Wednesday, 29 January 2014

An article and a Story in The People's Friend Special

Lots to celebrate today, with an article and a short story in this month's People's Friend. Having them both in the same issue, though, isn't chance - the article 'Message from the Front' is linked to my story 'Forget Me Not'.
My story starts when care worker, Jade, sees an old WW1 silk postcard on old Edie's bedside table. Beside it is a photograph of a young soldier and his bride. Jade asks her about the card and so begins a tale of devotion, friendship and love... think Pearl Harbour (but for the previous war).

The illustration (shown on the right) was specially commissioned for the story by Mark Viney. Thank you Mark - you have captured the sentiment in the story so well.
The story was inspired by a set of WW1 silk postcards that were left to me by my Aunt Edith. They were originally in a frame but as it was broken, I took the cards out and it was then I noticed that some had some writing on the back.

The cards have always fascinated me and I wanted to find out more about them. The article is about the history of these cards. Originally embroidered by hand, they were produced in France and Belgium to sell as souvenirs to soldiers posted on the front. Around 10 million were made.

Some of the cards would have had a central portion cut out of them as a flap so that a tiny greeting card could be inserted in a pocket behind the silk front and the back. The cards would have cost the equivalent of 10p in today's money.

The most popular designs were military, patriotic or romantic designs.

If you want to read more about the origin of these postcards and how they were made, or would like to read my story, The People's Friend Special is in the shops now.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Getting to Grips With Scrivener

"How's the novel going?" I keep being asked.
"It's not," I answer.

It's not that I've been idle. Over the last two weeks I have been busy writing the third instalment for my serial and planning the fourth. I have also written three short stories.

When I totalled up the fortnight's word count, I realised I had written nearly 14,000 words - which would have been around 1/6 of a novel if I'd put my mind to it. So the question is, why didn't I?

Apart from the aforementioned procrastination writing, there are two more reasons:

Firstly - I am still unsure of my novel idea. It worked well as a short story and I know it could be expanded into something much larger, but it contains quite a large element that I know little about and flouts any 'write about what you know rule'.

Secondly - I have been getting to grips with Scrivener. I decided that time spent now learning how to use it will be time saved later. I have completed the online tutorial... twice! The first time was slowly, so that I could really try and understand what it was about and the second time was to try to reinforce it a bit.

So what were my first impressions. Well, I think I'm going to like it... a lot.

It seems to do everything it says on the tin. Namely, keeping everything under one roof as it were. You can import anything you like (research material, stories, files, weblinks) and organise them in a way that suits you so that they are easily at hand.

Here is another feature I particularly like:

It's a virtual cork board showing your scenes. These can be moved around as you wish.
The tutorial was very easy to understand... even for a techie duffer like me. How good is this...
'Another one you will use frequently is the header view. See that bar at the top of the text, the one that has the arrows on the left of it and says “Step 2: Header View” in it? Well, that is the header view.'
... with instructions like that, even I could do it!
Anyway, unless I actually use it for my own project, I shall never know for sure if I like it - so I need to get on with it. But that will be next week... after I've written my stories!
Wish me luck.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Fab at 50

I am as pleased as punch to say that I have passed the halfway point in my goal to sell 100 stories by the end of 2014 and sold 50. In fact since writing this, I have sold two more making it 52 (hey, that's my age!)

It feels like a big milestone and I'm very grateful to Fiction Feast, Woman's Weekly and especially The People's Friend for liking my stories - I have been very fortunate, I know.

This leads me on to sharing with you a link to Amanda Brittany's Blog post How Many Womag Writers are There? Mandy wrote this post three years ago (before I'd ever though of being a writer) and it contains a list of most of the Womag writers with stars to denote how many stories they have sold and links to their sites. I find it really interesting and great for stalking (I mean finding out about) other writers.

I remember coming across this post when I had just started sending stories to the magazines at the end of 2012 and wishing I could be on the list. This is why I'm thrilled to be able to ask Mandy for my fourth star now and my goal is to get a fifth by the end of the year (although I don't think this is very likely).

I'd recommend any aspiring Womag writers to take a look at Mandy's post as it's really interesting.

Now I'd better get back to writing my next story.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Does Anyone Use Novel Writing Software?

I am in the thinking stage of my novel... thinking about whether I am actually ever going to make a start!

To be fair, I have been writing the third instalment of my People's Friend serial and planning a fourth - as it's been suggested that it could run to a further instalment - and that has taken up most of my time this week. It's made me realise that I have to prioritise. I've also sneaked in a short story as well... and so the procrastination begins.

What I have been doing, though, is looking into the mind-blowing world of novel writing software. I had no idea that there was so much out there. I wasn't looking because I'm silly enough to believe that it will write my book for me, but because while working on my serial, I have realised I am a hopeless organiser! I have resources and research all over my computer. It's like a study that hasn't been organised, with scraps of paper in different drawers and files (actually I have that as well).

During my search, I have found programmes that will develop your characters and plot, collate your research, process your words, spit out the book the other end, make the tea and walk the dog. They range from hundreds of pounds to nothing. I have also found people who say, Stop wasting time and just write the damn thing in Word.

Anyway, what I want is something that will keep all my electronic research together (easily accessed when I am writing) and which will help me write my novel in manageable chunks (scenes and chapters) that can be easily moved around. I've found it hard enough to keep track of a 5000 word serial instalment so the future looks bleak if I have to write 80,000.

This is why I have downloaded free trials of Scrivener and WriteItNow - although I can't see the latter on my desktop so I don't know where it's gone - not a good start! I haven't looked at them yet, but I shall and when I do, I shall let you know what I think.

In the meantime, do any of you use anything other than Word? Whether or not you use any novel writing software, I would be really interested to hear how you write?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Teacakes and Goal Setting

The teacakes have been eaten and the goals have been set.
Last year, I didn't state any formal writing goals on my blog but this year, in order to make the coming year as productive as possible, I have decided to do so.

I wanted my goals to be challenging yet hopefully achievable and with this in mind, I met up with writing and blogging friend Tracy Fells earlier this week for some serious goal planning (and teacake eating).

Brimming with enthusiasm, I wrote this blog post but didn't publish it. Then I started to get a niggle of self-doubt and as the day went on, it grew and grew so that by the time I got to the West Sussex Writers' Group the following evening, there was little left of my writerly aspiration. Luckily Tracy came to my rescue again and told me that what I had was just one of Helen Yendall's writing Gremlins and that it was was perfectly natural when planning a big project.
So (deep breath) here is what I would like to achieve by the end of 2014:
1) Increase my story output to three stories every two weeks, (this may not be possible due to goal 2!) in the hope that I can achieve my hundredth sale by the end of the year.

2) Write another serial.

3) Now for the biggie. I have challenged myself to write a novel this year. There have been many reasons why I have not done this before: wanting to establish my magazine writing, wondering about the sense in spending a year writing something that may never be published, not having a good enough idea for it and wondering if I have enough drive to see the project through.

So what has changed my mind? Well, out of the blue I received an email from my mum. She had read one of my magazine stories and these were her words: I thought it would expand into a very good novel which I would certainly be happy to read. Now my mum is an avid reader - we share books and literary taste and if she doesn't like a novel, I can guarantee I probably won't either. This is the first of my stories she has said this about and the idea that she might think me capable of writing something longer - that she would want to read - is very flattering (although it wouldn't have been her intention to flatter).

I presented this idea to Tracy (who is also writing a novel) to see what she thought of it. After giving her the skeleton of the story, she declared it a worthy plot and we talked over how it might be developed, which was very exciting.

When I start to self doubt and dwell on the fact that the chances of publication are very slim, I shall give myself a talking to and remember that if I had thought this way about magazine writing I wouldn't be where I am now. Once I've set my sights on something I will go for it!

My next goal was going to be setting a time limit on this (ideally have a first draft finished by the end of the year) but I think that I probably need to be flexible due wanting to continue with my magazine writing.

4) Finally, I would like to publish a collection of my short stories in time for next Christmas.(This is the goal most likely to fall by the wayside as it sounds pretty time consuming.)

I am not setting any goals for writing more articles (last year's goal) - if I do write more, they will be a bonus.
In order to keep our goals on track, Tracy and I shall be meeting (and eating teacakes) monthly but now that I've written this all down, it looks kind of scary!

Am I being too ambitious I wonder?

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Good Start to the New Year

First of all, may I wish all of my readers a very Happy New Year.

I've just taken down the decorations, we have the house to ourselves again and after my two week break from writing, feel refreshed and ready to settle down to it again.

I have to say that the new year started very nicely for me with sales to both The People's Friend and Fiction Feast and when I went into the newsagents, I was surprised to find I had a story in Woman's Weekly - it's called Time For Baking and has a gentle twist at the end. I am in the very good company of Helen (thanks for your lovely comments about me on your blog), Della and Teresa (who my thoughts are with at this time). I can only hope that my writing year continues as it has started.

On Wednesday I shall be mulling over this year's writing goals with writing buddy Tracy and shall post them when I have got them straight in my mind.

Until then, I am sending good wishes to you all, and I hope you will continue to support my blog in 2014 as wonderfully as you have this year.