Tuesday 25 June 2013

How do you read?


Recently I realised that I’ve changed how I read. I’m currently reading:
  • A paperback novel: Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
  • Several novels on my Kindle
  • Research books for The Painting
  • A how-to book on writing
I don’t seem to be able to read one book at a time anymore. Some of this has to do with being a writer, but current lifestyle is also probably a factor.
When I was a child, everyone in my family would watch the same programme on television. There were only three channels until Channel 4 arrived in 1982. I remember the day well; the first programme was Countdown and getting a new channel was so exciting. There was no remote control then, so we’d watch one programme from beginning to end, including the adverts. Now if a programme doesn’t grab our attention within minutes, it’s easy to upgrade to something better. It’s the same with music. With records and cassettes we were more likely to listen to an album the whole way through. Now with CDs and MP3 players, it’s possible to switch songs in a second.
The increase in use of computers, tablets and smartphones also means our attention is rarely focussed on one thing for long.
When I read an e-book, I find myself flicking to others on the list I’ve downloaded. Sometimes I can’t wait to start a book I’ve heard about on Twitter or read about in a magazine/newspaper etc. Last month I decided to focus on one book at a time for a while and read two paperbacks from beginning to end: Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris and Waiting for Sunrise by William Boyd. I found it easier to get lost in the world of these books this way.

I tend to stick with one book on holiday when my mind is clear and I'm away from technology. I’ve already started to download books in anticipation of this year’s summer holiday. I’ll be flying with a Kindle for the first time, so [hopefully] my suitcase won’t get one of those Heavy stickers at the check-in desk like it usually does!
Do you find it easy to read one book at a time?
More on e-books:

Saturday 15 June 2013

How do you keep track of research?

Recently I’ve been working on Book 2, The Painting for my submission to the RNA’s New Writers’ Scheme, which needs to be sent in by the end of August.

Occasionally I stop writing/ editing because I need to reach into that mountain of research taking up too much space and find out a detail such as:
What did a dining room look like in the eighteenth century? Today I found out that dining rooms in country houses tended to have paintings of hunting scenes on the wall, whilst special paintings by Van Dyck for example were hung in the drawing room.

How do you keep track of all this information and where it came from?

I have a spreadsheet for the Bibliography, which mentions the book/article etc and includes notes relating to what it can be used for. After losing track of books etc read for Book 1 and having to locate them in various corners of the house, I won’t make that mistake again. (More on spreadsheets: How useful are outlines?)

Creating a board in Pinterest for a novel is useful for collecting information. I have one for Book 1, The Grandson but I don’t want to show a board for Book 2 to anyone until I’ve finished writing it-as things will change. In this situation, it’s possible to create a Secret Board. Here I’ve included links to paintings I’m using for research (The BBC Your Paintings website is lovely to browse if you’re an art fan). Also I include links to books read for research, paintings of famous people from that period; and other pictures I see which inspire or may be useful later on.

A4 pad
I use an A4 pad to write notes about anything relating to my novel. That way, if I have a random thought such as ‘what if the heroine doesn’t know what to do after finishing university?’ I can make a note of it and write for a few minutes whether that’s a good idea. It’s amazing how plot ideas can be developed in this way just by asking myself questions such as ‘Maybe the hero can offer her a job and she realises it’s exactly what she wants to do’ and then ‘but where will she live?’ etc. Underneath all this I can add my note about dining rooms. That way nothing gets lost like in the days when the house was littered with post-it notes which didn’t make much sense.

Ring binder
When reading a book for research, how do you make sure that you: a) draw out the relevant info without getting side-tracked by other stuff?; b) don’t forget what you’ve read in six months’ time and have to read the book again (another lesson learnt with Book 1)? These days, if a book is full of handy facts, I make notes and file them in a ring binder.

How do you keep track of research?

Thought I’d include a photo of this beautiful Chinese cedar tree at RHS Garden Wisley from a lovely walk last weekend on a day when the sun decided to shine (where’s it gone?!).

Sunday 2 June 2013

The Leibster Blog Award Questions

Thank you very much to Alison Morton for nominating my blog for a Liebster Blog Award, and for the lovely things she said about my blog. I always read Alison's posts and she recently appeared on my blog talking about her novel, Inceptio:
The rules:
  • Thank Liebster Blog Award nominator on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you;
  • Answer the eleven questions from the nominator;
  • List eleven random facts about yourself;
  • Present the Liebster Blog Award to up to eleven blogs and let them know they’ve been chosen;
  • Pass on the eleven questions to your nominees, or create new ones;
  • Copy and paste the blog award on your blog.
Here are my answers to the questions forwarded by Alison:

1. What’s your favourite novel and what do you love about it?
This is always a difficult question to answer as I could name many favourites and authors who inspire me to write, but the first novel which sprang to mind was ‘A Room with a View’. I haven’t read this novel for a while (note to self to read again), but I remember enjoying it because it transported me to Italy during a different time, it’s beautifully written and a lovely story. Both of my novels are inspired by this one. And it’s one of the few novels I can name where ‘the film is as good as the book’.

2. Do you have any pet peeves in fiction?

3. What are you most proud of?
Being a mother.

4. Your most and least favourite people in history?
Most: Churchill
Least: Hitler

5. The country, city or other place you’d most like to visit?

6. Which five people would you like to meet (dead, alive, or fictional)?
I thought for a minute about famous people, but I’ve been looking at family trees on recently as research for Book 2, The Painting; and I’d really like to meet all of my great-grandparents, but I’ll settle for the parents of my grandfathers (which makes four). And this is cheating a bit-I’d love my mother to come back and meet my children.

7. What makes you laugh the most?
The last time I laughed so much, I had tears running down my face was when I watched National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation at Christmas. Also Friday Night Dinner can be very funny.

8. If you could know the future, what would you wish for?
Happiness and good health for all family and friends.

9. If you won the lottery and could donate money to charity, which charity would you choose – and why?
Some charities unfortunately don't get as much attention as others and I'd have to go for more than one:


10. Do you suffer from any little phobias or superstitions?

11 What’s your favourite guilty pleasure?
TOWIE, Made in Chelsea, Celebrity Big Brother: all for research of course...I find human behaviour interesting.

Eleven random facts about me…
  1. I do yoga at least once a week.
  2. I speak French and Italian.
  3. I like handbags.
  4. I’ve worked as an au pair in Siena, Italy.
  5. I’m quite tall: 5’9”.
  6. I’m long-sighted and wore glasses from the age of four. Now I wear lenses for most of the time.
  7. I used to work in Investment Banking.
  8. I used to play the flute from age 10-18. It’s in the loft somewhere.
  9. I can usually tell when I’m not being told the truth.
  10. When given a problem to deal with, I can’t relax until it’s resolved.
  11. I’ve lived all over the U.K: Birmingham, Manchester, Derbyshire, North Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Cambridge, London and now Surrey.
I hope you didn’t doze off….

So my nominees are for five blogs I enjoy. These are also lovely people who I chat to on Twitter:

Louise Walters
Emily Harvale
The New Romantics 4
Helen MacKinven
Stacey Mitchell

Thanks again to Alison and no worries to those I've nominated if you don't have time/ don't fancy it. I hope to get back to blogging more regularly soon-my computer broke and I've got a new one, which I'm setting up today.