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Wednesday 30 July 2014

Timeslip-The Most Creative Writing?

A Little Light Reading...
I wrote here about the amazing day I spent at the RNA Conference a couple of weeks ago. One of the sessions I attended was Pamela Hartshorne's One Author, Two Genres. As Jessica Hart, Pamela has written over fifty books for Harlequin Mills and Boon. She spoke of her decision to juggle writing romance  with returning to study for her PhD. It was a really absorbing hour, especially when Pamela explained how she used her post-graduate research and intimate knowledge of York to write a single title, Time's Echo. This led to a contract with Macmillan and a second stand-alone historical novel, The Memory of Midnight.

I've now read The Memory of Midnight and I can strongly recommend it as a great read. I'll be featuring it here shortly, so make sure you don't miss that by subscribing to my blog (use the box on the right).

The Memory of Midnight is a timeslip story of Tess, whose move into an apartment in an ancient house thins the veil between her present-day existence and the life of Nell, a girl who is married off to a monster in Elizabethan York. I was fascinated by the historical setting, as my daughter has been working with Archaeology Live! for the past few digging seasons.

The stories of the heroines are interwoven, and keeping track of the two threads while writing must have been a work of art. Combined with splitting her professional life between writing short romances and full-length, altogether darker fiction, Pamela needed discipline and planning. There were some light-hearted suggestions in the audience that it might be easier to set up two separate computers, one for each story-type, or to use child labour to help with the admin!

The last time I'd read any sort of timeslip story was when I read Tom's Midnight Garden to my children, but Pamela's session enthused me. I always have a few story ideas looking for homes in the back of my notebook, so inspiration wasn't a problem. My only worry was how to keep tabs on all the different story elements.  If you've read my blog about  Scrivener, you'll guess what happened next!  During Ian Skillicorn's session Going Solo later that same day, I heard Julie Stock talking about the joys of using the system.  The next step was obvious. I got the software, and started planning.

What's you favourite timeslip story? Have you ever tried to write one?

Thursday 24 July 2014

Scrivener: Writing Heaven, Procrastination Hell–or Vice Versa?

By Olga Palma
Scrivener is a piece of software designed specifically for writers and it’s the newest, sharpest tool in my writing kit. I’ve only been using it for a couple of days, but it’s already revolutionised my working process. I’m neither related to, nor paid by, Scrivener’s developers, Literature and Latte, by the way. I just thought the application has already done so much for me, you might benefit from it, too.

I told you about my trip to the RNA Conference here. During Ian Skillicorn’s Going Solo talk on self-publishing and promotion at the conference, he spoke about the expense and variable results associated with using untried formatters from small ads to produce copy for Amazon and other ebook publishers. Someone from the audience championed Scrivener’s “Compile” feature. I, and a lot of other people there, were intrigued so I checked out the Literature and Latte website as soon as I got home. 

Computers are a complete and total mystery to me. OH sets them up.  All I do is switch them on at the mains, type, and control-save occasionally. That’s it. That's the full extent of my technical know-how, and yet within minutes I’d managed to download Scrivener, and dive in to the 30-day free trial. 

I was hooked straight away. At first sight it’s a bit overwhelming, but asking a question on Twitter brought me loads of encouragement and news of  the invaluable tips produced by Gwen Hernandez. Scrivener’s own tutorials walk you through from stage to stage, and Scrivener for Dummies (naturally!) fills in any gaps.  

I’m fully immersed in a new Scrivener-based work-in-progress now, complete with project targets, typewriter scrolling (no distractions, apart from a backdrop photo of the novel’s setting) and my fully developed and organised outline only a click away whenever I need to call it up.

Is there any downside to Scrivener? Yes, and it’s an enormous one. It’s the very fact this application brings so many brilliant features, wrinkles, devices and downright blessings to your fingertips. It would be the easiest thing in the world to spend so long setting up your perfect template, devising metadata, collections and all the other tweaks and refinements you can make to your workspace paradise, you never get around to doing any actual writing

At the start of this blog I called Scrivener the sharpest tool in my writing kit, and like my favourite kitchen knife, there’s one big risk attached. In my experience, the risks in both cases are far outweighed by their advantages. 

My advice is, go for the free Scrivener trial but make sure the first features you nail are the ones under the tab marked "Project". Set up your "session" and "project" targets, then this app will calculate how much you need to do, and by when. It re-calculates automatically, so you're faced with a new objective every day. During your writing sessions, the sliders move from the orange danger zone into your green target area. Then (and only then!) you can go wandering off-piste on the Scrivener trail by watching one of the many YouTube tutorials, or by visiting Scrivener on Facebook and Twitter.

Give it a try, and let me know how you get on!

Thursday 17 July 2014

Writing and Blogging: Going Solo by Ian Skillicorn

by Antonio Litterio
One of the sessions I attended at the RNA conference this year was Ian Skillicorn's guide to publishing and marketing for writers. Ian has very kindly agreed to let me include my take on his talk. You can check out his Corazon website for details of his "day job", but here's a taster...

Running your own blog is  a vital part of your publicity campaign, but set a realistic blogging/social networking schedule and stick to it. Say “I’ll spend two hours a week writing my blogs, and post twice per week (or whatever),” for example. Consistency is key. Whatever social media you use, always keep the goals of who am I blogging to, what am I telling them, and why, in mind. Share yourself with your followers much more, and more often, than you plug your own book.
If blogging is a chore, share it by inviting guest posts, although be careful. Get guest bloggers to send you their text well in advance for vetting before the advertised publication date. That gives you time to edit, ask for revisions, or politely decline. Search for authors who blog in the same genre as you, and offer to swap blogs. The Novelistas group of writers do this, and it means each member only has to write one entry every six weeks. Before signing up to do a blog tour, investigate your prospective host online. How successful have their previous blog-tours been? 

Over the next few weeks, I'll be covering some of the other sessions I attended at the RNA conference this year. To make sure you don't miss any of the relevant blogs, join in by clicking on the "subscribe" box above, or just drop me a line to christinahollis(at)hotmail.co.uk.

Monday 14 July 2014

Back To The Future...RNA Conference 2014

A Small Selection...
I spent Saturday, 12th July at the Annual conference of the Romantic Novelists' Association. It was held at The Harper Adams University (how often did I almost say "Harper Collins"?) in Shropshire. Despite a day that started at 4am and a total of five hours' driving, I haven't had so much fun in a long time.

The biggest problem I had was deciding which talks to attend. In the end I settled for  Carol McGrath's "Bringing Mediaeval Women to Life", Jessica Hart/Pamela Hartshorne's "One Author, Two Genres", Alison Baverstock's "Self Publishing Trends" with Hazel Gaynor, Ian Skillicorn's "Going Solo", and a couple of symposia on the future of publishing industry. It's almost impossible to pick out individual highlights as there were so many, but discovering Jessica/Pamela is another writer who's a devotee of The Sunne In Splendour was definitely right up there with finding out how easy it is (allegedly!) to turn files on a MAC into .mobi files.

As I only had a day ticket, the worst part was coming away and leaving everyone after the last talk of the afternoon. On the other hand, the overflowing goody bag I was given definitely softened the blow. I arrived home with a teetering TBR pile, and a week's supply of chocolate (which I virtuously handed over to DD and Son No. 1) and biscuits (which I dunked and downed before they could set eyes on them).

I'm definitely going to sign up for the whole conference in 2015, when it's going to be held in London. My only worry is that if choosing which talks to attend for a one-day visit was tricky, it's going to be a lot more difficult when I have to select options for a long weekend!

If you've never attended a writers' conference before, try and get to one. Writing is such a solitary business, it's good to get out and socialise. Conference, like life, isn't just about writing.You'll learn a lot about people, too–and it's characters who drive great storytelling.

Come on, all you seasoned conference-goers! Which one do you like best, and why?