Friday, 2 April 2010

Chair phobia

The trouble with a blog about writing, is that it goes a bit quiet when I'm not doing much of it! This problem is about to be rectified though, as I have signed myself up for a couple of agent appointments at the Winchester writers' conference and the fear should get me going again...

Having a bad back which limits the time I can sit down, has rather curtailed my writing for the last few weeks. Knowing I only have half an hour before I'll want to get up has put me off even starting. I think this is more of a mental problem than a physical one, but I have to get started again now. The novel I'm hoping to show to the scary lovely agents is picked to pieces at the moment, and has to be substantially reassembled before I see them at the end of June.

I also need to start planning how I'm going to fit in more of a fitness regime. The physiotherapist keeps talking about Pilates and strong stomach muscles featuring in my future. Stomach muscles? What are these things of which she speaks?

Friday, 12 March 2010

Slight interruption of service...

About 3 weeks ago I took a couple of pictures of my desk, which were going to be the basis of a blog post. Didn't get around to writing it because I had a slightly stiff back, which progressed into a sore leg, which escalated into a shooting pain from my back, down to my toes. Several visits to the doctor later I was introduced to the lovely MRI scanner. To distract you from the confines of the scanner, they get you into the most uncomfortable position possible, before switching on the road digger sound effects. An interesting experience! This discovered the slipped disc, introduced me to some extremely strong painkillers, and finally an epidural which may have done the trick. Although I'm still sore and walk at the speed of my Gran, it's a big improvement!

So, back to the pictures. I was going to write about the alarming quantity of writing advice books I seem to own, and the time I spend reading them, but I seem to have broken that habit (Those are just the ones I was reading, there's a whole shelf...) For the last 3 weeks I've not touched them, and though haven't been able to write much, I have done a lot of thinking. Getting away from the books has enabled me to focus on my story, rather than ways of analysing it. I'm fairly sure I now have it as I want it, and just need to write the bits I'm missing!

So hopefully normal service is about to resume, and I can go back to writing, complete with moisturising gloves and socks... Oh, the glamour.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


I had a wonderful Saturday at Nirvana Spa. There's something about wandering about in flip flops that says you're on holiday, even if you are somewhere outside Reading. Still not quite used to ordering lunch in my dressing gown though. There's something very institutional about everyone sitting around in white gowns. I kept expecting someone to appear and tell me it was time for my operation. I did get a lot of scribbling done though, and I think most of my characters now have some motivations of their own, and I've quashed the pantomime villain.

Whilst all this is whirring around in my head I'm also trying to dredge out the french that lurks within. I've booked a trip to Epernay in the summer, to do five days of champagne tasting. I can't wait! Four of us are sharing an astonishingly cheap apartment and have to make some tricky decisions. The owner wants to know what brand of champagne we'd like waiting in the fridge...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

No really, I'll be more reliable this time...

Oh dear.

I seem to have abandoned my blog.

Not that I was ever particularly reliable.

So where was I? Oh yes, I was throwing together my first draft, and getting lots of fabulous advice from the lovely Winchester writers’ conference. After a lot more scribbling I have one wobbly story that needs a lot of work. This means I’m now either struggling up the editing mountain, or mired in its treacle depending on whose metaphor I’m stealing today! I thought 2 large whiteboards either side of my desk might help me sort out my plot, character, pace – um, problems. They also help with making it looking like I’m doing something, rather than just staring into space. Trouble is they’re full already! I think I need to focus on one problem at a time, rather than attempting to empty the contents of my head onto them.
I’ve started with sub-plots as they seem the weakest element so far. My cast of characters are all busy getting on with generally ruining my main character’s life, but I don’t think they really know why. I have no idea what they all want, how they plan to get it, or how they might all interact with each other a bit more. I’m trying to use “The weekend novelist redrafts the novel” by Robert J Ray and “Writing the breakout novel workbook” by Donald Maas” but seem to end up sitting there reading them rather than applying the techniques… I’m also slightly scared of the hard-line approach of the first book. Apparently I’m not allowed any trips, breaks or fun. Since I’m also throwing in some evenings I’ve decided to follow his advice, um, selectively.
This allows me to do a bit of re-locating for some of my work too. A spa. No, really, it’s perfectly logical! No phones, nobody I know, and I’m expected to lounge about for the day. It’s perfect. Not somewhere I ever saw myself going considering I don’t know one end of a make-up brush from the other, and walk on heels as well as any toddler, but it’s lovely. I get 6 visits a year, and for those 6 days there is no house to be tidied, ringing phones or lists of things to do. Except for the endless list of things to fix in my novel, but anyway, well worth the splurge! So I’m booked for Saturday, shall go armed with a pukka pad, and enjoy that it shall smell evermore of their aromatherapy oils. Scented notebooks, someone should look into that.

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.