The writing life is hard. And some parts of it are harder than others. [Yes, I know. Cue violins?]
When i do talks for readers, they regularly ask me, “Where do you get your ideas from?” I answer. Of course I do. But for me — and, I suspect, for a lot of other writers — the challenge isn’t finding new ideas to write about. My challenge is turning the zillions of ideas fizzing around my brain into words on the page.
Thousands and thousands of words.
If you’ve read any great books recently, the chances are that you raced through thousands of words in a few hours. Perhaps you missed out on several hours’ sleep because you just had to keep turning the pages? That’s really pleasing for the writer. But it’s also daunting. Because you, dear reader, may well want another book by the same author.
It takes a few hours to read a great book. It takes months, or years, to write one.
Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands. To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.
Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.
Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!
The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view
I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading →
There are a couple of months to go before we need to start to panic, but the groans are undoubtedly justified.
The children have only just gone back to school, the supermarket aisles are full of the momentary distraction of fake pumpkins and Halloween costumes, but they are already piling up the Christmas chocolate. (I took these two photographs just this morning.) And greetings cards are on sale for those organised enough to get them written before they get swept up in the season.
A few weeks ago, I blogged about author Ursula Torday and how I had a sort of virtual not-quite-relationship with her which was like a haunting. I fell over her books on three different occasions in my life, years apart. And now, ten years on, I have just done so again.
So that makes four.
We clearly have unfinished business.
As a result, I have been reading her books and digging a bit – and reconsidering the very helpful email that her godson, Robert Torday, sent me 10 years ago. This is how it started this time…
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 →
Last 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 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 →
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 →
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…)