Tag Archive | Arts

Winter Writing Retreat

Just returned from Abbey Dore Court in Herefordshire after attending a great weekend with a group of women writers on a retreat led by Lucy English and Rachel Bentham. Operating as Wordsmiths they had organised workshops, tutorials and discussions on writing and in particular on women’s attitudes to writing. The group comprised writers at all levels, but what a talented lot they were. Novels with great characters and covering many genres, including historical, crime, modern feminine. We acted out dialogue we’d written – we were really good at arguing in fiction.

We ate meals round the huge mahogany table in the dining room, had breakfast, mid morning coffee and afternoon tea snuggled round a light blue Aga, and finished the evenings round the wood burner in a former ballroom. We talked, played Actuality and read out our work.

Abbey Dore Court is a large quirky house close to the remains of Dore Abbey. A great place to hold a writers retreat. See http://www.thewordsmiths.org

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Proof Reading and Cover Design

I have now agreed a proof copy of my novel Crucial Evidence to go to the printers and for the ebook formats. It took four copies to hopefully eliminate all the irritating typo’s, minor grammatical mistakes etc, before I was satisfied. My husband read the proof as well just to make sure – I was sure I was missing mistakes because I had read it so often.
He raised with me the question of hyphens as there were times when he thought I should have a hyphen between words for example cross examination. I checked the original copy edit and found that Lucy, the copy editor had taken them out.
I am currently reading ‘For Who the Bell Tolls’ by David Marsh, who edits The Guardian’s style guide. I consulted the book and discovered that the hyphen is going out of fashion. One reason is that the computer breaks up hyphenated words at the end of sentences. So, he says, if they are not needed to ensure the clarity of a sentence don’t use them. Incidentally the book is a good read as well as really helpful about rules of grammar they’re not as many you think – is the message.
The next stage with the book is completing the cover design and the blurb for the back. The front cover looks like this

crucial11

I really like it – I hope everyone else does as well.

Publication should happen at the beginning of February 2012.

Best Wishes to all for the Festive Season and a Happy New Year.

Printers Proof

View from my office

View from my office

I have been so busy with moving home and then sorting out the new house that I have failed to write anything at all. Virginia Wolf said that a writer needs a little money and a room of ones own. I have finally achieved the later, fortunately a career at the Bar provided me with some money. My computer is now in a small upstairs room with a great view. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not – I fear I may spend too much time gazing out of the window rather than writing.

Progress on the publication of my novel Crucial Evidence is very slow. I received the printer’s proof at the end of July just as the process of moving really got underway, so checking it for errors is having to take second place to all the other things one needs to do after moving house, like finding a new doctor and a new vet for our Springer Spaniel. Incidentally he doesn’t like my new office as he isn’t allowed upstairs and he hates being left alone, so he sits on the second step of the stairs, his head resting on the third watching and waiting for me to reappear.

The other difficulty with checking the proof is that I am not entirely sure what I am looking for. What are the mistakes that creep in when the Word document is formatted for printing. Apart from finding some blank pages and some misalignment of the lines of dialogue I can find very little wrong with the proof. I have found some editing mistakes and I have noted those as now they will be corrected by the publisher. I am working through it again and preparing the proof changes for the printer. My hoped for publication date in October has I think vanished and it looks like it will be some time in the New Year, but it’s better to get it right than hurry this process.

Power to Authors

This was my second year on a row at the Winchester Writers’ Conference, and what fun it was? A course on writing conflict in your novel, by Adrienne Dines and a course on Social Media Marketing for Authors by Eden Sharp. (www.wordshaker.co.uk should find her)

English: Amazon Kindle e-book reader being hel...

English: Amazon Kindle e-book reader being held by my girlfriend. The color and scale of the device are accurate. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Both interesting but I think I learnt most from the Marketing course. The message I took away from that was, I need to get on Twitter. That’s going to be a big step as every time I’ve looked at Twitter I find my self totally confused by the site. But I have added it to my do to list.

Although a few of the direct publishing companies have had a presence at the Conference in the past, this year Amazon had a tabletop. They were doing presentations on how to publish for Kindle and on CreateSpace. They were so popular that the venue was moved from the rather cramped conditions in the Book Fair into the large lecture theatre. Which takes me to the theme of this post.

To explain – one of the attractions at the conference are the One to One’s. This opportunity to place your work in front of authors, agents and publishing representatives is an important use of the writer’s time. Because I have decided to publish my book directly I only went to see two agents and the rest were publishing experts. There was a difference in the approach between the agents and the others. The agents were very critical of my novel. One of them was rather infantile in her approach, demonstrated by her failing to realise that a barrister needs time to qualify and therefore the date she left home might be different from the date she began to work. The two publishing consultants, one the editor of the Writers and Authors Year Book, were complimentary about my writing and suggested ways of improving my synopsis and pitch letter. Which led me to think that agents who have acted as the gatekeepers for the publishing industry, and were the power brokers, need to realise that they have to offer something to the writer or she will publish their work directly to the reader. And that’s goodbye to their 15%.

Publish and be Damned

I recently heard from the major publisher who have been considering my novel Crucial Evidence that they are not going to publish it because they don’t think it will be a bestseller! Just a reasonable seller would be good enough for me. So it looks like its self publishing.
In furtherance of that route I had already send the book for a full edit and I have also received the editor’s comments on it. Her view is that in places the book lacks pace, and she suggests that I remove quite large sections which give my main character, a barrister called Cassie Hardman, a context. One aspect is her background, which I feel is quite important as she comes from a ‘working class’ family (hate these

An Oxbridge college seen from the outside

An Oxbridge college seen from the outside (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

descriptions but in the UK they still apply), state schools, red-brick university, whilst the Bar tends to be ‘upper middle class,’ private school and Oxbridge. She feels an outsider in her chosen profession and that is reflected in some of her decisions and attitudes. The other is a sub-plot about her Chambers’ politics, which again shows her reactions away from the courtroom, but still with her colleagues. Without those changes she thinks it is unlikely I will find an agent.
The publishing business uses agents as gatekeepers to monitor the manuscripts they receive and ensure only the best get through to the publishers for their consideration. When it comes to genre fiction, the formats are so fixed that anyone writing something that doesn’t fit precisely within the stereotype is not considered.
Another way of putting it is that for commercial fiction the author must write what the publisher wants, or rather what an agent thinks the publisher wants, and not what the writer wants to write.
So to amend that well known saying Self-publish and be damned.

Christening Characters

Русский: Зефир и Гиацинт, Аттический сосуд из ...

Русский: Зефир и Гиацинт, Аттический сосуд из Тарквинии, ок. 480 до н. э., Бостонский Музей Искусства (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had no difficulty naming my main protagonist. She has always been Cassandra Hardman. I like the abbreviated form, Cassie, which I know she, and her family and friends would use. The name comes from a princess in Greek mythology, who had the power of prophecy but was never believed.  I believe that fits with the role of the advocate, predicting the future for a defendant, and the disbelief that could engender. For her surname I wanted something which would identify her as a Lancastrian and  ‘Hardman’ is common in parts of the County.

My novel also has a second protagonist and I have found naming her more difficult. She is a female Detective Constable about six years younger than Cassie. She is very loosely based on someone I met, who was the daughter of a successful business man. She had decided to join the police force against her fathers wishes. She was a tall glamorous blonde, who loved motorbikes. I originally called my character, Carol Beaumont-Smith, but I didn’t feel happy with that. The hyphenated surname seemed to be a cliché for wealthy, rather upper-crust characters, and using a name beginning with the same initial as my main protagonist, I thought, might be confusing for a reader. I changed the name to Vivienne James, Viv for short, but didn’t like that either. I know two Viv’s, one a small dumpy girl and the other tall and elegant but not reallyas  glamorous as my policewoman is. I have now decided on Alexis Seymour which feels right. Of course there is a bit of a twist is that as another name for Cassandra in Greek mythology is Alexandra of which Alexis is a variation.  Anyway Alexis Seymour feels right and I think I will stick with that.

I did wonder if anyone had any interesting ways of christening their characters. Let me know if you have.

Getting a publisher

I promised myself that if I didn’t get an agent willing to represent me at the Winchester Writers’ Conference I would self-publish. I didn’t get an agent interested but an editor from one of the major publishing houses asked to see the whole of my book.

I sent it off in high hopes that this would be the breakthrough I was hoping for, but she thought there were some problems with the plot and made a few suggestions about which areas she thought would benefit from some rewriting. She ended by saying she wouldn’t take my book for now but she thought I had great potential. So I’m starting again reviewing the plot, the characters and the amount of legal jargon. I’ve begun by rereading the trial passages in Scott Turow’sPresumed Innocent‘ and examining the extent to which he uses technical information about the trial process in his writing. Actually it’s quite a lot and he does explain the legal terms his characters use in some detail, telling and not showing. It is my experience that most people are interested in the legal process and want to know how it works.  I’d really like to know if that applies to readers as well as the people I meet.

Then I have done an analysis of my plot to see where I can improve the tension. There are three different plots that intertwine and I think I need to work on how they work together and when I need to keep them apart.

I think this is going to keep me occupied for quite a while and I suspect this blog will get  neglected in the process.

On another note we are off to France for a month so while I can write, access to the Internet is rather limited so a bientot.