Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Dancing in the Dark

When I last blogged, I was just over a week into the November writing-a-novel-in-a-month challenge.  At that time my draft was called Em the Gem - a dreadful working title that made me cringe everytime I opened up the document.  So I spent a little of my precious writing time just scribbling potential titles over sheets and sheets of rough paper,  until I came up with Dancing in the Dark.  With the new title, I began to expand the theme, emphasising Em's love of dance and the way she saw it as an expression of her own life.  Then I was away, writing avidly, with Em's backstory unfolding as she renewed contact with lost relatives and became more aware of her own identity.

Which is all a rather grand way of saying that I became immeasurably immersed in what I was writing and completed the whole 50,000 words.  Not all of it will be useable - but isn't that true of any first draft?  The story is not quite finished, maybe four more chapters will do it, but I haven't been able to resist beginning a little editing on the work so far.  So was it worth the effort?  Well, I have learnt that I can write while I keep everything else going (excluding most housework!), I can think and type away in the warmest room while others are watching television, I can be encouraged by a simple graph monitoring my progress and I benefit from linking up with writing buddies.  I now feel that writing is an integral part of my life, and not just a hobby.  I am eagerly planning to complete Dancing in the Dark next, as it has become my longest work-in-progress (I have three others!). 

Meanwhile, there is exciting news about Losing Face.  The proofs are all done, the novel has reached its final stage and I have chosen the image for the cover.  I have no publication date yet, but when I do have one, I shall be shouting it from the rooftops - and probably remember to write it here, too.  Although, all new ventures bring fresh challenges.  With the impending publication of this first novel, I am beginning to become a little concerned about doing readings in bookshops.  Can I make myself sound like a 15-year old girl?  Should I try?   Advice please, from any who have walked this road before me!

But, for the time being, my priorities are Christmas and all the preparations; carol singing, playing the cello, preparing for visitors, cooking, giving presents and generally celebrating the birth of Jesus.

After all, the birth of that particular extraordinary baby is the most exciting news of all.

Happy celebrations and may all your writing be beautiful,


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The waiting game

 For those of my readers waiting to hear about the publication of Losing Face, here is the news.  After a very fast start by Roundfire Books (an imprint of o-books), it looks as if everything has slowed down.  So I am waiting for something to happen.  It was suggested that I post a gentle prod on the publisher's forum - but alas, their website has recently changed and I cannot fathom out how to do it! Meanwhile, I have had trouble writing anything much else, probably because Losing Face's stagnation is forming a mental barrier to moving forward.

So I was rather stuck in the doldrums.  But then along came November - National Novel Writing Month.  Along with some other members of Norfolk Christian Writers, who I know, and thousands of others who I have never met, I have taken up the challenge to write a novel in a month.  50,000 of a first draft, that is.  This is a very daunting task, but I have been much encouraged by, not one but, two writing buddies.  So far I am only about 1500 words behind target (not counting today) but considering it takes about two hours a day, which I do not really have, I am quite pleased with the progress so far.

The new novel is a prequel, or sequel or even equel to Losing Face.  In fact, is is probably all three.  It is Em's story, whereas Losing Face is the story of her friend Cassie.  It was probably the wrong story to pick as it needs a lot of checking up as I go along to match in with LF, which takes valuable writing time.  But, heyho, I always do things the difficult way!  I'm not sure quite what is Em's story - but it seems to be unfolding as she tells it.

But however the story develops, taking part in the challenge has worked for me.  I am now forcing myself to write and surprising myself at the number of words I can achieve in snatched moments of time I did not think I had.  I am enjoying the support of my two buddies as well.  It no longer feels as if I am writing totally on my own.

So, based on less than a week of fast and furious imaginings and key-bashing, my recommendations for all stuck novelists are to team up with other writers who will encourage and inspire.  Set yourself a target, and make it public.  Remember to have some quiet time each day,  to pray maybe or otherwise prepare yourself for writing.  Then just immerse yourself in this strange other world of your own creation.

Oh, one more recommendation: forget the housework!


Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Just in time

Losing Face came back from the designer at first proof stage.  It was all very exciting, until I realised that I had made two major errors that affected about 45 pages.  I had used email addresses for my emailing characters that were now taken by real people!  I'm glad I noticed in time, although the designer probably isn't and I may have to pay for alterations at such a late stage.  It took many days to find vacant email addresses that would suit the characters - they are still not perfect matches, but are now reserved in their names.  You'll need to wait for the book's publication to know what they are!

Meanwhile, my present novel-in-progress has ground to a halt.  I feel I have been forcing it for quite a time now, so may revert to one I started on when working for my MA or even begin a sequel to Losing Face that keeps popping into my mind.  My next blog will be full of enthusiasm for whichever novel is in favour.

All thoughts of running a retreat (as mentioned in an earlier blog) are on hold - the room is full with a temporary lodger and his many books.   He's not a writer but an avid reader who enjoys collecting books as resource material.  Come to think of it, he is a writer - of sermons!   Pastors are excellent lodgers - helpful, cheerful, busy and providing prayer and spiritual guidance at the drop of a hat. 
Spiritual guidance . . . now there's a thought.  I'm just popping off for a quick pray re the next novel!


Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Losing Face is on its way!

This has been a month of holidays, people coming to stay and times organising various events, but in between it all I have been signing the contract with o-books, uploading my final version of Losing Face and then reading the copy edited version that came back very quickly for me to look at.  I was impressed.  After some really helpful emails with the copy editor, I fiddled around with it a bit (it was rather difficult to leave it alone!) and it has now gone to the design stage!
Although I have had non-fiction published before, this is my first novel and it is rather complicated with emails from two very different girls trying to work through their trauma by writing down what has happened to them.   My advice?  Don't ever write a book like this - I have had two timelines running throughout and so many themes and back stories that I kept getting a little lost myself.
Having said that, if you are a writer, write what inspires you! 
So far, o-books have been brilliant.  They are not nearly as impersonal as their website suggests and they will 'listen' (via email) if you do not think their offer is what you would like.  I am now very pleased to only be paying for some extra advertising services I want, despite this being my first novel and therefore a risk to them.
So watch this space for a publication date.  My next challenge will be to sound like a teenager when doing readings!  I never thought about that when I wrote in the characters' voices . . .


Friday, 5 August 2011

To sign, or not to sign?

[This was written on 12th July - but my blogging skills lack some refinement, so I have just discovered it lurking in the place where all good drafts slumber - or waft annoyingly, depending on your spelling!  Still, better late than never, so here are my thoughts from the middle of last month:]

Some exciting news reached me last week, via my Blackberry.  My internet connection had gone haywire, so I have spent a whole eight days with only my little Blackberry screen to read.  But there it was - the offer of a contract to publish 'Losing Face'!  I scrolled up and down, back and forth, reading the email until I was sure.  Amongst all the moving images as I scrolled, I realised there were strings attached - in the form of money to pay for some of the services the company offered.

So my dilemma remains - in a slightly different form.  This is not self-publishing - they have now agreed that they will pay for all the publishing element - but it is nevertheless costing something for distribution and advertising.  But maybe I should invest in it?  If I don't believe in my book - who can?

Those of you who know me can imagine that I am now thinking about it a great deal and praying.  I know there was a reason to write this book and that somewhere, somehow, it will be published.  Is this the way?  Some of you will have noticed that I am plaguing published friends (and even strangers!) to find out their publishing stories.  I am astounded at how many others have had to contribute something to costs.

So to sign, or not to sign?  Watch this space . . .


Friday, 1 July 2011

Losing Face - my first novel

'Has your book been published yet?' 

I must be asked that about three times a week.  My eagerly awaited novel has been round quite a few publishers now, with many requests for the whole novel.  Have you been in the same position?  It's so exciting to send it all off, freshly printed, or even with the tap of a computer key.  Then the wait, and wait, and wait . . . until, in my case, I receive the inevitable response.  'Thank you . . . we enjoyed it . . . sorry it does not fit our list.'  Sometimes there is even a very long letter telling me all the things the readers loved, before letting me down, quite gently.

The question can be slightly different.  'Have you got your book published yet?'  This implies I should get on with it!  Maybe I should self-publish?  Then what?  Five hundred pristine copies under my bed and an empty bank balance.  Or maybe I could market them myself?  But that would take away precious writing time.

So how do I keep the balance and keep positive about the finished novel?  Poorly, I think.  The rest of life jostling for attention and filling up the days I have allotted to work on my other started novels.  The only solution I have found is to go and hide somewhere - away for a few days in a small hotel, or even on a writing retreat to really knuckle down to it.

And speaking of writing retreats, I have always fancied running one.  Watch this space . . .