Sunday, 22 November 2015

Blog, I Need to Tell You Something...

Blog, sit down. There’s something I need to tell you. I, um... This is hard to say, but here goes: I’ve been cheating on you. With Twitter.

I’m so, so sorry. It wasn’t intentional, and you’ve done nothing wrong. It’s not you, it’s me.

You see, life has been really testing and tough for the past 6 months, and I was struggling and Twitter… Well, it gave me something I didn’t know I needed.

A quick, 140-character expression – and sometimes not even my own thinking or composition, not if I Re-Tweet someone else, someone who’s view I like, find amusing or even agree with. It’s so fast and easy, and reaches so far… I’ve not had to grapple with paragraphs, prodding and editing them till they’re intriguing, till they build upon each other, like a Blog Post. I’m sorry, that sounded awful. You’re not that bad; really, you’re not. But you know what I mean.

The thing is, even though I’ve read that a Tweet only has an average life of 18 minutes, that life can be seen by so many more people than the handful who read us, Blog. I’m not sure of the actual readership numbers, but I have a strong sense Twitter gets me seen by lots of people. Which is ironic, because I’m not even that good.

So, Blog, what can we do? I am committed to making things better; really, I am. If you still want to? Good. Thank you for giving me another chance. Because I do miss you. We could start by dating again: let’s say we’ll Post in the first week of each month, like we used to; but we’ll widen what we used to talk about. We’ll try new things. Maybe we can even post more in each month – but I don’t want us to promise something we can’t keep. Best we agree to try, and then add to the results of that.

But I have to be honest – I don’t think I can give up Twitter. You see, there is room in my life for both of you. And…maybe…you might like to join in? Perhaps you can try, see what you think? It won’t be as bad as you’re worried it will be. Really.

So, Blog, what do you say? Maybe if the three of us make an effort and join together, we’ll do better than if we were on our own…

Tuesday, 22 September 2015


[*I've been trying to add a photo of said article, but it's not working grr! I'll try again later!]

Okay, so it is an article in a niche magazine and not a novel - but the words are my own, printed so people can read!

I've always loved cats, and have been reading Your Cat magazine for over a year - and as my cat Ebony is a bit of a special case (ah, bless!), I took the plunge one day and pitched the editor. She said she'd love to include Ebony's story as a True Cat Tale...but couldn't say which issue it would appear in.

Imagine my surprise and delight as I opened the newest issue (October; just gone on sale!) and found 'My Scaredy Cat' listed in the Contents pages... :0)

I'd emailed a few photos of Ebony for possible inclusion, but something even better has happened... Your Cat magazine has commissioned an illustration instead! It's bespoke to Ebony and her story, and is beautifully rendered - thank you Nancy Trott for your excellent work; and thank you Your Cat magazine for the idea!

While it may seem like small fry to some, having this article accepted and seeing it in print is a huge deal to me - because, after dreaming about it since I was a little girl, I'm PUBLISHED at last!

If you would like to read Ebony's story (and the other informative articles, and swoon over some cute pics too...!), pick up a copy of Your Cat magazine (being that it's a niche title, you might have to track it down in bigger newsagents/supermarkets - the sister title, Your Dog, rules the roost at my local Tesco, for example, meaning I get my copy of Your Cat at the newsagent in the next town!)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

10 Things I've Learned About Editing

  1. However long you estimate it will take, add another 6 weeks.
  2. A stock of red pens is essential - scribbling on your ms in any other colour feels wrong.
  3. Even when you think you're good at avoiding repetition, some pesky words will multiply. Exterminate on sight.
  4. You'll feel a sense of joy, even triumph, when you spot how some themes/motifs/characterisation resonate throughout the ms - and you'll enjoy figuring out how to strengthen the effect.
  5. Cutting will become second-nature. Yes, it will.
  6. When rewriting a section/paragraph/sentence, ensure not to over-write.
  7. The 1st Draft is for you, the Writer; the however-many-it-takes-to-get-it-near-ish-perfect is for the Reader. Deal with it. It makes you a better writer.
  8. It's tiring. Take breaks, for screen-sore eyes will miss things.
  9. Best excuse to buy new stationery. Ever.
  10. It's fun. Really it is. And you get to do it all over again with the next book...

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Talks editing...

Yup, that's what I've been doing since the 15th of May...and there's plenty more to do!

I didn't quite make my self-imposed 3-months-away-from-novel, but I did manage just over 6 weeks. Then the itching just got too much, and I had to pick up my red pen and scratch it...

While scratching (this metaphor is getting a little gross, now, isn't it?! Oops.), I decided to test out a new method of editing - at least, new to me.

With Book One, I line-edited and line-edited and line-edited, zooming in on the tiniest of details, but somehow never thinking to look at the overall effect, or to do this first before I wasted time and energy on a section that I should delete anyway...

But I have done that this time, for Novel Number Two.

I got myself a hard-back spiral notebook (any excuse for new stationery, eh!) and started reading my manuscript. From beginning to end, with no line-edits at all.

Okay, okay, so there were some line-edits, but only quick, didn't-have-to-mull-them-over-ones! Fact: It is impossible for me not to have a pen in my hand. Anyhoo...

When I got to the end of each chapter, I wrote notes on what worked, what didn't; what should move to another point in the storyline; what needed to be Shown, not Told - and sometimes what needed to be Told, not Shown (detail gets very interesting for me, but no so much for anyone else...); whether the characterisation was working; whether I even needed certain characters; and so on.

At the start of this process, I was in agony. The book was awful, of course; how could I have written such drivel? And then I got over myself. Everything needs work to be the best it can be - from baking to Olympic Sports. Simples. So I got to it.

Once, I said to a friend that the beginning of the book is actually the last thing you write - and this, for me, is true: it is only when my characters are on the page speaking and doing and interacting with other characters and situations that I know them; that I know what is authentic for them, and can convey this accordingly.

Reminding myself of this, I set about redrafting the first two chapters: fresh documents, typing anew, no copy-and-pasting. Then I read my Overall Notes alongside the red-penned manuscript, and worked through the relevant points, making changes here and there (pretty much everywhere, actually).

Now I can see that while the Overall Read-Through was slow-going (especially to an impatient soul like me), it has earned its keep: after all that work, the beginning of the book is now much sharper, stronger and effective.

All I've got to do now is to make sure the twenty-or-so other chapters do the same...!

Better get back to it, then!

~ ttfn ~

Saturday, 2 May 2015

If My Novel was a Picture Book... might look something like this (there's a lot of pics, so I hope you'll stick with me!):

Impractical Purpose = pretty scrapbook pages to flip through at will. 'Nuff said.

Practical Purpose = visual aid for editing/redrafting my novel; perched on a book-stand on my desk.


Scrapbook = SMASH book
Pros: yummy papers not seen anywhere else; an individual, quirky feel.
Cons: spiral binding too narrow, causing the pages to bulge when layered/matted upon; in my Smash, not many of the original yummy papers remain...oops! This is because my papercrafting technique has improved and expanded, leading me to tear out my early, amateurish layouts...and start again!

Papers, stamps and embellishments = too various and bought-long-ago to mention! My favourite craft shopping sites are the Glitter Pot and Kaisercraft at Merly Impressions, plus specific searches on eBay (time-consuming but worth it for one-of-a-kind finds, particularly with stamps).

Photographs = from Pinterest and the occasional magazine. I don't know the names of the original photographers, but would be glad to credit them.

Illustrations = most are from Inslee Haynes (if my dream came true, she would design my novel's cover!). Others are by Robert Best, Megan Hess, Katie Rodgers, Thomas Saliot, Clifford Faust, and a couple of others whose names I don't know...but would be glad to credit them.

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Performance Anxiety

I'm not a sporty or dramatic soul, and so I'd like to think that I wouldn't have to worry about my performance. But I do and I am. Have to worry, that is (don't worry: I am not about to become a sportswoman or an actor. Phew.)

Yesterday, I enjoyed spending another entire-day reading (there's been a few of those recently), and completed The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley. I absolutely loved this book: the overseas settings were so real I could step into them; the characters were so involving that I wanted to be with them; and the storyline was so intriguing and moving that I wanted it to go on and on. 

This book also encompassed themes that I love to think, read and write about: loss and love; painting and painters; women finding and living their independence; the definitions of family, and the grounding family gives you. This book also made me realise that my tastes have matured (five years ago, I wouldn't have enjoyed reading passages about wartime and the various methods of and the people involved in resistance - but I do now), and that this opens up new areas of reading and writing for me. 

This book moved me; and pleased me, for the threads of resolution were woven into the final chapters, yet nothing was tied up too easily or too emphatically - enough was left for me, the Reader, to fill in. This book got me looking on the author's Facebook page for news of her next one; it got me scrolling through her book-signing photos and watching the couple-of-seconds-long video of the book coming off the printer's press...which was so intoxicating. 

But this book also scared me.

Because I'd love to write this well, to produce a manuscript capable of doing all the things this one has done to me to other people.

But what if I'm not that good? What if, after all these years and years of writing on after each hurdle and seeing that my work has indeed evolved, I'm still not that good?

This is not the only book to do this to me. My other favourites - The Forgotten Garden and The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, Lighthouse Bay and Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman, The Unseen and A Half Forgotten Song by Katherine Webb, The Book of Summers by Emylia Hall, and A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly - have also made me feel this way.

I do know that this is performance anxiety. I do know that I'm not the only writer to feel this way. And I do know that this feeling will pass. Promise. In several days, I'll be able to write my Reading Journal entry extolling how fabulous the book is, and it will take its place on my bookshelf next to my other wish-I'd-written-'em favourites.

But till then, for a little while, I feel not-so-good. While it doesn't sound it, this not-so-good is a lot better than incapable, which is what I used to feel some years ago. 

So it's probably good timing that today is Easter Sunday and I am internationally-permitted to consume (and console myself with) chocolate - indeed, it would be internationally-rude not to, wouldn't it?! 

Believe me, I have no performance issues when it comes to chocolate. Except about when to stop eating it...

~ ttfn ~ 

Sunday, 22 March 2015

So. My Novel Is Written. NOW What Do I Do?

Rest, ruminate; lament. Tell myself to pull my socks up: if it really is that bad, I can fix it when I return in three months for the Big Edit (which is kind of like a deep clean...)

Read a bit. Craft a bit. Buy a lot – and cringe when the credit card bill comes in. Remind myself that these purchases were essential: rewards for writing a whole novel, and things-that-have-been-on-the-wish-list-so-long-they-have-to-have-a-new-home...

Fuss the cat loads, now that she has started sitting on my lap. Realise that this is not just because she was an un-socialised kitten who has made huge leaps forward in trusting humans, but because there is actually room for her now that I’m not using the laptop every night. Oh.

Craft a bit more now that I have new stash.

Sort through things everywhere (writing room, bedroom, lounge, kitchen), chucking out what I haven’t used in a year. Or two.

Begin relevant research, now that I know what is actually relevant... Get lost in fabulous but irrelevant detail once again, and remind myself that I just chucked loads of that out. Decide not to repeat.

Start to give the Pen Pot a spring clean with a fresh look, then get irritated with technology and give up. Resolve to put ‘patience’ on my Christmas List.

Bake some. Eat much more.

Consult the calendar, certain my self-imposed three months must soon be up.

Scream when I see that only two weeks have passed. Two weeks.

Console myself with a bar of chocolate. And another one. Stop short of being sick. Here, try one of your cupcakes, you say? Oh, go on, then, it would be rude not to...

~ ttfn ~ 

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Those Two Little Words...

I'm a little late posting this month, and I apologise. You can blame the need to write those two little words...

'The End.'

Yep, in the last hour, I have completed the last page of the final chapter of Novel Number Two.

Whoop whoop!

And here she is: 

Admittedly, this is only the 1st Whole Draft (I call it this because each chapter has already been edited at least once...or four times!) - and so there is cutting and redrafting and polishing ahead of me... But, for this stage, I. Have. Achieved.

And by my deadline, which I set as part of my New Year-ness. Double whoop whoop!

I will come back and blog again, but I'm understandably rather knackered right now... 

I will be leaving my manuscript (and I feel I can really call it that, now that it's finished! Triple whoop whoop!) alone for 3 months, so that I have 'fresh eyes' as we writers call it, don'cha know, for that big rewrite.

But for now, I do believe I deserve a celebratory Mini Egg or two (bags, of course - how could anyone limit themselves to one measly little egg?!)...

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 1 February 2015

A Little Bit of Magic

(Picture credit unknown - I'm glad to rectify!)

You know that moment when an actor you like leads you into watching something you never thought you would, just because they're in it? And then you discover that you quite like this new thing, after all?

This happened to me, the other evening. Poppy Montgomery has fast become my favourite actress after watching her in the TV show Unforgettable , which has equally become a favourite. (Sadly it's been cancelled in the US, but I've got the first season on DVD and am waiting for the second to be released, plus hoping that Sky will show the final season soon...)

Having first seen Poppy Montgomery in Without a Trace, and now loving her in Unforgettable, I knew she is an actor who brings warmth, wit and a little bit of rebelliousness to her performances - so I decided to give the TV movie, Magic Beyond Words: The JK Rowling Story (2011, director Paul A. Kaufman), a chance. And I wasn't disappointed.

Regardless of what anyone might think of Harry Potter and the phenomena that resulted, it started life as a story. A story that an unpublished, unknown writer dreamed up. A story that was imagined, dwelt in and transcribed onto the page. A story that, through the actual writing alone, changed the life of its author.

Storytelling is a magic in itself (though of course I would say that!) : not everyone can do it. But this TV movie did: it captured the wonderment and warmth of creativity, the thrill of spotting story elements on the shelf of everyday life, and the liberty of what you'll do with them.

Storytelling can surprise you, move you and empower you - and I wouldn't be without it.

~ ttfn ~ 

Saturday, 10 January 2015


To write this post, I'm going to have to share a smidge more of Novel Number Two's plot than I have before. Eek! You see, I've learned not to talk too much about the Work in Progress (WiP) for several reasons: 
  1. Even though I'm a born chatterbox, I'm rubbish at speaking about any WiP, making what I know is well-written (not meaning to be being arrogant, here) sound dreadful; 
  2. People seem interested, so you talk, draining yourself of detail as you try to do the WiP justice - only to discover your details have actually drained the people, who are now not so interested (!); 
  3. Telling too much makes you vulnerable - to people's good and bad reactions, and to yourself, because at some point you'll realise things need to change, and now don't you look daft?; 
  4. You could be giving away your idea - ideas aren't copyrighted, so someone could turn that idea into an actual story, submitting it to an actual agent while you're still playing about with punctuation, therefore beating you to your publishing and readership dream; and 
  5. It is mine - at least until it's yours (i.e. my book in your hand - always dreaming of being published, me!), which, for now, will be when I'm distanced enough from it to allow you to read it by email. 
Anyhoo. Deep breath. With these points clung closer to my body than armour, what I need to tell you is this:

  • My main character gets herself onto an apprenticeship. 
  • At the end of each week, the apprentices are rated. 
  • And as the writer, it's bloody hard to remember who gets ranked where when (which is just as hard to say, isn't it?!)

Today, I finished the narrative draft of the second chapter-on-the-go (as per my goal this week; with the first chapter-on-the-go finished on Thursday). While the story was done, the niggles [details that I put in square brackets and bold type, to come back to later - these might be the placings on the apprenticeship, for example, or how long it's been since such-and-such happened] remained. Thing was, I wanted to sort them out now so that I'd feel the chapter was completely complete (at least in its First Draft form. Which will get rewritten. I know, I know, we writers are complex beings.)

So, with my pen poised over my notebook page, I skim-read the previous seven or so chapters...and realised how much I'd forgotten. Forgotten! How could I do such a thing when I've got a really good, really detailed memory? But there I was, discovering that I'd forgotten: which chapter came after which (I've named not numbered them, you see); character developments; actual events; and dialogue revelations. Oops!

I'd also forgotten how many words I'd actually got onto the page (even though I counted them all up and bragged about them in my New Year's post!). I'd forgotten quite how much story this amounts to. And it's a lot. It's a big chunk of book. And it makes me proud.

Of course, I'm sure you linear-minded, number-loving types are wondering why I didn't start the book with a spreadsheet set up for such things. But, you see, I'm a writer, and writers aren't linear-minded types; we love everything free and flowing, ebbing backwards and forwards, allowing for change and invention...even if it does mean we forget things.

But now my notebook is updated with who was ranked where when; what my main character did at these particular points; and with a few more niggles I'll need to sort out in the Redraft! I am determined to keep it updated as I write on...wish me luck!

~ ttfn ~

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Reflect and Redirect

(Picture found on Pinterest - credit unknown)

Here we are, four days into January, and all that Christmas fuss is out of the way for another year (I know, I know, I'm such a bah humbug - but that's just how I roll) - and while I do hate to follow the crowd (as one of my besties rightly says, 'Be a goat not a sheep' - thanks, Zoe!), it really does feel like the time to reflect and redirect. (Oh, my bah humbug-self does hope you had a good Christmas and New Year, by the way!)

Reflection: 2014 Pats-on-the-Back
  • Craft continued - shared over making cards and scrapbook pages, and sewing a footstool, toaster cover and a phone charger bag.
  • Cupcake baking begun and, if I do say so myself (!), aced:

  • Ebony welcomed home and settled in:

  • 44 books read - while writing...
  • 70, 295 words of Novel Number Two (that's 70,295 words everybody - whoop, whoop!) - which equates to 15 chapters (and, when added to 2013's chapters, makes 32 completed ones...)

Redirection: 2015 Get-Goings
  • Admit I need to rest and relax when I get in from work, BUT don't slump in front of the TV all evening...
  •, at 9 p.m., used my second-wind (I'm a definite owl, you see, not a lark) to get an hour or two of writing/planning/crafting done.
  • Continue crafting, sewing and baking.
  • Finish the two chapters-on-the-go by the end of this week (Sunday 11th). Achieved by Sat 10th!
  • Write the (estimated) remaining 5 chapters by the end of February, which will complete the entire first draft.
  • Leave Novel Number Two ALONE for 3 months...
  • ...and do other things!
  • Begin editing NNT after these 3 months, so (hopefully!) from 1st June.
  • Research agents to submit to.
  • Write covering letter and synopsis.
  • Submit by the end of summer/beginning autumn.
  • Start the next book...!

I could (probably should!) add in 'Go for a walk every day', 'Lose the million of stones you're overweight by' and 'Actually get your hair trimmed every three months' - but I know I won't do any of these, and pressuring myself will only make me dour and doubtful. Much better, instead, to focus on making the most of what I can do, and leave room for a little spontaneity (which may turn in to walking, dieting or hair consideration...well, I can try for optimism too, right?!)

Whatever reflections and redirections you have, I wish you all the best with them.

~ ttfn ~