Saturday, 29 November 2014

Not-So Secret Research

So it could have been embarrassing. I was having a little technical trouble (nothing new there) and hand consigned my fate — and control of my computer — into the hands of some stranger in a call centre on the other side the world.

Nothing new there either; but it just so happened that this time I hadn’t closed all the programs on my computer, let alone the windows on these various programs. It was bad enough, then, that as the cursor whizzed across the screen minimising windows here and there (my blog on whether science is sexy… oh dear) it hesitated and I could almost feel the snigger.

Here’s a thing. You can tell what someone’s thinking when they’re on the other side of the world, when you aren’t talking to them and when you can’t see their face. You’d hardly call it body language but there was an eloquence to the way the cursor twitched when it hovered over the open window in Google Chrome. You know the one. The one that’s open at the article on How to Tell if You’re a Psychopath.

If friendly technician had an ounce of sense he would, of course, immediately have put two and two together and made a writer. But I’m mightily relieved that he didn’t get a look at some of the other things in my browsing history. Apart from betraying my time-wasting devices (What Norse God Are You?) and my hopeless fantasies (PhD Projects in Geology & Geophysics and Atmospheric & Environmental Science) he would, if he hadn’t calculated that simple sum of two plus two correctly, been straight on the phone to the police.

I’m writing romantic suspense, remember. And I don’t (yet) have an encyclopaedic knowledge of crime so I have to look things up. Which is why my browsing history contains searches relating to chloroform and how long you will remain unconscious... other drugs which leave no trace... how you can stab someone so that they bleed a lot yet recover fairly quickly. And so on.

It could have been a lot worse. I’ve always been a little bit wary of the search terms I enter into the internet, which is why my story about the Suffragette and her home-made bomb skimped on the detail and is possibly also why it never got published. I’ve also thought twice  before typing certain things into Google Earth , and I certainly will be if I ever have a plot that includes a raid on Fort Knox.

I know I’m not alone. We writers are a vile, twisted lot. Want to tell me your secrets, list some of the sites you’ve visited in the name of research? Go on — I’d love to hear.

Jennifer Young

Monday, 17 November 2014

How To Keep On Writing? by Gill Stewart

Beautiful Iona where we went for the first of our short breaks
My life has been a bit unpredictable recently. Good things have got in the way of routine - like my Other Half atypically booking not one but two short breaks. And bad things, like family illness.

I have always found it difficult to be the sort of writer who writes a little every day, and yet I know that I write better if I do that. And I'm happier, too! So a couple of months ago I told myself to forget being a perfectionist, forget having to reread every word written to date before going forwards - and just write!

With all the recent interruptions I would have expected this to be particularly hard to follow my own advice, but somehow I have pushed through, making notes as I go, e-mailing various versions of the ms to myself so I can access it wherever I happen to be. And making more notes because the main ones are in the wrong place...

But I have kept on writing. And with the advent on NaNoWriMo this month (see Mary Smith's earlier post) it seemed the ideal opportunity to push myself a bit harder and not just write, but to write a decent amount each day. So far, to my great surprise, it has worked.

What have I discovered?
  - once I start writing, even if I say to myself 'A hundred words will do' I find myself enjoying and writing far more
  - the plot is developing itself for me (but then I have always been a bit of a pantser, so have tended to write this way)
  - I am getting to know my characters by writing them. I know I will have to go back and edit things in the early stages, but that's okay, I AM getting to know them
  - I've got back my love of writing and lost all the guilt about not writing/not writing enough/not writing well enough.

This reminds me of something I read that Jennifer Crusie had written some time a go - go write that good book. Don't worry about what others are thinking, what the market is doing, go and write the best book you can. And to do that, you have TO WRITE. Write what you can, where you can. And have fun.
If I can do it, anyone can, but I’d certainly appreciate any further advice as to how to keep this drive going.

Monday, 10 November 2014


Hello, my name's Linda and I'm an editsaholic. Crumbs, I never thought I'd say that....think it even. I well remember the first set of professional edits I was sent. It spoke in all sorts of strange words the most confusing of which was TRACK-CHANGES. All sorts of settings seemed to be attached to said track-changes and it was all too easy to click on the wrong one. There were whole tracts of this manuscript which now had red writing in amongst the original black. I was told when I wanted to make my own changes in this 'new' document then my new words would come out in blue. Blimey! They did! I was told if I wanted to comment in the editor's boxes down the right-hand side of the manuscript I was to do it in another colour. I chose green. The whole thing was turning into a rainbow....and also a bit of a nightmare. I thought - in total ignorance I now know - that I'd written a book, it would be checked for spelling and punctuation and that there had been no huge copyright errors, and then it would toddle off to the printers. But no. My editor didn't like this, questioned that, suggested that the other would be much better. And I didn't like it one little bit! Oh no...who was she telling me my baby wasn't quite as beautiful as I thought it was? But I knuckled down and got on with. I even learned a thing or two. So when book two came along there wasn't quite so much to do as there had been with book one. Track-changes? We were old mates, weren't we? I was beginning to see how a good editor can make a good book even better - well, that's what someone told me (not necessarily about my book, you understand - not bragging) and I chose to believe it. And now I have another edit on the go. And I'm still learning! I have the same editor I've had before and I think she's a little bit like Kevin on Strictly who's pushing Frankie every which way to get the best performance out of her, because she knows me and knows what I'm capable of. I'm being pushed. And my book is becoming the stronger for it. In the middle of all this, a friend who has a fancy to write short stories sent me something for me to give the once- over and an opinion on. I could see how it could be improved. So....ho hum, here we go ...professionalism came to the fore and I put track-changes on it and played 'editor'. three of my EMMA trilogy will be out in the very near future....edits notwithstanding. There's a January publication date being mentioned so....better get on with. It will join TO TURN FULL CIRCLE and EMMA: There's No Turning Back. And here for a bit of fun is me with Graham Norton doing my level best to persuade him to buy my books. He was, as you can see from his body language, not in the least bit interested. The strong silent type - or maybe just silent!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Getting the word out by Jenny Harper

Becoming a Mo Sista means that I'm the one with the moustache!
Anyone who calls themselves an author these days knows how hard it is to get your books noticed in the brave new world that is modern publishing. This is true whether you are traditionally published or self published – I've been both, so I talk from experience!

The frustrating thing is just how long promotional work takes. Social media activity sucks up your time and saps your creative energy. I haven't done much in the way of personal appearances so far (just my recent launch in Waterstones), but obviously they take up time too - though I do think there must be something rewarding about actually interacting with real readers instead of hiding behind a computer screen. If real readers turn up to your event, of course!

Last summer, I was contacted by the lovely Janice Horton to ask if I would be interested in joining a pilot group of authors on a new promotional venture. Hit Lit Pro wanted ten authors to sign up for a year, paying a modest (but realistic) fee in return for a significant amount of social media activity on behalf of both individuals and the group and two blog tours (a five-stop tour and a ten-stop tour). Four months in and I'd say it's proving worth every penny. The Hit Lit Pro team have been tireless in their efforts. My first blog tour (five stops) yielded four reviews for my new title within days of it appearing and significant exposure (I have to stress that it is made absolutely clear that reviewers accepting the book for review must be free to be completely honest in their assessment). They ran a Rafflecopter competition for me, which also gained a lot of interest.

But the team at Hit Lit Pro have gone further. They are constantly looking for new ideas to help the group – and their latest is pure genius. We were asked some months ago if we would be prepared to contribute a short story to a Hit Lit Pro anthology in aid of Movember, the men's charity. Most of us agreed, a publisher (Thornberry Press) was found, and a campaign launched.

Today, Let's Hear It For The Boys! is launched. Thanks to the efforts of the promo team, it's already in the charts. It sells at 99p and every penny goes to charity. Please click now and support Movember! As a bonus, if you go to the HLP Facebook page, you can win some fab prizes.

It's a brilliant idea in itself – for a small effort, we get a lot of publicity, but we also raise what I hope will be a significant amount of money for the charity. Win win.

Building an author profile can take years – very few people have instant hits. I am delighted to be a part both of Hit Lit Pro and of the Movember campaign.

Can you think of a better way of getting the word out? If you can, I'd love to hear about it!