'd sent in were from a book I'd started but had put aside to work on the SYTYCW15 entry, and hence it wasn't finished. And now it has to be finished in super quick time so I'm busy working on that pretty much all the time at the moment. It's a bit nerve wracking because, being a writer, I'm always finding something to worry about with it - but hopefully they'll like the rest of it just as much as the first chapters. I'm well aware there will be a slew of revisions but I shall just have to take that on the chin as I know that, as part of Harlequin, these people really know what they're doing.

There isn't a title for the book yet but as soon as I know, I'll pass it on!

In the meantime, we are currently in the throes of setting up a website which I'll be transferring my blog to, so when that's live I'll let you know about that too and hope that you will come and say hello to me there.

I really hope everyone else's writing is going well this summer! Now, I'm off to the depths of Christmas to carry on with the novel!

Happy writing!

Friday, 31 July 2015

Entering Writing Competitions

Yes, I'm still at it! There are currently a few going on with similar ending dates that really aren't that far away (one being midnight tonight!) so it's all been a little bit hectic. But I am enjoying it, in a 'Oh my gosh, I'm never going to get this done' kind of way.Well, apart from the synopsis writing times which a writing friend has termed 'Synopsis Stress' ' a very apt description.

I did get the Kobo/W H Smith Romance Writing Competition finished with a few days to spare, so I was pleased with that. This left me time (I use this term loosely) to start work on the Carina UK Christmas Competition. The due date for this is midnight tonight. No pressure. I'm pretty much done with it. I spent yesterday trying to work out the best one hundred word blurb to go along with it, and I think I'm there now. I need to go over the chapters again and just make sure I'm happy with them before packing it all off on its electronic way with lots of good wishes.

It's been an interesting experience writing 'out of season'. Although the last week or so, it's not been great weather here in the UK, so not that hard to imagine it being winter. But I wrote most of mine the previous week when it was in the high 20s, with sun beaming through the open windows. To help get in the mood, I was watching Christmas films - Love Actually, The Holiday, and Serendipity were the main ones. Mowing the lawn on a very warm summer's day whilst listening to Michael Buble's Christmas Album was also a new, and interesting, experience.  It did actually all help though and I'd recommend it if you're in a similar spot. Although it did occur to me that, although I was busy trying to get my head into a snowy landscape, for half the planet, I was already experiencing the correct conditions for Christmas! An Antipodean Festive Season can be pretty toasty! But the outline of the competition did seem to suggest they wanted a 'cold' Christmas setting, which is what I've gone for. Now I just have to hope that the judges like it!

Once this is on its merry way, I'll be getting my head down on the So You Think You Can Write competition. I have a LOT to do on this as, although only a partial is submitted, if you are chosen (pick me! pick me!), the rest of the manuscript needs to be ready. Bearing in mind so far all I have is notes, I need to get scribbling!

I hope everyone else's entries are going well. I'd also be interested in how you get yourself in the mood when you have to write something that's 'out of season'. Feel free to leave a comment below with any tips!

In the meantime, happy writing!

Friday, 19 June 2015

So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) - Boot Camp Two - The Sequel

Yesterday, Harlequin held their second Boot Camp of the Year the So You Think You Can Write (SYTYCW) Boot Camp  - this was the sequel!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that I took part in last month's Boot Camp (post here) which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was interesting and fun, and good for motivation, plus I also connected with a few more romance writers whom I have kept in touch with on Twitter, so that was a really fun aspect of the day.

Last month I was lucky enough to have pretty much the whole day to myself and devote to the Boot Camp - although by the nature of it, you can dip in and out, which can be handy. This month it fell on a day when there were other things going on, so I wasn't as in depth with it, but I did still get to read all the blog posts, and most of the chats. There was one on the forum on the subject of research which I highly recommend. Reading about what other people do was both useful - and amusing!

Another fun part was the Twitter chat on 'hero and heroine inspiration' - participants tweeted pictures of actors/models whom they used as inspiration for different novels. Looking at pics of gorgeousness - what's not to like? I can certainly think of worse ways to spend time!

The whole thing is to help motivate romance writers, especially those taking part in Harlequin competitions. They also set a challenge each month in the Boot Camp - last month was to send in a first page, from which six are picked for critique on the site. This month's challenge was for a synopsis. I thought I'd have a shot at this. I didn't get picked last month but you've got to keep trying, haven't you? Because this was obviously a challenge that could take longer (is there anyone that enjoys writing a synopsis?), they opened the doors for this the previous evening. I pootled along and got a good half way through mine. It was going quite well and then, disaster! My WP programme just died. For no reason. I went to save it and it effectively told me: 'No, I don't want to.' And promptly shut down. Without saving my work. As it happened, I'd had a pretty rubbish day and the only thing that had gone well was that synopsis. And then it was just gone.

I realise I probably should have saved earlier, which I normally do and then at least I would have lost a smaller amount but still. It was pretty upsetting. By that point it was later in the evening and I didn't have time to start over again then and there. I decided to start again in the morning. Because of the time differences, I had a few hours in the morning to work on it before I needed to get it over for the challenge. However, it seemed the Writing Gods weren't in the same mood yesterday because, wow, it was hard going and it didn't sound anywhere near as good as the previous days work had. Also, with the other stuff going on yesterday, it was a bit harder to absorb into it. In the end, I decided that it just wasn't going to work if I rushed it. I actually have a couple of other WIPs, one of which the synopsis was pretty much done. I decided to tweak this, and make sure it looked ok and then sent that over.

As it was, after all the drama, mine wasn't one of the ones picked for assessment, but I was still glad that I submitted something. Just in case!

I don't know if there will be another Boot Camp next month. They did put out a survey asking what we'd like to see another time, so hopefully there will be more. They're definitely good fun and a good place to link up. May's one had a chat with Editors which was a good opportunity to ask questions that you might not otherwise get to ask, so I'm hoping they might include something like that again. I'll be posting on Twitter if I see any updates, so don't forget to follow me there.

Apart from taking part in the above, I have been really getting on with my writing, which feels great! It's been a bit nuts here because, apart from being up and down with being ill (finally got an appointment on Thursday, wish me luck!), putting in some new front garden borders and doing a bit of temp cover last week, I've been just so eager to get on and write, and read! Which is great! I think I'd lost that a little bit but it really feels like it's back at the moment, which is good.

Now all I need is an acceptance from somewhere to boost that...

Hi to everyone who took part in the Boot Camps and I look forward to carrying on our chats - writing, and non writing related, and good wishes to every writer out there. May you and your pen have a good day!

Happy writing!

Monday, 1 June 2015

Writers' Bureau Course, Short Story Markets and Reading Research

So, today I have been quite productive in that I've read a book and done part of the next assignment from The Writers' Bureau that I've had sitting around for far too long.

I was going to start on the next question too but it involves writing a short story aimed at a specific market and, right now, I have absolutely no idea of any markets for 2000 word stories. Hence, I've ground to a stand still until I can get some more information on that front - any advice would be great appreciated! Luckily the Womag blog is already on my Bloglovin Feed so I'm sure that will have useful info, as it always does, thanks to Patsy and the other fabulous writers that contribute, like Carol. I think I need a trip to the newsagents in the meantime too to start looking at a couple of the mags that I know do still accept short stories, like Peoples' Friend. To be honest, I've never been great at short stories, so this bit of the course is quite daunting, more so than writing a novel! But all I can do is try.

As mentioned in the previous post, there are a couple more competitions I have in mind to do - so far - this year, if possible, both in the Harlequin Mills and Boon realm. This is a market I've aimed at before, and had some encouragement in, but then life got in the way in a rather major way and it all got pushed aside a bit. But I have been wanting to get back to it, as I enjoy reading these fun little escapist novels, and writing them - even if I haven't got one published yet. I'm a demander of 'happy ever after' in my reading and, obviously, my own writing. My view is that there is enough bad news and depressing events in the real world so if I can read, or create, one where I know it's going to turn out ok, then that's just perfect for me. Now, of course, that doesn't mean things can't happen in the middle - they have to in order to make that happy ending all the more appreciated. So, with that in mind, this is a market I feel happy making the effort in. Taking part in the Boot Camp last week really was a good exercise in building enthusiasm so I'm now in the process of pulling out the plan of a book I made a looooong time ago and pretty much rewriting the few chapters I had already written.

As for the other competition, I'm not sure what to work on for that. I do have an idea rattling around but I need to build on that and see where I want it to go, and talk to the characters a bit more and find out who they really are. I'm not entirely sure which line to aim this one, and they have expanded a lot since I last looked into it properly years ago so  I am enjoying diving back into this world and reading a bunch of books in the different lines to see which one I feel I may like to have a try at.

As a quick tip, it seems the digital editions are often a certain amount cheaper than the print versions, so that may be something to bear in mind. I'm not normally an ebook girl - even though I've got a Mark One Kindle (hubby loves technology and thought I would too as it's 'booky'...) but finally, years later, I have taken advantage of this sweet present from him and have just finished my first full novel on there. And, you know what, it wasn't a bad experience! I could even eat my cereal whilst reading without ending up wearing half of it. Bonus. This may be a turning point. Although, my, it's tempting to buy those books so quickly, isn't it?

Good luck in whatever you are working on at the moment.

Happy writing!

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Competition Update and So You Think You Can Write Bootcamp

Well, sad to say I didn't place anywhere in the Prima Flirty Fiction competition that I mentioned in a previous post. Obviously, it's disappointing but not necessarily surprising. From what I understand, they were swamped with entries so it was always going to be difficult. But it was still a good experience and it's good to have things out there, even if the chances are slim.

I've been trying to make an effort to enter more competitions and just generally submit things a bit more so far this year and, despite nothing having come of it at the time of writing, I'm still fairly pleased with my progress and efforts. It does at least make you feel like you're doing something towards the dream!

This week I also took part in the So You Think You Can Write boot camp  - this is an event that Harlequin holds fairly regularly. Throughout the day, there are various 'events' like a Twitter chat with editors, and another on the forum - allowing you to ask questions of the specific genre editors that you might not otherwise get the chance to.

During the day, you were also given the opportunity to send in the first page of a novel, of which 5 (which actually turned to 6) would be critiqued later that day on the site. I did enter this, again, for the challenge, but wasn't lucky enough to be one of the ones picked. Congratulations to those that did though, as it's a great opportunity - even a few short words letting you know as to whether you are heading in the right direction or not can make a world of difference.

It was a fun day, and I met a few other writers on Twitter through the event, so that was great. I don't know anyone IRL who writes, so it's great to connect with people in this way. The day starts at 5am EST, and some people in various parts of the world were up at an ungodly hour to take part. I would say that, if they stick to a similar schedule in the next one (June I believe), you can probably catch a few more hours sleep as everything stays on the site, and the first couple of events weren't time critical - just posts on the blog, etc. I'll certainly try and take part again next time though as I did enjoy it and the layout still lets you scoot off and get other things done as and when you need to.

If you also took part, I'd love to hear from you, and what you thought of it.

Until then, happy writing!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Writing Competitions

I've been entering a few writing competitions this year as another avenue of hoping to get that all important break. No luck so far - close but no cigar as they say.

I recently heard about the Baileys First Chapter competition and was really unsure as to whether I would enter this one. Taking someone else's start and building on that was quite different to anything I'd done. The other thing was the closing date.

By the time I saw this, actually on Twitter (a good source for discovery, I've found), it was only a couple of days until closing. Whilst the competition was only to write 800 to 1000 words, it wasn't a case of not being able to get it done. It was more a case of  'Eek! Where can I go with this?'. I ummed and aahed and almost didn't enter but in the end, sat down in the afternoon and got an entry done. It's gone in. I'm not sure that it's any good but either way, it was a good exercise, both on doing something a bit out of my comfort zone, and also on short deadlines.

Next on my list to enter is this one. Bit of a longer deadline on this one and as I've already had several attempts at Mills and Boon, this is another chance for some practice, if nothing else. I'm just trying to decide as to whether to use an existing idea from a couple that I've noted down, or think of something entirely new. I think I'll probably have a proper look at the ideas I have and see what I think - if I'm not totally in love with them, then it's probably best to start afresh.

Meanwhile, the agent hunt still goes on...

Happy writing

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Maintaining The Search

So, just a quick update for you on the Great Agent Search.

The quest didn't get off to a great start when the first agent that I approached, one that in the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook mentioned their speciality as 'encouraging new writers' replied advising that they weren't accepting new submissions at present.

With that one out of the way, I tried my next favourite. I got a reply back from this company on Tuesday. Unfortunately, another rejection. Also unfortunately, the agent advises - as is often the case, that they are too swamped to go over the reasons as to why it wasn't suitable. I completely understand this situation but it can be a little frustrating to not know what areas may need some improvement in order to give the work a better chance. They did advise to try another agent because publishing is such a subjective business, but, as far as my experience goes, I think that's just a pretty standard final paragraph on a rejection letter.

Yesterday morning (Wednesday), I went back to the list I'd made and chose another agency before heading to their website to read up on them, and check their submission procedure. The first two both took about a week or so to get back to me, which is much quicker than when I was doing an agent search a number of years ago now for my first novel - the delights of the digital age! However, this one does warn of a longer waiting period, so I may well do as I'd mentioned in my previous post and get off another couple of submissions during the next couple of days as well.

That's all the news for now. Sorry I don't have anything more exciting to report! I hope all of your writing is going well, and if you are also in search of an agent, that your own quest is faring a little better than mine at present.

Happy Writing!

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

The Search Is On...

Well, it's that time all us writers love. Time to steel ourselves and develop a love/hate relationship with either the postman or the 'You Have Mail' sound on our phone/computer.

Yep, it's time to play Hunt The Literary Agent! The rules are quite simple. You send off the first few chapters of a work you've poured your heart and soul into and ideally receive a 'We love it' reply but more often than not, receive plenty of 'Not for us'. Or even worse, all you receive is silence. I know that editors and agents explain this as a lack of resources on their part and I completely understand how understaffed magazines and publishing houses, etc are these days. It's just so frustrating not knowing whether you should hang on just a little longer to see if you get a reply, or if your enquiry has been binned weeks ago!

When I was going through this process several years ago, it was the case that you could only apply to one agent at a time. I am sure there are still some agents that prefer this, but from what I've read, the norm is now to send out several enquiries at a time which at least means that you can cover more bases in one go.

I did eventually secure an agent that first time round which was an amazing feeling. I can still remember the phone call! Sadly they weren't able, in the end, to get a publishing deal for me and after a few years we parted ways due to them moving back abroad, and us also being on the move abroad.

So, having spent the afternoon yesterday with The Writers' and Artists' Yearbook I now have a short list for the first batch of enquiries. It would be so nice if this was the only batch of enquiries I have to make - all we can do is hope!

In the meantime, I just have to write the 'intro' letter. I swear that such things as this, and synopses, are more difficult than writing an entire novel!

Good luck to anyone else currently on the same safari!

Happy Writing!

Saturday, 14 February 2015


The lot of a writer is often interspersed pretty frequently with disappointments. Today was one of those days.

Today was Shortlist Announcement Day for publishers, Choc Lit and their 'Search For A Star' competition. Sadly I wasn't on it.

Of course I know I need to just take it on the chin and move on to the next door and give that one a knock. And I will. But that doesn't mean I'm not going to flail around down here on the mat for half an hour. I really like my book and someone else didn't. Not a new concept for any author, successful or not. You can't please everyone. I know that. But it doesn't make it any easier. Not right now anyway.

Going back to that previous paragraph, what I pick up from that is that I like my book. And I do. Getting it prepared for that submission meant, as we all know, reading it through many times. And I still enjoyed it. I like my characters and wouldn't kick my hero out of bed. I think that's a pretty good start. It might not have been right for Choc Lit but that doesn't mean it's not right for someone else.

But I will get up, brush myself, and my book off and try again. Just not tonight.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Are Self Help Books Helpful?

I know! A post. An actual post! Wow, right? I've had the draft of this post written for ages but somehow it just didn't get as far as here. I've had my head down working on something else and this got a bit neglected. Sorry about that. I'm still beavering away on the other thing but I decided that this post is definitely going up today. So here we go.

I have a shelf entirely dedicated to 'How to Write' type books. A couple of them cover individual genres, and the rest are a varied selection including the always to be recommended, Stephen King's  'On Writing'

Admittedly, with exception of the latter, and a couple of specifically recommended ones, most of them were bought many years ago almost in bulk in a Writing Magazine book sale. Although the knowledge I hoped that these tomes would impart was a significant reason for placing the order, I cannot truthfully say that knowing a box would soon turn up, filled entirely with books, did not also hold some sway.

I still have not read them all. Don't get me wrong, I didn't order hundreds - possibly six or seven, and I have read others around them, including a couple I found in a wonderful bookshop in London's Charing Cross Road. This, at a time, when there were many more there than there are today. The shop was all angles and stairs and I spent a good long time in there, mooching about. I've no idea if it survived the swing of the Amazon blade (a blade I admittedly help sharpen), but I'd like to think it has.

But back to the books. The funny thing is, and I realise there is nothing especially new in this thought, but sometimes 'how to' books - on any subject - can be a double edged sword. Reading them is time you could actually be writing your own words. I know of people who spend ages reading such books, websites, articles, etc but never write a word. Only they can answer the question as to why that is the case for them, but it's no secret that such books can certainly be a distraction.

So, perhaps the trick is finding a good balance. Because there's no doubt that some of the information contained in these books is most helpful. Some, as previously mentioned, are extremely helpful and regularly recommended by writers from all levels on the success scale. Reading them can really motivate you. They can really make you believe that, yes, I can actually do this!

And there's the key - you need to actually do this. It's not going to be great immediately. That's why it's called a First Draft. It's ok. As had been said before, it's pretty damn hard to edit a blank page, so at some point you need to put down the self help books and pick up your pen. Information is great. But sometimes too much information can be just that - too much. Sometimes we just have to jump in and flail around a bit. And it's amazing what can be learned during that time, however inelegant it looks to start with.

What's your opinion on How To books - help or hindrance, or a bit of both? I'd love to hear!

Happy Writing!