Panic Stations

I often wonder why it is that my life is so chaotic. I mean, I am pretty organised. Ask anyone who really knows me and they will tell you that I am a planner. I think ahead. I make lists. I make lists of my lists. When it comes to special events I start to make plans weeks, even months in advance. Yet, somehow, at the last minute, everything always seems to go to pieces.

Take last week for instance. The deadline was looming large for the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme and my manuscript had to be in for the 31st August.  Now, I had given up on the idea of sending my novel in because it was in such a state of chaos that I couldn’t think straight any more. Then, as I have told you on a previous occasion – I do hope you were paying attention – I met up with two lovely fellow members and they persuaded me to give it a go.

‘Just send a partial in, if you must, but send something. What have you got to lose?’

Well, turns out, the best part of summer and what was left of my sanity but hey ho. I went home fired up with enthusiasm and stubbornly determined that if I was going to send something in, it was going to be complete. So I chained myself to the laptop (not literally, you understand, that would just be silly) and got on with it.

I spent weekend after weekend, early mornings and even some evenings after work trying to get it ready and finally, I decided it was time to let it go. So, time to print it off. A quick call to DH and sit back and wait for him to bring my printer to me. Except….on Bank Holiday Monday morning came the message. “Is there supposed to be a mains lead with this thing?” Well, er, yes. How else do I connect it up to the electricity supply? Panic set in. ‘Don’t worry,’ he said, ‘give me half an hour and I’ll fix it.’

So I waited half an hour. Then came the next message. ‘The shops don’t stock it. You have to send away for it.’

Well, guess what? I had no time to send away for it. I needed to get it printed and posted – fast. DH (bless him) sent out an urgent message on Facebook to see if anyone could lend him a printer. Thankfully, three people responded but two of them lived a long way away. One, however, was close, so we shot round to collect it and came face to face with the oldest printer I have ever seen in my life. I seriously wondered if it had actually been invented before the first computer. Still, it was very kind of the person to lend it to me and so I took it home and began printing.

The novel was 450 pages long. I started printing at 3.20pm. I sat in stunned silence watching the slow chug, chug, chug of the printer as it seemed to hammer out each letter individually. The clock ticked. DH went home. I let the dogs out. DD2 and partner went to bed.  The clock carried on ticking. I propped my eyelids open with matchsticks and wished I’d thought to stock up with coffee.

On the plus side I managed to watch the Coronation Street omnibus, Trollied, and an episode of Restoration Home set in Hull that I’d been meaning to watch for ages. The Sky planner now has more free space so it’s not all bad. And finally, at 2.15 am page 450 was printed and I could print two copies of my synopsis. Done!

Unfortunately, by the time I’d done that, filled in the green form and sorted out everything else it was almost 3 o’ clock in the morning before I fell into bed. I then had a driving lesson at 9 and a 7 hour shift at work starting at 11. After my lesson, we flew to the post office to send my precious parcel off only to find a queue outside the door. Panicking and sweating I kept looking at my watch as the queue seemed to stay static for simply hours! Eventually, I reached the counter and the woman behind it weighed it for me and groaned.

‘£15.10,’ she informed me. I nearly fell over. Paying that once was bad enough but I had to pay it three times over!! Once to send it to the organiser, once for her to send it to the reader, and once for the reader to send it back to me. Dear God. I didn’t have more than £34 on me so I had to leave it in the capable hands of DD2’s partner and head into work, fingers crossed that she would carry out my instructions, which I had written down for her and then told her at least three times on the way into the office.

Finally, an hour later she sent a text to me to inform me that she had done it, and the parcel was on its way. Great. All I had to do now was wait for the acknowledgement. The acknowledgement! Oh yes. It came to me in the early hours of the morning that, in spite of all my careful planning and double checking,  I had forgotten to put a stamp on the acknowledgment! Luckily, the lovely organiser took pity on me, obviously sensing my senility and emailed me to assure me that she had received it.

So now I sit back and wait and rest and recover. I have never been so exhausted in all my life. But at least I learned three valuable lessons.

  1. Buy a new printer – a cheaper, faster, laser one and keep it safely in my room, under lock and key if necessary.
  2. Write shorter books. £15.10!! Still in shock.
  3. Make absolutely sure that I don’t wait until the end of August next year to send my manuscript in to the NWS. I don’t think I can go   through all this again!

Have a great week xx

The End Is Nigh

My book is finished. When I say finished, of course, I mean it’s finished for now. As I was gently reminded on Facebook yesterday, a book is never finished but merely abandoned. It has to be or it will go on being tweaked forever, I suppose.

I spent yesterday filling in those final few details, writing the one short scene I hadn’t yet attempted and going over it all again and again.  At some point this week, when I get a full day to myself, I will sit down and read through the whole thing one more time, then print it off and send it to the Romantic Novelists’ Association, to be critiqued as part of their New Writers’ Scheme.

When it comes back I will (hopefully) have some constructive criticism, which will enable me to improve upon it further so that I can resubmit it next year and then, fingers crossed, eventually send it off into the big bad world to see if anyone is interested in publishing it.

Writing a novel is bloody hard work. I mean, really. I started this adventure on 1st of November 2011 as part of my first ever NaNoWriMo and by December I had a first draft of 120,000 words.  Brilliant, I thought. That was exhausting but fun. Now for the easy bit.

Wrong! It has taken me around 20 months to do that “easy bit” and it has been an energy-sapping ride. There have been times when I cried with frustration, when my mind just wouldn’t switch off and I couldn’t sleep, when I have gone into work feeling like a zombie, my mind totally preoccupied with a fictional world and characters that just weren’t doing what I thought they should be doing!

And there have been many times when I woke early in the morning, full of excitement as I hurried downstairs to switch on my laptop and return to my imaginary world where all my new friends were waiting for me. They became very real. I can see them all in my mind and I love them…even the selfish ones!

Sometimes it seemed it would never be done and I would feel impatient, ideas for the second book in the series flowing, its characters pushing their way in and demanding my attention, but I would just make quick notes and push them away. Their time is coming.

Never in all that time did I seriously consider giving up. I did sometimes wonder what I did with all my spare time before I resumed writing after such a long, long break. I know I got more reading done but even so. It seems to have taken every free moment I have had. Not just the actual writing, but the thinking about writing, the planning, the plotting, the research, the reading of “how to” books on writing, making notes, daydreaming…very important and under-rated activity that!

It turns out it’s not the book I thought I was writing at all, and bears very little resemblance to the original draft. The seeds were there, but it has grown into something I hadn’t forseen. I thought I had it all planned, but it appears that I knew nothing. My characters had other ideas and hey, it’s their story. Who am I to tell them what to do? 😉

And now it’s done. I’ve taken it as far as I can on my own. I need a professional opinion and fresh eyes to read it through and tell me what to do with it next. It’s scary as no one else has ever read it. Not even family. So, it will soon be packaged up and winging its way to a reader and I will get on with my life.

So what have I learned from this whole experience?

  • As previously stated, in case you haven’t got the idea, writing a novel is HARD WORK
  • Even the best planned and plotted novels may veer off course and it’s not the end of the world
  • Have your ending in sight right from the first day or you may lose your way completely. It’s okay to take a detour but don’t miss the finishing post all together
  • You can never know everything about writing. There is always something new to learn
  • Nothing that you write is wasted. Even the stuff that is only fit for the recycling bin has helped you gain experience, and there may be some hidden gems in there that will come in useful for other novels
  • Television, game playing, visiting family, entertaining, or any kind of social life may become a distant memory
  • The writing community is, by and large, an extremely friendly place to hang out, with most authors being incredibly friendly and supportive and more than willing to advise
  • Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc are lethal!! However, avoiding them completely is almost impossible so try to limit them
  • It’s all worth it! I’ve never had so much fun in my life. (With apologies to DH)

September is going to be a very busy month. I have a holiday in (hopefully) sunny Cornwall to look forward to; my daughter is getting married; I have my driving test to deal with and I am moving house – again. Yes, me and DH are taking the plunge once more and giving it another go. I am moving into his home while we look for something bigger and so, as you can see, I have a lot on. I will probably not write at all that month and concentrate on real life for a few weeks.

Then again…the urge to pick up a notebook and pen is always there, and they do sell some very pretty notebooks in Cornwall, and really, writing may soothe my nerves and take my mind off my driving test. It’s part of me now. It’s who I am. And I love it!

Have a great week xx

The Green Hills of Home by Emma Bennet

Gwen Jones is a writer who lives with her mother and dog, Oscar, in a rural village in Wales. John Thatcher is an editor – a busy, professional, workaholic loner. Gwen’s gift for writing brings her to the publishing house where John works and he is assigned to her as her editor. Having met before in difficult circumstances and finding they have an instant, and highly inconvenient, mutual attraction, neither is happy about the situation but they have no choice in the matter.
Gwen’s “mam” is ill in hospital after suffering a stroke, and Gwen is relying on the success of her book to clinch a mortgage deal to enable her to buy the farmhouse that has been her home all her life and save her mother from having to leave the place she loves. She needs John’s professional help and so, when he tells her that they need to put in a lot of work editing the novel and get it ready for publication as soon as possible, she can hardly argue. John is stunned when she tells him she can’t go to London and he will have to work around her commitments to her mother and to her job, waitressing at a local cafe.
John decides to move in with her at her home while the work gets done, and the two begin an uneasy professional relationship that, bit by bit, leads to a respect and liking and eventually to something much deeper. But Gwen has too much to think about, worrying about her mother and her home, and John has a secret of his own which is preoccupying him. When Gwen receives some shocking news from her publishers she wonders if she has been wrong about him after all…
This is a very sweet story, with a lovely setting in the Welsh countryside. The two main characters are very likeable and the romance develops at a gentle pace that keeps the reader turning the page to see what will happen next between them. Very enjoyable.  4/5

Click Here To Buy

The Green Hills of Home

The Green Hills of Home

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Okay, I hold my hands up. I have been quite bad this last few weeks. I have totally neglected this blog and not written a single post since early July. I have also taken about a month to read a novel that I promised to read and review and that’s really not like me. I can only apologise.

I have been extremely busy with the WIP which is *almost* complete – or at least, as complete as I can make it without a professional looking it over and telling me where I’m going wrong. As you may recall from my last post, many, many moons ago, I have been working hard on my novel because it has to be with the RNA by the end of August. I have been under quite a bit of pressure as I work full time and also have family commitments and an imminent driving test, but I can’t say I have been desperate to leave my story behind.

Truth is, I have developed a rather undignified crush on my hero. I am not entirely sure if this is normal but I swear, sometimes he is all I can think about! I sit behind my desk at work, daydreaming about him and wondering what I can expect from him the next time I open my laptop and head off to visit him. He is becoming a little too real to me and I am almost done with him, which actually makes me very sad.

I  expect you’re shaking your head now and saying, “You’re quite right, it makes you very sad!”  and not in the miserable sense of the word either. More in a  “you total geek, get a grip and move on” kind of way. Well, look, this is new to me. He is my first hero and I suspect that he will always be the one that is dearest to me for that very reason. I have poured all my hopes and dreams onto him. He is the kind of man that I would love to have in my life but, sadly, I suspect he doesn’t exist.  

Truthfully, this post wasn’t even supposed to be about him but he’s just taken over here, too! I already have plans for my next novel and have written some preliminary scenes for it and I am very fond of my new hero, but right now I don’t love him and I am really hoping that I can grow to care about him as much as the current one.  I wonder if this is just me being a bit weird or do all writers feel this way? I mean, if I don’t fall in love with him, how can I expect a reader to? Right? Right? Dear God, please tell me I’m right!!

Anyway, I am currently going through the novel checking for anything that is superfluous and making sure that there are no unnecessary scenes or words and no excessively repeated phrases and that everything makes sense and there are no loose ends. I will then print off a copy and check it again before sending my firstborn out into the cruel world and try to forget all about it and get on with book two.

There are four in this series so I know I am going to meet my hero and heroine again. I just have to be very careful not to keep returning to them too much. The other books are not their story. Other characters have their lives to live after all…

So, I will spend the next week or two with my hero and try to relish every moment with him, then I will, I must, put him away and concentrate on my new characters until the novel comes back with its critique and I can start reworking it, trying to do him and my lovely heroine justice – but I know I will miss him and I will miss her, too. They have become so real to me and I feel sorry to let them go. 

That’s aside from the fact that I will have a professional opinion of my novel! Scared? Me? You bet your sweet life I’m scared. No one has ever read this before and it’s a truly terrifying prospect, but I have spent nearly two years of my life on this…time to let it fly the nest. I know I am going to feel like a nervous mother on her child’s first day at school. This is where I finally discover if writing is something I can actually do, or if, like my hero, it’s all been a rather lovely dream… 

Have a great week xx