Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Work in Progress

Looking at what I've written, what I'm currently writing, and what I plan to write, it's apparent that I'm unable to write anything that doesn't have a crime in it somewhere, even if the crime is only incidental to the main plot. Crime can be a useful plot device, of course, to push characters apart, or bring them together, in dramatic or dangerous circumstances.

Without wanting to give too much away, I've also noted that other types of event seem to recur in my writing. The events in question are often based on real life incidents, but I'm looking at ways to do things differently in future work.

I also have  a habit of choosing names beginning with A for my main characters. I don't know why that is, it's not a case of starting at the beginning of the alphabet and working through until I find a name I like. Some character names have been changed, or will be before that particular book gets anywhere near publication.

I'm currently preparing a third novel for publication on Kindle. I'm not sure what genre this one falls into. There is no romance. It's crime/mystery with the main action of solving the mystery taking place in the present day (or very recent past, for reasons that will be apparent when it's published!) But the mystery is  related to historical events and there are flashbacks to events in the past. Something like Kate Ellis's Wesley  Peterson books, but not exactly...

This one is much more plot driven and I do find I'm missing the opportunity for more in depth character exploration that comes with writing romance, but I have nothing to lose by experimenting at this stage.

One of the requirements for a successful e-publishing career is to publish a lot of books. Some successful authors produce many thousands of words a day. I can't emulate them, for technical reasons; they are very fast typists, and they write directly onto the computer.

I am not a fast typist (I never learned to touch type) and I prefer to write my first drafts with pen and paper. Writing directly onto the computer causes my writing to become very stilted. The consequence is, though, that however many words I might put down on paper each day, at some point I have to stop and type them all up.

Some writers dictate to secretaries, rather than do their own typing. Barbara Cartland was one who did so. In fiction, so did Harriet Vane - and Harriet's Miss Bracey seems to have offered editorial advice, too.

Of course, writers nowadays, with computers with word processing software that can save documents and spellcheck and wordcount and cut and paste, have things much easier than writers in the past.  I taught myself to  type when I was, I think, about twelve, on an ancient typewriter like this one:

This was not, I would like to stress, state of the art at the time I learned to type. It had been thrown out by someone somewhere, and somehow found its way to my family. I later graduated to a modern portable and then to a portable electric typewriter. Edits, or errors that couldn't be fixed with Tippex (which I'm surprised to find is still on the market), meant retyping the whole page, or even the whole chapter. Multiple copies required the use of carbon paper.

Then, in (I think) 1988 I moved on to an Amstrad PCW 8256Alan Sugar brought home computing (or at least home word processing) within the reach of writers, lecturers and research students in the UK.

Modern writers should spare a thought for prolific writers in the past, such  as Charles Dickens  or Anthony Trollope. Before the invention of typewriters they had no choice but to write everything by hand.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

A Time of Awakening available on Kindle

My new novel is now available on Amazon Kindle. A Time of Awakening is a historical romance.

England, 1860: When clergyman's daughter Anne Lester leaves home to take up a position as a governess, she doesn't expect to be swept off her feet by a complete stranger in the middle of London Bridge.

Read a sample by clicking on the link above or see my Amazon page here.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

"Disconnected, poor and plain"

The governess often appeared in works of fiction. One of the earliest, if not the earliest, fictional governesses was Mrs Teachum in The Governess, Or, The Little Female Academy (1749) by Sarah Fielding, sister of  Henry and John Fielding. Mrs Teachum is not typical of later fictional governesses; she is a widow who runs her own school. The book is aimed at school-age girls, not adults. There is no plot; the book is intended to improve the characters of its readers.

The most famous fictional governess appeared nearly a hundred years later. Jane Eyre was published in 1847. Jane has many of the characteristics typical of the governess in fiction; she is an orphan, poor and friendless, having to make her own way in the world.

Jane did not allow herself to be oppressed, but the oppressed, isolated figure, neither servant nor family member, is the most usual image of the governess. The governess novel is said to have been a popular genre in Victorian fiction. Various reasons are put forward for the popularity of this type of novel.  The simplest is probably that many readers were girls or young women who themselves were, or expected to be, governesses. The character was one they could identify with. Similarly, heroines of romantic fiction in the mid twentieth century were often secretaries.

No doubt in real life many governesses came from happy families and were valued by their employers. But where is the potential for conflict and drama in such a setting? If the fictional governess is presented as poor and friendless, her tribulations can be that much greater, and her eventual happy ending that much more satisfying.