....welcome to my blog on writing, reading and living in London ......

Monday, 28 March 2011

Day 4 of A First Draft in 30 Days

One interesting thing I have found with this method is that it really gives you foundations that you build upon. Normally I rush in full pelt, feeling that getting words on paper is the most important thing. Building them up, 1000 done, 2000 done, first chapter done is hugely rewarding. But, if what you build starts to shake and tumble at chapter 3 or chapter 13 then making it firm and solid again is so difficult. With this method, I find that every now and then there's a sort of lightbulb moment so that something I've already started can be built upon. I'll give you an example. Themes - I never really consciously think of a theme for my book. But with this one, it's started to emerge for me that as my hero is an architect, and architecture is all about planning the perfect building, that theme can run through the book. Each time I think of a new step forward in their relationship, I can think of it like a brick being cemented in a wall, or light coming in through a window, or a door being opened to their personalities. Okay, so that's a bit whacky, maybe a little cheesy, a bit odd and off the wall (well, it certainly is for me as I'm a very straightforward individual, not at all poetic or given to fancies). However, just being in that frame of mind, has given me some sort of theme which I hope to run with throughout the book. Perhaps it will make the finished article more real? Who knows, but it may give me some nice metaphors which are things I always struggle with. It's certainly made me look at my hero in a different light. Who wouldn't fall in love with a man who could build them the most perfect house to live in, a house just with them in mind? I never usually think my characters through this fully so am feeling positive about Day 4, and am realising that this mulling over the story from all angles is part of what Karen S Wiesner's method is all about. Also, that when I tried this method the first time, I fell at the first post because I thought that you had to complete every stage completely before you moved to the next. Silly me. Because if I had read her book properly in the first place I would have acknowledged that she clearly said that some of your worksheets can be half empty, you don't make them perfect the first time you write them down. But you do build on them. So now, off to the dreaded plot sketches, not looking forward to this bit because I think it's going to be difficult, hence my looking for every delaying tactic possible. Oh, and have I had my breakfast yet? Nope. I'll just get that sorted then before I move on to those dreaded plot sketches........

Day 3 of A First Draft in 30 Days, setting sketches

Feeling reasonably pleased with myself as I've finished my character sketches for my hero and heroine and done a general setting sketch (with, yes folks, a little pen drawing even though I'm no artist!) of my manor house by the sea. It is based on somewhere I've stayed and love, not a million miles off the coast of England. I've managed to incorporate into the fictional property many of the things I need to carry the plot and the relationship forward. I've also done the research list which isn't extensive, but I need to find out something about architects and awards which I know precious little about. I'm also watching Country House rescue on the TV which is not only invaluable for clues about how grisly inheriting a stately home can be in terms of cost but is also interesting in terms of character studies. So many people hang on to huge unwieldy buildings even though they cannot pay their upkeep because they have a strong sentimental attachment to the houses and their own family's history within the house. Anyhow, that's my excuse for watching tv when I should be writing....... and I'm sticking to it!

The next part of the draft is much scarier because it's plot sketches. As I only ever have the vaguest of ideas in my head usually when I sit down to write, the idea of planning out my plot beforehand fills me with horror. Still, I'm not going to give up now. Watch this space.......

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Day 2 of First Draft in 30 Days

I am blogging about my attempt to write a first draft in 30 days using Karen S. Wiesner's book because I want to impose some discipline on myself. By posting regularly, and making my attempt public it will force me to keep with it. Psychology's a funny thing isn't it. If you declare something openly it's that much more difficult to go back on it.... I hope! Anyhow, I'm sort of on track. Yesterday, I did a character study for my heroine, and a pretty full one at that. So full that I didn't make a start on my hero but then I couldn't really picture him. Today though, there was an article in one of the Sunday supplements with a photo of Orlando Bloom. He looked so lovely I thought, 'that's him, that's my hero.' So, off I go. If I can do a character study of him, however brief, PLUS a couple of setting sketches and a little bit about what research I have to do, I will be on track. Wish me luck!

Monday, 21 March 2011

A First Draft in 30 Days

Okay, it's true, I am trying to bring a bit more structure to my writing. I have just sent another novella winging off to my editor and again, I simply wrote by the seat of my pants. I hope they like it but for my next project I am determined to approach things with a bit more discipline. Some while ago, after an RNA conference, I travelled back on the train with a new Mills and Boon author. She had used a book called 'First Draft in 30 Days' by Karen S Wiesner. I skim read the book and thought it made a lot of sense. But being sometimes a lazy writer who likes to rush straight in when she has an idea, full of enthusiasm but little in the way of a plan, I put the book on a shelf and forgot about it.

Since then, I have had two or three ideas brewing and cannot focus on which one I want to run with. So, I got the 'how to' book out again and am determined to take more time over planning this next book. The reason is I want it to be multi-layered, I want to make my characters have more dimensions, many, many dimensions in fact so that the reader has the pleasure of peeling each layer away. That's something I like in my reading and would like to do more in my writing. Particularly after attending Kate Walker's workshop, I have seen that because romances are all about people and their internal conflicts the construction phase has to be pretty rigorous. Karen Wiesner's book has worksheets on constructing full lives for characters, on creating multiple settings in fact on building up an entire portfolio about your book before you even put fingers to keyboard. I have always wanted to be more focussed in my writing so perhaps the time has come. I'll keep you posted but until then, I am out to buy myself a lever arch file to put all those worksheets in and am feeling very optimistic about being more disciplined and hopefully more productive as a result!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Guilty Pleasures

No, this stunning guy is not my Guilty Pleasure - I'm a happily married woman! But, Stephen Muzzonigro does feature in a great little documentary which screens on TV on 12 April 2011. He is one of the models who appears on Mills and Boon covers and helps to sell one somewhere in the world every four seconds. The film is an exploration of those who read Mills and Boon, those who write them and others like Stephen who are all part of selling the dream. The documentary blends the cinderella world of M&B with real life stories of some of the readers. There is Shumita Didi Singh whose fantasy hero became her husband then left her for a younger model. And there is Hiroko Honmo in Japan, happily and boringly married to her staid husband. Hiroko takes ballroom dancing lessons so she can fantasise about a more glamorous world with her ballroom dancing teacher. Their stories are touching, funny, sad and joyful in equal amounts. Real life is so much grittier and we see the lovely Roger Sanderson, the UK's only male Mills and Boon writer giving his slant on why the books are so popular and how difficult they are to write. We also see the delectable Stephen bursting the fantasy bubble when he reveals that keeping those fantastic muscles rippling keeps him locked away in the gym most days and that he has to push away his plate of chips and pick at salad to keep young and beautiful. It's a beautiful film and I went to see it at the ICA gallery in London which was screening the Birds eye View Film Festival featuring films made by women. Julie Moggan the Director has made a sensitive, funny and sad tale which is structured just like the best M&B books and thankfully in the end, for most of those featured has a happy ending aaaahhhhh.........

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Pure Passion Awards 2011

The winners of the eagerly awaited Pure Passion awards were announced yesterday. Of particular note for me were Louise Allen who won the Love Story of the Year award for her historical book, 'The Piratical Miss Ravenhurst' and Penny Jordan who won an Outstanding Achievement Award. The reason is that not only are they both excellent writers who have had considerable success but that I know both of them have done a lot to help budding authors. Louise through her work for the RNA and Penny who I met ages ago at a writing course for would-be Mills and Boon authors in Wales. Penny spoke without notes, at length and just gave us the benefit of her knowledge. It was a wonderful weekend and I met such nice people there. As a writer, giving advice and help I know can be a two edged sword because such things always take time and time is one thing an author never has enough of. There are always more books to be started, more to be polished/edited, more to be promoted, finding the time is a constant battle. So, if I were able to give a special award it would be to all those writers who have been kind enough to spare the time to give help and advice.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Show don't tell ,,,,,,, and the King's Speech

'Show don't tell', is a mantra which all we writers are told again and again but it's often difficult to do. So often I find myself writing a whole paragraph or even a whole page and then realising I haven't shown at all, just kept on telling and have to go back to revise. But today, I heard a fascinating radio programme about the history of cash - coins and notes - and there was a lightbulb moment which demonstrated exactly what people mean by that phrase. What's that got to do with the King's Speech you wonder? Well, they were talking about Edward VIII, the king who abdicated to marry the woman he was crazy about - the divorcee, Wallace Simpson. He was the one who left his brother, the one with the stammer to have to take the crown. The newspapers often gave Edward a bad press saying he was vain and self obsessed but I often wondered if that was just sour grapes at him deserting his duty. However in the radio programme they talked about how on coins and notes, the monarch of the day always faces the same way. Also that tradition is that when a new monarch appears they are always portrayed as facing the opposite way to the monarch before. So, as our Queen always faces to the left, when the next monarch comes on board he will face, by tradition, to the right. However, when Edward VIII was due to be king although it was his turn to face to the right, he had all the currency minted with him posing facing left BECAUSE..... his profile was more handsome facing that way. All that tradition was knocked aside for his vanity. That to me was a perfect 'show don't tell' story! He must have been a bit of a twonk.....