Sunday, 30 October 2011

Longlisted for the Mslexia novel competition!!!!

I've just spent a few hours wandering around in a  daze, occasionally saying 'Oh My God.'
I didn't get an email from Mslexia and I knew the longlist was out, so I (unsurprised) carried on pottering with the book. For some reason (baffling) they sent the email to my husband instead, presumably because he took out the subscription for me a few years ago.

This is to let you know that your novel has been longlisted for our inaugural novel competition. Congratulations! This means we now need to see the complete manuscript, plus a synopsis of up to 1,000 words. Can you please let us have these as soon as possible, preferably by 1 November. I’m sure you understand that it takes much more time to assess a complete novel than it does a 5,000 word extract, so the panel needs to start immediately.

 If you are unable to let us have the novel for any reason – if it is unfinished, or has been accepted for publication in the meantime – please let us know as soon as possible.

 Please send the novel, printed out onto one side of A4 paper, double spaced, point size 11 or 12, to our office at Mslexia Publications
 Now, can you see the tiniest flaw with this delightful and flattering, and completely unbelievable email??? I was sent this on the 27th but I only got it this evening. Allowing for the donkey postal service across North Devon, if I post it first thing Monday it might (might being rather a strong word for a remote possibility) get there by the 1st. OK, there's the word 'preferably' but the problem for me is that I'm not sure I'm quite ready to send all 90k words off in the next (consults fingers) thirty-two hours. That doesn't even allow for checking grammar, spellings, repetitions, printing time, kissing every page, wrapping it up and walking down to the post office. I could send in the second draft with the few modifications from the third draft, but the latest draft is 8 million times better.
So instead of dawdling through the latest rewrite at a chapter a day, I have to do...more than one chapter an hour. So, if I sleep four hours each night...that's about one and a half chapters an hour with five minutes refreshment breaks per hour. Oh. My. God. Did you see the 1000 word synopsis? Now that - I could manage in 32 hours, no problem. Thank God for no.1 son, who is on cliche patrol.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

At 87,000 words and all downhill from here!

Having written my big dramatic scene, now I need reaction scenes and rounding the story off. While I'm happy with the main strand, I'm having to go back to look at the historical strand and seriously look at editing the first few chapters down. Otherwise the book is going to be too big, and I need to make sure the historical strand stays secondary throughout the book. I really feel like I know my main character much better now, and also know I have to toughen Felix up too. 

I'm enjoying doing the house up again. We're halfway through renovating our old house, and we're finding the character in it. Our new wood-burner is warmer than the inadequate heating in the front room, and the kids now have their own shower in the loft, so we can take out the mould collection that is festering in the room next to our bedroom. My favourite 'rainy afternoon' book is Thornyhold by Mary Stewart, and the star of the book for me is the actual house. This one reminds me enough of it to enjoy the rambly corners and creaky stairs! Yet more decorating coming up, though, but at least my back is up to the job...

Monday, 17 October 2011

Last few chapters

I'm at 78, 336 words. I'm pleased to finally be writing action I have actually planned and it (mostly) matches up with the middle chapters now. If there's one thing that I've been aware of it's the paucity of my descriptions and settings. having spent the entire book being asked 'but what does your main character (MC) look like?' I've finally worked out how to introduce her before I have to resort to her staring in a  mirror. I allow my other MC see her right at the opening of the book. Of course, the last eight chapters are essentially in first draft, but I'm working at a good pace and just want to get the framework down. It's interesting to me that the more hours I spend writing, the better my first draft words are. I'm more conscious of my tendency to fall in love with a word and use it everywhere, for example. It's not unusual for me to squeeze one word into two places in the same sentence, for example. For example, I have a bit of a thing, for the word example.

I'm also into the action scenes (my no. 1 son insists in calling it 'the fight scene') which is a relief after all that dialogue. I don't think action scenes are going to be my superpower, though. I'm also very conscious that there is a line between drama and melodrama. I just wish I knew where it is. I do have a small scene where for a change, I step away from my very close character POV writing to a bit of omniscient narration. I hope it gives a breather for the reader between the (hopefully) very suspenseful 'fight scene' (which I am struggling with) and the suspense of the aftermath. Action scenes are a bit like car chases, I think, they often work better in pictures than words. I have a list of 'boy' books to read to get my head around the idea. I also have a book on how to write action, so I'm dipping into that, too.

Conflict, Action and Suspense by William Noble is from the Elements of Fiction Writing series and I recommend them all. I seem to be reading more books on writing as I go through, which I hope will just sink in and improve my writing, because I can't seem to remember much once I've put them down!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011


Every autumn, great groups of jackdaws collect on the ridge opposite our house and fly backwards and forwards, making an amazing racket. They are so beautiful, they are amazing flyers, often falling deliberately in pairs and just pulling out along the valley floor. I think they are lovely birds, so neat in black and grey, and they outwit my cats all the time. They are so entertaining, I named my heroine after them. Here a group broke away and flew overhead.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

New ideas

I was reading from my long list of new supernatural books, and was struck by the amazing locations people use to set their stories in. Mine seems painfully pedestrian, and my next rewrite/edit of the book must include some better settings and also a bit more creepy darkness. Jack seems to spend a lot of time cooking and shopping - not very Gothic or scary. I wanted to use Dartmoor or Exmoor, but then I run into trouble with the absence of trains. So I'm thinking about places like Eggesford and Morchard. Wooded, hilly and wild, with relatively few people.

Meanwhile, I'm up to 67,000 words which is very satisfying and I'm now having to write original scenes to connect the big dramatic ending to the re-animated middle. I just need to work on building the new scenes up. I still can't plan them out in any detail, I have to kind of hold the whole plot in my head and extend out a bit further each time. 
I have planned out the Dee strand, though, and have five chapters still to write. The Dee chapters and Jack's chapters don't connect up any more, but hopefully once I've got to the end, I can weave them together a bit better. Sadie's voice is coming through loud and clear, though, and I feel like I know her better. I have a nasty feeling I'm going to be trimming the book down an awful lot, the new scenes are very first draft and very wordy. 

Friday, 7 October 2011

Past 60 thousand

Finally, I'm into the home straight with the book, because I've got about 15 thousand words written to add and another chunk planned out already. Now all I have to do is weld them together, so I should have all the new writing done by the end of October. This is at an average of 1000 words a day, do-able I think. Meanwhile, the theme for the family is definitely do up the bloody wreck we live in, since there isn't a nicer house anywhere near the price. It's coming on nicely, we now have three lovely rooms and have even worked on the garden a bit too. Next week, two helpful plumbers will install real heating on the top floor,and a new bathroom as well. Should be good, but I hate having people in doing work. Not to mention having to pack up and remove almost everything from three rooms two flights of stairs away. Well, obviously, I make the beleaguered kids and husband do that, I don't want to risk my back... We did mange to find two lovely offcuts of carpet for youngest daughter's room, and for my 'study'.
This grand apartment did have a slight sewage seeping through the floor issue...hopefully resolved. The remaining floor is full of dips and hollows and the most disgusting carpet known to man. It would be lovely to decorate that room, put down my new carpet. It will make my vague scribbling seem rather out of place!

Monday, 3 October 2011

Reading through my earlier drafts...some good stuff

I'm enjoying writing the third draft but have found some lovely lines in previous drafts which are finding their way in. A scene where the cops knock on the door early one morning, while the house has been wrecked, and they try to explain it as extreme decorating was fun and has found its way back in. So the word count is sneaking up, probably past where it needs to be.

Our dining room has been finished, and now has the most beautiful of furniture items, a custom made row of bookcases. Not that I have had much time to read. but I have had been trying to read other supernaturally themed books. I started with this one: The Ninth Circle by Alex Bell. I enjoyed it enormously, but felt it was setting up to a sequel (which it may not be!) rather restricting the ending. It's a thought to remember for my own book, since the first book I wrote about these characters would make the bones of a sequel. Hugely imaginative, I felt drawn into the world of the characters. My one thought about the characters is that the character of Mephisto, for example, was rich, interesting and compelling, perhaps more than the central character, Gabriel. Well worth a read! 

The other book that has been keeping me awake at night is called Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. Present day action is inter-cut with a big dose of historical back-story, the two narratives being woven together at the end. I could see the 'twist' very early on, which was disappointing, but otherwise the book grabbed my attention early on and kept going until the end. The prologue was an absolute attention grabber, really drags you in, although you don't return to the mysterious find until the middle of the book. I think the historical chunk is very big, very detailed and perhaps I lost interest a bit in the main story when it ended. Perhaps spreading my historical chapters through the my book is better? For me, anyway! Recommended, and they are making a film! 

Both these books were début novels, and the vampires are out, angels are in trend seems confirmed. Good background for me.