Monthly Archives: March 2015

Getting some work done

8th AprilPhil: After last weeks blog post, when I was being admonished for not having written much book recently, Candice and I met up for lunchtime cake. I was a little worried that she was going to go all Clarkson on my ass, but no.

Instead, we sat down and talked about some of the plot points that needed to be resolved. Thanks to the excellent cake in front of us, I didn’t get shouted at at all.

My excuse was simple – I was busy. Now normally this would get the grumpy, “Well, I’m juggling the management of a baby, husband, cat and I’m training for a half marathon” response, but this time I used the cunning trick of finding similarities in the way we work to defuse this.

My work isn’t governed by time taken as much as projects knocked off. On a whiteboard beside my computer is a list of deadlines. Below each of these is a list of projects to be completed by then. The thing is, we both work better with deadlines, so I knew I’d receive a sympathetic hearing.

My next deadline was April 8th and I’d worked out that if I pulled my finger out that week, I could clear the jobs nearly two weeks early. That’s a goal worth working for. There was a little time spare for the gym or a cakey lunch each day but basically, I was on a mission.

And I did it.

Which meant that last Saturday morning I was waiting outside the local library with my laptop, drinks, Smarties and thanks to a farmers market, a small piece of chocolate brownie. A few hours later, 3,500 words were added to the story and the results e-mailed over to La Nolan for her consideration.

Best of all, while writing, I’d worked out the final shape of a plot feature we’d talked about over cake. It’s one of our set piece funny moments and this one is shaping up to be very funny indeed.

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Only 10,000 words?

Candice: I’m slightly obsessed at the moment with the number of words we have written for Book 2. When I say we I am taking most of the credit here as I have been on a roll in the last week and Phil’s been playing with his train sets again.  I have whipped through about 3,000 words on one of the main plot setting introduction sections of the book. Now I’ve reached the point where a writing duo comes in handy as I need some advice on where this goes next.

But if you put everything together we seem to have around 10,000 words. But hang on, back in the days of writing Book 1 I can remember asking Phil, ‘how many words are in the average book?’After some research he came back with 80,000. Eighty thousand ! Blimey well we’ve got a long way to go to get to that. But we said that the first time round and we got there.

I don’t know why I am obsessing so much on the numbers. We have a really good plot plan and there is still a lot of this to cover, so the book will be as long as it takes to craft out the story… But it’s good to have something to check on progress and word count is as good as any. 

It’s abit like me checking my gps watch when I run. I know how far I am going and when it says three miles that only means I’ve got a lot more to cover before I get to the end, but I still like to check. 

Best get our heads down and carry on !

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Company names

From a book I’m reading at the moment, “Investacorp had bought half-shares in the company a full eighteen months ago but they still thought of then as the Suits”

Phil: I’m sorry. “Investacorp”? You think that sounds like a company name?

No, it doesn’t. What it sounds like is a writer trying to come up with a name and getting it wrong. What they are trying to say is “evil, money-sucking b*****ds” but real firms don’t name themselves like that.

What they tend to do is make up gibberish words like Aviva, Diageo, Corus. You can’t tell what any of these companies do but that doesn’t matter – someone, probably wearing skinny jeans and sporting a beard, pocketed a huge amount of cash for thinking them up.

Creating real sounding company names is actually quite tough if you don’t have the aforementioned jeans and beard combo. One of my favourites recently is “Perfect Curve” from the BBC’s series 2012 and W1A.

Perfect Curve sums up the vapid end of the marketing world where high-brow concepts are tossed around in mind-showers full of people who know they won’t be forced to turn this rubbish into anything practical.

One major problem is that once you have a convincing name, you need to check that it isn’t so convincing someone else has thought of it and is using it for their firm. Google is your friend here – just bung the name in and see what happens. If you’ve been beaten to it, move on or a stern letter will be on the way from the sort of lawyers who eat lonely writers for breakfast.

In our book, we have “KOD Associates”. The acronym means something but I’m not going to tell you what, you’ll have to read it to find that out. I think it sounds plausible though and to be safe, we’ve even registered the web address to stop anyone else using it.


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The Seafront Tea Rooms by Vanessa Greene

The Seafront Tea RoomsCandice: Phil’s doing a good job of finding me books I like to read at the moment.  He also gave me ‘The Seafront Tea Rooms’ the other week and I’ve worked my way through that one at a pace.

What is it about?  Well the title and cover are a bit twee so I wasn’t sure if it was my cup of tea (no pun intended) but actually its what I like to call a ‘soft and barmy’ book.  Not too challenging, floats along nicely to a good conclusion.  The premise is of three female friends thrown together due to a number of circumstances.

Seraphine – French au-pair who comes to Scarborough to escape a secret she hides from her family.

Kate – single mom looking for something else after her partner leaves and struggling to balance child and her own needs

Charlie – go-getting journalist working her way up the corporate ladder and looking to escape the heartbreak of her relationship with someone at work.

They all meet in the best kept secret tea rooms in Scarborough and build a friendship over macaroons and Earl Grey.

Kate discovers an untapped talent when Charlie has to jump in and help her sister with her marriage break down.  She and Seraphine tour the north east finding the best tea rooms and writing about them for Charlie’s magazine.  Charlie discovers that her sister’s perfect life is not as it seems and that maybe there is some room for a relationship in hers.  And Seraphine owns up to what brought her to the UK, the fact that she has realised she likes girls not boys.

Though not the most taxing of stories the way the three ladies love lives are twisted and turned through the book – Kate finds Adam, the cool guy from school and also Seraphine’s charge’s Dad; Charlie, Euan the son of the Tea Room owner, and Seraphine gets back in touch with the woman she ran way from, keeps it interesting. It all comes good in the end, with an extra twist which I wont tell you about, but I worked out.

So, if you are looking for some light reading over the Easter break, give this one a go, but make sure you have a pot of tea and victoria sponge on hand.

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Something for posterity?

leobookPhil: Last week, I found myself with an hour to kill in the Kings Cross area of London. Obviously I did what anyone of a writerly persuasion would do, I dropped in to the British Library.

Now you don’t use the BL to borrow books. Not if you live 2 hours from it by train anyway. Bad enough to pay late fines without having to think about the ticket to get there. Quite a lot of people seem to use it as somewhere to eat – the giant foyer was littered with people eating those posh lunches you only see in London. Plenty were using laptops or tablets too.

Me, I headed into one of the exhibition halls. Treasures of the British Library shows off some of the most famous bits of paper in the collection.

“Bits of paper”? Yes, it’s not just books but letters and notes.

The amazing thing is that for no money, I could stand in a room and look at words written by legendary historical figures. The very first case contained one of Leonardo de Vinci’s notebooks. 5 feet away, a Michelangelo (not the turtle) set of notes on figure proportions.

Around the corner, a letter started by Anne Boleyn and completed by hubby King Henry VIII.

All these just a few centimetres and a sheet of thick glass away from me. Words written by real people who exist only in history books. All I could think was stupid thoughts like, “de Vinci touched that paper.”

It set me thinking. What will be left for future scholars to drool over?

Using our book as an example, most of the work is carried out on computers. I know my handwriting is terrible and I’m so out of practise that if I have to fill a long form in with a pen, my wrist hurts.

There are notebooks of course, and a big pile of Post-It notes but we aren’t really generating much that the BL will want to stick in a cabinet in the future. No one wants to look at an early NolanParker manuscript and think, “Candice and Phil typed that.”.

Maybe we are generating lots more words but our methods have lost something over the years. That said, I’ve never seen a publisher asks for novels to submitted in quill pen and having seen Henry’s handwriting, I can see why.

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Looking at the four walls

Candice: I’ve been spending a lot of time on the road and in hotels recently.  Sometimes for fun, including a lovely break with the hubby the other week, but mainly for work.

I started a new job before Christmas and one of their offices is in Leeds so I am spending a lot of time travelling up and down the M1. Its OK, though I know exactly how long the road works are and I can’t wait until they have finished them.

However, tonight looking at the four walls of the room, I was thinking how I can use this to my advantage.  The team in our KOD books spend their time out and about working with different companies, which means they are on the road and staying in hotel rooms.  So I’m soaking it all in: the poor quality shower, the eating of crab linguine on the bed, the looking for SOMETHING to watch on the TV. I’m hoping I don’t get woken by the sounds of pole dancing from the bar, as Kate is in our first book.

Writers do this all the time, taking a part of what is happening around them and use it for fodder for their next book.  When you are writing, especially full-time, it’s probably something that is on you brain at all times.  You see characters and scenes in everything around you else you’d never have any content for your story.

So I’m going to take this time away from the hubby and the little baby and instead of moping about it, use it as a way to come up with new ideas.

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What are you saying?

?Phil: We’ve been updating our biographies recently. Along with a manuscript and synopsis, these are documents every writer needs to have at their fingertips ready to go should Hollywood get in touch.

I’ve been prompted to do this because of another project I’m working on and the thing that strikes me is the subtlety of the language required. There are so many levels to the job – on the face of it you have a brief pen portrait of the person concerned but there is so much more to say.

As writers, we need to understand that however good your book is, it is the person who wrote it that will appear at literary festivals, be interviewed in the press and pop up on TV. A good, marketable writer will shift copies. Someone the audience can’t connect with will struggle.

So, we make much of our back story meeting at a quango and being made redundant. It’s a tale that many people can relate to and provides a positive spin and unusual outcome that has already appealed to the local press.

My biog mentions that I worked for “a vegetable research company that bears absolutely no resemblance to HIA in the book” with the obvious implication that it might have been, as well as letting the reader know we are writing what we know.

Candice on the other hand, includes something about half-marathons that doesn’t involve old choccie bars and “managing her husband and one year old daughter” as a way of reassuring people that we are “an unusual, non-romantic, couple” and it’s politer than saying “Look at our blog header, I’m the glamorous one. Of course I’ve done better than him!”.

I console myself that at the quango, even though I am the owner of a model railway, she still considered me the most interesting person to talk to. Which says something about everyone else…


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Me before you by JoJo Moyes

Front CoverCandice: When Phil and I met up the other week he gave me two books to read.  One is the follow up to a book I started and didn’t finish, he said I should give it a go. That one is still on my bedside table.  The other was ‘Me before you’ by JoJo Moyes. He did warn me before I read it that it might get me into trouble, and reading the back of it I could see what he meant.

So, I had a long train journey to Leeds ahead of me later that week so I thought I’d crack the book open to occupy the time.  Well 2hrs there and 2hrs back and I’d read over 200 pages.  By the end of the weekend the book was finished.

I think I liked it.

The premise of the book is a young woman who is just breezing through her life without much purpose.  She has a comfortable job in the small town coffee shop, a comfortable long-standing boyfriend and nothing to really challenge her. Then she loses her job and falls into one looking after a quadriplegic man.  Will Taynor was your typical high-flying city type until he was more concerned with his blackberry than crossing the road.  A motorbike changes all that and Will ends up paralysed from the neck down.

The interaction with Will and Louisa could be corny and predictable, and even though the romantic outcome is exactly as you would expect, the book kept me involved.  I wanted to know how Louisa got into Will’s heart, I wanted to know he survived when he got pneumonia.  I can’t tell you why this book hooked me as much as it did but I couldn’t put it down.

In fact, I knew the big ending was coming and I left the last 20 pages when my eyes were drooping on Saturday night and finished it in bed on Sunday morning.  The other half didn’t spot me sniffing and the tears rolling down my cheeks at the time.

Checking out the book on the internet I find out that it is being made into a film (predictably) and that a sequel is coming, how that can be considering the story line I don’t know.

I won’t give any more of the story away but well done JoJo you really wrote something that got me hooked.


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Wanted: Home for a writer

Kleines CaféPhil: Working from home, I prefer to write fiction somewhere that isn’t my normal workspace.

While I might have all the facilities to hand, there is also the nagging feeling that I should be doing something that pays the bills, not messing around with stupid ideas of being the next JK Brown.

The problems is, finding somewhere to decamp with my laptop.

This becomes worse when there are two laptops to consider. Our last two attempts at working in Leamington Spa library have been thwarted by a lack of table space. People might say that libraries are dying off but they are certainly popular with those looking for somewhere to spend time driving a keyboard.

Last week, I had a meeting in Rugby and so decided that I’d try their library for a bit. Despite there being lots of tables, I only just managed to bag the last spot on one with power points. It was OK, but I don’t really feel comfortable on a round table in the middle of a room. After a couple of hours, I felt spent and trundled home.

Where do other people write?

I’ve heard of using cafés but that’s going to be expensive if (like me) you feel you ought to have a drink on the go at all times. I can’t countenance the idea of occupying space for half a day on the basis of a single hot chocolate – even if the coffee shop concerned can’t be bothered to pay it’s tax. That and I’d eat too much cake.

What’s needed is somewhere with people around, but people who can be relied on to mind their own business. Pubs, generally, are too busy. Or at least the chain ones where you might feel justified in drinking very slowly are.

After that, I’m not sure there is anything left. I know I should be able to work anywhere but the words flow better if I feel that I’m in the right spot for writing.

Any suggestions?


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