If you are in the UK, for 7 days you have the opportunity to enter a Goodreads giveaway to win a free copy of ‘From Story Idea to Reader’. The details are here.
From Story Idea to Reader
From Story Idea to Reader is an easily accessible guide to writing fiction. Whether you are brushing up on your writing skills or starting out, this book will take you through the whole process from inspiration to conclusion. No matter if you are looking to submit your work for publication, enter a competition, or want to self-publish, this practical guide will help you every step of the way.
Between them, Patsy Collins and Rosemary Kind have sold hundreds of short stories, written sixteen published books and produced numerous articles for Writing Magazine and similar publications. They’ve both judged writing competitions and run workshops, and Rosemary has read and edited thousands of short stories and published dozens of books for other writers.
With the information, help and encouragement in this book, you too could see your work in print.
Alfie Dog Fiction – HERE
Amazon UK – HERE
Also available from other online retailers.
Earlier this summer, prolific short story writer, Patsy Collins and I began to discuss writing a book with advice for writers. Patsy has a number of novels to her credit and has written hundreds of short stories, which have been published in all the leading women’s magazines both at home and abroad. I, as you may have realised by now, have not only written several books, but as editor at www.alfiedog.com have edited several thousand short stories in the last few years.
What all that means is that Patsy’s and my combined experience could prove very useful to other writers. We’ve also both run workshops and judged in writing competitions as well as having written articles for the writing magazines.
We began to look at the whole process and between us have written a guide taking you from how to generate ideas, through to how to get your work published. It runs to nearly 300 pages and hopefully has something for every writer. The project is now complete and ready to be launched into the world. It comes out on 30th November in paperback, but is already available to pre-order as an ebook. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when it comes to launch date. If you don’t need it for yourself, it really would make a great Christmas Present for the writer or wannabe writer in your family.
Paperback ISBN 978-1-909894-32-7 £9.99 in the UK
Ebook from all leading outlets £3.99 Amazon UK is HERE
The Orphan Train is now ready to be sent out into the world. Because the subject is so topical and needs to find an international market I am now trying to pitch the book to a select few top agents, who I hope might be interested.
Every submission takes hours to prepare. You might think as it’s the same book I’m sending that I could just print several copies of the same material and send them out easily, but it really isn’t like that.
Firstly, I need to research who are the agents most likely to be interested in the book. There’s no point my sending it to an agent who is looking for children’s picture books. I use that as an extreme example, but it would be equally pointless to send it to someone looking for crime or science fiction. I want to find an agent that can get as excited about the subject matter of this book as I am. When I meet them, I want to be able to enthuse about the research and the story and find a receptive audience. That is only going to happen if I find an agent who is interested in historical fiction.
Secondly, I need to prepare the work in exactly the format they ask for, no more, no less. If they wanted it with pink ribbons and a neat bow I’d do it. In reality their requirements are all sensible requests for the material they have found works for them. As an editor, I can completely understand that. It has meant preparing CVs in different formats, a one page synopsis, a half page synopsis, the first 50 pages, the first three chapters and so on.
Now I have to wait… and hope… and get on with the next piece of work!
As a writer I spend most of my time sitting in an office with no one to talk to but the dogs (and my characters). It has always been said that there is a fine line between creativity and insanity and I walk that tightrope daily. When you find yourself surrounded by people it is easy to reach the conclusion ‘I don’t fit’. Instead, you sit in the corner with your notebook and observe, listen and jot down notes. People watching is an important part of the job and you let your imagination take the conversations you hear on into territories which might horrify the person you were listening to… if they knew!
Normally, in a crowd of people I feel drained and want to escape. It’s nothing personal. I love some of those people dearly, but I need to be able to think and be creative and I can’t do that in the midst of the bustle.
Then you come away for a week on a Writers’ Summer School. Wow. I’m surrounded by a couple of hundred people walking the same tightrope. Some of them have more poise and almost seem sane. Others have fallen over the wrong side of the line and are the most marvellous eccentrics I’ve ever met. I feel totally at home and am loving every minute of it. When I talk about the conversations with my characters, no one here thinks I’m mad. Of course, they’re wrong, but the beauty is that we’re all mad together.
Hopefully, at the end of the week they will let us all out to go home. We will be the richer for coming together and the poorer for being parted… until next year.
Before I came, I confess I was anxious and was not looking forward to it. How wrong I was. If you are creative and have never had chance to get together with like-minded people then find a way to do it. It’s marvellous. I’m coming away with more ideas of things I want to work on than there is time to do in the next twelve months. I’ve got a plan. I’ve got direction. More than that, I’ve got new friends and deepened existing friendships.
Watch out world, I’m fired up and ready to roll.
I planned today to simply bring you the good news that having written ‘The End’ after 82,000 words and completed a fairly thorough edit, The Orphan Train is finally out with beta readers for feedback. However, that was before I went for a walk! I’ll come back to that in a moment.
The Orphan Train will still have a further round of editing when I get comments back from the wonderful people who have volunteered to read it at this stage. It has already been through the writing critique group I’m part of, and has been refined in the process, but their final feedback, together with what I receive from the current readers, may lead to other changes. First I need to let the dust settle so I can come back to it with the eyes of a reader myself. When you are the author you can be all too close to your characters and reluctant to ask certain things of them. In a few weeks, the final round of edits will begin and hopefully the final product will be all the better for it.
Does that mean I am now idle? Oh how well you know me, of course it doesn’t. I’m already part way through co-authoring a non-fiction book with a fellow writer, but more of that shortly. In addition to that, while I was walking one of the dogs this morning characters starting vying for recognition for my next novel. One by one the three lead characters introduced themselves and started to tell me about their oddball ways. One even discussed the book’s opening and how she sees it developing and, as essentially it is her story, it would have been rude not to listen.
I came home and wrote up the notes and have asked the characters if they could show a little patience. It is as different as you can imagine from The Orphan Train. It’s set back here in England. It’s set in the present. It’s a humorous tale and quite firmly would find itself in the women’s fiction market. In fact, other than there being strong female characters and me being the author, you would not find much else it had in common with the book I’ve just finished. To be honest, I think that’s a good thing. I think, unless you are writing a series, there is a danger in finding yourself in the same plane as your last work. I do want to come back to historical fiction and I’ve got a couple of ideas developing, but in the meantime, following a reader email, my short story A Test of Friendship is going to grow into a full length novel.
If you want to read the story that the novel will be based on, you can download it for free HERE
The danger of standing back a little and letting the creative juices flow is that they are more of a torrent than a gently controlled stream. I’ve been trying to clear my desk of many other things to free more writing time. First and foremost, I want to focus on getting the current novel finished and published. Then I already had ideas for two further novels. However, in the two short weeks since I last wrote I’ve had idea for another novel, a humorous book and it’s been suggested I put together a collection of my own short stories. The latter is an odd one, as despite publishing collections for other authors it had not occurred to me to publish my own in that way.
On top of that, I want to write more short stories and bring The Appearance of Truth out as an audio book. Now I just need to keep control of the ideas and work on them in an orderly fashion so that at least something gets done.
From tomorrow my working pattern will change. Many of the loose ends are as tied up as they are going to be without a stronger ball of twine and the discipline needs to set in. I need to find a minimum of four hours for my own writing! So far I have edited 7900 words, I want to finish the first round of edits by early June – although that is probably ambitious. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Well I gave you a brief update on my novel on 12th April saying I had passed 70,000 words and would aim for 75,000 words by the end of the month. I’ve done better than that. Yesterday I wrote the immortal words ‘The End’ and put down my pen.
In the end the first draft came out at just over 77,000 words but I know in the edit there will be around another 5,000 to go in as there are a few loose ends to be tied up and storylines to be finished off, so all in all I’m pretty happy with where things have ended up.
I’ve already started on the first edit and hope to have a draft that I can send to beta readers by the end of May. That will also mean I have isolated any research issues I want to check in time for a happy day in New York Library. How else would a writer want to spend their holiday?
Well, my cast of characters have been busy. They have forged new directions where they saw fit and demanded a story line be rewritten. The good news is that by giving them licence to tell their story we’ve already passed 70,000 words and there’s a good chance that we’ll be at 75,000 by the end of the month. Given that I’m expecting the whole to be around 80,000 that means that the first draft is, at long last, getting close to completion.
Of course that’s not the end of the work, but if it isn’t written down in the first place, then there is nothing that can be edited.
Watch this space!
I was delighted to be interviewed by the website Virtual Book Club about some of my writing and in particular The Appearance of Truth. Better still was an email from a lady who went and bought the book as a result of the interview and read it cover to cover, unable to put it down. It’s things like that that make this the best job in the world.
If you’d like to read the interview you can find it HERE
This going public makes a big difference to the old self-discipline. I’ve ended the month on 64,000 words so all in all not a bad month. If I’m being honest, there was a bit of a flat patch and that chapter is going to need more editing than the others, but there is at least something to edit.
It has set me thinking about the whole question of ‘point of view’ in novels. Now if you are a reader and not a writer it is something you may not really think about. However, if the writer has worked closely with one particular character’s point of view and not others, you will feel closer to that character and feel you know them better. It is one of the things that novice writers can get badly wrong, hopping from head to head and leaving the reader feeling a) confused and b) not sure who they should be rooting for. If you are writing in the first person then it is obvious whose point of view you are working with, but if you are writing third person narrative then you need to decide how many characters’ points of view it is reasonable to give the reader.
Using more points of view does enable you to convey thoughts and feelings of characters other than the lead, but if you aren’t careful it gives them all equal weight and whose story is it? I’m reading a Robert Galbraith novel at the moment and it is interesting that the book does use multiple points of view as an effective way to keep the reader abreast of what is going on that they might not otherwise know. It is only really noticeable when the point of view characters are in a scene together.
So far, except for one very minor section where in writing it I could find no other way to convey what was needed, I have stuck to the points of view only of my three lead characters. However, another character has been arguing with me that her point of view is equally valid and would be beneficial to the story. Now I need to decide whether when I come to edit the book I should be stubborn and ignore her pleas or whether she has a point. I may also edit out the point of view that is the minor deliberate lapse that I referred to a moment ago.
Meanwhile back in America in what is now the 1860s Daniel is still in custody and things are not looking good!
What can I commit to for April? It’s a busy month with other work, but I don’t want to lose momentum. I shall set a daily target of 200 words, that should be easy enough. By the end of April I will aim to be at 70,000 words. You heard it here first. I’ll let you know mid-month how it’s going.
That’s what making a public commitment does to you. On the 3rd of March I promised to get moving on my novel and get to 60,000 words by the end of the month. Well I’m not quite there yet, but I am up to 59353. However, there are still another nine days to go so I’m updating my target to 62,000. That would leave only around 18,000 more to write to complete the first draft.
I’ve got an incentive. I have a trip to New York planned soon and I want to be in a position to go and check up on any final queries in the library there. I’m as excited about going to the library as my husband is that he is going up the Statue of Liberty – that’s my library day. These days most things can be found on line somewhere, but there is nothing like taking a real book in your hands. I recently bought a wonderful book ‘Images of Dowagiac’ with pictures of the old town that give me a first hand view of what the streets were like then. My writing has now moved on to Iowa City and I need to see if I can find a similar book covering that place too.
I’ll be back in just over a week to tell you where the month ended up.
There is progress since the last time I wrote, but not as much as there should be. Unfortunately, with a number of things life is getting in the way and I need to get my head down and keep writing.
The good news is that if I’m giving you an update it means I can see light at the end of the tunnel. The book does now stand at 50,685 words, an increase of about 2500 since I last told you but there is still a long way to go. There is only one thing for it. I’m going to have to make a promise. By the end of March I will be up to 60,000 words. Now, there, I’ve said it.
That means I need to write at least 333 words per day and more if I plan to have any days off. That shouldn’t be difficult. Alfie writes at least 300 words each day for his diary and if he can do it then surely I can. Don’t forget you can follow my progress on the MyBookProgress bar at the side of the website… and if I’m quiet towards the end of the month it may be that I’m writing twenty-four hours a day to catch up!
I have kept my word and it’s not even the end of January yet. I’ve written over 10,000 words in the last ten days and the novel now stands at 47,900 words. It has still got a long way to go, but the story is coming together and I’m reasonably pleased with what I’ve written. It will obviously need a lot of editing, but you can’t edit if you haven’t written it in the first place.
The characters have surprised me every once in a while, but that’s the beauty of bringing them to life. They develop their own thoughts and feelings and you can’t always predict how they will interact. How could I have guessed that Miss Ellie would decide to accompany Molly on her journey? I thought Molly was going to have to face it alone. I’m very grateful to Ellie as it’s so much easier to show what is going on and keep it lively and with emotion when you have at least two characters playing off each other.
I’ve been grateful that so much of the research material I need is now on line. The Library of Congress has some great maps of the American railroads at the time I need them and I’ve been able to see clearly how their journey would go. As I left them tonight, they were two days away from Dowagiac and Molly having the opportunity to be reunited with her brother after ten years. You might think the biggest problem would be the fact he has received his draft papers to join the American Civil War, but as it turns out, that’s the least of the problems!
Oh teasing you is such fun. You’re just going to have to wait until it’s finished. However, you might not have to wait until it’s published. I’d like to put together a small team of beta-readers to give me their thoughts before it gets that far. If you would like to join the team then please drop me an email at email@example.com
There must come a point when it is too late to wish you a ‘Happy New Year’ and with more than half of January gone I’ve probably already passed that point, however Happy New Year to you all.
It has been a busy start to the year, although sadly with only a limited amount of novel writing being done so far. I have had a lot of activity on Alfie’s Diary, with product reviews, giveaways and awards announcing us in the top five dog blogs in the UK, but of course it’s the dogs who write that rather than me!
I’ve been clearing the decks so that I can concentrate on my novel. For a start I found myself losing a number of days to big computer changes, but now that they are done I’m losing less time to problems so it’s proving worthwhile.
Despite a somewhat unhealthy start to the year, I’m getting on top of things and am on target to have half of every day to concentrate on writing from 20th January to the end of the month. There are some things which then get in the way for a few days, but I should have at least 2 -3 hours a day on most days through February too.
You will notice a new panel on the side of the website called ‘My Book Progress’. Each day I will update my progress and you will be able to see that bar moving along. If it doesn’t then you have permission to email me and ask exactly what I’m doing with my time!
I will update you on progress more fully at the end of January, by which time I hope to be able to tell you I am 10,000 words further forward. They may of course not be the right words, but it will give me something to edit, which is a start.
A very Happy Christmas and New Year to all my readers.
This feels like more of an end of term report than my New Year’s Resolutions. ‘Must try harder’, ‘Would do better if she concentrated on one thing at once’, ‘Talks too much in class’ (for talks read spends too much time on Facebook!). However, what are resolutions borne out of, if not the need for change?
In the next year I want to achieve two main things. Firstly, the completion of my next novel – The Orphan Train. So far it is 40,000 words in and has been stuck there for a few months. Oh so I’ve been busy with Shadow’s puppies and the arrival of our own new puppy and of course Alfie Dog Fiction, but there is no excuse. Let’s be specific, by the end of January that needs to be at least 45,000 words. 5,000 words does not sound much, until I think about the fact I need to recap everything written to date to get back into the right voice for the book I’m supposed to be writing. Some writers can do that at the editing stage and believe getting words on the page in the first place is the most important. For me, that doesn’t work so well. Whilst the words on the page may not ultimately be the right ones, they do need to have the right feel to them.
Secondly, I want to record The Appearance of Truth as an audio book. Again, much of the work has been in preparation for a while – but there it stopped. I am resolving to complete the edits to the text, to make it read easily, by the end of January and begin recording in February. That is a lot easier than the novel as it is already in progress and the points which need editing have been highlighted on my Kindle version. The Kindle is much better to use for recording an audio book as you can turn the pages silently.
Should I stick at just the two? In terms of making sure I achieve them that would be wise, but I’ve rarely gone for the easy option. There is a short story that I have written for a forthcoming anthology that I had in mind making the basis for a novel. However, then I received a letter from a reader of one of my short stories saying ‘Have you thought of turning this into a novel? I want to know what happens next.’ I hadn’t thought about it, but when I sat down and did so I realised it would be rather fun. It’s a humorous story and I enjoy writing humour. The story concerned, ‘A Test of Friendship’ is available as free download HERE, feel free to send me your comments and just maybe you can influence the direction it takes in becoming a novel!
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