The suggested first blog title from wordpress was Hello World! I’m not sure about that so we’ll see.
My first post? First blog? Well, not exactly.
I have been blogging at www.dicastle32.blogspot.com for a few months although over recent weeks I have been too busy with my writing for the Winchester Writers’ Conference (see next blog) that it has been deserted somewhat. Also, this is the first year of our allotment and we have been exceedingly busy, mainly because we really don’t know what we are doing. I do remember much of what my father did on his garden and I am sure he is looking down on me at times and rolling his eyes. Hopefully he is proud too!
When the Winchester Writers’ Conference is over, I often don’t write for a while but I decided to write a review from a delegate’s point of view. I am not sure what the difference is at wordpress but I thought it was worth a try. This site will be devoted to writing – mine and useful links which I hope will help other writers.
Last year I came away from Winchester feeling rather battered after being told my novel read like a memoir. I was also given a quick lesson in how to lay out a submission and punctuate dialogue. I didn’t write anything for four weeks but eventually googled the agent and looked at some of her authors’ websites. One of these authors described a very similar experience but her next novel was taken up by the agent. I realised then that I had been in a four-week sulk and that I had learnt from the experience. I decided to try the same agent this year but as my main character is a woman in her fifties this will, apparently, not sell as no-one wants to read about older women. Yes, twenty years ago it would have worked which makes me feel better …. I think. Twenty five years ago I did have an agent and also had advice from another agent to restructure my novel of the time into diary extracts which they would market. At the time, my private life was undergoing major change and I let the chance go something I have always regretted although I am not one to dwell on such things. I now ALWAYS do whatever I am told. Last autumn at a Hampshire Writers’ Society meeting, one speaker described a ‘sulk’ similar to mine and she also said that she had learnt to always make whatever changes she was asked to make to a manuscript even if she didn’t agree with them. So, any of you aspiring writers out there, remember when it happens to you.
One aspect of finishing a novel and having it accepted is that it is rare for a book to be ‘ready to go’ to a publisher when it arrives at the agency. There is often work to be done, some re-writes and inaccuracies to correct. This is where the Editor at a Publishing House comes in, so when you read the acknowledgements in a novel and you see the grateful thanks to the Editor, it is she or he who has made sure that your book is accurate and that events have happened in the correct order. There are also legalities to be checked.
However, this year’s one-to-one wasn’t all bad news with my 50 year old heroine struggling with retirement. The agent took a long look at my synopsis and told me that I had about five short stories and should try to re-work the manuscript for the magazine market even perhaps extending it to a serial. So there is plenty to think about there.
It is only other writers who really understand how hard one has to work to get something ready for submission whether it is for a competition or for an agent. Some days I spend most of my writing time editing previous writing rather than writing something new. This is where a blog is useful.
There were other gems of advice at Winchester. One tip was to spend ten minutes or however long you could spare each morning to do free writing on any subject. This frees up the mind and allows you to settle on to the real writing later. But of course the advice from all quarters is to not give up, to keep pressing on and to keep writing as in doing so your writing will improve. The plenary speaker, Alan Titchmarsh, at this year’s Conference, said ‘Always stop at the end of the day or your writing period at a point where you know where it is going next.’ This stops you having to start on a blank page which can be daunting.
My own method is to read over what I wrote yesterday and edit it, tighten it up and develop dialogue or description. Sometimes a paragraph just needs a little more. Then by the time I move on the present state of the novel is clear in my head.
One area of my writing that I want to develop is the short story. I have already begun to collect small newspaper cuttings which have amused me or struck a chord. A paragraph in a newspaper can provide an idea for a story. I also always carry a notebook and jot down overheard conversations and chance remarks. Ideas come into a writer’s head at any time of the day or night so to have a notebook always on you is essential …. and by the bed.
Now I am off to do some networking. On Conference Day there is a plethora of displays, cards, emails exchanged and interesting websites mentioned as well as books to read. I have a list of at least four I need to reserve at my local library just for starters. As STephen King said ‘Read a lot, write a lot …’