Tag Archives: cake

How many chapters is enough?

Phil: We’re making excellent progress with Book 2 – but the 80,000 word target is still bugging us as we aren’t there yet.

“If something doesn’t move the story forward, leave it out.” is the traditional advice to writers, but we’re wondering if we have been too efficient. There’s been a lot of planning in the book, lessons learned from last time, and it’s pretty fat-free. I can’t see anyone lopping a thousand words out this time!

So, we are looking hard and thinking about areas that need fleshing out. An obvious problem is that while we know what certain people and places look like, it would be really helpful if we told the reader. Several scenes have now been enlivened by a bit of description, adding many hundred of words in the process.

Last Friday we sat down in an excellent farm shop cafe with the laptops intending to do some writing. And eat some cake, but mostly to do some writing.

What we actually did was to go through the book as it stands and write a timeline. Candice skimmed each chapter and I typed the synopsis into a spreadsheet. We created an overview of the story which included a surprise.

49 chapters.

That’s the not the end though. Some of those included far too many scenes. Later in the day I broke them up and we now have 56.

I don’t think this is a problem. Personally, I like short chapters. When reading I can think I’ll just finish another one before putting the bookmark back in. If it’s half-a-dozen pages then I might be tempted to do just one more. If it’s 30 then forget it. Short chapters add pace to the story.

Anyway, the upshot is that our overview revealed not too many plot holes. The book is nearly ready for its first test readers…



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Writing progress – BOOM!

Library CakePhil: There I am, sitting in a deck chair besides Solihull’s latest tourist attraction – a beach – perusing a magazine about fixing rusty cars, when I’m tapped on the shoulder.

“Don’t you want any cake then?”

Shockingly, I’d been so excited about the mock seaside, I’d not spotted that Candice had lined up pots of tea and a choice of cake in the cafe behind me.

Not to worry, once we’d polished off the refreshments (sparkly cake – excellent!) and I’d established that she’d not brough me any souvenirs back from the previous days trip to Cadbury World (Boo), we got on to discussing the book.

Writers – here’s a handy hint. If you’ve lost your mojo, give some copies of your book away. Once people start talking about it, you’ll be back at the keyboard toot sweet.

It’s certainly working for us. My friend is giddy with excitement about the book now she’s passing copies around her friends and we can see loads of people have downloaded copies. OK, we’re not making money but then we never expected to become as rich as Rowling. We just want people to read and enjoy the story.

And the reviews say they are. It’s a wonderful feeling.

All of which got us sat around a library table with laptops out. At first we discussed how the overall story arc should go in the second book. We’ve worked this out already but this time there was detail. There has to be when the words are to hit the page.

Not only this, we filled in some blanks for the books to follow this as well. It was very exciting to be back discussing plots and ideas.

After this, there was writing. Maybe the sugar rush from the cake was powering us, but after an hour or so, we swapped computers and read the 1000 or so words we’d each written. New words but ones that fitted like jigsaw pieces into the story we are telling.

So, giving away a few copies of our book isn’t such a daft idea after all.

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Are we famous yet?

_RPB8357Candice: We came,we saw, we presented.  Yes, last week we set the world alight by talking about our book writing process at the Stratford literary festival. The build up was unnerving, the day was stressful, the cake was plentiful, and the audience was receptive.

It actually went really well, though I was nearly sick before hand. Once I got to the green room and Phil talked at everyone I was nicely distracted.  We didn’t have time to think about what was going to happen as we had our photos taken and then were taken down stairs to the room.

Sitting down at the front was un-nerving, having been to a few events an been in the crowd, suddenly we were the focus.  That is the point when it really hit me we were there to talk about our book.

The crowds flocked in to sit down… all four of them.  I think it made me more relaxed that we didn’t have that many people but Phil said it made him feel more nervous.  He’s used to performing to big crowds!_DSC3953

The talk went really well, we had a few bumps in the road but that just shows we need a little more practice.  But it was great to prove that we can talk for 30 mins about the book in an engaging way. One of our audience said she thought she could see us as a radio show (which backs up what a few people have said).

So, yes the audience was small, we aren’t going to millionaires off that soon, but we did make some good contacts with a book group and WI so hopefully there will be more listeners (and readers) to come.

A great experience and thank you to the Literary Festival for giving us a slot.

Now to sort out the new book cover, that is a whole new area of conversation!

Photos courtesy of Rupert Barnes.

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Don’t know which way is up

upsidedowncakeCandice: The last few weeks have been a bit all over the place in the Nolan household.  The other half has been away a lot for work so I have been leaning on the grandparents to look after the little person so I can go to the gym.

I’ve also started to train for my annual big running event, and then failed miserably to do more than 1 big run.

There has been lots of end of year stuff happening at work, nothing that you can really get your teeth in to but things that have to be done.

And to cap it all we have workmen in building a bathroom, something I have been really looking forward to but now its here I’m not enjoying it so much.

So, I’ve gone from having a nice weekly routine to not being sure where I am and when.  And when you have two people to get ready each morning, that makes things twice as hard.

I’ve turned up at work without my work mobile, forgotten my lunch, got to the gym without a towel or the right clothes.  And trying to work from home is out of the window as I keep getting requests for tea or questions about pipes.

So focusing on marketing the book had been in fits and starts to say the least. Phil has also been busy so there are snatched emails or meetings to talk book.  We even met on Saturday to get some head shots done, and I ended up chasing Erin round the Pump Rooms while he and the other half talked cars.  No book planning there.

So I am hoping February will bring a more settled routine, a groovy new bathroom and a marketing plan.

Can I just add we now have a 4 star Independent review on Amazon – so get buying people!


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An urgent appeal…

Please buy our book so we can have cake!

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by | December 21, 2015 · 8:51 am

Assembling a story is like doing a jigsaw. You just have to find out where all the pieces fit.

JigsawPhil: As Candice mentioned on Tuesday, we had a really good booking session last week. Cakes the size of paving slabs, space for a laptop and a flow of ideas. What more could you want?

(Actually, I should point out that the “I needed three hours for a cherry bakewell” isn’t entirely accurate. You can see in the photo that much of this was wolfed down before I could get the camera out. My roulade on the other hand, was still a little bit unfinished when we left.)

Plan A had been to do some typing but this was quickly swept aside in preference for planning. We’d both written chunks of text in the run up to the meet and are getting close to having the bones of the book together. My latest offering had been slotted into place and we then discussed how well one of the new character worked within it. In the first draft, you might get the story but not the correct tone.

Every so often someone would pull a “Shut up Phil” face and I’d know that I was probably barking up the wrong tree. That’s fine, I’ve learnt when to back down and sometimes I even work this out before we get there. Occasionally, I even get a win – one of the main sticking points I had with a new passage is to be sorted out with a new, and potentially very funny scene that forces our character to admit something to herself which follows on to the next chapter.

Fortunatly, we can both take criticism from the other. Candice has written a lovely scene with our IT guy and our Femme Fatale but she can’t get into the mind of the nerdy man as well as I can, so it’s gone back with modification. My take on a character was deemed to give away too much at the wrong stage of the plot, so she’s going to have a crack at fixing this.

Anyway, I’d assumed that my work was pretty much the conclusion of the book but as we threw around ideas, discovered it wasn’t. There is a really big scene to follow it, one we’d talked about but not found a place for. Once we worked out where this all fitted though, it was as obviously right as it is when you place the final piece in a jigsaw.

Even the writing shouldn’t be too hard (!) as we’ve left lots of lose ends to tie up and these dictate what has to happen. As long as the characters behave when I start typing, all will be well.

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A good use of time?

bigcakesCandice: During my convalesce last week I had one thing on my mind, getting some writing done while I had the time.  Of course I was also meant to be recovering from an operation so I need to make sure that was quite high up on the agenda.

It helped that, though not very mobile, I didn’t have too many after effects from the anesthetic so spent time moving between sofa and computer and not bed, as well as having my daily constitutional walk.

Phil and I managed a session on Thursday where three hours were spent discussing ideas and scoffing some rather substantial cakes. They came from a new pub that has opened not far from my house, which specializes in carvery and cake.  Yes these items are true size in the picture.  I have to say my Bakewell was lovely, though I needed the full three hours to get through it.

So, I’d already written some stuff before the meet and had a look at our timeline.  Though we’d plotted stuff out before with post its etc, we hadn’t gone back to review.  As is often the case the ideas are there or there abouts but when you come to write them they don’t follow the route you originally had in mind.  So it was a good opportunity to go back and say – ‘where does that fit?’ or ‘actually I don’t think that character would do that’.  What I found was we had holes, where we jumped from one major scene to another without the connection between the two.  So rather than writing a lot of new content, I did some connecting, with some short scenes that made it all make more sense.

By the time we got the pub I had a better idea of where we wanted to go and where the end might appear.

So came to the brainstorm and I realised how different things were this time round.  Book 1 was a free flow of ideas that eventually came together as a story.  This book is a lot more structured, but we also know our characters so well that when Phil would suggest a plot line I would argue that ‘so and so’ wouldn’t do that.  I was quite vocal in my opinion!

It took three hours and the cake to smooth over the rough edges, bash out the ideas and actually get to a point where we really are close to getting it all together.  Off the back of the meet I wrote another chapter but Phil has the big project… the ending.  We know almost exactly how this is going to work, but now he just has to write it.

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