Sunday, 29 April 2012

Consistency and Continuity Errors

Hi everyone - now let's face it there are fewer of you at the weekend dropping by , particularly when weather is nice (not that it is here), so shorter post and only one on a weekend day. Since I didn't rattle one off yesterday, here I am today!
Productive morning - 2100 words - really happy - very virtuous and end of scene.
As well as writing on Friday, I also did the second draft of the first two chapters of The Dating Game and sent them to my editor. We will be having a little editorial meeting tomorrow, since I haven't actually told her much about what the book is about, so need to rectify that.

Consistency and Continuity Errors
As I edited on Friday, I realised that in the three early chapters I wrote of The Dating Game, almost three years ago, even thought I have clearly read them again recently, I have forgotten some elements.  For example, I had called one of Gill's dates Charlie, but earlier had alluded to a previous boyfriend being called Charlie.  Had to change that.  I also noticed that whereas I had put her as living in Shawlands in the south side of Glasgow at the beginning, this had morphed into Queens Park a few chapters later! This is why I try as much as possible to make character Word Docs with all of their attributes, but I'd obviously missed a few.  All corrected now.
I like to write about real places, even if sometimes I change the names, as I did with some of the smaller towns and villages in Sign of the Times, as they were improved versions of places where I have lived.
But, when you mention real places, you have to get the detail spot on. There will be someone who knows that it takes you a good twenty minutes at a brisk pace to walk from the west end part of Sauchiehall St in Glasgow to the city centre end.
Likewise, I like to include food and restaurants in my writing. I love food and am a bit of a foodie, although not quite so good at cooking it, but I do try.  I take the food almost directly from the current day menus and work it into my novel.  I also need to visit the restaurant (usually not a problem, as I like to eat out!) and work on the description for the decor, the way the staff are dressed etc.  Be sure to know what is round about the area you are describing, as locals will know.
Remembering characters likes and dislikes is also key to avoiding continuity errors. You can't have someone with a shellfish allergy tucking in to garlic & chilli mussels a few chapters on.
Right, that's my words of wisdom for today - off out for lunch, Sooz
and if you've polished off your Sunday lunch and can't get up out of your chair - feel free to download Sign of the Times - £1.53 -  to relax with.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Editing & Progress

Hi all
Most humble apologies. I should have posted yesterday, but I was shattered.  After having family round for lunch, including my 21 month old nephew whose current interest in wrestling meant he spent the afternoon trying to put my teddy bears in a headlock and jump on top of them, my nerves were shot!  And no quips about my bears! They were the only toys to hand! I also forgot to buy the goat's cheese for the lunch dish I was making, so I wasn't popular, particularly as that was the key ingredient...

Anyway, I wrote nada yesterday.  I did do some marketing for my books -  articles, Twitter related tasks etc, but no actual scribbling. Today, however, I have been on a roll and have bashed out a little over 2000 words and ended right at the end of a scene. Yay!  I also wrote the character plans for two new characters, which is always fun. As the new novel is about a dating agency, you can imagine I need to write potential dates for Gill (the protagonist), so having a blank canvas is excellent. I have been off on jobsites, looking up potential careers for them. No research on names this time. Both names, first and surnames jumped into my head and the characters have built themselves a little from there. Obviously they will need some rounding out, but the basics are done. I've had to look up 'hurling' today, as I couldn't quite remember what it was - it's a type of Irish hockey.  Also had to check train times and routes across Scotland, to ensure accuracy and consistency.  Plus hobbies for men - what do they actually do?  The potential dates each have to be a little different.

Mmmm...can't decide if I like editing or not. It might be easier this time, as I will be editing for content not necessarily length. Although with Drill Sergeant Fi Broon  in charge (I know she can take it!), who knows.
I decided last week that I would start editing The Dating Game, whilst I am still writing it. I am about 30% of the way through the first draft. Due to time constraints, I don't want to wait until I have finished writing the novel, before editing it and to be honest, even with Sign of the Times, we started editing it before I had finished it, although I had written considerably more than I have of this novel. 

I wonder if we can do it in less than ten drafts this time. I really hope so. So much of that was word count though, which is why I am paying attention as I go along with the word count this time, but I don't want to be held prisoner by it either.
Apart from the usual stuff, like grammar and punctuation, which should be minimal errors, given I am so pernickety (typos more than anything), when I do a second draft, I am deleting or choosing the correct option from various phrases I have put down for the same sentence, where I wasn't sure which one I preferred. Sometimes in the original draft, I put words in brackets, if I am not sure if they are superfluous.  I was once told, 'Read each sentence as a stand-alone. If it doesn't add anything to the story, drop it'.  I think that's why Sign of the Times is such a tight novel.
If I am not sure if I like the turn of phrase that I have put, when I am writing the first draft, I highlight it in red, if inspiration doesn't come to me within say twenty seconds and move on. I am quite impatient about things like that, as it affects the flow of my writing and my thought process. That's what the second draft is for!
Whilst editing Sign of the Times, rather than use usual editing tools like Markup and Show Markup etc, for any changes/deletions, we decided we both preferred simply different coloured text for any comments or changes.  By the end of it the manuscript was like a rainbow!! But it worked. It showed us at a glance what the other had been happy with or not and the previous trail of communcation.  And we had a right laugh too, which is half the fun. 
I suppose to sum up, I would say, I was very apprehensive about letting someone else put their paws on my manuscript last time around, but this time, I know that I have the right person editing it, who only wants me to have the best book I can.  Back tomorrow - have a good weekend, Sooz
PS and remember, if you're lying about on the sofa with nowt to do this weekend- Sign of the Times is already available from Amazon -  £1.53 &  (price varies on site, depending on country. $2.99 USD
PPS  - after last week's IT meltdown due to a virus infiltrating my computer, today's lament is my printer is busted.  Tells me to insert a print cartridge. There is one in it.....have checked forums and looks like I might need to buy a new!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Changing the Rules

I have been so good today - I must admit to breaking yesterday's promise of writing my chapter, after writing my blog, but I am glad I didn't.  I wasn't really in the mood and generally, I push myself on, when I am not in the mood to write, but the scene I am writing between Gill and Anton is so key to the novel, that I wanted to get it just right - the nuances, the mood, everything.  By waiting until this morning, I have managed to rattle off 2000 words (thus making up for yesterday's lack of word count) and I have the scene the way I want it.
By Changing the Rules, what I meant was what happened to me today.  Or perhaps I should have called it Additional Viewpoints. I mentioned previously that I missed having 12 main characters as in Sign of the Times (essential due to the fact that each character represented a starsign).  In The Dating Game, there is the narrator, who tells the action seen through Gill's eyes only.  Well, not any more. Today, Anton told me he wanted a speaking part!  And not just in the dialogue either.  I love this about writing. Sometimes strong characters come along and convince you that their viewpoint needs represented.  Less frequently they demand it, but Anton seems to have crept into my consciousness without my knowing it and told me to deviate from the original plan. Fair enough!  I also like the possibility to show events from a male and female's perspective. I am a great fan of authors who do this, as it can be very hard to carry off, but excellent to read when it works.  I also decided last night on which ending I am going to go with (I think).  I really enjoy having this blog, as apart from focusing me, it will be a record of how I arrived where I did, once the novel is finished.  I'm now even considering if any other characters should also have their say, but more on that once I've decided. 

I said yesterday that I would mention a few quotes from people who have read Sign of the Times, but haven't done reviews.  I get these comments by email, via Twitter or occasionally by text.  My personal favourite is first.
1) "I could be Dario, no danger.Ok I’m not tanned nor 6 foot plus nor do I have a body like Adonis nor do I own a beautiful villa but I make a cracking spaghetti bolognese.   
Susan, is Shirley the hill walker, based on anyone you know? If so get her mobile # for me. 
Seriously it’s a cracking wee read and for £1.53 it’s a bloody bargain. Well done you"
2) ' Who's Dario based on? I wouldn't kick him out of bed!'
3) 'I for one would love to read a spin-off.  I liked everyone, but probably liked Holly, Jennifer & Maria the best.  Oh and Dario sounds delicious!'
4) 'Is Tom your boyfriend?'
5) 'I'm really amazed at how you describe the different personalities - you are really good! There is no-one that I feel is fake.And you give everyone something likeable.  Although I think Lucy goes a little (!!) too far, I like her anyway.
6) 'I bet you ladies all like that Dario chap'
7) 'you like your Italian heroes, don't you?' 
8) Just finished your book. Really liked it.  That Holly's one strong woman. Ahem-ahem King's River? Kilburn?  Hello-oooo-oooo. I thought for a moment I was Antonia, but I realised I wasn't that organised.'
For the record, the reference to King's River, is because I modelled those two places on places that actually exist, but changed the names.
Back tomorrow - have a good day, Sooz

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Sources of Inspiration

Hello - am earlier today - hope you are all well. Since I have been asked to talk about my travels and favourite places, I thought I would tie this in with Sources of Inspiration.  In Sign of the Times, we visit Switzerland and Italy, a well as Scotland. I have already said that Barcelona will feature in The Dating Game. I have just counted, from my huge world map that I have on the wall here and I have visited altogether 46 countries (I am including Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales as separate countries of course!) The saying goes that travel broadens the mind and I completely subscribe to that.  I've been to an Azeri/Russian wedding in Azerbaijan, supped wine in Napa Valley and Niagara-on-the-Lake and climbed Sigiriya, the UNESCO world heritage site in Sri Lanka - - what I want to know is how did the King get up there, back in the 5th century?

I will undoubtedly include some episodes/anecdotes from these travels in future writing, but as to favourite places, Italy and Spain have to be the European ones (Tuscany and Andalucia in particular, although Barcelona and Seville are my favourite European cities).  In the US, San Francisco followed by New York and possibly, unexpectedly Atlanta, Georgia, if not only for its amazing aquarium, where I first viewed the beluga whale - they are gorgeous.    
I had always wanted to visit Japan and am pretty adventurous with regards to food, but after three days of eating food which I couldn't always identify, as of course everything was in Japanese and not all restaurants had pictures, I finally found a great Italian restaurant - who would have though that in the heart of Ikebukuro nestled a gem of an Italian restaurant, or perhaps it was the fact that I had been living off hotel breakfast and Starbucks' muffins since my arrival.  I must add that on my first visit to Tokyo there was an earthquake, the second time there was a monsoon. My timing was always excellent.
I have visited Brazil several times, mainly to Sao Paulo, which apart from the traffic, I absolutely love.  My particular favourite is Ibirapuera Park, which is so beautiful and huge that it rivals Central Park in New York.  I have also been to Natal, in the North East, which is where all the rich Brazilians go.  We were lucky. At that time Thomson had a direct flight.  They stopped it - boo!  We would have gone back in a heartbeat.

So, when I am on holiday or travelling for work, I consciously and subconsciously absorb the sights, the smells, the scenery, the people, the culture.  All of these things inspire me, give me ideas of what to write about. I have too many ideas and not enough time to write!  But even if you can't jet off somewhere, even nipping into a coffee shop in the west end of Glasgow, to write and watch the world go by, can often provide fodder for writing.  Simply looking at the clothes people are wearing, they way they interact with each other, the food and drink they choose, the layout of the coffee shop, the passers-by in the street, the noises from the city; all of these combine to provide valuable context and the occasional idea which gets used in a piece of writing.
Watching my nephews or parents interacting with their children, children playing, two friends squabbling, a couple kissing in the street, an angry businessman shouting into his mobile phone - again sources of inspiration.
The largest inspiration of all though and I'm sorry (well, not really) if this sounds twee, is knowing people are reading my work/book and enjoying it.  I have been receiving comments, not always as reviews about the characters and Sign of theTimes as a whole, which make me laugh or make me reflect.  I'll include a few of these comments in the blog next time. 
Now, if you haven't already read Sign of the Times, download the 10% free from Amazon and see if it's your cup of tea and if you like it, buy it - your cup of tea will cost more!
Have a good day, Sooz 
PS if you haven't already guessed, I haven't written any of The Dating Game today - but I will by tonight - promise!

Monday, 23 April 2012

Creating Chemistry In Your Characters

My first novel, Sign of the Times, a contemporary romantic drama, already available on Amazon - - only £1.53

Evening all. Today I wrote the start of one of the pivotal scenes where Gill meets one of her dates.  So, it's very appropriate that we are going to be talking about creating chemistry.  Now for me, chemistry is not only about romantic or sexual chemistry between two characters,but also platonic chemistry between any two individuals, whether it's two friends, siblings or work colleagues.  However, the scene I am in the middle of writing, is very definitely romantic chemistry.  Gill and Anton are both hoping for something more to develop from their date, but how does a writer convey on a page what the eye can see in person, hear in the tone or timbre of a voice, identify from someone's body language?  Partly through narration, partly through dialogue, is my answer.  Description of the way they behave in each other's company; the right adjectives and adverbs can be incredibly powerful here.
To heighten the effect,  it should be a gradual process, uncertainty and vulnerability on one or both sides being unveiled.  Subtlety is again key. Do they watch each other ?  What are their facial expressions?  How do they seem when the other's back is turned? Do they fidget? Do they feel ill at ease or relaxed?  Does she play with her hair? Does he lean forward when talking to her? Do they mirror each other's behaviour?  Are they keen to learn more about each other's lives? Can they be open with each other?  How much are they holding back?   Ultimately, are they a likely pairing? Could you imagine them together? If the answer is yes, I have written a good scene and matched two characters well.

When considering other types of chemistry, between siblings, friends etc, do the characters come alive?  If you have two rowing siblings, who are extreme opposites - show also when they get on, as the contrast makes it more potent.  Close friends who might have disagreements. albeit they are always there for each other. By showing that everything is not always rosy, you can demonstrate depth in the friendship. 
Platonic chemistry between two individuals, of which at least one is the victim of unrequited love, can also be wonderfully exciting to write and read. There is also the What If factor.

I have been asked by some of my Twitterati to elaborate on some of my travels.  Certainly I have been fortunate enough to visit many countries, probably around forty or fifty. I will include one or more tales of this in tomorrow's post alongside whatever unveils itself in the rest of the romantic scene I am still writing (this is my favourite scene so far)  It would be fair to say I have a large source of material to draw from, for ideas for future novels, from the countries I have visited and it's likely this will be seen in my writing.

 For the record, I am about 25% through writing the first draft of this novel, working title, The Dating Game
have a good evening, Sooz


Sunday, 22 April 2012

How To Use Your Own Experiences in Novel Writing

Evening! (if you're on GMT!) Well, I've just tapped out another 1000 words.  Having to do a blog post each day is very motivational for my word count. Please note you can now sign up for the Blog Update by email.  You also have the choice to click the Google +1 button, if you like the blog and want to share it with friends & like-minded individuals. 
Now to today's topics.

How To Use Your Own Experiences When Writing A Novel
It has always been said to write about what you know, but most of us don't think our lives are exciting enough to write a novel about (and we're usually right!). Plus, the people we know probably wouldn't want to be part of a novel, if it was about their real lives, warts & all - although with the celebrity culture the way it is these days, who knows!
Unless you are writing an autobiography, or having a biography written about you, in my opinion, your real life shouldn't be what is carried over to your novel. Fiction is meant to be just that.  Writers are meant to use their imaginations, transporting their readers into a life away from their normal one.  That said, you obviously want your readers to be able to relate to your characters, certainly in my genre of contemporary fiction. Sci-fi and fantasy genres might be a tad different! Yet, there will always be aspects of your personal experiences and your life that are conveyed in your writing subconsciously and sometimes consciously.  Done intentionally this can add to the story, but when your opinions subconsciously influence the text and are conveyed as the opinions of your characters,  you have to exercise caution.  Case in point, if you subconsciously convey your political, religious or any other strong beliefs, particularly if they are very much at odds with the character you have created.
When using your own experiences can work - yesterday I was writing a scene where the main character visits her brother and young nephews, prior to a key moment in the novel.  Her nephews are playing computer games and she has no idea what any of the vocab they are using means, or who the wrestling characters are that they are referring to.  Two of my three nephews do play computer games and the third one is crazy about wrestling, so I merged the knowledge I have of these encounters with my nephews, to help create the scene. I had the idea for the scene from these particular interests of my nephews, but the characters, George and Harry, bear no resemblance to them.  However, to make the scene more realistic, I had to call upon what I do know about children.

Going Off at Tangents
Something I know a lot about!  Sometimes, going off at a tangent can be a good thing, as it can take your story in a new direction, which you previously hadn't planned.  The beauty of being a writer is that nothing needs to be set in stone.  Often these previously unplanned wanderings can become major developments in the plot. Although I set out my chapter outline from the start to the finish of the novel long before starting to write the novel, so many scenes that I previously hadn't envisaged, have popped into my head since then and I have simply had to accommodate them, not least the two potential endings (originally only one.) However, you need to learn to control your tangential wanderings, otherwise it could take an extremely long time to reach the outcome of your tale and could seriously impact your word count. This could be crucial particularly if you are going down the traditional publishing route.  Also, is it valuable to the story, or is it mere rambling?  Some of this can be cut, if required in the edit, but assess its contribution to the novel and remember, be vigilant both in the writing and the edit for continuity errors your tangential meanderings may have caused.

Next time - Creating Chemistry In Your Characters
And remember, many of the topics covered in my blog, should be apparent from the structure of my first novel, Sign of the Times.  At £1.53 in the UK  or $2.99 in the US,  , why don't you take a look. Have a nice evening, Sooz

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Creating Drama and Tension

Well, to say Creating Drama and Tension feels a bit like my IT life right now would be quite accurate. After the mid-week blog modifications and meltdowns and yesterday's loss of ability to work as a direct result of the Smart Fortress 2012 virus, I thought I had paid my dues. But no, logging on to do tonight's post, I discover my browser is no longer supported by Blogger. Why the heck not?  Is it just doing this to wind me up?  I may have to port to Google Chrome.  Darn!
I don't like IT changes. They mess with my equilibrium. 

Anyway, enough on that for now, I have just (and I mean just, as in 'I finished 5 mins ago' just) finished my 1030 words for today.  I had family commitments this morning/afternoon. My other half knows I can't concentrate when the TV is on, whether it's reading, writing or whatever, but he made me sit through a very distracting 70s episode of The Good Life, whilst trying to write, before he did the decent thing and bogged off to make dinner, so I could finish writing and blog!

Creating Drama and Tension
Let's face it, if there was no drama and/or no tension, novels would be exceedingly boring to read. I have now introduced and detailed the main character and several of the peripheral characters in my new novel. If they lived happily ever after, without any obstacles thrown in their path, who could identify with them? Unless you are a Stepford Wife, no-one could.  I will let you into a little secret. I actually have two endings (completely different) for this second novel.  Both are full of drama and tension, but I can't decide yet which one to go with. I might end up writing both. It wouldn't be the first time an author has done so. Better to write too many thrilling episodes, than to write one bland one. At the beginning, middle or end of a novel, it doesn't do to always go the main character's way. How can we relate to that? That's not real life.  If someone achieves something too easily, where's the fun or hardship in that? How can that grip us? It can't. This is why a curveball has to be introduced, to ensure the path to happiness or success is far from smooth. Personally I believe in introducing the unexpected, but it can't be downright implausible, or readers will lose interest. Thus, tiny clues should be left, to guide them on the right path, to allow them to make the connections. Having successfully (I hope) interlaced 12 main characters in Sign of the Times, I believe I know what I'm talking about. It was also a lot of fun!  (and darned hard work!)
To create drama and tension properly in characters, I personally feel you have to know those characters inside out. Think of it as a tug of war or fight between your best friends.  You should be able to look at it from both points of view, without taking sides, but supporting the good in both arguments.
For me,drama and tension is about upsetting the applecart.  I think I did this pretty succesfully in Sign of the Times and I can think of various ways I am going to in this novel.
Next time: Going off at a Tangent and Using Your Own Experiences.
Have a great weekend, Sooz

Friday, 20 April 2012

Slang & Marketing Your Novel as a Self-Published Writer

Hello - tad later today folks and what a day I have had.  I have spent the last 3 hours trying to fix my computer after being infected by an anti-spyware programme.  However, I have prevailed. What it does mean though, is that there has been no writing progress today - boo!  Will get stuck in tomorrow.  Apologies again to anyone who tried to access the site on Wed and saw the IT meltdown I was having. The blog layout is still a work in progress, so if you see anything odd anytime you visit, check back shortly afterwards. I will have normally begged someone to help me fix it by then!

Use of Slang and Dialect
Now, let's look at the use of slang and dialect in novels.  Being Scottish, we have lots of slang and dialects which often can vary from town to town and this is especially true of city to city.  I thought everyone knew a Weegie was a Glaswegian, but apparently people who aren't from the central belt of Scotland don't necessarily know that.  So, if I were to use this term in dialogue for example, I would then have to subtly explain in the narrative the meaning.  Still staying with a local theme, in Aberdeen, they call girls 'quines' and boys 'loons'.  What?!  Now, apparently it's from the local dialect, Doric. My point is, even within my own, small country, there can be huge variations. So, unless I decided to write in Scots, I need to be aware that my audience might not necessarily understand the slang or dialect. Increasingly it's the case that words I thought were used UK-wide are not and vice versa. Carry that over to USA and Canada, clearly even more so.  My aunt mentioned, although she couldn't remember the phrase which I used in Sign of the Times, that it was very Scottish. Even after ten drafts, obviously we missed something!  I remember having to check if it was ok to say, 'I'm mortified,' meaning 'I'm embarrassed'.  Often it's just a usage thing - I know we say it here a lot, but I can't imagine Americans using it.  So, as Rosemary Kaye said, the other day on the blog commentary (and I paraphrase) you need to be careful that you are being true to the type and nationality of the language you are speaking.  No point having a 100% East End Londoner talking about eggplants and sidewalks!
Parting shot - unless the whole work is written in slang or dialect for a reason, I would stick to using it only in dialogue, with a brief explanation where necessary.

Marketing Your Self-Published Novel
Well, who knew there was so much work involved?! I self-published 5 weeks ago and for the first 2 weeks I didn't really do much.  I wasn't accustomed to using Facebook and I had never used my Twitter account.  I was sceptical about being a writer trying to convey anything in 140 characters quite frankly.  I am not known for my economy with words (my other half in particular will confirm this!).  However, I have to confess that I am quite enjoying Twitter now and am becoming a Twitter addict. I have met lots of new and interesting people and through followers' tweets, I am reading articles about books, writing and publishing, that otherwise I wouldn't have gone looking for.  Who knew that everyone thought chick-lit was apparently a dying genre? News to me. I buy them all the time.  There was naturally another report negating this story.  I have read lots of forums with very good tips on how to market your novel and there are actually too many to list today, but perhaps once a week, I will drop in a few more tips.  After all, I am still learning. What I can say is the guys over at had some excellent tips, particularly their article 'How do Amazon rank e-books?', from 16 Apr. I am sure most Amazon authors would learn something from this.
Use the forums on Amazon Author, to ask questions. These are only for authors and deal with what we think about KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). Some of the regulars on the forums are excellent sources of information.  One thing I would like to say, is, prior to marketing your novel, make sure it is marketable. Not that I am an authority, far from, but I am a reader and writer. For me, apart from a story being poor, if the punctuation is ropy and the syntax is repetitive and the text doesn't flow, I give up.  There is only so much time in one lifetime and so many books to read.
I also read some authors say that when they offered their books for free, after the promotional period, their sales dropped in the paid ranking and stayed down, contrary to what they had hoped for.  Each author has to make that decision themselves, but many ebooks are already very cheaply priced, mine included at £1.53.   Let's face it, the cheapest I could ever buy a new paperback for is about £3.50 on a 2 for £7 deal.  So, why give it away for free? I read an article this morning, which said that some of the 1 million copies + ebook authors are still giving their books away at 99 cents.  Why? Surely that's devaluing all the work they have put in.  I also read the other day, something akin to 'if you say you only want to write, you'll never sell many books as an independent author, because only you can do the Marketing'.  Of course there are companies, even for ebooks, who you can pay to promote your work, but in general, only the author of the ebook pushes the book, as they have no publisher/agent etc.  There are so many ways to promote your work.  The vast majority of ebook authors sell less than 200 copies of their book. I for one, have no intention of being one of those....

Next time, Creating Drama and Tension, plus hopefully I will have put pen to paper and be able to reveal a bit more about the progress of my latest novel. Have a great weekend and remember, if you are stuck for something to read,
 Sign of the Times is already available on Amazon - only £1.53 or (for customers outwith UK - price varies)
Have a great weekend, Sooz

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Researching Your Novel & Characters' Emotions

My first novel, Sign of the Times is already available on Amazon - only £1.53 or (for customers outwith UK - price varies)

Hello again.  I am earlier today.  Have rattled off another 1600 words and the novel is still going in the right direction - excellent.
Now I said I was going to talk a bit about researching your novel and I am. Research to me comes in many forms.  You can jet off to Italy and absorb the atmosphere, take in every detail, so you can write great description and evoke great images.  If you don't have that at your disposal, the internet is a fabulous mine of information and images to help take you there.  It is easier to write what you know, as the saying goes, but let's face it, few of us, unless it's an autobiography, are writing solely about what and who we know. Rather we are taking our life experiences (sometimes) and applying them to the characters who have sprung from our imaginations.  I was asked by a reader, who knows me relatively well, if I was Holly from Sign of the Times.  I assured her that the only things we had in common were our starsign, our love of travelling and our distaste for poor customer service!! When I researched Sign of the Times, for the 12 starsigns, I chose a profession typical for each starsign. That, combined with the personality traits common to those starsigns, were the building blocks for the 12 characters I created. 

Although I had been to Bibbiena in Italy, Glencoe and other parts of Scotland (being Scottish) and Lucerne in Switzerland, which all feature in my first novel, the events came from my imagination, coupled with me checking many things on the internet.  It is, however, imperative, not only to write, but to research.  I can't for the life of me remember the name I originally used for one of the characters, but it was akin to calling him Jonny Wilkinson. Fortunately my editor picked up the fact that I had managed to include a celebrity name in my novel unintentionally and it was changed.  Now, there may be a Holly Jameson or a Gill McFadden (the main character of the new novel), but I have checked on Google that they aren't famous.

My absolute clanger which again was picked up by FiBroon (editor), was originally having Ben in Sign of the Times work for the mountain rescue.  I had no idea that the mountain rescue are all volunteers.  I think she knew someone who was and that's why she knew, but who knew?  They do a great job. You'd think they would at least get paid! So, I contacted Glencoe Mountain Rescue and asked them several questions about the detail I was putting in my novel and they made some corrections and gave me a lot of help.  You don't have to be a bestselling author to ask for help of this nature. I find generally an email or a phone call gets me the info I need. 

The new novel involves a dating agency and the potential dates have varying careers. I wanted to check that the qualifications I had given them truly existed, ie check that you are not having someone doing a History of Art degree at a university specialising in the sciences.  As long as the course exists now, I am happy that I have done my research well enough.  I am not going to go back and check if the course existed when the candidate went to university in 1983.  But, I am picky about detail, ie was the university a university then, or was it a polytechnic, such as is the case with Glasgow Caledonian University.  As my parting shot on research, rightly or wrongly, so far I have done my research, apart from the zodiac part for Sign of the Times, as I write. It's not all planned out at the beginning, although the chapter plans and the rough beginning/middle/end are.  I research on an hourly and daily basis, plus new everyday events become possible ideas for developing my novel.

I talked in the last few days about getting to know your characters.  I make character plans for each character, unless they are very minor.  The more well-rounded your characters are and the more you add to them, whether it's their likes/dislikes, or how they would react in a situation, the more you are going to be able to relate to them.  If you feel the character's emotions and can empathise with them, or want to engage in some way, ie become frustrated, want to congratulate them, want to give them a shake, you are relating to them and this means they have got under your skin. I cried when I wrote one of the character's chapters in Sign of the Times.  I'll leave it to you to read the novel and tell me which one you think it was!  If you feel you are putting yourself in their shoes, I feel I have done an effective job as a writer.  Likewise, when you have a book that grips you and you don't want to put it down, usually there is either a lot of action, or you are emotionally involved in the text. 

Friday, I will be back with the latest progress of my new novel and talking about Slang and it's place in Writing and How To Market Yourself, being a  newly Self-Published author.  Have a great afternoon, Sooz

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

How readers feedback can impact the writing process

My first novel, Sign of the Times is already available on Amazon - only £1.53

Feedback and its impact
I have been receiving reviews, on Amazon and Facebook and from friends too, who have read my first novel and I realise that as I am still relatively near the beginning (ok, now 1/6th of the way through) of my second novel, I am factoring in aspects of my first novel that readers liked.  I am not changing the novel's original path, but rather am expanding on areas which had not yet been set in stone, in line with what my readers like about my writing.  This is not the same as handing over control, or having a contest to see what readers would like to happen in the next novel in a series for example. Neither am I necessarily against those. They have their place.
I'll give you an example - almost all of the reviews I have had for Sign of the Times have indicated in some way about how much they enjoyed my descriptions of Italy. Bibbiena is a real place and I didn't go there to research my novel. I started writing SOTT a year later. I was simply on holiday, with friends and had hired a villa there. Many of the places and the anecdotes are real, or adapted from my experiences there - the description of the food etc, although the characters are of course completely fictional. I have been to Italy many times and speak fluent Italian. This gives me a view of the culture and a different perspective and experience to a non-Italian-speaking tourist. 

As a result of the feedback I have received, I now know that I will work in to my second novel, which initially was only going to be set in Scotland, another country that I have visited - and I will share a little secret with you. It's going to be Spain - Barcelona to be exact. I love Barcelona - I used to live there, so again, I have that insider knowledge that paints detail very accurately. I don't speak Catalan, although I did a little when I lived there, but I do speak fluent Spanish.  This is one of the main reasons why I loved Carlos Ruiz Zafon's Shadow of the Wind.  I could imagine walking through all the places he depicted. I knew most of them and in fact, I visited Barcelona in Sep 2011 and revisited some of these places with a different mindset, as a result of his novel.  I may well include another city/country also, but I will leave that for later...

Once Sign of theTimes has been 'out' for longer, I am actually going to come back via this blog and ask readers for opinions on certain elements. I have already been asked for a sequel. There's a possibility that I might write one....

Nowadays, particularly with Social Networking sites and the ability to receive reviews on Amazon, Goodreads and so many others, we are so much closer to our readers.  I think this is a good thing. No-one's perfect and I am sure not everyone will love every aspect of my books, but I would like them to share their thoughts with me and now, we have that chance.

Today's writing progress - 1800 words. I won't have time to write on Thursday, or unfortunately blog, but I will be here tomorrow and back on Fri. As a result, I have upped the ante and expect to do at least 1500 words a day this week.  Today's chapter was perfect, in the sense that I started and finished one complete chapter. It was always going to be a short chapter, mainly dialogue, but again, I set out what I meant to do. 

Fleshing out characters  - today saw me create a bit more detail around two of the three friends of the main character.  They haven't really been involved much in the novel, but now is when they start contributing.  I haven't yet built character profiles for them, but they made their first appearance in Chapter 7 and now I will have to write character profiles tomorrow, otherwise in twenty pages time I might end up contradicting myself.

Conflicting ideas/differing views
I've been careful to create some characters with wildly differing viewpoints and personalities to the main character.  Reading about people who just agreed all the time, would become terribly boring.  But when you do this, you then have to think about why they behave they way they do, why their beliefs are what they are and you have to become more embroiled in the character. 

Tomorrow I will be back and covering Emotions and Researching your Novel.  Have a great afternoon and look,  I was bang on time. It's not 3pm yet.
Hope you enjoyed today's post, Susan x

Monday, 16 April 2012

Words per day or end of theme

Good afternoon to you all
1700+ words today - great guns!  I know I have been saying I need to do 1000 words a day, but really that's a minimum. I don't get to 1000 words and go, that's me done for the day, although I am sure other authors do and it depends on everyone's lifestyle/commitments etc.  However, personally and where possible I like to have in my head at what point in the action I aim to get to that day and finish there. It's not always possible. Sometimes characters introduce matters which mean, as now, it took me 3 days to get to the end of the section I thought I could finish on Fri.  Anyway, it's satisfying when you get there and today left me right at the end of a chapter, with a perfect opening for the next one. Yay!

Still on the subject of word count, and anyone who knows me will be able to easily imagine why this is difficult for me, sticking to the number of words I aim to write in a novel is difficult. Again this comes back to being told, 'just write. It's important you write and just see where it takes you'.  Yet, I have no burning desire to cut this novel by two thirds, like the last one! So, at some point this week, I am going to have a review, as I am about a sixth of the way through  the number of words I intended, maximum!  But I do feel it is critical to review word count as you go along, otherwise you might get a shock at the end of the novel, when you then spend, ahem, 5 months drafting and re-drafting chapters, particularly if you are going down the traditional publishing route, where word counts are of paramount importance, when submitting to a publisher. Oh, if only E-readers had existed four years ago, I could have spared myself a lot of angst!

Formatting, Punctuation and Styles - I am a very pernickety person, regarding attention to detail, spelling etc (please laugh, if I make any mistakes from now on, having just said that).  I spent ages over detail in my manuscript, such as one space instead of two, contrary to what I had always been taught, after the end of a sentence.  Apparently in books, to save space, there is only one space now.  This is my understanding and may be quite wrong  So I spent ages, making revisions. Also, I used to use double quotation marks, but they too take up a lot of space and books now only appear to have single quotation marks for dialogue, so I have now learned to use only those.  Then there's paragraphing and indentations.  Until I formatted my novel for Kindle, I had no idea that pressing Return twice wasn't a good way to start a paragraph and heavens, no, don't use the Tab key to indent. Lord, I could have saved myself so much time.  For Kindle, I had to manually go through the novel, adding Styles, which I had to get help on from the Amazon user forums peeps (thanks, btw) and Google to find stuff out.  Styles, for those of you who don't know (as I didn't) are choices you make regarding a particular type of indent for a line, or font, eg Titles or Chapter Headings or change of scene, ie when in many novels, the paragraph appears not indented and is instead left aligned.  NB:  For those who are in the course of formatting for Amazon Kindle, Amazon automatically apply an indent. I had to overwrite that indent and do a negative indent. 
Anyway, I could expound on this topic for ages (and may well return to it in the coming weeks), but suffice to say, I decided that with this novel, for the draft, I have just left aligned, no extra spaces for my paragraphs, ie I haven't even made proper paragraphs. It would be too distracting for me to add a style, even once they are saved as favourites, each time I want to make a new paragraph, or use dialogue, or indent. So, I have decided to do it all at the end in the edit.  And just to make matters even more complicated, the print version will need to be different. I am currently looking into Createspace, print publishing on demand - another Amazon company to try and get my books into paperback. 

Tomorrow, among other things, I will be discussing how readers' feedback in this fast paced world, can change the way you write and the direction of your novel.
Tune in Tuesday around 3pm GMT for the next instalment

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Over-explaining and Descriptions

My first novel, Sign of the Times is already available from Amazon -

Today has been an excellent day. Received my first review by an independent reviewer, not simply a satisfied reader - check it out on

Anyway, now to today's work, which started this evening, I must confess. Too much on today and a bit tired after our friend's wedding yesterday. Was up at 8am, but not at my most creative!
Still managed my 1000 words minimum today.  One theme I wanted to mention today was over-explaining things.  Sometimes, I personally over-explain, or use two or three different ways of saying the same thing, to reinforce points in everyday life.  This was probably a symptom of my life in Sales and necessary for those roles. Sometimes it may be necessary to reinforce items, but I find that when I write, I need to remember not to overexplain things, as it can be very irritating as an intelligent reader, not to be left to work anything out for yourself.

I mentioned yesterday about creating three peripheral characters and how much I enjoyed writing their specifics. However, what I would like to throw into the mix here, is I don't think it's a good idea to write description for description's sake.  Having studied literature at university, I found myself skipping through the lengthy descriptions in Balzac's work (and I know they are works of genius, but they are so heavy, especially when you are reading the original version and not that in translation).  Dickens was a master in the same way, but we don't all purport to be of the same school of thought as these two.  In the genre I am writing in, contemporary women's fiction, description should be there to paint the scene, evoke the images and the senses. Readers should not want to skip over the description - everything in moderation.  Likewise you can go to the other extreme. There is nothing worse than a badly written novel with little description, which is great if you have an imagination, but doesn't grip you in the same way, as when the description conjures up images. 
Right, you may see a recurring theme here, but my tea's ready, so until tomorrow, Sooz

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Dilemmas and building characters

My first novel, Sign of the Times - already out on Amazon -

No post yesterday, as no time to write.  Made up for it today though - 2215 words, plus 3 minor character plans written. Am feeling good. 
Dilemma 1 - I faced today and faced in my last novel, were do you have to be careful in the use of cliche?  I actually went through the whole of Sign of the Times, taking out as many cliches as I could, after reading somewhere that cliches are over-used and should be avoided at all costs. Do you know what? I now think that is absolute nonsense, particularly with regard to dialogue. We talk in cliches.  My favourite novelists, chick-lit, contemporary, crime authors have their works littered with cliches and particularly the genre of this new work, "intelligent chick lit" (did I just invent that?) needs them.  Without them, it would be too stilted.

Dilemma 2 - is it ok to mention household names to help set the scene, eg Tesco, Coca Cola, etc? Should they be italicised or not? Do you need to ask their permission? Do you need to put TM after a brand.  I've decided no, as long as what you are saying is positive. Would particularly welcome comments on this.

Change - this novel is narrated in the third person and instead of the twelve key characters of Sign of the Times, there is only one. It's very strange after so many in the last novel to have only one. I feel as if I am missing something out.  Yet, as I develop the peripheral characters, I am sure this feeling will abate.

The best bit - writing new characters - whether minor or major.  Today I sketched out and imagined the likes, dislikes, backgrounds and physical appearances of three characters linked to the main character. It was excellent and is so liberating - a literal blank canvas.

Food for thought - my editor and good friend from university, Fi Broon, was very pernickety with me on the point that I could not use certain first names, as people of that age would not have been called the name I had put (this was in Sign of the Times). So, today, when Clive popped into my head, I did what she did last time and checked it out - only 2565th most popular name back in 1965, so he was immediately struck off!

Well, that's it for today - hope you have a great weekend and I'll be back tomorrow. Have a good weekend, Sooz x

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Dialogue and Styles

My first novel, Sign of the Times - already out on Amazon -

Am improving - 1700 words today and started at 11am!  Having a blog definitely helps concentrate the mind and spur me on to write. I haven't written much dialogue in the novel so far and I love writing dialogue.  There was a lot of background and scene setting to do with the beginning of this novel, so that's done. Now I can get on to dialogue.  Maybe I am a natural (I hope) at writing dialogue, because I am a chatterbox myself.. who knows. I do find it easy to write though.  I think people spend too much time trying to think of other ways to express, 'he said', 'she said', ie retort, replied, supplied, offered, etc.  I read years ago, forget all that, just use 'said'.  It doesn't matter if you repeat it.  And, if you look at the majority of authors, they do this.
Profiles and adverts I find more difficult to write, as usually I can't decide which is the best style.  I try to get the basics down, leave it for a day and with a couple of rewrites, I get there.  Am now halfway through chapter 6 and hit 14K words today.  Ok, back to work - thanks for checking in.  Sooz

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Research & minor characters

Well, hurrah for me. I did what I said I would do, wrote before noon.  Ok, it was 11.59, but still before noon. Have penned just over 1000 words and plan to do more later this afternoon/evening.  Chapter five not finished yet, but happy with progress. So far, have had to check whether there is a calving season (well, there's a lambing season!) and check what kind of industries there are electrical engineering jobs in.  One of the characters goes to a dating agency and I wrote part of their dating profile last night, but I was not convinced.  Having perused lots of different templates/ideas on the web, I couldn't decide on the tone, so I scribbled down what I was sure of, and put in red what I wasn't and what is still missing. I know that in the next 36 hours that profile will come together and it's partly because I am still getting to know the character. I like to do chapter plans, individual character plans, not only for the key characters and for the rest, I just write! must dash! Sooz x
PS Might be adding some short stories in serial format to the blog in the next week or so, once I can work out how to divide all the sections up.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Willpower & Chapter Five

My first novel, Sign of the Times - already out on Amazon - .

I am a morning person. I know many writers like to write at night (this is also possibly due to time constraints, jobs, young and not so young families etc), but I am best in the morning. So, I absolutely should not have put my writing off until this afternoon, particularly as I am prone to post-lunch slumps.  Anyway, the excellent news I have now discovered about having a blog, is it makes you write. I feel I will be letting my followers (albeit currently you are few) down, if I don't post something.  I have just bashed 1000 words out before allowing myself to have dinner.  Maybe this is an enforced diet? And I hope to continue after dinner. So, today's lesson learned - write before noon. Or at least start...  I started Chapter Five this evening.  I knew roughly what I wanted to start off with and I know roughly where I want to get up to (tonight), but then I will have to think about tomorrow's chapter/words.  Touch wood, I am not short of ideas.  My issue has been making the time to put them on paper and that I am doing.  A creative writing teacher once told me 'just write', so I did and that's how Sign of the Times was originally three times the length it is now! Of course there is the edit, but to lose 2/3 - that was hard.  And all to meet publishing criteria.  That is the joy of Kindle and other ebooks. Of course you still want to have your prose and story and plotlines as tight as possible, but you don't have to have it at 120K words.  If your story needs 150K or needs to be as mighty a tome as Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (a fabulous and weird book), so be it.  Tonight, I found myself scrolling back up to check that I didn't have any continuity errors, given that I wrote the first two chapters nearly three years ago.I can't have me saying a character can't cook to save her life, yet earlier mentioned she was a Michelin starred chef now, can I?!  I generally like to do my research as I go along, so if I am painting a picture of a place, or have it in my head, I need to check if those buildings are Georgian, Victorian or whatever.  Right, food beckons - until tomorrow, Sooz

Monday, 9 April 2012

Writing - novel number two

Well, I was going to tell you the name of the new novel, but won't, because after all I am female and it is my prerogative to change my mind at a moment's notice, so just in case I change it regarding the title, you will have to wait.  Suffice to say I am delighted with today's progress - 3700 words, plus 1200 which I fitted in yesterday whilst dinner was being prepared for me and we are motoring along quite nicely, thank you very much. 
I was a tad distracted for an hour or so with Twitter, but finally, I logged off of everything and applied myself to the task  The good thing about having a plan, is plans are made to be broken. Already my main character, Gill, has adopted a history I knew nothing of until this morning and whole events have happened that I had no intention of writing! I do love the creative process.  The other thing I love at this relatively initial stage, is creating the characters. It's very difficult to show you, the readers, what they feel and how they look, if I don't know myself. So, I like to paint out their lives, likes, interests, acquaintances, background. Eventually they feel like people I know, even if I did create them!   Well, I think I have deserved a break - back soon, Sooz

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Blogging - Day 1

Well, I finally have a blog!  Ok, it's pretty basic at the moment, but as I work up the energy to figure out how to add the bells and whistles, I take comfort from the fact that I am making progress.  This Easter weekend has been a most productive one - have an Amazon author page now for Sign of the Times  - & scroll down to Author section.  I also have a blog.  Must learn how to link everything together. More importantly, more sales of SOTT, from various sources, including my good friends at RISI  And last and most important of all, I have recommenced writing my 2nd novel, after only a brief hiatus of 2 years and 8 months.... ahem.   Have announced on Amazon that it should be available by the end of the year - this is the kick up the bottom I need to get me writing!  And, on that note....bfn - much to do!  Sooz x