Friday 29 July 2011

My Brit Mum Post on tips to writing a novel

When Susannah invited me to write a blog about novel-writing tips, I sat down and wrote a list. What this list perhaps doesn’t convey is how it has to be something you really want to do - you can’t imagine life without writing a book. I know this sounds extreme. It has to, because the whole process of writing a novel is hard but even harder perhaps, is getting published. Inevitably you will have to face rejections from agents and then later publishers, before your novel is accepted. If you don’t manage to find a home for it, you need the strength and will to dust of the rejections and persevere. If the first novel doesn’t sell, then perhaps the second one will, or even the third, or fourth. Even after all of this, it will be competing with hundreds of other books and for all this effort – it is quite likely that you won’t make a fortune. Of course there is always a chance that your book will be one of the tiny minority snapped up at auction! And go on to be bestseller. There is always that hope. If you are still determined then go ahead, and good luck. Here are my tips to help you on the way:

·      Make a commitment that you are going to write a novel.
·      Just start
·      Decide a time of day/night to write and stick to it. Give yourself at least one hour daily- two would be better.
·      Write at least five times a week if you can.
·      You can’t write a novel half-heartedly. Take yourself seriously or no one else will.
·      Don’t answer the telephone or make appointments during your writing time.
·      Join a writers group, where you can get feedback and support.
·      Go on a writer’s retreat or a good writer’s course.
·      Research.  Talk to people, interview them if you need to, read, make notes.
·      If you find writing dialogue hard, say it out-loud to see if it sounds real.
·      Don’t worry if it’s not an excellent first draft; just get it down on paper.

·      Don’t read back and despair. Or if you do despair, don’t give up; persevere.  All writers I know go through the idea of thinking their work is crap.

·      Keep going to the end.

·      After every 20,000 words or so (or whatever works for you) print out and read to retain a sense of all the strands of the novel.
·      The secret of novel writing is in the rewrite. Don’t be afraid to edit, cut back, rewrite.
·      Note places where it doesn’t seem to make sense, or where you need to add information. Cut out anything superfluous. Cut again.
·      When you think you have finished and are dying to show someone, wait          and do one more rewrite.

·      After that you could show the book to a few choice friends and get their feedback

My novel, Seven Days One Summer is out now with Short Books.  Please buy it and take it on holiday with you!

Friday 8 July 2011

Author Interview

My novel, Seven Days One Summer has been out for 24 hours. Yesterday the official launch day, felt quite flat, it was raining and my husband was away. I had expected some kind of fanfare - Penguin sent me some flamboyant flowers for my last novel that came out in 2009, but not a squeak from Short Books. I went to Waterstones in Chiswick and found my latest novel in the 2 for 3 offers, displayed on a back table. I asked the nice woman behind the till if I could sign them and she was thrilled. I cheered up a bit and went home! Hoping and praying that someone will buy a copy!!

Lovely David from Paragraph Planet, did an author interview with me and here it is!

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Acem Meditation

Breathe in, breath out, breath in, breath out. I have to keep reminding myself to do this as my heart is palpitating and there is tightness in my chest. I can't sleep, can hardly eat, and am generally fraught.  My third novel,  Seven Days One Summer is coming out on the 7th July.  There is part of me that wants to hide, right now, in a hotel bedroom. I would lock the door, lie on the bed, and spend the day reading, writing and meditating.  I have always been an incompetent sleeper, someone who can't sleep during a full moon, or after too much caffeine and so when my friend Rebecca told me aboutAcem Meditation a couple of years ago, I went along for a weekend course.
Acem has been developed  in Scandinavia over the last thirty years.  It is claimed that if you practice this form of meditation you will be more relaxed and have increased energy and that your immune system will be strengthened. Acem  is non religious and non profit making which appealed to me and the course was inexpensive. A group of us learnt the method of repeating a selection of meaningless sounds, returning to the sound whenever thoughts got in the way. By doing this repeatedly the body relaxes.  One woman shared that she had managed to solve a nagging problem while meditating. I found that I did relax deeply and its true that you do feel more energized afterwards.
Dr Svend Davanger, Associate Professor at the Centre for Molecular Biology and Neuroscience at the University of Oslo, co-authored the book Fighting stress. Reviews of meditation research.   He explains, “We all go through ….stressful situations every day. Meditation seems to be very powerful in resolving the tensions that are left behind in your mind and body... Meditation shifts the balance towards spontaneous resolution of tension and worrying thoughts, making room for rest and sleep”
This method of mediation is so much easier to  practice than the method I tried before which was based on ancient geometry and was really hard to remember how to do.  The difficult  part is committing to actually doing it. Acem suggest either one session of 45 minutes a day or two of twenty five minute sessions. At first I found that it was best for me first thing in the morning. I was sleeping well almost immediately.
I no longer practice every day and often when I do, I fall asleep for a ten minute nap, but always feel better afterwards. I never manage to do 45 minutes a day or even two lots of twenty minutes but it doesn't seem to matter. Breath in, breath out. Writing this post has made me realise I need to meditate right away.

Monday 4 July 2011


I've got a new health beauty mind blog over at Mumsnet. It's one of the featured blogs which is great, as I'm there along with some great writers. Go take a look.

Is It Just Me Or Are Fad Diets a Waste of Time and Money?

I had lunch with a friend the other day. While I tucked into a substantial salad she sipped a sad black tea and boasted that she had lost 9...