Tag Archives: outline

Diary of a hopeful author: Rolling with the punches in a pink tutu…

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

Hey there. How was your summer? Long-time no see. Well, I’m back. You may (or, most likely, may not) have noticed, I’ve been unusually quiet over the course of the summer. And now, like a fairy in a pink tutu (?) I’m skipping into autumn, humming a tune and it’s all systems go. The reason I’ve been away is, to be honest, I needed a break and wanted to have some family time. My kids are getting bigger and I have a sinking feeling in my heart that this may have been the last summer they truly want to spend the whole of it with me. I know. I am a lyrical drama queen, but then I guess I am Irish.

Anyhoo, the great thing about having a break is that it gives you time to think. And read. And I do love a read. A writer can’t write if she doesn’t read. Right?This year, we went to France camping (rained so heavy one night the tent nearly caved in – me and hubbie drank neat Cointreau out of the bottle while we guarded the tent. Slept surprising well after that…). France was followed by Centre Parcs in Holland and that was where the real reading began, um, for no other reason than I could actually see the page at night (turns out camping torches don’t work so well…). With the iPad Kindle app thingamajig loaded up, I turned to one book that may surprise you. It was the autobiography of Bear Grylls. Mud, Sweat and Tears, it’s called. As a writer (of sorts), I always go everywhere with my Moleskin (get me) note book and pen to scribble ideas on. Turns out I needed it a lot this time, because Bear gave me a fair bit to ponder. For those of you who don’t know the big Bear, let me shed some fairy dust on it for you. He’s a British adventurer who was once in the SAS, climbed Everest (at 21!) and is now a huge TV person type man who, as the Stranglers say, is Big In America. Oh, and he fronts a show called Man vs. Wild (or Born Survivor in the UK). You’d think a fellow like this – old Etonian, posh voice – would be a bit of arse. But turns out he’s not. Just goes to show you, we must never judge. The delight is in the discovery, as they say. Bear has wise things to say – and I ended up spending every night of our first few days in Holland reading his book. I even got up at 3 a.m. unable to sleep – and read his book.  What is it about certain autobiographies that make us look at our own lives and question them?

Grylls scribbles down pearls of wisdom, some passed down to him from older generations, some learned from his own experiences. How could I ignore that? ‘Dig deep’ is a phrase of his that sticks in the mind. Along with ‘Who dares wins’ the SAS motto. Other phrases stick too. Like ‘roll with the punches’ – a phrase from his mum. This one made me really think. Rolling with the punches means excepting whatever comes your way, don’t always fight it because you never know where it may take you. I repeated the phrase to my kids. It didn’t quite go to plan. ‘Why do I have to roll?’ asked the youngest, frowning. ‘Do we roll down the hill?’ said the eldest. ‘’cause that’s fun!’ I guess I need to explain metaphors a little more. Reading a couple of other books on holiday helped all round. I got through While I was Asleep by SJ Watson, a debut novel and well worth the hype. Cracking writer. Also read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ book, News of a Kidnapping. Highly recommend it – the man is a Nobel prize-winning genius.

Anyway, now I’m back in Blighty, rolling with the punches is the new me. In fact, the new me is soon to be a new weekend columnist for another local newspaper. I know! What were they thinking? I’ll let you know next week which paper it is, but what I can say now is that I’ll be writing a regular column for the re-launch of their new glossy weekend magazine. Nerves, woman. Control the nerves. I have to do new pictures (aargh!), and an interview sort of thing to introduce myself. Gulp. I am really looking forward to it – and it will all be alongside my weekly Gazette column. Happy, happy days.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with it all. I don’t even know if it will all work out. But as Bear says (alright, well, his mum), I’m going to roll with the punches. I’ll have a laugh and see what happens. In the meantime, I’m going to keep editing my next novel in which I am knee deep (still no bloody title, mind) and I’ll also be changing the blog post line up, just to enhance it a touch. Think of it as a blog makeover, if you will, but with just the same amount of wrinkles. It’s like a fairy in a tutu skipping into Autumn. New season, new look.  Let’s roll with those punches then and see where it takes us. Put ’em up!

Links: Bear Grylls Twitter, Mud, Sweat & Tears autobiography

**Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about why our town shop fronts should be better**

Diary of a hopeful author: Would you want your old life back?

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

I went to a music festival at the weekend. I know! Get me! It was the amazing Nibley Music Festival and we all had a whale of a time. Many a band played on the stages, some of which were new and local, others which were older and well, not local. One of these bands was The Christians. Do you know them? They were big, in the UK at least, in the 1990s and sung songs like Ideal World and Hooverville. (If you don’t know them I’ve stuck a link below so you can watch them on You Tube.) Anyway, there we all were right by the main stage watching them when it got to in between songs and the lead singer spoke. He talked about how things were back in the 90s when they were really big – and then he said something that made me stop in my dancing tracks. ‘We want our lives back,’ he said. That phrase stayed in my head for the rest of the day – even when I was boogying to Dodgy and laughing my little head off, not that I’d had a festival drink, you understand (red wine).  

Afterwards, as we trooped on home, our legs weary, our ears ringing to within an inch of their lives, I got to thinking about what he had said. What makes someone say that they want their life back? The life The Christians had when they were big must have been amazing – fame, fans, um, fine food …(sorry, was going for an alliterating three fs there…) What must have happened to them along the way to make them want it all back a decade or two down the line? Take a look at our own lives and how does this relate? Do we all want our old lives back? Bachelor days, student days, child-free days, successful days? Aren’t there times in our lives when we all think: I’d just like to re live that time again just once? The whole thing made me think about my writing. When I was younger, writing wasn’t my goal – I was too distracted by other things and my career choice was marketing and I was going to conquer it! (think power suits…I know…I had big hair, too).  Don’t get me wrong, I always wrote a little – poems, plays, bit and bobs – because I did like to write. But it was only as I got older did I realise that it was my passion, that I had to do it, had to go for it. And I guess that’s my point: I never had it, the success, so I can’t wish for it back. Does that make me lucky? Are we lucky if we come to something later than earlier in life? Or is it just a case of whichever way the cookie crumbles?

I do wonder sometimes if my life would be the way it is now if I had gone into writing when I was younger. I might not have met my hubbie, not had my kids – who knows? This week, my book, The Boy Who Played Guitar, officially came out in paperback and when I held the actual copy in my hands on Monday I couldn’t actually speak (miracles do happen…). Tears sprung to my eyes. I have been working at writing allsorts now for 15 years in between everything else – in between getting married, working and commuting to London, having two babies, more work. But do you know what? Even though it was hard all that writing with minimum success, I wouldn’t change anything (okay, except for my feet, I’d change those – they are truly appalling. Who knew nails could get that thick? Sorry.)

We’re off on holiday next week (hoorah!) and while we’re away, the hubbie and I are going to talk (drink French wine) through the launch party for my book (just the phrase launch party makes me want to run around screaming) and finalise marketing things for it (plus synching it with the Kindle version – not quite happened yet, dear Amazon…) Who knew all this would happen? Who knew I’d make great friends with lovely Twitter and blog people along the way who are always 100% supportive (like Make Shift Mummy and Citizen of Ville Joie)? And I’m pushing 40! With some (lots) eye wrinkles!

So if someone said to me do you want your life back, I’d say, nah, you’re alright, I’ve already got one, thanks. Yup, our lives now may not be the ones we had mapped out for ourselves or had lived 20 odd years or so back, but do you know what? They’re pretty okay, actually. So, if you were asked the same question – do you want your old life back – what would your answer be?

Links: Nibley Music Festival

To get The Boy Who Played Guitar in paperback (only if you want to…), here are the links: UK Amazon   USA Amazon Europe search link    PS A bit cheeky of me, but if you do kindly read it, could you stick a review on Amazon or your blog? Enormous thanks!

Out on Thursday “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest newspaper column to my blog. This week it’s all about equality and how women should be Bishops…**

Diary of a hopeful author: I’ve finished writing my novel!

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

I’ve finished writing my novel! Blimey, feels, quite weird typing that, but there you go, it’s true. This week, well, yesterday to be precise, I finally completed my second novel and the one thing above anything else that is on my mind as I type the last of the 90,000 words is, not ‘well done, me’, but: sweet God,  my shoulders feel like breeze blocks.  ‘Why do you sit like that?’ says my hubbie one morning walking past the study. I pause mid- typing and frown. ‘What d’you mean?’ He nods to my posture. ‘You are all Hunchback of Notre Dame there, honey.  Sit up a little.’ He pops his toast back into his mouth and leaves. I check out my arms. Bent. I try to look at my back but this means craning my head and this hurts. Giving up, I shuffle in my seat and sit up straight, and for a couple of minutes all is well – and then I slide back down to my Quasimodo position.  But, being on the final straight of writing the book, I do nothing about it, and so keep on typing.

When it gets to the following day, I get up at 5 a.m, write for an hour, get the kids ready and to school, then resume writing until 12 noon. I type that fast that I think you can see smoke coming from my laptop (I say this figuratively, but actually, that’s only because I’m using my newer netbook – the old laptop actually did give off smoke, so…). When I finally type the last word, I slump back into my seat and stare at the screen. I cannot believe it. I am done! Six months of research, character development, long, hard outline planning (not my favourite part, but, unfortunately vital to do), learning criminal law ins and out, and then actually writing it. Nope, cannot believe it. It’s a bit like travelling around the world and then getting to your final destination and realising that this is it, you have to go home now. I blink at the screen and, shutting it down, wonder how I can celebrate this little achievement. Shall I go for a run? Have some chocolate? Watch a film? Oh no. I do none of these things. I finish my 90,000 word novel – and then go and hang the washing out on the line. It is a sunny day, and, give it’s been tipping it down the past week, it’s a chance to get the clothes dry and it really is a lovely day for the washing to dry. Who said writing books wasn’t life on the edge, hey?

As I hang out the washing, I think about the novel and what I have to do next, namely The Edit. A lot of writers aren’t so keen on editing, but me, I love it. What’s not to like? You have a page that is full of words and that has to be better than a blank page staring back at you, the computer curser winking at you reminding you that you still. Haven’t . Written. Anything. The great thing this time round is that I have had two people reading my book as I write it – namely my mum and her friend.  And I have to say it has been the best move ever. It’s meant that they have kept an eye on things such as pace and consistency for me, which, when you are writing chapter after chapter is vital because things tend to blur and you are so close to the plotline that the words begin to merge together (this did actually happen one day, the words merging together. I had to stop typing and stand back, blinking. I was concerned I’d wrecked my eyes until it turned out there was a bit of sleep on my contact lense…).

The other handy thing about editing this time around is that my outline has been solid. I loathe writing outlines. I really do. But without it, it is way harder to actually write the book – rather like a house without foundations or running a marathon without doing the training first, without the outline in place first, the novel will all fall down. For this book, I put together a 50-page outline. I split the plot into four acts and did an eight-point arc for each Act. Then I broke it down into chapters, developing the plot into an eight-point arc per chapter, meaning each chapter had its own structured development and climax. It is a bit daunting to start with, but I did find that using the 8-point arc to map out each chapter helped enormously and reassured me that I was constructing each chapter properly so the reader felt it was good and the pace kept up.  While an outline is my most pants things to do, the plus side is that, if you write a thorough outline, then by the time you begin to actually write the novel, you can do just that – write. The plot is already worked out, so you can just let things flow. I did change the plot along the way as the writing developed, but that worked fine. If anything needed changing, I simply stopped writing, re-wrote the 8-point arc for that particular chapter, checked it against the other chapters for consistency, and then started writing again. See? Easy! Yeah, right. It’s frustrating at times, to be honest, but, as is becoming my favourite phrase these days, ‘it’s well worth it.’

That evening, washing back in and dry (living on the edge right there!), I call my friend and we meet for a cycle and walk as it’s a lovely sunny evening – plus she wants to feed me a glass of wine for finishing the book, so, you know,  I couldn’t say no. We say ‘cheers’ and taking big gulps (we had walked 4 miles…) She asks me what sort of book it is. I pause. ‘Do you know what, I think I may have written a thriller.’ She swigs her wine. ‘Really?’ I nod. I know it’s daft, but even though that’s the sort of book it must be – a thriller, drama type thing (it’s set in a prison with a Spanish doctor as the new convict) I’ve never actually acknowledged it. But d’you know, I’ve loved writing it. Turns out, I quite like this plot twist and turn thing. My friend holds up her glass. ‘Here’s to your thriller then,’ she says.  ‘Well done, mate.’ ‘Cheers,’ I say, and we drink (down) our wine.

That night, I get ready for bed and chat to my hubbie. ‘So are you pleased it’s all finished?’ he asks. I nod and brush my hair. ‘Yup. Just the edit now and I can get it sent off.’ He smiles. ‘Cool.’ I nod and reach up to scratch my back. ‘Aaargh!’ My face scrunches to a grimace. ‘What is it?’ asks my hubbie. I edge to the bed and sit. ‘My shoulder. It’s locked.’ He comes over and tuts. ‘I told you you were sitting at that laptop funny.’ I sigh. ‘Like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, you said.’ He rolls his eyes and rubs my shoulder.  I wince. I have turned into Quasimodo. A Quasimodo with a second novel.

Are you in the middle of writing your novel? Do you use the 8-point arc or want to know more about it? Let me know.

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