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Showing posts from November, 2019

NaNoWriMo Day 18 - Publishing - Self, Indie, Traditional

Which Way to Go?

I managed to claw my way back up to the line on my Nanowrimo word count graph. Having said that, I've done no writing today so I know what I'll be doing after this blog!

Firstly, I want to say that there is no obligation for you to publish your writing whatsoever! Don't let anyone tell you that if you choose not to be published, you're not a real writer. That is a load of...cobblers! You've written, haven't you? You've written a book? Then you're a writer, whether you're published or not.
If you do go down the publishing route, then best of luck to you! It's incredibly hard work, no matter which way you go. In this blog, I will be listing a basic pro and con list of each method. If you'd like more detail, then say in the comments.
More and more authors are choosing to self-publish for numerous reasons.
Pros You have complete control. Over everything! Content, cover, marketing, formattingNo painful long waits t…

NaNoWriMo Day 17 - Pace of Writing

Sunday 17th November 2019 - Pace of Writing
I obsess over graphs.I blame my dad – he was a maths teacher.So it’s perhaps unsurprising that my page of choice on the NaNoWriMo website is the Stats page.One of the reasons I’ve fought against doing NaNoWriMo for so long is because I have an obsessive nature and, when I start on something, I won’t let go until it’s done.But thanks to a combination of NaNoWriMo and my obsessive gene, I’ve already completed one novel and I’m zooming through the second.

One aspect I’ve really enjoyed is competing in writing sprints with two of my NaNoWriMo buddies (who are also my sisters!).Being highly competitive, we write for 20 minutes to see who can write the most words.I always lose.No, I mean ABSOLUTELY always lose.But it doesn’t matter because writing sprints have got me past some of the trickiest parts in my books, just because I want to be writing something.

My favourite graph is the one which give you the predicted line.  I like to know what I’m ai…

NaNoWriMo Day 16 - Characters - Part Three - Nature/Nurture

Saturday 16th November - Characters - Part Three - Nature/Nurture

In some way, all my creative writing reflects my fascination with the nature or nurture debate. As one of six children, I've seen how people can have the same upbringing, the same love, the same nurturing and the same opportunities, and yet turn out to be very different people with very different interests and skillsets. In The Backwater, I enjoyed exploring the similarities between Rebecca and the father she's only meeting when she’s twelve years old. Dance With Me – the book which is coming out next year – is about someone who's going around developing new relationships rather than being with the ones nature has provided her with.

NaNoWriMo Day 15 - Choosing Your First Reader

Thursday 15th November - Choosing Your First Reader

Some of us write books we never intend the world to see.  Writing for yourself is absolutely fine, but many of us like to imagine someone reading our books.  Sometimes we dream of hitting the Bestseller List, which everyone queuing down the street on release day, or sometimes we imagine our books in the hands of a certain someone.

Whichever the dream, your First Reader will most likely be someone different, but their role is nonetheless important.  Your First Reader will be someone who you have to convince, but also someone you trust.  They should at least have an appreciation of the style and genre in which you're writing, but they don't have to be avid readers of it.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing your first reader:

Trust - This is the *most* important thing.  When sharing a manuscript, you're opening a little window onto your soul.  All writers, whatever they claim, but an element of themselves into the…

NaNoWriMo Day 14: Settings and Locations - Rural Landscape

Settings and Locations.  Rural Landscape.
How to weave words into settings?  The temptation is to be a bit heavy-handed with the adjectives - but then you end up with one of those bumpy rugs instead of a neatly woven delight to walk on!  George Eliot, in The Mill On The Floss, brings alive the landscape and setting and soon conveys the importance of the river without the use of clunking adjectives. I'm reminded of the Lucy Boston stories about her beloved Hemingford Grey.  In The Children of Green Knowe she explains that the river is a lively inhabitant. If a writer is able to animate aspects of the countryside, then there is little need for poetical description. Once a river, a tree, or any other part of the landscape comes alive, then the story/account is accessible without the need to unravel unnecessary packaging.  Don't get me wrong - I've played games with poetic prose so that music sings from the page but I'm also aware that the same music drowns out what I'…

NaNoWriMo Day 13: Writing Personifications

Writing Personifications
Most of us talk to people not inanimate objects, or else (in the case of people like me) we talk to both.But sometimes inanimate objects are central to a story’s plot.For example, if you’re writing a mystery or crime novel, your characters want to maintain a certain air of unknown.They will probably become known for the coat they wear, or the car they drive.As authors we can throw our readers a hint by personifying these inanimate objects.

When I think of the power behind a good use of personification, I always think of the parable of the blind men and the elephant.It’s our human approach which makes us see things in a certain way – within the confines of our own understanding.
Metaphors are central to writing this way.Don’t say:
the car had wing mirrors like ears, ready to hear its master’s voice
Instead go for:
the car’s wing mirrors were ears, ready to hear its master’s voice
Here are a few things about personification:
That reminds me... Most things remind us…

NaNoWriMo Day 11 - Dialogue

Monday 11th November - Dialogue

In my world, this is one of those necessary evils. Writing dialogue is a bit of a poisoned chalice. Do you go for how people really talk? Or do you go for how people can read and understand it? My lasting memory of Wuthering Heights is the use of a written-in Yorkshire accent, whereas most people remember the story! Perhaps because of this, dialogue is something I've always felt strongly about!

Dialogue tells your reader a great deal about the character. For last year's Book Week Scotland, Crowvus hosted an event called Consequences, in which other people gave you your characters  through their own words (it's free to read here!). One of the toughest things about it was fitting in the words your characters had to say. After all, writing a story with a man and a woman in a place with a certain ending - that's pretty vague. But as soon as the words were introduced, the vague characters became 3D: you could hear their voices.

As soon as you…

Day 10 - Editing


One of the things that is a real privilege about being from a family of writers is having the opportunity to read raw, unedited first drafts. There is something very exciting about how those first thoughts and forays into a deep, rich imagination make the transition from brain to paper (or screen). I’m told that I’m bad for laughing at the mistakes that people make, and a first draft is always a great opportunity to do that too! The best example was almost certainly one of my own: High Fantasy novel I wrote as a child/teenager/young adult: The king was returning from a big battle and about to enter the capital city with his annihilated army. Naturally, he was concerned, so he said, “how can I tell them that their sons and fathers will be returning?”So, since then, I’ve been known for missing out “not”s in sentences. Of course, when you have passed that exciting First Draft Stage and you’re beginning to look at preparing the book for going out into the wider world, the first edit …

"Black Water" by Barbara Henderson

"Black Water" by Barbara Henderson

One of the first things that struck me about the book was how great the cover is. I love the picture, and I love the font. What makes this book even better is the awesome illustrations that appear at the chapter headings. The book is wonderfully formatted and a pleasure to have.

I started this book at tea time on the 5th November, thinking I should really give some time to a book I'd committed to reviewing. I finished the book at half 9 on the exact same day. Within minutes of starting, I realised I couldn't put the book down, but I didn't want to finish at the same time.

What I really liked about this book was that it included real people, which was described at the end. One of these real people was none other than celebrated poet Robert Burns, who was written exactly as I imagined him. I knew he was an Excise Man but I didn't make the connection that he'd be a great character in the book, even when I saw the chapter title…

NaNoWriMo - Characters: Part Two – Beliefs

The thing which brings characters to life is often not any physical appearance at all. You can imagine your hero or heroine as looking like yourself, or like someone you really admire. But what readers best connect with is a character’s behaviour, their deeds and thoughts, and what inspires these said deeds and thoughts.

These are the character’s beliefs. They tend to fit into three categories: Belief about or in a deityBelief about or in societyBelief about or in family and friends
Each one of these will make a profound difference to their thoughts and their actions. So, if you have a character who is a follower of a military deity like Mars, they are likely to couple this with an attitude that human life can be readily given for a cause [belief one affecting belief two]. But if your character is a devout pacifist during a time of war, this will certainly put a strain on their relationships and beliefs about their family and friends [belief two affecting belief three].
I grew up playi…

Friday 8th November 2019 – Research

As an Historical Fiction author, research is paramount.  I could write and write and write on this topic!  It might come as a bit of a surprise, then, that I’m about to throw out the crazy suggestion that research is best performed around the edges of writing a story.  Whatever your story is, make your book about the story first, and then the research.

I absolutely love researching things.I love delving into the realms of history and, if I’m honest, I tend to lose myself there.Despite that, my books stay 100% focused on the adventures and choices of my characters.Most things (unless you’re writing in a speculative field) can be researched to fit in with your story.It doesn’t matter if you're looking at historic events, geographical phenomena, or the impact and effects of drugs, you can usually find a way to make the research fit the story.
Most writers have already done some form of research before they put pen to paper.After all, you chose your genre for a reason, so you must ha…

Day 7 - Software

Day 7 -Thursday 7th November 2019 – Software
Now the world has moved into the technological age we’ve largely abandoned the pen for the keyboard.  I do still have one story which I love writing by hand, but by and large my writing is now done on a computer – usually my laptop.

It’s taken me a long time to settle into any form of writing software, but these days I tend to gravitate towards Scrivener for my writing.I (mostly) like the layout, and I find its sensible approach understandable enough so that even I know what’s going on!The use of the binder and corkboard approach is really easy to use and keep tabs on.But I’ve got to be honest, I have no idea how most of it works!Ultimately, my books make their way into Word, are shaped and formatted, and then converted to .pdf files.In this way, I feel like I’m using the best aspect of all the software I have!
Here are a few considerations about choosing the best software for you: What do you want it to do?If you’re after a word processor d…

NaNoWriMo - Writing Relationships

Day 6 - Writing Relationships

Relationships are tricky – not just in real life, but in writing as well. We essentially have a relationship of some description with everyone that we meet – and certainly anyone that we meet more than once. I was shopping in Tesco during the October holidays and spoke with so many people I knew – ranging from current pupils to one of the conductors on the train which was a part of my commute eighteen months ago. These relationships can be difficult to recreate in literature. We tend to dwell on the meaningful, and they are tricky enough! But how often are we writers guilty of neglecting those people who are important ‘friendly faces’? When I’m writing established relationships, I tend to make it all about inference. Think about introducing, if appropriate, a nickname for one of the characters. Or what are you inferring if the teenager in your YA manuscript calls their parents by their first names? It automatically says something about the relationship that …

NaNoWriMo - Your Target Audience

Day 5 - Your Target Audience
It's Day 5 of NaNoWriMo, and I'm still keeping my word count on target. Ok, so I didn't do well yesterday, but I made up for it today so I'm still on track to finish on the 30th November.

So...your target audience...

You want people to like your writing, don't you? Everyone likes different types of writing but, fortunately for us authors, readers tend to fall into categories. These could be age related (middle grade or young adult) or genre related (fantasy or romance).

Because readers tend to conform to one of many groups, it makes writing for them a lot easier. If you're writing a romance novel, you should know that people who enjoy reading romance books will be expecting a happy ending, at least for our star couple. If you don't give the reader what they are wanting, this could end in dissatisfied customers or bad reviews.

When you're writing, think about who you'd like to read your book. I don't mean family and friend…

NaNoWriMo - Settings and Locations: Part One - Buildings

Monday 4th November 2019 – Settings and Locations: Part One - Buildings
A sense of place is imperative in a story.After all, we all love to belong.This is the first of three blogs on the theme of Settings and Locations, and this one will be looking at buildings. This is the trickiest blog I’ve written so far, mostly because this is an enormous topic, and there’s so much to cram into one blog!

Wanderford Hall was an ancient building of stone, lined internally with brightly polished wooden panels. The floor was made of thick wooden boards that had been reclaimed from the destruction of the Catholic church in the village some two hundred years earlier. The entrance hall was overlooked by an enormous painting of the Battle of Bosworth Field, in which his ancestor had fought. Its very presence stood contrary to his father’s puritanical beliefs, but he had been unwilling to paint over it and lose a part of his heritage. The wooden staircase radiated with the shine of beeswax, and it was this s…