Monday, 8 August 2016

8 Tips for Writing in Cafés

It's the summer holidays, and while my children are no longer at that age where they expect to be entertained every minute of the day, there is that expectation that mum will be the one driving them to where they expect to be entertained every minute of the day. Which is how I found myself working from a café for two mornings last week, instead of my nice snug study.

It certainly brought back memories. When the children were younger I would regularly take them to one of those indoor play centres. They would go crazy sliding through twisty plastic tunnels and getting lost in ball pits, and I'd drink lots of coffee and write. Much of Breathless was written this way - but it did help that I'm the kind of person who can screen out background noise as I work!

But even I was surprised at how much I managed to achieve last week. I'm not sure if it was the coffee, a different environment or just being away from the Internet - probably the latter! So if you feel the need to get away for a few hours, just to write, here are my tips:

(1) Choose a café where you are already known, or one that's part of a large chain where you'll blend in with everyone else.

(2) Go during a quiet time so you're not seat hogging, and sit in a quiet area so you're less likely to be disturbed or asked if you're writing a book - although this is a good opportunity to hone your elevator pitch!

(3) Order plenty of drinks to keep the staff happy enough that they won't turf you out, but don't go mad because it'll get expensive. Preferably, use a café that has a loyalty card scheme - after a few visits you'll get a free drink!

(4) Sit facing the room unless you want people reading your draft sex scenes over your shoulder. There's no greater temptation than an open laptop. 

(5) If you're the kind of person who can't write in a noisy environment, try revising or proof-reading instead. In the old days I used to cart around a huge A4 lever arch file with my manuscript in it, now I copy my work onto a Kindle. Alternatively, just print out a few chapters.

(6) Consider using a (shock horror) notebook and pen. A notebook doesn't need charging, you don't have to worry about it being damaged and it's far more portable. But take more than one pen, in case it runs out, and ensure that it's comfortable to write with.

(7) Don't expect to write perfect prose. In fact, don't expect to write anything at all. Start off writing notes, like a long synopsis. With any luck you'll find the notes will get longer and turn into snatches of dialogue or description and then whole scenes. Before you know it, you'll have drafted an entire chapter.

(8) But if you find writing fiction in a café doesn't work for you, try something else - outline a new story, or write a blog post or article instead.

And if all else fails, get out your camera. You never know when all those Instagrammed coffee shots are going to come in handy ...

Related Posts:

A Room of One's Own
Getting Noted
My Writing Process
Seeking Inspiration
Where I Write (written for Novelistas Ink)

Never miss a post! See that little box in the left-hand column, near the top, that says 'Follow by Email'? If you add your email address, you'll receive my latest blog post almost as soon as I've written it.

Monday, 25 July 2016

5 Random Things From My Desk

For this week's blog post I thought I'd write something completely different.    

I should be writing my new novel but yesterday afternoon I ended up tidying my desk instead (expert procrastinator, remember?) and, along with a forgotten bar of chocolate (still within sell-by date: yay!), I found a selection of random objects that to anyone else might seem totally weird.

Reno from Final Fantasy

I won Reno in a competition organised by one of my favourite authors, Anne Stuart. Anne used Reno as inspiration for one of her own characters in a book called Fire and Ice. She's blogged about it here. He usually sits on my tub of paperclips. I love him.

I've also got a Ninja Minion, a glow-in-the-dark polar bear and a large pink frog wearing a crown, but we won't go into that.

Hotel Business Card

This is an advert for the Waterton Park Hotel, where my husband stayed about a year or so ago. He had the  idea the photo would appeal to me because it's of a Palladian house built on an island in the middle of a lake, and he thought I might want to put it in one of my books! It was one of those really strange coincidences because he was unaware I'd just created a similar house (Hartfell) in Trust Me Lie - although in my book the house is a very modern one.

Postcard of Marilyn Monroe

I found this old postcard when I was sorting through some old photographs. It was sent to me over 30 years ago by my school-friend Tracey. She had recently moved away and would write to me every week with a Marilyn Monroe postcard - one of my favourite actresses. I kept all the postcards but this one somehow came adrift from the others and now sits on my desk.

Packet of Forget-Me-Not Seeds

If my friend Sophie Claire is reading this, she will not be pleased with me! These seeds were part of a goody bag from the launch of her book, My Forget-Me-Not Ex. Part of the goody bag included a cute little terracotta pot to plant them in, so I had no excuse not to do so.

Sorry, Sophie! I'll sow them soon, honest!

The English Housewife in the Seventeenth Century
by Christina Hole (1953)

I have lots of modern paperbacks piled up on my desk but this is a book picked up on my most recent trip to a second-hand book fair. I love second-hand book fairs, particularly the really old books with interesting inscriptions and pretty bindings.

But I bought this book because I love history but I don't know much about the seventeenth century other than the events of the Civil War. Here's an extract:

"Cottage women could not afford many candles, and for all ordinary purposes they relied upon rushlights which they made themselves ... The rushes grew wild in the water-meadows and under hedges, and the grease in which they were coated came from the scourings of the frying pan and the cooking pot. They were gathered in summer while they were green and kept in water until the housewife was ready to make the lights. Then the green rind was peeled off, leaving a narrow strip along one side. The next step was  to bleach the reeds by putting them out of doors for two or three nights and letting them soak in the dew, and afterwards they were dried in the sun. Then they were laid in long iron pans filled with melted grease, and when they were thoroughly coated and dried, they were hung in bark containers on the wall."

All that trouble to go to when you consider all we do now is reach out and click on an electric light!

Now, what weird and wonderful things are lurking on your desk?

My desk: The tidy version
(for the untidy version you need to click here)

Related Posts

Where I Write (for Novelistas Ink)

Never miss a post! See that little box in the left-hand column, near the top, that says 'Follow by Email'? If you add your email address, you'll receive my latest blog post almost as soon as I've written it.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Trust Me I Lie (or, the true confessions of a writer on social media ... )

I've never been great at lying. If you're worried that your bum looks big in whatever you're wearing, I'm not the person to ask for an opinion. I'm also a blurter, so I've probably let you know before you've even thought to ask. Or, as my husband puts it, 'Louise, you have the subtlety of a breeze block'. It's one of the reasons I prefer the written word. I can go back and check how many times I've put my foot in it before I hit send/post.

Not me, obviously
(I need to have a nice photo here to illustrate
the post when it's auto-shared on social media)

But being a writer means I get to lie for a living. All those characters and events in my books? Totally made up. (You probably guessed that, right?) What a great life I have, drifting around in my pyjamas, drinking endless cups of coffee (actually, it's decaff), waiting for the muse to strike - when I'm not down the pub with my mates celebrating the launch of another book ... 

Me with Novelista Trisha Ashley
Yeah, right. 

Don't believe everything you read on social media, particularly anything tagged #amwriting. Because, obviously, I can't be writing if I'm on Twitter. And if I do have a writing day planned, just putting #amwriting in my status is enough to put a curse on it. I'll have some kind of domestic disaster and, instead of actually writing, I'll be lying in a foamy puddle trying to unblock my washing machine. Or one of my children will get sick (and then we'll all get sick), or something important will drop off my car and I'll have to get it fixed.

My real writing life is opening my laptop at 7.00 am (or earlier) and thinking 'I'm sure I was only here a couple of hours ago', and I probably was if I was on a deadline. My real writing life is having my laptop crash three times while I'm trying to do an essential update to my website. My real writing life is struggling with the tenth rewrite of the chapter-from-hell when I have the kind of migraine that I could quite cheerfully drive a stake through my head if I thought it would help. 

My not-quite-so-real writing life is smugly announcing on Facebook that I've written over 10,000 words that day and isn't that brilliant? Of course it is, I usually only manage 1,000 a day if I'm luckyBut some poor would-be writer will see that update and think I'm writing that amount every day. The same would-be writer who sees a photo of me at a book launch and thinks what a wonderful, glamorous life writers lead. (See puddle story). 

What else do I lie about? Well, there's my bio for a start. I used to have a beautiful view of Snowdon (famous Welsh mountain) from my window - but then we moved house eighteen months ago and now I have a beautiful view of the village bus stop instead. Doesn't have quite the same ring, does it? Although I can probably still see Snowdon if I go into my bedroom, stand on my dressing table and lean out of the window.

Beautiful view of Snowdon!
(one of those blue smudges ... )
Then there is the photo of my desk, which accompanies all those 'Where I Write' blog posts. All nicely tidied ...

Here's what it actually looks like right now (it usually looks worse). But I did dust first - I don't want you thinking I'm a total slob.

And then there's the photo of me, with make-up, looking all glamorous with my hair straightened to an inch of its life by a professional hairdresser. (When I try it, I just burn my fingers).

And here's how I look the rest of the time (taken yesterday on the webcam).

Yes, I really do look that harassed. And this is the first time I've used the webcam, hence the pained expression. And I hate having my photo taken.

So there you go, I'm a writer on social media.

Trust me, I lie.

Related Posts:

Trust Me I Lie is also the title of my latest book (see what I did there?)

When Milla Graham arrives in the picture-perfect village of Buckley, she tells everyone she’s investigating the murder of her mother who died eighteen years ago. But there’s already one Milla Graham buried in the churchyard and another about to be found dead in the derelict family mansion.

Obviously she’s lying.

Detective Inspector Ben Taylor has no life outside the police force. Even his own colleagues think he’s a boring stick-in-the-mud. But now he’s met Milla and his safe, comfortable life has been turned upside down. She’s crashed his car, emptied his wallet and is about to get him fired.

He knows she’s a liar because she cheerfully told him so.

Unless she’s lying about that too …

Never miss a post! See that little box in the left-hand column, near the top, that says 'Follow by Email'? If you add your email address, you'll receive my latest blog post almost as soon as I've written it.

Photo credits: Girl with fingers crossed: Shutterstock