Posts Tagged Relax & Write

Dianne Noble – From Rejection to Success

Most writers get used to rejection early in their careers. The trick is to have a little cry, eat some chocolate, take on board any constructive criticism offered and then get back to the business of writing. And it always helps to know that you are not the only one being constantly kicked in the teeth.

I first met Dianne Noble on a weekend novel writing course in 2013 and then again at Swanwick a couple of years ago. Dianne’s first novel, Outcast,  Outcast by Dianne Noblewas published last week by Tirgearr Publishing and she’s kindly agreed to share her rocky journey to publication:

It started with a journal.
I’d been doing voluntary work in India for several months, teaching English to street children in Kolkata and keeping a diary. My experiences seemed to be a good basis for a novel. Alas! Agents and publishing houses alike thought differently and 32 rejections later I stopped submitting, sat back and licked my wounds.
The painful truth was that my writing was just not good enough. After nursing my bruised ego for several months I started another book, based in India but with a different story. This time I took it in, chapter by chapter, to each of two writing groups I had joined. Their critique was merciless and I often felt like abandoning the whole idea. Why did I think I could write? What made me think I could be a published author? However, bit by painful bit, my work was pulled into shape and I felt ready to start the submission process again.Dianne Noble
I trawled through the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook highlighting a) agents and b) publishing houses who not only handled contemporary women’s fiction but also accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I found them to be thin on the ground!
The plan was to have three submissions out at any one time and as each rejection was received, submit one more. This didn’t always prove to be viable as response times varied dramatically.
Conville & Walsh refused me in 17 days, Curtis Brown took 5 weeks, Aitken Alexander 8 weeks. Some were many months in responding, others didn’t reply at all.
It’s hard not to take rejections personally, to feel that you are deluding yourself that you can write, but all you can do is plough on and hope. One morning I opened an email from Tirgearr Publishing with the usual sinking heart, without noticing there was an attachment. A contract. How many times I read this before I could believe that someone liked my novel!
This small, independent publishing house requests the complete manuscript and guarantees an answer within 4 weeks and this is exactly what they delivered. Once I had signed the contract I was fully prepared for them demanding radical changes to my book but they accepted it as it was, other than a small amount of editing for grammar, punctuation and the occasional anomaly i.e. he had dark hair in Chapter 1 and by Chapter 12 he’s gone bald! Art work for the cover was organised in house, a website was set up linked to Tirgearr and the book was released on March 16th 2016.
The most important thing for any author, in my view, is to join a writing group. Not a cosy one where gossip is exchanged over coffee and cake but a tough one. A group who will critique, pull your writing to pieces, maybe reduce you to tears. Then, when your novel is as good as you can possibly make it, start submitting. Again and again and again. You’ll get there.

Good advice from Dianne. Her success has been hard won and well-deserved. Outcast is already sitting on my Kindle and I’m looking forward to reading it.
Find out more about Dianne and her itinerant life on her website and why not take a look inside Outcast?

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Birth of a Novel

My first novel has just been launched into the big, bad world and I’m sitting here fretting. Perhaps it will sink without trace or people might hate it … Bedsit Three by Sally Jenkins

So, to stop me brooding, I’m going to tell you about how it came to be.

Let’s go back two years to October 2013. I went on a weekend writing course organised by Lois Maddox of Relax and Write. The title of the course was ‘How to Write the Mystery Novel’ and it was led by Eileen Robertson. At the same time I spotted a free-to-enter novel writing competition organised by WordPlay Publishing, there was no theme or genre specified but the hero had to be named ‘Ian’ (incidentally, that competition is on-going annually until 2017 if you want to have a go). I combined these two things together for NaNoWriMo 2013 and drafted the first 50,000 words of Bedsit Three.

I spent December 2013 writing a synopsis and polishing the first three chapters. I submitted to the competition just before the 31st December deadline. Then I gave up being a novelist and went back to short stories.

In May 2014 I received a phone call out of the blue. It was Michael Barton of WordPlay Publishing to tell me I had won the competition! The prize was formatting for Createspace and Kindle plus 250 Euros marketing budget and a financial contribution towards a cover design.

After my elation subsided, I realised that I had to knuckle down, finish the manuscript and get it ready for publication. When I thought it was done, Anne Harvey acted as a beta reader and I also had a critique from Patricia Fawcett. Lots of changes followed, including getting rid of a superfluous character, an unlikely coincidence and a lottery win. The ending of the novel also changed.

Then I decided that if Bedsit Three had won one competition, perhaps it could win another. So I entered a few more and was shortlisted in the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition. This gave me confidence and I had the manuscript professionally edited by Mark Henderson. Then off it went for formatting and I looked for cover designers. I chose John Amy. He gave me five initial designs which I showed to a handful of people and their verdict was unanimous.

The back cover blurb was put to the vote in this blog post and I am most grateful to all of you who took the time to comment.

My first novel looks and feels very professional. Here’s the Amazon blurb that goes with it:

“A word of warning to anyone who picks this book up: be prepared for a sleepless night, because you won’t want to put it down until you get to the end,” Michael Barton, WordPlay Publishing.
A stupid mistake ended Ian’s marriage. Now he’s trying to put it right.
Sandra was a teenage mum. Now she’s fighting to make a good life for her daughter.
Maxine made an important decision behind her boyfriend’s back. His reaction devastates all their lives…
Every mother tries to do her best for her child. But sometimes that ‘best’ creates a monster.

Bedsit Three is a tale of murder, mystery and love. It won the inaugural Wordplay Publishing/Ian Govan Award and was shortlisted for both the Silverwood-Kobo-Berforts Open Day Competition and the Writing Magazine/McCrit Competition.
Michael Barton, Founder and Managing Director of WordPlay Publishing said of Bedsit Three, “This novel is well-constructed and well-written. But it’s also far more than that. It’s a book that elicits emotional reaction, drawing the reader into the story and placing him or her in the middle of the action page after page.”

‘Bedsit Three’ is available in paperback and Kindle format on Amazon and also as an e-book for Kobo.

 

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Swanwick 2014

Just back from my ‘white badger’ week at Swanwick (first time visitors are given a white name badge and everyone else gets a yellow one).

There was a packed program plus lots of friendly people to meet. After all that ‘busyness’ and chatter the following points stick in my mind:

  • Three great talks from People’s Friend fiction editor, Shirley Blair. She told us a lot about the magazine’s requirements and how to improve our chances of success, including the fact that 3,000 to 4,000 word stories are particularly needed and that the magazine is willing to ‘push the boundaries’ on some of their previously taboo subjects.
  • Tips on novel editing from David Hough, including the advice to get the novel printed as a proof paperback at Lulu.com for the final read through – seeing the manuscript in this different format should make the errors jump out.
  • Meeting some of my virtual acquaintances ‘in the flesh’ for the first time and re-establishing contact with people I’ve met at other writing events and courses in the past.
  • The stress of creating an improvised play for public performance with only a few hours to prepare it.
  • The peace of morning meditation around the lake.
  • Never sit at the end of a table in the dining-room because you’ll have to serve the meal (and make sure everyone gets equal portions!)

Bead Roberts (who writes for the womags and is also a creative writing tutor) was one of my ‘re-establishing contact people’. She’s a lovely lady with a wealth of experience to pass on and is tutoring a weekend short story writing course in Leeds on the 26th to 28th September at Weetwood Hall (a great venue – I went there last year). Details can be found on the Relax and Write website.

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A Free Writing Course and Other Things

I’ve got a few bits and pieces to share this week.

Do you fancy a free ‘Start Writing Fiction’ course?
The Open University are running an eight week course, three hours per week starting on the 28th April. It’s all on-line and the blurb says, “This practical, hands-on course aims to help you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.”
The full details are here. The course is part of the FutureLearn programme which offers lots more free on-line courses in all sorts of subjects.

And talking of courses, a fellow member of Lichfield and District Writers, David Gough, is running a ‘Photography for Writers’ course at Weetwood Hall in Leeds  from April 11th to 13th, as part of the ‘Relax and Write’ 2014 programme. We all know how important it is to offer photographs as part of an article submission package and this is the course to help you take those photographs and thus, hopefully, sell more articles (by the way, I stayed at Weetwood Hall last October and the accommodation is lovely).

If you like filling your Kindle with free and discounted e-books, take a look at Debbie Young‘s Facebook group, Debbie Young’s Kindle-loving Friends. If you like what you see, drop her a message to join the group and be notified of the latest offers – or maybe even promote your own Free Days or Countdown Deals.

Finally, has anybody else read ‘The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul’ by Deborah Rodriguez?
Kirkus Reviews said, “As if Maeve Binchy had written The Kite Runner.” I totally agree with that description. The book is about Sunny, an American woman, who runs a coffee shop in Kabul and the women who come into her life. The story touches on the difficulties and atrocities facing Afghan women today but I felt it glossed over them, rather than allowing the reader to fully appreciate how terrible life can be for females in that country today.
The book is very readable but definitely more Maeve Binchy than The Kite Runner.

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Mystery Novels, NaNoWriMo and the Review Winner

English: Weetwood Hall Hotel

Weetwood Hall Hotel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last weekend I went on a Relax and Write course at Weetwood Hall in Leeds.
I went to learn ‘How to Write the Mystery Novel’ with Eileen Robertson. We did character sketches of our heroes and villains, we thought about their motivations and what had brought these characters to where they were at the start of the novel. We gave brief descriptions of how our plots might develop and everyone chipped in with their own suggestions for each other’s storylines – something I found useful.

The accommodation and food for the weekend were excellent (although the bar prices were rather high!).
But it was the other course participants who made the weekend particularly enjoyable. We all got along and, as most writers seem to be, everyone was very generous sharing their experiences and advice.

Several of us are intent on doing NaNoWriMo during November (National Novel Writing Month). So you might notice this blog go rather quiet as I try to churn out 50,000 words. I did it about four years ago, so I know how tough it is. I’m hoping the challenge will kill off procrastination and give me the skeleton of a novel that might be worth spending more time on.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that Chris Sullivan is the winner of the Book Review Competition that I ran a couple of weeks ago. Chris has a book review blog at The Voyage Out – do go over and have a look at it if you enjoy reading.
Many thanks to everybody who took the time to download, read and review Karen’s Story and any of my other books. It was much appreciated and I’ve taken all your comments on board.

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Cremona Hotel Romance Writing Competition

Many thanks to my friend Nick for bringing this competition to my attention.

Earlier this year the Cremona Hotel in Bournemouth held a crime writing short story competition (I entered but never heard a thing, so I guess I didn’t win …). It must have been a success because now they are holding a romance writing short story competition.

Entry is FREE and you must write a romantic story of up to 1,200 words with a seaside background.

First prize is a weekend for two at the Cremona and there are runners up prizes of £25 and £15.

Closing date is 14th Feb 2014. Full details can be found here.

Talking of competitions – has anyone discovered where, on the Best magazine website, the weekly ‘stories’ are, one of which contains the name of a famous writer? Entrants to the Best short story competition need to include this writer’s name as part of their entry. All I’ve found are three interviews with writers – any of which could be classed as ‘famous’.

Finally, as you read this, I am up in Leeds on a ‘How to Write the Mystery Novel’ weekend, run by ‘Relax and Write’. I’ll let you know how I got on next week, along with announcing the winner of the Book Review Competition (you’ve got until midnight Sat 26th to enter).

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Writing the Mystery Novel

Has anyone ever been on one of Lois Maddox’s ‘Relax and Write’ weekends?

Mystery

Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m feeling excited because I’ve just booked ‘Writing the Mystery Novel’ with Eileen Robertson, in Leeds. It’s a birthday present from my mum (I had a big birthday a couple of weeks ago) and I’m really looking forward to it –  even though it’s not until October.

A fellow Midlands writer, David Gough, has just been on a ‘Discover Travel Writing’ course with Lois’ organisation and gave me a glowing report about it.

So why did I choose mystery novel-writing? Two reasons:

  • I enjoy crime/thriller/mystery novels and most of my TV viewing is in the same genre – anything from the ‘cosy’ crime of Midsomer Murders through New Tricks to the grittier Scandinavian dramas of The Killing and Wallander.
  • I saw some interesting statistics on BookBub (a site which advertises special offer e-books to thousands of email subscribers). These showed that many more of their readers are interested in buying mysteries and thrillers than any other genre. At the time of writing they have 410,000 subscribers interested in these  types of books compared to Romance, which is the next largest genre at 310,000 subscribers. If you’re interested in how other genres fare, have a look here.

I know that I won’t come back from Leeds a fully fledged mystery novelist but I hope to be inspired both by the course itself and the chance to mix with other writers (as well as having the chance to stay in what is described as 4-star venue).

Roll on October!

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