Friday, 30 September 2011

Finally - Making your mind up

So, after weeks of procrastination, stress, tears, tempers and basically driving everyone around me crazy I have submitted my New Voices entry.
This is the fourth rewrite of the third version (there were four in all), I also wrote 1500 words of an alternate that I loved so much but knew wasn't right for New Voices - instead I plan to write it my next book but one. I then had a panic attack about this chapter being too reliant on an external hook so I decided once and for all that I would submit my NWS first chapter. Three hours, one big yelling at my husband and storming off (to the bath), and whining at my crit group (it's all about me, ME, ME) I changed my mind, went back to Italian Cousin and two further rewrites. It's done, it's up, I tried to post a link but I can't seem to manage that AND treat you to classic Bucks Fizz making their mind up in early 80s style but pop along to www.romanceisnotdead and search for Rosy Gilmore (my new nom de plume, quite like it myself). Comments and ratings welcomed. Now it's time to edit Spring Fling... Apologies for the lack of paragraphs, Blogger's new format is baffling me at the moment...

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

New, Newer & Newest

New Voices, New Writer's Scheme, new book - it's all about the new this autumn. Sadly the theme doesn't extend to a cute new blazer and a perfect pair of new boots.
well, okay, maybe one pair of boots But, what with competitions and critique, I probably have all the new I can handle. As you all know New Voices launched yesterday and there are already over 60 new chapters for people to read, comment on and rate. If you're not registered go ahead and get stuck in; the most helpful thing for all writers is constructive comments - what works, what doesn't and why. And, with only 20 finalists, those comments will be what most entrants take away from this competition. I haven't posted yet despite wanting to get in early on. My chapter just isn't ready, it's lacking a certain spark, a sense of purpose and, after 24 hours of increasing hysteria for me and increasing impatience from my poor, over worked crit partners it was agreed I would take a break for a few days and go in for a rewrite on Friday *drums fingers impatiently on the table*. Not that the imbargo has stopped me thinking about my chapter. Not. At. All. Sadly inspiration has yet to strike.
The main reason for my impatience (apart from the fact that I am naturally impatient) is that I received my NWS critique for 'Summer Fling' on Friday and now am desperate to start editing - but can't until my New Voices chapter begins to sparkle. Part of me is wondering whether to put the new chapter aside for a while and submit 'Summer Fling' to New Voices instead (cue much angst, stress and pushing of crit partners and husband to breaking point). One of the two NWS readers actually suggested I do enter it - and at some point I do need to show it to new eyes. I was lucky enough to get two readers and whoever you are, thank you. Thank you so so much. I have a huge edit job in front of me with a lot of rewriting especially of the last third but your comments, encouragements have inspired me and given me the confidence to think maybe I can actually do this. What has particularly amazed me is how much they picked up - the good, the bad and the embrassingly ugly. Helpfully, there were bits they disagreed on, which is exactly what critique in the big, bad world will be like. Interestingly it's the less positive that sticks in your mind. There was a real sense that they knew my characters as well as I do, cared about them and rooted for them. Some edited comments: The good... This was a rattling good read aimed with fair accuracy at the M&B softer romance market, and I gulped it down in one sitting. It had pacey writing, plenty of good sharp dialogue, attractive hero and heroine and well handled back story... Congratulations on writing a sweet, funny and entertaining romance. You have a great voice and the story was a pleasure to read. The not so good... Reader 1: Everyone is so dammed nice! You allowed the story to become too cosy, too predictable. The 'I hoped they wouldn't notice that...' A bigger problem however is the lack of real conflict outside of the personal issue of will they, won't they get back together.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Work - it's a four letter word

Last week I spent a lot of money I don't have on miracle products that the hairdresser promised me would turn my hair from Anne Hathaway at the start of the Princess Diaries
On a good day
To glossy Kate Middleton-style locks
Dreamy, glossy locks
Apparently all I needed was an eighties style hot brush and some Moroccan oil, both of which he conveniently had to hand. Now, I am normally fairly astute where sales techniques are concerned - but not where my big, fizzy, unmanageable hair is concerned and I was soon handing over £13 for a tiny phial of oil and rather more for the eighties style hot brush. My hair still doesn't fall in glossy waves, for that I think I would need to be a New York style lady who lunches and book in for blow-drys. Not on my budget nor on my schedule.

What I really want is perfect hair that require NO effort. I want to wash, throw in some gunk and go. No hot brush or blow drying or work. I want it to be easy.

Of course if it was that easy we would all walk around with swishy hair and there would be no need for billion dollar industries promising us all frizz free glossiness. Papers wouldn't need to print pictures of supermodels on the school run to try and persuade the rest of us that we too need a yummy mummy outfit and perfect hair to drop our children off at school (I don't know about you but NOBODY turns up at my daughter's school looking like they are on their way to a photoshoot. Thank goodness). Looking effortlessly good takes a lot of hard work and time that I simply don't have or care enough about to do. Although I will hopefully buy horrendously expensive vials of oil.

Time for rather laborious and extended metaphor

The same applies to whatever you want to do in life. There will always be those who make it look easy, effortless. But just as those Daily-Mail-school-run-yummymummys have to get up obscenely early to work at that casual loveliness most of us have to work at what matters to us. And there are no shortcuts. No amazing vials of oil or hotbrushes to transform our work into something beautiful.

This week on Twitter that was a discussion about paid for editors. There are a lot of ways for aspiring writers to spend their money - conferences, memberships, courses - before adding professional editing in. And does it help? Would it teach you where you went wrong so you do better next time or would you always need the professional gloss put on your work? Donna Alward commented that her learning experience was "wash, submit, rinse, rejection - repeat" until one day she had learnt enough to succeed. But, all the professionals out there chorused, it is hard work. And there are no short cuts.

Any day now the postman will bring me that NWS report and I know that it is full of comments and advice and encouragement - and rewrites. I need to read, edit and rewrite, dig deeper, find that emotional conflict and really make it centre stage. Writing 50,000 words was just the beginning. Now the hard work begins. Meanwhile I have to take the 2500 words already written for New Voices, discard half of them and rework it. I don't want to. I wanted my writing group to tell me it was perfect the way it was, no more work required. Time to relax.

They didn't.

So today is a writing day. So far I have: drunk 3 cups of coffee, 1 cup of tea, read the paper online, rewrote an enquiry letter for friend, copyedited someone else's work, played on Twitter & FB, blogged. Not a bad morning's procrastination. Now I had better go off and do some actual, you know, *whispers* work...

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Generous world of romance writing

It is exactly one month since I sent my manuscript off to the New Writer's Scheme. Obviously I made the process as white knuckle as possible, printing it out the morning I was packing to go on holiday - on a camping holiday which means ten times as much stuff to assemble. Cue much panic and yelling: "It's not printing! What's happening?" and much blaming of my husband because it was obviously all his fault I had left it until the last minute.
Then more panic. Where were our self adhesive labels? Why didn't we have any postcards? And (my personal favourite) "I HAVE FORGOTTEN TO WRITE A SYNOPSIS." But, three very stressful and tearful hours later, it was sent off and now I am waiting not very patiently for it to arrive back (looks out window for postman for the tenth time this morning).
What is particularly scary about this is that the NWS reader will be the first person to set eyes on this particular story. The first page was read out at a writing class and discussed with friends, I also gave them a little detail on the back story but since March nobody but me has read it. I wanted the NWS reader to see my plotting, writing, dialogue and characterisation uninfluenced by any crit from outside in order for me to learn where I am going in the right direction - and where I have it spectacularly wrong. A complete contrast to my New Voices entry which has been extensively discussed by my crit partners.
But how lucky am I that this book of mine will be read by a professional who is willing to give up their time to comment on my writing? Romance writers and editors are so very generous with their advice and support through courses, social media and conventions. My twitter timeline has been full of writers from all over the world getting together for conventions filled with workshops and one to ones in NZ, Australia, New York and our own RNA annual convention in Wales. The M&B New Voices page on Facebook is frequented by published writers commenting, cheerleading and blogging tips. Is every genre this friendly or is this as special and unique as it seems? There is information galore for the budding writer, all we have to do is find it, read it and learn from it.
Schemes like the New Writer's ones are very special indeed. I have seen two of the reports sent to other entrants and they are filled with with guidance, constructive criticism and invaluable advice. Thank you, thank you, thank you to whoever is currently reading Summer Fling. I hope the middle doesn't sag too much *cringes* and I am (just a tad impatiently) looking forward to reading your report.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Stuck in the mud

At the weekend my ever-patient other half and I took our 7yo to her first ever festival. It was supposed to be a safe, easy one: just 10 miles away ,easy to come home if things went awry. Of course, we forgot to factor in the great British weather, more specifically the great Yorkshire weather. When it took an hour and a half to advance 10 yards, the rain sheeting it down, steaming up the car, it was evident that if we ever did manage to get the car into the field we were never ever going to get it out again.

The view from our tent

And still the rain came. A brief interlude of sunshine on the Saturday morning enables us to dry out our waterproofs and then the rain returned and the mud deepened.

This was the easy path

But, thanks to towels, babywipes and a strict policy of 'boots off outside please', we managed to keep the tent dry, warm and mud free and some amazing music, food and local cider kept our spirits up. And then, on Sunday, the sun came out. A lot of the mud dried, we could walk without fear of losing our wellies and/or balance and ended up having a fantastic day filled with even more amazing musical talent, topped off with a brilliant performance by The Levellers (if you like left wing, folk inspired rousing tunes, which I do - and so did most of the crowd judging by the reaction).

listening to an acoustic set

Verdict? It was brilliant and please can we go next year says 7yo.

Now, finally home again thanks to the tractor driver who towed me out the car park, preparing for next week when we return to the school routine, I am struggling to finish my New Voices chapter. Partly this is because I want the last part to be in my hero's point of view and I don't know him well enough yet to know how he is going to react. I have my heroine firmly sorted in my head but right now he is an annoying enigma. It strikes me that writing, whether a book, a novella or even just a chapter, is an awful lot like my festival weekend. You start out with great optimism, then it all gets a little bit stuck in the mud. But finally, after a lot of patience and hard, hard work, the sun comes out and you can really enjoy the process.
Or maybe that's just me?