Tag Archives: planning

A change is as good as a rest

Phil: I mentioned last week that I have a new job. My flight away from being  “The Man from IT” is pretty much complete with a landing into “Jobs that will make Candice roll her eyes.” territory.

In addition to my existing writing work, I’m now editor of two magazines. No, not Vogue (ther loss) but Engineering in Miniature and Garden Rail.

Officially, I started just over a week ago with the first issues under my control appearing in August. My life now revolves around flatplans and other people’s words. To me, the subjects are fascinating and the people who take part in these hobbies, generally, interesting individuals and groups. Some of the later can even be relied on to supply good cake when I pay a visit!

All of this would seem a million miles away from the world of humorous fiction with a hint of chick-lit.

I can’t argue with that – there won’t be a huge amount of cross-over between the two audiences. That’s what makes it all so much fun.

Sitting with the Nolan discussing plots fires up a very different part of my brain. Our ideas aren’t constrained in any way, other than a desire for a little realism so the reader doesn’t have to suspend disbelief too much. An hour of plotting and I come away refreshed in a way that others have to get massaged with ungents to achieve. I’d certainly recommend stepping out of the real world occasionally either read or better still write, a book.

Anyway, I’ve managed to become even nerdier than when we first met. Unbelievable I know, but true.

If all this wasn’t bad enough, I have to cover a model bus event during the weekend, that’s the anorak quotient turned up a long way even for me! On the train there though, I’ll be pondering the lives of Kate, Dave, Gareth, Kelvin and Tracey. Well, we are already having serious ideas for our third book…

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

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…

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Phil, Writing

January – what is the point?

capture

Candice: I have to say I don’t like January.  In the UK it just seems to be a really long month that is dark ALL THE TIME ! It’s a bit of a bummer as two important people in my household have their Birthday’s in January so I do my best to get as excited as I can about that but when it wake up every day to another pitch black morning, I’m struggling.

Talking about waking up in the dark I am slightly obsessed with looking at what time the sunrise is on bbc website.  Its still only 8am at the end of the month!  What this also means is that I struggle to get motivated to do things at either end of the day. Once its dark I want to curl up in a ball and eat chocolate.

I don’t see the point of the other things people do in January:

  • Dry January – don’t really drink that much, not because of the hangovers but because it really upsets my stomach. I’d rather down the odd margarita and enjoy it than drown myself in booze.
  • Joining a gym – argh, get out of my way.  In the last few weeks going to the gym has been a nightmare.  It’s a sea of people in pristine gym gear trying to work out how to use the equipment. I’m a regular goer so this annoys me as they are all hogging the machines I want to go on.
  • Complaining about over spending – don’t spend thousands on your other half and your children and this won’t happen.  Big presents don’t show love, spending quality time together does.
  • Setting resolutions – anyone who does this only ends up in a bad mood as they fail miserably to achieve them.  Set yourself little targets across the year and then you’ll better when you get there.

Phil and I have started the year well though.  We haven’t set a resolution but we have set a deadline. We love a good deadline.  There is editing and new chapter writing going on in the back ground, and we are both enjoying it a fresh.  Looking out for more new stuff soon.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

I need some fun

Candice: This weekend has been another round of madness in the Nolan house.

We went to a first birthday party on Saturday and then the other half was sorting the redecorating of a bedroom for most Sunday so I was in charge of entertainment.

While someone was napping Sunday afternoon I enjoyed some quality me time in the sun (yes Spring seems to have finally appeared) reading the paper.

But when it gets to Sunday night I am frustrated, as yet again it is another weekend where I haven’t done anything as an adult.

What didn’t help was the fact my sister was off for a week abroad with the other half and my hubby had been out on the razzle on Friday night.

So I’ve decided its time for some fun.  The change in the weather is also driving my need for something that involves drinking and dancing, as the lighter evenings mean I don’t feel so tired.  Its time for some Prosecco on the Patio!

So I’ve texted some of my girlie mates about a night out.  Since most of us have become parents we seem to have lost the ability to want to go out and just let our hair down. Girls only means that we don’t have to find babysitters so that’s not an issue, but money and generally feeling tired is.

So far I haven’t had much response but I am counting my chickens that someone will take up the gauntlet and get me out of my funk.

Ginger CakeWhen Phil and I met for lunch today we were also discussing feeling a bit down about things. We both admitted to loosing our writing mojo as the book hasn’t taken off quite as we wanted and we are feeling the ‘what is the point of writing book two’.  I am sure that this comes to us all, as having an audience for your work motivates you to write more.  Having some appreciation makes it all worth while.

But I think we have managed to lift ourselves with some plans for marketing and taking time to write.  We also have Stratford Literary Festival looming and need to prepare our spiel.

So with some cake in our bellies we set off into the bright sunshine with some new hope.

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

New Year’s Resolutions…?

Candice: I am writing this post much later than planned on the night of the 4th January as today has been busy.  It’s my daughter’s second birthday today, a day of running around taking her to the local Butterfly farm and to see the grand parents as well as trying to catch up before returning to work tomorrow.

I’ve not been off over the whole Christmas period, I did one day in the office, however that was nearly a week ago so the whole thought of working seems like a long way away. I’ve been making sure that my pass and work bag is ready to go in the morning as groggy will not describe how I feel!

So, I’m a bit late on the resolutions discussions but it’s probably because I’ve never really bothered with them.  I don’t see the point of setting yourself up for something that you are unlikely to achieve especially when this is not a good time of year to do anything new anyway – its too dark and cold.   I’ll be doing my usual of fighting off the new people at the gym for the next few weeks as they all decide to get fit and loose that extra weight.  Well I can tell you it takes more than a few combat classes, even with all the exercise I do I could always do to loose a few pounds.

  • Dry January – not worth it, I don’t drink enough
  • Lay off chocolate – likelihood of this happening close to nil
  • Go to the gym – already do it
  • Achieve something special – did I mentioned our book was published in December?

So, I set my self goals across the year to keep having something to aim for.  I have decided I need a fitness goal for the next few months as I need that extra push, but am not sure it is going to be a half marathon this year. The thing is I can’t find anything shorter, but longer than a 10km.  Book – well I managed to squeeze in 2000 words over christmas so we have hit the 50,000 mark.  That means expanding what we have and a few more holes to be filled and we will be there.  Deadline – summer holiday books.

And what else?  More me time I think.  I’m not sure how with an adventurous two year old but for both of us we need some space so we need to find a way to achieve it.

How about you, readers?

Leave a comment

Filed under Candice, Writing

I have a cunning plan…

Cheesecake selectionCandice: I had an abundance of things to write about in this blog post.

Eating – as over Christmas this has been high on the agenda. I’ve already talked about the fact there are only so many times you can have Quality Street for Breakfast and not feel the effects. I know its gone too far when the box of Lindor I have in the fridge, something I really like, is actually making feel a bit sick when I just open the door and look at it.

Erin – well its been a whole year since she joined us and lots of things have changed, I’ve changed and it makes you think.

But actually this year is all about finally getting the book out there. Having someone interested in publishing it had galvanised Phil and I to start working on book number two. We met the other day and once food and very nice dessert was out of the way (and I got Phil to stop gassing and get on with the writing :)) we found time to roll out some new words. And the words were good. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get back on the iPad and get on with finishing the section I started but it has been floating around my head ever since with ideas on how I will finish the scene. Must get down to it soon as the ideas are starting to fade.

What I really liked about this session was, after struggling to find somewhere suitable to sit in the whole of Leamington, and having to buy a new pair of shoes to make up for this stress, Phil and I looked at the storyline planning chart we’d done the other week, picked a section that each of us would write, and got on with it. Just by looking at the sentence ‘Kate needs to explain why still at KOD’, plus the discussion we had about her relationship with the love interest Dave, my brain was off crafting a scene. I can literally see it in my head, right down to her outfit, the people she is going to meet and everything.

So I’m going to find the time to finish this section and many more and I have set us a challenge. Phil doesn’t know this yet, but I want the 80,000 word first draft of Book Two done by June. I think that is totally feasible and I don’t work well without a deadline so that’s me drawing my line in the sand. In the mean time Book One will be out there (we hope) and our followers will be clammering for more…. What did he say about buying things on sales proceeds?

3 Comments

Filed under Candice, Writing

Self-publishing with Polly Courtney

Polly CourtneyPhil: Last week, we chatted with author Polly Courtney about the writing process. This isn’t the end of the process. While most writers dream of handing their manuscript over to a publisher who will take it away and sell the book, Polly choses to self-publish. How does author as publishing house work? We were eager to know…

Most new authors concentrate on producing a story but as a self-publisher, you appear to approach the book as much more than this. Does the book just become “product” to sell this way? Can the temptation to write something easy to sell ever change the content of the book?

Good question. It’s one of those things that’s very personal: some authors feel it’s compromising their integrity to think about the commerciality of their novel before they start writing. I don’t have a problem with it – although I wouldn’t go as far as to say that I change my intentions for a book based on its market appeal. I’m fortunate, in a way, that the subjects which get me going are also ones that other people find interesting. Would I write a book about a little-known issue that had never hit the news? Maybe – no, definitely, if I felt strongly enough about it. I’d just have to create the demand, instead of using existing interest in the subject.

Your books are famously not chick-lit but do they fit a genre? Does this matter if you don’t have to fit within the pre-conceived ideas of a publishers marketing department, or does it make it harder pitching the book to sellers?

I’ve never been good at fitting in a box (book-wise). It’s a problem for publishers, definitely. They need to be able to see where a book will sit ‘on the shelf’, but mine falls between shelves; it’s fiction, but it’s social issues-led. “What do we call it? Which author is it like?” publishers ask, in a panic. That’s why I was squeezed into the ‘chick lit’ mould when I was with HarperCollins: it was the closest recognised genre they were happy to work with. Frankly, I don’t need to put my work in a box; the main thing is that it’s well represented in a visual sense (i.e. title and cover) so that readers can tell what themes and styles are inside. That’s the beauty of online bookstores; the recommendations engines can provide suggestions for readers based on their reading habits. No need for shelf-based searching any more!

(These are the ‘on brand’ cover designs for my self-published novels, courtesy of the incredible Sinem Erkas):

Golden Handcuffs, Poles Apart, Ferel Yout

How does the planning work? Do you treat it like a project with charts, spreadsheets, budgets and all the related paraphernalia?

Oh, boy. You asked for it. I am anal when it comes to planning. Seriously, there are financial spreadsheets, Excel timeplans and lists – many, many lists. In the run-up to launch for Feral Youth, my boss has left me daily to-do lists with penalties for late completion. It’s tough, working for yourself (but I love it).

Ferel Youth plan

What advice could you give to new authors looking to promote their books? Since you have a new novel out and are re-releasing some old ones, presumably there is a plan, what does it involve?

Here’s some advice I would give any author or wannabe author (including my twenty-four-year-old self, a few years ago):

Take time to think about what you really want to write (style, content, themes etc.) and who might like to read it (demographics, attitudinal groups, etc.) and then think about the best way to publish, staying true to these two important things. For some writers, this might mean signing with a publisher (one that really understands your goals), but for others it might mean going it alone and retaining control over the execution of that vision. And remember: if it doesn’t fit in a box, that’s not a problem any more 🙂

Thank you again for your time Polly. Don’t forget, if you want to know more, visit pollycourtney.com

2 Comments

Filed under Books, Interviews, Phil, Publishing