Friday, 27 April 2012

Time wasting

It's Friday aka day off paid work, aka writing day. Even better this is a Friday before a weekend free of any obligations (except 8yo's drama lessons and the supermarket) and I'm skiving off Cubs tonight so I have a LOT of writing time.
I can finish new chapter.
I can edit last two chapters.
I can print it off and send it to the RNA only a month behind self imposed schedule.

Things I am doing instead of making good use of writing time.

  • Blogging (cough)
  • Reading other people's blogs (right now I am loving Jennifer Armintrout's liveblog of Fifty Shades of Grey - whether you love this book, loathe it or, like me, have no intention of ever reading it but will commit acts of violence against the next newspaper to get their knickers in a sweaty twist over it whilst describing it gleefully as 'Mommy Porn' this is a very, very funny read. Also recommend Ladycurd's funny, sweet and poignant letters but actually any blog I follow is pretty good - there's a list to the left of this.)
  • Reading the Guardian cover to cover and posting articles online, sometimes with pithy comments, sometimes silence speaks for itself (or I can't think of a pithy comment)
  • Resisting the urge to click through to provocative Mail online articles (have not linked to the Mail, it's not good for you)
  • Twitter
  • Considering ranting blog post about the whole Mommy Porn thing
  • Making too many cups of tea
  • Staring into cupboards to see if I did buy biscuits but just forgot
  • Staring out of window
  • Triple checking weather forecast and hoping cub camp won't be too soggy
  • Playing with Groove Shark
  • Checking my email every five mins to see if there has been a Fast Track response yet  (not yet)
  • Opening up word document and sighing
  • Start the whole list again...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Author Interview - Lynda Renham Cook

Over the last few week's Lynda Renham Cook has been watching her latest novel Croissants and Jam climb higher and higher up the Kindle Charts reaching the dizzying heights of the top 100. Pretty incredible stuff! In between refreshing the Amazon button she made time to give Sprig Muslin it's very first author interview.

Hi Lynda, thanks for dropping by! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello, I’m a freelance writer. I write political articles for the scavenger and NL Aid news agency as well as others. I’m also a novelist and live with my husband Andrew and one cat Bendy, which is short for Bendrix, named after a character from a Graham Green novel.

Writing is obviously your passion, how long have you been a writer?

As long as I can remember. My first published piece was over thirty years ago in a children’s comic. I wrote during school lesson, at home when I should have been doing my homework and also in my spare time.

I may have done a little school lesson writing myself! Many people find it hard to prioritise their writing, do you have a routine?

I write as soon as I have prepared dinner and it is in the slow cooker. By nine I am at my word processor. I work until lunch and then have a break. I continue after lunch until six. In the summer I sit and write in the summer house. In the winter, because our country cottage is so cold, I write in the lounge in front of the fire. Bliss in both summer and Winter.

Sounds lovely. Most writers are voracious readers first and foremost. Which authors do you admire?

Iris Murdoch. I was lucky enough to visit her house and meet her husband John Bayley after a film made about her won an Oscar. I popped to their house and asked if I could have tea with John and amazingly enough he said yes. It was the greatest moment of my life.

That must have been an amazing experience. Do you have a favourite book?

‘Blood secrets’ by Craig Jones

Tell me about your previous books and why you decided to self publish?

I self-published after becoming disgruntled with publishers and agents. My comedy novel ‘Wedding cake to Turin’ was self-published and I would advise any good writer to use this route as it disciplines you and makes you work very hard at your craft. I now have a publisher and ‘Croissants and Jam’ is out with them.

Would you recommend self publishing and why?

Competition is very stiff at the moment so self-publishing gets you seen and your work is then out there. However, you have to work hard and make sure it is proof read. I learnt a lot about writing from that experience.

What are you working on right now?

My third comedy romance. To be released at the end of this year.

If you could be any character from a book who would you be?

Elizabeth Quigley from ‘The heart listens.’

What do you hope to achieve with your writing?

To be remembered as a wonderful liar.

Thanks Lynda - and I look forward to reading Croissants and Jam.

Lynda's novels are available from go to for more information.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Stranger with my name

A while ago I was musing whether or not to have a pen name. I entered the last New Voices under Rosy Gilmore but didn't want to start marketing myself under a new identity just yet:
1. It seems a little premature, I mean I am learning all the time but that elusive contract still seems a way off
2. Although I don't strictly believe in superstition I do believe in Hubris (sacrifices vegetarian fake-goat to the gods) and what if marketing myself as a writer jinxes everything?
3. Say I do get a contract (crosses fingers) what if the editors/marketing department/teaboy don't like the name I choose, I'd have to set up a new identity from scratch
4. Contrary to every snooty journalist wanting an easy jibe's opinion writing category romance is HARD so if I ever do get there, well it'd be quite nice to have my name on the cover to show the world I made it
5. I quite like being sprig muslin and yrosered, I don't feel ready for a longer name yet!

Thing is my name is very popular. I have to tag my husband's surname onto it for my email address which then makes it unwieldy and would never work as a pen name. However google it and there are doctors, lawyers, models, jewellers, photographers, many, many teenagers obsessing over Bieber all sharing my name. Adding my less common (and hated) middle name doesn't help, there are other mes out there afflicted with exactly the same one.

And then two weeks ago I realised I had no choice, I have to have a pen name (if the time ever comes, sacrifices vegetarian fake-chicken). There is a book on the shelves Right Now with my name on it. It's even  romance (but not category). But it ain't me.

I saw published not-me mentioned as part of a blog tour and had to track her down on Twitter (quite rational I assure you). Took a while, there being lots of us. Of course I followed her- and tweeted her to tell her I was doing so and why. She obligingly follows me back. Now my tweets are all yrosered but not-me uses her full name, of course she does, people need to know who she is so they can buy the book. It is the oddest thing to be scrolling down your timeline and to see a tweet with your name on it. Every time I look at it, read it, wrinkle my brow in puzzlement and think 'I didn't say/do that' before the penny finally drops.

I downloaded not-me's book today and am very much looking forward to it. And if it never does happen for me, and if for any reason my old school went all American and had a reunion, well at least I have the option of purchasing hers, carrying it round and looking mysterious yet modest when people assume I wrote it!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Running on the Fast track

A few weeks ago Harlequin Romance/M&B Cherish & Riva announced a Fast Track competition. Aspiring authors can send in one chapter and a synopsis before the 23 April and the editorial team promise to read and respond to every entry before May 17th.
As I waited over forty weeks for the Standard R this is an amazing opportunity. One to grab with both hands, surely!
Only what to send? Summer Fling has been seen, assessed, has detailed editorial feedback (squee) and needs rewriting. Minty needs to go through the NWS before I send her in.
Does she though? The first half, and especially the first chapter, has been extensively rewritten. I should believe in my writing and send it, right? But what if the NWS have some amazing insight into that first chapter? Or synopsis? 
Or the story as a whole?
Cue several weeks of umming, ahhing and driving my CP's crazy. Again. Sorry, guys.
But if they say no - or even if they don't - that doesn't stop me sending it to the NWS for their feedback. 
So today I sent it in *bites nails*.

It's this accessibility that makes M&B so attractive to aspiring romantic novelists. That and because their name is synonymous with writing romance. To be published by them means I would really have made it in my chosen field. But with New Voices, SYTYCW, Fast tracks and Pitches - plus the promise that every submission is read and evaluated - M&B offer aspiring novelists an opportunity pretty much unparalleled amongst traditional print publishers. 
Send them three chapters and a synopsis and they will read it. 
The thing is that makes it so easy to submit. Sometimes *whistles innocently* before a book is ready. I 'may' have sent in three chapters and a synopsis for a historical that wasn't written. My excuse for this was what if they had feedback on the synopsis and wanted changes? 
Neither of my NV chapters came from finished books either. I am not alone in this.
But what finishing three books in the last eighteen months (and editing two of these) has taught me is that books change. A lot. You get to know (to love) your characters. Things occur to you on page 89 that didn't when you first plotted. Sudden insights, quirks, plot and character developments; the things that (hopefully) make your story come alive.
Fingers crossed those fast track editors agree!

Monday, 9 April 2012

The Big Edit

Raining on cue
This weekend was Easter which, in the UK, means a very long holiday weekend; Friday to Monday. Two days off work and lots of chocolate. Bliss. Of course it's usually raining...

Normally we visit one grandparent or the other, organise an Easter Egg hunt at home and visit a Stately Home (preferably National Trust, good to use that membership) to do another one where we don't actually know where all the hiding places are. Then we eat chocolate until we feel sick and start to wish that Lent came after Easter. Like nearly every other family with primary school aged children in the UK.

Not this year. Well, for my family it was. My OH took the daughter over to his dad's where, I believe, Easter Egg hunts, stately home visits and over eating of the sweet stuff happened right on cue. I waved them off Saturday morning having given them strict instructions not to return until teatime Monday. I was going to start the Big Edit.

Six months after I wrote Chapter One for NV11, three months after I stopped faffing about with the middle of Chapter Two and started to write it in earnest, 53,000 words and several crises later I had finished the first draft. I wrote a two page synopsis, sent it to my CPs and celebrated with a RIVA binge read.

I was going to edit it this weekend.

Things never work out as planned. Sure, I spent three, long days and all of one evening at the computer. But it wasn't an edit. It turned out to be a total rewrite. 20,8000 words 4 1/2 chapters later I have deleted more words than I care to think about, lost one character, two scenes and changed the story completely. Chapters one and four are completely new, two and three are half new and it looks as if five is being rewritten more than I intended. Plus there is a whole new scene to be added.

So I am not smugly printing out my NWS entry. I still have a LOT of work to do, another 30,000 words to write and edit, followed by the 2nd edit. But it's a stronger, better story for it. For the first time I feel like I really know my characters inside out - and I adore them, both of them.I can't wait to finish this rewrite.

If only I could pack my family off for a week so I could get it finished!