Friday, 10 July 2009

Winchester Writers' conference

Where to start! In previous years I've only gone for the Friday and Saturday, coming home at night because I'm only an hour away. This year I went for the all singing, all dancing (actually nobody was dancing, too tired!) weekend package starting Friday morning and finishing Sunday afternoon. This comprised:

Friday mini course - Writing a Series Veronica Heley

Fri eve - Getting off the slush pile Lucie Whitehouse

Sat - Lectures on:

How to market yourself as a writer

Travel writing

Are you really a non fiction writer

How to use the web to get published

The X factor in novel writing

Sun - Completion of getting off the slush pile

Throw in a couple of 15 minute appointments with an agent and an editor, non-stop talking at breakfasts, lunches and dinners and you exhausted but buzzing conference delegate.

The real benefit I got from staying the weekend was getting to chat to more people and hearing their experiences. There were several authors there who'd been published as a result of people they'd met at previous conferences. It was fascinating to hear so many of them say they did six or seven drafts of their book before it was ready. I was chatting to an author and agent one lunch, not realising this was the agent I had an appointment with the next day! We ended up at the same table for dinner and breakfast. The poor woman probably thought I was stalking her!

The two appointments are the priceless element of the weekend. I'd sent the chapters and synopsis they'd asked for in advance and they both gave me some great advice. The editor focused on the time period I'd set it, wondering if 30 years was too far ahead and if it could be set very near future. We also talked about the SF market, and given that there were elements of crime in my novel whether I might be better off writing a crime novel first. Not what I wanted to hear, but I agree it's a much larger market. The agent I saw focused on my main character and wanted me to develop her more, saying she needed to express her motivations more clearly. She'd written loads of notes on my manuscript which is really helpful. I also got some good tips on people to send it too. I was aware neither of them was likely to be interested in a pure SF novel, but they both consider books with an element of SF so I thought they'd have the best advice.

The other novelty of the weekend, although novelty perhaps implies more enjoyment than I was feeling, was the accommodation. My own university halls were pretty grim, with unpainted breeze block walls and moulding shared bathrooms. Having seen some plush university rooms since I was rather unprepared for what I faced! Throwing on some clothes to face a dark hallway at 3am, just to get to the loo, wasn't the most fun. Trying to have a shower with NO hot water either day wasn't improving my opinion either! They do have some en-suite rooms off campus. Apparently it's a 20 minute walk through the graveyard, along past the hospital, just beside the prison...

It was an inspiring weekend though, and just picturing myself there gives me part of the buzz I felt and really motivates me to get writing, rather than wittering on with my blog. I just hope I wrote down enough of the fabulous advice I got, because I intend to use it!

Monday, 8 June 2009

Just a few more books...

Oh dear. I've succumbed to the evil movie making website...

Friday, 5 June 2009


No, not the latest fad religion but the strangely magical process that has meant I don't have to wear glasses anymore! Not that I wore them as much as I should have anyway. I've long been used to squinting at signs in cafes, and standing right underneath the boards in train stations trying to decide whether I'm headed for platform 6 or 9. That doesn't always work out as well as it might...

So now for the science bit- Orthokeratology is the process of temporarily re-shaping the surface of the eye using contact lenses. Here's the clever bit. You wear them at night. Spooky, but it works. They only work for the short sighted, and only up to a certain prescription but they really do work! You have to wear them every night, but if you stop wearing them your sight returns to what it was previously so you're not doing anything permanent to your eyes.

The picture shows a cornea before and after, the blue showing the steep surface that is flattened.

I've been driving to work all week without my glasses, something that feels deeply wrong and I still go to take them off every time I stop the car. Reading signs in shops, and being able to make out people in the street is also a bit of a revelation! I have now lost my excuse for walking straight past people I know though, hmmm.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

The pigeon that got its wish...

I decided to have a day off writing on Sunday, because I could feel a rebellion in the offing. Is it possible to refuse to do something you actually really want to do? Anyway, I felt I was headed in that direction so happily drove off to Northampton to visit friends, minus the usual word count guilt! I had a great day, even if there were a truly frightening number of children at the party... The journey back was uneventful until a couple of miles from home I encountered a pigeon with a death wish. 70 miles an hour on a dual carriageway, with a car on my inside didn't give me many options. It was coming straight at the windscreen, so shutting my eyes seemed the only sensible course! Fortunately it missed, there was a loud thump and lots of feathers. My car seemed fine, and I assumed it had gone underneath. Think again...

Yes, that is a whole pigeon. You can imagine how delighted my husband was when he had to pull it out...

Maybe that was a warning that I'm not supposed to be out frittering my weekends but back at home slogging it out with my laptop! Well, I don't care. I had a lovely day and felt much more enthusiastic on Monday, even if I am only on 35,000 words.

I have taken tomorrow off work to get a serious amount done. So I'm sure nothing will contrive to interfere with that at all...

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bank holiday sitting on my bum days

It's astonishing the highs and lows you can get out of one weekend of writing. I've had the dizzy heights when I can't type fast enough to get the words out of my head, the blank eyed staring at the screen and the OCD tap of the word counter. All of which got me to 25,000 words and it's never enough is it! I found myself drifting into daydreams several times, where I was sitting here Monday night smugly admiring my 35,000 word count. Ah, well.

A little bit of life interuptus came along for the ride as well. An hour in to my peaceful 6 hours of free writing time on Saturday, one of my rabbits started sneezing. After 4 or 5 I looked up, by 20 I was frantically googling for what to do with her, then she stopped. She seemed fine until she fell asleep a few minutes later, and started snoring like an old man. Bad sign, trip to the emergency vet who diagnosed a respiratory infection. She's now fine after lots of drugs (£20) and seemed to like the on call vet (£120...) Unfortunately 4 hours vanished in the process, I'll just have to type quicker!

I have done a few sums though, used all my fingers and am fairly sure about these ones, and think I need 2000 words a day. This leaves me a month to edit the 1st draft into something better. However 10 days of this time will be spent in Washington DC, Niagara on the Lake (looks gorgeous, tips welcome if anyone has been!) and Toronto. Maybe I can get a lot of my editing done on aeroplanes...

Holiday planning will definitely have to be rationed. I can lose hours researching hotels, car hire, best routes to drive, places to visit. You get the idea, tripadvisor has a lot to answer for! If anyone can think of a job which pays me to obsessively research other people's holidays I'd be delighted! I fear travel agent neither pays well nor gets further than booking package holidays.

Anyway, I digress. 2000 words, half of which I can usually manage in my lunch break, and surely I can find at least an hour every evening. Surely...

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

All thanks to the builder

So I've moved on from 11,500 words to 14,000. Since this has been the work of two lunch breaks, an evening and a couple of hours this afternoon I can't help but feel it should be more! At least the writing gods are with me. At 2pm a very convenient power cut at work meant I got to go home! Many thanks to the building site across the road. I'm assuming they were responsible, although the shops in the high street were probably less impressed. I didn't think I'd get anything done this evening (due to scary football match) but my early exit meant I got some extra hours.

The main time thief over the next few days is likely to be holiday planning. Virgin have some cheap flights to Washington DC (until tomorrow night if you're interested!) and we've been promising a friend in Toronto to visit her for at least the last 5 years. Looks like we're finally going in June. This does mean my final editing before the conference is likely to be done in Canada, but surely that will work...

Sunday, 26 April 2009

I'm blogging again now?

Having taken a slight leave of my senses, I have made 2 appointments at the very useful Winchester Writers' Conference in July. All sounding quite sensible so far? These are with an editor and an agent. Still sounding like a good idea? Now for the more interesting bit. I will be discussing my current novel, the one that's currently 11,500 words long...

So now you've stopped laughing I'll explain. I have to send the first three chapters and a synopsis by June 5th. It has to be finished by the time I see them the first week of July. Maths never was a particular talent of mine, but that does seem rather a lot of words a week. Especially considering this has got to be far from a first draft, but a polished competed work. Nothing like a deadline for motivation...

My state of delusion has led me to start writing about it here too. So wish me luck, or come along for the ride, but I shall attempt to keep this page updated on my (speedy, oh please) progress over the next few weeks. It seemed like such a good idea last week.

Let the chaos begin!

Friday, 6 February 2009

The amazing Lisa Ratcliffe

There are blogs everywhere today dedicated to Lisa and her amazing blog The Hesistant Scribe. I think she knew what an affect she was having on us, which is why she kept writing even when she didn't have much time left. The determination and bravery she showed whilst making us all laugh was truly astonishing. I only knew her through her blog and a few emails yet she's had a real impact. Her impassioned pleas for us all to get on with it, whether that be writing or just doing the things we'd always wanted to do have not gone unnoticed. I think there will be a lot of books published in the next few years dedicated to Lisa.

I hope it is some solace to her family, however tiny a one, that so many people will miss her.