Blog, Writing

Writing for Pleasure, Profit, and Posterity

Part Two: Finding Your Writing Community

Writers are always being asked the question where do you get your ideas? The simple answer to that is anywhere and everywhere, but that’s not much to go on when you’re starting out as a writer.

Later in Writing for Pleasure, Profit, and Posterity I’ll be looking at capturing inspiration and the best way to organise your notes, but today I want to focus on the importance of finding your writing community. That’s your support group of cheerleaders, mentors, and others you’ll need in your quest to become a writer. They’ll help you formulate your ideas, brainstorm your projects, and provide you with inspiration.

Don’t worry if you don’t know any writers yet. I didn’t know anybody when I started out, but once I made the commitment to become a full-time writer, I was soon getting advice from all quarters. The writing community is supportive of newbies, and is keen to pass on the tips and wrinkles they’ve learned over the years.

You need people who will support you, but won’t be shy about offering constructive criticism when needed. While it’s lovely to have the backing of your immediate family (my career as a successful writer relies on tons of support from my husband and our children, for which I’m very grateful) don’t be tempted to show them your first efforts. If your family is like my tribe, they won’t want to hurt your feelings. Should your relations be less than supportive of your dreams, you might not like what they have to say.

The obvious first place to start is with a writing professional, such as the tutor of a good local (or online) creative writing course. You should expect to pay for their advice by enrolling, which is how I found my first writing mentor, the award-winning poet Paul Groves. Paul was running classes in creative writing at a local college. We became friends after I joined the course, and he has been giving me advice and support ever since.

In a future edition of Writing for Pleasure, Profit, and Posterity I’ll be covering courses in detail and how to choose a good one, so make sure you subscribe by putting your email address in the box below. Don’t worry, I won’t ever pass on your details, or send out spam.

Courses and workshops are vital to help you improve your writing, and they are a great source of inspiration. Students can bounce ideas off each other, and a good tutor will provide details of opportunities for writers such as competitions. Most writing competitions specify a theme. Like mortal danger, the idea of finishing a piece before the closing date is a great cure for writers’ block!

If you are serious about becoming a professional author, the Society of Authors offers loads of benefits such as workshops, training, and a contract vetting service. They also have an extensive branch network with lots of social events in non-Covid times, and plenty of online meet-ups during lockdowns.

If you already know what you want to write, it’s worth joining a specialist association. I belong to the Romantic Novelists’ Association. The RNA and its members have helped me every step of the way. I was a published author before I discovered them, and wish I’d known about their New Writers’ Scheme when I was first starting out. It gives unpublished writers the chance to have their work critiqued by professionals (including me), and each year the RNA presents the Joan Hessayon Award to the best debut novel. In 2020, this was won by Melissa Oliver’s historical novel, The Rebel Heiress and the Knight.

As well as writing “Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol”, I took some of the photos which illustrate the book. This is the oldest pub in the city, which predates the more famous “Llandoger Trow” by nearly sixty years.

It was through my links with the Romantic Novelists’ Association that I came to write my first non-fiction book, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol. You can find out more about Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol here. Pen and Sword Books were planning a series about women’s lives during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in major towns and cities around the United Kingdom. They had authors for all of the intended books except for Plymouth, Bristol, and Bath. The news was posted on the RNA site, and as I was born only a few miles from Bristol, I submitted a proposal for the book and won the contract.

Writing Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol introduced me to the delights of researching in an archive. I had never done anything like that before, but the staff at the Bristol Archives and the Bristol and Avon Family History Society were all so helpful, I really felt part of their community while I was working there.

There’ll be more about research for writers, and how to write proposals in future editions of Writing for Pleasure, Profit, and Posterity, so subscribe to my blog by using the form below to make sure you don’t miss anything!

Blog, Writing

Writing…and Publicity

The rain has been lashing down outside for a couple of days, and it’s cold and miserable. Whatever happened to “Flaming June”? On days like today I’m glad I’ve got a nice indoor occupation, with no heavy lifting. It’s a world away from toiling outdoors in all weathers.

The biggest problem with writing as work is the constant urge to move on to the next project. I keep a notebook to write down all the new ideas that pop into my mind while I’m busy with a project. That way I’m never short of inspiration. When one book is finished, I flick through my notes. That gives me plenty to think about. When one particular image or scene germinates well, that’s when I start writing again.

That’s the future mapped out. What about the past? I’ve got a sizeable backlist of historical and romantic fiction. As my university course means I’m having to concentrate on writing non-fiction at the moment, my backlist is a valuable resource.

The weather was too bad to work on my vegetable plot yesterday, so I was cooped up indoors. It was a day exactly like that when I started writing His Majesty’s Secret Passion. I needed to escape the miserable British winter. A luxurious spa in Greece felt like the perfect getaway. His Majesty’s Secret Passion was a lot of fun to write, and readers enjoy its take on the Cinderella-type story of an overworked woman passed over for promotion desperate to make a fresh start. I liked the idea of inventing a Prince Charming who wanted a real job as a doctor, rather than living an idle life of luxury as a king.

His Majesty’s Secret Passion went on to become the first book in my Princes of Kharova trilogy. All three books are full of secret desires, men who want change and women who know their own minds. I used yesterday’s down-time to create a book trailer on Animoto. I’ve only used it once before, to make a trailer for Struggle and Suffrage In Bristol (you can watch that here).

Talk about going from one extreme to the other! What do you think? Have you got any advice about using Animoto?

Blog, books, Bristol

Books: Reading, New, and Free!

I’ve been so busy with my university course (you can find out more about that here) I’ve barely had a chance to read anything apart from text books since the summer. I’ve borrowed so many books on Thomas Hardy, H.E.Bates and more from Gloucestershire University’s library I’ll have to transport them back in shifts!

With two assessments due in this week, I’ve sadly neglected this blog, but from today things are going to change. Term ends on Friday this week, so I’m hoping to have lots of time for tinkering with this site. If you can think of any improvements, please let me know.

This week began with some great news. At long last I have a publication date for my non-fiction book,  Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol. It’ll be released on 28th February 2019. That feels like a lifetime away, but it’s only just over eleven weeks.

Here’s the blurb…

It’s freezing, pitch black, and silent- apart from the sound of rats under the bed your wheezing children share. Snow has blown in under the door overnight. Fetching all the water you need from the communal well will be a slippery job today. If your husband gives you some money, your family can eat. If not, hard luck. You’ll all have to go hungry. Welcome to the life of a Victorian woman living in one of Bristol’s riverside tenements.

I’ve had a go at creating an Amazon link, so you can buy with one click. Here it is—please let me know if it works for you!

 

Cooking, Writing

Autumn Colour, Fast Food and Romance…

69727-acer_palmatum_bonnie_bergmanYesterday it felt like “St Luke’s Little Summer’ —the name given to mild days around St Luke’s Day (18th October)—had come a week early. Here in Gloucestershire, it was sunny enough to be almost hot. Walkers were out in the woods dressed in shorts and t shirts, collecting sweet chestnuts. It was still warm when I reached university at six-thirty last night.

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Find out more at  http://mybook.to/MyDreamGuy

Today, we’re back in the ice age. It’s time to dig out the light-therapy lamp, and think about putting on the central heating. We’re having this brilliant, easy soup (using the last tomatoes from the greenhouse), and home-made bread for tea tonight. There are buds in the Christmas cacti, and the lemons are ripening. Despite the chill, there are lots of good things about autumn!

It was cold, wet weather like this when I wrote my short romantic comedy, My Dream Guy. What could be worse than sitting in my chilly office, looking out on pouring rain? Going camping, I thought—so that’s where I sent my heroine Emma. Her romance with Jack has lost its sparkle. He arranges a holiday in Wales during the wettest summer on record, and Emma can’t see how life in a tent is going to put the fizz back into her love-life… unless the bronzed farmer who bewitched her as a teenager is still running the campsite. He is, and Emma gets a picnic full of surprises!

Whatever the weather, find some summer sunshine with My Dream Guy

 

Blog, Writing

Talking About Writing and Books…

…was the perfect way to spend my first week at the University of Gloucestershire.

It’s been brilliant. I’ve been lucky with the weather, too. Walking from the car park to my workshops rather than taking the campus bus means I can bracket my lectures with  exercise. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

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Pic from Pixabay

On my first day I picked up some ripe horse chestnuts and hazelnuts that had fallen from street trees on my route. I’ve planted them at Tottering Towers, as a souvenir.

Later, when I got to the campus, I was able to show a passing Design fresher the way to her tutorial room. She was impressed. I didn’t tell her I’d originally found her room while I was hunting for my own.

When I signed up for this course, I was pleased to hear there were lots of other mature students. I didn’t realise at the time that Further Education is a universe where anyone who has taken a gap year straight after graduating is termed “mature”. There are one or two students here who might be older than me, but in general I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.  To paraphrase James Goldman’s Lion in Winter, I’ve got a decade [or two] on the tutors!

It’s the work that matters. All the staff are great, and my fellow students are a lot of fun.  We each have to produce a workshop piece within the next 36 hours, to be picked apart at the next session. I’ve got a feeling posts on here might become even more sporadic than usual…

Good luck to everyone who is starting at a new place of learning this month. Here’s a suitable soundtrack.*** In exchange for being awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Breslau, Johannes Brahms was asked to compose something suitably grand. He responded by weaving together several student drinking songs  to create his Academic Overture.*** The bit that everybody knows starts at 8:50. It’s the theme used by Marvin Hatley in his music for the Laurel and Hardy film “A Chump at Oxford”****, which was one of my late father’s favourites. I know exactly how he’d paraphrase that title today!

 

*Goldman, James The Lion in Winter, AVCO Embassy Pictures, Oct 1968. They’re teaching me how to cite and reference, but as always it’s the technology of application that defeats me. Anybody know how to add footnotes in blogs? 😉

** Brahms, Johannes, Academic Overture, Prom 1: First Night of the Proms 15.07.2011, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall, posted on YouTube by 2013brb87 on Feb 15th, 2015. [Retrieved 22nd September 2018]

*** John Suchet, 9am-1pm Weekdays, Classic FM, Recently. What do you mean? Of course it’s a reference!

****Hal Roach Studios, A Chump at Oxford, 1939. My referencing definitely needs more work… 🙁