Monday, 28 February 2011

Seven Things (you didn't know about me)

Thanks to Natalie Roberts at for awarding me a stylish blogger award.

Be sure to check out Natalie's blog.

So, in the interests of being a little more light hearted than usual, here are my seven things:

1. My friend and I won first prize in a fancy dress competition on holiday. All the girls had donned bikinis and Leis and gone as Hawaiian babes whereas we raided the cleaners’ cupboard and went as Mrs Mops (proof if it were needed that ‘uglying up’ will always get you the Oscar). 

2. I began my working life as a PA, to which I was never suited, and during an important meeting I once served the MD his coffee in a sugar bowl.

3. Early in my writing career, I received a silver cup for writing letters (Writers’ News Letter Writer of the Year).

4. I appeared on TV one leap year after Esther Ranzen accosted me and my boyfriend (now my husband) in the street and got me to go down on one knee and propose to him, even though he had already asked me to marry him.

5. I nearly died when I was 17 after going into anaphylactic shock from eating a nut toffee. 

6. I wrote my first travelogue in my 20s on a trip to America and included information on staying in Las Vegas, San Francisco, LA, New York and Washington DC. Wouldn’t mind repeating that trip now!


Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Getting on with it

A close friend who teaches creative writing gave me some good advice this week: ‘It doesn’t matter how the words come out, just get them down on paper’.

In the past I have been guilty of editing and rewording too much in the early stages of writing and have ended up spending so much time perfecting what I have already written that I fail to get the rest of the story down.

This time I am adopting a different approach; producing words every day to keep the plot moving forward, no matter how dreadful the writing. I have set myself a realistic, achievable daily target of 500 words which also means that on days when I double this figure, I can give myself a pat on the back. When I fall short, because of other commitments, it is not too difficult to catch up.

Schemes like NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November encourage wannabe writers to churn out a novel in a month with the aim of producing a workable draft. Judging by the growing number of participants, this approach obviously works.

Having written mostly non-fiction articles in the past, I have always believed that planning is key. With fiction, I am beginning to see that it is getting on with it that counts. In the early stages, it has little to do with what you write but the fact that you do.

I have also noticed that on a good day the story just flows and takes me in unexpected directions, so much so that my opening chapters will have to be completely changed later on. They will, I am certain, be much better for it.

After all, many books on the bestseller list would never have been published if the author had submitted their first draft. Good books are not written, they are rewritten and the magic happens during the editing process.

With that in mind, I can happily continue producing 500 words of unpolished prose every day for some time to come.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

What's in a name?

This week I have been naming my characters.

The process started me thinking about how important it is to get this right. For example, a boy named Liam might conjure up a different mental image from someone called Alistair. 

Admittedly, this could be considered as stereotyping and we have all met that lovely man or woman whose name doesn’t match their personality. That doesn’t change the fact that we would expect a character called Sophie to behave differently to one called Courtney (no offence intended to anyone with these names).

Like everything else, names come in and out of fashion, and popularity is determined by a number of factors from TV soaps and pop stars to royal babies. Some names carry certain connotations such as Kevin after Harry Enfield’s famous character in Kevin and Perry

Then there are cultural and regional factors to be taken into account. Irish characters might have names like Siobhan or Dermot whilst those from America could be Bruce or Jason, Hilary or Lindsey, depending on their intended age. A Carlos might originate from Spain (and might suit a hot blooded Mills and Boon type character).

It is also important to think about the age of your characters. It would be hard to image anyone having a granny named Chardonnay, but Gladys, Hilda or Dorothy would work. Harold, Edward and Thomas would be plausible for an older generation of men but then a lot of parents today are reverting back to these traditional names when naming their children.  

I also read an article recently that highlighted the effects that texting and abbreviating was having on a nation of new parents resulting in alternative ways to spell names, such as Alex-Zander, Tray-C or Cam’ron. 

And I thought that coming up with names for characters was the easy part!