Tag Archives: writing

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…**

Diary of a hopeful author: A blog post that can’t say much…Yet

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

I can’t say much. I know, what a rubbish blog post is that, right? One that can’t tell you anything. What a muppet.

Thing is, a lot is happening with my book and, being a superstitious lass, I best keep my mouth reasonably shut about it until all is signed and sealed. I toyed with writing a post at all since I can’t waffle, but it’s been a while, so what I can say, for now, is this: I am so excited, so off my head with news about my book that, 6 nights out of 7 I cannot sleep. It’s all worth it, though. And, when I can spill the beans, I’ll be right on here to let you know.

Until then, have a cracking week. Ain’t long now. Stay tuned…

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

Diary of a hopeful author: How sports mantras can help your writing

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

So, there I was, at Christmas, up a mountain. I was bricking it. I could see over the edge. It was snowy. My skis were on and in my hands were my poles. I was with my ski school team and, bar the odd tumble, all was safe. So why, oh why did I lose it? And I don’t just mean lose it, but totally and utterly melt right on down and get scared on the mountainside.

The reason was this: I told myself I couldn’t do it. That’s it. No more, no less. I mean, sure, the previous day I had fallen off the edge of a chair lift BEFORE I had even gotten on it. And yes, my backside, along with my skis, were sticking in the air. And of course, the nice French ski lift operator laughed and said, ‘I will take a photo.’ And, indeed, the only way to handle it was to stand, smile and wave. But that was then. Standing on near the top of a mountain with a long way down? This was now. And I was not liking it.

So, two things happened. First up, I realised I was being an idiot. Why? Because I was telling myself I couldn’t ski. Trouble is, when that sets in, that negative thought, like a germ in a petra dish, it grows. Until what you have immobilises you and you f**k up. Second, was someone (our instructor…) said I was a chicken. He was being funny. We got on really well. But that was the thing – he’d clocked me, knew what I was like. You tell me I’m a chicken? Then I’ll show you…

And then it happened. I got down the mountain. And the day after that. And the day after that. I got down by telling myself, ‘I can do it.’  (and by making chicken noises…Got some strange looks) I got down by reminding myself that if I fell, I could get up. And if anyone – anyone – called me chicken, I’d show them just what I could do. And, tell you what, I had an absolute ball in the process. The best time ever.

I’m at home now. My limbs are in one piece. My mind is rested. I re-began the final editing of my book last week. And that is when I realised something: that I was better at knowing how capable I was; that anything was possible. Skiing had taught me something about myself. It had taught me that if you think positively, you can do it. You can, quite literally, conquer mountains. And that it is a whole heap of fun on the way.

So, on that note, I give you, below, a link to the mantras that sports people use for running (my favourite sport) to get them in the right mind set for a race. My advice? Adapt them for yourself and use them when you hit a low point in your writing. Feel you can’t write a paragraph, never mind a book? Feel as if there are so many authors out there better than you? Then apply a mantra. A positive mantra. For running, they use ones like: ‘Be steady. Be strong.’ Or : ‘Better. Faster. Stronger.’

Because you see, whether it’s running or writing or getting a promotion at work, a bit of positive thinking can help you go a long way. Or, in my case down a mountain (or to a big book deal!).

So, mantras: required. Broken limbs: optional.

Running World’s MAGIC MANTRAS LINK

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

Diary of a hopeful author: funny alert: “Really” with Amy & Seth

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

Photo of a Diary

I am in the middle of a huge (and, please God, final) edit. And I have been writing while simultaneously laughing my head off and spitting my food out all over my laptop to sketches from Saturday Night Live – the mecca of seriously funny writing.

The one posted below is a “Really” sketch with Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. What’s that now? You haven’t seen it? Really?

Enjoy. Happy writing…

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

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 interview: meet my agent, Adam Gauntlett of PFD

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

As promised, I am mighty pleased to introduce you to Adam Gauntlet, my agent at Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD). I have quizzed him about what it is to be a literary agent, and, crucially, what he is looking for from prospective author, and he has kindly answered below. A true gent. He is a cracking agent – and he won’t mind me saying this – rocks a great hair cut. Let the Q & A begin. Hope it helps…

What qualities do you need to be a literary agent?

A keen eye, strong editorial instincts and persistence.

Adam Gauntlett, literary agent with a good haircut
Adam Gauntlett, literary agent with a good haircut

How did you get started?

I started off working over PFD’s backlist titles, before moving over to work in our Dramatic Rights Department, selling book-to-film/TV rights and book-to-stage rights. Aside from book agenting, I now handle all dramatic stage rights at the agency.

What’s the best part about being a literary agent?

The thrill of closing a deal for a client you love and seeing their work reach a wider audience.

What mistakes do prospective clients make?

Uninspiring pitches fed by half-baked submission letters.

Describe the perfect approach from a prospective client.

I don’t think there should be a prescriptive answer to this. What I will say, as a continuation of the above, is that a well-wrought and thought-out submission letter can really make all the difference.

How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy?

Beautiful and erudite writing will always transcend the whims of the market and ultimately find its natural home.

 What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

I expect an author to be dedicated to the refinement of their craft and be willing to take onboard constructive criticism.

What’s something coming out now/soon that you’ve represented and are excited about?

 A memoir by Bob Dylan’s tour manager, Victor Maymudes, titled Another Side of Bob Dylan. It will be published by St. Martin’s Press in autumn 2014.

What sort of genres are you on the lookout for in submissions?

On the whole I’m more drawn towards commercial literary fiction and narrative non-fiction, though am perennially interested in crime and thrillers. That said, good writing can often be difficult to categorize; I’m happy to consider most things.

How can aspiring authors contact you/send in a submission?

Email (preferred) or postal submission. My email is: agauntlett@pfd.co.uk

 What’s your advice to an aspiring author?

Believe in what you’re writing and always be aware of the market.

 

So if you needed to discover what agents are looking for, now you know! Adam is open to queries. To read more about what Adam & PFD represent, plus see their submissions guidelines, please go here. A huge thank you to Adam for taking the time for this post.

 

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

Diary of a hopeful author: I’m chasing the real dream

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

I do love a dream. What’s not to love about a dream? Good stuff happens in dreams, great stuff, stuff that, in your regular every day, moment-to-moment movements and routines and bill-paying tasks, would never ever occur. Like flying without a plane, or scoring a cracking goal or, in my case, last night, being an awesome surfer (don’t ask. Actually do. And my answer would be that my daughter wants me to take her surfing this weekend and I’m slightly scared. The dream surf was nice. I rocked.)

Thing is, dreams end when you open your eyes. In a way. There is, of course, the line of argument that your dreams should always stay with you. To this, of course, there is only one answer – they should, but only when those dreams are real, are reflections of what you actually want from life, what you really, really wish you had/did/were. And for those dreams to come about, to step out of your sleepy head and morph into living wonder, you need one thing: reality.

Let me stick this in context. My dream is being a massively successful author. This summer just gone has been a step towards that. I have, now, a literary agent, an event that bowled me over so much that instead of jumping and whooping (like I had dreamed), I gave one smile then got on with what had to be done. And now, how is the dream as I am in touching distance of it, as I am working with my brilliant agent (still weird saying that) and amazing editor as we shape my novel to be the very best it can be for publishers to read?  It is real. That’s what it is. It is, right now, all very real and very hard work, and, at times, is pushing me to think things through in a way I never have before, in a way only experienced people like agents and editors can help you do.

Because that is the reality of the dream. When you’ve blinked awake and realized that, even though you’re not asleep, you can still actually see your dream, see the thing you’ve wanted for so long. The reality of the dream is that you have to work hard. Really, really hard. It’s like the saying goes, ‘You can’t have the rainbow without a little rain.’ And that’s me, right now, working hard through the rain to make that rainbow appear. Or, in this case, a big publishing deal.

Turns out, this weekend, the forecast on the coast is for rain, pattering, British rain. But I’ll still go surfing with my daughter, because, like she said with a shrug at the weather report, ‘When you go surfing you’re in the sea so you get wet anyway.’  Too, right, honey. So I may fall off (lots), I may only be able to stand for five (two) seconds on the board, but I’ll be living the dream. The real dream.

 

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

Diary of a hopeful author: What makes a good psychological thriller?

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

This week I am knee deep in plotting.  Following an edit meeting last week, my task now is to re-analyse my thriller novel and pick it apart, spot any plot holes, tie them back up.

I tell you what, this is a huge shocker. Seriously, I have had my plot pulled apart and picked so much that I feel like I’ve been spun round with a blindfold on then told to walk.

But no fear! Because – and I do mean this – it is all good. Yes, being asked questions about your plot is a right old tester, but without it, without questioning every single element of your story, you cannot get it to the very best it can be. And then it is bye-bye publishing deal.

All this editing has also meant re-visiting the main thesis and threads of my book. This is vital because the function of the plot is to communicate the thesis (theme). The thesis is like glue – without it, nothing sticks. So I have been today reminding myself what it’s trying to say in my novel and what I wanted it to be way back in the very first place. And all this has to be thought through in the context of the genre of the book. And breathe.

So, with all this in mind, I have for you this week a question. And it is this: What makes a good psychological thriller?

Below is a link from Wikipedia on this genre – see if it stacks up. What have you read that’s good and not so good? And what made it that way? Class – discuss. It will mess with your head.

Read the Wikipedia link here

**Coming soon: Interview with PFD’s Adam Gauntlett on submitting to agents**

Out tomorrow “Thursday Thoughts” where I post my latest Gazette newspaper column to my blog. This week I’m talking about  the Severn Barrage in Gloucestershire…**