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Diary of a hopeful author: Now is the future we haven’t recognised yet…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…

Photo of a Diary

Ok, so, a LOT is happening, but still I cannot divulge events. Not specifically. Not yet. But hold on! Soon, I can tell you what’s a foot writing wise for me, and it is BIG.

So, until then a) thanks for hanging on (it’ll be worth it, promise), and b) here’s something for you to read that I wrote earlier. It’s a column I did last year for the Citizen and Echo, and it’s about the future. Not in a sci-fi/fantasy way, you understand, although that, to be fair, has a lot going for it. Step forward The Hunger Games. And Spock.

No, this piece is about how while sure, the future and our planning for it is good, seeing what we have in the here and now will get us equally far in life. If not a little further.

Stay tuned…

“Now is the future we haven’t recognised yet” – Citizen & Echo Column, Saturday 6th April, 2013

In 1988, the LA Times asked 30 futurologists what life would be like 25 years in the future. Some predictions they got right, like knowing we’d all end up with Satnavs in our cars, use emails to replace paper, or teleconference via Skype. Others they got utterly wrong. Robotic man-servants were one failure (or not, depending on your viewpoint), and body paint that protected against radioactivity was another doomed prophecy.

Thing is, what we tend to do, us people, us humans, is spend our time forecasting what the future will bring. We can’t help it. A bit like running away from something scary, we’re inbuilt to guess the future, to envisage technologies, to foretell catastrophic world events. It’s like a whole new way to be nosey, just with permission.

And so to pondering on our own lives. 1988, the year the report was compiled, found me at 14-years old, my mind on Madonna song lyrics and my heart won over by Morten Harket from A-ha. Days, weeks would be spent gabbling about our futures. It was our topic du jour, desperate as we were to know what was going to happen, to predict like some cosmic crystal ball what was in store for us.

Some of it I got right. I did go to University, although no one could have predicted the almost world-record breaking amount of times I missed the final two lectures each Friday afternoon to hit the student union bar early. And married, I got married, happily, gladly and without the need to be dragged down the aisle.

But there comes a point when this wondering about the future has to stop, and you come to realise, in the twilight of the day that it’s not about what’s ahead – it’s about what’s happening now.

See, spend too much time pondering the future and you’ll miss things, you’ll miss life. Family, friends, the daft little things that make you smile. Watching your kids in school plays. Belly-laughing on a rare night out. Because that’s the stuff we have, the here, the now, that’s the gold. Obsess instead with prophecies and we end up with a future we didn’t intend to have all because we ignored the present we did.

Yes, our futures are important. Yes, heck, we need ambition, but I’m going to try concentrating on today. That way tomorrow will come all by itself.

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

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Diary of a hopeful author: Why I write with a TV series playing in the background

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Cor blimey moses, things are busy. The good news on the past few weeks is that the outline of my novel (book 1) has now been revised (all 50 odd pages of it), plus the full synopsis’ for books 2 and 3 in the series have been fully written and approved.

So, all that’s left over now is to do a pretty much final draft of the manuscript of book 1 and hey presto! It will be ready for publishers to read. So, you know, not a lot to do. To be honest, it is great. Now that the outline has been picked part by editors then put back together, the difference it is making when it comes to writing the actual manuscript is amazing.

If you are writing a novel my advice is this: do your outline first. Preferably, write it chapter by chapter, scene by scene. What this means is that when it comes to writing, you can just write because all the planning is already done. Sure, you may have to tweak along the way, stare blankly at that winking cursor on the screen, but seriously, it makes all the difference. And it will get you to the finish line faster, and that’s something we all love.

So, while I was writing, I thought of a post I did several months ago. See, my mind is odd. I cannot work in silence. If I do, my thoughts wander and, bizarrely, I get nothing done. At the moment, my background noise of choice is TV series The West Wing on my iPad. A few months ago, it was the TV programme, 24.  Writing & TV – not a bad working environment combo. Here’s the post…

How I write to episodes of 24 (March 2013)

How do you work? Or more’s the point – how do you write? It’s a subject of reasonably fevered discussion here and I’ll tell you why. Nine times out of ten, I can’t write in silence. It’s like time has stood still and my brain has frozen over. The reason I say all this is that the past week has seen me swimming in editing and writing. Sometimes it works out well, other, mah, not so much. But imagine my surprise when I realise that my best bouts of productivity come when I have 24 playing on my iPad in the background! It’s like having your cake and eating it. My friend thinks I’m nuts (don’t say it…) ‘Christ,’ she says, ‘how can you work with all that going on? If anyone so much as sneezes when I’m working at my desk, my mind implodes.’ Best not tell her then about the gun-shooting chase scenes in 24 then…

There is research out there that says that when a brain is multi-tasking, you know, lots of noise, activity, it can lock down on the task its owner needs to do.  Owner. It makes my brain sound like it’s a little puppy. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy…Anyway, of course, even though I am a woman, multi-tasking doesn’t always work out. I do find myself catching a scene of 24, for example, gauping at it then returning to my work and wondering what the hell I was writing about. And then it…Sorry, where was I?

It doesn’t just have to be episodes of 24 for me. In the past few months of writing and editing various projects I have got through: The entire series of My So Called Life (I learnt so much!); Series 1-4 of Prison Break (tattoos as maps – who knew?); over 10 films; 5 BBC documentaries; and one episode of Dennis the Menace (my daughter was off ill…). I’m like the hungry catapillar of box sets. Sometimes, when on the rare occasions TV and film on loop doesn’t boost my brain, I switch to music. We’re talking a bit of classical, jazz mainly. Sometimes only talking will do, so I go to BBC radio 5 or 4. If I’m feeling really with it, I’ll go to radio 1, but, as I am not below 25, this has literally only happened once.

As I shuffle through the rest of this week, I shall be watching 24 on loop. In fact, as I write this at, let’s see, 5.40 a.m., Episode 16 of Season 3 is playing on my iPad. It does make me feel quite sneaky, watching programmes when a) I am working and b) everyone else is still asleep. It’s like sneaking out of class at school without permission and going down the shops. Whether I’ll get a load of work done this week is still to be seen. But hey, at least I’ll know what’s happening to Jack Bauer and his team. Him and Denice the Menace.

So, how do you work or write? Which camp are you on: Is it total silence or a little bit of noise?

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: The book pulping has to stop

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of 

Photo of a Diarya Hopeful Author…

Call me old-school, but I like books. Not simply the e-ones, although, to be fair, they are amazing, increasing, as they do, the universal access to reading and information and the wonder that is knowledge. But books, the ones with spines and pages and the heady scent of learning – they are something else. And so, I bring to you this week – whilst  I swim in the deep end of my final book edit -a piece I wrote back in June 2012 for an old ‘Media Monday’ post, all about how Manchester Central Library were going to cull their book stores, pulping them, just like a similar proposal for New York Central Library.  Have a read and see what you think. I, meanwhile, shall go edit another 20,000 words…

 

“They’re pulping all the books” – Media Monday post – June 2012

Book pulping. Is it a) a new a Tarintino film; b) a fist-fight at a literary festival; or is it c) the shredding of books from a library. Well, this week, Manchester Central Library has found itself in a pulping mess after – in an open letter to the Head Librarian (you can read it here) – a host of eminent literary names called for a halt to the destruction of thousands of library books from the vaults of the long-standing library.

According to The Guardian, it turns out that for the past 18-months, Manchester Central Library has been culling – pulping – its stack of non-fiction books because renovations for the elegant domed building have not included enough room for, well, all the books.  You’ve got to question what on earth they were they thinking when the renovation decisions were being made. Just imagine the meeting where they discussed the library’s future. ‘Right, so, we need to renovate, yes?’ Cue murmurs of agreement. ‘It’s going to cost £170million and take three years. It will look fabulous. Any other considerations? Anyone? We’ll have enough space, right? Right? Great. Custard slice?’ Hmmm.  The thing is, I understand why libraries

Manchester Central LibraryManchester Central Library – but where are the books?

have this predicament. The more books they have, the more space to store them becomes an issue – it is a problem the New York Central Library is experiencing right now in their own renovations process.

But the point of a library is to have books. And those books are used by the people to learn, to expand their knowledge. Take older books away and you take away a history, a timeline of information and a generation of experience and thought. It turns out I’m not the only one who thinks this way. In their open letter, the literary figures said: “We are concerned that far too much of the irreplaceable collection is in danger of being lost forever. We demand that the current destruction of stock is halted and that a thorough investigation of the library’s disposal policy is carried out.”

In this age of the digital book, there is a clear argument that the use of books via such media can provide constant access to literature resources whilst saving valuable space and money. This I agree with in many ways. But to destroy old books, just like that, with no consultation with the public who use them and in many ways you could argue own them? That’s wrong. Would artifacts be destroyed from a museum? Or Royal documents or jewels be scrapped? Of course not – so why these books?

The Manchester Central Library was built in the Great Depression as a symbol of hope, its vast circular inscription reading “exalt wisdom and she shall promote thee”. Maybe, before they destroy any more books, the powers that be should stop and read that inscription for a second. At least it’s one set of words that can’t be pulped – I hear stone’s is hell to pick out of a shredder.

 What do you think? Should books be pulped or kept?

 Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…*

Diary of a hopeful author: How to be a better proof reader. Sort of.

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

I bring good news. Well, it’s good news for me; you, however, may not share in my celebration, unshackled,as you are, by the endless workings of this blooming novel, but still – I shall share with you. Yes, the news is that I’ve (finally) finished the 3rd edit round of my book – and I am mighty pleased. Edit three was an additional, character development edit layer, where I worked on the main character, her traits and general characterisation throughout the book. And while I’d like to think – after reviewing 90,000 words and cutting to 70,000 – it was over, I’m having to slot in another final edit, a vital one: edit number 4 – the proof check. Be afraid.

So, while I work on that to a deadline, I bring you to a post I wrote back in January on my traditionally, and quite frankly, rubbish proof reading skills – and how to get better at it. (Top tip: when proof checking grammar etc, I read it in the voice of a robot. I do. I sound daft as a brush, but it works. God, this life.) Enjoy!

“How to be better at proof reading. Sort of…” (January, 2013)

It’s been all about the edit this week. But not as we know it. Last week I (finally) finished my second novel, and while I’m chuffed to bits, I am relieved not to look at it for a while because the amount of things to do while I wrote it have been piling up around my head – the biggest of which is my first novel. ‘Honey,’ my hubbie says as he reads through my weekly column before I send it to my editor, ‘I corrected a few mistakes there for you.’ I nod my weary head and take the laptop from him.

You see, as well as not being able to cook for toffee (I burn soup), I am utterly rubbish at proofreading.  I’ve mentioned this slight downfall of mine in this blog before and how it is a bit of a pain, considering my profession. It’s a bit like a doctor saying diagnosing isn’t their strong point, a government saying it’s not really the best at closing tax-haven loopholes (little bit topical there, see…) or a dog not quite being able to aim at the lamppost correctly – it’s supposed to be what they do.

It’s because of my little weakness that I find myself in the frantic position of having to re-edit my first book, The Boy Who Played Guitar. The fantastic thing about publishing on to Amazon has been that it has put me out there and given me amazing feedback on what I can do. I’ve been lucky; everyone has been positive. The reviews have been good and readers have loved the heart-warming, sad tale, the twists, the turns, the characters. The only downside is the odd mistake littered here and there because of, quite frankly, my crap proof reading skills – and readers deserve a well-proof read book with as little mistakes in it as possible. I did proof read the book before I self-published it – and it got amazing feedback from literary agents – but the thing is I did it all my myself, pulling an all-nighter to do so, so that, by the time I reached the end of the novel, I was bleary-eyed, grumpy and unable to check a my kids’ homework for errors, never mind a piece of writing. In fact, have you spotted any mistakes in this piece? No? Go on, have a look…See, told yoo…

One of the most crucial things I have learnt since first publishing my book is this: get someone to help. Anyone will do. Your neighbour (I did), your mates, parents, spouse (it only causes a few arguments, so…) Just be ready for some clear, honest critiquing and always pick someone who is going to tell it to you straight. Best not pick a politician then. I have been proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar now since Saturday and it’s – touch wood – going okay. I did stay up until 2 a.m. on Saturday night, but got so tired I had to have two cat naps to keep going. When it got to my eyes dosing off for the third time I decided to call it a day, well, night – I’d make more mistakes proofreading half asleep, and believe me, I can make mistakes at the best of times (just ask my kids…).

Our youngest is off ill today, so I’ll spend the day catching up with paperwork and emails while I keep an eye on her (sore throat – poor poppet) That means I should be able to finish proofreading tonight and all day tomorrow. After that, I’ll be ready to re-upload it to Amazon and then? Contact as many blogs I know who take submissions of books for review. A scary thought, but highly essential. Once that’s done, it’s back to more editing, but this time of my second novel. Dear God, no wonder I’m cream crackered. ‘Mum,’ says our youngest, ‘I’m cream crackered, too.’ Her voice makes me jump – she is behind me, reading as I type. ‘Honey, you snuck up on me.’ She smiles. ‘Sorry.’ Then, as she gets back into bed, she says, ‘Mum, you spelt ‘you’ wrong in paragraph three.’ I look. She is right. She’s 8-years old. Told you I was rubbish at proof reading.

 Have any proof reading top-tips to share? Do let me know – I need all the help I can get…

Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…*

Diary of a hopeful author: The day I accidentally got into the wrong car

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

This week I’ve been impatient and I thought, hey, this sounds familiar. Turns out, it is, familiar, I mean, to me, this impatience thing, the jitteriness that makes me forge an inability to wait for the good stuff like a toddler struggles to wait to for the loo.

Rubbish analogies aside, while I now approach the end of edit number 3 of my second novel, I looked to my blog to trawl for posts on impatience and happened upon this one. The reason I like it isn’t just because it’s a memory road trip for me on self-publishing my first book, but it contains a very funny, real anecdote about me, basically, getting into the wrong car.

So, if you’re getting fed up with the pace of how your work is going, my message is this: hold  on. Get stuck in and keep going. Just don’t get into the wrong car.

Being impatient gets me into the wrong car

Last  week I had a cold, this week I have the sulks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking toddler tantrums here, we’re talking a mild, lingering bottom lip, and like a case of bad flatulence, it won’t shift.

The reason for my dedums is simple: I am impatient. ‘You’re not checking your book sales again, are you?’ my husband asks as he sticks his head around the study door. I attempt to cover the screen with my palm, but, like a News of the Word Editor in a court room, it is useless.

‘I just wanted to see how it was doing,’ I say, knowing how whiny my voice sounds. ‘And,’ I continue, rising an octave to rival Mariah Carey, ‘things have gone quiet!’ My husband sighs. He is used to me and so deploys the only weapon he knows will work. ‘Do you want me to pick you up some chocolate for tonight?’ ‘Yes, please,’ I choke, and shuffle downstairs behind him to put the kettle on. ‘You know,’ my husband says, grabbing a mug and chucking in a tea-bag (actually, he doesn’t really make tea, but hey! I’m a fiction writer! I ‘m gonna run with it!) ‘you just need to be patient. You’re working really hard. It’ll all come together. You just have to wait.’

At this juncture, I must tell you a little story. As I said, I am an impatient sort. I want things to happen pretty much immediately, not only in work, but in almost all aspects of my life. Learning patience – after cooking for kids and understanding what’s happening in The West Wing – is the singularly most difficult thing I have learned to do.

So, to the story. One day, let us say three years ago, we were returning from a family trip to Wales to visit my husband’s grandmother. At the time our girls were aged 7 and 5 and at an age when we needed to stop at the delightful motorway services for a nature break or three. My bladder never quite being the same after two babies (sorry, men folk), I also needed to stop. The girls having now falling asleep, we agreed that I would nip out to use the facilities and run back.

Now, it is important to point out here that I was , even then, in the iron-grip of writing and had a deadline to meet for a Guardian travel writing competition. Needless to say, I was keen to get out and get in with maximum speed and with my skirt not in my knickers. All goes well. I run in, do what I need to do, and then, my mind on the Guardian job, I sprint out of the automatic doors and into the car park. Scanning the cars, my impatient autopilot kicks in, and, spotting our red Freelander, I peg it over and, hauling the door open, throw my self on to the passenger seat panting, ‘Come on! Let’s get a move on!’

Now, I don’t know about you, but do you know that dream when you are walking somewhere and then you look down and you are completely naked, in the nuddy, and you feel a wave of mortification wash over you? Can you recall that feeling? Well, this feeling is what came over me when, glancing from the corner of my eye I notice that the car seats in the back are different to my girls’ seats. Strange. And then my eyes fall to the seat covers – leather. What the? Ours are fabric. And then it hits me. I am in the wrong car. The wrong car.

I look up to see a man, mid-forties, balding, frowning, staring at me, mouth agape, finger, probably, hovering over 999. ‘OhmigodI’msorry!’ I blurt, and, faster than you can say, ‘naked dream’, I am out of that car and breathing like a phantom caller in a film sketch scanning the parking lot like a crazy woman. When I eventually locate our family car, my husband and girls are in fits of laughter, the whole sorry episode not having missed their unforgiving eyes, and it has made their day. ‘Mum got into a strange man’s car!’ they yelp. ‘Just drive,’ I mutter. But it is a good five minutes before we can leave because my husband is laughing too much for his eyes to focus.

Back in the study and my mind in a work muddle, I break up the fugg by going for a run to clear my head. Showered and back at my desk, I decide to look through my marketing notes for my book The Boy Who Played Guitar. On it there is a post-it note with my writing scrawled on it. I squint (even I can’t read my own writing it seems). The note says: ‘Re-edit book. Get friend to help.’ And it comes back to me. A friend of mine read The Boy Who Played Guitar and loved it – even said she prefered it to David Nicholl’s One Day, to which I choked on my Mars Bar. Crucially, she said that she would be happy to re-edit because my proof reading skills are almost as bad as my patience skills (Oh keep up alredy! See?). Not that there is much wrong with the first version – just the odd mistype here and there (it’s only 99p…)

But, if we re-edited, it would mean that I could begin to submit The Boy Who Played Guitar to book review blogs, just like the amazing Amanda Hocking did to publicise her book. At least then I would be actively doing something to promote it and then perhaps I could calm down.

That night, me and the hubbie catch up. ‘How was your day?’ he asks. ‘Oh, I got another chapter of my next novel written. I’ve only got five chapters to go now.’ ‘Wow,’ he says, ‘how many words have you written now?’ I think. ‘67,000, roughly.’ We sit and stare out the window as the number count lingers in the air. ‘Oh,’ I say, ‘and I’m re-proof reading The Boy Who Played Guitar so I can get it back out there.’

He smiles at me. ‘So you’re feeling a bit better then, a bit happier?’ I consider this. I am lucky to do what I do, I tell myself. It could be worse – at least I am not a Chilean coal miner or the Greek Government, say. ‘Yep. Happier. I know I just have to wait a little longer for it all to work out.’ He jumps up. ‘That’s great,’ he says, ‘I’ll check on dinner.’ ‘What?’ I say, ‘you mean it’s not ready yet? How long does that oven take? Come on!’ My husband sighs and reaching down, hands me some chocolate.

**Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog…**

Diary of a hopeful author: How I write to episodes of 24…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

How do you work? Or more’s the point – how do you write? It’s a subject of reasonably fevered discussion here and I’ll tell you why. Nine times out of ten, I can’t write in silence. It’s like time has stood still and my brain has frozen over. The reason I say all this is that the past week has seen me swimming in editing and writing. Sometimes it works out well, other, mah, not so much. But imagine my surprise when I realise that my best bouts of productivity come when I have 24 playing on my iPad in the background! It’s like having your cake and eating it. My friend thinks I’m nuts (don’t say it…) ‘Christ,’ she says, ‘how can you work with all that going on? If anyone so much as sneezes when I’m working at my desk, my mind implodes.’ Best not tell her then about the gun-shooting chase scenes in 24 then…

There is research out there that says that when a brain is multi-tasking, you know, lots of noise, activity, it can lock down on the task its owner needs to do.  Owner. It makes my brain sound like it’s a little puppy. Actually, that’s not a bad analogy…Anyway, of course, even though I am a woman, multi-tasking doesn’t always work out. I do find myself catching a scene of 24, for example, gauping at it then returning to my work and wondering what the hell I was writing about. And then it…Sorry, where was I?

It doesn’t just have to be episodes of 24 for me. In the past few months of writing and editing various projects I have got through: The entire series of My So Called Life (I learnt so much!); Series 1-4 of Prison Break (tattoos as maps – who knew?); over 10 films; 5 BBC documentaries; and one episode of Dennis the Menace (my daughter was off ill…). I’m like the hungry catapillar of box sets. Sometimes, when on the rare occasions TV and film on loop doesn’t boost my brain, I switch to music. We’re talking a bit of classical, jazz mainly. Sometimes only talking will do, so I go to BBC radio 5 or 4. If I’m feeling really with it, I’ll go to radio 1, but, as I am not below 25, this has literally only happened once.

As I shuffle through the rest of this week, I shall be watching 24 on loop. In fact, as I write this at, let’s see, 5.40 a.m., Episode 16 of Season 3 is playing on my iPad. It does make me feel quite sneaky, watching programmes when a) I am working and b) everyone else is still asleep. It’s like sneaking out of class at school without permission and going down the shops. Whether I’ll get a load of work done this week is still to be seen. But hey, at least I’ll know what’s happening to Jack Bauer and his team. Him and Denice the Menace.

So, how do you work or write? Which camp are you on: Is it total silence or a little bit of noise?

 Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about speed cameras…**

Diary of a hopeful author: E.M.Forster is teaching me to write…

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

Sometimes your brain gets in a right old muddle. Do you ever get that feeling? When everything you do seems like your walking through a sludgy river and you’re hardly moving at all. Well this past week I’ve been editing my second novel and that is how it has been – walking through sludge. It’s not been all bad. I’ve had a great time procrastinating watching back to back episodes of 24 on Love Film.com, and I’m getting exceptionally skilled at making a pot of coffee in less than three minutes. I haven’t timed myself or anything. No, no… 

Anyhoo, twas during one of my more productive days – namely one where I was writing my column and not editing my book – that I wandered into Stroud library on my way home. There upon I stumbled upon (just picked up) a book that, quite frankly, has cleared my waters, as it were, to the point where I can finally see my boots (stay with me). The book is called Aspects of the Novel, and its author is the late, great E.M.Forster.  The book is a transcript of a series of lectures he gave back in 1927 to Cambridge University about, as you may have guessed, the novel.  In the lectures, he breaks down and analyses what it is that makes a great novel – and as a writer it is the best thing I have ever read. Forster was ahead of his time. Describing stories, plots, he is witty but grounded, informative yet inquisitive. Basically, he knows his stuff. There are six main areas he covers:

  1. The Story
  2. People (two lectures)
  3. The Plot
  4. Fantasy
  5. Prophecy
  6. Pattern and Rhythm

Right now, I’m immersed in The Plot lecture, but I have learnt so much.  Forster’s lectures have given me my confidence back a little – and if I’m honest with you, I’ve been lacking this for the last few weeks.  Take the story. Forster says the novel must tell a story. We all know this, you may think. And you’d be right. But then he goes on to talk about the story aspect of a novel. He says the story is essential, without which, novels cannot exist. It’s like a huge dose of reminders all in one go. Reminders like: story is different to plot. Story is: ‘The wife died and then the husband died.’ Whereas Plot is: ‘The wife died and then the husband died of grief.’ See? Also, in a story, the reader says, ‘and then?’; in a plot the reader says, ‘why?’.  Handy reminder, right? It’s things like this I already knew, but, when clouded by an edit of a book I am close to, they are aspects I sometimes forget. And forget them at my peril, because without them, basically, my novel would suck. Not E.M Forster’s words, but I think he would wholeheartedly agree.

His ‘People’ lecture is another aspect that has helped. Forster talks about round characters and flat characters. Dickens used flat characters. Flats are one that are, effectively, like a forest stream, predictable. Stereotypical, if you will. Yet rounded characters – as used by Jane Austen – like the sea, surprise us. They do unexpected acts, thoughts. This in particular was an eye opener to me.  Forster discusses having both types in a novel. The reason Dickens uses just flat characters is because he bounces the reader from one aspect to the next so you do not mind the shiftings in viewpoint, the shape of the characters. So if you’re as good as Dickens, go for it, flat your characters right out. But which ever way you roll, the most important point is this: make your characters convincing.

Well now, get me and my pep talk on novel-writing. There is so much more Forster dishes out that I could talk about but I don’t want to drone on so I will sush. What I will say is that if you are writing a novel, then get your hands on his book. Mine is only a library copy, so the important points I would like to pencil I have had to instead post-it note. The book now resembles a ticker-tape parade. I shall be buying my own copy very soon.

So, that’s been my week. I am now gradually walking faster through the sludge and at some point hope to make it to clear water (how far can I push this analogy?) Editing a book is great and rubbish all in one go. But at least now I have Forster on my side. Him and more episodes of 24. May your waters be clear….

Links: Aspects of the Novel on Amazon, E M Forster on Wikipedia

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about the endangered school playing field…**

Diary of a hopeful author: My new column – it’s for the Citizen & Echo!

It’s “Wednesday Wafflings” when I post the latest entry in my Diary of a Hopeful Author…Photo of a Diary

 Boy what a week.  It’s one where I’ve primarily been thinking about photographs. Sad, I know. Shallow – definitely. I cannot but apologise. You see, I can’t bear to have my photo taken. I really can’t because at heart, I think I may be a tad shy.  It’s one of those moments where a hundred and one things run through your head. Wrinkles. Double chin. Sagging jaw. Frizzy hair (or in this case, dyed hair and too blooming dark! Doh). Considerable dark eye circles. People seeing you in print. There’s nowhere to hide, and you can say what you want about me, but you can’t say I don’t like to bury my head in the sand.  It’s a pity really, because today I’m having my photo taken and it isn’t for my either a) stony face for passport or b) daft face for kid’s party. Nope. I’m having my photo taken for a new writing job.

Yup, from 22nd September I’ll be in the local Gloucestershire Citizen, Echo and Stroud Life newspapers with my new weekly column. I know! How did that one happen? It’s all been a while since I first had the meeting with the Editor, but since then things have moved on. And it does make me feel a bit sick. ‘Will you be famous?’ asks my youngest. My husband spits his drink out. I glare at him then turn to my daughter. ‘No, sweetie,’ I say. ‘Mum’s not going to be famous.’ She sighs. ‘Didn’t think so. You have to be in the Olympics and Paralympics for that.’ Well, either way, that’s me told. Quite right, too.

The first column is already written and with the Editor. It’s always a nerve wracking moment when the first piece is sent off for approval. It’s like waiting to find out your exam results, except I’m not 16 anymore. Or at school. I cannot tell you how many people the draft of the column has been through before it finally got to the editor. Being a somewhat self-critical writer, I thought it best to seek opinion. Step forward family and friends. They have read, re-read and re-re-re read the first piece until, I sadly suspect, they could recount it in their sleep. And I haven’t even paid them! What it has done for me though is to reassure me that it’s hitting the mark. Aside from the essential proofreading (which, you know by now, I suck at), they’ve looked at the content. The Editor, Ian Mean, wanted a human angle. ‘Make it human,’ he said in our meeting. I imagined him smoking a cigar and wearing a trilby. I nodded.

Back at home, I wasn’t sure what he meant.  It’s been decided that the column will have a female slant and focus on the fact I am a woman (why does it feel weird calling myself that…?), a parent/mum and, um, well, me. That’s when the penny dropped. The human bit, making it human. It means connecting with others. Being honest about who you are, flaws and all so when people will read it they will sit there, nod and say, ‘yeah, me, too’. Or not.  What I do know for certain is that I love writing it already. I am nervous, without a doubt. I have three months probationary on it, which is when I have to work hard, make it good.  I don’t know what people will say about it. I certainly have no idea about what is going to happen next once it goes live, but I’m going to gulp and see. In the whole scope of the world, it’s a little thing. No war for me to handle, no flood or famine.

The column will be appearing in the new, re-done, glossy weekend magazine supplement and, bizarrely, the first re-launched edition is out on 22ndSepetmber – the same day my mum arrives to visit. She is very excited. ‘I can get a copy to show everyone!’ she yelps. I nod. I am becoming good at nodding.

In the meantime, life is ticking on. I am having an utter nightmare with the edit of my second novel – it’s like trudging through mud at the moment. I will get there with it; I just have to be patient. Wish I was a patient woman (nope. Still weird.) The Gazette wants to keep me on as their weekly columnist and I had a great chat with the Editor, Skip, the other day. I’m really enjoying writing for them – and people where I live come up and talk to me about what I’ve written every week. That’s odd to get used to, but I’m really chuffed the column sparked something.

I grab the paper and my daughter comes up to me. ‘Are you famous from the Gazette, mum?’ she asks. I pick a fleck of muck from her hair. ‘No sweetie.’ She pauses. Then says, ‘Good. That means I can be.’ I smile as she runs off. If she wants to be famous, she can have her photo taken as well. I can’t stand having my photo taken. I need some more hair dye. Goddammit.

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about wind farms and why they are beautiful not a blot**