Saturday, 15 August 2020

I AM A WRITER NOT AN ACTOR!

 

I love hearing what inspired other writers to write their novels, and I suspect I am not alone in this. Actually I know I am not alone! This month my backlist novels are all being published as audiobooks, and to celebrate this my publisher has asked me to film myself talking about the inspiration for each one. Just short clips of about a minute per book - 5 books to do - are needed, and my publisher will use them to promote the books.

May I just point out at this stage that I am a writer, not an actor. I can easily write a piece on what inspired each book - and many of the books have an author's note at the end telling the story behind the story. But to have to actually talk, like, articulate actual words out of my mouth without um, er, stumbling and st-stuttering and you know, er, hesitating and stuff... that's really hard.

As preparation for this filming, which as I write this I have not yet done, I wrote myself a couple of hundred words on each book to use as a prompt. Then I thought I'd make use of my son who has a First in Drama, who's been living with us since the pandemic struck, and ask him to be my audience while I rehearsed the pieces.

First bit of feedback is that it sounds awful when I simply read out what I've written. I tried again, without the notes, just talking off the top of my head, stutters and hesitation and all, and my son thought it far better. So that's what I am going to do.

It's my job for this afternoon to get these recorded and sent to the marketing department. Might need a couple of takes for each one! Better go and brush my hair and put some make-up on (what's that? Haven't used it in months) and then get on with it. Must remember to hold the paperback of each book too.

I will be glad when this is done!


Post-script, written a few hours after the above.

Oh My God that was a painful process. It seems I cannot speak AT ALL. Took about twenty attempts to get the piece for one book right, as I kept stumbling over the first sentence and then getting the giggles. My son is going to put together a blooper reel. I may have to wear a paper bag over my head for the rest of my days.

The video clip below is one of the many, many bloopers.



Saturday, 8 August 2020

TO PLAN - or NOT TO PLAN?

 

The question heading this blog is on my mind today. I have a short deadline to write my next book which is due with my editor by the end of November, just over 3 months away. I always like to leave a couple of weeks if I can, for the story to hide in a drawer before I start to do a final edit. I edit a lot as I write so my first draft isn’t as ‘dirty’ as it might be. But, and it is a big but, I’m definitely more of a pantster than a plotter when it comes to writing and time is short on this book. I’ve already changed my mind about the premise of the story several times but have now settled on my main character, the setting and the hook of the story. I know if I write at least 1300 words a day for the next sixty days I’ll have 78K by the middle of October leaving lots of time to edit, etc. 

But into this time frame comes the promo for my latest book A French Affair which was published on the 4th August. Also next week I expect to receive the copy edits for my January release, followed shortly afterwards by the proof edits. So I really, really need to get myself organised rather than just diving in.


As a pantster, I have the beginning of the book and also the inciting incident when I start but rarely know the end before the characters take me there. On those rare occasions when I have had the ending in my head it’s changed during the writing of the story. Rather than try and plan out this new book totally because I know it just wouldn’t work for me, I’m going to try and work five chapters ahead. This means I will make a note under the chapter heading about what needs to happen in it to drive the story forward. So, when I sit down to write I will know what I have to do in a particular chapter. I usually do this just before each chapter but hope this little bit of extra forward planning will help.


I'm also going to be more disciplined about writing everyday and getting those words down. I'm going to set up a plan on www,pacemaker.press to keep track of my daily word count.

I think the picture below sums up my days for the next few months!


Stay safe everyone and enjoy the rest of summer.


                                                             







Friday, 31 July 2020

The Thing They Never Told Me by Victoria Cornwall


So you want to be a published author? Congratulations! I expect you've been given lots of advice. Let me guess what you've been told...
Sit down and just do it! Write and write until you reach the end.
Edit and polish your manuscript until it shines.
Take care over the synopsis and submission letter.
Heard it all before? Yes, I thought so.

Here is one thing they may not have told you, but it is just as important...

Learn about creating a website and/or sidle up to someone who can work with you to sort out your website problems. If they have the skills to create one for you, without charging a fortune, so much the better! I have learnt, from experience, that you probably will have problems with your website at some point in the future and its always good to tackle them with someone who is on your side.

A few years ago, two days before a book launch, my website crashed (or got infected with a virus. I never did receive a good explanation). I was home alone at the time and quickly panicked, which resulted in me paying a faceless online technical support worker far too much to get it sorted! I suspect, thanks to my naivety, he reached his monthly sales target for selling the most expensive security package held by the hosting site at the time. I would have to sell an awful lot of books to recoup the extortionate fee and it left me with a mild distrust of anything to do with website building.



For the past two weeks, I've been attempting to battle this website nightmare. Why? I hear you ask. One day last year I finally admitted to myself that my current website was rather boring, so I made a New Year resolution (probably as a result of too much wine and being high on chocolate) to bring it kicking and screaming into the modern era... However there is a flaw in my plan. I forgot that my technical skills for building a website was not that... um... technical, skilled and had a habit of bringing me out in a cold sweat.

Fortunately, several decades ago, I had sidled up to someone who embraced the computer age quicker than most... and married him. Still wracked by guilt for not being able to help with my last website disaster, he's offered to help me create a new one so I understand it more... inside and out. So we've spent the last two weeks slowly building one - amidst copious mugs of coffee and empty sweet wrappers (mainly on my side of the desk). Fist step was to change our website host provider, then find a suitable template to build on.

Unfortunately our quest did not start smoothly, thanks to a corrupt template. The development team responsible, based somewhere in the depth of Vietnam, confirmed it was their fault and not mine and offered to repair it. I had lost faith in the product, so we moved on to another, but strangely the episode bolstered my confidence... perhaps I could get the hang of this lark after all.

When I decided to pursue a career in writing, did I envisage being obsessed with modules, plugins and bootstraps (and I don't mean the leather kind)? Absolutely not, but obsessed I have become. I had hoped to unveil my new baby this week, but alas the initial set back has delayed my ta-dah moment. But you know what they say... All good things come to those who wait.

Being a writer has a lot of unexpected sides to it, as most professions do. I guess all we can do is tackle each problem/issue we encounter in life with a positive attitude and motivation, hopefully made easier by having someone nearby who 'has your back'. Copious mugs of coffee and an unending supply of your favourite sweets can also help when the going gets tough!



Websites. Do you love them or hate them? What are your pet peeves when visiting a website? I would love to know...

Victoria Cornwall












Saturday, 25 July 2020

THE HARD TRUTH ABOUT WRITING A DEBUT NOVEL...


The last few months have been an emotional rollercoaster, and it is only now that, here in Scotland at least, where restrictions have eased and we can meet friends and family again, that we can begin to reflect on how lockdown has changed us (if it has changed us at all). But what has this got to do with writing?

As the only unpublished author on the team, as delighted as I am to have short stories published, my dream has always been to see my novel on a shelf. During the past ten years, I’ve completed three novels but never submitted to agents or publishers. Why? Because I don’t think my writing is good enough.

I’m certain at this point that non-writers will regard this as crazy, and in my lucid moments I agree! In fact, I frequently question why I continue to write. Still it’s an itch I have to scratch. If I don’t, then as my loved ones will attest, I become grumpy and restless.

But last September, I ran out of steam. I’d come to a point where I believed in my novel and understood what it needed, I just didn’t know how to pull it off. On top of that, I was tired of spending time with my characters (never a great place for a writer to be). I simply couldn’t face another re- write. Which was scary, VERY SCARY, as I had dedicated so much time to learning the craft of novel writing – reading ‘how-to’ books, completing courses and retreats. Would I ever return to my work-in-progress? I had no idea. I felt adrift.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to write – far from it – it was just I couldn’t face working on my novel. Years of writing, not knowing whether anyone would ever read it, had taken their toll. So for the remainder of 2019, I puddled around writing short stories, purely for pleasure, with no intention of submitting them. Then 2020 dawned and still I was stuck as far as novel writing was concerned, and for the first time I seriously considered waving the white flag. It’s hard battling crippling self-doubt each day and although I love writing, and knew I would continue to write something, being a published novelist felt like a goal that would forever be out of reach.


But then lockdown happened. And what else was there for me to do but write? And still I avoided novel writing by completing online courses studying folklore in writing and beginner’s poetry, and signing up for numerous workshops and author chats online. Attending events that, being based in north-east Scotland, I would never normally be able to attend. And during these events there was ONE piece of advice repeated over and over for new writers, or for writers who fear their career isn’t going as planned - KEEP GOING. NEVER GIVE UP.

Or as author Kate Mosse put it ‘KEEP YOUR EYES OFF THE HORIZON, DOWN ON THE SCREEN, WRITING SENTENCE AFTER SENTENCE.’

She will never know how much I needed to hear that, or the effect it had on me. Somehow it chipped through the thick barrier I had built. At last I understood that I all I needed to do to complete my next draft was to write sentence after sentence - which felt do-able. Her advice is now on a post-it note, stuck to the wall above my desk.


I unearthed my novel manuscript, dusted it down and got to work. Catching up with my characters is like being reunited with old friends. As if we’re heading towards sunlight again. If lockdown hadn’t happened, would I have returned to novel writing? I’ll never know. For now, I understand I still have some way to go, but that's ok.


So what piece of advice do you turn to during difficult times? (It doesn’t have to be writerly…)

Wishing everyone success in all you hope to achieve,

Rae x

Sunday, 19 July 2020

EVERYTHING COMES IN THREES LINDA MITCHELMORE

Everything comes in three, as the saying has it. I can't be the only one who holds their breath when told of two deaths quite close together, wondering when news of the third will come. I remember reading in a newspaper article many moons ago that every man should have three careers. It was a long time ago and probably not very PC to say that now but my cousin, David, took it to heart and has been an Army Major, a criminal lawyer, and now a playwright. And it might have meant 'man' in the general sense, as in mankind. I couldn't quite match David's careers for prestige but have had three careers of sorts - banking, cleaning, writing. Anyway, I expect you're wondering where all this is going. As a novelist I've been published by two publishers - Choc Lit (six novels) and HarperCollins HQ Digital (three novels). So why the move from Choc Lit to HarperCollins? Well, I honoured my contract and submitted my next work of fiction to them only to have it declined after a very long wait ... by which time they were expanding like crazy and I think I just got forgotten and was a bit superfluous to requirements at the time. No matter ... I tried HarperCollins and they took it with very flattering indecent haste. Two more novels followed in very quick succession (that makes three, if you're counting) and then my editor left for pastures new - and a lot greener for her - and it seems my next submission didn't fit HarperCollins' requirements. So it was time to look around for a third publisher, wasn't it? I sent off an enquiry email ... might they (no names just yet) be interested etc. I'd just finished one book, but mentioned that I have two others completed that I could also offer (here we go, three again) and they got back to me and asked if I have anything set in the Med ... which, as it happens, I do. I am currently dreaming about three book deals! The only downside is this publisher has asked for synopses and I was in the very happy position before with Choc Lit and HarperCollins of never having to submit one. So before I could send one of my, as yet unpublished, books off I had to bite the bullet and write a synopsis ... it seemed like an omen when it came to three pages. So, book one has gone and everthing is crossed. Something else I read - and have been told many, many times by writing tutors - is that a writer needs a good story to be telling, to be able to write it well, and also a very big dollop of luck ... three things again, if you're still with me, and counting. These days I am very broad-shouldered about rejection ... it's just someone else's opinion and others might love it. So I keep going. A writer writes. What next? Well, I came across this picture when I was rootling around for something to blog about and it sort of 'spoke' to me - three sassy ladies - and I had a fancy to write about them.
Better get the typewriter out then! And Underwood just happens to be my maiden name!

Saturday, 11 July 2020

The Joy of Books (Post-Lockdown!)

It fell to me to write the first lockdown post here on Novel Points of View, and it falls to me to write the first (individual one) since lockdown ended. And here I am, musing on the literary lessons I’ve learned. Now I’m in a position to say the thing I missed most over the past few months: it’s bookshops.

Of course I haven’t been short of books. I’ve read a lot of them and somehow seem to have acquired a whole lot more. But we could drink during lockdown and yet people flock to pubs; we could watch sport during lockdown but really, it isn’t the same without the fans. And so it is with books.

I was probably in bookshops a couple of times a week in the days BL (Before Lockdown). I would head to them if I had time in hand, or to kill, or just if I wasn’t in a hurry. I rarely went in with a specific book in mind. I would browse and almost always buy. 

In theory you can browse online, too, but even Amazon’s look inside facility is limited and my experience of bookshop websites is very much that they’re geared to a search for a specific book. I continued my downloading habit but I really missed the delightful perplexity of being confronted by rows and rows and rows of books, only to have one jump out and beg me to buy it and read it. 

So, when lockdown lifted I was right in there. I prefer independent bookshops and, alas, they aren’t adapted to Covid-safe procedures in the way that, say, supermarkets are. Any one-way system will stall when someone wants to spend time staring at a shelf, not to mention the tinge of guilt associated with picking something up if you aren’t going to buy. Maybe I’m a little bit too much of stickler for the rules, but during lockdown I bought a lot of things I didn’t really want because I’d picked them up thinking they were something else (kidney beans in a spicy sauce rather than plain, for example). 

In bookshops I get round the pick-up-and-look problem by excessive hand sanitising, although the in-shelf browsing is a little more difficult. Social distancing just isn’t possible, and though keeping your face covered obviously helps, it’s still a bit awkward having people shuffle past in a confined space (or, indeed, being the one doing the shuffling). 

This, then, is the new normal, one we’re all going to have to live with. And for the pleasure of browsing a bookshop…I can do it.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

POSTCARDS FROM OUR FAVOURITE SUMMER LITERARY LOCATIONS...


Hello! As lockdown gradually eases here in the UK some lucky readers will be packing, ready to head off on summer hols. However, for many, summer will be spent in the park or garden, relying on novels to provide that dose of bright sunshine or fantastic feeling of escape. So we thought it might be fun to send a postcard from our favourite summer literary locations. And please remember to let us know where your literary travels might take you, in the comments at the end.

Fasten your seatbelts as…  

Victoria saysA summer book I like or a summer place I would like to write about? 

Well considering I have set all my published novels (to date) in Cornwall, with its beautiful coastlines, moorlands and quaint villages, my preferred summery location should probably be in Cornwall again. However, I have just emerged from lockdown so at the moment I have a longing for exotic fauna and flora, and guaranteed warm lazy summer evenings that don't require a cardigan.

Somewhere my heroine can sip strangely named cocktails, wriggle her white sand-sprinkled toes as she watches exotic birds of paradise shake their vibrant plumage during a mating display... after a packed filled day freeing captive, grateful lions back into the wild in the company of a handsome ranger. Did you spot my dilemma? Cocktails, exotic birds of paradise and conservation programs (involving lions which are more cuddly than man-eating) are hard to find. If you do know of this literary location, please let me know, but for now it seems it will just have to be a Cornish sunset. I can see it now... my heroine digs her toes into the fine golden sand of her favourite beach as cawing seagulls fly overhead and cumbersome seals sunbathe on distant razor-sharp rocks. All my heroine needs are a large cocktail and a handsome ranger... as for the cuddly lions, they might just be harder to find.


Kath says … Summer books; Christmas books - I have a confession to make. I don't segregate books like this - neither my own nor those I read. Although I have many author friends who talk about writing 'their summer 2021 book' or their next Christmas book. These titles do sell well in their designated season - perhaps I am missing a trick?

I tend not to pick up a 'summer' book simply because it's summer though. Having said that, I do like a book that has a strong sense of season and place - and if it's set in Tuscany or Provence or the Italian Lakes, then what's not to like? We can travel there vicariously through our reading - especially important this year when it is tricky to go anywhere away from home. But I won't specifically read them because they are set there or because it is summer. I'll read them because the blurb intrigues me.

Settings I love are places like the rugged west of Ireland or the Scottish Highlands. Or high Alpine villages, snow-covered in winter; a riot of flowers in summer. Or medieval hilltop villages with narrow cobbled streets and a jumble of rooftops. Or windy moorland where the weather can change in a minute from a balmy summer's day to wild, wet and murderous. 

In the best books, the setting and season become a character in its own right - not just there as a backdrop but shaping events and pushing the story inevitably towards its conclusion. Now those are the books I love to read!

Beauty of the Dolomites

Linda says Hello. My name's Linda and I'm a lazy researcher .... which will go some way to understanding why most of my novels are contemporary and set in Devon where I live. I have written historicals but they were set in Devon too, and in places I know well for the geography and also because history in this area is well-documented and easy to find. I'm a seat-of-the-pants writer and I love the writing process but not the thought of wading through dozens and dozens of tomes - often having to resort to a dictionary for words I don't understand. I just don't have the time. So Devon it is going to be. And coastal as I can smell the sea from my back garden. 

My favourite book to write (of the nine published so far) was SUMMER AT 23 THE STRAND. Back in the day when I was a teenager wanting money for the cinema and pop records and the like, on Saturdays, I used to help my mother clean beach chalets. Each was let for a fortnight.  We never met the people who stayed in them but I used to imagine the lives they lived where they came from, and how different it would be for them down here on the South Devon coast. 

When my children were at school these chalets came up for sale. Some were bought privately and some by the council. A friend bought one and she used to let me use it on a fairly frequent basis. So, I used to eavesdrop on what people in the (council-owned) chalets either side were talking about. Or not talking . One couple didn't leave the chalet for a fortnight, they were so loved up! I often wonder where they told their respective spouses they were! Fast forward a few years (oh, okay, decades!) and I was walking past the chalets and ... I had one of those magic moments when the muse pays a visit and I couldn't get home fast enough to write it all down. SUMMER AT 23 THE STRAND is linked stories, with the thread of a gift to be left for the next occupant running through them all. I'm now nearing the end of another Devon-based novel - CHRISTMAS AT CHANNEL VIEW. Lockdown has meant I haven't been to the beach in months but that's the beauty of writing about where you know ... you just know!

Escape to Devon ...

Terry says When we were asked to pick a summery place that we would like to write about, Cornwall popped into my brain immediately. I’ve yet to visit Cornwall but am familiar with the stunning beauty of her coastlines and her charming villages. Ideally, I’d go there for a visit, a working vacation so to speak, with an eye towards absorbing the local culture and history. There’s something about Cornwall that I’ve seen in pictures that speaks to my writer spirit. Cornwall provided inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier, who penned Rebecca, Jamaica Inn, and several other books while living at Menabilly, her house that was the influence behind Max De Winter’s beloved Manderley. I’d like to think that the energy of the place would influence my writing as well. One of the best perks of the writing gig is taking a research trip. Since the world is in chaos and traveling is out of the question right now, I’ll just take a vicarious vacation to Cornwall. Providence willing, I’ll come up with a story idea or three…

Happy writing.

The Cornish Coast

 Jennifer says I’m finding it hard to think about summer reading and writing, largely because the weather Will Not Make Its Mind Up. Yesterday it was 28 degrees and we were drinking Pimms in the garden and today its lashing down with rain and my tomato plants are looking at me in poor as if I’ve abandoned them in a very scary place indeed. But I will focus. Rae asked me to talk about summer reads and so I shall. 

I’ve written a few summer romances myself, though they’re currently not available, waiting while I get round to self-publishing them. They were set in summer in Italy and Majorca, both of which are right up there with Greece and the South of France as places I love reading about.

I have to confess, though, to a yearning to write a summer book set in a completely different world — one where the romance is of a different type entirely, more fairy than frangipani. A few years ago I spent midsummer in Iceland. It was the strangest experience. The land was black and white with the merest flush of green, the sky was an incredible blue. The ground smoked and heaved. And it never got dark. The combination was a weird and magical setting for a romance.

I doubt if I’ll ever write it…

Midsummer in Iceland

Jennie says … I’m not really a summer person - I don’t do heat at all well - but I do tend to write books where the story takes place in summer and the setting is usually either south Devon or the south of France. The first can have fairly mixed weather over the summer months while the second is renowned for its better weather. Five of my fifteen books are set in or around Dartmouth during the summer, whilst the remaining nine are set in France at various locations along the Riviera. My new book though, (the 15th!) A French Affair, is set in Brittany, a department of France that generally receives a bad press for its weather!

Like Devon the weather in Brittany can be unpredictable but rumour (and climate change) has it that this northern corner of France is getting hotter and drier. The last couple of summers have definitely been hotter here with temperatures reaching the mid to high 30s.

I might not like the weather being too hot but I do find a clear blue sky and the sun shining far more inspirational than the dull grey days of later winter.

Hello sunshine!


Rae says … I am very much a seasonal reader who is drawn to book covers sporting beach towels and shimmering sunsets in summer, then dark snowy landscapes in winter. I’m a sucker for novels set against a hot American summer filled with long cool drinks by a harbour or pool. Novels like Elin Hilderbrand’s Nantucket series or Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann.

However, I also love a languorous Gothic summer read. Something set deep in the buzzing greenery of the English or French countryside, perhaps at a mansion or chateau that has seen better days. A group enjoying a long sensual summer where nothing much happens, but the growing sense of dread tells the reader something dangerous will tip with the weather and by the end everything will have changed for them all. Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller was a favourite of last year. Would I like to write a summer novel? Perhaps one day I'll try …

Nantucket Lighthouse

We hope you enjoyed our summer literary travels and would love to hear your dream bookish locations in the comments below.

In the meantime, safe travelling!
Rae x