Monday, 15 September 2014

Prologues - hmmm

Personally,I loathe prologues. I never read them, unless I'm beta reading or critiquing, and then my advice is to get rid of it.

Anyway, if you are thinking of putting a prologue into your novel, check out these links below - I've tried to be unbiased (and probably not succeeded), but these explain the issues with prologues much better than I ever could.

Foremost Press  -
Kristen Lamb's Blog -
Book Riot  -
Pretentious Title -

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The problems with blurb

     I've been scrolling through a whole host of books, trying to find a selection to download to read on the beach. I don't normally do this quite so intensively, usually stopping after I find a novel I like the sound of, but this time I wanted at least ten new novels on my Nook. And after reading blurb, after blurb, after blurb, I know what I don't like.These are the things that put me off buying:
  • Spelling - if there are spelling mistakes or glaring grammatical errors on the back of a book, what on earth is the inside going to be like?
  • Please use capital letters eg: gemm - a troupers tale. There was no capital letters anywhere in this extensive blurb (I only lifted one sentence, just to give you a flavour), but well done on the full stop...
  • Giving it all away. Here's an example: Claire goes back to her home town after many years of being away. She finds a job and  a place in the community, and discovers the love of her life. So, tell me - why should I buy this book? The author has told me the whole story in two short sentences.
  • Giving nothing away - all the information we get is something like... another best seller from XXXX. That may be okay if the author is well known, like Stephen King, for instance (I may buy it because of who the author is), but normally I like to know what a book is about before I start to read. And if the author is unknown to me, there's no way I would buy a book without some hint of its contents.
  • Ridiculous claims (see the point above) - another best seller from XXXX- when this was only the author's second novel, and the first had iffy reviews.
  • Telling the reader how wonderful the book is eg: Exciting sci-fi novel! or 'Packed with action, adventure and romance! I'll decide for myself whether it was exciting or not, thank you!
  • If you like Fifty Shades of Grey, then you'll love this! Claims like this, especially for a new or relatively unknown author, are dangerous. The author is comparing their work to a very well known novel - that's a big expectation to give a reader, and woe betide the author if their novel doesn't deliver.
  • Superfluous information, eg: This is the first novel that I wrote. I don't need to read this in the blurb, although 'd├ębut novel' may be okay. I also don't want any other information about the author in the blurb - for instance, I wrote this book as a way to explore XXXX. And I don't want to read They are related but they don't find out about it until chapter 10, either!
  • Too simplistic - Everything is bad. Then everything changes. Seriously, I haven't made this up, this is actually taken from a real life blurb.
  • In the fictional town of XXXX  - I get it, it's fiction, I know that, there's no need to tell me. That's the point of fiction - it's made up. I want to believe that it's true for the short time I'm in the story, so there's no need for the author to tell me in the blurb that he/she made it up The author may as well say: 'In the fictional ton of XXX, a fictional woman is attacked by a fictional zombie... See what I mean?
        These are some of things I came across recently that put me off when choosing a book, and I intend to apply all these don'ts when writing blurb for my own work. All I've got to do now, is to work out the dos. Easier said than done, methinks!

Thursday, 28 August 2014


    Why haven't I come across this before? It's brilliant! For all you authors out there who haven't heard of it, you must check it out (and no, I'm not on commission). There's a free version, which I'm using, though I might well get the paid version at a later date.
    I'm so pleased I've found a site - and I'm sure there are many others out there - where my work can be critiqued as I go along. I don't expect betas to do that: they are there for the mostly polished finished product. But to have someone, or several someones, who are all writers, give me the benefit of their opinion and expertise, chapter by chapter, is wonderful! Hopefully this should make for better and cleaner writing.

 Here's the link, if anyone wants to check it out:

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Not really a girl.

     Yes, I was born female, and yes, I still am. My husband definitely says I'm female, and mutters something about being moody, unpredictable, nagging etc.

     But I'm not really a girly girl. I style my hair in the morning and then forget to look in the mirror for the rest of the day to check it's not all over the place. I put lipstick on before I go out, but by the time I get to the end of the street I've licked it all off - and it never occurs to me to reapply it. And I'm not that bothered about clothes shopping, although there is a certain something about shoes..., but best if I don't go there.

      I've had my moments, though. For instance there was the time when my daughter and I decided to have a pampering session. I was talked into having false eyelashes; you know, the ones that are stuck on in little clumps and can last for a couple of weeks? Not on me they didn't! For a start I looked like a startled llama, and by the end of day three I looked like a started llama with alopecia as the clumps began to fall out. Then there's the false nails fiasco. I'm so unused to them that I can't do anything: typing becomes seriously interesting, as does taking out contact lenses. So eventually I end up nibbling them off, leaving a tattered mess on the end of my fingers. Oh, and let's don't forget the fake tan effort - I looked like a side of streaky bacon.

     Then there's dirt. I seem to attract it. Take yesterday - fresh from a shower I decided it would be a good idea to check the oil on my car. The grease went everywhere. I even had to change my socks.I really don't know how I do it!

The whole reason for this winge came about after a visit to get my eyebrows tinted. I'm blonde - they are not. Nuff said.

Friday, 8 August 2014

A British seaside

A day at a British beach is unlike any other. For one thing, we rarely see a day warm enough to sunbathe, so when it does happen we head to the seaside in droves. This means queueing for hours on the roads leading to the coast, and driving aimlessly in circles trying to find a parking space once you get to your chosen destination.
But once you arrive, there is something so 'British' about the whole experience. Buckets and spades, melting ice-creams, giant inflatables that the wind blows across the sand. Rock pooling (this requires the purchase of a net),

a flask of tea, and sand in your sandwiches are all part of the day, as is the hiring of deckchairs (not sun-loungers like you get on Mediterranean beaches) and windbreaks. The smell of fish and chips mixes with the fresh sea smell (ozone and seaweed), and bugers, candyfloss and donuts.
Then there are the various entertainments - the pier, with its arcade games, the rides, and let's don't forget the donkey rides, fifty feet down the beach on a patient donkey - my three-year-old first taste of being on the back of any equine. I was hooked.
We have wild and beautiful beaches in the UK, unspoilt and remote, but there is something special about a tourist beach in Britain, evoking memories of my childhood. My only regret is that I'm too old for a donkey ride!

Friday, 1 August 2014

alpha, beta, etc

This is so good, I simply had to post it as many places as I could. describes the difference between alpha and beta readers perfectly (and you must admit, when many of us ask for betas we really would like alphas...)

If you want to read more from this blog, here's the link:

Alpha Readers vs Beta Readers

Alternately titled, “Your First Draft Sucks, Please Stop Foisting It On People.”
First Draft
Your first draft sucks.
Note that I didn’t say “may” suck or even “probably” sucks … it does.
There are varying degrees of suckitude, mainly involving how much practice you’ve had editing your own writing, but in general and in specific, first drafts suck.
On the bright side, they are SUPPOSED to suck.
I don’t mean they “can” or that it’s totally understandable if they “do” — they are “supposed to”.
Your first draft is a flurry of left turns, discoveries, boring bits, madcap madness, and premeditated plot all whizzed together in a magimix and spat back out on the page.
Your first draft is your way of getting to know your story, and even die-hard outliners like myself know that your story and your characters will surprise you along the way.
PLEASE Won’t You Read My Story? Insert Disney Eyes Here
That being said, please stop foisting your first draft on folks, begging your friends and family to read this untamed smoothie of a story.
I get it.
I really, really do. You want validation. You want someone to tell you that the time you just spent was WORTH it. That the words you wrote are good, and fun, and entertaining, and have the desired effect.
I feel for you, my heart aches for you … and I do not want to read your first draft. Even if I am your alpha reader, I want to read your SECOND draft.
Alpha Readers
Alpha readers are the ones who go in first. Typically, you owe them favors the size of Texas, and they owe you the same ones. Alpha readers are the folks who will read your stuff multiple times and who give you crits … and in almost every case, you do the exact same for them.
If you have alpha readers, folks, LOVE them. Tell them how much you appreciate the HOURS and HOURS of time they spend on YOUR writing. Spend the same amount of time on THEIR writing. (Bre, Steve, Steven? I love you.)
Do not waste your alpha readers’ time.
I’m going to say it again, in all caps.
If you hand me a manuscript to read and I have to draw myself little maps to keep track of what’s happening because you haven’t quite stitched together scene three, or you had a great new idea in scene 7 that you dumped in scene 10. THEN, when I hand over a list of critiques, your response is, “I know! I just haven’t had time to fix those yet!” I might set you on fire with my mind.
Just so you know.
Alpha readers get your SECOND draft. The one that turns the glorious, creative mess of your first draft into a recognizable story and that fixes all the things you already know are wrong.
Beta Readers
Beta readers get your “polished” draft.
You may go multiple rounds with your alphas, making changes, tweaking things, deciding what needs to go and what needs to stay, and does the phrasing here really work, and is “taxidermied” really a word or not?
Your beta readers get the book you’re pretty sure is ready for you to hand off to an agent or publisher. You know there will be further edits down the line, but THIS book is good. It’s not perfect, but it’s good, and you need some FRESH eyes on it — people who never read version 2, where you killed off the main character’s best friend in scene 32, or version 3, where space aliens landed and kidnapped the main character’s pet beagle as part of a sub-plot.
Beta readers come in when you and your alphas can’t find anything else wrong. Beta readers are READERS more than they are critiquers (though if you’re lucky, your beta readers know enough to point out flaws you couldn’t see). They’re your test group.
Beta readers may only read your manuscript once. (You will be expected to read their manuscript once as well, if they have them.)
The first time someone reads your manuscript is a magical thing. Much like unicorns, in fact. In small doses, unicorns are delightful, delicate, glorious beings of majesty and light. In large doses, they trample your garden and eat all your carrots and poo all over the back yard, and you keep waking to find your eyes caked shut with glitter.
Love your beta readers. Don’t be an unwelcome guest in their gardens. (Shout out to the folks at the Saucy Ink writer’s club!)
Tami Is a Big-Ol Meanie-Pants
This may sound harsh. In fact, it probably does.
Especially as a fledgling writer, you may need some extra hand-holding to get you through. Writing is awfully lonely business, and waiting MONTHS to share something that’s “finished” is painful. If you’re that new and that delicate, find other new and delicate writers to hold your hand, and grow together. Writers growing together is a beautiful thing.
However, if you don’t have time to fix the things you know are wrong with your story OR if you don’t love your story (YOUR STORY, not your manuscript) enough to polish it up?
Then I don’t have time to read it. Period.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Laughing my socks off

I'm not letting my husband read The Times again; it gives him ideas. Yesterday started off as normal, when he turned to the culture pages, looked at the Sunday Times best sellers lists, stabbed a finger at the fiction lists and quipped, 'Just checking out the competition.'

But yesterday he got a bit excited. 'Look, look! You could enter this. £30,000 first prize.' I reckon his head has been turned by the idea of all that cash, because what he was referring to was the 2015 Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award.

That's the equivalent of me entering the Tour de France based on a quick ride round the block on my nephew's chopper - with stabilisers still on.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, though...