RNA NWS Feedback


I was absolutely thrilled when I returned home from Swanwick to discover a large envelope had arrived which The Hubster left on my desk. He hadn’t let on during the week that it had arrived, but only because he didn’t realise what it was. I’m glad he didn’t tell me as I would have been begging him to open it lol.

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Sorry, for those of you new to my blog I’m a member of the Romantic Novelists New Writers Scheme. You send them an MS and then an anonymous reader gives you feedback. The readers are all full Romantic Novelist Association Members.

In my cover letter to my anonymous reader I explained that “Tangled” was in first draft form (I haven’t even reread it all the way through since I wrote it) and that I really didn’t have a clue where to start editing. Also, that I needed guidance on whether it was too “thrillery” to be considered “Contemporary Women’s Fiction” and I got my answers on both those questions….

The first sentence of the feedback cheered me up! My reader said “This has an interesting story line with a good twist at the end so that it possibly has the potential to become an exciting novel.” So far so good I think ;)

As regarding genre, my reader said “…the opening is exciting and shocking and quickly draws the reader in, leading to the expectation that some kind of thriller will follow. It would be worth considering therefore that the whole book should be developed as more of a thriller, by adding more suspense, intrigue and tension…. Hmmmm, ok, so it’s not a romance lol… I suspected as much.

She went on to write at least 1 paragraph of feedback under each of the following headings:
Genre
Beginning
Setting
Characterisation
Show not Tell
Meaningful Scenes/Dialogue
Pace
Emotional Tension and Suspense
Presentation – Layout/Punctuation
Synopsis
5 pages in all of feedback, mainly consisting of details where I could expand, scenes that don’t work, areas to work on and a good luck message at the end.

There was one thing that my reader said that I’d like your opinion on (I’m going to be asking everyone and his dog about this now lol). She suggested that i get in early details of the ages of my main characters because she thought the names Anna and Tim could suggest much younger characters (in my mind Anna is 48 and Tim 10 years older).What do you think? I don’t know anyone under the age of 50 called Tim. Would love your views.

On the whole I’m really pleased and would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to my anonymous reader. Her feedback will be invaluable when I start editing :)

I can highly recommend joining the New Writers Scheme if you’re thinking about writing romance. Perhaps I should find out if there is a “thriller” scheme I could join instead now ;)

My Faber Reading


A HUGE thank you to everyone who commented on my IWSG post a couple of days ago. I will continue to write, but I’m not going to make it the entire focus of my life anymore. I need to step back, chill about it, and if I don’t write for a week not stress about it.

Ok, I’m gunna share with you the piece I read out at the Faber event. Be gentle with me, I know it’s not brilliant lol. In the anthology there is a synopsis and a 1500 extract from Laura’s journal, the one that arrives in this scene…

Ruby knew the handwriting, but didn’t recognise the post mark. As she tore open the large manilla envelope her hands shook. Inside were a black Moleskin notebook and a folded piece of pink paper, a similar shade to the fluffy slippers she was wearing. Her chest tightened as she unfolded the letter.

Dear Ruby,

I know this has probably come as a huge shock, did you secretly hope that you’d never hear from me again? I pray that’s not the case. We are so alike, you and I, stubborn to the bone and we have wasted so much time. Regardless of what you think of me, I love you, and not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought about you, worried where you were.

You’ll be pleased to know I finally summoned the courage to do what you’d been telling me to do for years. I’ve left Daniel. I walked out with a small holdall, my passport and our joint savings. I managed to find a room in a house share, which is where I’ve been for the last ten months.

I know you said when you left that you felt I had chosen him over you. That is something I’ve had to live with these past years. At first I was angry with you for saying that, but now, I think you were probably right, and it breaks my heart to admit it. How could I have chosen my husband over my daughter? I’ve been an awful mother. I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but please accept this notebook. I’ve been writing in it these last few weeks. There is so much I want to tell you.

I don’t expect your sympathy, I’m not asking you to come and see me, pretend nothing’s happened and pick up where we left off. I know it’s too late for that. But always remember that regardless of what you think of me I have always loved you and I’m so sorry for all the hurt I’ve caused. It will haunt me for the rest of my life.

I hope you are happy and having the wonderful life that you deserve.

Love, always.

Mum x

Ruby closed her eyes and slid down the hallway wall to the cold ceramic tiles, her head spinning, her breathing erratic. And that was where Sam found her, twenty minutes later, clutching her knees to her chest, the notebook on the glossy floor at her feet.

I really don’t know how I managed to read it with all the crossing outs lol

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The general consensus from my writing group was that it was a bit too “tell” which is fair enough. But how do you stop a letter being all tell, because that’s what a letter is isn’t it? Any ideas on another way I could have done it would be much appreciated :)

Insecure Writers Support Group – June 2013


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Apologies in advance that this post is quite long and isn’t really my normal whiney type of post for IWSG.

I remember the day that I wanted to write. My friend Jayne had been writing for a while, but needed some direction. I persuaded her to go to a class at our local adult education centre, and to offer support, I said I’d go with her. I didn’t have a clue what to expect, thought I could possibly bluff my way through the class. I didn’t even consider that we might get set homework which would mean I would actually have to write some fiction lol.

That very first class was a complete turning point in my life. The tutor started by recommending that we keep a “writers notebook” to jot down ideas for stories, observations we’d made, snippets of overheard conversations blah blah blah. I’d been journaling for a few years. Filling notebook after notebook (most of which I still have) with snippets of my life, descriptions of events and daily musings, so that recommendation sounded like fun!

When I got home I went to my stash (I didn’t need to buy one, come on!) and started to scribble down ideas, collect info, take photos and write down the thoughts that had been fluttering around my head for years.

It was like a lightbulb moment! And within a couple of weeks I’d half filled that book (I still have it…it’s notebook No1…I’m on notebook No39 now lol) and had written 2 short stories. Sitting here now, I remember the excitement I had. I remember how eager I was to learn, to soak up every single piece of information I could, to help me become a “writer” :)

Unfortunately I didn’t finish the course (it was on a Tuesday afternoon, and both me and Jayne found it more and more difficult to get there). So Philip Kane if you’re reading this…THANK YOU!

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So here I am, 2 years and 7 months later and I’ve finally realised…it’s not a race. I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself. Those of you reading this who know me in real life will know that I throw myself into things 110% if I’m passionate about it. I’m like a sports car (I don’t look as good, obviously) trying to go 0-60 in 0.4 seconds. I need to slow down, get that excitement back, and I’m forming strategies to help me with that (like the 2 week break I’ve just had which worked really well and I won’t hesitate to do again when I’m feeling worn/burnt out).

This month I will be focussing on “fun” writing and trying to recapture the innocence I had back in 2010 before I knew all about publishing, agents, Kindle and the shit prospects I face as an aspiring “author” with a very slim chance of ever publishing a novel.

So I guess I’m not insecure as such this month, but I’m definitely re-evaluating. In the writing community I am a mere toddler, and you know what they say about your childhood? They’re supposed to be the best days of your life :)

Incidentally: The first piece of homework I had to submit for the writing class? Mr Kane liked it and actually asked if he could put it on a web site :)

I think I’ll always feel insecure about my writing, it comes with the territory, but, I think the key is not to stress. To take a moment to breath and just concentrate on being the best writer that you can. The rest will just fall into place at some stage and if it doesn’t, does that really matter? If my dream is to be published and then I achieve that, I’ll just have to come up with a new dream ;)

So what are you feeling insecure about today?

Must Do’s 3rd to 9th June


Another busy week as ever, but, I like to be kept on my toes ;)

So how did I do last week with my “To Do List”?

1. Work on 25 word pitch & reading for Faber. Well, I made a start, but not very successfully….must get it finished this week!

2. Edit at least 1 chapter of Tangled. Failed miserably :( It’s that editing thing again *sighs*

3. Start going to the gym. Another epic fail lol

4. Do 1 writing exercise every day. Done!

5. Work on my Now List. Done!

6. Do some studying every day. Done!

Isn’t it funny how the things you enjoy doing are the things that get done first on the list he he he!

So another hectic week coming up, but some really good stuff to look forward to :)

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What are your writing plans for the week?

Must Do’s Monday 27th to 2nd June


I’ve had a hectic week, not helped by a few days of feeling rough. But I didn’t do too badly all told on the ‘To Do List’ which was…

1. Work on the synopsis for Tangled Ummm, ok, well this didn’t happen lol. I have a rough one that I did a couple of weeks ago, but it sounds like a blurb at the moment.
2. Edit first two chapters of Tangled Ok, I did the first chapter, but as I need to submit the whole novel to the RNA New Writers Scheme before the end of July I really need to step up a gear lol
3. Start planning some blog posts Done :)
4. Start going to the gym Didn’t happen, but as The Hubster’s chess is winding down now we’ve agreed to start going next week.
5. Plan my week every Sunday Yep, did that last week and used my new Paperchase pad. Really useful having my whole week on one sheet divided into AM’s and PM’s. I’ll be doing next weeks one after I finish this post.
6. Do at least 1 writing exercise every day Ahhhh, now this has been great, I’ve really enjoyed it! And at the moment I’m using Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind :)

So next weeks another busy one, but I’m looking forward to writing (thank gawd!). I’ve got a couple of opportunities for writing in coffee shops and then there’s Happy Club. The sun has been shining today and I’m feeling pretty goddam good :)

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I’m loving filling in my ‘Experiences’ book, but I think I need to carry it around with me because I keep remembering things when I’m out and forgetting them by the time I get home lol.

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What are your plans for the week?

Monday Must Do’s 20th to 26th May


Good morning! (or afternoon/evening depending on where you are and when you’re reading this ;)

I’m BACK! Did ya miss me? I’ve missed you guys :)

Ok, that’s enough lol….I guess I better tell you what I’ve been up to. I’ve had a pretty good 2 weeks to be honest. It was my birthday and i went stationery shopping, i went to the Romantic Novelists Summer Party (click the link for the photos including one which featured my red shoes! lol) and went to see RJ Ellory read from his new novel which isnt out for a few months (must buy that one!). I haven’t touched the WIP (Still), haven’t done much writing at all, although I did do a few prompts which was fun. Most of you know, I’m a huge fan of prompts and writing exercises to get the old creative juices flowing. I stumbled across Bonnie Neubauer’s website last week (she’s the lady who wrote The Right Brain Workbook) and here’s what she has to say about prompts:

“Because exercises (also known as prompts) remove the expectations and judgments you have about your own writing. The goal of an exercise is get you to write for the sake of writing so you can discover or rediscover the joy of writing. Exercises are all about filling the pre-allotted time or the pre-allotted space on the page. Do that, and you have met your goal. Nothing else matters. Not content, not plot, not characters, not spelling. And, to exceed your goal all you have to do is write one extra sentence.”

“Do enough exercises (The number is different for everyone; for me, it happens to be 2 exercises a day for 3 to 6 days), and you will find yourself excited about doing your ‘real’ writing. When this happens (and don’t force it), it’s totally okay to abandon the world of exercises and write what you want to write. Just remember that if you ever find yourself stalled, immediately put your regular writing aside and do some exercises. The exercises will relieve you of the pressure to produce and will once again, get your right brain primed to spew onto the paper without letting your left brain (the nasty editor) get in the way and stop you.”

And that’s what happened see….I fell out of love with writing, so I’ve been trying to claw my way back….and I think it’s working. I’ve missed doing prompts and I should never have stopped. As from today I’m taking Bonnie’s advice, and going back to committing to daily writing :)

So the coming week looks like this:

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And how I’ve missed the structure of a ‘to do list’ because when I haven’t got one, nothing gets done.

You’ll see I’m working on another project. My second novel, entitled “Tangled” is what I’ve decided to submit to the RNA New Writers Scheme for critique, but it still needs some work. It’s complete, has a beginning, a middle and an end (go me!) but is only 52,000 words lol. The first novel (Still) is such a bloody mess that I really don’t know where to go next, so I’m putting it to one side (for the moment). There’s only so many times you can bash your head against that wall ;)

So I’m feeling pretty good, pretty confident and actually raring to get suck in! I’m hoping that my new pad from Paperchase will help.

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Great post about self doubt here on Mandy Websters blog. Struck a nerve with me as its just how I’ve been feeling lately. Now, I’m off to turn a prompt into a ghost story :)

So what are your writing plans for the week?

Faber Session 28 – Notes and Thoughts


Apologies if you’ve received this post twice! In my excitement I mucked up the scheduling…. This one is the live link :)

I had a lovely day yesterday…..I went to a new cafe I’d never been to before and had a Cream Egg Brownie!

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Wandered through Covent Garden and then accidentally stumbled across the HUGEST Paperchase I’d ever seen! Three whole floors of goodies!!!!

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Well, as you can imagine, I was so overwhelmed that I came out with nothing, but, if The Hubsters reading this, I’d like a Paperchase voucher for my birthday please! Lol ;)

So last nights Faber class was the last one *all say awwwwww* Seriously, I’m quite sad :( But I can’t make up my mind if I’m a really good advert for their courses or a really bad one. I started the course with 65,000 words, by the middle of the course I had 24,000 and now I have 500! LMAO! Yeah, ok, this 500 are probably far better than the previous 89,000! My novel has gone from But Not Forgotten to The Last Word Cafe to Still and my structure has changed from 3rd person, to 1st person to both! ;)

Part of Saturdays session and most of last nights was about synopsis and pitch. We were given some examples of bad intro letters, bad synopsise and good ones. There aren’t really many tips I can pass on to you to be honest. I know, you’re disappointed right? The reason being is that our synopsises (spelling ??) are tailored to our Faber submission which will be going into the Anthology, which is then given to the agents. Last night we had to read them out and the feedback on mine was that it was too “facty” (is there such a word? Lol). I didn’t give enough information on how the past will affect the present and how my characters actually feel. Yeah, I can get that, but gawd only knows how I’m going to do it! ;)

So we ended up at the pub for a quick drink :)

I’ve got one more session at the Faber offices, a guest tutor and then we’re all meeting up (the students) a couple of times before we have to do our pitches in June.

So I guess I’ve got lots of work to do…..have to submit everything by the 19th April! *gulp*

I can highly recommend the course and Tim Lott has been a great tutor. But, it’s the guys on the course that have made it all worth while. Their advice, suggestions and support has been invaluable. I shall miss them so much.

So when I finally have my book published (notice I said when, not if) Anna, David, Gareth, Hannah, Janet, Jason, Linda, Marci, Michelle, Ros, Sam and of course, Tim, will all be in the acknowledgements :)

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little piece of Faber each week? I’ve enjoyed sharing :)
It’s been a ride, and I soooo, need a holiday! Lol….but first, there’s work to be done :)

Must Do’s 25th to 31st March


Sorry for the lateness of this post….I’m having Internet problems *mutter grumble* which should be sorted tomorrow….yeah, we’ll see!

Well, last week was a bit up and down. A mixture of highly productive and complete procrastination. On the plus side I now know all about the first ever legal brothel in America and what the expression “Bugger Bognor” means lol….don’t ask!

Highlight of the week was a luncheon on Friday with some RNA ladies :)

So last weeks list looked like this:

1. Continue to work on Still. I’ve been using prompts fairly successfully recently. To get me back into writing as I was really struggling. What I’ve been doing is using the prompts to prompt (lol) scenes for the novel, some of which will never actually appear in it. But I’ve found it good practice and its got me back in the mood. So no official word count as such, but I’ve probably written 5000 words that are fragmented scenes. I’m pleased with that :)

2. Finish 250 word Synopsis for Faber. Done, but it still needs work (thank you Jane!).

3. Do some work on the A-Z Challenge – Research. Nope, I must confess, I didn’t. No, actually that’s not true, I did have a look at some web sites, and bought a book, but that was as far as I got.

4. Catch up with blogs I haven’t read yet. I did, but I’m behind again :(

Before I forget, thank you so much to everyone who’s commented on my character sketches. It’s been really helpful to hear other people’s opinions about Laura, Ruby, Ronnie & Daniel. I’m going to print them all off and stick in my “Still Bible” :)

So this week is looking like this:

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I’m going to work on a timetable, but rather than dividing my day up, I’m going to have specific days for specific things, and see if that works lol. I’m finding that reading is taking a huge back seat and I don’t want it to :( So perhaps if I can allocate different days for different things….that might work eh? Lol….wish me luck!

So what are your writing plans for the week?

Must Do’s 18th to 24th March


Firstly, thanks to everyone for their comments on Janes Saturday post….personally, I still can’t make my mind up ;)

It’s been a good week, the highlight being meeting up with Pauline Conolly (who was visiting from Australia) and Madalyn Morgan for lunch at The British Museum followed by cake at The Cordon Bleu Cafe :)

So here’s what I managed to achieve last week:
1. Faber homework. There wasn’t any lol. Tonight’s session is with an agent.
2. Add/do 1000 words on Still. Well, I didn’t do 1000 words, but it was about 500.
3. Do the 250 word synopsis. I now have 95 words lol
4. Catch up with blogs and emails. This is such an ongoing thing that I’m not going to add it in future. Just be aware that I am always behind :(
5. Have a play with Scrivener. Well, I did open it, did start reading the guide, all 539 pages of it! *gulp*
6. Finish my book. Epic fail :( But only because I’ve done quite a bit of writing this week. I’ve gone back to basics and been handwriting every day. It’s worked with getting me inspired again. I’ve been using the prompts to write scenes for the novel :)

Must Do’s for this week are:

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I really must make a start on the research for the A-Z challenge!

What are your writing plans for the week?

Bedtime For Bonzo?


I bet that title has confused you *snigger* ;)

The third (and probably my favourite) character from “Still” let me introduce you to Ronnie, but I guess he could have been a Ronald ;) Please excuse any errors, this is taken from my note book.

Ronnie was born in February 1953 to an Irish father and English mother who were never actually married. His parents lived on a Council Estate in Lee, South East London. The youngest son of 4 boys he was a tear away (so his mother Liz said) from the moment he could walk.

Curly auburn hair when he was a toddler (which, as an adult only begins to curl when he needs a haircut) and deep blue eyes like his fathers, his ruddy complexion meant that he always looked like he’d been dashing around, but then, most of the time he had. He always had an abundance of energy that continued into adulthood.

Not doing well in school he preferred to play truant and found himself in detention frequently. His mother despaired, but he was her favourite. When he was 12 his father Patrick left the family and went back to Ireland because he couldn’t find work, leaving his mother to bring up the four boys on her own. At secondary school he met Daniel and they became best friends. Although from very different backgrounds the boys shared a love of fishing. It was the only thing he could really remember doing with his father.

At 15 he left school and got himself an apprenticeship with a local builder. He enjoyed being outside, the manual work and the banter with the other workers. But with two of his older brothers involved in petty crime it wasn’t long before he found himself with a police caution.

At 17 he met Laura, a girl who served him in a local café where he and Daniel often met. He asked her out and within weeks they become “a couple” spending a lot of time at the local pub and having a weekend away at his aunts caravan. They were inseparable for a year.

Ronnie started to get friendly with a group who knew his brothers and they introduced him to drugs. His relationship with Laura suffered, and Ronnie moved out of home and into a squat. He and Laura split up and his is mother Liz contacted his father because she was worried.

His father Patrick returned to London in 1972 and with their parents back together the whole family moved back to Ireland, his mother agreeing as she wanted to get Ronnie away from the drug culture he had become embroiled in.

Ronnies father was a struggling builder, but with the help of his sons they made a success of the business and it thrived. He often thought about Laura and Daniel, wondered what happened to them, but as the years went by he put them to the back of his mind.

With a huge zest for life he likes to play practical jokes and to be the center of attention. In his early 20’s he married an Irish girl, but they divorced after only 3 years with no children. Ronnie threw himself into work and with 7 nieces and nephews he was content to stay single and still play the field.

He still walks with the arrogant swagger he had as a teenager, but at 45 he is lonely, realising that he can no longer chat up women like he used to. One of his brothers has suggested he use a dating agency, but he is too embarrassed. Loyal, attractive for his age (although grey and balding) and with a successful business, he is still hot headed. He plays golf with his brothers.

He receives a letter from a young woman in Kent called Ruby, who thinks she may be his daughter and they speak on the telephone. The old memories of Laura and Daniel come flooding back and he immediately makes plans to travel to Kent. He is excited at the prospect of being a father, but even more so about seeing Laura. He regrets the way he treated her and wants to make amends.

So what has my character Ronnie got to do with Bedtime for Bonzo? I’m kinda thinking that Ronnie’s mum had a bit of a thing for Ronald Reagan ;)

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