Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Lucky Seven

The fabulous and talented Lindsay Pryor has tagged me in a blog chain called The Lucky Seven, and since I am reduced to cleaning the house while I wait for my editor to give me the go-ahead (hopefully) on one of my story proposals, it is a welcome diversion *puts down the bleach and toilet brush*

The rules:

Post 7 lines from an unpublished work of fiction
Go to page 7 or 77, go to line 7 and post the next 7 lines or sentences exactly as you see them. No cheating!

So here we are. Seven lines from my unpublished New Voices MS, 'Honeymoon With A Stranger', which one day I hope to return to and rework and get out there! In this scene the heroine, Anna, has just twisted her ankle and is now on the phone to her pushy mother...

'I'm not thinking about your ridiculous day job, I'm thinking about the photo shoot, darling! You'll need to look glamorous, not swathed in bandages. The sooner you give this ludicrous hiding-out idea up the better. There's still huge interest in the break-up, Johnny's been working the press like mad and they say his record's on target for the Christmas Number One.'

'Mum, I couldn't care less what Johnny's doing and there's going to be no photo-shoot. I'm fine here. This place belongs to Jack Hamilton-Walsh and it's a publicity-free zone, thank goodness. It's perfect.'

'You don't mean the rugby player?' Her mother zoomed in. 'Mr Fix-It?'

That's it. Obligation fulfilled. I know I need to tag another seven people but this thing has run for a while now and I'm going to struggle to  find someone who hasn't already been hit! So if you would like to keep the chain alive, please consider yourself tagged and let me know so I can come and read your seven.

Back soon, hopefully with feedback on my story proposals. Bye for now.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Nailing Down The Process...

I've hit send on four new story proposals and I'm waiting for feedback on which of these the RIVA team think are suitable to develop. (And crossing everything that at least one of them will hit the mark, it wouldn't be the first time if all four were knocked back). So I thought I'd make use of the waiting time by looking back at what I got right with this last MS that sold, as opposed to the previous stories that didn't achieve those dizzy heights.

I love reading blog posts by authors talking about their 'process'. I adore the idea that there are a list of rules which, if I follow them faithfully, the end result will be a saleable MS. This trait slops over into other areas of my life - I had a shelf full of How-To books on baby rearing. I read Gina Ford and Tracy Hogg, I am a devotee of Dr Christopher Green's Toddler Taming. I wanted to believe that if I followed a set of rules the small one would sleep through the night at six weeks. Some of the rules worked and some didn't (the small one didn't sleep through for MONTHS *grits teeth at memory*). And it's the same with my How-To books about writing. Some of it works for me and some of it doesn't. The trick is to pick out the things that do work.

I thought I'd start with planning, since that is one point that I have nailed down about myself. I am not a pantser. I am in awe of them. How do they manage? How do they know they can sustain their conflict and story for the full 50k? I need to know where I'm going at all times. 

My most recent submission that didn't make a sale was my New Voices entry, Honeymoon With A Stranger, and as I've mentioned before, that story was an example of me starting out as a pantser. I dashed off one chapter because I thought I had an interesting initial hook situation, but I had no idea where the story was going after that. None of that mattered because I didn't expect it to get anywhere in the competition. It placed well in NV because I had no choice but to do some plot development and I had Liz Fielding in the background advising me and helping me brainstorm, but the moment the competition finished and I tried to complete the MS, it got harder and harder to continue with every chapter. I floundered around, not knowing where I was heading, my conflicts weren't strong enough, and as a result the story was rejected by M&B. My characters were good, dialogue and humour worked, but the whole thing fell down because it didn't have a decent story that could sustain me through 50k.

So when I started writing Secrets of the Rich and Famous, with editorial guidance, pantsing was out and planning was most definitely in. I did detailed character interviews and I had to submit a detailed story plan to the editor before I wrote so much as a word. It was broken down into twelve stages - I knew what was going to happen in every chapter, I knew how it was going to end. And in producing this plan, I used a plotboard. I hadn't done this before, and I have to admit part of the attraction was the fiddling around with stationery and colour coding - I like all that! This is what my plotboard looked like when I started out.

Pretty bare really. I split it up into five acts, put in lines for the mid-point, turning points and the black moment, and slapped on post-its for scene ideas and roughly where I thought they would fit in.

I planned to update the board as I went along, adding new ideas as they came to me etc, but this picture is also exactly what the board looked like when I finished the story. For some reason I never got round to adding to it and I never really referred to it, it just sat in my spare room. (At one point I hung the washing too close to it on the airer and it got dripped on - hence the pink streak!) 

In conclusion therefore, I could assume that plotboarding just isn't for me. But I know deep down that setting this thing up helped. It helped a lot. It made me visualise how the story played out and it forced me to think about how and where different events and developments happened in my story. And when I actually did get stuck into the writing I didn't have any problems with sagging middles or floundering about what would happen next, like I did with Honeymoon.

So this time round, I will be doing all the five act organising and plotting all over again. I might not plotboard - maybe I will set up a spreadsheet or draw a diagram, I haven't really decided - but I will do something visual to nail the story down before I start writing.

What works for you? Do you plan or do you dive in and pants?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Monday, 11 June 2012

An Update and a Title!

I am just about back down to earth now after a lovely Jubilee weekend of sunshine and celebrating. (There was wine, lots of it!) Before the long weekend my editor put me out of my misery as I waited for an email requesting revisions, or worse rewrites of the last quarter, by informing me they will be accepting the ms without further revisions. I was so relieved that I initially skipped over the last part of the email in which she offered me a contract  for my next two stories. To say I am delighted is an understatement. The DH broke open a bottle of champagne we'd put away years ago for a special occasion - until now there hadn't been one special enough!

I now have a title ....drum roll... 'Secrets of the Rich and Famous'. I'm liking the title lots - it's a good reflection of what happens in the story without being sledgehammer-descriptive. What I don't yet have is a mainstream release date - although I was told December when I got the call, the release is on hold for now while RIVA undergoes a relaunch a bit later this year. Just wait until you see the covers, they are to die for! It is a terrifically exciting time to have joined the line and I can't wait to see how it develops from here.

So that's my news for now. I'm getting back to normal. I've ejected the older kids back to school and I'm in the middle of writing proposals for my next story. I am also trying to nail down all the things I did right this time that I got wrong before - in other words finding my writing process. There's definitely another post in there.

Thanks so much everyone for all the lovely comments I've had. This has been a super happy few weeks for me.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The Power Of Four

I have been tagged by the fabulous Michelle Smart. I now have a bunch of questions to answer and I have to pass it on by tagging four more people, apologies all!

 So here goes...

 Four places I have worked...

1) When I was a student back in 1993 I spent eight weeks temping as a Laundry Assistant for Anchor Foods at their Swindon factory. It involved loading huge machines with overalls covered in dairy products and then folding them up at the end once they were clean. I loathed the overalls used by the flavoured butter crew as when you checked the pockets you got a handful of garlic butter. Bleurgh!

2) Anchor was closely followed by a stint in the kitchens for an IT company. I was in charge of custard and don't think I got the proper consistency even once.

3) 2 years as a Recruitment Consultant for Reed Employment taught me that I am far too apologetic to be good at telesales. (Would you mind awfully giving me a couple of minutes of your time to talk about staffing needs? Oh, you've gone...)

4) Most recently I worked in various admin roles for the NHS. Best job ever because I worked with my best friends. Every day was like a party!

Four films I could watch over and over...

1) Jaws - first watched with my lovely dad when I was just a kid. The three lead actors and the suspense were perfection. I can be very boring about this film!

2) Dirty Dancing - Patrick Swayze. Need I say more.

3) Paint Your Wagon - a childhood favourite, laugh out loud, love it.

4) 50 First Dates - favourite romcom, best twist on the amnesia theme ever!

Four TV Shows... 

1) Dexter - I make the DH eke each series out over 6 months so I don't have to wait too long for the next one. Sad.
2) Supernatural - Dean. Closely followed by Castiel. If you watch you'll understand!
3) Game of Thrones - As long as I concentrate I can follow it.
4) Homeland - Best thing on TV in years. Except Dexter.

Four authors I enjoy...

1) Stephen King - the master of nostalgic childhood storytelling
2) Sue Townsend - laugh out loud fabulousness
3) Jill Mansell - I like my romance funny
4) Ally Blake (though close call with a number of other Harlequin authors) - I like funny, light-hearted escapism.

Four places I've travelled to... 

1) Venezuela
2) Italy (though not enough of it)
3) Formentera - Balearic Island holidays as a kid
4) France

Four websites I visit daily... 

1) Blogger
2) Twitter
3) Hotmail
4) Facebook

 Four favourite foods...

 1) Curry
 2) Christmas lunch with everything
 3) Chocolate
 4) Jelly Tots

 Four places I'd rather be...

 1) On a lounger by a pool in the sunshine anywhere exotic
 2) 3) and 4) See above

Four people I want to tag...

1) Tora Williams
2) Alexandra Fiennes
3) Jo Fino
4) Aurelia B Rowl

Sorry everyone!

Back soon with more news. Have a fabulous rest of the week!