Friday, 3 July 2015

Preparation for a conference

This time next week I will be in Queen Mary's University, Mile End Road at the RNA conference. Hopefully learning something. I've been to a few conferences and retreats now, so know what I need to pack. So, if you are a newbie to a conference or retreat, here is what I have either already packed or will be packing:

I will be taking casual clothes to wear, with a spare top, trousers, underwear and socks. As well as spare shoes/sandals, and comfy ones. I do like to wear different shoes alternately, as they say it is best for your feet not to wear shoes more than one day at a time.

I have already packed emergency supplies eg paracetamol, plasters etc. This includes my medications.

I have already packed most of my toiletries, some of which were from when I went to the retreat in May. I am taking with me tubes and bottles of things that don't have much in, so if they empty there, I can just throw them away instead of carrying them home again, esp if they're not recycleable.

As a writer I will be taking with me: notepad and pens (be sure to take a few just in case), biz cards, postcards promoting my 1-2-1 author service, my programme and instructions, a small notepad to take notes of anyone interested in my service. A magazine to read in the evening. Oh yes, and a camera, to take photos of the place, people and the food, esp the food. This will be for my blog about eating out with food intolerances.

I will start packing next week with the last minute stuff on Friday morning. I can't wait. I have already worked out how I am going to get there, and it doesn't include having to walk up 46 steps at Mile End station.

I know I will have more with me coming home than going there, as I am aware there will be a goody bag with lots of promo stuff in inc books, and I will be buying a few books, too.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Research for historical novels

Last Saturday I went to another chapter meeting by the RNA. The speaker was Jean Fullerton, who writes a series about nursing before the war and the NHS. Jean is a district nurse herself, but has to do research. Here is what she does:

She first gets the background of the area, and has a map of the area her novels are based in. This came from a little book called the A to Z Atlas Guide to London and Suburbs. It includes all buildings dated back before the war and old and new street names. She said she got it from Amazon but I am still searching for it as I want to have that book to use for my own historical stories I want to write.

She reads biographies, and has read lots of biographies of nurses back in the war.

She said you have to get a feel for the story. You've got to have the attitude, and your characters have got to have the mindset of the period you are writing in. They have got to understand what is going on around them at that time. They have got to be someone who is progressive in their times. Still have an education, even if it was by the vicar and Sunday School.

Jean has got books with photos of the area. These include how people lived at the time, and were bought from Shire Books (made a note of the website so I could look them up for my own reference).
Jean also found a calendar of that time. She also has magazines and papers from that time, inc a Woman's Own. She also had a print out of BBC radio programmes. Did you know that radio programmes finished at 11pm, so you couldn't work out how the characters knew it was midnight?

I found this very helpful and now know what I need to know and do when it comes to writing the series of short stories I have for Bea's family, who are in the 19th century. First stop is to find that A to Z and look up Shire Books. Thank you, Jean.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

New goals - the update

Do you remember my goals for this year that I posted in January? Here they are. Here is the update on how I am getting on with them:

1. To complete my YA fantasy series 'The Guardian Angels'. I am working on this one. Started writing this in May on the retreat, continued with it during last week whilst waiting for edits. Will finish it this year.

 2. To complete my mermaid trilogy. Not started the last one yet. Don't think I will have time, unless I do this in the afternoon when I've finished my Pocket Novel partial and Billy.

 3. To complete my adult romance series 'Geraldine's Gems'. Hope to do this after I've finished last of my Angel ebooks.

 4. To write 1 or 2 more of my Singleton village series. Working on edits for this one, as lots of comments from my editor and lots to learn still about pacing.

 5. To maybe write another of my Asperkids series. Need to revise part of Billy first. So not this year.

 6. To publish my first Asperkids books about Boring Billy. Maybe by end of the year as I want to revise part of it from what I learnt at the retreat in May.

 7. To get at least 5 short stories accepted and published by women's magazines. Work in progress. lol. Have had rejections so far. One out with Woman's Weekly and working on another for Yours. I have found a blog esp for womag writers who give feedback to your stories, so have been using that for help.

 8. To earn at least £500 from no 7. Not sure if I will get there by end of year. Another work in progress.

 9. To break even with my writing expenses this year. I've been working at a loss the last few years. Getting there. Half way there but only thanks to my new business, my 1-2-1 author service.

 10. The main one I feel is... to graduate from the RNA's New Writer's Scheme, hopefully with a Pocket Novel script. Working on this now. Am rewriting a script that I submitted a few years ago and did nothing with. This is a slow work in progress as I only work on it when I have time late afternoon. Decided that I won't have time to do all of it by end of August, so have been working on the first three chapters and will rewrite the synopsis for it, and send the rest of the ms as a draft.

My other goal, which was new, instead of writing Pocket Novels, is to work on my author service. That is going really well and I have four clients so far, one of whom is v appreciative of my help to him.

So, how are you goals going? Will post again at the end of November with my progress.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

One story leads to another...

I have finally finished the linked short story to 'The Cameo Brooch'. It is an historical one set in the late 19th century, a period I am not used to writing about, and it showed from the comments I got from my editor. I now know that in the era, single women couldn't entertain men alone, they had to have someone with them, or it would be deemed inappropriate. I had put this in my story. So I asked for help from the good people in the RNA via their Yahoo email group. One member, Liz Bailey whom I know writes historical ebooks, replied. She has helped me immensely to make the story more authentic. I have now given my heroine, Beatrice, an eccentric aunt with a maid and a man about the house so she didn't entertain her betrothed alone. Having done this, I thought, hey this aunt and her staff can have a story of their own. I also decided to give Bea's younger sister a weak heart so she has to live with her older sister, Constance. Then I thought, there could be another story there about how she comes out of her shell and moves away from Constance, finding her own path.

So, one story leads to three more stories. Seems I could be addicted to writing. I have become interested in the 19th century after watching an episode of the TV series, 24 hours in the past. I have been researching that era on my iPad as I write the story. It is interesting. So, watch out for more historical short stories from me.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

For newbie writers - write what you know

This post has come from a meeting with an author client whom I'm helping improve his story and get it published as an ebook. Yesterday I put a writing tip on Facebook and Twitter saying 'Tap into your knowledge'. This is the same as write what you know. So, if you have been a police detective and you are writing this genre, then write about what you know. Tap into your knowledge of what you did and this will enhance the story and make it more authentic and believable. My client hadn't done this, and I had told him to do it. I believe that this will make his story more believable and true to life than it is.

This is what I've been doing with my Asperkids series. I tapped into my memories of what I was like as a child with Asperger's Syndrome and other health problems whilst at school. I've also been trying to do with this with short stories I've been writing for women's magazines. Putting my memories of incidents that have happened to me into the characters' lives.

So, if you are a newbie writer, my best advice is to write what you know. Tap into that knowledge of yours.

If you want more hints and tips about writing, then why not sign up to my newsletter at

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Where I Write

So, where do I write? I have to have a solid surface to write on, and I can spread out any pens and notes I might also need, as well as my Ipad I now use for research purposes as I write.  At home, I write at the dining table, which we don't use that often. We have our meals in the kitchen.

When I am away, like I was two weeks ago, I had to write at tables and desks. Here are the two rooms I wrote in at Dunford House.

The main meeting room, where talks were held. That's my purple jacket you see.

And in the library, where I would go if there was a talk on.

I got a lot of writing done like this, esp as I was on my own in the rooms.

So, where do you write? Do you prefer to write on hard surfaces where you can spread all your writing gear? Let me know.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

SCBWI Retreat - what I learnt

I have written what I wrote, now I'm posting about what I learnt, and this was from Sally Nicholls.

The first talk she gave was about how she writes and what she came up against. Here is what I wrote from her talk:

Sally writes in scenes, but not in any order. I know I couldn't do that as a writer.

Ask questions about the main character. Who are their family. What do they do?

Be careful what message you give to children when writing about difficult times etc. Sally writes teen angst.

Personality can be defined by illness. I made a special note about this for my Asperkids series.

If you get stuck, think of the theme.

Knowing where the story ends helps the plot

For 7-9 year-olds, don't have a character by different names eg don't call the dad, Dad, Mr Jones and Bill. Call them with one name. (Made a note to do this in my Asperkids series).

As I wrote in the last post, if you get stuck 2/3 way through, then think of what your character already has. Their family, friends and hobbies. I did this with Charlie as he likes cooking, so made him more interesting by giving him a fantastic memory of recipes and their ingredients. It is related to what happens to him in the book and how he ends up.

For the second talk on the Sunday, it was more a workshop. We sat in a circle round the room. What Sally did say and I wrote down was that with plot, Act 1 is to set up the problem. Resolution cane be linked to problem. Then we had a fun hour, where Sally acted out scenes for us. She pointed to one of us and said, The story begins... and that person had to say what the character did. We had two stories: the first one ended up having ninjas and a princess in, the second turned into a mystery/thriller plot. There were a lot of laughs, but we got the idea for plot. Has to have tension in it to keep the reader going and a resolution.