Monday, 31 August 2009

Onwards and Upwards!

I find it so much easier to write from personal experience. My heroine lives in a village where I have lived and her parents live by a beautiful bay in Cornwall, where my family regularly stays. My fingers fall over themselves on the keys as I imagine walking around the places I've stayed or visited - so much easier than inventing a place. I do a lot of research too, but you can only write in your own words, what others have already written. It always seems very two- dimentional.

So, it is with that thought in mind that I'm off the London for two days on Wednesday to visit Hampstead Heath! One of my characters and her family have a day out on the Heath and climb to the top of Parliament Hill to look over the rooftops of the capital city. I'm very excited about taking a notebook and pen, and luxuriating in spending time doing what I love best. It helps to use the senses when writing. I want to smell the lakes and trees, feel the grass as I sit down to write and hear the children playing. I might even spoil myself and take a picnic!

I've entered another competition online. The prize is to have the work critiqued which I would find invaluable. Friends and family don't like to critisize so it's very difficult to get helpful feedback. I've enrolled on a creative writing course at The University of Nottingham, so that should be an eye-opener for me! Back to school! Quite nerve-racking....

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

A hook? Sounds fishy to me!

It's July and I've received my 5th rejection! Looking on the positive side, I was told that the main problem was that the 'hook' didn't grab them in the first 3 chapters I'd sent in. What's positive about that I hear you ask? Well, they hadn't laughed at my efforts or sent it back with a big red line through it. (Hang-ups from school days!)
Having mulled their comment over, I knew that they were right. I was too busy introducing characters and setting up the 'hook' in the first 3 chapters and it needed a re-jig. If only it was that easy! I imagined I could cut and paste a few paragraphs and be ready to send it off again to another carefully sought out agent. Then it slowly dawned on me that in order to get the reader gripped and wanting to read on, the 'hook' had to appear in the first few pages. This changed the opening scene, characters, time and month!! What made this even more difficult to do, was that I'd won a first chapter competition with - and if I changed it, the winning chapter wouldn't be first any more! Do you see my dilemma?
I decided that I should listen to the professional agent, and morphed the 'hook' into my first chapter. I had to change lots of conversations and thoughts which my characters had had, in several chapters, but it seems to have worked. I can see now that it has improved my book and was worth the late nights, extra grey hairs and increased levels of sugar consumption. These problems are easily remedied by earlier nights, hair dye and going on a diet!!
Now I'm trying to design a book cover for my novel. I know that agents hate this, but I'm not doing it for an agent. I want to upload my work onto Harper Collins authonomy website and they require a front cover for that. I visited Harper Collins in February for a workshop and listened to what they had to say about the new site. It's an excellent idea which introduces new authors and their work to each other. The top five novels are looked at by HP agents, which is a great opportunity for the writers.
So I happily plod on. The key word being, happily. I love writing for the thrill of using my imagination to do anything I want with my characters. I'm on my second novel and wake up each morning wondering what calamities, adventures or love interests my characters are going to meet that day. And I'm in control!

Monday, 1 June 2009

It's June 1st and I'm over the moon that I have won first prize for some of my work. New Writers had a first chapter competition, to which I sent the first chapter of my finished novel. What a buzz! It's just what I needed after 2 rejections. Following the rejections I re-read my first three chapters and decided to delete a few sentences/paragraphs. Very scary - sometimes it's difficult to know when to walk away and when to tweak just a little bit more. Receiving the email which told me I had won and had my work published on the internet, was the boost I needed to send off my work to three more agents. Even if they are rejected again, I have an email that says that someone 'loves' my work, which is amazing.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Posted three chapters to an agent.

I've posted my first three chapters to an agent I saw at the London Book Fair. He seemed very positive and enthusiastic, so he has been chosen!!! Now of course is the waiting game. I really should print some more and send them out to others. The agent I've written to, suggested writers send their work to 5 or 6 at a time.
I went to the Chelsea Flower Show. So much beauty and colour. I don't write poetry but I would loved to have had a couple of hours to myself in the sunshine with a pen and paper. Maybe next year.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Deep breath - here goes.

Phew! I've done it. Not being very IT literate, I'm proud of myself for setting up a blog, as I've only ever surfed the net and sent emails before.

I'm a mum of three children - all 6ft tall, but time flies as they say. My husband and I set up our own business, designing and building garden rooms earlier this year. ( So my working background, spent in hospitals and a doctor's surgery, has now become a future as a company director and aspiring novelist.

The recession has a lot to answer for, but it kick-started a dream which emerged from a nightmare. Although I couldn't control the upheavel of having to move or rent out our home, I could keep my house and the village safe in print and my heart. As I walked the dogs across the village green, past the cows grazing on common land and around the cricket pitch, I knew I had a setting for my story. The village, Car Colston in Notts, doesn't have any shops but it has an amazing, welcoming pub called The Royal Oak. (If you ever find yourself in Car Colston, you must try Vicky's Steak and Ale Pie. You'll move house to be closer to it!) I used the benches in the Royal Oak's garden as the place where the protagonist Tess, first sees the hero, Daniel.

From the cricket pitch, you can see Car Colston Hall. It's a privately-owned, awe-inspiring building which I knew was where my hero would live. It has turrets, huge chimneys which reach to the sky, vast stone-mullioned windows and an orangerie. In the winter as dusk is falling, a pale yellow light flickers in one of the windows. I almost felt that if I knocked on the door, my gorgeous hero would answer it with paint splattered clothes from working on his art.

The book took over my life. The dogs lost weight and the washing piled high. (Only joking about the dogs! They even have a walk on part in my story.) Anyway, back to my book. I've never known time to fly so fast. I felt like the characters were my friends and I fell in love with the hero. Towards the climax of the story, where Daniel holds an art exhibition at the Hall, my fingers tumbled over the keys as they tried to keep up with the pictures and conversations in my head. After all these years, I finally know how it feels to be, 'in the zone.'

It took me three months to write 90,000 words and I've spent six months editing it. I've started a blog because I'd like to hear from other published/unpublished authors, and find out how you were inspired to write and the trials and tribulations of trying to find a literary agent. I am taking the first tentative steps towards finding a publisher, which I know may take years, if ever. But my love of writing is a reward in itself, which explains why I'm on Chapter 4 of my second novel. It's opens in another wonderful part of the world which is special to me. Aubterre sur Dronne, in Southern France. (google it, it's heaven on earth.) Anyway, more about that later in the year.

I have travelled to London to attend the She Magazine workshop with Cathy Kelly and I went to a masterclass in How To Get Published at The London Book Fair. One tip was to start a blog and get my book out there, so here I am!