Tag Archive | Writers Resources

Free Time and Popcorn

I rewarded myself with some free time away from a computer on Friday when I went to the Exeter Food and Wine Festival. It provided some opportunities to watch people in a different environment from cafes and bars. In the large marquee’s the emphasis was all about the food. The behavior of individuals as they approached the various stalls varied; some were diffident and declined to look at whoever was manning the stall, others talked confidently about what they liked and why they were interested in a particular product. Among the crowds were the professionals looking for new products for their shops or restaurants, They listened carefully to the stall holders and also to customers who came up to buy. But the most fun was watching the professional chefs show off their skills in the cookery demonstrations. The top chefs are showmen, wielding knives as a stage prop and talking incessantly. They seemed to find it easy to build a rapport with their audience despite spending most of their time behind the scenes in their own restaurants. The one we watched Peter Gorton was a great raconteur and as he worked told tales about doing private dinners and on one occasion he had set the kitchen alight. The hostess was disappointed he hadn’t done more damage as she was trying to persuade her husband to buy a new one.

Exeter Festival of Food.

Exeter Festival of Food.

On the train home I watched a young man writing a letter -yes a real letter on real paper. When I sat opposite him, he was reading a letter written on pale cream paper with a decorated border. I assumed it was written by a young woman on notepaper given to her as a Christmas present. My imagination decided the contents were a plea to resume their relationship, a plea that from the firmness of the man’s jaw and the lack of any sparkle in his eyes I assume he was about to reject. He took from his brief case a folder containing notepaper and began to write. He was left handed and I noticed how his left hand curved round the top of the notepaper as he wrote, quite quickly from left to right. He held the pen between his thumb and forefinger with the hand above the pen. The position gave the appearance of hiding the contents of the letter as I remember children trying to protect their schoolwork from prying eyes.  I recall that the word sinister comes from left handedness, and it did indeed seem a strange and secretive way of writing.

So my day out provided characters for my writing. Do other writers give themselves time just to observe?

Oh the popcorn. Well my favorite stall at the Festival was the Portlebury Popcorn Company.

Crucial Evidence Published

When I was awarded the degree of MA in Creative Writing in December 2009, I had about 50,000 words of a novel already written. Today three years and many words later, my novel has been published and I have a printed copy in my hand. The cover with the bar code of a DNA sample on the cover feels smooth under my fingers and there is the smell of new paper. I’m not sure I always wanted to be a writer. Certainly when I was a teenager I dreamt of writing a bestselling novel and I wrote short stories about young love.
Then life took over. I went to University and studied Law. I thought about writing academic books about the philosophy of law – after all why do people by and large obey the law- it’s a question that’s difficult to answer. But I didn’t really want to stay on at University, I wanted to get on with living and experiencing everything. I became a practising lawyer and if I wrote stories then it was in the form of jury speeches.
The life of a barrister leaves little time for anything other than work so although from time to time I would try writing a crime novel I never succeeded in finishing one. Now I have and I have a great sense of achievement. I have taken the road of direct publishing as the traditional route takes so long and is such a gamble.  crucial11
The story is of a mid thirties Barrister called Cassie Hardman. She is instructed to represent a young man, Lenny Barker, who is pleading not guilty to the brutal murder of prostitute Shelley Paulson. Initially Cassie believes him to be guilty until she discovers compelling new evidence. She risks her career and her ambition to become a QC to ensure Barker has a fair trial and will stop at nothing to locate the missing witness. Will she find the man in question before the jury retire to consider their verdict at the Old Bailey? And if Barker is acquitted who is really responsible.

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

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.