Tuesday 29 July 2008

Broken, Interruptions & Indoor Tobogganning

I've started reading this brilliant book by Daniel Clay. I gave a copy of it as a present to A who loved it and read it a couple of months ago and even said that she will keep it and probably read it again at some point in the future (not like her at all). Daniel Clay is also the kindly chap who posted his successful submission letter to the brilliant Jonny Geller here

Today I needed to find out some information from work and ran out of places to look so phoned my friend S on her mobile thinking it a little strange that she didn't answer the call quickly like she usually does. The poor thing phoned me back later sounding far more cheerful than I would have done and apologized for taking so long. Apparently I'd interrupted her cooking some rather fabulous sounding food - in France. Opps.

During the occasional break at work, actually it was at lunchtime, no really. You don't believe me? Neither would I. Well anyway, I was emailing my friend A (the same one as mentioned above) who was describing how some of her colleagues had gone indoor tobogganing (strange word and by the sounds of it strange colleagues too) and were suffering the after effects of it all. We found it hilarious. I looked it up on You Tube and dont think that they were actually doing this. Now is it me or does this man not appreciate the dangers of flying down a staircase on a mattress with a window at the bottom of it (the staircase that is, not the mattress)?

Sunday 27 July 2008

Reading, Shopping, Back to the Grindstone

Well I've finished my shopping for R's present (thanks for the ideas, much appreciated), am half way through this wonderful book and preparing my brain for coping with returning to work tomorrow (still haven't forced myself to do the ironing though, too hot outside to miss out on the sunshine).

Went swimming again with Grumpy yesterday, he came in to the pool with me twice and paddled away feeling much happier afterwards and curlier too. I must remember to take a camera with me and would have done this time if S hadn't nagged so much to get to the pool in the first place.

The computer is driving me insane. It has taken up to an hour to manage to get to my own blog and although I can get as far as different profiles, it won't actually let me into any other blogs to either read them or leave comments. This is so frustrating and I'm hoping to get it resolved this week, which reminds me work tomorrow. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo, back to wearing make-up, doing my hair instead of dragging it up into a scrunchie and having to wear more than a bikini and sarong for hours every day. Sigh.

Friday 25 July 2008

Competition, Assignment & R's Birthday Gift

I was trying to upload one of my photos to this post but for some reason it wouldn't happen, so I thought I would try this pic as they've been advertising on tv that The Tudors will soon be returning and I simply can't wait.

My computer is driving me insane, in order to keep this trojan at bay the security settings have to be so high that I'm finding it nigh on impossible to get into my blog at all. Poor b-i-l is going to try and sort it out again this weekend and will probably go mad that I've faffed about with all the settings again. When I can manage to get into my blog, it will only allow me to get as far as other blog's Profile pages and not into the actual blogs themselves, so frustrating, grrrrr.

It was so hot here yesterday that I went swimming with S and even Grumpy came in with me twice. He seemed so much happier once he'd cooled down. He looks so funny when he's wet with his skinny little legs but does doggy paddle like an athlete. It's cloudier now but still very close and I'm looking forward to a great big thunderstorm. Knowing our weather we'll probably have a half-hearted shower instead.

I have finally finished my entry to the Jersey Arts Trust, Channel Islands Writer's Competition for 2008 and also my next assignment and shall send them off in the post tomorrow, now all I have to do is figure out what to get R for his birthday on Monday. Yes, I know I only have a couple of days left, well tomorrow actually but I've been shopping and can't find anything. I've asked him what he wants but all he'll say is, "Nothing, don't worry about it." This is not a helpful answer because I still need to get him something. Men can be such a pain.

Thursday 24 July 2008

Mama Mia, Wet shirts & Colin Firth

Having been horribly frustrated by my computer for the past few days as I have to have high security to ward of this virus but then take an age to be able to access my blog, I went with sis and a friend to see Mama Mia last night.

Now I am not an Abba fan per se (unlike my friend Kelly who is and always has been a massive fan) and it is a musical (I generally prefer Les Mis and Phantom) but having seen the snippet on Sky thought that it looked too much fun to miss and was right. It was a toe-tapping, sing-a-long (that was just me though probably), laugh a moment (my sister does have the loudest laugh in the entire world) film and I heartily recommend it for anyone who wants to:

a) Enjoy all the songs whilst eating salty popcorn until your lips go numb
b) Watch a really good up-lifting, feel-good film, whilst chomping on choc M&Ms
c) Laugh at the three women having so much fun (took me back, sigh)
d) Gorgeous scenery - I think I may need to pack up and go and live there
e) Seeing Colin Firth once more in a wet shirt (oh yes, another big sigh)

Excellent stuff. I could have gone straight back in and watched the whole thing again.

Now though, I'm going to drag myself back down to earth and get on with my writing assignments (dreadfully ignored for a few months) and carry on with my 100 words a day (going great guns, now nearly 12,500 words).

Enjoy the weather, while it lasts. It's a bit windy today here but as it's a hot wind it's lovely.

Monday 21 July 2008


This is a picture of yesterday's sunset and remembering that old saying, 'Red sky at night...' I was relieved as I'm on holiday from work this week. Yay.

Someone at work asked me where I was going. I shan't be going anywhere as I have a whole week as follows:

- Where I don't have to sit at a desk - I shall be sitting at a secondhand 1950s table with a laptop on it.
- An entire week sitting in a shed - strange as it sounds, this will be fun.
- Seven days when I won't have to be dressed in smart clothing - sheer bliss.
- My daughter is happy to spend a few days doing very little, apart from one day in town shopping and a few outings with her friends.
- Going to see Mama Mia with a few of the girls.

And the weather forecast is good. Sigh. So apart from the above and walking Grumps on the beach with R and S, I intend doing very little for the next week apart from making the most of having time to read and enjoying having more time to write.

Ahhh bliss.

Sunday 20 July 2008

I'm Back - Phew

Thanks to N (b-i-l) spending most of a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon on my computer, I'm back and raring to go. What a relief and how kind especially when you think how lousy the weather has been for most of the summer.

It has been dreadful not being able to go visiting blogs, or posting although I've managed to do a lot more reading than I usually do and finished Nell Dixon's excellent, Blue Remembered Heels. I've still done my 100 words a day and this morning wrote a short story entry for a competition, so I haven't been entirely out of the writing loop.

James, I shall be thinking of you for the next six days and hope you don't get too exhausted carrying that rucksack all those kilometers (125km). I can't wait to see the photos and would love to be seeing all the fascinating places that you're visiting. S is just back from your Dads and says that H is fine and was taken for a walk today by Chris. R is cooking a stirfry with courgettes, carrots and sugarsnap peas from the garden. Grumpy is exhausted as he has been chasing Georgie & Josh around the garden for most of the afternoon. X

Thursday 17 July 2008

James - Happy Trekking

Hi there, just a quick post to wish you well with your trip to Chang Mai & Chang Rai and the trek. Glad to hear the cooking is going well and that Cartwright is helping you too.

Your sister has been messing about with the computer and I now have some sort of virus that's messing things up a bit, so will need to spend a bit of time sorting it out. (I'm having a nightmare with this and will do my best to post but may not be able to for a few days, thankfully b-i-l is helping me suppress the virus so that I can add this).

V wasn't there yesterday when we went to Greve, only a miserable girl who didnt want to serve food but V's son appeared and then she was more helpful. The breezeblock had his usual order of a sausage and wolfed it down in no time.

I'm now off on holiday from work for the next ten days and can't wait to be able to sit in the shed for a decent amount of time. Nothing new to report, I just want you to thoroughly enjoy yourself. x

Wednesday 16 July 2008

Word Count, Malteser Icecreams & Beach

Thanks to Helen's brilliant 100 Words A Day blog, I've now done 10,209 words on my next book. I have hardly noticed I was doing it as I've been sitting down each afternoon to try for the 100 words needed and have usually gone over that amount. Such a simple but effective idea and now that I've sent of the m/s I can focus on it a bit more.

I've discovered Malteser Icecreams now (such a glutton) and so have the freezer duly stocked and each night S and I sit down quietly (only for a short while though) whilst we eat them.

R, S, Grumpy and I went for supper down at Greve de Lecq after work and whilst R ordered our food, S and I walked the strutting fluffy breezeblock as he surveyed the beach, growled at a few passing dogs and demolished various sandcastles. Anti-social little devil.

Tuesday 15 July 2008

Alarms, Cinema Tickets & Treks

I was just sitting here waiting for the picture to load and S's phone alarm went off giving me such a fright. The reason she put it on is simple, she doesn't want her supper burnt. I'd already put in the chips and said, "Call me in 20 minutes to put in your pizza." (Okay, so I'm not Delia Smith when it comes to cooking). And instead of doing as I'd asked, she put her alarm on instead and went off to play on her Nintento Wii. Needless to say, I've now put in the pizza and veg.

Here's a picture of the garden for J to see. This was taken the other way when we had sun, but as I look out of the window now all I can see is rolling fog going by, so it's pretty much a typical July day.

J will be pleased to know that I've bought a batch of cheap cinema tickets as every so often we get an offer through work to do this and I usually make the most of it. This time, however, I must remember to actually use one or two myself as most of the time it's S and J who uses them to go out with their friends.

As you probably know, if you've read any of his comments, J is half way through his trip and has endured a 12 hour coach drive up to Thailand and is now getting ready for a week's trek. Message to J: I remembered to tape the last episode of Heroes. Make the most of your trip and enjoy every second of it because it will soon be over and you'll be back to studying once again. Damn this alarm has just gone off again. Pizza is probably burnt. X

Monday 14 July 2008

Blue Remembered Heels, NWS & Pimms

I wasn't much help in the garden yesterday and only managed a half-hearted attempt at a little weeding and dead-heading in between printing off my m/s. This took far longer than I'd hoped as the damn ink ran out (of course) but much to everyone's relief, mine especially, I did have a spare cartridge, so the hissy fit was short-lived.

I've now queued, bought £16 worth of stamps both Jersey (very pretty one of the Queen) and English and sent the brown envelope that has been taunting me from the sideboard for the past couple of weeks off on it's merry way.

I was then far too exhausted after all that printing to return to the gardening and settled with a cool glass of Pimms and Julie Cohen's novel Honey-Trap and refused to move until I'd finished it. Great read, loved her hero too. After that I spent a little time with R & S and we watched George Gently (this time without Richard Armitage, sigh) and went to soak in the bath and started to read Nell Dixon's Blue Remembered Heels. I'm loving this too and as soon as I've done my 100 words for the day, I'm off to treat myself (once again) to more of this excellent story.

I phoned my mother this morning at 7am (her time) to wish her a very happy birthday (I daren't say her age as she will kill me and reads this) anyway, my step-father answered the phone and said, "I'm afraid, she's not back from the gym yet." Gym?

Sunday 13 July 2008

Finishing Corrections, North & South & Giant Schnauzers

I've finished. After six hours of staring at the screen and turning red-marked pages, I've finally finished my corrections. What a relief. So tomorrow my m/s will be flown off to the NWS and I can carry on with novel #4 that I've been slowly working on for the 100 words a day scheme.

Apart from the local one, we don't usually buy a daily newspaper but having seen an advert on the tv for free dvds for various films such as Pride & Prejudice (Colin Firth one), which naturally I have; North & South (well, of course I have this one it has the perfectly divine Richard Armitage in it) and Room With A View, which I don't yet possess with Julian Sands and Helena Bonham Carter. I shall be making sure I have a copy this week. I don't know if it's the acting, scenery or maybe having the lovely Dames, Judy Dench and Maggie Smith in it but I love this film.

After giving myself a headache from sitting in front of the computer for so long, we took Grumpy for a walk on the beach and for the first time I saw a black giant schnauzer that R and my sister have told me so much about. She was beautiful and kept trowing a crushed tennis ball into the air and then chasing it. Unlike G who growled at her and acted as if it was his beach and was most unfriendly (hence keeping him on a lead) she took absolutely no notice of him and was delightful while we chatted to her owner for a couple of minutes. Typical male, he was probably annoyed that she didn't find him fascinating.

Saturday 12 July 2008

Corrections, Sore Feet & Grumpy

My corrections are going along swimmingly and I'm now half way through, so today, after doing the usual shopping, walking the dog, etc I shall press on as I'm determined to send it out on Monday. Unfortunately, because we need English stamps I have to go and queue at the Main Post Office in St Helier. To be honest, it isn't far from my work but the idea of parking outside my small local one and trotting in is far preferrable.

On Thursday I had a client over for the day, which meant that although I'm usually smart, I had to wear a suit and therefore instead of the usual again smart, but not right for the suit, open-toed mules, I wore my toe-crushing court shoes. I was fine for most of the day but by the time I was racing to the car to collect S from the car restorer's (I was late of course) I was in complete agony. So for the weekend I shall be in the spongiest footware possible and thankfully have a veritable range of flipflops to slip my aching feet into. The only problem is that I have to go to London for the day in a few weeks and need to decide if I start traipsing around the shops (only like to do this when I'm in the mood, say, about once a year) to buy replacement shoes or wear my bone-crushers and hope that I spend most of the time sitting down?

Grumpy, who found it all a little strange that S was in the house without J being there too, has now settled down and is back to his usual self of either barking at anything that moves or sleeping. I had just got comfortable in bed at about 9pm last night when a firework display began that looked beautiful from my bedroom window, but caused chaos because it upset and infuriated the dog. Thankfully, he goose-stepped around the room for a bit when it finished and grumbled and barked for a few moments and then must have decided he'd sorted everything out and went to sleep. Such a relief.

Friday 11 July 2008

Time Flies

I dropped S off for her visit to Elizabeth Castle this morning and came straight home to write. I answered emails and comments on this blog and then typed up my report for the RNA Romance Matters quarterly magazine. I then worked for a bit on novel #4 (dreadful working title, Spick and Span) for my 100 words (actually did 258) and now it's nearly time to leave and collect S.

Where did the time go? I've only had one cup of tea (okay, I've also had a packet of Maltesers and some Cheese & Onion crisps). I haven't even started working through my corrections and will have to do that as soon as I get back. Well, that is after shopping for a few bits for S as she insists that she has absolutely nothing to wear despite being in possession of a filled wardrobe. I think she's turning into me, or at least a much younger and energetic version. She's even my height now, which is rather strange for me, although thrilling and amusing for her.

We also have to take Grumpy for a walk at St Ouens and then I shall be able to get on with what I thought I'd be doing for most of the day. I'm determined to finish these flippin' corrections and send my m/s to NWS this weekend, though I suppose it won't go until Monday now.

Thursday 10 July 2008

Message for James - The Wanderer

As I've received a lovely long message from James (Under the Bubble Wrap Post) and am not able to reply, I thought I would post a message here for him. Also various family members can have a read of his comment too.

James - thank you so much for the message, I'm thrilled that you're having such a brilliant time and wish that I was there to see all the fabulous places that you're no doubt experiencing. S has activity week this week and I've just collected her from her day at a car restorer's (not as strange as it sounds as the cars are all types and very beautiful, she also went in a limo with her friends and has had a great time) and is off to Elizabeth Castle tomorrow. Grumpy is his usual self, R is v busy as usual and very well. I shall let your Dad know that you've contacted us. He is fine too as is H. We all send love and can't wait to see your photos and hear all about your trip.

Thank you so much for the message. We're missing you (of course) and it all seems very quiet here but Sas is making the most of having the remote control.

Take care and big cyber hugs and kisses from me. Mumxxxxx

Tuesday 8 July 2008

RNA Conference (Sat Only) Part 2

Here are a few pics of yet more books that I had to smuggle into R's suitcase. Don't forget I also had five/six books in my goodie bag that had to be accounted for (his hand luggage came in very useful too) not to mention my own notepads, and book that I took to read on the plane. I've started reading Julie Cohen's Honey Trap and like her other books, it's a thoroughly entertaining read. Every year I promise myself that I'll wait for paperback versions of the books that I want to read and every year I can't resist buying the hardback copies of Christina Jones, Jill Mansell and Katie Fforde's books as you can see from this pic of The Wedding Season that I bought from the conference bookstall (I've already bought and read Jill Mansell's An Offer You Can't Refuse and Christina Jones' Heaven Sent and can't wait until 7 August when Christina's new book, Happy Birthday will be released).
I love this title, Blue Remembered Heels, by Nell Dixon and would love to write for Little Black Dress. Their books are just the right size for a handbag, even one as packed full as mine always is and great reads.

Right, now for my notes on Part Two of my classes/workshops at the conference. I hope I do the speakers justice (both the ones I've posted below and those posted yesterday) and please bear in mind that the notes here are the ones that I took during the classes, so I apologise in advance if I've made any mistakes and despite taking copious notes (being an ex-PA) I naturally haven't been able to cover everything that was said at each class. Naturally you would have to attend the classes in person to gain the full extent of what each covered. So here's my version of events:

Anna Scamans, writing as Anna Louise Lucia, gave a great talk on "Sense of Place" - making your settings part of the story.

Anna told us that what we know is as important as what we see, it effects how we feel and as such, our relationship with our spaces makes us who we are. She said that a character has to have a relationship with where he/she is and gets a reaction from it too.

She advised not to give any generic settings as the setting must have a reality to it. We should use settings that mean something and are significant to the character. Try to remember past incidences/happy places/sad occurrences and ask yourself how they made you feel, what smells conjure up these memories for you. You have to make the reader feel and sense the place. Don't forget to use the five different senses. Let your setting set the mood and tell something about your characters.

Write about what you know, although if you research thoroughly Anna believes that you don't have to have visited the place that you're writing about. Research through travelogues/internet. I found this out when researching a place before going there and then once there felt exactly what the person writing the travelogue had described. Describing the mood or feel of a place can connect the reader to the character in the novel.

Anna suggested taking a character out of somewhere where he/she is physically/mentally comfortable and to think about using the setting. Have the character interracting with the place where they are.

Don't use large amounts of descriptive text as it will weigh down the narrative and slow the pace. Don't just describe the setting either, show how it affects your characters. Try moving a character around, even if he/she is in the same place, give it a different perspective.

Don't forget to give the story some weather. Is it raining/snowing/windy/sunny etc. Think about contrast. Instead of having it being a stormy night when the character is miserable, make the weather sunny.

Anna said not to forget that the first two readers you need to impress are the agent and the editor and above all use your setting as a tool to help you tell your story.

Beryl Kingston gave a fascinating workshop on "Let's Play Pygmalion" - creating characters. She asked us as a class to deside who we wanted to write about. We had to think of:
- The age, sex and class of the character at the start and then at the end of the story when he/she had been experienced what they would during the story.
- Geographical and social environment that the character had been born into and any events experienced from personal to more national, such as war, etc.
- What the character would have to face during the novel and how he/she would respond and how it would effect his/her life and attitudes.
- How the character was treated and where he stood both in his family and in society.
- How he looked/dressed and what he liked/disliked in all aspects of his life.
- How he/she speaks and thinks.

I would have loved to have spent more time with Beryl Kingston, she is entertaining, funny and very knowledgable, as are all of the speakers in the conference and in a class that was only one hour long, I was made to think far more deeply about my characters.

Sue Moorcroft: "What do you mean, you can't write short stories?"

Apart from novels, Sue has had many short stories published and certainly knows all about writing them. I find writing short stories incredibly difficult and couldn't wait for this class; I wasn't disappointed. Sue told us that writing a short story was like making a recipe where no two dishes are ever quite the same but each has their own ingredients. Short stories are written for magasines, anthologies, competitions etc.

She said that a short story is like a single episode. If you imagine a painting on a big plain wall with a bright light shining on it, you only see what is under that light.

The three main points in a commercial short story are:
- Problem/the pivotal moment/resolution
- Puzzle/Key/Revelation (this is used mainly for the mystery or twist in the tale stories).

There should be a point to your story and you should be able to identify what message in it. You need to know who's story it is and the right type of characters for the reader that you're aiming for.

You can then decide on the main character/setting and emotions in the story. There's generally only one point of view in a short story and the main character should be in view all the way through it.

You need to jump straight in to the story and use dialogue as it helps move the story forward and adds to the development of your characters. You must remember to show, not tell and therefore make sure that your characters act out the story and react to what happens to them. Don't forget your reader's emotions, they want to be shocked and thrilled by what they read but the strongest emotion to give them is hope.

Make sure you study your target magazine/competition etc and that you give the correct word count that is asked for.

Should you ever get the chance to take a class given by either Diane Pearson, Anna Jacobs, Anna Scamas, Beryl Kingston or Sue Moorcroft you'll come away having learned far more than you expect. I would like to say thank you to each one of them for the brilliant day at the Conference and hope that I haven't posted anything out of context as these notes are taken from my point of view and notepad, therefore any mistakes are definately my own and if I've missed anything out, I apologise. For further reports please see Ray-Anne's blog and Liz Fenwick's blog as they have wonderful reports on the conference and attended classes that I was unable to.

Thank you to the lovely and talented Lane for this beautiful award called the Arte Y Pico. The rules are that I have to pass it onto to five bloggers who are, "...deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and who contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language they are in". I would therefore like to give this to karen, tom foolery, dj kirkby, yvonne and helen (whose 100 words per day blog has helped me enormously).

Monday 7 July 2008

RNA Conference 2008 - Chichester (Saturday Only) Part One

Isn't this the most divine cover? The green carrier bag comes off to delight you with a gorgeous pink, black and white cover underneath. Scrumptious.
As I discovered, being lucky enough to sit next to Kate Harrison and Sarah Duncan (and Ray-Anne) at lunch time there are some writers that are not only incredibly skilled at what they do but who are also extremely friendly and generous people. One of my difficulties when starting to write a book is how to go about deciding what exactly I'm going to write about. Sarah Duncan had me howling in laughter at the tale of her experience on the London Eye - not a place for someone like me who is scared of heights and then has to suffer for the entire ride in a state of abject terror.

She also said something to me that gave me a lightbulb moment. When Sarah is deciding what to write about for her next novel, she thinks about what she knows and then about what she would like to know more about. For example, if you've read her excellent novel, Nice Girls Do about a garden historian who goes to work on an estate (and comes across the charismatic grandson of the client and also the estate gardener), you will have most likely not only thoroughly enjoyed the book for the romance but also for the fascinating insight into the symbolism of the gardens at these historic places as it all intertwines. So clever and a memorable story that certainly stayed in my mind.

I also had a chat with the lovely Victoria Connelly whose book, Flights of Angels (Unter Deinem Stern) has been made into a film and is currently under production in Berlin. I said a quick hello to Liz Fenwick
and have to say that even though these people have lovely photos on their websites/blogs they all look so much prettier in the flesh.

As does the exceedingly talented and funny Jill Mansell who gave a brilliant and amusing talk at the end of the day about how she started writing and answered questions about her writing day. When asked about her writing place, Jill said that she sits in her lounge with her feet up and writes (by hand with a Harley Davidson pens) with the tv on and doesn't understand successful people who have lovely homes who sit in sheds at the bottom of their gardens. Okay, I may not be successful (I'm working on it) but I am one of those shed-dwellers and I can see why this does appear a little strange but I find that once I go into my shed, I'm in my own little world and also the rest of the family know not to interrupt me unless they have to.

Right now that I've written about the end of the day, I shall now tell you about the talks that I attended.

I started off with a workshop given by Diane Pearson, President of the RNA who began her career in publishing with Jonathan Cape Ltd and as well as being a successful writer she was also senior editor at Transworld for thirty-eight years. We had to send in the first two lines of our novel together with a 200 word synopsis. This was read out to the attendees (an angst-ridden moment for me) and then discussed. What did we think? Would we want to read on? How could we improve our wording?

I was stunned but delighted when everyone laughed at my first two lines (thankfully the book is supposed to be a romantic comedy) and Diane Pearson thought my synopsis good and said that she wouldn't change a word of it. I picked myself up from the floor and continued to take notes.

Opening Lines should contain: the mood/tone/content and should encapsulate what book is about.
- You should have a provocative title that links with the first line. Look at good examples for a clue as to how this is done ie Penmarric by Susan Howatch, Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth, Pride & Prejudice is a well-known first line and one that completely encapsulates the entire novel and Penny Vincenzi, Windfall.

Synopsis - Diane Pearson said that as an editor she preferred a short synopsis that was almost a blurb and not the entire story, just hint at the end. She suggested saying in the cover letter that you send with your submission that a fuller synopsis could be sent if required.
- Make sure you have the character definitions in the synopsis, ie whether they are manipulative, sexy but inarticulate etc and make sure that they knit with the plot.
- It should set the situation of the book, describe the characters and give a tantalising look at the book.
- For historicals or HMB she thought a title ie March 1456, Portugal, was a good idea too.

DP also advised that a book shouldn't begin with dialogue although thought that this was probably okay with chicklit (mine does start with dialogue).

Next was, 'Polishing Your Manuscript' with Anna Jacobs. You have to:

-Build your strengths/develope your weaknesses.
- She said not to worry about getting the first draft right, but get it written.
- There are 4 basic needs for a Polisher (See Robert McKee's, Story). You need to:
1. Need to know your craft
2. Need time to polish your m/s - AJ suggestd setting your book aside for a year (yes, an entire year), write another novel and then come back to the original one. She says you will see at a glance what is wrong with it if you do this. If you leave it for a while you can then come back and read the novel as a reader, rather than the writer and will be able to polish the story/plot/actions.
3. Need to know your polishing needs - the first few chapters are so important, but you need good pace and tension all the way through with twists and turns.
4. Need to know your market - bear in mind market and genre keys when polishing. You have to give your reader what they hope for and more than they imagined. You need to satisfy your reader and then they will read your next book.

- Think, 'What if?'. Make the story easy to follow and gripping, give it a clear storyline but not too many characters.
- Narrative thread - give your book to two trusted readers who can give you their own pov and will be able to tell you if the story is clear.
- You have to get the story right. Is is a good story?
- Do not introduce too many characters into the first chapter.
- Are the steps visible and showing you how you got to a certain situation.
- Read widely and what you would like to write.
- Think of the time element. How long is the plot?
- Don't give away all of the plot in the first chapter
- Do give enough twists and turns throughout the book - as Robert McKee says, plot means events must be selected and their pattern displayed.

PACE - This is the last skill to master and you need to have mastered the other four needs first.
- See, Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman (I have this, it's excellent). You have to remember to have changes/surprises/developments. Think about how the plot develops and the plot points.
- Something has to happen in each scene that develops the story as a whole.
- Not too much description, just a bit at a time & only when needed. Remember that readers have an imagination.
- Cut at least 5,000 words when you polish to help tighten the plot.
- Remove repetition of words and action (this will add to the 5,000 words and help with the tightening).
- Even a small bit of action will increase pace.

Quotes Anna Jacobs gave us were excellent, such as:
John Jakes, "Make them laugh, make them cry, make them wait, above all make them wait"

CHARACTERS - Are they interesting/vivid enough, do you care about them? Show them in action to show their characteristics. Readers want to know character's passion, pain, etc. Nice ordinary characters are boring, there must be something about them. For help with sub-characters read Friday's Child by Georgette Heyer and look at Ferdy Fakenham. Read Donald Maas, Writing the Breakout Novel.
- Check each scene/twist - can you bring extra tears/worry/laughter to your reader for maximum impact?
- Add a new element or re-arrange the story if necessary, maybe add a new thread.
- Stay open to inspiration.

ENDING - Remember this sells your next book
- Leave the reader richly satisfied
- Have you got a new twist at the ending. James Frey said something similar to, 'A truly great climax/resolution has some element of surprise.'

Anna polishes the end of her book then repolishes the entire book and then re-repolishes her ending incase she needs to add a thread to make the ending even better.
- Towards the end do a list to make sure you've tied up all your sub-characters and then tie up the major characters at the very end.
- Polishing is a never ending battle against cliches.
- Make your book fit the genre but remember to give it a different slant.

The first draft writes the story, after, do the polishing, micro-polishing. Get the story right first, then the detail and the words, sentence structures, lengths etc.
- Every now and then plant a question.
- Work on your vocabulary, ie. First draft: "Mary walked up the hill." Second draft: "Mary limped painfully up the hill."
- Don't use character proper names too much, or start the sentences with the same word.
- Read aloud if the dialogue isn't quite right.
- Don't overload the details/description as it impedes the action.
- Polish yourself as a writer - go on self development programmes, write more in an effort to develope.
- Set yourself realistic goals - Short term/mid term/long term ones
- Where to you want to go.
- Study genre leaders and learn from other genres.

Imagine a Friday in 10 years time when everything has gone right and you've reached your goal. It will tell you what you want.

The most important thing that Anna had to say to us though was, 'WRITE'.

I shall have to tell you all about Anna Scamans: "Sense of Place"; Beryl Kingston: "Let's Play Pygmalion" creating characters and Sue Moorcroft's "What do you mean, you can't write short stories?" tomorrow as I still have to do 400 words to catch up on my 100 Words A Day and then race to collect S from her day of activities with her school mates.

I hope I didn't repeat myself too much and that everything I've posted here is accurate but as I've taken everything from my dreadful handwriting on my notepad, I could have forgotten bits. I've had to post this as quickly as possible and hope that you find my notes helpful.

Sunday 6 July 2008

Richard Armitage Flew Me To Jersey

Having met with my lovely aunt today and eaten far too much for lunch, R & I boarded the plane only for the captain to announce that Richard Armitage would be flying us to Jersey. Imagine how I perked up on this snippet of information (rather too much judging by R's expression).

However, it immediately transpired that the Richard Armitage in question was a First Officer and not the dashing leatherclad actor that I have such a passion for. Mind you if he was the chap that I spotted through the door of the flight deck then he was rather dashing too.

As you can probably tell by this garbled post, I've just arrived back and now have to unpack and gather myself before S is delivered back home and we have to organize ourselves for her Activity Week starting tomorrow morning. I do promise though that I shall tell you all about yet another brilliant RNA Conference organized by the incredibly hard-working Jan, Roger and the Committee.

I had a wonderful day and well as meeting and having several chats during breaks and over lunch with the fabulous Ray-Anne Lutener (wearing the most divine shoes that have given me a severe case of shoe envy), have come home inspired and having gained much useful information. Needless to say I have also had to pack five/six books from my Goodie Bag and five others that I bought whilst there into R's bag. I shall say no more until tomorrow.

Thursday 3 July 2008

What's In A Name?

I don't know about you but I have a mental battle with myself when I have to choose names for my characters. There are certain names that pretty much tell you how old the person is. Take my name, for example, when someone calls out one of the following, 'Debs', 'Debbie' or 'Deborah' then at least five women in my office immediately turn round to answer. Although there have been times when none of us bother as we assume that they mean one of the other 'Debs' etc. I would think that all of us except one who is a bit younger, are the same age and if you don't know how old that is, then I'm not going to be the one to tell you.

For my characters though, I generally picture them and then imagine what he/she is called and stick to that name but sometimes the name I come up with isn't all that interesting. I also associate names with people that I know, which can be a little off-putting if the dashing hero in a book that I'm reading has the same name as someone particularly ghastly.

I have several baby name books, which are well thumbed and love looking up their meanings. My name means 'Bee' in Hebrew and Melissa is Greek and also means 'Bee'. The picture depicts the Chinese version of 'Deborah'. I wouldn't fancy having to write that every day.

I'm off to pack my bag for Chichester, RNA here I come. I hope you all have a relaxing weekend and I shall let you know how it went on my return.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

Clever S & Chill Time - For One Night Only

Tonight I'm having a glass or two of my wine of choice, Casal Mendes. R found this for me a couple of years ago (I think he bought it because it was a cheaper option to what I wanted at the time) and I love it. So after the usual 100 words, working on RP for a bit, chomping on a few midget gems and blogging just a tad, I shall meander off to the lounge with my Penny Vincenzi book (loving it) and a glass of chilled vino and relax.

Tomorrow, I'll be hurrying to collect the dog after work, then collecting S and her chocolate brownies (if she hasn't given them all away) from a Rounders match, then home for supper and back on to the computer again, so will have a busier evening than tonight. Talking of S, she arrived home last night from her school prizegiving bearing a medal for RS (or is it RE now?). I was delighted and told her how clever she was. "Not really, Mum," she said. "I would rather have won it for Science." I told her that she should be thrilled that she's the best in her class at something. I certainly never was. Apart from talking too much, gazing out of the window and generally being a first class pain in the teacher's neck.

I'm looking forward to the Romantic Novelists Association Annual Conference this weekend in Chichester. As usual I can only make the Saturday as I shall be spending the rest of the weekend catching up with R. It will be my third time attending and I always return home with a notepad filled with pages of useful information and advice (yes, of course I've used this excuse to buy a new one). It is a fascinating day that will no doubt pass all too quickly but something that I look forward to each year.

I haven't been to Chichester before and can't wait to have a wander around. So if you're going to be there, do say 'Hi'. I'll be the ditsy looking blonde with the bemused expression on her face and a shiny new pink & blue striped notebook.

Tuesday 1 July 2008

Raising Money for War Child

For those of you who have bought a copy of You're Not The Only One, you'll be pleased to know that we've helped raise £1,000 for the charity War Child in under three weeks, see Peach's blog. This is a brilliant result and for those of you who haven't yet bought the book, what are you waiting for?

To order the book, please click on the picture on the right of this blog and it will take you straight there. It's a great read, full of excellent stories and supporting an extremely good cause.

I'm now going to do my 100 words then dash to the shops to buy ingredients for chocolate brownies for S's cookery class on Thursday and then dropping them off at her father's house.

J is well on his way to Cambodia armed with cream for his toe and a dodgy haircut. Well, what on earth made him ask me to cut his hair. He knows how useless I am normally but at 10pm the night before he was leaving was asking for trouble. So if you come across a load of messy boys trekking in Thailand and one of them has a typical 'mother's haircut' it could be my son.