Category Archives: writing

Swanwick Conference : forgetting how a newbie feels

Swanwick main buildings and gardens

Last week, I attended The Writers’ Summer School at Swanwick for the first time. I must say that I’d forgotten what it’s like to be a writing conference newbie — I’ve been going to the RNA Conference for more years than I’m prepared to admit — and it was salutary to experience newbie-dom all over again.

(At my first RNA Conference, I wasn’t published and didn’t really know anyone. But I met loads of writers whose books I’d read and loved. I remember chatting with Nicola Cornick who was then one of my writing heroes, and still is. The RNA sort of enfolded me, from that point on, it seemed.) Continue reading

Location, location, location…

The brief…

location for bucket-list bridesLast year I received an invitation from three authors I know and whose books I love – Donna Alward, Nina Singh and Barbara Wallace – to complete the quartet to write a mini series called “Bucket List Brides”.

Four young women, attending a charity auction, bid on an adventure. What happened to them after that was entirely up to each author.

The auction…

Tnantucket island location with sunsethe auction was to take place at the Merchant Resort, a fabulous hotel resort complex on Nantucket Island.

I needed a suitably gorgeous resort location, a beach and the kind of cottage that an islander family could have lived in forever. It was time for a little online research. I disappeared down the Pinterest rabbit hole for more time than was strictly necessary and followed #nantucketisland on Instagram. But that wasn’t the beginning of the story. This is the beach – with the necessary sunset – where it all began.

This is play time. The best part of writing – apart from the moment you sit back and know the book is finished – and a visit to that island location is now very high on my own bucket list! Continue reading

Learning to Write

For some while now I have been thinking about the ways we novelists learn to write. Then three conversations recently presented the issue to me in quite individual and thought provoking ways. And I am missing the chance to discuss it with friends and fellow authors. Missing it badly, if I’m  honest.

For this is the season that the Romantic Novelists Associationholds its annual conference as I write. And I am missing the panels, the talks, the workshops – not to mention the kitchen chats and the goody bags. So  all the stuff that I regularly count on to raise my industry knowledge, various writing skills and sheer enthusiasm is happening. Only. I. Am Not There.

So this blog is a sort of wish fulfilment. Were I at the Conference, I would be hunkering down in a kitchen with like minds and a decent bottle or two and… Well, you get the picture. Continue reading

Writing Energy Renewed

Writing energyRecently, I learned some things about my writing energy which seemed to have reached an all time low.

They surprised me. So I thought that some other writers might find my experience helpful. Or at least interesting,

writing energy magic, book, bluebell wood

As many readers know, I sometimes go off into the countryside as a Birdwatcher’s Companion. He’s a great chap to walk the hills with, knowledgeable and generous when I ask about plants and wildlife

But he’s also happy for me to go off into my own little fantasy world, if that’s where the mood takes me.

I really love going into sometimes quite Writing Energy early morning walkremote and even lonely places. For there is always the Back-Up Person with the Binoculars, on hand in case I fall down a rabbit hole.

No matter how tired I am when we start, it seems that I always come back with my writing energy renewed and a spring in my step. 

Writing Energy Lost

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Read aloud : an author’s critical editing tool?

Read aloud: as writing tutors advise

Almost every writing tutor — including Sophie and Joanna of this parish — will tell aspiring writers that it’s a really good idea to read aloud during the editing process, in order to judge whether the manuscript needs more work. Basically, if you fall over your prose while trying to read it aloud, you haven’t got it right. Yet.

Apparently, we and all the other tutors are guilty of logocentrism. (Is that another of those incomprehensible words that Dame Isadora was ranting about, a few weeks ago? Maybe, but I haven’t been able to ask her, because she’s off in one of the wilder parts of the world, advising some government panjandrums about communication skills. I imagine her audience is still reeling…)

Logocentrism — wot?

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Cakes, Crooks and Fallen Women. Controlling Characters?

So. It is Almost Out (just like one of Heyer’s hopeful young ladies of the Regency). The Highborn Housekeeper. My book about a noblewoman turned cook. A kind of Regency Nigella.
And funnily enough, my heroine resembles her, too. In my head.

Picture by Brian Minkoff-London Pixels

Controlling Fallen Women?The Ton's Most Notorious Rake by Sarah Mallory

A few years ago I wrote about the fallen women of Compton Parva. (That was my working title. It was published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon as The Ton’s Most Notorious Rake.)

One of the “fallen women” was Nancy, the big-hearted, big-bosomed earl’s daughter who was the mother hen of the group, looking after everyone.

Controlling Nancy? She was far too large a personality to be confined to a bit part in one book.
I fought it, I truly did, but no. She would NOT lie down. Continue reading

Explicit Sex in Romances : how often, how necessary?

woman in bed uncorks exploding champagne, metaphor for explicit sexExplicit Sex in Romances: none, lots, somewhere in between?

Explicit sex in romances is a complete turn-off for some readers. They like the bedroom door firmly closed and refuse to read any romances where it is not. That, of course, is absolutely their choice. And I have written some romances that, in my opinion, worked very well without sex scenes. Indeed, one of them — Rake’s Reward — has been called “fizzing with sex” even though it contains no explicit sex at all.

But, equally, I’ve written romances with a lot of explicit sex on the page, even though that is bound to have lost me some potential readers.

So, are there any guidelines for authors here? Continue reading

Pedantique-Ryter rants about incomprehensible words

In a recent newspaper column about methods of drying hands, I read the following (to me) incomprehensible paragraph:

The fundamental superiority of paper never looked to be in doubt, though. With paper, you didn’t have to wait restlessly for half a minute for the dryer to finish its bloviation. You didn’t have to fear a malfunction. You could dab at spots on your tie, or dry a washed face, or wipe sweat from your brow.

Bloviation?
No, me neither.

The piece, by Samanth Subramaniam, was about the struggles between the producers of paper towels and hot-air hand dryers to win business in public toilets. I had a context; but the word remained incomprehensible.

I consider myself reasonably well educated and yet I was stumped.

Blowing? Continue reading

Opera for Writers

OK, this blog is truly personal. I very much wanted to write it. I don’t know whether my experience will be of help – or even interest – to other writers. I hope it may. But no guarantees.

There’s something a bit magical, a bit otherworldly about opera. Lots of my nearest and dearest hate it. If you do too, you’ll be in excellent company.

Why I’m Thinking About This Now

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The Sweet Sorrow of Endings

I have done it!  I have finished my latest historical romance!
Hooray, I hear you say. At last.
About time.champagne to celebrate book endings

writer worries waiting for editor's verdict

It has been polished, re-polished and sent winging its merry way to The Editor, the god-like creature who will pronounce judgement upon my baby. As some old writer hack said, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”
It is an anxious time.

But while I wait, chewing my nails to the quick, I have been pondering on Life, the Universe and…

Endings

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