The Life-Gets-in-the-Way Factor

writng-adviceWriting magazines and blogs are full of helpful advice for how to deal with the problems we writers sometimes have to face – dealing with writer’s block, “soggy” middles, constant interruptions and even finding the time to write. I’ve even read articles about finding your best time of day to write – as if most of us could choose when we sit in front of our computer screens or pick up a pen – or the best place to write. One thing I’ve never seen written about, but something I frequently struggle with, is when life gets in the way.

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Two Nations Divided by a Common Language

quote-two-nations-divided-by-a-common-language-winston-churchill-78-95-13One of the great advantages of eBook publishing is that even a first time novelist can now access a global market without difficulty. EBooks are just as easy to download in America, Canada and Australia as they are here in Britain. However, this has definite consequences which we writers need to bear in mind. Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill have all commented on the confusion that arises in the differences in our use of language on either side of the Atlantic.

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The Novelist and Depression – Dealing with the Downside

DepressionWe fiction writers are sensitive people – we live on our emotions. We create characters and, if we want to make them to be real for our readers, we see the world through their eyes. We put our protagonist through all kinds of misery. One problem after another. If we didn’t there would be no story. The more we experience our character’s pain, the better the writing will be. We train ourselves to feel the grief, the despair, the anguish. Is it any wonder that we fall victim to a certain level of despondency when life hands us a bad deal? Life is never fair. I like to claim that I’m a glass half full person, trying to see the best side and count my many blessings, but there are times when I don’t succeed.

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Writing the Novel – The Final Lap

Blood Hits the WallWriting a novel is a totally engrossing occupation. For the last year, ‘Blood Hits the Wall’ has been my obsession. As we writers know, writing is far more than sitting at the PC and getting the words up on the screen. It becomes something that occupies the greater part of your day. The characters and the scenes constantly play out in your mind even when you are busy doing something else entirely.

Rewriting is a lengthy process. Once the first draft is complete and the numerous rewrites analysing plot, characters and pace have begun,  your head starts spinning as you rework sections in your mind. You reach a point when you’re not sure if that great extra clue or nuance is still in your head or if you have already altered the manuscript itself. Whole scenes get moved around to provide a more logical unfolding of the story line. This means a careful check that it does not result in references to events that haven’t happened yet because you’ve moved them later.

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Research – My Excuse for Becoming a Port Lecturer

Boudicca-in-Scotland-banner_originalResearch becomes second nature to writers. That little voice inside that says never miss out on an opportunity because you never know when the experience will come in useful is a good excuse for taking time out from the actual writing. That’s my excuse for spending the last six months totally immersed in the world of port lecturing – telling cruise passengers about the ports we were about to visit. I’ve been a cruise lecturer for several years. I began running fun writing workshops on board ship and then developed a series of talks about writing and what attracts me about writing crime. Continue reading

Technology and the Writer

When I first became a published writer, all I needed to bother about was to produce a novel that was the best I could make it. Today it seems that we writers need to spend almost as much time promoting ourselves as getting words on the page. And that means being internet savvy.

I confess that I’m technically inept. I know my way around Microsoft Word and I’m quite a dab hand at PowerPoint but beyond that, I’m something of a technophobe. My excuse is that I see no point in having a dog and barking yourself. Not that I’m calling my lovely husband a dog but as an electrical engineer who has spent a lifetime in the semi-conductor industry, I leave anything technical to him and have never bothered to learn myself.

Yesterday proved that such a philosophy can have catastrophic consequences. My lack of basic skills let me down big time. I was all set to give a talk using PowerPoint to a local group but it was a catalogue of disasters.

Problem 1

Worried__lookingTwo weeks ago my husband upgraded my PC and my laptop to Windows 10 and yesterday was the first time I’d used my laptop outside the house. I switched on and entered my password as usual but instead of letting me straight in, a message came up beneath my email address saying I needed to put in my password. I had no idea what my Outlook password was. So I picked up my mobile and phoned home. Continue reading

Has the EBook Changed the Way We Write?

page eBookNovel writing has always evolved. I’m not talking about changes in fashion – the prevalence of Science Fiction in the 1960s, the rise of the Fantasy Novel, the misery memoirs, the Vampire novel and the Dystopian novel. Each decade popular fiction embraces a new genre. My belief is that today’s writers are adapting their writing style to ensure that their novels meet the changing requirements of the eBook. For many novelists, especially indie writers, eBook sales far outweigh physical book sales and an increasing number of novels are only ever published in eBook form. Writers cannot afford to ignore the demands of the eBook. Continue reading

Where has the year gone?

DSC_3358At a time when every sensible writer is reviewing their last year’s writing/marketing strategies and planning new ones for the coming year, I must confess writing and the latest novel are the last things on my mind. For the last month, everything has been put on hold.

I must confess, my plans to write and publish the next Fiona Mason Mystery within the year had slipped a little (there was a hectic period in the summer that I mentioned in my August blog) but when we went on holiday at the end of November, I fully expected that I’d be able to have it available as an eBook by January at the latest. However, things rarely go to plan!

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The Reviewer From Hell

book-reviewNot so long ago, writing magazines and blogs were full of articles about how to cope with rejection. Stories abounded about well-known writers who had to submit their now best-seller works tens of times to agents and publishers before they were finally accepted. I seem to remember a tale about one eminent novelist who actually papered at least one wall of his study with his rejection slips. Such stories were a great consolation to struggling writers trying to attract an agent or publisher. The so-called good rejection – one where the agent had sent not the customary slip or standard rejection letter but had actually bothered to write a personal note gave essential encouragement to carry on. Most of the advice to suffering writers centred around keeping in mind that the rejections were never personal – that it was the novel not the person that was being rejected. Continue reading

What Does Your Fiction Say About You?

Readers often identify the main protagonist in a novel with the author, especially if it is a series character.

Zoe SharpZoe Sharp 2I’m guilty of that myself. One of my favourite writers is Zoe Sharp. Her main character, ex-Special Forces Charlie Fox appears in the first novel Killer Instinct teaching self-defence but in the later novels she works as a bodyguard. Ever since I first met Zoe, as I read the novels I can’t help picturing Charlie as Zoe. The two have much in common. Charlie is a gun-toting maverick always jumping on her powerful motor bike. Amongst her hobbies Zoe cites “fast cars (and faster motorbikes) and target shooting.” I’m not sure about the maverick bit, but she and her husband did build their own house in the Lake District. At one of her talks, she mentioned that in the process she managed she cut off the top of her finger. When her husband rushed over she put out a hand to stop him with the command, ‘Let me see how the blood drips.’ The things people do for their art! If you’ve never read a Zoe Sharp novel try Roadkill and you’ll see what I mean about bikes! Continue reading