Thursday, November 14, 2013
All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my sixth novel and following the success of my fifth book, Take A Look At Me Now. This week, I reveal the latest #getinvolved winner and talk about plotting Book 6...
I was asked this week about how I plot my books by Catriona Merryweather from Fabulous Book Fiend. It's a very interesting question, not least because for book six I'm trying something new. I'll reveal all in the vlog...
Also, did your suggestion for the name of a kooky Brooklyn craft store make it into Book 6? Keep watching to find out!
Remember that I love answering your questions, so what would you like me to answer for next week's vlog? Post a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Spider Hand!'
Thursday, November 7, 2013
All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my fifth novel, Take A Look At Me Now. This week I share some AMAZING news about the book - and reveal the first winner of my #getinvolved competitions for Book 6...
It's been a complete rollercoaster of a year but the last couple of weeks have been phenomenally exciting. This week, I received some completely wonderful news: Take A Look At Me Now has made it to NUMBER FOUR in The Sunday Times Bestsellers! It's my highest ever placing and I'm completely over the moon! (You'll see how happy I am on the vlog...)
Also this week, I'll announce the winner of my first #getinvolved competition for Book 6, which I'm writing right now. Did your suggestion win? Watch the vlog to find out! And to complete the goodies in this week's vlog, I'm answering two questions sent in by lovely Kev from I Heart... Chick Lit. If you would like me to answer your question in next week's vlog, leave a comment below or email it to: email@example.com.
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze frame is entitled 'Say awwww'...
Monday, November 4, 2013
On Coffee and Roses I like to bring you news of exciting authors who are either waiting to be published or published and worth checking out.
This week, I'm excited to welcome the very lovely LISA DICKENSON into the Coffee and Roses Writer Spotlight.
When did you first decide that you wanted to write?
I was about eleven, and at a talk by Anne Fine in Plymouth. She was saying that when she was young she wrote loads of story beginnings, first chapters and opening paragraphs before moving on to the next idea. I do that, I thought. We’re the same! This means I will be a writer too! Then growing up I fell into that miserably British trait of assuming my dreams wouldn’t be reached because there was too much competition, but even so, if anyone actually ever says I can’t do something a little spark inside me always ignites and mumbles “I’ll bloody show you…”
Don’t tell anyone, but I’m quite interested in eavesdropping on and writing about interactions between people who think no-one’s listening, or when they can’t find the right words to say in a situation. That natural dialogue where you don’t produce the perfect, scripted comeback and it ends up sounding completely awkward and the reader – or listener – thinks, I know exactly how that feels!
My dream is to be a full-time writer, living near the beach and writing all day with the sand on my toes. But for now my typical writing day consists of sitting on a crowded bus full of teenagers for an hour in the morning and evening on route to the day job, hoping they don’t laugh at what I’m typing and call me a name I don’t understand. Actually, they have no interest in me whatsoever, so I can’t complain. If it’s a weekend my aim will be to write thousands of words on Saturday morning but then I procrastinate and “think” until Sunday night and then suddenly it all pours out.
Holidays! Be it a caravan in Cornwall or a holiday home in the Hollywood Hills. In my own abode it’s amazing how easy it is for my brain to procrastinate like hell – the house could do with a clean, the fridge needs a bit more stocking, those Real Housewives episodes need to be watched. Getting away, seeing new vistas, living a new life for whatever length of time, observing all new people with different, interesting lifestyles… those things inspire me, and I come back from each holiday with armfuls of ideas for locations, characters, scenes or even whole new stories.
Playing God – ha! Babbling on, unfolding a fictional life, doing to them what you will and putting words in their mouths. Each time I handed in the next two chapters of The Twelve Dates of Christmas to my lovely editor at Little, Brown, Manpreet Grewal, I was always amazed that it didn’t come back with everything edited out; I’d never before had a job with such freedom. Of course, there were edits, but the bulk was still there. My characters were allowed to be there, my scenes. It’s ever such a nice feeling. Oh, also that it’s practically in the job description that you have to laugh at your own jokes.
When you have a deadline and you’re tired and you don’t know how to write something and everything you’re putting on the page sounds like the crappest thing anyone’s ever written, ever, in the history of forever. Forcing creativity is the worst. I only had one meltdown, I think, at my editor, where I started furiously writing shouty capital emails saying – and I quote – “BUT WHAT IF I CAN'T THINK OF ANYTHING AND THE CLOCK TICKS AROUND TO 5PM AND ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT ARE DIAMANTES AND RED DRESSES AND WILLIES AND I AM DISOWNED IN THE WORLD OF PUBLISHING?????” She was like, “Okay, calm the heck down, it’ll come to you,” – and then the solution came to me that evening.
The Twelve Dates of Christmas
This is Claudia’s story of how she tries to pull her life out a big stale rut through the magic of Christmas in London. She struggles with the things we all do – grumpiness, heartache, indecision – but also faces a lot of fun, romance and discovery through her December of dating. From part one, Dates 1&2, through to part six, Dates 11&12, you’ll find lashings of snow, mulled wine, a host of sparkling dates, people showing off their lovely and not-so-lovely Christmas spirit and hopefully come out the end feeling like you should be knocking back a glass of Baileys and soaking in the season.
Why did you decide to release your book as a series rather than a stand-alone novel?
This was Manpreet at Little, Brown’s idea – she’d been thinking about the possibility of releasing a serialised novel and in the early days of Twelve Dates we talked about it and decided we’d give it a go. It splits rather neatly into six parts, and I like that it harks back to how Dickens would release his novels, because I firmly believe he wrote the best Christmas story of all time with The Christmas Carol (closely followed by The Jolly Christmas Postman).
What would be your top three tips for aspiring writers?
1. Enter writing competitions. Submit to agents. Find a friend who’s into writing and ask them to read it (you’ll be surprised once you admit you’re a writer how many friends say “I’ve been thinking of writing a book, too.”) It’s very easy to think ‘I like writing, my stuff sounds okay to me, but I don’t really know if I’m good enough,’ and subsequently do bugger all about it. If you submit your work at least someone is reading it, giving you feedback, taking you seriously. And you might just start the next ‘chapter’ of your life. Ha! Do you get it? Like, chapter of a book… They don’t call me an author for nothing.
2. Listen to podcasts from established authors. I have a whole host of Jackie Collins ones I keep on my iPod that I used to listen to when I felt like just sacking it all in and not bothering. Then I’d listen, and Jackie would chatter on about her successes, her struggles, her inspirations, her writing methods, and I’d always come away feeling a lot more revved up. This is what I want my life to be, I would think, and I would do something about it.
3. Carry a notepad everywhere! Don’t spend time trying to find a pretty ‘writer’ notepad with the perfect cover and an elastic doodah to hold it shut – you’ll never use it, because you won’t want it to be filled with scribbles and scrawls and half a chapter that started to get a bit too erotic and now you’re a little embarrassed it’s in there. Just have a crappy old notebook you may or may not have nicked from the office stationary cupboard, and jot down everything that springs to mind, from words of dialogue inspired by the song you’re listening to, to possible solutions to the end of a scene, to whole new story ideas. Shove it all in. Just remember to then go through it and collate your ideas from time to time!
Do you have a dream project you'd love to write?
Yes, two! I’d love to write a really chilling, eerie ghost story. Not one filled with shock, blood and gore, but the type that makes you unnerved. Like Rebecca or The Woman in Black. Something Hitchcock said which sticks in my mind is that if a bomb suddenly goes off it gives you ten seconds of fright, but if you know the bomb is there the whole dynamic is changed and you get foreboding and suspense. He was talking about films not novels, but I think it still applies, and that’s the type of novel I’d like to explore. The other project harks back to younger me and her dream to write an epic, Sweet Valley/Babysitters Club-style series with lovable characters that you keep coming back to, that people would want to collect the set and to follow their life stories (and still secretly love aged 30…).
Anything else you’d like to say?
I’m sure you’ve had enough of me harping on, but I think the only other thing I’d like to say is a whopping thank you, to Miranda, and to all the other authors and bloggers who’ve been incredibly supportive. It’s pretty scary putting yourself out there and saying “I WRITE THINGS, PLEASE LIKE THEM AND LIKE ME”, so a thanks to all of those who’ve helped me feel like I belong here and that they’re going through the same things, and everything’s going to be peachy.
Oh and one more thing: I WRITE THINGS, PLEASE LIKE THEM AND LIKE ME.
Thanks so much to Lisa for braving the Writer Spotlight! You can find out about Lisa at her website and follow her on Twitter @LisaWritesStuff.
Friday, October 18, 2013
At the beginning of this year I chose my magnificent seven Future Stars and I've been working with them on their amazing writing projects. So I was over the moon (and not surprised at all) when one of my Future Stars, NEAL DORAN told me he'd been offered a two-book deal! His first novel, Dan Taylor is Giving Up on Women is available on Kindle now - and it's brilliant. I asked Neal to tell what it felt like to be offered his book deal...
I had a clear idea how it was going to be when I found out I was going to be published.
My family would know I’d got ‘The Call’ because of the music that played. For years Rosalita (come out tonight) by Bruce Springsteen had been an essential part of the dream. If you don’t know it, it’s a fantastically uplifting song, written when Bruce was astoundingly young, about him trying to get his girlfriend to sneak out of her parent’s house for a big night out (it’s cool -- the characters are probably late teens/early twenties, it’s not about two 40-year-olds who still live with mum and dad). It’s medically impossible to not jump up and down when you hear it, and it has this line…
Whoa, so your daddy says he knows I don't have any dough,
Well, tell him this is his last chance to get his daughter in a fine romance,
Because the record company, Rosie, just gave me a big advance!
Now, this might not seem that relevant at first. I accepted, ooh, weeks ago, that I’m never going to be a rock star. And I was expecting to hear from a publisher not a record label. But it was this line, so full of exuberance, vindication, and joy that became part of the moment that would make the work worthwhile. It was going to be the soundtrack to jumping off a table, twirling my wife around the kitchen, and throwing my kids up in the air (and catching them). It was going to get the party started.
I imagine every writer has something like this - a scenario that they can play out in the head, of what it’ll be like when they get the news they’re going to be published. It was one of those things you have to think about a lot when you’re stuck with a half-finished novel that looks in urgent need of CPR and you aren’t sure it’s going to pull through. It’s insulation for your hopes when the cold reality of another auto-response agent rejection comes in, or you get told -- yet again -- that you’ve written a funny book, but men don’t read rom-com, and women don’t read rom-coms written by men.
I knew that getting there (and I had to believe I’d get there) would involve being on the wrong end of rejection. I knew it was going to be a case of one step forward, one step back. There were a lot of times when it just felt like all the steps were being taken on a travelator going the wrong way.
But you go through all that to get The Call that means you have a book deal.
For days I kept going in a kind of trance. I told lots of people and said I was really delighted. But if you’d heard me, I don’t think you’d have thought I’d achieved something I’d been working towards for years, and dreaming about for decades. It was a couple of days later before it really hit me. We were going away for the weekend for my birthday, it was a big one, and one that I’d set as a deadline for something to happen with the novel. Heading out of town and looking for a place to stop for ice-cream, I put on one of our in-car compilation CDs.
The guitar, Hammond organ and sax of the E Street Band blared, and Bruce started calling out his gal, Rosie.
It sank in. The setbacks and the self-doubt, the re-writes and the rejections had all been worth it. Dan Taylor Is Giving Up On Women was going to be published! I’d made my deadline by a day…
I looked out at the road ahead, the windows down in the early spring sunshine, my wife and two sons joining in with the ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’s to one of my favourite songs.
I’d done it.
The thing with being in a car with the windows open, is it’s much more likely you’ll get something in your eye...
You can follow Neal on twitter @nealdoran and on Facebook.
Sunday, September 29, 2013
All this year, I am keeping a video diary about writing and publishing my fifth novel, Take A Look At Me Now. This week, as P-Day creeps nearer, I share some exciting news about book launches and YOUR chance to star in a promotional video, plus answer your lovely questions...
Most of you will know by now that Bob and I are over the moon to be expecting our first child in March next year. Consequently, this is Bump's official vlog debut!
I also answer your questions on how to build a picture of your characters, my favourite characters and what I loved most about writing Take A Look At Me Now.
So, without further ado, here's the vlog! If you have a question for next week's vlog, leave a comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. Enjoy! xx
p.s. This week's YouTube-nominated freeze-frame is entitled, 'Ta-daaaah!'
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
The judging for this year's NEW ROSE PRIZE is underway and our judges are hard at work. But what is it like to win? I asked the first year's winner, NAOMI FRISBY, to share her experience of winning New Rose Prize 2011...
My big, pink suitcase was sitting in the hallway, packed in three layers – shoes, summer clothes, books – ready for a week in Spain. I was sitting on the sofa, laptop open, ready to press send.
Earlier in the week, I’d noticed The New Rose Prize listed on an arts e-newsletter I subscribed to. I only had one story short enough to qualify for entry; it’d already gathered a number of rejections from literary magazines but the competition was free and another failure to place wasn’t going to make a lot of difference. I didn’t think I had a hope of getting anywhere – Miranda Dickinson was a romantic fiction writer, why would she be interested in my bleak literary fiction?
A few weeks later, I was standing in our department office, phone in hand, when it vibrated. A new email. ‘Congratulations, you’ve been shortlisted for the New Rose Prize for fiction’. I read the email to the others in the office, rang a friend, emailed the writer who’d been my university tutor, walked the length of the school telling friends in other departments and posted the news on Facebook.
On the day the winner was to be announced, I was also at work. Miranda had scheduled her post for 12pm, at which time 28 Y9s would be sitting in front of me studying a short story themselves. I timed the lesson so they were doing a task at the crucial moment and positioned myself in front of the classroom computer. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Nothing. Refresh. Argh! It was me! And right that moment, I couldn’t tell anyone.
As soon as the lesson was over, I ran down the corridor to my then head of department’s classroom and shouted the news at her. I spent my lunch break texting, emailing and updating Facebook. The feedback from friends and family was lovely. But the feedback from people I’d never met was even better.
People who didn’t know me, who were published writers themselves, liked my story. Miranda Dickinson liked my story. Jamie Guiney said he looked forward to reading more of my work in the future. Maybe I really could be a writer.
The main part of the prize was a weekend at one of Ruth Saberton’s writing retreats in gorgeous Polperro, Cornwall. Ruth was enormously generous with both her time and her resources. After writing a number of short stories, I was attempting (and still am!) to write a novel. My plotting wasn’t sharp enough – Ruth talked me through a number of tools she used and gave me copies of them. She also copied a huge folder of documents to help with submitting to agents, including her own letters, synopses and CV. Ruth’s still the only person outside of my university writing workshop to have read my work in progress and her feedback on that was enormously helpful.
What did winning The New Rose Prize mean for me? It meant that other writers believed in me and in turn that meant I believed in myself. I’m still unpublished but it’s given me the confidence to keep going until the day I can remove the ‘un’.
Thanks to Naomi for sharing her story! We will be announcing the winners of this year's New Rose Prize soon - keep watching for the latest news...
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
Firstly, let me explain. I am posting this because Goodreads use the feed from my blog and repost it on their site. (Even though, if you visit my blog, you will see that all content is copyrighted and needs permission to be reproduced). And I want them to read this. This week I have been horrified by the treatment some authors have received from Goodreads and also by a small proportion of their users. I emphasise SMALL because I believe there are thousands of genuine, lovely readers on Goodreads. I want to make it clear that this is not about you. But someone I care about - a Goodreads user - was hounded by malicious messages this week because she dared to openly disagree with one feature of the site. She was sticking up for me and the abuse she received was so horrendous it made her want to close her own blog.
As authors, we're not supposed to answer back. If we get a bad review, or our books are rated and reviewed even when we're still writing it and nobody could have read the book because it doesn't exist (this happens on Goodreads), or if we receive abusive comments on our blogs and websites, or if people illegally download our work without paying for it, we're not meant to say anything about it. If we do, we're 'bad sports', or we 'only want to see good things about ourselves', or we shouldn't complain because we're 'doing our dream job' and, as such, 'have asked for it'. Now, apparently, our views don't matter to sites who use our books as collateral in order to generate discussions, either. A senior bod at Goodreads recently told a publishers' conference, "Goodreads isn't for authors." Fair enough, but without books (and authors) for the site to discuss, where would Goodreads be?
So, if you're a debut author who has self-published your book and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that nobody can have read it yet, but are faced with one and two-star ratings supposedly from someone who has read your novel, that's apparently OK. You can't answer back - and, when you contact the site displaying the clearly false rating, you're told their users are doing nothing wrong and that 'most users will take the rating with a pinch of salt anyway'. Except that if you're relying on a site like Goodreads to make readers aware of your self-published debut novel (and we're told as writers that the reason we can't complain is that it's good publicity), a low star rating could put off potential readers from even looking at your book. I've heard many stories like this from authors this week. And it's not just debut novelists: Harlan Coben posted this today:
To those reviewing MISSING YOU on Goodreads: I'm only halfway done writing it so could u tell me how it ends? Thanks. http://t.co/C7drEjX9Ul— Harlan Coben (@HarlanCoben) August 19, 2013
But what angers me, more than all of the above, is that when people dare to openly question the system, they are subjected to malicious, horrific abuse. Abuse that they, like authors, are not supposed to respond to. I won't name the lovely lady who encountered this treatment this week because I don't want any more morons heading to her site. But she is a good friend of mine, an excellent reviewer and a member of Goodreads. She responded after I commented on Twitter that my new book had received a rating in June, when the rater couldn't possibly have read it because, like Harlan Coben, I was still working on it. She was angry at how some people were abusing the site she was proud to be a member of. So she spoke out. And the torrent of abuse she received was so bad it made her want to close the blog that she's worked so hard to create and is so well-respected by readers, publishers and authors alike. This is wrong. Whatever Goodreads say about their users, they cannot condone the merciless hounding of one of their users who dares to raise her head above the parapet - ultimately because she wants to make the site she is a member of a better place.
So, I'm standing up. I will not tolerate people being abused on social media or websites like Goodreads, especially not in my name. This lady did nothing wrong. She spoke up to improve the site she felt was being abused by a tiny, idiotic minority. She spoke up to protect Goodreads, by suggesting one thing the site could change to improve it. She did not ask to receive so much abuse that she was scared to go online. This has to stop. NOW. If you're reading this on Goodreads, do something about it. Raise awareness of the abuse perpetrated in the website's name by a minority of its users. Bullying of any kind is illegal. It should be taken seriously. Because if it is allowed to continue through inaction, it can be devastating. I am not prepared to stand by and allow it by my silence.