BSN Draft 1 Completed
My Lab

a little celebration

I have been away from my blog once again, but it has been for a fabulous cause, because… I have amongst other brill projects, officially finished the first draft of my first novel Both Sides Now. It has taken me eight months and a total of 25 chapters and 85,232 words to get here. There has been giggles, wine and some incredibly invaluable advice and encouragement from so many loving and caring people along the way of this journey so far that I feel blessed. I am also extremely proud that I actually managed to get through this draft and not a) throw my laptop accross the room when I couldn’t get the words right, b) given up and started on a new idea, c) put myself into a caffeine coma. But I have learnt a few things along the way, so here we go:

1. The first draft was always going to be shit but if you can do it, then do it! Get it done!

2. Laughing to yourself when you read your own work back is not strange, it means you are bloody hilarious.

3. Staying up until four am to get a chapter finished isn’t bad, just don’t have plans the next morning. But if you are a full-time writer you won’t have plans, writing is your plan!

4. It’s okay if you read one of your favouite author’s books and suddenly secretly hate them – you wonder how they are that fabulous? They wrote a fabulous book, that’s how! And so will you! This is how fabulous you are…

5. Reward yourself with wine and treats whenever you reach a goal. 2000 words – deserves one glass, unless you’re struggling to create then just go for it anyway. Oh hell, just take the whole bottle and don’t stop until that bottle’s empty. (Drink responsibly though.)

6. Be perpared to boil the kettle five times and still not even make a cup of tea.

7. Interestingly enough even though said tea won’t get made, you will actually bizarrely drink a lot of tea (or coffee if that’s your thing) right into the early morning until you look like this guy…

If you look carefully I’m sure he’s saying the words, “Must finish chapter.” Non? Just me then.

8. Your bladder will also not thank you for those copious cups of tea and you will be in complete cba mode and not go to the toilet for ages. Sorry bladder.

9. Drinks and bladders aside. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s very easy to tell yourself that what you’re writing isn’t any good, but it doesn’t have to be, that’s why there’s such thing as editing. As Shannon Hale said, “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.”. Think of the sandcastles!

10. HAVE FUN. The great thing about writing a first draft is that while it is bloody hard it is also the time for you to experiment, be creative and let loose, the fab news is, nobody will ever have to see whatever you choose not to keep.

So those are just a few things that I’ve learnt. Next up for me is the luscious editing part where I am sure I am going to cry, whinge and get destracted by pictures of Kit Harington, mmmm… Before I head into this unchartered territory I am scurrying back to my hermit hole to revise for my upcoming English Lit exam and finishing off my Creative Writing Assessment plus other things. So I will be away for a while but I hope you enjoyed the update! Thanks everyone who has come along on the journey so far! Lots more to come!

Ciao,

J x

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Book Club, Publishing Kitt, The Bookroom, Women-kind

The Year of Reading Women, but women don’t make up most of the author percentage.

The year of reading women

2014 is the year of reading women, however the bigger percentage of authors are male! Should we really just be encouraging reading or encouraging women to fight the good fight of becoming a writer and making their dreams a reality? 

This year the Guardian wrote an article that explored the issue that “female authors are marginalised by newspapers and literary journals, and their books are given ‘girly’ covers.” Their plea was was  “Take action against this inequality by making sure the next book you read is by a woman” I think that this is fantastic. Of course it is, I’m a woman and I’m also a writer that hopes to become a published author someday and I would like to believe that my books are not just successful but read by a range of people. But, here comes the obligatory but, I’m not sure if it is enough. Of course it is a benchmark, a start place however, but is it enough? Or is it a completely different fight altogether?

Since I was about eight years old I wanted to be one of two things (or both if I could swindle it), an author or a singer and by being a singer it means that I would have wanted to write my own songs; I distinctly remember singing Norah Jones “I don’t know why” on a rainy Saturday afternoon and wishing I could be a singer, just like her. For the past 12 years I have written song lyrics, poetry and stories. I absolutely love writing. Sometimes I thank the advancement of mobile phones that have a “notes” app that I can go into when I’m on the bus or in a queue and a idea pops into my head, because I don’t have to carry round a notepad all the time. It’s great that I can do it anywhere, wherever creativity decides to drop an idea bomb and log it somewhere.

Very gradually I began writing more than I did sing and the hunger to become a writer/published author became (in the words of Stephen Fry on the Twinging’s ad) gruelling and it still is. But the one thing aside dream, hope and determination I have are people that encourage me and tell me that I can do it!I am fortunate to be surrounded by family, friends and colleagues that believe in me and my talents and the ambition that I have to become something that many dream of but very often are not able to achieve.

I run a Birmingham based project called The Book Club  that encapsulates strong female characters and female voices, written by both men and women but we are guilty (however not sorry) of inviting more female authors and poets than male to our events to read, perform and excite our audience each month. The purpose of this is to encourage more people to read the word created by women and the word of the woman. This month we had Sci-Fi and Fantasy author Carmen Cupuano. Her genre of writing is one not often found in the female gender of authors which is interestingly pointed out in this article on XXFactor, asking why there aren’t more female Sci-Fi writers, so having Carmen at The Book Club was almost like hitting a gold mine, she is a rare breed of author. However, one of the things that spoke out to me when Carmen was telling us about her background what that she did not have the support of someone extremely close to her when she chose to down tools and pick up a pen and begin writing her series “The Owners”. Personally I would hope that any of my close ones would be on board if I chose to pursue a writing career later in life. Luckily, Carmen ignored the lack of support and did it anyway and if last week’s edition of The Book Club was anything to go by, we were all glad that she did.

So what am I trying to say? I have taken a very personal and opinionated route to explain this but in a very roundabout way, my point is that whilst urging people to read more books written by women is fantastic, sexism exists in every art industry, in every industry, somewhere and it does need to stop but, the bigger picture is that more male authors are being published than female, although most of the worlds readers are – FEMALE. Yes, funny isn’t it? Here come the numbers, this is part a research compiled by Vida, featured by the Guardian in 2010:

“In the US, The New York Review of Books shows a stronger bias. Among authors reviewed, 83% are men (306 compared to 59 women and 306 men), and the same statistic is true of reviewers (200 men, 39 women). The New York Times Book Review fares better, with only 60% of reviewers men (438 compared to 295 women). Of the authors with books reviewed, 65% were by men (524 compared to 283 by women).”

Number are boggling for me, but I got it and they aren’t blurred lines. It is loud and clear that men dominate the literary industry and, without sounding too frustrated, I want that to change! But it isn’t just the literary industry, the songwriters of the music industry is pretty daunting too in it’s numbers.

Last night I listened to a talk by Charlotte Church about Women in Music and I almost swallowed my own tongue when I heard this, “PRS claims that only 13 percent of writers (songwriters) registered are female” You can listen to the whole talk here and I recommend that anybody does. But what an outstandingly harrowing number and just shows what influence female writers have in the music industry. And I must question, what are the un-registered writers? Are they too afraid to make their stamp on the industry or have they been shunned? Where are they? Can we encourage them to come forward, raise their hands and say “I did this. I am great, I am talented, you don’t have to like me, but believe in me and my work.”

The work that I do inspires girls and women to write, to me it is imperative that women follow their dreams because who shouldn’t be allowed to follow their dreams? Of course as a writer my focus is on boosting writers and storytellers. Hell, women are the best storytellers – if you’ve heard women gossip then you will know that they are great at telling stories just generally. But it shouldn’t be the radical female authors such as Austen, the BrontĂ« sisters, Maya Angelou or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie that gain the most praise and attention, every female writer deserves to be up there with their work which is my The Book Club is so important for me. There are masses of girls and young women like me in the world with a dream to become an author who need support, guidance and at least just one person out there who believes in them.

Reading the work of female authors to beat the sexism in the industry is important of course it is, especially if we want them to stand out. However, what about the up and coming authors, to beat the stereotypes and prejudice for them would be fantastic, but the fact that men are published more than women supports a sexist issue, it’s not a conspiracy theory or a blame by pointing fingers, it’s just simply a fact. I believe the two plights go hand in hand and should be tackled to support one another.

So can we begin to support those up and coming female authors who are talented, who have a story to be told, who write Sci-Fi and Fantasy novels and especially the ones who have no one that believe in them? Surely if there are more female authors being published, there are more female authors to be read, heard from and loved.

 

Sources: Here and here.

 

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Publishing Kitt

Publishing Kitt: You don’t have to be alone.

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And you’re not alone!

Yesterday I attended an inter-generation event called ‘Bridge the Gap’ and a poet/writer that I have recently met was there also. We had a fantastic conversation about the road to getting published and just by talking to Nina I realised something, publishing is not something you have to be alone in and you are not alone! Just like any new journey the path can be daunting, unexpected and long; throw in a mass of rejection letters and emails and it becomes very harrowing. But,  not only is there hope at the end of the tunnel but there there is help, support and an array of understanding people there every step of the way.

So talk to fellow authors and writers. Even bloggers have to submit their work to get it published on a reputable site. The point is that those who are also on the same road as you know what you are talking about and how you feel, regardless of their genre, age or status, they are still on that same road. So talk to them, they might have some valuable tips and ideas for you and you might even find that have some advice to share with them.

Talk to the ones who have been there and done it! At the beginning of this year I sent a message to my literary idol Jill Mansell. I had asked her for advice about writing and connecting with your characters and whether it’s wrong to stop writing one novel and begin another, honestly I was not expecting a reply. However a few hours later she messaged me back with probably the most precious advice I’ve been given to date and it’s stuck with me ever since. So do reach out to your idols, I’m not suggesting you hound them with messages but even if they are John Grisham, they might reply, they might not. They will most definitely be busy working on a new bestseller but, once you send your message out into the cosmic void, it is there for them to pick up. But most importantly they have been through the exact same journey as us and they know precisely how you are feeling.

So talk to your writing peers, tell them how it’s going, tell them if you’re fed up and worried you’ll never be successful; address those fears and let someone help you. A few words of reassurance, encouragement and inspiration can go a long way when you’re wishing on stars and praying to the gods for your dream career!

Don’t be alone!

Jx

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Publishing Kitt

Publishing Kitt: Would I date my agent?

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So I’ve decided to go out on a limb, take the traditional route and instead of heading for the straight self-publishing road, I’m going to search for a literary agent and then hedge my bets of getting published. I’ve heard all of the stories and I’ve been given the stern ‘set yourself up for disappointment’s, but I have to start somewhere right? Today I sent off my manuscript to a publishing house who are looking for new, first time authors and I thought, ‘Ooh that’s me!’ so I sent it off with a short and bubbly introductory description of myself and my book and hit send. And then a light bulb moment happened and so here is a new part of my blog that is documenting my road to getting published. I hope that fellow writers would like to join me on this journey, share their experiences and tips and in turn I will share any tips I find along my way.

For the past few months I have been searching and making a generic list of literary agents that could publish my alter ego Kitt Lovell – the fun, lovely, pink and wittily glittery-girly author who will be the young woman behind my books. Kit was born out of my diary – after reading an old diary entry and finding that when I was single I had taken on this persona of a chick lit/flick protagonist. After reading the entry written on New Year’s Day; “Tonights agenda: Eat Chocolate; Watch Sex and the City the movie (because nothing beats watching Carrie batter Big with a huge bunch of roses); And drink tea, because I drank all of the alcohol last night”, looking back and saying, ‘This is not me! Who is this girl? She is hilarious.’ I knew that Kit needed to be birthed, a part of me that I love and hold close and hopefully will be loved by all.

So this afternoon I began to narrow it down and continue my search, really reading the fine details of what they are looking for and deciding what kind of literary agent I am looking for. Alas I came to a conclusion – finding a literary agent is just like dating and now since most searches and submissions are made online it is very much like online dating. Not only do you need to qualify in terms of what the agent in question is looking for but it is also very important that the agent is someone you think you would like to work with and closely. Could you imagine sharing your most personal creation with this agent? Just like asking yourself when looking for potential date – could I imagine sharing a toothbrush with this person? It works both ways and so I decided to immensely clinch my search. Beggars can be choosers when it comes to the person who is handling a huge part of your life and that is why I decided to choose to submit to agents that I like the sound of, agents that are a reflection of me. If they are inviting and friendly, if they offer authors helpful advice I want them to represent me; that paired with someone who can get the job done and I am nearly on my way to ticking all of my ‘Must Have’ boxes.

Now to pop the big question – this is the question that rounds everything off and takes a stance on whether you submit your manuscript or not – would I date my agent? We have to remember that this is someone that we are going to work closely with, for years, and so it is a relationship that needs to start as it means to go on, much like starting any new relationship.

So now my list is shorter I can make the first step in sending my selling email which is like sending that first initial response to someone’s dating profile! So let’s see where it goes and I’ll let you know!

 

J x

 

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The Bookroom

The Bookroom

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This is my trunk, currently, it holds over fifty books – last time I counted (last year) it was around fifty-odd – I kept losing count.

My collection of books just keeps growing and growing and I think that maybe I’m a hoarder, or book materialistic, or simply just a book lover who refuses to buy an e-Reader and so will have to find space for books like in the good old days with book shelves, cases and units. But for now, I have my trunk. And I do actually dream about having a lovely home with this beautiful room in it, my own paradise, my own book room. My book room should assume the position of my favourite place in the world, which for the last six years has been Waterstones, and anyone that knows me can honestly agree that I am a book-a-holic, I will smell the pages of a book before I buy and read it, I’m not weird, I just love books in that way. So until the dream of all four walls and trunks, chests and tables being filled with books materialises I have this… my own book room on my blog where I get to share all the books and stories that I love (and the more than occasional poem).

I have a lot of favourite authors, books, poems and stories and a lot of them have inspired me in many different ways because of course, as a writer books and stories are, for me; a huge deal in what I do and what I love. But it’s not just us writers and authors that are inspired by books and stories. Everyone around the world will have read or been told a story as a child, and usually these stories stay with them for the rest of their life, whether they loved them or not, they remember them and refer back to them later on in life. The magic of stories are that they are everlasting and easy to fall in love with. Not because of the words, many stories are retold over the years, the words may have been changed but the message, the essence and point always remains; the pith of a good story always translates, a bit like love.

Welcome to The Bookroom…

J x

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