Saturday, 25 February 2012

Window of opportunity

I'm writing this because there is one. Right now I've got space for doing assessments, if anyone wants one done urgently. That is, within the next couple of weeks.

These days I do a fast and effective assessment on an emailed attachment Word doc (which, for my sins, has to be earlier than Word 7 because I can't read docx annoyingly). As I read through, I put in comment balloons, so you can see exactly where the problem is in the text. Then I write an email assessment with general comments and details referring to specific comments as needed.

This system seems to be popular because it's quicker - and cheaper! Takes less time, so I can keep costs down.

If you want to take advantage of my window, email me on

And just to keep your hopes up, here's a quote from Patrick Dennis on his Auntie Mame (which later was made into a film) - "It circulated for five years, through the halls of fifteen publishers, and finally ended up with Vanguard Press, which, as you can see, is rather deep into the alphabet." Motto: Never give up.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


Following my policy of posting while it's hot and I'm doing it, yes, I'm stuck. I'm now two-thirds into the story, am aware that the pace needs to go hell for leather as of now, am sure lots of earlier stuff is flabby, and don't know how on earth to get myself through the next 30K words.

So what can I do? Sleep on it and hope the next twist of plot pops into my head. Done it, didn't work. Not yet, anyway. What else? I can do a readthrough from the top and hope to revitalise the story and know what is needed. But will I get caught up in wanting to edit or will I be able to treat it as first draft and let it alone? The solution to that one is to write in comment balloons as I go that I can come back to on the edit.

I can also puzzle over the plot ad infinitum, looking at all my notes and jottings and try to work out what should go in where and how. Some people do this with post-it notes successfully, setting down plot points and shifting them about like a storyboard until they're happy.

I can leave the whole thing for a few days, moan about having a treacle book, do something else and hope it all gels when I get back to it after a break. But I'm horribly conscious that it's taken so long already and I really want to get to the end of this, plus this is a writing day and I've got stuff on for the next three days that will probably rob me of any writing time.

Or - and this is probably what I will do - I can just write through it. But how can I do that when I have no idea where the plot is going or what comes next? Well, it's another trust the writer within moment. I've got a stack of what-needs-to-happen items I wrote up when I discovered I was stuck. I'll just pick one at random, start a scene to create it and just write.

See, it doesn't really matter. Somewhere deep in the depths of my experienced writing persona I know that I do know what has to happen. I just don't have it right here in the front of my mind. So I have to spring it somehow, that's all.

My advice to myself? Write on, Liz. Just write on. Trust your inner writer, because she knows.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Thanks to Jane Richardson for The Liebster Blog Award

Wow! I've been nominated by the lovely Jane Richardson for the Liebster Blog award! This is to encourage readership of small "lovable" blogs which have fewer than 200 followers. I understand from Jane that "In accepting the Liebster Blog Award, the recipient agrees to thank the person who gave them the award and link back to that person’s blog and must reveal five snippets about themselves that readers may not already know."

Delighted to do both, if I can work out how to link back to Jane's blog! OK, done. Here's the snippets:

1. In my teens I wore a baby poke bonnet so I could look like a Regency lady - but as it was only worn at target practice with a 303 rifle I think the effect might have been slightly ruined.

2. My first story was written at 10 - a fairytale where the hero had to rid the heroine's land of a plague of sea spiders.

3. Though born in England I grew up in Africa.

4. I only started writing seriously in my late thirties. Until then I'd been an actress.

5. My father entered my mainstream novel Fly the Wild Echoes into the Booker in 2005, and it was accepted into the list, much to my astonishment.

The Liebster Blog award also asks me to nominate five blogs myself. I'm going to save my nominations for later, but here's one I recommend and would like to award:

Gilli Allan's blog at

Meanwhile, here's a nugget about writing from the inimitable PG Wodehouse: "Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realise the heights to which he has climbed."

I think this is so true, inasmuch as whenever you do look back at earlier work, you realise how much you have learned since.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Writing through treacle

OK, I've talked about this before, but as I'm experiencing the phenomenon right now, it's worth going over the ground again. What do you do when the novel turns into hard slog?

The natural inclination is to throw oneself to the carpet and drum heels screaming all the while. That's what's going on inside, isn't it? But unlike Lady Caroline Lamb, we refrain from such demonstrations and instead carp and grumble at loved ones. At least, that's what I find myself doing.

Believe me, it doesn't help. So what does. First off, contact your writing buddies and scream argghhh at them. That's what they're there for and they will commiserate. They may also have some useful pointers. Then it's time to look at what's really going on here.

Assuming there are no external crises holding your attention, there's got to be something wrong with the story. Is it characters behaving out of character? Have you gone off at a tangent and can't get back? Is the scenario just plain boring? Let's face it, if it bores you, it's going to bore the hell off the reader.

The commonest thing I discover is that I've lost the impetus of action. Too much exposition, not enough go. In my current book, the sleuth isn't physically close enough to the action, so I keep finding her slipping out of it. The moment I get her back there, everything takes off again. So this is one to watch.

But the plain truth of the matter is, some books are like that. They don't flow well, it's all stop/start and you honestly do feel like you are wading through treacle most of the time. There really is only one solution, I'm sorry to have to tell you. Keep going.

Bite the bullet and push through. Write one sentence after another and just suffer on through it. Get to that finished first draft. Tell yourself you can fix anything in edit mode. Drink gallons of tea, stuff yourself with chocolate or whatever tickles your comfort zone, take frequent breaks. But write, write, write.

The payoff? At worst, you've got that draft and you can work it. Much more likely, it won't be nearly as bad as you think. Several of my treacle books have turned out to be among the best I've written, according to report and feedback.

The point is, just because you're finding it difficult doesn't mean your craft and talent is any worse. You still know how to write. You still write at the level you write. The reader ain't going to know whether you raced through like a demon enjoying every minute, or you went through hell and high water cursing the day you decided to be a writer.

Ergo, it doesn't matter. It matters to you at the time. I'm about to slit my wrists at the moment, I can tell you! But I know from past experience that I'll get through it and I'll have a complete book, and I'll be able to edit it into shape. Treacle? Bring it on, I can handle it.