Filling the Empty Page – Lynne Shelby shares her top tips

As we brace ourselves for the last leg of NaNoWriMo, I’m utterly thrilled to have romance author Lynne Shelby guesting on my blog. There are many reasons to love Lynne. Here are three for starters: she writes fantastic romances set in the glitzy, heady world of showbiz, she’s a generous supporter of other writers and she shares a surname with Birmingham’s most (in)famous family, The Peaky Blinders. Today, she’s talking about the dreaded blank page and offering up some top tips. Take it away, Lynne.

Filling the Empty Page by Lynne Shelby

There must be few things as daunting for a writer as an empty page (or, more usually these days, a blank laptop screen), but every writer has their own writing process – the tricks and tools of their trade – that they use to fill the empty space with words, especially when they have a looming deadline! In fact, a deadline, whether it’s the date by which you have to send in your entry to a writing competition, or your edits back to your editor, or get your novel written for NaNoWriMo, is particularly effective for spurring a writer on to complete the first draft of their story. I’m a relatively slow writer, but I find that setting myself an arbitrary deadline – aiming to finish a book before going off on holiday or before Christmas – is one of the most effective ways to make me write faster!

My actual writing process hasn’t changed that much since I first started writing novels, but it has evolved as I’ve discovered which ‘tricks of the trade’ work best for me, especially when it comes to hitting a daily word count – as in NaNoWriMo. When I wrote my first novel, I edited it each day as I wrote, and also wrote the story in the order it would appear on the page, but with my second novel, on the advice of more experienced writers, I edited far less – and I found that I completed the first draft in less time, and that editing a whole manuscript resulted in less false starts and therefore less re-writing.

With my latest novel, There She Goes, I wrote the entire first draft without editing. If I came to a scene that wasn’t working, I made bullet points for the main events that needed to happen, and went on to the next chapter. Also, if I suddenly had a new and exciting idea about how an earlier chapter might be improved or thought of a scene that needed to be added, I resisted the temptation to go back and alter what I’d already written, but jotted down my new idea on a post-it note and added it in a later draft. The post-it notes spread from my noticeboard all around the walls of my writing room, but it meant that that I wrote the book more quickly!

Resisting the urge to edit until the whole story – or at least its outline – is written, is one of my most valuable writing tools. Every writer finds the tools and tricks that work best for them – and the way they do that is by writing. Don’t worry about finding the perfect word, sentence or paragraph. Write … and edit later.

Good luck to everyone taking part in NaNoWriMo.

Lynne Shelby

About Lynne

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. Her latest novel, There She Goes, is set among the drama, hopes and dreams of aspiring actors in London’s Theatreland. She has worked at a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time. When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Athens – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

Social Media Links

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LynneShelbyWriter

Twitter: @LynneB1

Instagram: lynneshelbywriter

Website: http://www.lynneshelby.com

There She Goes – blurb:

When aspiring actress Julie Farrell meets actor Zac Diaz, she is instantly attracted to him, but he shows no interest in her. Julie, who has yet to land her first professional acting role, can’t help wishing that her life was more like a musical, and that she could meet a handsome man who’d sweep her into his arms and tap-dance her along the street…

After early success on the stage, Zac has spent the last three years in Hollywood, but has failed to forge a film career. Now back in London, he is determined to re-establish himself as a theatre actor. Focused solely on his work, he has no time for distractions, and certainly no intention of getting entangled in a committed relationship…

Auditioning for a new West End show, Julie and Zac act out a love scene, but will they ever share more than a stage kiss?

Purchase link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/There-She-Goes-share-Theatreland-ebook/dp/B07PDZMMT2/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1572031291&sr=1-1

 

 

 

 

Out with the old, in with the new

Morocco: I fell in love

On this, the first day of 2018, like a great many people I’m thinking about my hopes, dreams and plans for the coming 12 months (as well as battling a hangover from hell). On the whole, 2017 could be characterised as disappointing, and I fell foul of low-level depression and a sense of hopelessness (I’m prone to it). There were highlights: two spectacular holidays; publication of Skin Deep and the fantastic reaction to it; another sell-out Beach Hut Writing Academy conference. But, while I’m not going to dwell on them, there have been a great many challenges and disappointments. Not one for resolutions – I always break them – instead I have a plan and I’m recording it here so that I might be held to account, by myself if no one else:

  • To pursue agent representation for my new novel – HIM, HER, US. I signed with Accent Press without an agent (they approached me directly) and while I’m grateful to the team at Accent for all their work on my books’ behalves, it’s time to move on.
  • Self-publish my romances. In December I got the rights back from the publisher of two romances I’ve penned under a pseudonym. After some rewriting, I will experiment with self-publishing and all being well I’ll write the third instalment, too. Here’s to becoming a hybrid author!
  • Write a middle-grade novel. I promised the children at the school where I work part-time that one day I’d write a novel that they might read. An idea has been germinating for some time and I believe I have the key to the story now.
  • Read more for pleasure (I do read a lot though it’s fair to say I lost my reading mojo for a few months in 2017) as well as the not-inconsiderable amount of reading I must do as part of my role as an editor and mentor.
  • Live healthier. I’m starting with a Dry January and plan to rein in the drinking over the rest of the year (and my life…) and exercise more: walking and swimming. Keep mentally healthier as well as physically.
  • Try new creative pursuits. I’m starting with sculpting thermo-plastic, curtesy of my good friends Matt and Ju of Blast Theory.

I have another idea for an adult novel too – more crime-y than anything I’ve tried before, but I suspect the above is enough to be getting on with for now.

Happy New Year beautiful people. Joy, kindness, hope.

Laura x

My Big Books of 2017

As the year draws to a close, it’s traditional for me to consider the books I’ve most enjoyed in the past twelve months. I don’t like using ‘best’, because this is a personal list and my preferred reading tends to reflect my emotional state as much as, if not more than, anything.

2017 has been a tough year, both personally and professionally – it’s been pretty shitty politically and economically, too, in my opinion. On the home front, to name but one challenge, there was a horrendous run-in with Southern Rail and Ginger1, my eldest boy. Professionally, while Skin Deep has been incredibly well-received (reviews were beyond my wildest hopes and dreams – thank you, dear readers) sales are, to coin a publishing cliché, disappointing.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me – or you – that the majority of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this year are dark in tone and subject matter. The up-lit star might have been rising across the publishing landscape, but not in my house! Here’s my list of the novels (yes, they’re all novels this year) that have impressed me the most:

IMG_3650Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall – this isn’t out till Spring 2018 but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy. A stunning exploration of obsessive love which delves deep into the twisted heart of a secretive, sexually charged relationship and the aftermath of its breakdown. One of the most compelling and psychologically complex thrillers I’ve read in a very long time – and its commentary on our current world is perceptive and terrifying in equal measure. I have no doubt this will be one of the most talked about psych thrillers of 2018. Breathtaking.

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins – a celebrated academic and TV presenter – a woman who ‘has it all’ writes a memoir about a long-lost heroine, reluctantly enlisting the aid of a socially inept housekeeper. It’s a novel about ambition, privilege, morality and dung beetles. Fabulous.

The Muse by Jessie Burton – I adored The Miniaturist and I’m fascinated by the Spanish civil war and art so this was near enough a sure thing. That said, I preferred Burton’s debut, but her second offering is wonderful story, set across two time-frames, about hidden treasures, faking it, love and identity.

IMG_3651Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield – another one not released until 2018 (February) which I read this year. A story of love and quantum physics, it’s beautiful, sad and clever. We meet the eponymous protagonists over the course of 70 years in 11 different realities, or universes. Fans of The Versions of Us (like me) and Life After Life should enjoy it. Gorgeous.

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant – with a lying, narcissistic literary novelist at its heart and a supporting cast of unlikable metropolitan-elite types, this is a gripping and clever psychological thriller about a missing child and the dangers of little lies. Durrant’s brilliance lies in her ability to evoke sympathy for her male lead, Paul.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – it’s not a spoiler to reveal that this is a tale of incest (we know within the first 20 pages, if not earlier) set in the American mid-West. It’s a subject matter many will find distasteful, but Engel writes beautifully and sensitively. This incredible work has shades of Rebecca and reminded me in tone and in the portrayal of small town America and its inhabitants of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects – a much stronger book than her more successful Gone Girl, in my humble opinion.

That’s it. My to-read tower remains in danger of toppling and with lots of wonderful books scheduled for 2018 – including one by my good friend, Kate Helm (I can’t wait!) – I only hope I have enough time to write!

Merry Christmas one and all – here’s to the New Year!

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Laura x

 

My favourite reads of 2015

As another year draws to a close, it’s traditional for me to post a list of my most memorable reads – books I’ve enjoyed most – over the past twelve months. This is a very personal list; I’m an author, not a professional critic, and my taste is eclectic. So much depends on mood, though like many readers there are those authors I return to time and time again. There’s one on this list and a couple of new authors I’ll definitely read again. In 2015 I read 35 books for pleasure (I read many more in my role as editor and mentor to developing writers) and here are my top ten, in no particular order!

Some of my favourite reads of 2015

Some of my favourite reads of 2015

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Moyes always hits the spot for me, and this was a delight from start to finish. Gorgeous.

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

A beautifully written, poignant debut about the myriad faces of grief. Moving.

Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller

Old but wonderful. Barbara is one of the saddest, most deliciously screwed-up protagonists I can think of. Incredible.

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

Alzheimer’s, love and family, covered with Coleman’s trademark warmth and insight. Tender.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Flynn’s debut about a hack returning to her small town home to cover child murders is stronger and nastier than her breakthrough novel, Gone Girl, IMHO. Disturbing.

Blackmoor by Edward Hogan

An exquisitely written story about a Derbyshire pit village, the damage the community wreaks on an Albino mother, her husband and boy and its  repercussions. Poignant.

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher

A YA novel about a young boy whose sister is killed by an act of terrorism. The novel is a few years old now but still so relevant. A book every child should read. Pertinent.

Saltwater by Lane Ashfeldt

A beautiful collection of short stories inspired by the sea. Dancing on Canvey and Catching the Tip-Tap to Cayes de Jacmel were stand-outs in a fabulous collection. Tangy.

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

A time-slip dual narrative set in a grand, cliff-top house in a fictional seaside resort (though obviously based on Brighton), this is a compelling mystery peopled with memorable characters and passages of utterly gorgeous prose. Reminiscent of Sarah Waters and Agatha Christie.

OK, so I cheated on the last book, using more than a one word summary, but, hey, it’s almost Christmas!

And on that note, I’ll finish by wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and here’s to a successful and happy 2016. Happy reading!

Laura x

 

Imposter syndrome

One of the more interesting responses to the Chris Bryant v James Blunt brouhaha comes from novelist Sarah Perry in the Independent. She argues, convincingly, that Blunt misunderstands the relationship between wealth and privilege and artistic success. You can read her article here.

I posted a link on Facebook and Twitter and had such interesting conversations I wanted to blog about it. You can read the dialogue here.

2015-01-21 15.30.22Like Perry, my origins are not discernible in my accent (I don’t have one, pretty much) and like her, I find publishing events ‘alarming’ and bluntly – pun intended – scary. My shadow self is terrified that I’m about to be found out – imposter in these posh circles that I am. My stepfather was a steel worker and a mechanic and my mother has held a variety of jobs, all low-paid and low-skilled, and I went to Manchester Metropolitan University, so like Perry, I’m never in danger of bumping into friends of the family in the industry I now work in.

However, I recognise how fortunate I have been. I’m tenacious – irritatingly so, some would say – I’ve worked hard, I have some talent (or so I’m told) and I have also had some luck. Without this, it unlikely that I would have ‘made it’ *hear me snorting*

Of course, the core of the debate surrounds funding for the arts and without such support there are voices that will simply go unheard. The same is true of further education. Over the past fortnight, I have spoken at events at the University of Hertfordshire and at Kingston University.  At both, the students were warm and receptive – an absolute pleasure to speak with. At Kingston, I appeared with author Sharon Zink, a fellow resident of Brighton, and it was reassuring to take to the lectern with someone I knew, because, guess what, I was very nervous. Imposter syndrome again.

During the Q & A, an audience member pointed out that neither of us had studied creative writing, that neither of us had an MA, nor a BA, in the discipline. (I’ve not got an MA in anything; Sharon has a PhD – she’s a clever clogs J) The observation wasn’t meant in a derogatory manner and it led to an interesting discussion on the value of degrees in creative writing, but it reminded me that once upon a time I had wanted to study for a creative writing MA, and guess what, I couldn’t afford it. Going to my parents for help wasn’t an option. Instead, and this is what I told our audience, I read everything I could about craft – books, articles, magazines, anything and everything. I continued to read voraciously and I wrote. A lot. And, as I’ve said, I got lucky. However, I know a couple of writers for whom an MA was invaluable, priceless, 100% necessary in building confidence as much as working on craft and without it, they doubt they would ever have had the confidence to submit work. And what a shame that would have been.

Life is unfair, no doubt. But I believe in equality of opportunity and believe that as an advanced, civilised society we must do everything within our power to at least attempt to level the playing field, in the arts, as in other areas of society. Diversity is enriching – for all.

Here endeth the rant.

A review of The Girl on the Pier – and some blathering

Girl on PierAs a rule, I don’t review here on my blog. Doing so would imply posturing as a critic, something more serious than the often casual, personal but considered, thoughts I leave on Amazon, Goodreads and Waterstones’ online presence. However, rules are meant to be broken, and regular visitors will note that I do review from time to time, and the observant amongst you will notice that such reviews tend to cover books by indie authors or those published by smaller houses; the theory being they might need more of a boost. So, today, I’ll talk briefly about a debut novel from acclaimed sports writer, Paul Tomkins, The Girl on the Pier.

I might never have met Paul or read his novel but for a confusion of Brighton addresses, and I am grateful for that minor administrative error. Let me explain. Alongside my fiction, I work as an editor/mentor for developing writers – freelance and for literary consultancy, Cornerstones. Paul hired Cornerstones to look at his novel but a mix up at Cornerstones HQ meant that I received the manuscript instead of another Brighton editor, Araminta Hall. As it happens Araminta is a friend of mine (and author of the best-selling Everything and Nothing and more recently, Dot). Anyway, I was working on another manuscript and had to pass on Paul’s, but the incident connected us. The novel’s intriguing and promising premise stayed with me, and I was delighted when, months later, I received a copy of the novel.

First off, it is an object of great beauty. Cleverly designed with high production values, it is a book to cherish. I have fetish-like tendencies when it comes to books and I love stroking this one – it even has flaps (ahem). So beautiful is it that it came as a surprise when I discovered it is self-published. I emailed Paul to find out the story behind his decision to go down the indie route because I knew there was agent interest in the book and because, bluntly, I’m nosy. But that’s a story for another post.  Possibly …

I rarely read self-published work, not unless it comes highly recommended or I know the author’s work from short-stories or other published work in reputable media. I know that there are some fantastic self-published books out there, but the harsh truth is that there is an awful lot of rubbish and life is too short to wade through the proverbial. This sentiment is shared by many and I might incur the wrath of many for saying this, but hey-ho, it’s only my opinion.

But, I will shout about The Girl on the Pier because it deserves to be heard above the noise (din?), because it is a work of serious intent, well-written and with a fabulous central conceit. Here’s my brief review, and if you’d like to buy the book there are links at the bottom.

Forensic artist Patrick is charged with the reconstruction of the skull of an unidentified girl found on Brighton’s famous West Pier in the 1970s. As he painstakingly reconstructs the girl’s face, memories of a childhood crush surface, blending with obsessive thoughts of a magical night spend on the pier with Black, a beautiful photographer, in the 1990s. An accident means that Patrick loses Black’s telephone number and is unable to trace her, yet he never forgets her or the incredible night they spent together. Abandoned as a boy by his parents and successive lovers, Patrick is an intelligent but damaged man, and as we follow the two mysteries, the lines between fact and personal fiction become increasingly blurred.

Reflective, atmospheric, and written in gorgeous prose The Girl on the Pier is a literary thriller about ghosts from the past, art, disappointment, obsessive love, and the slippery nature of memory. In Patrick, Tomkins has created a seductive and beguiling narrator, one so smooth it takes a while before you might begin to question his version of events. Set mostly in and around Brighton, the now destroyed pier is exquisitely evoked and the story is choc-a-block with intelligent insights. ‘The hardest thing in human existence is to accept that what’s done is done. Death is final. But so too are our actions, each and every last one of them. We can seek to alter the course of where the present is heading, and we can apologise, and try to put right that which we have got horribly wrong. But none of it can change what actually took place.’

It’s common in reviews, especially nowadays and by marketeers, to liken books to others, but I can’t do that with this novel because it isn’t quite like anything I’ve read before.  And this is a very good thing. Commonly, I lean towards faster-paced works but I really liked this book and it made me want to improve my own prose. And what I will say is that if you enjoy well written stories which require a little thought and leave you thinking, then you should enjoy The Girl on the Pier.

Buy the book on Amazon here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Girl-Pier-Paul-Tomkins/dp/1784621048

Find out more about Paul and his work here: www.paultomkins.com