the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

The String Games is released today!

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The journey to the release of my debut novel The String Games has included many pitfalls and high points. Today, I celebrate the support I have received along the way.

Thank you to my fellow students at the University of South Wales who offered support and advice through workshop sessions. Also to my supervisors who gave feedback and guidance which enabled me to submit The String Games alongside an academic thesis to receive the award of PhD.

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I’m grateful to Carol McGrath, Sue Stephenson and Denise Barnes for the wonderful feedback during memorable writing retreats in Port Isaac and other locations overseas.

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Dorset is a wonderful place to live and write. I’ve gained so much from supportive groups including Wimborne Writing led by Sarah Barr, the Vivo Gang, the RNA Dorset chapter and the Dorset Writers Network. Also thank you to the organisers of open mic nights including Apothecary.

For giving The String Games a good home, I’d like to thank all the lovely people who work for Victorina Press and also my fellow Victorina authors who celebrate diversity in publishing.

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A special mention for the authors who endorsed my novel Jacquelyn Mitchard, Nina Kilham, Elizabeth Reeder, and Sara Gethin.

Where would any author be without readers? The continued support of the Cerne Abbas Readers is much appreciated along with the amazing work of many wonderful book bloggers including Anne Williams and Jessie Cahalin.

I’ve loved being part of online communities including the Women Writers Network and thank everyone there.

I’ve grown in confidence and experience due to publication of my earlier work. Thanks to  Gill James at Chapeltown Books for publishing Paisley Shirt a collection of short fiction, and to Sophie-Louise Hyde at Wordsmith_HQ for publishing adversaries/comrades a poetry pamphlet.

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Lastly I must thank my supportive family who understand my need to write when I could be spending time with them.

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The String Games is released today and can be purchased online from Foyles, Waterstones and Victorina Press.

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The writing shoehorn: trying to fit it all in

I’m now four weeks into a full-time contract that lasts until 31 March 2013. I haven’t worked full-time for over 20 years and I’m more tired and grouchy than normal as a result. I’m working for the local authority, managing a service for schools, and although there is a lot of pressure, I’m not actually stressed. Something of the writer enables me to schedule activities into a reasonable timetable and put off until later those tasks that are not a priority.

I’m also pleased that I’m managing to keep writing.  I get up early each morning and write at least 500 words.  It means the pace is slower than usual in writing the first draft of a new novel but at least I’m moving forward.  This time I’m tackling a story about  first time mums.  My manuscript titled ‘Manipulation’ is again abandoned in a drawer.  When the feedback came from the reader with the Romantic Novelists’ Association, I gave up all hope of turning this into something marketable.  According to the report, the writing is definitely not of the romantic genre and I should think about turning it into a psychological thriller! I take the point,  I was never convinced it was a traditional romantic novel, but I’ve got no intention of doing any more work on it.  Tra-lah, I’ll have better luck with the new project, I hope.

The idea of running a competition was met with some enthusiasm.  I didn’t get the full ten comments but enough to think it’s worth doing.  I’ll get onto it when I have a minute!

Along with other activities, my home life is also changing at a pace with my daughter now away at university and my son enjoying his parents’ undivided attention.  Relationships are funny, the way everything shifts now that there are only three of us at home.  My husband has decided to cook most evenings to save me the trouble and  I’m now stuck doing the ironing. I had paid my daughter to do it for the last three years but my son is not so keen to accept the job.  Instead, he’s doing the wood-chopping – a very good job indeed, with the nights drawing in and the winter approaching.

Have you noticed your routines changing lately?

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New Writers’ Scheme

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I was at my desk during the early hours of 2 January to ensure that my email application for a place on the New Writers’ Scheme run by the Romantic Novelists’ Association was accepted. The scheme is oversubscribed every year, so now that I have my confirmation pack, I finally feel like a member. My task until the end of August is to redraft the manuscript of my first novel ready for assessment.

Manipulation has been languishing in a drawer while I’ve been occupied with other writing and it’s been reassuring to return to the characters I first created in 2009. (Further details of the story can be found under the ‘manuscripts’ tab.) I have much work to do as feedback from critical friends has identified weaknesses:

  • the language of the novel needs to be more adventurous
  • the characters and the romance require sympathetic attention
  • the location (Outback Australia) should be fully explored

When the RNA receive my manuscript, a reader will be appointed to review the entire work and it may be referred to a second reader, as a possible pathway to publication. However, it’s more likely that the work will be returned with suggestions for further improvements. Should this happen, Katie Fforde, President of the RNA, advises against feeling downcast for too long and to make the most of the guidance offered. She says, ‘a rule of thumb is, if your reader thinks something needs changing it probably does’.

Criticism is sometimes hard to accept and tenacity is required to remain focused and confident that you have the skills to improve the work to a publishable standard. Gruelling though it may be, critical reviews often provide the right advice to move your writing onto the next level. If you’re interested in receiving support for a novel that you’re working on, (it doesn’t have to be romance, as with the RNA scheme) it may be worth entering the Adventures in Fiction competition where the winner of the Spotlight First Page will be offered a mentoring package and other input and support. You’ll have to be quick as the deadline is 14 February 2012 and the cost is £16.

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