the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

Cracking on with the writing

Ever since I received a publishing contract for my dual timeline mystery The Secret Life of Carolyn Russell, I’ve been slaving over a new manuscript. It seemed completely do-able to get this latest work-in-progress shipshape before the publication schedule for book number three arrives in 2023. In October, I had nothing near a complete draft. It seems to me I approach each new novel in a different way. For the current work, I kept losing the thread of what I was doing which made me turn back to the beginning and start again. During the early months, I wasn’t sure what the spine of the story was about. But I worked my way into it and discovered one of the themes to be coercive control. Phew! That was a relief. But writing has many layers and the next priority was to ensure the three viewpoint characters had distinct voices. This is when a little comedy crept in and I discovered one of the characters to be quite humorous. (As a rule of thumb, if the writing makes me chuckle, I assume others will find it funny too.)

I’ve worked as hard as I can to complete and edit the manuscript. The next stage involves sending it to five beta readers for feedback. During my last read through, I discovered I’d used the word with 655 times. That meant I needed to get the pruning sheers out and reduce the usage considerably. Other of my high frequency words include all, now and only. Thank goodness for the find and replace function.

I’m now settling into a few days away from writing. It’s my husband’s birthday today and with my adult children home for Christmas, we visited the I Grew Up in the 80s exhibition at Dorset Museum. We also treated ourselves to breakfast in the cafe. Here are a couple of photos:

Who remembers these? (The visit also acts as research for a story I’m developing set in the 1980s.)

I will be away from my computer for much the Christmas break. On 2 January, I’m heading off to Cambodia but I’ll be back in touch again afterwards. What plans do you have for the next few weeks?

Happy holidays everyone!

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Navigating Technology as a Writer

I received an email recently enquiring about my skills at navigating technology as a writer. I was invited to share my favourite hacks and short cuts in using Microsoft Word. In answer to the question what’s your best technology tip? I recommend use of the read aloud function. I use a MacBook Air and it’s easy to set up this facility following these easy instructions. You can even choose the gender of your computer-generated voice. For Microsoft support click here.

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How to win a publishing contract

For anyone on Twitter, you may have come across online pitching events that encourage writers to compose a tweet using 280 characters to get their story under the eyes of literary agents and publishers. If the tweet is ‘liked’ there’s an opportunity to submit a query letter, synopsis of the work and the first three chapters for consideration. It’s a good way to bypass the slush pile and I’ve attracted some interest by honing my elevator pitch to the size of a tweet. In previous twitter pitches I’ve used the following to describe my latest novel (the words in capitals suggest comparable titles):

THE WIDOW x HIGH FIDELITY

Menopausal journalist rediscovers her mojo by developing a true crime podcast about a missing West Country teenager in 1979. The dual timeline reveals the girl’s story of infatuation and exploitation with an unforgettable twist. 

Earlier this year, I saw another twitter pitch advertised by Bloodhound Books, a leading independent publisher based in Cambridge.

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A few developments in my writing life

I’m now getting back into a regular writing routine after a happy and very sociable summer. The winner of the Dorchester Literary Festival Writing Prize was announced at a launch event on Tuesday and my congratulations go to Tess Burnett for her novel The Hanging of Hettie Gale. Tess wasn’t able to attend the prize giving but alongside the other shortlisted writer, Philip Beale, I hobnobbed with celebrated Dorset writers Tracy Chevalier and Minnette Walters. On hand to announce the winner was Kate Adie. Here’s a photo of me with co-director Paul Atterbury – you might recognise him from the Antiques Roadshow.

I’ve just be told that an interview I did with 10Radio back in March has been uploaded to SoundCloud. If you’d like to tune in and hear me chatting with Suzie Grogan about all things connected with writing This Much Huxley Knows, here’s the link.

Meanwhile, the publisher of my debut novel, Victorina Press, has been busy producing new graphics to market The String Games. I liked them so much, I thought I’d share them with you here:

That’s all my news for the minute. I look forward to catching up with you again soon.

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Sweltering season in London

After leaving the cooler climes of Edinburgh over a week ago, we’ve since done a quick flit to Dorchester to check our house is ready for holiday letting over the summer. There was a lot of weeding to do, we discovered a swarm of bees had taken up residence in a bush and we’d completely run out of toilet rolls. Thankfully we were able to rectify everything and there followed a detour to visit family. Now, we’re now back in our old stomping ground of New Malden in South London and it’s rather hot here (although a nice change from wearing three layers and a pair of boots).

As some of you may be taking a holiday over the coming months, it’s timely to mention a promotion Victorina Press are offering during the month of July. You can purchase many of their books with a 50% discount. Everyone knows you can’t hit the beach without a book, so how about grabbing in copy of The String Games? With the setting of a campsite in France, it’s an ideal choice.

Photo: Victorina Press

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Busy bees

June has been packed with activities! As we only have a fortnight left until we leave for London, we’re trying to make the most of our remaining time in Edinburgh. My son visited last week and we went on a couple of outings which involved obligatory photos:

A view of Arthur’s Seat from Blackford Hill
Jonny and David in Circus Lane, Stockbridge
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At a loose end around 10:30am today (BST)?

Why not tune into Suzie Grogan’s Talking Books radio show on 10Radio (or use your usual world steaming service) to find me giving away the inside story on writing This Much Huxley Knows and much more. Alternatively, if you’d prefer a breath of Scottish air, here are some photos from our walk in the Pentland Hills (south west of Edinburgh) yesterday.

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First week in Edinburgh

We’re tuning into city vibes and finding life in Stockbridge very agreeable. We’ve stayed in the one-bedroomed flat many times before and like the locality. Step outside the front door and to the right is Raeburn Place with its many independent shop, cafes and restaurants. Turn left and there’s the Water of Leith Walkway which goes down to the sea at Leith and inland towards the Pentland Hills. We’ve discovered a route where the Water of Leith passes under the Union Canal at Slateford Aqueduct which makes a great circular walk. There’s also the chance to go along wider footpaths which were once railway or tram tracks. We followed one to reach the Colinton Tunnel where there’s a fabulous community project to decorate the tunnel with murals.

Volunteers have illustrated the words of Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem From a Railway Carriage which describes a child’s first journey by train. Here’s an image of the exit to the tunnel.

I was on special look out while walking to the tunnel for a spot where it’s possible to go wild swimming. Although most of the Water of Leith is shallow, here’s an area of deeper water. Who knows – I might don my costume one day for a dip.

There’s a great stopping off point too, at Saughton Park where the cafe serves the best breakfast rolls I’ve come across.

And I mustn’t forget a shout out for the Edinburgh Botanic which we’ve visited once already and we’re looking forward to popping back regularly to watch the plants bloom as the season warms up.

There’s not much to report on the writing submission front although I’m still joining Writers’ Hour each weekday morning at eight o’clock. It’s one way to keep the new novel barrelling along.

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On the road

Me and David are heading off to spend time on the road. It’s hard planning which clothes to take given the weather will be variable. We’re going to Edinburgh first, then London, then Spain, Portugal and Greece. Although I’ve decide to abandon my fleecy coat, I will take my electric blanket which I’ll use while we’re in the UK. Oh, and I’ve packed lots of outfits which involve layers.

I’ll continue writing while we’re away. My work in progress – now titled The Escape Village Resort – is developing well. I’ve fine tuned the elevator pitch to 280-characters – the length of a tweet – to aid online querying. Which version do you prefer?

ABIGAIL’S PARTY x THE SERPENT (This relates to comparable TV programmes)

Six mismatched millennials live it up at a tropical resort: one couple are honeymooners, another get married, the third approach the seven-year itch. A storm threatens. Who’s to blame when one of the women goes missing? 

FOLEY x LOGAN (This relates to comparable authors, Lucy Foley, author of The Hunting Party and T M Logan, author of The Holiday which was recently televised on Channel 5)

Three mismatched couples live it up at a remote island resort. Amongst the group are a flirt, a bully and a show off. During the shenanigans coercive control rules. The temperature rises, storms threaten. Who survives the tropical party? 

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Graphic to illustrate a manuscript

From a post by The Supercargo about header images, my friend and fellow writer John Nixon at Pens Around the World has inspired me to play around with pictures to illustrate my manuscript The Girl and the Tutor. It’s the story of a girl who never grows up due to an early obsession with her maths tutor and here’s what I produced:

I’ll refrain from going into the whole plot but suffice to say I chose a copyright free image of a prefect from Unsplash and another of a tutor from Pixabay. In Canva, I was able to select the heart-splattered background and the leaf image to finish the job. What do you think?

Interestingly, there’s a pitch party launching in April called moodpitch. This is where authors get a chance to write a tweet-length pitch (280-characters) for their novel in the hope of attracting interest from agents and publishers. At this pitch party, there’s also an expectation that the tweet will include a moodboard. Looks like I’m all set to go!

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