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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What Works for Me

I've found my comfort zone where my writing's concerned. My target is to write 500 words a day /3,500 a week on my WIP. No matter how hard it is for the words to come I know that this is achievable.

I've learned (the hard way as usual!) that when I have a
bad writing day - when the words just will not flow - it's usually because there's something wrong with my plan/outline. For example, the thing that I planned is going to happen, doesn't, and this is often because it's wrong for the character.

BUT
, even on a bad day, if I force myself to spend time working on the problem, I've discovered that I can often turn bad into productive - and this in turn can lead to the next few days being good days.

Take the past two days for example. I've been letting fear of hitting the
sagging middle freeze my brain. I refused to put fingers to keyboard/voice to software/pen to paper (I'm a typical stubborn Taurean) until I was clear what I had to do to avoid the sagging middle becoming part of my next chapter. Trish Wylie helped by talking about this on her Blog last Friday.

So, I've written very little on my wip
but I've kept my head in the story. And, I've finally realised that this is the key. Even these non-writing days haven't been wasted because my subconscious has been working on the problem 24/7. And I now have a plan. I know with a certain amount of confidence that I have enough to take me through the next chapter, and before I get to the end of that chapter I should have a fair idea about the next.

As you can see, I've spent the best part of today establishing this. I then procrastinated some more and worked out just how long it'll take me to finish my first draft working on the 500 words a day scenario:

TUESDAY 10th JULY

For the eagle-eyed among you (*cough* Gray *cough*) you will have noticed that I've tampered a tiny bit with my word counter. I've suddenly lost 2,000 words and gained 1% into the bargain - how did that happen?! *whistling innocently*

There IS a perfectly logical reason for this. I've figured I only need 48,000 words for my first draft because I need to leave room for plenty of rewriting/layering on the polished version. Makes sense, right?

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Eight things you really don't need to know about me!

I've been tagged by Jess to reveal eight random facts/habits about me. This is a tag that comes with rules:
1. Each player starts with eight random facts or habits about themselves.
2. People who are tagged need to write on their own blog about their eight things with a copy of these rules.
3. At the end of your blog you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
4. Don't forget to leave them a note saying they've been tagged.


*Deep breath* Okay, here goes:

  1. I hate breaking rules... but I realise *some rules are made to be broken starting with rules 2-4 above! (hehehe!)

  2. I'm more of a starter than a finisher as my many unfinished works-in-progress, embroidery cross-stitch kits, unopened water colour palette, knitting patterns, unused baking ingredients, half-a-diploma (need I go on..?) will testify!!
  3. I always have to be doing something creative... I can even be seen to make an art out of doing absolutely nothing (and this has taken me years of practice to make it believable!).
  4. I fall in love easily (especially with my latest hero/favourite song/book/chocolate...) .
  5. Once I've fallen in love I am the most loyal person ever... until I'm hurt...
  6. See 5 above and believe me, you do NOT want to see me when I'm angry! ;-)
  7. Since I've habitated a 'virtual' world I've also been known as NeverGiveUp and Spanishdreams
  8. Listening to or watching Joseph (the original soundtrack with Jason Donovan or the Donny Osmond musical), makes me cry every time! (Btw, I will NOT continue watching BBC's Any Dream Will Do if they eliminate Lee (who is fast becoming another of my prospective heroes for future works-in-progress).
*I will not be held responsible for encouraging anyone else to break rules in whatever shape or form!!!! DS and DD, yes, this means YOU!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

An Interview With Jeanne Whitmee


I am thrilled to be able to post an interview that was kindly given to me by a long-standing friend of mine, Jeanne Whitmee. I first got to know Jeanne back in the mid-‘90s when I began aspiring to write for Mills & Boon. It was Jeanne’s advice of NEVER GIVE UP that has held me in good stead over the past thirteen years.

Jeanne, can you tell us what kind of career you had before becoming a writer?
I trained at drama school in the hope of making a career in the theatre, but only worked for a short time before marriage and children took over! I always had the urge to write since childhood and once I had a little free time that was what I turned to.

Who/what were your early inspirations?
My early inspirations were wide and varied - from Dickens to Enid Blyton. Later my favourite authors were R F Delderfield and H E Bates. Writers who knew how to tell a good story.

When did you become a published writer?
I first became a published author in the early seventies.

Can you take us through your journey – when you made your first sale, what it was like when you first saw your name in print and how long it took you to go from aspiring to published?
Wow! What a tall order. The first thing I ever sold was an article on the history of cosmetics to the local paper for a special edition. I received the princely sum of £1.00. My first short story came much later - probably a couple of years. It was to a woman's magazine and I was totally over the moon and thought I was made. However, the fiction editor who bought that story left the magazine and it was back to square one for me. Try and try again, though eventually I did sell regularly to several women's magazines; short stories and later romantic/suspense serials. My first novel was written during this time and by then I had acquired an agent. The book went the rounds for two years before it sold. If it hadn't been for my agent's perseverance it would have been thrown away long before then!

How would you describe the kind of novels you write?
I've written historical romances, from the eighteenth century to WWII and the fifties. I've written a couple of contemporary mysteries and for ten years I wrote Mills and Boon romances with medical backgrounds. At the moment and for several years past I've been writing what are loosely termed 'sagas'.

What type of writer are you - a planner or a spontaneous 'pantser'; plot-driven or character-led?
I like strong characters and meaty plots and I find that the two go hand-in-hand. An idea usually comes first, then I find two characters and they take over from there. My years of writing for magazines taught me to plan carefully - magazine editors always wanted to see exactly what they would be getting and old habits die hard. I still work that way.

How much research do you do and what kind?
It really depends what kind of book you're writing. Historical detail is important and I feel I have to get it right. There are plenty of books on period, food, costume etc. And plenty on historical fact. When writing the medical background books I always found there was nothing like asking the professionals. They always seem happy and willing to share their knowledge with you and love to see their names in the 'credits'.

At what pace do you work?
I like to work what I refer to as 'office hours'. I find a book makes its own pace and I like to beaver away while it's flowing. A lot is said and written about 'writers' block'. If the words won't come I find it is folly to force them. I just pack up for the day and work in the garden or wash the kitchen floor. I usually find that the reason is that something I've written recently isn't quite right and doing another job usually triggers the memory. Once that has been put right the words flow again. It's all a matter of the subconscious giving you a dig in the ribs.

Can you give us an idea of your typical working day?
As I've said above, I like to have a routine. I don't believe in 'waiting for the muse'. The brain seems to get into gear when you sit down at your desk at nine o'clock. If I waited for the muse I think I'd wait a long time! I just take the phone off the hook, make a strong cup of coffee and get down to it.

Can you tell us about your latest release, *Wishes and Dreams?
Wishes and Dreams is set in WWII and follows the lives of two girls, one struggling to make a life whilst caring for a sick and cantankerous father, the other a young aspiring actress who works as a hairdresser to pay for acting lessons. When she sees the chance to join ENSA and entertain the troops she jumps at it, but things do not work out quite as she had hoped. Both heroines have a long, hard struggle with disappointments and tragedy along the way, but both finally win out in ways neither could possibly have foreseen.

What are you currently working on?
I've just completed my next novel. This one has a contemporary theme and has to do with a surrogacy that goes wrong and the effect it has on the lives of seven people two decades later.

Who are your favourite authors?
The authors I admire a lot at present are Philippa Gregory and Ken Follett. I tend not to read writers who write the same kind of books as me.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
This is a tough one. When I started out there were a lot of magazines that published fiction and it was a wonderful training ground. Nowadays, sadly, there are not as many. I'd say just write what you want to write. Everything is good practice. Don't aim too high to begin with. But if you want to sell your work make sure you are writing what editors want. Invest in a copy of the Writer and Artists' Year Book and look for your own particular genre and who is publishing it, whether it be magazine articles, stories or novels.

There are also agents listed and once you get an agent interested you're in with a good chance. The trouble is that agents need to see some proof of success - at least one sale. I'm afraid it's something of a 'catch twenty-two' situation.

There are quite a few writers' summer schools around nowadays. They are always good value and it's great to share your experiences and hopes with fellow hopefuls. I can recommend them. Professional writers are the most generous people - always happy to share their knowledge.

Don't expect to make a fortune at writing unless you become an international best seller. Do expect disappointments but whatever you do don't give up!!!. I actually wrote for five years before that first sale!

Having been brutally frank about the down side of writing I'd like to add that if you're a true writer and love what you're doing writing is its own reward. In spite of all the pitfalls I wouldn't want to be anything else.

All the very best of luck to all aspiring authors.

Jeanne, thank you so much for taking the time to share your wealth of knowledge and experience with us!

* Many of Jeanne's titles are available here

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday is the new Monday

Over in the UK we've just enjoyed a long Bank Holiday weekend. And something weird happened to me. I relaxed!

Then today, being Tuesday, was back-to school/college/work. It felt good. There was none of that Monday feeling (although I'm speaking for myself and not my DS or DD). I awoke feeling bright-ish, and by 9.30am I had read my daily Bible reading, finished my few minutes of physio exercise, checked my email AND had a shower and miracle of miracles even spent time/energy blow-drying my hair!!!!

As I'm writing this, I have also had the pleasure of updating my word counter - again! Yep, it's not even lunch-time and I've already achieved my daily word target of 500 words. WOW! I'm stunned. What's changed? My health? Nope. Since my birthday I've had major problems (again) with my eyes/vision, and they're still not back to normal.

I think I'm realising what has changed though - my attitude. It's about refusing to feel stressed out no matter what, and instead, becoming determined to have a Positive Mental Attitude. Let me tell you, PMA is a much better experience than PMT - and it's one I intend to practise from hereonin.

I'm now off to treat myself to watching one of my many new DVDs I've been given, knowing that I've accomplished (for me) lots today (including*whispering* heehee, my percentage overtaking Gray's :-D).

Wishing everybody a productive week.

Sue :-)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Huh?!!

I'm confuddled.

For the past few months I've been happily using Firefox as opposed to IE as my preferred browser. Consequently, whenever I've posted to Blogger I've seen the results through Firefox and not IE. Today, I posted another review to Romance Reviewed and had to play around for ages to get the cover pic to look right. Finally I got it. But then, for some reason I decided to take a look at the Blog from the eyes of Internet Explorer.

Oh myyyyyyyy. What a difference a browser makes!!!!!!

I'm a technophobe at heart, so I have no idea why my Blogs appear differently on IE compared to what I see on Firefox. One of my (many) weaknesses is that I'm a perfectionist so I'm now pulling my hair out trying to work out how to make it look how I want it to look in IE as well as Firefox.

Why is it so different???

All this time I've spent getting it (in my eyes) as close to perfect as I can, and all the time - after all these MONTHS, the end result on IE is awful in comparison.

Gray (who incidentally uses IE, and has never mentioned anything to me) isn't in the least surprised, and tells me it's Blogger. Is that who I should be blaming? Blogger? Not Firefox or IE?

I know Blogger has its blips, but I really believed it'd improved since BETA. Better Blogger? NOPE!!! It seems it was an illusion.

Does anybody have any ideas how I can coerce Blogger into looking the same on IE as it does on Firefox?

In the meantime, I'm going to pretend I'm oblivious to how the reviews look on IE, and pretend that they look the same as they do on Firefox. If I don't I'm in danger of losing even more time to procrastination while I try to figure it out - and I can't afford to do that (have you seen Gray's word counter recently?:-O!!!!)