Edit. A Four Letter Word?

Since I last wrote I have been working on ‘structural edits’ of the novel.

Yes, this is still the first novel! (Not the second, as someone asked me the other day. Oh, if only….!)

I know this might seem strange. After all, hasn’t the book already been through a round (or two) of edits with the agent and now been accepted by a publishing house?

Well, yes. But this is the process. It’s why you have an editor. And it’s part of the reason that getting a book published seems to take forever. It doesn’t mean the book is rubbish! (Honestly!) But very few novels, especially first novels, are delivered to an editor without the need for a little polishing, at best or a complete rewrite, at worst.

If you’d like to read more about the ‘lost art of editing’, there’s a really interesting (old!) article on the Guardian website here which I came across when I was trying to find a witty title for this post. I failed, obviously.

Frances Quinn, whose debut novel ‘The Smallest Man’ has been published recently to wide acclaim, has admitted that she had to ‘scrap the last 30,000 words and write a new ending’, at her editor’s behest, before the book could be published. Ouch!

And just today, novelist Clare Mackintosh has tweeted that her first novel ‘I Let You Go’ was ‘rejected by Macmillan, Hodder, Harper, Michael Joseph, Random House and Transworld before finding a home with Sphere Books.’

Those other publishers are no doubt kicking themselves, as the book has sold over 1 million copies across 40 countries and is both a Sunday Times and a New York Times bestseller. However, she does admit that ‘it needed a LOT of work. More work than most editors were prepared to take on.’

It’s very honest of Clare to admit that. And, reassuring for the rest of us, that a book doesn’t have to be perfect in order for an agent or editor to say ‘yes’. You simply need to find someone who has that ‘vision’ for the book and you have to be prepared for what might be a heck of a lot of work. Because although an editor (or agent, for that matter) might make suggestions for the book, you still have to do the re-writes and tie yourself in knots (and untie yourself again) until it all makes sense.

I’d like to bet that Clare’s subsequent books (and she’s written 5 more, including her latest thriller, ‘Hostage’ which I have on my Kindle and I’m dying to read) haven’t needed as much work because you definitely learn, as a writer, from that editing process. I am hoping, for example, that I’m not going to make the same mistakes as I write my second novel, as I did with the first. (But, ahem, let’s see!)

The structural edits that were suggested to me were, apparently, a ‘light edit’ because the manuscript was already in pretty good shape. But it was still 4 typed pages of suggestions for improving it, including moving things around, bringing characters into the story earlier and giving all the characters – even some of the minor ones – more of a character ‘arc’.

It’s gone back to my editor (somehow in the course of the tweaking I’ve also managed to add 5000 words!) and will probably still need some work before we move onto ‘line edits’. (I’ll talk about those another time).

Writers & Artists Yearbook
In addition to their annual (free to enter) short story competition, which is open until 11th February 2022, those lovely people at Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook are running another competition to win a place on their ‘How to Write a Page Turner’ on-line course (worth £350).

You have to send the first chapter (max 2000) words, plus synopsis, of your unpublished, un-agented novel (could even be a ‘novel in progress’ because they’re not asking to see the rest). But this closes soon – 30th September, to be precise, so there’ no time to lose! Good luck if you decide to go for it!

30-word Mini Saga (Theme: AUTUMN)
Still time to enter the Evesham Festival 30-word (+ title) flash fiction competition, which closes on 30th September (at 5pm, note, not midnight!). It’s free to enter and there are book token prizes.

And I am one of the readers for that… so come on, impress me! (but it’s all done anonymously, so if you don’t impress me, I’ll never know it was you!)

Workshop: Saturday 13th November 2021 10.30am – 12.30pm, Evesham

If short story writing is your ‘thing’ and you don’t live too far from Evesham, you may be interested to know that I’m running at 2-hour workshop on ‘Short Stories – Catching The Judge’s Eye’ in November, which is aimed specifically at those who are entering, or who want to enter, short story competitions.

It’s a ‘hands on’ in-real-life workshop, costs just £15, including refreshments. It’ll be fun! And, hopefully, you’ll come away feeling inspired and may even have some ideas to start working on.

More details – and booking form – here.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Kate Nash Agency | 7 Comments

I Got A Book Deal! (And 3 things that helped…)

FINALLY, finally, I can tell you that I have signed a 2-book deal with HQ Digital (Harper Collins). Squee! Eek! and other words of excitement.

I have known about this, of course, for a little while (sorry) but I was sworn to secrecy, on pain of death (!) because the publishers’ marketing team have a strict schedule for announcing these things and if I’d blabbed, I may well have put a spanner in the works. Whoops! Wouldn’t have been the best start.

So, now I don’t have to pretend any longer, which is a relief.

I have been out for most of the day, as my two classes at Chipping Norton Theatre started again. Yes, it was ‘back to school’ for me as well as the millions of school children who returned to the classroom this morning. And very strange it felt too, after 18 months away (including a year of teaching on Zoom).

In fact, what with that and the impending announcement from HQ, I hardly slept last night. It was like the night before Christmas!

When I got home and switched on the laptop and saw all the lovely messages of congratulation on Twitter and Facebook, I must admit, I welled up a bit (overtired, moi?). And they’re still coming in now….!

I am right in the middle of editing the novel, which had the working title ‘Maggie’s War’ but which is to be called ‘A Wartime Secret’ when it comes out in January 2022, firstly as an e-book and then, a few weeks later, as a paperback.

It’s a WW2 saga. But more than that, I cannot tell you – yet – (erm, mainly because it’s still being tweaked, here and there).

So, what are the 3 important things I did, that led directly to this happy day?

1. I did NaNoWriMo. A few times. And learned from it. I learned how to ‘churn’ the words out (to be sculpted and manicured later, of course). I also learned what not to do – ie: that I need to plan, at least a little bit. And when I did NaNoWriMo in November 2019, I wrote a big chunk of this now-to-be-published novel.

2. I joined the RNA. The Romantic Novelists’ Association. My novel has got romantic aspects to it but I wouldn’t describe it as a ‘romance’, per se. As long as your work has relationships or, obviously, an element of romance in it –then you qualify to apply for a place on the NWS (New Writers’ Scheme) and as part of that NWS membership, you can get a full manuscript critique. And not only that, there’s a deadline. I need like deadlines.

But it’s not only the critique that’s good about the NWS. Everyone involved in the RNA is serious about their writing and about getting published. And it rubs off and makes you take your writing more seriously too.

3. I got into Twitter! Actually, this happened a long time ago and I am a big fan of the Twitters. So, when those lovely people at the Kate Nash Literary Agency announced their competition (on Twitter) for writers with unfinished novels last year… I saw it and because I’d done 1 and 2, I had a partially-finished novel and a synopsis, that I didn’t think was too bad. So I sent it in .. and got an agent. And my agent encouraged/worked with me to get the novel finished and then sent it out and… well, I’ll shut up now. You know the rest!

Posted in Books, Kate Nash Agency, Novels | 40 Comments

Cringeworthy Fiction Required!


So much to do (who ALLOWED me to start watching MAFSUK*?!) and so little time, so just a quickie from me tonight.

Miranda Dickinson Mentoring Opportunity

Firstly, you might like to know that novelist Miranda Dickinson is running a short story competition and offering a prize of 6 months of mentoring.

There are more details on her Facebook page so have a look.

All you have to do is send her a story of 1000 words or less, in any genre, any theme. Closing date 1st December.

And she says, “Anyone can enter, whether you’ve written for ages or this is your first time, whether you’re published or yet-to-be published. Just write me a short story of 1,000 words or less and send it to: fabnightinchattything@gmail.com by midnight on 1st December.”

Women’s Comedy Cringe Flash Competition c/d 9th September

Not long to enter this one – and you have to be a woman to enter – but you only have to write up to 250 words, so that won’t take long!

This is what they’re looking for:

“We need your cringeworthy fiction. We’ve all said the wrong thing, snogged the wrong person, fallen over and then pretended we hadn’t – now it’s time to celebrate misfortune… for humour purposes! Show us your best cringe fiction.

Go on… indulge us… we need to hear EVERYTHING. The cringier, most embarrassing, #awkward on the page, the happier we will be. You know you want to, make us laugh – in 250 words or less!”

There’s a prize of £300 for the winner and it’s free to enter.

Mary Lawson – New Book & Interview

I’ve loved the writing of Canadian author, Mary Lawson, ever since I read her first novel ‘Crow Lake’ back in .. .oh, I can’t remember when but a long time ago. Anyone else? She should be better known! If you like Anne Tyler (who, incidentally, she credits as an influence), then you’ll probably like Mary Lawson.

I was so pleased to see, in a Penguin newsletter that I received today, that she’s got a new novel out and there’s an interview to go with it. Read it and you’ll find out which two novels she credits with teaching her ‘how to write a novel’. (And yes, join me in rushing out to buy those novels!).

Talking of which … I *may* have some news on that front on Monday, so come back then, won’t you…?

*Married At First Sight UK. (I know, I know, but a girl has to have a little bit of downtime!)

Posted in Books, Competitions | Tagged | 6 Comments

Horsing Around

The National Stud at Newmarket

I have been off gallivanting again since I last wrote (for the last time this summer, honest!)

Last weekend we were in Newmarket and while we were there, we had a tour of the National Stud.

Among all the beautiful, incredibly valuable stallions (which we weren’t allowed to touch and obviously, I was too scared to even photograph as I don’t have a picture of any of them! #AweStruck), there was a ‘companion animal’, Albie the Shetland pony.

Albie the Shetland

Isn’t he sweet? Look at his little hairdo!

You can see how small he is here with a couple of non-stallions (geldings), that the guide (also pictured) took us to feed with polo mints. (Polo mints being, basically, sugar cubes).

It was a great tour and we learned all kinds of weird and wonderful things although there was perhaps a little too much information when we went to the ‘covering shed’ (I think that was its name. Don’t quote me), which is where the serious business of making future racehorses takes place.

I’m sure Jilly Cooper must have done her research at the National Stud, before she wrote her book ‘Mount’, which I mentioned here back in 2016.

Writing Groups/Classes: New Term

If you live anywhere near Chipping Norton (or even if you don’t but you like a long drive), then you might like to know that the 2 writing groups I teach/take are resuming IRL at the theatre in Chippy from Monday 6th September and there are spaces!

Only £80 for a ten-week term, which is just £8 a session. A bargain! And might be useful if you want encouragement to write, a deadline each week (because I set ‘homework’!) and some feedback on your work.

They’re not, strictly speaking ‘lessons’, although hopefully we all learn something each week and they’re daytime classes (2 hours from 10.30am or 1pm), so I know that’s no good for a lot of people but if you’d like more information, Iet me know.

If you’ve been watching Jeremy Clarkson’s Farm on Amazon Prime (I know, I know, I didn’t think I was a fan of Jezzer’s either but the programme is brilliant), you’ll know that the farm is in Chadlington, just down the road from Chipping Norton, so if you come to the class, there’s always a chance you’ll see Kaleb or Jeremy wandering around Chippy’s backstreets, chewing on a straw…

Free Stuff – Competition + Festival

Middleway Words 5th – 11th September 2021

This is an on-line book festival, show-casing Midlands-based writers, taking place in September and FREE. Details here.

Writers Kate and Mark Hamer are running a FREE, non-fiction writing competition for over-40s, living in the UK, who have not had a book published. Closing date 25th October (‘at dawn’, which I rather like!).

Evesham Festival of Words Flash Fiction 30-Word Story Competition

It doesn’t open until 1st September but here’s a ‘heads up’ about Evesham Festival’s latest writing competition, which is free-to-enter and open to everyone over 16 (one entry per person, so make it count!).
The theme is AUTUMN and your entry must be exactly 30 words, plus title.
All the details are here.

Good luck!

Posted in Competitions, Television, West Midlands | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Messing About On The River (Dart)

Since I last wrote, a couple of weeks ago, what a lot has happened!

So, please excuse the all-over-the-placeness of this post but that’s ‘where my head’s at’, as the young people say.


Lovely Dartmouth in Devon

I’ve been on a mini-break to lovely Devon (Dartmouth, to be precise) and the place where we stayed overlooked the harbour, which was rather swish!

While we were there, we visited Agatha Christie’s holiday home ‘Greenway’ which is well worth a visit.

As we arrived, the heavens opened and the fire alarm went off – simultaneously.

So, we were ushered into the walled garden (which was presumably the ‘assembly point’), where we stood under dripping trees and got soaked! It wasn’t the best start but luckily, within a few minutes, the rain stopped and the ‘fire’ was declared to be a false alarm and we could get on with our visit. (And yes, there was a big greenhouse where we could have taken shelter but it was full of people and we were doing our Covid-distancing thing!)

The walled garden where I was drenched.

Another Celebrity Book

In other news, the Olympics have started, of course – and almost finished – (and typically I’ve only got into them towards the end) and Sarah, Duchess of York, has launched her first adult novel, ‘Her Heart For a Compass’, published by Mills & Boon and written ‘in partnership’ with veteran Mills & Boon author, Marguerite Kaye.

The Duchess was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Front Row’ programme and when asked about the ‘writing process’ with her co-author, she admitted that, having left school at 16, she had a ‘vision’ for the book but is “very much a director rather than an actual scribe” – which leads me to believe that Ms Kaye probably wrote all most of it. So why, I wonder, does her name not appear on the front cover? Seems a bit mean not to credit her on the front!

Apparently, the dynamic duo are all signed up to write a second novel for M&B. Perhaps the Duchess will show her commitment to the romance genre and join the Romantic Novelists’ Association? And I might rub shoulder-pads with her at one of the legendary RNA parties! (I’ve never been to one, by the way but perhaps one day…)

Novel Submission News

The news is.. there is no news. But there might be soon.. (sorry, I know that’s annoying. Just conscious I haven’t mentioned the novel since 13th June but it has not been forgotten!)

Maeve Binchy

I was reminded of the fabulous, late Maeve Binchy recently when replying to Sharon’s comment about Bill Bryson’s retirement. Maeve Binchy was one of those authors who never retired. She announced her retirement in 2000 but the books kept coming. She simply couldn’t stop. There’s lots of good writerly advice on Maeve’s website by the way and on the anniversary of her death, 30th July, someone tweeted her ‘life advice’ which I have posted before but I think it’s great and worth another look:

“Learn to type. Learn to drive. Have fun. Write postcards. (Letters take too long and you won’t do it, a postcard takes two minutes.) Be punctual. Don’t worry about what other people are thinking. They are not thinking about you. Write quickly. (Taking longer doesn’t usually make it better.) Get up early. See the world. Call everybody by their first name, from doctors to presidents. Have parties. Don’t agonise. Don’t regret. Don’t fuss. Never brood. Move on. Don’t wait for permission to be happy. Don’t wait for permission to do anything. Make your own life.”

Ninette Hartley

Back in 2013 (aagh, can’t believe where the time has gone), I went to Italy, on a writing holiday – I have just re-read my posts from that time and it’s made me smile. Sometimes having a blog is better than a diary.

One of the many lovely things that happened on that trip to Umbria was that I met Ninette, who was living in Italy at the time and who joined the group for one day.

We’ve stayed in touch, our paths have crossed at other (sadly, not so glamorous!) writing holidays and she’s now not only published a memoir, Dear Tosh (and she’s planning another about her time in Italy) but she’s also just started a monthly newsletter.

As soon as I saw the newsletter mentioned (on the Twitters, of course), I signed up and, just as well, because she kindly gives a mention to this very blog, (in fact, she ‘recommends’ it! Ah, too kind).

Have a look at Ninette’s website and there’s a button on her blog if you want to sign up for the newsletter.

Christmas Flash Fiction Comp

And finally, in this hotch-potch of a post, as much as I do not like the ‘C’ word to be mentioned this early, I feel I must draw your attention to the ‘Weird Christmas Flash Fiction Contest’ which is running again this year and is open to entries until 15th November.

It’s free! There are prizes! And (or should that be ‘but’?) it is seriously weird…

That’s all for now, folks!

Posted in Books, Competitions | Tagged | 15 Comments

Workaholic? I wish!

Last Saturday I attended the RNA’s annual conference (on Zoom) and the first of many excellent talks was an interview with best-selling novelist Dinah Jefferies, on ‘Building Writers’ Resilience’.

Dinah, by the way, didn’t start writing until she was 60 years old (so one of the obstacles she had to overcome – at least in her own head – was the thought that the publishing industry is only interested in bright young things).

Oh, and during the pandemic, when some of us were running around like headless chickens, she wrote two books! I am in awe.

Dinah talked about coping with rejection, feeling jealous of other writers (that ‘why them and not me?’ feeling) and how perfectionism can block your writing. Then, she was asked whether – apart from her morning walk – she had any writing routines or rituals that helped her to focus and get into the ‘writing zone’? She laughed and admitted that she’s a workaholic who often has to be ‘surgically-removed’ from her desk.

And I must admit to a pang of jealousy then. Why her and not me? (Answers on a postcard please).

And in the same week, in the newsletter that I received from best-selling novelist Clare Mackintosh (one of many writers’ newsletters that I subscribe to), she made a plea: ‘Does anyone have a cure for workaholism?’

Before getting published as a novelist, Clare set up the Chipping Norton Literary Festival (ChipLitFest) with a friend and had a column in Cotswold Life magazine (which started life in a blog, apparently…) and now, she’s working to a deadline for book six.

As soon as that’s been zapped off to her editor, she’ll be switching to a non-fiction book and will be writing 2000 words every afternoon for a month to get the first draft done (!) and then, in September, she’ll be making a start on book seven. She’s struggling to switch off, not surprisingly. Clare is a self-confessed workaholic (she also has a family so I’m really not sure how she fits everything in!). I would quite happily relieve her of a bit of that drive, self-belief and getting-on-with-it-ness.

And for the sake of balance, let’s mention a workaholic male writer: Alexander McCall Smith can apparently ‘turn out five novels a year’. The tip about the notebooks is a good one though. Read all about it here.

As I edge a little nearer to my dream of being a published novelist (and there *may* be some news about that soon….), I have realised that I might have to start acquiring some workaholic tendencies. So, my plea of earlier, as to how I might do that, is no joke! If anyone’s got any ideas, let me know.

Blooming Murder – Winner
On a different subject, the winner of Simon Whaley’s book ‘Blooming Murder’, which was the giveaway in my last post, was Margaret Mather and the book is now winging its way to her and may in fact, already have landed.

Well done, Margaret and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Phew, it’s hot, isn’t it? Have a picture of paddling Bonnie to make you feel a little cooler…

The best way to cool down in a heatwave

Posted in Bonnie, Books, Competitions | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Guest Post: Simon Whaley (+ BOOK GIVEAWAY!)

Today, I’m welcoming my writing pal Simon Whaley to the blog! It’s not the first time he’s been featured! Back in 2012, his was the first guest blog I had on here.

Wow, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then!

As Simon says below, we first met at the Writers’ Holiday in Caerleon.

What he’s neglected to tell you, is that every year (for about 5 years!) we were in rooms next door to each other, on the same corridor, because that’s how Writers’ Holiday worked: you had the same room every year unless you specifically asked to move.

Amazingly, Simon – as far as I’m aware – didn’t ask to move, so I can’t have been too bad a neighbour.

Now we have the same agent (he got there first…). I’m not stalking him, honestly!

Since he ‘debuted’ on this blog in 2012 he’s written tons more articles and books, including his very latest creation, a cosy crime novel, Blooming Murder, about which he’s talking to us today.

The book’s just been on a very successful blog tour (this is the last stop!) and other reviewers have described it as ‘funny and quirky’ and ‘Midsomer Murders Meets Carry On’! ‘Father Brown’ was also mentioned (and I have a soft spot for Father Brown as it’s filmed in my village).

I agree, it’s funny and fast-paced and very entertaining. My favourite character, is man-mad Hortensia Hayes, Head Judge of the Borders in Blossom competition, who has a penchant for Greek yoghurt…. (say no more). Let’s face it, after last night (don’t mention the football. Eeek, too late), we could all do with a laugh, right?

So, over to Simon AND, there is a paperback copy of Blooming Murder up for grabs! Wheee!

Win a Copy of Blooming Murder

All you have to do is leave a comment or ask Simon a question, in the comments below and you’ll be included in the draw. All entries must be received by 6pm on Monday 19th July (a week today), after which I’ll do a random draw and Simon will whizz the book off to you. (UK only, I’m afraid). 

Blooming Hard Work! – by Simon Whaley  

Firstly, many thanks, Helen, for inviting me onto your blog.

For those of you who don’t know, Helen and I first met at the brilliant Writers’ Holiday when it was held at Caerleon (near to Cardiff). And now we’re both represented by the same literary agency.

Like most writers, once I’d secured an agent, I thought I’d cracked it. I mean, that’s part of the publication journey we imagine in our head, isn’t it? Write novel. Get agent. Submit to publishers. One buys it. Whoop for joy. Sign contract. Bank advance cheque. Prepare for publication. Job done.

For many authors, it can work like that (fingers crossed for you, Helen!).

However, life is rarely that nice straight journey in our head. My novel publication journey has been on so many diversions, I’m sure I’ve double-backed on myself at least six times.

But, in hindsight, that meandering journey has helped me develop as a writer and enabled my humorous cosy crime novel, Blooming Murder, to become the book it is today. Reader, it is not the book that the agency took me on with.

Blooming Murder has been to two publisher acquisitions meetings (three if you count the two times it went to acquisitions at the same publisher). After the first acquisitions meeting, when the publisher decided not to take it on, the editor (who loved the book) gave me some feedback.

I have to say, that 30-minute telephone conversation was one of the most nerve-wracking conversations of my life, but without it I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Originally, Blooming Murder had my main character, Aldermaston, as a local independent councillor. I wanted an amateur-sleuth-type character who would get drawn into solving lots of different crimes, and I thought a local councillor was different. Here was someone people would come to with their problems, and as a local councillor, he’d have lots of contacts in various organisations – ideal for calling in favours.

My novel was also 125,000-words long. (It had been longer, but I had been through a few editing stages.)

The editor explained that while they were primarily a digital-first publisher, they still produced paperbacks, and so paperback costings were an important part of the financial equation when deciding what to publish. My 125,000-word manuscript would make an expensive paperback.

They’d rather it was closer to 90,000-words.

Usually, he would suggest cutting a subplot to reduce the word count. But having read my novel, and the way the subplots were so tightly interwoven into the main plot, he didn’t think that was possible. In fact, he wished me luck in cutting that many words! (Gee, thanks!)

He also explained that the American market is the biggest market for cosy crime, especially British-based cosy crime, and what most American readers enjoy are characters with aristocratic links. Could I turn my main character, Aldermaston, into a Lord?

Now, some writers might be uncomfortable with this suggestion, but I liked the potential opportunities for more humour.

So, I worked hard at cutting 35,000 words and rewriting the novel making Aldermaston a Marquess. Changing Aldermaston from a local councillor to a Marquess wasn’t easy. I had to move him from his three-bedroom semi into a large country estate, for a start.

This process has taught me that your novel can become a different beast, yet still be the same. While Aldermaston is now a Marquess and not a local councillor, he’s still a respected member of the community whom people trust with their problems. That’s what I wanted in my amateur-sleuth. And I’ve still got it.

And even though it’s now 35,000-words slimmer (don’t ask me how I did that), it’s still the same plot.

Writing novels is blooming hard work, and it may not pan out how we think it will. But is it worth it? Yes. You could say, it’s blooming marvellous.

For more information about Simon and his novel, visit http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/blooming-murder/, where you can also download the first chapter for free!


Posted in Blogging | Tagged | 28 Comments

A Summer of Football

The winner of my E D Thompson book giveaway has been chosen by random wheel name generator and – as you can see – it was Karelann. Well done to her!

But, if you entered and didn’t win, all is not lost because next Monday, 12th July, I’ll have another guest post and another book giveaway. So, make sure you come back then!

As I write this, The Football is on the tele’ in the other room. I’m not watching but I have half an ear out for any goals. So far, it seems we are relying on the other side to score for us. Let’s hope things improve. [and if it goes to penalties, I am turning off. I can’t stand the tension!)

50 Word Fiction

If football is your thing – and you’d like to flex your writing muscle with a 50-word competition – then you might be interested in the latest Scottish Book Trust competition, which closes on 27th July. This time, they’d like you to write about ‘a summer of football’ – in a maximum of 50 words. The rules are here.

On Twitters the other day, some clever person had put this picture together, of the older Gareth Southgate comforting the younger Gareth Southgate. (I wonder what he was saying?)

If you know the sorry story of the penalty that Southgate missed in the 1996 Euro tournament, then you’ll understand the picture. And if you don’t – or you’d like to know more – this article explains it all beautifully.

On the writing front, for me, I need to start Novel #2. And so far I have … bought a lovely new orange notebook and written a couple of pages of research notes. And that’s it.
I have a long way to go…

PS: ENGLAND JUST WON…..! Wheeeeeeeeee!

Posted in Competitions | Tagged | 1 Comment

Eirin Thompson Guest Post & Book Giveaway

How can it be ten days since my last post? Time is running away …! And I am having a nightmare with WordPress at the moment, for reasons that I won’t bore you with. Suffice to say, this post might look a bit different, while I get used to a new ‘editor’.

There was major stress chez nous this evening when one of the juvenile blue tits that have been coming to our feeders (and looked like this one on the left), crashed into the window and rolled around on the patio for a few seconds and then just sat, completely stunned. Nooo! I was nearly having palpitations. I watched it, willing it to be alright, for about fifteen minutes, which is a long time when you’re doing nothing but staring, motionless, at a baby bird.

Reader, after a few little turns of its fuzzy head (it definitely perked up when other birds came onto the feeders), it flew off (away from the window, fortunately) and I have now put squares of paper on all the glass which looks ridiculous but I Do Not Care. (And I have ordered some of the more tasteful bird silhouette stickers for the windows).  

Eirin Thompson Guest Post & Book Giveaway

If you write short stories for the womags (or read them), you’ll almost certainly have heard of Eirin Thompson. She’s prolific!

Ironically, at a time when her name seems to be on the cover of every issue of People’s Friend, she tells me that I was the first name she noticed in women’s magazine fiction because I once had 3 stories in an issue of TAB Fiction Feast.

(Shh, between you and me, Eirin, that was the one and only time that ever happened and it was a long, long ago…)

Not content with her short story successes, Eirin has a novel, ‘I Know I Saw Her’ coming out with Hachette on 1st July (I told you she was prolific) and I’ve invited her onto the blog to tell us about it AND she’s kindly offered to give away one copy of the book. Read on for more about the book (which has a 50-something female protagonist, by the way – hurrah!) and details of how to win!

Over to Eirin…

I Know I Saw Her’ is a twisting mystery story, packed, I hope, with lots of suspense. The main action is set in a quiet suburban street over a sultry summer and tells of Alice, a stressed-out supply teacher, who sees something she shouldn’t and which she simply cannot overlook. As she starts probing, she becomes convinced that someone’s life is in danger and, dismissed by police as a crank, it seems that she alone must find a way to intervene. Two big influences on this project were the Alfred Hitchcock film ‘Rear Window’ and the Paula Hawkins novel, ‘The Girl on the Train’. I tried to capture something of the heat and claustrophobia of the former and the vulnerable-yet-courageous narrator of the latter.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing this book, and I put much of that down to the confidence and experience I have gained through submitting short stories to women’s magazines over the past three or so years. Reading the excellent short fiction in the magazines taught me, crucially, the importance of dialogue in bringing both story and characters to life. I have honed my dialogue-writing over several hundred stories, now, thanks entirely to the opportunities provided by these magazines we love.

I’ve had far too many magazine rejections to count, and these are a blow every single time, but they have taught me as much and sometimes more than the successes – the ‘womag’ editors really know their business, and can always detect a fatal flaw in a story. It takes resilience to keep submitting when you’ve had stories turned down, but I would urge writers to persevere – I once had twelve stories get the thumbs-down in a single email (admittedly, there were particular circumstances), but I survived!

Finally, I wonder if I’m the only one who loves finding names for their characters. I say ‘finding’, rather than ‘choosing’, as I feel the best names are the ones that just seem to choose themselves. The main character in I Know I Saw Her is called Alice Payne – ‘Ali’ to those who know her well, and I think it suits her.

Helen has generously allowed me to give away a copy of the book via her blog, and if you can comment below leaving your favourite name of a character in a book, I’d love to draw one at random and post you your prize. (UK and RoI only, I’m afraid.)  I Know I Saw Her is published by Hachette on 1st July, with the author name E.D. Thompson. You can buy it here.

Many thanks to Helen for giving me a voice on her blog, and to the followers who have taken the time to read this. I wish much writing success to all.

Eirin x

The book sounds fabulous, doesn’t it and I agree with Eirin wholeheartedly, that writing for the womags is a great training ground for other forms of writing.

I was interested to know whether Eirin is still writing short stories (because, now I’ve turned my attention to novel writing, I don’t seem to have time or brain-power for shorts, myself) and this is what she said, “I am absolutely still writing and submitting short stories to magazines – having discovered this opportunity late-ish in life, I am very keen to keep at it. In particular, I hope this will be the year I have a serial accepted by The People’s Friend, as that is something I haven’t done yet. I do find I have to ‘block’ my writing time – I cannot juggle the very different challenges of novel-writing and short story composition and have to immerse myself totally in one or the other.”

And of course, I had to ask, what about novel number two…?

“I’m into the final stages of writing my next novel (first draft) – another mystery/suspense story – and am extremely conscious that it is due to be handed over at the start of September, so I need to keep pressing on with it, if I am to have time to ‘rest’ it in the drawer before editing.”

Wow, inspiring stuff. Good for you, Eirin and I’m sure we all wish you the very best with the novel and your writing career.

If you’d like to win a copy of ‘I Know I Saw Her’, just comment below with your favourite name of a character in a book (it can even be your own book but do tell us why you like the name and how you thought of it!), no later than 6pm on Monday 5th July, a week today.

I’ll do a random draw to choose a winner (UK and ROI only) and Eirin will arrange for the book to be sent.

Good luck!

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Yes, Sir! Soccer and Sunrises

Just a quickie from me before the football starts!

Yes, it’s England v. Scotland tonight (Euro 2020) and although we are not normally a soccer-watching household (I mean, why don’t they just do away with the first half and make it much more interesting?), we thought it might be fun (?) to cheer on our respective nations.

Did you know that the Scottish team’s unofficial anthem is ‘Yes, Sir, I Can Boogie?’ (for reasons that are too convoluted to go into here). I’m sure you did.

Be warned: if you watch that video you will be singing the jolly tune all day and all night, as I have been doing. And if you don’t remember the 1977 song from Baccara (one-in-black-one-in-white), where have you BEEN?!

Oh, OK. You weren’t born. Fair enough.

News on the novel submission.

It’s gone – the pitch and the actual manuscript – to some editors-who-might-be-interested-in-a-WW2-saga.

But I’ve been warned not to expect any response for at least six weeks! There’s a lot of waiting in this hoping-to-get-published game, isn’t there? (Sorry, I have a bad case of hyphen-itis tonight. There I go again).

Anyway, as and when I hear anything, I will report back.

Write About a Sunrise

Now, if you fancy a little writing challenge, the folk at the Scottish Book Trust (yes, Scotland is my theme), have launched another of their 50-word-story competitions, which is free to enter and open to non-Scottish folk too and closes on 29th June 2021.

They want you to write a story featuring a sunrise and here are the terms and conditions.

Good luck if you have a go. And even if you don’t want to enter the competition, the photo could work as a prompt or story starter, couldn’t it?

Read, read, read!

I am reading lots at the moment. Probably because I’m not writing!

Today I finished reading a novel that I’d been looking forward to for months.

And the ending was really disappointing. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t what I wanted for the characters. But I won’t tell you what it was, because I’ll spoil it for you.

By the way, if you entered my giveaway for the Nicci French book, I announced my winner (Lynda M) in the last post – and I even put a photo of the lucky wheel of chance on there. Look closely and, if you entered, you’ll see your name.

I’m always telling (advising/suggesting to) my classes that they should read a lot.

Stephen King says if you want to be a writer you should do two things above all else: ‘Read a lot and write a lot’ but I wasn’t always sure exactly why it helped, until I saw a quote from Hilary Mantel (who, let’s face it, knows a bit about writing), on the Mslexia newsletter that popped into my inbox a couple of days ago:

This is what she says about reading: ‘If you are a great reader then you can become a great writer. If you read many novels, and many different kinds of novel, the principles of novel writing will be encoded deep inside you…. If you are a reader, then you know subconsciously how to tell a story.’

Ah, yes, that makes sense.

Hilary Mantel is judging the Mslexia novel competition, by the way, which you might want to consider if you have an unpublished novel and £25 to spare and this is what she has to say about novel-writing.

So, never feel guilty about spending time reading. Read lots, read everything and anything.

What’s the last great book you read? Tell me and perhaps I’ll read it too.

Posted in Books, Competitions, Kate Nash Agency, Novels | Tagged | 8 Comments