Sunday, 28 February 2010

Send a Cow

Enjoyed a wonderful day yesterday at a singing workshop.  Organised by SoundSwell and Singing Alive in aid of the Send a Cow charity.

Great fun learning to create more than singing with our bodies. (Think of the car advert). 
Very worthy cause.  See for more details.

Friday, 26 February 2010

How to write a novel

"There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are."
W Somerset Maugham

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Links for would be romance writers

I came across this link in my quest for interesting writing websites.  Carina Press is a site set up for a Digital only publishing arm of Harlequin Press one of the largest romance publishers in the world.

Like all Harlequin sites, there's a wealth of information there including in the above link a helpful list of reasons they reject manuscripts.  If you've had submissions sent back to you without any kind of hint as to why then this list will be helpful.

Deal with all their suggestions and you'll have a winning book.

New article

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Quote of the day

"I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself."

Marlene Dietrich

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Rules for writers

There's a great article in the Guardian Review today on 10 Rules for writers.  Inspired by Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules for Writers which includes the one I love the most.
"Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip."

Other witers asked for their tips include Margaret Atwood, Geoff Dyer, Esther Freud.

Here are 10 random rule(plus their writer)
  1. The way to write a book is to actually write a book.(Anne Enright)
  2. Trust your reader, not everything needs to be explained.(Esther Freud)
  3. Finish what you're writing.  Whatever you have to do to finish it , finish it.(Neil Gaiman)
  4. Be persistent. (Ian Rankin)
  5. Always carry a notebook.(Will Self)
  6. Write a book you'd like to read. (Hilary Mantel)
  7. Turn up for work.  Discipline allows creative freedom.  No discipline equals no freedom.(Jeannette Winterson
  8. Finish the day's writing when you still want to continue. (Helen Dunmore)
  9. Do it every day.  make a habit of putting your oservations into words.(Geoff Dyer)
  10. Keep your exclamation marks under control  you are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.(Elmore Leonard)
Even if you know all the rules, it's good to be reminded.

Friday, 19 February 2010

How writers work and why you can't rely only on inspiration and talent

I'm reading Haruki Murakami's book on marathon running, 'What I talk about when I talk about running' at the moment.  It's a few years since I came to read his novels and I started with Kafka on the Shore which is one of the oddest but cleverest books I've read in a long time.  Very unsettling.  (If you like cats, there are some scary pages).

This book about running is also about how he writes and I always find it fascinating how writers approach their work.  I'm always looking for something I can learn from them to make me a better writer and give me comfort because I feel I can never write as well as I would wish or dream I do.

What he underlines is that writing equals working.  Which is something I've always believed because if I relied only on having some talent, I probably wouldn't ever have got going in writing.

Yesterday I was at a networking event and talked to someone who a year ago,bought my first book, Writer's Little Book... with Big Ideas.  At the time she gave me a testimonial that reading my book had activated her desire to write and made her believe that she could.

Twelve months on and she hasn't even begun her book.  Though she has started a file called Book.

I'm sharing this, not to shame her but because many people suffer with the same paralysing problem.  That of not starting until they have as much as they think they should have, in order to start.  I've had that problem in the past too.  Now I've learned to dive in and get going.  Just to do something.  Which is what I advised her to do.

Then last night I was listening to a teleseminar from the Women on the Edge of Evolution series with Claire Zammit and Spryte Loriano.  Spryte underlined the same thing when she was reminded of some advice she'd given out.  Which was 'Stop worrying about the how, just concentrate on the why'.

With a combination of having a powerful why for your book and a trust that you will find the how, the most important thing is to start.  Then work at it.  Inspiration is all very fine.  But as Edison said,'It's only 1% of genius.'

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Song writing and what it teaches the rest of us writers

What's the online equivalent of song writing?

To my mind it's those adword ads or the titles of articles.  In a few words you have to bring the reader into to what you want to share with them.

Song writing is an art form and I was reminded of that this week when I heard a Nat King Cole version of Stardust.  It was played to celebrate the anniversary of his death on Monday.  But as much as celebrating his consummate skill as a singer, it celebrated the consummate skill of Hoagy Carmichael.

One of my presents this last Christmas was a Hoagy Carmichael cd.  As a writer I marvel everytime I hear a song that captures my heart in under a couple of minutes.  Magic!.  Whether it's Schubert or Carmichael, The Beatles or Gershwin, these storytellers have it in spades.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Writing musings

Sorry to hear about the death of Dick Francis.  Maybe not a critics favourite, he certainly was the readers favourite.  Including me and my dad.

My dad loved watching horse racing on the tv and you could always tell if he'd had a bet and which horse he'd bet on!  Reading Dick Francis gave him a lot of pleasure especially after he'd seen him riding.

As writers what's to learn from Francis the author?

Pace.  Great pace in his books.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Writing blocks

"I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Thomas Edison.

If you've hit one of those road blocks on this Monday morning then take heart from Edison.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Candlestick Press Nottingham

I had the pleasure of meeting Jenny Swann of Candlestick Press recently at a workshop.
At Christmas I bought a copy of The Twelve Poems of Christmas chosen by Carol Ann Duffy. Jenny told me that they plan an edition for each Christmas that Carol Ann is Poet Laureate.

Since they will be limited editions, look out for them. The first one includes poems by Walter de la Mare, U A Fanthorpe and poets not known to me like Billy Collins and Pauline Stainer. A pocket size delight that you could easily send instead of a Christmas card.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Inspirational quotes for writers

‘The new work of art does not consist in making a living or producing an objet d’art or in self-therapy, but in finding a new soul. The new era is the era of spiritual creativity . . . and soul-making.'
Henry Miller

Sunday, 7 February 2010

What's your favourite book and how would you persuade me to read it?

Choose a favourite book and write in 50 words to describe what it means to you.

My book is The History of Mr Polly by H. G. Wells

Read at 14, this is one of the books that introduced me to the joys of language and storytelling. An Edwardian shop assistant who failed at school but learned through his own efforts to love the English language while misusing many words. It encouraged me to use language with gusto.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Writing a book? How do you decide what to include

When I was writing essays at school, many years ago, they were often returned to me with paragraphs crossed through with the comment(in red ink of course) 'is this relevant?'

It's tempting when you start a book to bung everything in that you know. But that isn't always the best approach.

Here’s an except from my upcoming book How to construct your book that will take you through the process oc putting a book together

I’m talking here about non-fiction.. this isn’t a creative writing text though if you want to try it on the structure of your novel do have a go.

Most topics that we want to write about can be quite easily divided into subtopics.

If we take my own expertise of writing then whenever I plan any piece of writing the first step is always to break it down into the elements I want to include.

Why do I use this method?

1. Because it makes you focus on the essential information you want to get across.

2.You can rank the topics in a logical order or in order of importance to the reader.

3. It provides you with an immediate structure to organise your text.

With writing, the sub topics might include:
- how to find inspiration
- why you should research your subject before you start to write
- the two stages of writing you should never confuse
- how you make the process of writing easier

and so on.

If you’re still not sure about the topics you’ve chosen, here are 3 ways of checking them out:
1. Look at the FAQ section on your website.

2. What questions come up time and again with your existing clients. They’re the ones you have a successful business serving

3. Do an online survey. Using Survey Gizmo or similar programme you can soon find out what’s important or not.

Sometime I think about comparing the structure of the book to a human skeleton. Without the bones you’d flop about all over the place. So will your book without a structure.

Make it a priority to have yours down and clear. Trust me – if you have to write to deadlines or number of words then this is the fastest way to do it efficiently.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Music events East Midlands

Writers and music always seem a great match. Making Music in the East Midlands are holding some free events in February and March. Check out the following websites for more details.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Writing resources

Gives you information about what the BBC is up to with writers. Since I'm about to go to a day on Transliteracy at De Montfort University, it was interesting to read Tim Wright's blog about Dotcommery, Tomfoolery and Swywthery and his new play.

Writing events

I understand there are still some tickets left for Writing Industries Conference 2010 at Loughborough 6 March. You can check what's on offer at

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Monday, 1 February 2010


Indebted to The Writer's Almanac last week for this information.

'Serendipity' was first used by parliament member and writer Horace Walpole in a letter that he wrote to an English friend who was spending time in Italy. In the letter to his friend written in 1754, Walpole wrote that he came up with the word after a fairy tale he once read, called 'The Three Princes of Serendip,' explaining, 'as their Highnesses travelled, they were always making discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of things which they were not in quest of.' The three princes of Serendip hail from modern-day Sri Lanka. 'Serendip' is the Persian word for the island nation off the southern tip of India, Sri Lanka.'