Books Read in April

 

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22. Hannibal – Thomas Harris

23.The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap – Neil Landau

24. Lynch on Lynch – edited by Chris Rodley

25. The Year of Living Danishly – Helen Russell

26. The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

27. Mercy – Jussi Adler-Olsen

28. So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed – Jon Ronson

29. The Stranger – Harlan Coben

30. The Almost Nearly Perfect People: Behind the Myth of the Scandinavian Utopia – Michael Booth

31. A Lovely Way to Burn – Louise Welsh

32. You’re Mine Now – Hans Koppel

33. Stealing Heaven: The Love Story of Heloise and Abelard – Marion Meade

Books read in March

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15. Slaughterhouse Five – Kurt Vonnegut

16. Dogwalker – Arthur Bradford

17. Girl in a Band – Kim Gordon

18. Eeny Meeny – M.J. Arlidge

19. The Burgess Boys – Elizabeth Strout

20. Red Dragon – Thomas Harris

21. The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris

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I started the year with a plan to write something on my blog once a week come rain or shine and to begin with it went pretty well. But I’ve noticed it’s been abandoned for a while now so I thought it was time to get on with it. Not that I’ve been lazy the last few weeks. This is what I’ve been up to:

  • Finished draft 5 of Tell Me Lies (so glad I have a title now!) and sent it off to my editor who was happy enough that it’s now ready to go to the copy editor. Woo hoo!
  • Finished the first draft of book number 4 (possibly to be called The Girl Next Door) – even if it is a very, very rough draft.
  • Spoken at a careers event at Stockton library to lots of young people interested in careers with words. This made me feel very old.
  • A book signing at Guisborough bookshop. Thanks to all who came along.
  • Bought tickets for the crime festival in Harrogate. Not strictly work but important nonetheless.
  • Wrote several short stories for the Mslexia competition. Abandoned most of them as they were complete gibberish but managed to finish one that I was (mostly) happy with.
  • Written up more ideas for books 5 and 6. Still not quite there yet but at least they’re now more than a couple of lines. May or may not also be gibberish.
  • Continued to write up my diaries from my travels around America. One day this might be finished. Perhaps for the 20th anniversary.
  • Had lots of ideas for screenplays and other books. Trying to focus on one thing at a time is tricky.
  • Developed an obsession with Hannibal Lecter after binge watching the TV show. I’ve now gone back and read the novels and watched the films again. Slightly concerned any future writing will be a total rip off of Thomas Harris’s writing.

So that was March. Hopefully April will be as productive. Maybe if I stop binge watching TV shows.

The Tricky Third Title

I’ve been having a problem lately. Or rather I’ve been having a problem for the last nine months (no, not that problem). Since beginning writing my third novel I’ve been having a problem with coming up with a title.

At first it didn’t bother me too much, I thought it’ll come when it’s ready. Once the book was a bit more formed, something would present itself.

But it didn’t.

But there was still time. Still many more drafts to go through. Something was bound to occur to me by then.

But it didn’t.

I started racking my brains, trying to remember when and how the titles for the previous two had arrived. To be fair, Stolen and Gone are not the most imaginative titles, but they do work. They feel right.

I wondered at keeping the single word title thing going and started thinking of the perfect word to sum up the book. But nothing seemed right.

With Stolen, I got about halfway through writing and decided I needed a title because I was tired of just calling it “the book”. So I chose Stolen and in the (long) time between writing that first draft and it eventually being published, the name kind of stuck. There were talks of changing it for publication but in my mind it would always be Stolen and in the end no one could think of something more fitting.

With Gone, again it was a similar thing. A working title to stop me calling it “Book 2″ and Gone seemed to come up again and again. By the time publication came around, I couldn’t think of it being called anything else.

Titles were easy!

And then came “Book 3″ which is what the third book has been called for the past nine months. There was no working title I could think of that worked. But I was going to have to think of something soon.

I started looking at song titles, lyrics, quotes, anything to help shake some ideas out. And it helped. I started writing lists of possibilities. Most were terrible, some were okay. And there were a couple that I really liked. So I sent the ideas off to my editor who agreed that they were good ideas, unfortunately, other books were about to be published with the same name.

Aarrgghh!

So it was back to the drawing board. Again and again and again.

I did consider Untitled #1 for a while (I thought I’d better add the #1 in case I had the same problem with future books) but it didn’t seem very eye catching.

In the end though, after a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth, with the deadline for a decision to be made looming largely, a title emerged. With all the other possibilities I thought they were things that would draw a reader in, but none felt like the perfect fit. And then, a last minute thought occurred and it just seemed right.

So now I can stop calling the book “Book 3″ and use its proper name.

And its proper name?

Tell Me Lies.

Wasn’t so hard, was it?

Books Read in January

In an attempt to see how many books I read this year (and to try to avoid re-reading books by mistake) I’ve decided to keep a list of what I’ve read each month. I’ve done pretty well in January but to be fair a couple of the books were for research. Let’s see if I can keep it up all year!

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1. Galveston – Nic Pizzolatto

2. Joss Whedon: Geek of the Universe – Amy Pascale

3. Reflections: An Oral History of Twin Peaks – Brad Dukes

4. Writing for Television – Julian Friedmann and Christopher Walker

5. Power and Control – Sandra Horley

6. Long Way Home – Eva Dolan

7. Funny Girl – Nick Hornby

8. Over Tumbled Graves – Jess Walter

9. All the Pretty Girls – JT Ellison

The Northern Writers’ Awards

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I wouldn’t be sitting here without New Writing North and the Northern Writers’ Awards. Not that New Writing North bought me the chair I’m sitting on or the house I’m sitting in, their range of services don’t go quite that far. But they’re not far off. What I mean is, I’m sitting here at home, writing words on a page for a living, on a week day, between 9 and 5, when not long ago I would’ve been at the day job, doing something far less interesting.

I don’t want to diminish the amount of work I put into my writing myself but I believe that a lot of success in this business is down to luck and getting the right break at the right time. Of course there are ways to make this right place/right time kismet more likely. Sending work out into the world helps, whether to editors, or agents, or to competitions. Just being brave enough to let people read your work is, obviously, going to make someone sit up and take notice more likely than if you keep your words hidden in your bottom drawer. You’re not always going to get a positive response, won’t always but published or be a winner, but the more you try, the more you’re willing to put yourself out there, the more chances you have of landing in front of someone who thinks your work is what they’re been looking for.

The first time I entered the Northern Writers’ Awards it was for the second book I’d written, a comedy crime novel that I thought was pretty good. I sent it off and kept my fingers crossed. I didn’t win but I did get a nice letter back with some encouraging words.

The next year I decided to try again, this time with another crime novel, one I’d written a rough first draft of and wasn’t sure whether it was worth pursuing. I decided to submit it with the hope that maybe I’d get some more encouraging words at the end of it that might persuade me to continue. So I polished the first few chapters, sent it off and then forgot all about it.

I remember getting the email months later. I remember sitting half watching TV and half checking my emails. I saw the title of the email – Northern Writers’ Awards – and thought it must be the inevitable “Thank you for your application, unfortunately…” email.

It wasn’t.

I still have that email and it began, “I’m delighted to write to you and let you know formally that you have been awarded a Time to Write Award to support the development of your novel, Stolen.” I wish I could’ve seen my face when I saw the email, it was probably hilarious.

I remember first jumping up and down and squealing in such a way that it was probably best I was alone. I remember phoning my mam and dad and then my boyfriend to tell them (even though it said to keep it under my hat). And then I remember sitting and reading the email again, thinking it’d been a terrible mistake. I’d applied for a Northern Promise award as I was a new writer with little to my name. Instead I’d been given a Time to Write award which I thought was for proper writers. It was a mistake, a huge mistake.

I remember getting a phone call from Claire Malcolm a few days later, inviting me up to Newcastle to talk about the awards. She was lovely and encouraging about my work but all I kept thinking was it was a mistake. Should I mention it? Should I ask her to double check it wasn’t someone else called Rebecca Muddiman who’d won?

I remember going to the awards ceremony, still thinking it was all wrong, an admin error, and that I’d be quietly taken to one side and told that if I didn’t make a fuss I could stay for the buffet.

But it wasn’t a mistake. Someone out there liked my writing and took a chance on me.

I nearly didn’t enter again because I hadn’t won the first time, a mistake so many of us make as the judges change each year and everyone’s tastes are different. I nearly didn’t enter again because I’d written a crime novel and I thought they’d be after more literary things. But three crime novels won that year which just proves I know nothing and that you can never tell what will happen.

Winning a Northern Writers’ Award led to so many good things for me. New Writing North are so supportive of their writers, they took me to London to meet agents and editors as part of the prize which didn’t lead to an agent at that point but did lead to me getting editorial support and a lot of contacts. At another event they introduced me to the man who would eventually would become my agent. They were partners in Moth Publishing who would eventually publish that first novel (through another competition, but that’s another story). And they were there to support me when I was having a breakdown about doing events in public to promote that book.

In short, I wouldn’t be here without them and without having entered the Northern Writers’ Awards. So get your applications in now – there’s still time. And you never know. No one does.