Category Archives: writing

Writing Ain’t Easy

Writing isn’t easy. Well, okay, writing is, but writing to a standard worth publishing is something else again.

I’m working on a book where I love the story, where I know the end game. But I’m struggling with it. I’ve had this book on the go for years, but I’m just not getting it right.

It started out as straight contemporary crime. But I was told blankly that it would never get accepted for publication as it talks about the porn industry. Apparently that won’t sell in America, which just goes to show how that is a land of contradiction.

After that I realised that I needed to do something, but wasn’t sure what. Then I got it. Madoc wasn’t a strong enough character. There was something missing. That was when I decided he had the gift, the sight, could hear the dead. Not a new idea, but not one that’s in a mainly contemporary setting.

So I rewrote the book. Even got a publishing offer for it. But I turned it out. The story wasn’t ready, it wasn’t right.

That leaves me with a story that I know is worthy at its core, but it’s just not there.

I decided Madoc needed more. He needed to be more. So I’ve gone full blown Pagan with him now and rewritten again. It still isn’t selling, but then it still isn’t right.

I was also told by an excellent writer, one who I respect a great deal, that I should give up writing contemporary crime. That was depressing. Though for full disclosure, what this writer meant was that I should concentrate on my steampunk work, which is still crime, but under a different guise. So with a sigh, and a dip into depression. I decided it was time to concentrate on my steampunk work, that Madoc’s time was done.

Wrong again!

What I realised is that I need to stop holding back. That was the problem. Rather than keeping the supernatural elements of Madoc’s ability quiet, I’m going to bring them to the fore. The solution to the crime will still have to be completely ‘real world’, but the getting there will be guided by unusual means. Hopefully, I can rewrite and make that work now.

So that it. A whole new rewrite. When I have the time.

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Implements

I’ve noticed something odd today. Firstly, I know it’s been a while, sorry. My time has been taken up doing things for others and I simply haven’t been able to keep up.

The odd thing I noticed today is that I’ve started keeping special pens/pencils for certain things I write down. Usually I just grab the nearest writing implement and use that, but lately I find myself having to go to get the ‘right’ pen. As you can see in the picture, these aren’t particularly special pens.

There’s a standard hp pencil and a blue biro. These I use for tarot readings (I’m learning them for a character I’m working on). The two multicoloured pencils I use for when I’m working on “Save The Cat! Writes A Novel”, I like to use different colours for different types of notes. The black one at the bottom is the one I’ve started using for drafting one of the books I’m working on. Stuart Feild gave this to me at CrimeFest a week ago. It’s just a really nice writer.

What isn’t a nice writer right now, is this laptop. The usual laptop I use is a HP, but early this week I discovered that the battery was expanding, which is extremely dangerous. So that laptop (only 10 months old) has gone for warranty repairs. This means that I am now working on an old Samsung laptop. When I say old – it’s running Windows 8 and I remember I brought it when Windows 8 was first out, so it’s at least 10 years old. It works, but it is so incredibly slow! I’ll have typed to the end of the sentence and then have to stop to wait for the words to show up on screen. Very frustrating. Still, I have something to work with and for that I am grateful. But right now, I’m going back to pencil and paper; it’s less frustrating.

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NaNo Help

Like many thousands around the globe, I take part in NaNoWriMo. If you don’t know what that means, it’s an American-led scheme for encouraging creativity and literacy, it stands for National Novel Writing Month. Suspect most of you might have guessed that from the banner above.

The idea is that you write a 50k novel in one month – the main event is always November too. The ideal is that you write draft one of a novel, that way, to meet the 1,667 words a day average you need to reach the target, most writers have to just write, no editing or tidying up, you just bang out that first draft. Having said that I know one writer who’s averaging over 6k a day and I have no idea how she manages that.

This process has proved successful for me in the past, both Locked Up and Locked In were written as NaNoWriMo projects. Last year I wrote “Play The Game” which was a new draft of a previously written book, one that I had all the research and plot lines sorted on, but didn’t like the way I’d written it originally, so I started from scratch and that book is now out on submission. But this year I didn’t have a novel in mind because I’m working on a number of different projects and I didn’t want to start something new. So this year, I’m doing things a little differently.

I’m using a Scrivener File (it’s an alternative to Word that works really well for novel writing – well it does for me anyway), see more about Scrivener here. I’ve called it “Scenes in My Head”, and what I’m doing is that I’ve put in chapters for each book and put the scenes in the relevant chapter for pushing to the right project when I’m ready. So, as I see a scene that needs writing, I write it.

So far I am averaging 2,326 words a day! I am well chuffed with myself.

I have written 6,304 words to finish the first in a series of police procedurals with supernatural undertones that I’ve decided to try. I’ve written 16,560 words of the second book too. I’ve also managed 12,029 words of the first of a new steampunk trilogy. These scenes are being written out of sequence and from any book as I fancy writing it. Several times now I’ve written scenes from different books on the same day. One day I actually managed a scene from each book, which rather reassures me that the scatterbrain approach works for me.

In total, that’s 34,893 words in 15 days.

I should say that all these numbers are so precise because Scrivener gives them to me, I don’t go counting and adding up, that would be too much like hard work.

The point of all this is actually to say that this is one of the easiest NaNoWriMos that I have ever done, and mostly that is down to (a) I’m working it in a way my brain can cope with – jumping from story to story that excites me rather than slogging through the tough patches, and because (b) my mental health is, general and genuinely, so much better this year.

What that means is that I’ve pushed on with three writing projects that had started to stagnate and I’m really pleased with that, because that in turn, helps my mental health be positive. So on to NaNo-ing and hopefully this will see three more projects ready for submission in the new year.

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Brain treason

I’m a writer – that’s no news to you right? So I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen typing. I just typed the following sentece:

The short hall led to an opening.

It’s part of a description for a house a police officer steps into. You should read that and think, so what? There’s nothing wrong with that sentence. And you are absolutely right. There is nothing wrong with that sentence.

Except that as soon as I finished it, my brain stopped me writing further, demanding that I change ‘led’ to ‘lead’. I literally had to stop and question my own brain questioning my own brain. I’d typed what I had because instictively I knew it was right, but the mere suggestion that I might be wrong stopped me mid-flow.

You might also have realised that when I say it stopped me, it really stopped me, because look, I’m here typing this blog rather than carrying on with my story.

My brain does this a lot. I instictively know the right answer, but have so little belief in myself that I don’t trust that I am correct. I double guess myself all the time. Not just with the writing, but it everything, which is one of the reasons I keep largely to myself, I’m convinced I’ll never understand other people. My brain is litterally betraying me.

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Feminist Read

We Should All Be Feminists by [Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie]

Have recently read “We Should All Be Feminists”, and it’s shown me things I have been fortunately enough never to have experienced.

I not about to burn my bra, but I do consider myself a feminist. So there wasn’t a lot in the book that was a brand-new idea to me, but these points were explained in ways that I have never considered before.

The author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, tells of how in Nigeria if a couple walk into a restaurant, the greeter will greet the gentleman, and not the lady.  Now I have experienced that in the UK, but I never really thought about how it really is a sexist act.  Funnily enough the sexist thing I have experienced comes shortly after that, where the menu with the prices is given to the man, as is the bill, even when I’ve asked for the bill.

There are other references that also made me think – the way that a woman alone will be questioned at a hotel in case they aren’t a patron, but a prostitute.  This is horrific to me, a woman who has travelled overseas alone. I really wouldn’t know how to deal with that.

The book is very short (50 pages), and it’s a quick read – unless you actually stop and really think about the points made. And I guarantee if you read this book, it will make you think, it will stay with you for a while. I would highly recommend everyone read this book, where ever you stand on the issue, this book will give you food for thought.

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Hopefully

Okay, reaction to the rejection over.  Big girl pants on and behaving myself today.

After my wobble, I tripped over an older log of mine, this one: Getting an agent – some more ideas.  So I read it. You know what, when I’m not an emotional cripple, I actually can talk some sense.  

As a result, yesterday evening, after I’d finished working, I sat down with “The Writers and Artist Yearbook” (admittedly from 2019, but that’s new enough), and went through looking for other possible agents. I checked their websites to ensure that they were open to submissions and if so, what they wanted in a submission – not all agents want the same thing so there’s no point in sending the same thing to everyone.

I also had a bit of a chat about things with a couple of friends who were helpful with suggestions about agents they know and who cast a quick eye over my submission prep. I then spent this morning revising and polishing my pitch, synopsis and first 50 pages.  And more importantly, I’ve submitted to another agent. 

This is good on the principle that each submission is one step closer to the agent who’s going to take me on.  But there’s still the awful wait of up to 3 months to hear possibly nothing if they aren’t interested.  But that’s the way with agents. All I can do is write my best work and present it, and in the manner of “Sweet Charity”, do my best to live hopefully ever after.

Sweet Charity (1969) - Film | cinema.de

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Loser

Another day, another rejection. It gets difficult to stay positive when all you get is negative reinforcement. 

I get my work out there, put myself out there, but I get a fair bit of negativity back, though in fairness, a little positivity too.  I keep trying, I make  submissions to agents and publishers, but the big publishers can only be accessed via an agent, and the agents just reject or just don’t respond. 

I am a good writer, and quite a prolific one. Here are all but one of the books I have out (one is missing because it published 7 days ago and I haven’t had chance to change the graphic to my satisfaction yet):

The problem seems to be that I don’t fit easily into any particular pigeon hole. On those rare occasions when I get feedback, it’s not the writing they reject, it’s the fact that they don’t know how to market the work.

If the people whose job it is to sell stuff don’t know how to sell my writing, how should I? Marketing was never my strong suit. Well, here’s the thing, that’s what I’m going to have to figure out isn’t it? Learn to do the marketing.  

Sigh, but not today, today I’m going to let myself experience the emotions another rejection brings up, I’m going to sort the TBR pile into the space I’ve recently made for it, and tomorrow I will dust myself down, pick myself up and submit again. I will learn and improve. As things should be.

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Getting Shorty

Between other things today, I have been working on my short story for the Honno submission. I’ve got the word count to the exact allowance, and I’ve checked spelling and grammar, all seems okay.

Only thing is – I’m not sure if it’s great or awful.

This kind of self doubt is not exactly a me problem, it’s a writer thing. Lots of writers I know suffer with what’s called ‘imposter syndrome’. We’re all just waiting to be found out. The reality is that we’re not imposters, but writing is a difficult game.

Anyway, one thing about the short story, is that it’s actually an origin story for the main character in a new series that I’m working on. So I’m hoping that my story gets picked because it’s the first test of the character, so if it gets rejected, I’m in trouble for the series. Very nerve wracking.

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Filed under crime, Uncategorized, writing

Reading Between the Lines

Today the Reading Between the Lines festival began, and I was very fortunate to be on a panel this afternoon with Jackie Baldwin and Val Penny.

Before the event we read one another’s books and used those as a basis for the discussion.

All three books have a strong theme of family, not just blood relations, though of course there are plenty of those, but the families we choose to be part of, through friendship, proximity, work and whatever it is that brings people together.

If you want to hear what we had to say, check out the YouTube Reading Between the Lines channel and look for our video, should be up soon. Of course because this is a channel, you’ll also find all the other events there. And congratulations to Lynsey Adams from doing the hard work of pulling all this together.

If you want to read these fabulous books, here are the links
Dead Man’s Prayer
Hunter’s Chase
The Chair

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Filed under crime, Uncategorized, writing

Timing

Timing is everything in life, but what about in competition?

The last week I’ve been working on a short story for a competition for Honno Crime Anthology, see Honno for details.  I’ve written a whole 5,000 word new and original story.  I’ve had a friend look over it and give me notes. I’ve edited it and I’m happy with it.

It’s now 22nd of March and the competition doesn’t close until the 30th June.  So what do I do?  Do I send it off now or wait till June?

If I send it off now, that will mean it’s done and I can forget all about it and concentration on other projects.

If I wait, I can put it to the back of my mind for a couple of months, then read/edit again before I send off.  But I’ve got a memory like a sieve – what if I forget to send it? Well I guess that’s what diary reminders are for.  I’ve also got a dying laptop – what if I lose the file?  Well that’s what doing a backup is for.

What if in the intervening months, I think of a whole new short story worth putting in?  Well if I’ve not sent anything, then it won’t matter, I can write the new idea and compare the two, then decided. Or possibly send two – not sure if that’s allowed, doesn’t say one way or the other, but I’ll check later.

This is just one of those writer dilemmas that I’m never sure of.  What would you do?

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