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In preparation for my competition entry this week, I spent most of my time on my first novel.

Re-reading it has been really lovely. It has identified a few minor issues to tidy up, which is the task for next week, but I doubt that will take more than an hour or so.

Re-doing the synopsis has been much more time-consuming.

When I first prepared everything for agents, I followed all the guidelines to a tee, and the majority of those only allow for one page of text. Looking at that after a little time has passed showed me where I had missed a trick, in terms of building the story. I’m not sure I got it right for this competition, but it is something I will definitely be focussing on over then next couple of weeks.

All this has really got me excited about the book again, so after debating my next options for a while, I am going to try to agent route again. If it’s still unsuccessful I have the option to self-publish, and I will prepare for that too.

The book represents a transformation in my life – giving up my career to write, building an on-line presence, creating a writing community locally. I changed my world to make it happen, and I don’t want that to be wasted.

So that’s my focus for the rest of this month. For the rest of tonight, though, I am logging off as we are in for a storm and I think my power might be compromised!

Happy writing,
EJ
ūüôā

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I recently saw a post on twitter about a writing competition and decided it would be silly not to enter, so this week most of my writing attention has been on that. It’s good timing though, as it involves looking back at the Family Tree novel which is what I’ve been doing anyway!

It has given me a chance to re-write my synopsis too, focussing on what exactly I want to tell an agent/publisher/reader/competition judge about my characters.

I want to make them feel for them, just as strongly as I do – I need them to care what happens to them, what trials they face and how they get through them. I want them to see the way the characters develop and grow, how each person impacts on the others and changes their perception of what the world is.

So that’s what I’m trying to do. For this competition, the synopsis can be up to 10 pages long which is ten times the agents I tried, so there’s a lot of scope there – but there is a definite balance between giving details and being too detailed, which I need to reach. I have only a few more days to work on it, as I intend to submit on Wednesday.

Wish me luck!

As well as that, I’ve been gradually trying to sort out my writing space. ¬†I have a study at home, but¬†for a multitude of reasons I never write in there. ¬†In fact, my writing desk is actually in my lounge (the one in the header picture above!) and my husband sits there when he’s working from home, so we rarely use the study at all. ¬†The hope is that when it’s¬†reorganised, I will have a quiet space to hide away and get a different perspective – I really do find that changing where I work can break down writing blocks, so the more places I can get pen to paper, the better!

That’s it for this week – I’m off to summarise some more!

Happy writing,

EJ

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So much of my time this week has been spent learning and rehearsing¬†other people’s words that¬†I am actually quite proud of the fact my whodunnit is creeping, slowly, longer.

It’s taking much more time than I expected but partway through feeling rubbishy this week I decided just to go for it and get writing, so I at least had something to develop. Wading around thinking about ‘how to’ was really just tying me up in knots.

There’s not much worse for me as a writer than getting bogged down in a planning issue when¬†I don’t commit anything to paper (or in this case computer memory). There’s a mental equation that looks something like this:

0w = 0p><0p = 100%f

No words = no progress. No progress = 100% failure.

I have said many times that upping the word count and producing something of value are not the same thing, but I can’t edit a blank page so at the moment I’ll accept less than perfect writing for something to work with in a few weeks time.

Once I got going I must say that the writing¬†really started to flow and the pages filled quite rapidly. I have a long way to go – and another week of rehearsals followed by three performances so not a lot of time right now – but I do feel better for getting into some sort of writing groove. If I can find even an hour or two this week to keep going I’ll be happy, and once my performing days are over I will be in a position¬†to really get into the nitty-gritty of the plot twisters – and finally learn what I need to learn to get back to the novel!

In other news – listening lunches are back on the menu, so to speak ūüôā My songwriter friend and I are planning a new round of lunches with hopefully a lot of new material. This year I want to do more, push myself more, and achieve more so it’ll be good to start that as soon as panto season is over. ¬†Plus once I get into the editing of the whodunnit I will be happy to have some poetry to break up my time a little.

And finally – I know I am well behind on the 100 novels list but next Sunday, post-panto, I will catch up with a report on those I’ve missed, and (if I remember) a brief report on where I go next with my reading challenge.

Happy writing,

EJ

ūüôā

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This week I realised I am only 7 books away from my target, and I suddenly felt quite good about myself! ¬†A few weeks ago it seemed such a long way to target, so clearly it’s all in the perception…

Book 45 – Saints Preserve Us, by L. K. Ellwood. ¬† I picked this one to read for a few reasons: I am still seeking out the easy reading books until I have my non-wedding-addled brain back; the cover looked interestingly yellow; it sounded like it was all going to be a bit tongue in cheek. ¬†It didn’t meet all my expectations but I’ll come back to that in a minute.

Before I get into the book itself, I’d like to remind you that I said if I read a free, self-published book and didn’t enjoy it I’d just put it aside and not mention it. ¬†With this one I teetered on the edge of not mentioning it for a few reasons, but overall I think it was a perfectly reasonable bit of light reading.

I won’t spoil but I will say that the story was fairly engaging and moved at a good pace; the mystery had enough twists to keep my interest and to deflect suspicion for a while and the background idea was sufficiently unusual to get my attention.

There were a few things that let the book down for me, and having read the reviews on Goodreads I think they are fairly common issues.

The first is characterisation. ¬†The main character seemed to morph from staid, priggish elderly woman to young widow and I felt confused about who exactly she was. For a successful, self-confident woman to be living in her sister’s basement also seemed a little incongruous. Another character, first pegged as a gossipy unpleasant woman suddenly became a good friend and saviour of the main character. ¬†Not everyone was so mixed up but it was a little unsatisfying.

The second was the proofing. ¬†I won’t go on about this as I have blethered before about being frustrated by poor proofing¬†in books (I don’t worry about blogs, luckily for me!) ¬†but it was a distraction in places.

The third was the religiosity.  As part of the story it was absolutely essential to understand the processes and rules around sainthood, and the rituals and practises of religion in daily life.  However, there were times when it stepped from that into something more like a treatise on morality and it made me uncomfortable.  One particular scene outside a concert seemed so out of place that it took me completely out of the book and into a general musings on the nature of societies.

I am a Sociology graduate, I can’t help myself sometimes!!

So I came to this review with reservations. ¬†I don’t want to be unduly critical of a book that did have some interesting and entertaining moments, and which delved into family life in a way I appreciated, so I will simply say that¬†in my opinion it’s in¬†need of some editing and a proofread. The story itself was quirky and unexpected and the possibilities it raised were tantalising enough to keep me reading to the end.

And if a book got me to do that at the moment, I think it should be seen as a success!

Happy reading,

EJ

ūüôā

 

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At the moment I should be working on some of the poetry being used in the wedding, and I am trying to finalise the one poem I want to read on the day, but there are so many things to do that the poems keep getting pushed backwards.

When I think about the amount of time I spent on the poem for my cousin, I really do feel a little disappointed that I’m not doing the same for my own!¬† So this blog is a reminder to me – and to any of you who are struggling to find the time to create¬†– that the writing has to come up the list of priorities.

This is a plan of action post. ¬†A ‘putting it all right’ post.

This week my target is to have written up all my draft poetry, identified poems that are ok to leave as they are and those that need help and TLC/scrapping and starting again.  By the end of the week I want at least 50% of the wedding poetry ready to print.

I think that’s a realistic and reasonable plan, because it’s not all completely unrefined and some things will be very quick to tidy up and agree with my partner. ¬†Let’s just hope I can find time to stick with it…!

Once that’s done, I’ll have time to work on the rest of it and by the day of the wedding I’m sure it’ll all be fine. ¬†And if it isn’t, so be it – I’ll still be married!!

I’m leaving it there for today as I have 1001 things to do, but I’ll write more next week because I’ll be able to tell you about some successes for once!

Happy writing,

EJ

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I read a great quote that I haven’t been able o find¬†again unfortunately, but I thought I’d share the concept anyway.

It was something along the lines of ‘if you don’t write when you’re busy, you won’t write when you’re not’.

It jolted me out of the haze that has¬†surrounded me since I went back to work, and I sat down and moved my story on a little.¬†From tomorrow, I’ll be using lunch breaks to make notes on the work I’ve done so far, and use any space I find in the evenings to write new sections of the novel. ¬†I’ve even decided to change phones so I have one I can work on whenever I get a chance – sitting at the dentist, or in the car waiting for someone, or as my partner drives me to an event.

These sound like little things, and they are. But putting all my little things together will help me balance work, life, and writing – which is what I really want to do.

In other news – This week we’re on book 44 – Of Human Bondage¬†by W Somerset Maugham¬†which is another I haven’t read. I am interested in books that are heavily autobiographical but I don’t think I have time to fit another book into the list, so it’ll stay as a possible for the future, I think

And finally – it occurred to me today that this blog will go very quiet through November when I get married and go away for my honeymoon. ¬†I will pre-write a few posts before I go but I’d love to fill in some of the blanks with guest posts so if you’re interested in writing a post about anything relating to writing or reading, let me know!

Until next week – happy writing,

EJ

ūüôā

 

 

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I’ve been thinking about my sad lack of practical skills – specifically my inability to knit, crochet or sew despite tuition and guidance. I’m thinking about it now following my weekend at the fabric event, and the amount of decorating in wool that was done.

And I came to a conclusion – we all have the ability to weave threads together in one way or another; my way happens to be through the weaving of words.

 

Weave

 

(This is a basket. ¬†I didn’t weave this either!)

Think about it Рyou take strands of stories, plait them, plait the plaits, make sure there are no gaps Рor that the gaps are structural. You create a fabric that can be twisted, folded, turned.  You create images, sew through strands of light and dark, of colours and textures.  What you create has the capacity to change form.

As a writer I appreciate the creativity of my imagination but – as I have made clear many, many times – I really struggle with the editing. ¬†And yet the editing is the shaping, the crafting. ¬†It’s taking the raw materials – the wool, the pattern, the knitting needles – and making the finished garment. ¬†It’s what makes a book, or a poem, more than just a selection of words on a page.

All art, and all creativity, needs more than just the basic ideas. ¬†No-one reads Shakespeares book of possible storylines, after all; it is the smoothing of jagged sentences, the polishing of rough paragraphs, that makes writing accessible to an audience. ¬† And if we don’t write for people to read, why do we write?

So next time I’m feeling unhappy about my lack of practical skills I’ll remember that I have those skills in abundance – I just use a different medium.

Happy writing,

EJ

ūüôā

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Sometimes I visit places and I get to see familiar settings in an entirely unfamiliar way.

This picture shows a scene I know reasonably well Рbut it was brand new from this vantage point, on a gently rolling, wind-whipped, hill.

 

Viewpoint

When it comes to writing, viewpoint governs the structure of the story.  Do you see everything from one viewpoint, or through many?  Is your viewpoint omniscient or narrow?  Is the viewpoint character a reliable narrator?

One of the exercises suggested by Brian Kiteley in his book The 3am Epiphany¬†asks you to change a piece of writing from first to third person, or vice versa. ¬†I won’t go into all the details about it, of course – but it was an exercise that really made me focus on how much of a story I should actually show.

In essence, the viewpoint character holds a torch, so¬†you can only see what they see. ¬†If you need to reboot a tale, change the torch-holder – you can even hang it¬†up so light shines everywhere, if that’s what works for your novel!

If the story isn’t working as you want it to, a change of viewpoint could be¬†all¬†it needs.

It’s also worth bearing in mind what your own perception of the world brings to the story you are telling. ¬†Just like my experience on the hilltop, if you look at something from an unusual angle it can change how you perceive it, and open your eyes to another way of defining¬†things.

And of course, if you can’t get the writing to go as you want – take a break and look at the views around you. ¬†It might not add to your word count but it adds something even more valuable to your day.

Happy writing,

EJ

ūüôā

 

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This week at writing group we were talking about feedback and critiques.  As the person responsible for making sure we cover these things, I took along a poem I wrote a couple of years ago so people could practice giving feedback without worrying whether they were offending someone.  

It’s a poem I’d forgotten about, to be honest; although I think it has a certain charm it’s not one I’ve revisited since June 2012 – and that was only the second draft!

Being able to listen to feedback and make it constructive for you is important, but that’s not the point of the post today. ¬† No, what really struck me is that I haven’t looked back at old work for a long time.

Working on the woods novel, which is now in stasis, I spent a lot of time working through its inherent issues, and writing new pieces to keep me going. ¬†What I didn’t do was revisit old folders of work.

I often work on old pieces, don’t get me wrong – but they’re the pieces I’ve finished and take to open mike nights or readings. ¬†I amend them based on hearing them read out loud. ¬†On the other hand, I haven’t looked back at my files of early, unfinished, drafts for a while. ¬†I think that without really noticing, I just closed my mind to them.

So after having that blast from the past, after having a look at my old folders full of random lines, or articles, or early attempts at expressing myself, I am determined to write a whole new set based on those bits – a whole new set to go out and read for an audience.

I don’t write drafts just to forget them, and I don’t want that to be their fate.

In other news – We’ve got to Book 19 of the Best Novels list – The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. ¬†I saw this come up and read it this week, I’ll give you my impressions on Thursday. ¬†I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really agree with this list though – or at least, if these books are really the best in the English language, then I don’t enjoy the best!

Also – as I was looking at the newspaper, I found this article¬†about the deadly argument two friends had over the relative benefits of poetry and prose. ¬†I thought I’d share it to remind us all to keep things in perspective – and to say I think both poetry and prose are fabulous!

And finally – I was watching a programme about house-hunting in Wales, which discussed, briefly, Dylan Thomas’s love of the area. Subsequently I came across this article about places to visit in the area to celebrate the centenary of his birth. ¬†I’m taking it as a sign that Wales is a good writing destination, and that our trip to the retreat at the end of April will be a success.

We writers love to interpret signs, after all!

Happy writing

EJ

ūüôā

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I said a couple of weeks ago that I was looking into a competition. The details were given to me by a friend in my writing group and it’s a first novel competition for unpublished writers.

The prize is incredibly good and worth a great deal to any writer; it is however only open to unpublished writers which makes it even more amazing! It’s so good, in fact, I would be an idiot¬†not to do it.

To enter, I have to send my work, a mini biography and a synopsis, all things I have ready to go. ¬†But when I was preparing the paperwork to print off and send, I started thinking about ways to improve the submission. ¬†I haven’t really read any of it for months, I just print it or attach it and send it whenever I need to do so. ¬†This time, I’ve had a break from it, and I can see it in a more detached way.

So I looked at what I was sending. ¬†I won’t change the novel much, although I have decided not to submit the prologue. ¬†It hasn’t necessarily been cut forever, just left off this submission due to word count limitations.

The synopsis is being properly, and carefully, reviewed.  I need it to grab the judges so they engage with the potential of the story as well as enjoying my writing РI need them to see there is a market for this work and that it is the kind of market that makes taking a risk worthwhile.

I’m also trying to make the biography more dynamic – I’m trying to sell my ideas and the better I explain myself, the more the judges will understand my vision. ¬†That’s the theory anyway…

In the meantime, research on the next novel continues – but this’ll be a boring blog if I just say that every week until the end of April!

I did have a little burst of inspiration this week, heading home from an eye appointment. ¬†This idea needs me to collaborate with someone – I have an idea who, but I haven’t approached them yet. ¬†It feels exciting and like I have a great secret, just thinking about the story, so that’s got to be a good sign, right?

In other news – we’re up to Book 18 in the best novels list¬†– Alice in Wonderland. ¬†I’m reading it now; I can’t remember ever having read it before though. ¬†I won’t say too much here as I’m going to comment on it on Thursday, but I’m enjoying it!

And finally – I’ve told you before that I set up a writing group as I couldn’t find one I was happy with – well, after a few months getting everyone to have a go at different styles of writing, we are now up and running. ¬†It’s been great so far; positive, supportive and rewarding, and I really recommend that for any of you who can’t find a group you like, to set one up yourself. ¬†You can meet in pubs, cafes, libraries – wherever suits you and keeps costs down.

I’ll tell you how it’s progressing another time, but for today it’s time to pack up and relax!

Until next time, happy writing,

EJ

ūüôā

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