Monthly Archives: April 2021

#WritingTips: useful to my career have been:

I was once close behind my children when we were about to cross the road. The little one took the big one’s hand and said, ‘Let’s close our eyes and cross our fingers and hope there are no cars coming.’ That is not the road safety I’d taught them! But for some reason he forgot good sense and tried to wish his way to achieving his aim (getting to the park). I’ve never found wishing furthered my aim of having a career as an author, so I thought I’d pass on a few thoughts on what has been more useful.

Learning to touch-type. From experience in workshops and talks, this isn’t a popular tip. Learning to touch-type can be time-consuming and uninteresting and who needs it? Look down at the keyboard and when you press a letter, it appears on the screen. That’s true. That method may serve many authors perfectly well. However, I liken touch-typing to driving. Once you can do it accurately and without thinking about what you’re doing, without looking at the controls but just knowing where they are and how to command them, life is easier and less stressful. Touch typing is usually the fastest way to get words down, too.

Having a partner with a steady salary. OK, that’s facetious because many households need two or more salaries to survive. What it might be better to say is that having a supportive partner helped a lot. He did have a steady salary while mine flipped about but, mainly, he never suggested I get ‘a proper job’ instead of writing. My income’s much better now and this is no longer ‘a thing’ … but it used to be a big thing.

Learning about publishing as well as learning about writing. I think learning about publishing helped me understand the reality of what I was trying to achieve. Agents and publishers genuinely have only a certain capacity and there are a lot of authors vying for the available room on their lists. The more I understand how publishing works, the better I work with my publishers. Publishing is a business so there are always newsletters and articles for me to learn from. And, though my next release Under the Italian Sun will be my tenth book with Avon, I’ve even learned from their lockdown show, too.

Trusting my instincts. If I have a nasty feeling that I could have written this better or research that more thoroughly, then it’s true. I need to face the fact that more work’s needed. The less trouble I take, the less success I’m likely to get. Trusting my instincts extends to professional relationships, too. If I get the feeling there’s an issue then I always ask about it. A direct question and a willingness to be part of the solution helps a lot more than the closed eyes and crossed fingers I mentioned above.

The harder I work the luckier I get. This sentiment is sometimes attributed to Henry Ford when told he was ‘lucky’ to have achieved what he had. It’s also attributed to Mark Twain. I don’t know who said it first but it’s pretty much the credo I live by because hard work is more useful to me than luck. And I can’t touch-type with my fingers crossed.

Click to preorder Under the Italian Sun

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#BookMatters and old pressed flowers

Book matters

Do you have books that have a special place in your heart?

Maybe from your childhood?

I remember those Mum read to me featuring Noddy or Brer Rabbit or the standard stories about Cinderella or The Ugly Duckling. But I also remember my dad’s set of encyclopaedias – The Book of Knowledge.

Image: stack of leather-bound encyclopaedias.
The Book of Knowledge collection

He bought them before I was born and when Mum downsized after we lost him I found room for them on my own shelves, where they still sit. The set consists of eight encyclopaedias and a massive dictionary. This was my working dictionary for many years, before the dictionary built in to my word processing programs became detailed enough for me. The pages on all of these volumes are as thin as skin on old hands and have become creased and foxed over the years. The covers are cool, silky leather and the gilt lettering is easily legible. I expect that some of the information has been superseded by new discoveries and later amendments but there’s still something magical about those colour plates and the sheer breadth of information on these pages.

There are dry-looking articles.

Image: standard black and white article
Standard black-and-white article

But also illustrated poems or ‘colour plates’ that glow with life.

Image: illustrated rendition of The Ancient Mariner.
Illustrated rendition of ‘The Ancient Mariner’

And there are a few pressed flowers among the pages, which I put there when I was a kid. There are also little heaps of dust that’s all that’s left of some! I guess that at some time in the intervening decades I ought to have found another way to preserve them.

I wonder whose wedding I wore this buttonhole for?

Image of dried buttonhole from wedding within the pages of the book.

With the internet at my fingertips on my computer, phone and tablet I never refer to these books now but I still like to keep them as a memory of Dad and of the little girl who used to sit with him to turn the pages (while he had one eye on the cricket on TV).

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