Friday, November 30, 2007

Turning to Crime

I work in a library (in case I haven’t mentioned that) and recent Public Lending figures have shown there’s been a massive shift, amongst women readers, away from romance towards crime novels, over the last ten years. This is definitely true of the branches I’ve worked in. I reckon most of our customers know how to commit the perfect murder and get away with it. Does this mean I throw in the towel right now (I’m writing humorous/feel-good, but still, ultimately, romance) or do they mean Catherine Cookson, Danielle Steele, Mills & Boon type romance? I need to know!!!!!!!

Another survey shows that:-

Married, working women aged 35 to 59 would rather read a good book than have sex, shop, or sleep. (No Comment)!

Nearly half finished a book in less than a week, 48% read more than one book at a time and, in the last year, one in five had spent £100 or more on novels. (Join the library you silly people!!)

47% of women said their favourite type of fiction was thrillers, 46% contemporary fiction and 45% crime, science fiction, with romance their least favourite. (GULP)

Only four in 10 liked books with a happy ending and many said they had felt inspired to do something after finishing a book - travel, change jobs, go back to college, leave their partners or try to write themselves.

Maeve Binchy is the favourite romance author, but in the list of most favoured Ian Rankin, Patricia Cornwell, PD James and Dan Brown outnumbered romantic writers.

HOWEVER - The literary idol is still Mr Darcy, the hero of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.

Confused? I am now. What does it all mean?
Not a lot, I suspect, which renders this post somewhat pointless.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What's in a face?

After charging about in Blogland this morning, before zipping off to do some birthday shopping (twin boys, 16 on Saturday), I couldn't help noticing that those writers who've posted photos of themselves on their blogs look all lovely and, well...writerly, somehow, while I look like a fool. I mean, I am a bit silly a lot of the time, but I do take my writing seriously. You wouldn't know it, looking at that picture, now would you? Trouble is, I find it very hard not to pull a daft face in front of a camera (embarrassment I suppose). It made me think though, does appearance matter if you're a writer? It shouldn't obviously, many times have you glanced at a book jacket and thought 'ooh, I wouldn't have imagined him/her to look like that?' Funny, isn't it? Not that I'm ever disappointed (she said, back-peddalling like mad), just surprised sometimes. I think we all like to put a face to the name though, even if said face is a tad gormless (in my case).

Trouble is, if you go for some cheesy black and white, soft-focus, head resting on cradled hands shot, you run the danger of no-one recognising you in real life - or being terribly disappointed when they do, along the lines of "oh, I was expecting your daughter/prettier, younger sister/a human being, couldn't they make it?" etc.

Apparently, a picture paints a thousand words, but I prefer the other saying. A photo only tells half a story.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Things I Now Know

When I started writing seriously (as opposed to laughing my head off at the very thought)I used to (and still do to a certain extent) devour books and magazines and articles about writing and authors, as if I thought they might reveal the secret to success - a sort of magical formula that would unlock the writing beast lurking within. Instead, all that was revealed was what I already knew in my soul. There is no magic formula. You simply have to Get On With It. In doing so though, there are some things I read at the time that I understand properly now, and plenty of things I've learned. For instance:-

Even if you start out with a definitive plot, it will sometimes veer off in directions you hadn't expected. I used to stick to a story religiously, like an architect with plans laid out, scared it would fall apart if I didn't, but now try to go with the flow.

Your characters often don't come 'alive' until someway into your book. The amount of times I've gone back and changed the first couple of chapters because they didn't 'sound' right, I could have written three novels! I now realise it's best to get to 'know' them properly, just keep bashing away, before going back to the beginning, when they were saying or doing things you now know to be out of character.

Once you get going, the words will start flowing, even if it's rubbish to start with. So true, so true. If only I could get going more often!

You'll know you're a proper writer when you're still doing it, despite the rejections mounting up. After my first rejection, I thought, that's it, I'm rubbish, I'm giving up (sob). But I didn't. I couldn't. I do it because I love it.

Walking the dog is when most ideas come. A lot of writers said things like this - and there's definitely something in it. When/if I ever am published, I'll have to dedictate the thing to Molly-dog.

The more you write, the better you'll get. Looking back, my first novel was pretty awful. Fun and spontaneous, but a bit cringey. I think I've definitely developed an 'ear' (or should it be 'eye') for dialogue and flow now.

Most writers' first novels (the ones that usually stay in a drawer) are the closest to being autobiographical. I couldn't see it at the time, but looking back, it SO was! Maybe you have to get that out of your system first. Unless you're writing a memoir, of course.

Writers' should read - a lot. I kind of knew this already, and have always been an avid reader, but reading as a writer is a different skill and surprisingly useful in terms of studying structure and pace. I'm able to separate reading for pleasure and reading as a writer now - no wonder my brain feels scrambled!

You don't feel quite like 'you' unless you write. That's true. I tried other creative outlets over the years (photography mainly) in a sort of extended form of procrastination, but finally succumbed properly to the writing urge about five years ago. Better late than never (though some would disagree!)

Any other insights I might have missed?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007


This is fun:-

I'm The Great Gatsby apparently!

This is a lovely song (not if you're feeling weepy though).

Okay, back to the writing. I'm on 12,000 words with NaNoWriMo, which is way behind, but it's 12,000 more than I'd done a few weeks ago, which has got to be a good thing. Right?

First, I've got a photographer from the paper coming round to do a 'proper' picture to accompany the book review. Ooh, get me! Hope he's got a shatterproof lens.
I feel a bit embarrassed with myself, actually. There's something about putting yourself 'out there' (in however small a way) that smacks of showing off a bit, isn't there?

Still - it's hardly the X-Factor.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A great combination

I'm going to be doing a weekly Book Review for my local paper, from Thursday. I'm very excited. There'll be a photograph and a few sentences about me and everything (not like the ones on here, obviously - don't want to scare the readers away). I can't wait. Three reasons why it's a Good Thing -

1) I like the discipline - nothing like a set word count for tightening up.
2) Good exposure (I hope!)
3) It combines the two things I love doing most - reading and writing.
4) There probably is a fourth, but I can't think of one.

One thing springs to this just another way of Not Getting On With It??

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Helicopter Game

I've copied this from Cally Taylor's website (yeah, thanks a lot!) Now I'm officially never going to Get On With It.

Highest score so far...548. Come on - it's harder than it looks.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lost my Mojo

I'm really cracking on with the NaNoWriMo thing, and more importantly - enjoying it.
It made me realise how recently, I've been 'trying too hard' with my novel.
A couple of years ago I sat down and wrote a Whole One - 300 pages - and loved every minute. Being completely naive, I didn't do any re-writing or editing. I couldn't wait to sent it Out There. Surprisingly (because looking back it was pretty bloody awful - cringeworthy in many ways) I received some very positive feedback. The the main criticism were, my main character wasn't 'rounded' enough and one of the plot points was 'a little tired'. Basically, it needed re-writing.
And that's what I've been doing ever since. The trouble is, I found myself tied up in knots, trying to write what I thought agents and publishers wanted to read, but it soon became apparent that this technique just wasn't working. I kept faltering. Starting again. Thinking about giving up. Changing the first chapter. Changing the title. Changing the theme. Changing the whole thing. Another year went by with not much to show for it.
Yet, reading through my very first effort last week, for the first time in months, it struck me how spontaneous it sounded. I had great fun writing it, and it showed. The dialogue was...well, quite sparkly in parts, and I laughed out loud a couple of times. Yes, lots of things needed tightening up, but basically it was miles better than anything I've produced since. What's that all about???
So now, I've gone back to basics. I'm resurrecting my original masterpiece. It needs a lot of re-shaping and it still might not work, but I'm actually having fun with the damn thing again.
I think I've found my Mojo.

Friday, November 2, 2007

On the Defensive

Somebody yesterday, asked me what type of novel I'm (attempting) to write, and my heart sank. She's a bookish type, but thinks romance novels are a literary oddity. I don't much like the term Chick-Lit, as it tends to be used in a demeaning way, though I suppose I should look at it as a marketing term, like 'thriller' or 'blockbuster'. Personally, I perfer 'women's fiction' or 'feel-good', but when I said that she immediately came over all smug and said 'Oh, you mean Chick-Lit?' in a dismissive way. AAAARRRGGGHHH!
It reminded me of an article I wrote on this subject a couple of years ago, and I wish I'd remembered enough of it to quote it to her.

"Mention the words 'Chick-Lit' and people immediately imagine rows of brightly covered covers, charting the lives of singletons counting calories and looking for love, in the style of Bridget Jones. Despite the fact that Helen Fielding's heroine was written about in an original and witty way, there's no doubt that plenty of subsequent authors have jumped on the bandwagon, with less successful results. There are many insubstantial efforts languishing on bookshelves, but it's unfair that the whole genre has been tarred with the same brush. Chick-Lit fiction is deemed to be something you should be ashamed of reading, never mind writing, yet popular fiction is defined as being 'suited to the understanding of ordinary people', and what's wrong with that? Not all books need to be literary affairs, featuring drab characters battling inner demons; neither do they need to be judged on the way they reflect the cultural identity of the author. Popular fiction is just as capable of saying something about society and there's no shame in doing that in an entertaining, or even light-hearted, way, by speaking to the reader as if they were a friend. Half the population is struggling with inner demons; maybe they want to be taken away from all that and be transported by a story they can't put down and be left with a sense that somebody understands how liberating laughter is, especially when it's at ourselves and our quirks.
Admittedly, years ago, there was quite a sizeable division between literary and 'popular' fiction, but these days popular fiction has become increasingly intelligent, while literary work is more accessible. Maybe it's time to drop the labels altogether."

Right, I'll get off my high horse now! Back to the 'feel-good' book...

Anybody NOT writing a Novel?

I know I'm supposed to be getting on with my NaNoWriMo attempt (and I did loads yesterday, which I'm quite proud of - must not rest on my laurels for the rest of the month), but I got distracted this morning, by having a look at some other blogging author websites, and one thing led to another...and another. My goodness, there are LOADS. Problem is, they're all really good - witty and entertaining and downright helpful in most cases. That's because the bloggers are all writers, I suppose. DOH!
Apparently about 16,000 people have signed up to NaNoWriMo (that word is starting to look odd) - a figure which inspired awe and resignation in equal measures. 16,000 people all writing novels???? Good heavens. And those are the ones we know about. For a nano-second I thought, what's the blooming point? Luckily, those thoughts are rare because, as all those would-be writer bloggers out there know, we'd write even if we never get published. Because we LOVE IT! Right?