Saturday, 23 March 2019

INSPIRATION. WHERE DO YOU FIND YOURS?


Inspiration is a funny old thing. It’s very personal for a start. Does a glorious view inspire you with ideas? Or a wall with a thought provoking picture on it? Maybe you need an empty, silent, house with no interruptions? Music in the background? Coffee and chocolate on tap? Does that intriguing sentence or two of a conversation you over heard in the supermarket, ‘She’s only gone and run off with her toy boy. Goodness only knows what the headmaster will say’ get your mind racing with Who? What? Where? When? How? All those classic journalism questions to find the story behind the news item. Do you find story prompts in the latest writing magazine, helpful?  Do scenes and plots spin into your head as you people watch on your commute to work? Maybe you like going on a retreat like Rae wrote about last week? 
Photographs can sometimes lead one into a story.



For instance these colourful shoes. Who would wear boots likes this? Where would they walk? Were they waterproof or did they leak? They look to be a small size - children’s boots or a petite lady with tiny feet? But however you find your  inspiration you do need that ‘lightbulb moment’ in the beginning when you sense the idea has the legs for a novel rather than a short story.
Writing a novel is not a quick process and sometimes at the halfway point through the first draft, additional inspiration is needed to keep the story on line. Maybe a long soak in the bath with a glass of wine relaxes the left side of your brain and the ideas flood in inspiring you to carry on with the story.
I know some writers who say they have so many ideas for books they’ll never have time to write them all. Me - well, I’m not like that. Ideas do come to me out of the blue but not always when I need them. And definitely not fully formed. But I do write them down in a notebook ready to flip through when I’m desperate. Sitting in front of a blank screen with no idea what to write to move the story forward can be soul destroying. Over the years I’ve tried to find and master some fail safe ways of finding inspiration when I need to call up the muse. 
My stories are usually set in either Devon or France, so I choose my setting and then write down the basics of my main female character. Name, age, marital status, family and job. Then I think of a theme i.e.  Divided loyalties; Sibling rivalry; Dunkirk spirit; I then give my heroine a problem - sibling rivalry could be devastating news that drives a seemingly permanent wedge between the heroine and her brother/sister.  


In theory inspiration and ideas are everywhere but writers need to be open to their presence and ready to recognise which idea has the real legs to be expanded into a novel. Do ideas come to you in dreams? Do you sit in front of the computer with a fully formed character and story in mind? Do you sit scribbling doodles and words hoping that something will come to you. We’d love to hear what inspires you and your writing.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

RETREAT TO ADVANCE – CHOOSING THE RIGHT WRITING GETAWAY

The image of a writer tapping away in a lonely garret is a popular one and although all writers need space and time to create, some also find inspiration by attending a well chosen writing retreat. (I’ll return to the ‘well chosen’ part later.) I definitely fall into the latter camp. So at the beginning of each year, I wave goodbye to my family and spend one wonderful weekend focusing purely on writing.


TIME TO DETOX

This year I indulged in a Writing Detox organised by Chasing Time Retreats - isn’t that the perfect name for a writing getaway? Set in a 1840s Gothic mansion, complete with stunning stained glass window and animal skins pinned to the walls, Rosely Country House Hotel is surrounded by acres of grounds, deep in the Scottish countryside. My favourite cosy neuk was beside the crackling log fire, where we gathered in the evenings, curtains drawn, to share stories.

 
Stained glass window at Rosely Country House Hotel

CHASING TIME TEAM

As well as providing peace and time to write, a tutored retreat also offers the opportunity to connect with other writers. The Chasing Time team, who organise and deliver events, is made up of noir thriller writer Sandra Ireland, author of Beneath the Skin, Bone Deep and The Unmaking of Ellie Rook ; Elizabeth Frattaroli, award winning author of Pathfinder 13; and Dawn Geddes, a freelance journalist whose debut novel The Worry Dolls is currently with the Sophie Hicks Agency. All three did a fantastic job of helping guests relax and to make the most of precious writing time.
 
Getting to know new writing friends...


CHOOSING THE RIGHT RETREAT

I promised to return to the theme of choosing the right writing hideaway. Some retreats are untutored, for authors who require solitude – perhaps to finish a project, or work on a knotty plot problem. For me, the cocoon of my spacious yet cosy bedroom at Rosely House was where words flowed – far more than I’d achieved at other retreats. However, the main reason I chose the Chasing Time option was because Sandra Ireland offered morning workshops – one focusing on hooks and structure, the other on editing – topics I wished to strengthen before embarking on another draft of my women’s emotional fiction novel.

Busy, busy during the editing workshop...

WHAT NEXT?

By the end of a productive weekend, as well as feeling equipped to crack on with my work-in-progress, I also felt inspired to try my hand at penning darker short stories. And what do you know? Chasing Time Retreats are planning a one-day Gothic short story writing workshop in the autumn. Rosely Country House Hotel, with its resident ghost and creepy owl sculpture in the garden, will make the perfect backdrop for imagining some seriously scary tales.
 
Mr Owl... waiting for a story to be written
Happy writing!

Rae x


Saturday, 9 March 2019

Adding Realism To Your Writing by Victoria Cornwall

A novel is like the inside of an intricate clock. Just like the well-oiled cogs and gears of a clock, a book has many elements which need to interact smoothly so it provides an enjoyable read. This week I am going to chat about a character’s reaction to a given situation. Their reaction is one of those key elements. A good reaction can strengthen the reader’s interest in the character or plot  … a poor, ill-written reaction can lose a reader’s support and loyalty.
As a writer, I try to imagine how the character would behave and think in any given situation and describe it as accurately as I can. However, over the years I have come to realise that people do not always behave how we would expect them to. If a writer captures this unexpected reaction in their writing, it can add realism to the situation and more depth to the character. It can also add an unexpected twist. Here are two examples of what I am trying to explain. They are both related to losing someone special:-
Imagine you are writing about a young widow learning how to navigate life again without her husband by her side. The story starts with a scene of her sitting by her husband’s hospital bed. They are holding hands as he finally succumbs to a long, drawn out battle with cancer. The last two years have been particularly brutal. The normal emotions of denial, shock and heart rendering grief come to mind. Scenes involving tears, emotional numbness, relatives offering comfort, doctors saying things that in the moment make no sense. Those scenes are in her future, but right now she is still holding his hand as it begins to grow colder in hers. Her love, her soul mate, her friend has just left her forever. The perfect reactions to her husband’s passing are just waiting to be written. But wait! STOP and think again.
Remember that she has just spent years by his side battling cancer. The last two years have been particularly bad. What if his personality had changed over that time? What if he had not accepted his diagnosis well and had railed against the unfairness of it all. She had nursed him up to the point of his admission to hospital and she is now in a state of physical and mental exhaustion. Her love for him had changed as his illness had changed him. The happy years of their marriage are a distant memory as his anger, frustration and physical changes had eaten away at their marriage as efficiently as the cancer inside him. He was not the man she fell in love with. What if she felt a great sense of relief at his passing? Imagine the guilt she would have at experiencing such feelings. She would feel unworthy of the sympathy offered by friends and relatives. She would feel like a fraud. In the story she will eventually learn to understand her husband's reaction to having cancer, understand her own reaction to living with someone she no longer recognised and finally forgive both her husband and her reaction to living with cancer. She will fall in love with her husband all over again as her memories of their happier times together become easier to recall. She has to do all this before she can grieve normally again and feel the true depth of her loss. Finally she learns to live without him, but her initial “abnormal” reaction actually adds realism and an extra dimension and twist to the normal grief process. Her reaction may at first seem abnormal, but it is actually very realistic. Chronic illness is a terrible strain on family members and we can add this side into our story too.
I used to work in intensive care as a nurse. After the death of a patient, I came across his son sitting in the corridor. I sat down beside him ready to offer words of comfort. We were both in our mid-twenties and had never spoken before.  Back then, if I was to write the scene, I would have had him expressing his grief at losing his father, perhaps eyes brimming with tears, hands trembling in grief, reactions all equated with grief. The reality was very different. Although he was very distressed, he did not show it in the normal way. His mind was whirring and he was agitated as he didn’t know how to arrange all the practical things to do with a death in the family.  He gave the impression of being rather selfish – only thinking of himself and all the jobs he had to do. Where would he get the death certificate from? How would he move the body to the funeral directors?  Who would he have to notify? His father had died yet he was talking as though it was a problem to be solved. However, I understood his thought processes as not long before I had been in a very similar situation.
He had no experience of dealing with a death in the family. He felt ill prepared and knew little about how to sort out funerals, wills, death certificates etc. The one man he would normally turn to for advice was no longer there and he was in panic mode. He felt his loss very deeply, but expressed it in a different way and was overwhelmed by the practicalities facing him. He wanted to be a support to his mother and protect her by doing all the practical things required, but he felt totally inadequate for the jobs ahead. He felt that he was already failing his father and as he sat outside the intensive care unit, numb with shock, he spilled out his worries to a nurse who happened to sit down beside him. Luckily, from my recent experience, I could help him more than most.

So just remember, although it is important for a character’s reaction to be a believable one, sometimes you can add depth, a twist or an added layer to a plot or character, by allowing them to react in a way that is not quite what one would expect.


Fiction by Victoria Cornwall




Saturday, 2 March 2019

EDIT is a four letter word

There's only one possible topic for my blog this time - edit. Even though I've just finished my ninth (THE LITTLE B&B AT COVE END - HARPER-COLLINS)and this one was nowhere near as scary as my first it's still about as much fun as cleaning drains - it has to be done whether we like it or not. I had a deadline for this one ... and just under five weeks to get there. So plenty of time. Of course, I wasted time getting started as per usual. Edit, in case no one has ever thought of it, is an anagram of diet, tide, and tied. I waste a lot of time like that getting started. So, I'll take the word 'diet' .... an edit, for me, is quite a tool to diet because once I get started I often let lunchtime come and go, and just grab a quick something for supper - result in the diet department. As for 'tide', well, this book is set in a coastal village and with boats going in and out and beaches appearing and disappearing I had to check tide times. And then there was the 'tied' bit when I'd wasted so much time - because I had plenty of it anyway, didn't I? - and had accept I was now tied to my desk and had to refuse invites to coffee and lunch to get it finished. This time around it was suggested another thread to the story would be good ... something else for my heroine to unravel before she gets her man. A sub--plot of sorts.It was by no means obligatory but 'do give it some thought, Linda'. So I did. And I put one in, which meant other things had to be taken out to stop the word count from rocketing. Add to all that the usual things we have to do on an edit - checking timings for a start. I'm not good at those. I know it's Monday, or Sunday or a week later, but my reader doesn't - and that first reader was my editor so .... that had to be sorted. And then, of course, there are the double and triple checks we all have to do to make sure that eye/hair colour hasn't changed between page one and three hundred and one.
And shoe size - yes, I've done that. I had my hero in size nines at the beginning and then because ... well, we all know the connection between a man's shoe size and the size of a certain part of his anatomy ... he was getting sexier by the page. By the time he got to the end he was in size elevens.
There have been times when I've been doing all this when I've wondered whose book this is which is, perhaps, ungracious of me because I know my book will be much improved by the time I get to the end. I'm almost there on this one ... the structural edit is done, eye/hair colour, shoe size,et al have been checked and triple checked. Then comes the scary bit, sending back out there into the ether. Wish me luck!

Friday, 15 February 2019

In Which We Share Our Goals

In Which We Share Our Goals



Yes, it’s the middle of February, but here at the Novel Points of View blog we are putting our writerly resolutions for 2019 in black and white for all the world to see.

Victoria says:

Some years are busier than others, but I think 2019 will be up there as one of my busiest and will dictate my 2019 resolutions.

First up is the release of the 5th book in my Cornish Tales Series. The cover will be revealed this week and it will be released as an eBook and audiobook on the 16th April. It is about a daughter of a baronet, who falls in love with a gardener on her father’s estate. I loved writing this novel, which incorporates all the stifling expectations placed on a girl growing up in the Victorian era.

On 9th July, the paperback version of The Daughter of River Valley (the 3rd book in the series) will be released. I think most authors aspire to have a paperback version of their novel and I’m no exception.

Later in the year, the 6th book in the Cornish Tales Series will be released as an eBook and audiobook.  Again, no date, cover or title yet, but I know that this summer will be spent preparing it for publication. Between the aforementioned releases, I also have my ‘work in progress’, which I hope will be accepted by my publisher as the 7th book in the series.  However, at the moment I’m having difficulty finding the time to simply sit down and write. So my resolutions for 2019 are to launch my ‘babies’ and trying to write something interesting in between.
Kath says:

I always set myself some New Year's Resolutions, and I always write a blog post on my own blog about them. Each year I look back at the previous year's resolutions and see whether I achieved them, then blog about the new ones. Most resolutions are writing-related, but the 'lose weight and exercise more' ones seem to have become a permanent fixture too.
Terry asked us: 'what's different about your resolutions for 2019'. That's actually an easy one to answer, and regular readers of this blog will guess what I'm going to say! As I have just given up the day job to become a full time novelist, that means that my writing goals for the year are more important than ever before. It's now my livelihood. I'm aiming to complete the first drafts of two new novels in 2019 - so that means an output of around 200,000 words. It should be easily possible - I've been writing at least a novel a year for the last five years while also doing a full time day job. But when setting this goal I didn't want to push myself too far - no point giving up the stress of a day job to free time to write, and then piling stress on to the writing job. It has to remain fun. So I suppose that's another goal for 2019 - enjoy my new freedom, enjoy being self-employed, enjoy the writing!

Jo says:

This year I hadn’t intended to make any writing resolutions, so exhausted was I after just about achieving my last year’s challenge of 1,000 words per day on average. I tell you, it just about finished me off, and if I don’t end up with some horrible form of RSI as a direct result of it, I’ll consider myself lucky.

Then along came Terry, asking about those non-existent resolutions, and after a writing-free January I found myself wondering of it’s too late to begin. And of course it isn’t.

I’m not going for anything quantifiable this time. I’ve been there, I’ve done that and, to be blunt, some of the drafts I’m looking back on that resulted from last year’s rush to write are more than a little short of quality. The knock-on effect is that there’s a lot to do to make them remotely worth sending off to my agent or publisher and so my resolution for this year is quality not quantity. It’s a subjective judgment. I’ll probably never know if I succeed.

Linda says:

I don’t make resolutions of any sort because that way – for me – failure lies. I’m a strange beast and never follow series on TV ...  soaps and dramas and the like. I don’t like the commitment to have to sit down at a certain time every day and watch (or have it on catch-up constantly thinking about when I am going to watch it). I used to write every day and began to feel guilty when I didn’t. No one was holding a gun to my head then to get on with it – no deadlines, perhaps, my own ambition. But when I became more successful and deadlines entered my life, I had no option but to get on with them. So, when said deadlines were met I then began to feel less guilty on non-writing days. A few years ago I told myself if something – a blogpost, an interview, a talk in a library or wherever, Twitter, Facebook, media of all sorts – that day was writing-related then I would count it as writing. It has been very freeing. I’m now writing for HarperCollins and my editor is keen to extend my ‘brand’ and I’m happy with that. But strangely, I’ve also had a yearning to write something from my soul, not just for publication. It crept up on me after the last mince pie was eaten, the Prosecco empties had been put out for recycling, the decorations were taken down and it became a bit, well, tardy to be saying ‘Happy New Year’. I’m liking this new regime – three new short stories written and a stream of consciousness- but if I want to take a step back from that and just chill, then I will.

Rae says:

This year’s grand plan is to work with, rather than against, my strengths. So my first writing goal is to work on my women’s fiction novel for at least one hour each morning, 5 days per week. I’m experimenting with a technique shared by Sarah Painter over on the Worried Writer podcast. Sarah’s tip is to trick myself into believing I need only work for one hour which not only means I’m more likely to begin but also adds urgency to my writing. In reality, I’ll write for most of the morning. Late afternoons are now free for catching up on social media and admin. Check out Sarah Painter’s podcast here.

Secondly, I work best to external deadlines and have already diarised a full structural edit with an editor in June. #feelingdetermined

My final objective is to read and review a book per week. I’m not a book blogger, my reviews are short – a couple of paragraphs at most - but I learn masses about writing craft by making time to consider what I enjoyed about a novel and, perhaps, what didn’t work so well. My guilty secret is that I also love playing with Pixabay and Canva, creating vibrant social media posts. And who knows, if I work hard on my first and second objectives perhaps I’ll join those published novelists one day soon…



Terry says:

2019 is a big year for me. Like Kath, I’ve taken the plunge and am now a full-time writer. (Gulp.) This means that I need to treat the art and craft of creating stories with a higher level of professionalism. Many of you know that I plot my novels with the precision of a surgeon. (Always giving myself permission to go off the map.) I’ve got loads of loose outlines. Now is the time to turn them into cohesive stories. And just to add another layer, I plan on dictating my prose from now on, which will definitely be a challenge.

2019 holds promise for all of us over at the Novel Points on View blog. Interested in sharing your own writerly resolutions? Leave us a comment. We will cheer you on!




Saturday, 9 February 2019

In Which We Discuss Slaying Our Dragons



Could You Dictate Your Written Work?

2018 will go down in history as a milestone in my writing life. I got the flu in late December and it lingered into January. On February 20th – the day before my birthday – I fell and broke my arm. This wasn’t a typical break, mind you. When I do things, I don’t mess around. I shattered my radius and also broke my ulna. The break required a major surgical repair that knocked me flat for a good two months, with another two months of occupational therapy. Although I am grateful the damage occurred to my right arm – I am left handed – the injury was a life changing event, especially since I earn my living at the keyboard.  


The universe works in mysterious ways. A few months prior to my fall, I invested in Dragon Naturally Speaking software and a decent microphone. After hearing a podcast on the Creative Penn with Monica Leonelle, I decided to go for it. (Check out the podcast here.) There was no pressure for me to master the process instantly, I was thinking of taking my time and learning to dictate my novels. The idea of preventing RSI issues – a real side effect of the writing life – and also writing faster, appealed. So I bought the audio version of Scott Baker’s great book, ‘The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon,’ and made a commitment to learn to dictate. (Visit Scott Baker here.)

During the course of reading and connecting with other writers on Scott Baker’s website, I discovered that many dictate into a digital recorder while they are out in the world running errands or exercising. Dragon’s transcription function allows you to plug the digital recorder into your computer. With the press of a button Dragon will transcribe your recorded speech into an MS Word document. The technology boggles the mind! It all seems so easy, but learning to dictate, along with adding the punctuation as you go, is an entirely new skill set. 

Hope this new year is off to a promising beginning for everyone. I know I’ll be spending my time training my dragon. How about you, fellow people of the pen? Could you dictate your work? Do you use dictation software now? How do you get those words down? Looking forward to hearing from you. 


Keep writing.

Terry Lynn




Saturday, 2 February 2019

On giving up the day job


When I began writing, way back in 2003, I quickly decided that I wouldn’t give up the day job. I didn’t want to put the kind of pressure on my writing that comes with needing to earn enough to pay the mortgage and the bills and put food on the table etc. Back then, my writing income was only ever a few hundred a year, from selling short stories to women’s magazines. I enjoyed writing, loved the buzz I got from selling something, and had fun spending that extra little income on treats for myself.

Then in 2014 I got my first book deal, and since then I’ve effectively been doing two jobs. The full time day job in IT for a retail company, and the second job as a novelist. And yes, writing has become a job rather than a hobby – there are deadlines and contracts and expectations. I still love writing, but I admit at times it’s hard when I’ve spent all day working to then go to my writing room in the evening and put in a few more hours. Sometimes I’m brain-dead by six pm, and in no mood to be creative, despite earlier in the day longing to get some words written.

For the last year or so, I’ve agonised over whether or not to give up the day job after all and become a full time writer. I’ve a pot of savings, and am close to the age when I can draw on my personal pension pot if need be – so financially I’m secure enough. My husband took redundancy a few years ago which then morphed into early retirement. There are so many things I’d love to do, places I long to go, and which would fit in around the writing.

So at last I handed in my notice. My last working day is to be 14th February. I’m scared and excited and can’t believe that 31 years for the same company are about to come to an end, just like that.




I’m editing one novel and starting to write another, and have a stack of ideas waiting in the wings. We have a number of trips lined up, during which I’ll ensure I keep writing. I also have a backlog of other stuff I want to do – spring cleaning, thinning down the contents of our house ready for future down-sizing, that sort of thing. Those extra 40 hours a week I’ll have from stopping the day job will soon be used up!

As I write this, I just booked my leaving drinks at work. It’ll be hard to leave after so many years, but the time’s right. At least, it’s as right as it’ll ever be. Like deciding when to have a baby. Sometimes you’ve just got to take the plunge and go for it.

It’s the end of an era, but as I keep telling myself, the end of one era implies the start of a new one. I spent 31 years working in IT – why not spend the next 31 writing novels? There’ll come a time when I’m filling in a form, perhaps to apply for a new credit card or similar, where under ‘Occupation’ instead of writing ‘IT Technical Analyst’ I’ll write ‘Novelist’. And I’ll grin from ear to ear as I write it.

Wish me luck in my new life!