Category Archives: Writing

I write… for her

I’m often asked who you should write for. Is it for a market, for yourself, for an audience? It’s taken me a long time to find the right answer because of course you should write for yourself and keep readers in mind, too. But I think I’ve finally worked out who I’m writing for: it’s all about this tiny photo I keep on my desk:

KIng Eds MeIt’s a very blurry photo of me, taken around 1990 when I was seventeen. I was at sixth-form college in Stourbridge studying for my English, History and Theatre Studies A-levels – and evenings and weekends at home I was working on my very first book.

I hadn’t told anyone I wrote. My family knew I was doing something because I was writing on a travel typewriter I’d been given for Christmas (remember those?) – the kind that became a rather heavy mini-suitcase when you closed the lid. They didn’t know the story I was writing, only the noise it made.

I loved drama and wanted to be an actress. I had a vision of myself as a confident woman one day, striding off into the world chasing after her dreams. On stage I was confident: in person I apologised, worried, played down my own achievements. I thought I was fat. (I wasn’t fat). I had a strong voice but whispered in choir because I’d been told it stood out too much. (It did stand out, that’s what made it awesome). But when I wrote, I could believe anything was possible – even if the many splodges of Tipp-Ex on the pages told a different story.

And then I decided to tell the guy I had a crush on that I wrote.

(You know a story that begins like this isn’t going to end well…)

He was the leading light in my Theatre Studies class and in the amateur theatre group I performed with on Saturdays. I was a T-Bird to his Danny Zuko, the Ugly Sister to his Prince Charming. He agreed to partner with me for a duologue piece as part of our course – the Inspector from J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls grilling Sheila Birling over her mistreatment of Eva Smith. While we were rehearsing alone one lunchtime in the drama studio, I seized my chance.

‘I’m writing a book, actually.’

What I imagined would happen next proves I’m both a writer to my core and a hopeless romantic: I imagined him taking my hand, my hair blowing around my shoulders, the London Philharmonic Orchestra wheeling into the background to accompany my confession with suitably sweeping strings. He would gaze into my eyes, murmuring, ‘I’ve waited my whole life for a woman who writes…’

What he actually said was a little different.

‘You write stories? Shouldn’t you have given that up at primary school?’

And that was when I quit as a writer.

I went home, binned the many sheets of my book, shelved my typewriter and sobbed into my duvet. I didn’t write another story for ten years.

I write for her.

I write for the teenager who believed one idiot instead of following her heart. I write for the young woman setting out into her life longing for adventure who came home and cowered instead. I write for her – because every chapter I write, every draft I finish, every book I edit and see through to publication, is proof she was right. It was possible. It is possible. It’s happening now.

She’s on my desk (flanked by the Tenth Doctor because she’s awesome and deserves it) and I see her every time I sit down to write. I want her to know that she gets to write books for a living. Books that have gone around the world, translated into fifteen languages, read by over a million people. I want her to believe in herself and stop hiding.

The story I started to write after the ten-year hiatus went on to become Fairytale of New York, after years of secret writing. I’m currently writing my twelfth novel and my eleventh, Our Story, publishes on 3rd September. It’s about two people chasing their dream of writing. And the male protagonist is called Joe – which is the name seventeen-year-old me chose for her very first male lead in the book she was dreaming about.

I think she’d like that.

 

I Write for Her

New vlog! New book, new ideas and news

My latest vlog is here and it’s packed with new things!

There’s news about where I’m at with Book 11 (out later this year), my revamped newsletter and brand new Book Club, plus my online shop and exciting things coming later this year, which I’m very chuffed about…

Ask me a question for the next vlog! What would you like to know about writing, publishing, editing and books? Do you have a burning question about my novels, or a writing problem you’d like some help with? You can leave a comment below this post or contact me on Twitter @wurdsmyth, on Instagram @wurdsmyth, on Facebook at MirandaDickinsonAuthor, or via email: mirandawurdy@gmail.com If I answer your question, I’ll give you a shout out in my vlog.

Happy watching! xx

#Wurdy10k – My Gift to Writers

To celebrate reaching 10,000 followers, I’m doing a seven-day extravaganza of freebies, giveaways and competitions. Keep watching my tweets to see all of them! For DAY THREE, I have a very special prize and a big announcement for writers…

Wurdy10k Day 3First up, I have a prize for one published writer (traditional or self-published) and one not-yet-published writer.

For A PUBLISHED WRITER I am offering a free one-hour Skype chat where we can talk about your writing. Whatever you need – whether it’s encouragement, advice, or help – we can cover it during our chat. I want to support authors at all stages of their careers and help you stay in love with your words. However I can help, I will.

For AN UNPUBLISHED WRITER I am offering a free three-chapter critique of the book you are are writing or have completed. I can offer advice on tightening up the prose, creating an opening chapter that will have readers turning the pages to read more and crafting a novel opening that will grab the attention of agents, publishers and readers alike.

To be in with a chance of winning these prizes, email me: mirandawurdy@gmail.com and tell me about yourself and your work – and why you would like to win. The closing date for entries is 30th November 2019.

And here’s my BIG ANNOUNCEMENT for everyone: On THURSDAY 7th NOVEMBER I am hosting the very first WriteFoxyLIVE!

WriteFoxy LOGOWriteFoxyLIVE will be a one-hour Facebook Live event where you can ask any question about writing, editing and publishing. I’ll have lots of encouragement for you and best of all this is totally free! No registration needed, just join me on my FB author page: facebook.com/MirandaDickinsonAuthor. For five years my WriteFoxy events have been loved and enjoyed by writers at all stages of writing, from brand new writers to established authors. It’s a place where you can be encouraged, fall back in love with your words and hang out with fellow wordsmiths. I’ve wanted to make it available to everyone for a long time, so I’m thrilled to be bringing you WriteFoxyLIVE on THURSDAY 7th NOVEMBER, 7.30pm-8.30pm. It’s going to be so much fun!

Author Spotlight: TOBY FROST

On my blog I love to bring you authors I love who I think you’ll love too. Today I’m thrilled to welcome the brilliant TOBY FROST into the Author Spotlight. Author of the utterly fab Space Captain Smith series, he is now writing a new, darker fantasy series, the first book of which – Up To The Throne has just been published. 

Toby Frost author pic

When did you first decide that you wanted to write?

I first started writing when I was about 12. I can’t remember why, or what it was that pushed me from reading novels to writing them. My first efforts were scribbled in a small blue notebook, along with illustrations. I don’t remember either the text or the story being especially good!

What interests you as a writer?

So many things! Firstly, there’s a sense of exploring and creating. You’re showing the reader people and places, but you’re also creating them, so in a way you’re discovering them as well. I often find myself thinking “What if this happened?” and then following the story from there.

And then there’s characters. People are just fascinating, whether your book is set now, in the past or in the distant future. You’ve got to have strong characters that the reader cares about. That means that, whoever they are, what they’re doing has to make sense. I love seeing what happens when two very different characters clash.

For me, concepts like theme and subtext take second place to the story and characters. Because I write fantastical stories, I’m often writing about something in the real world through a surreal, magical lens. But it’s always got to feel convincing. I find history fascinating, and I often steal bits and pieces to make my writing more believable. Whether you’re talking about a trip to the shops or a journey to Mars, the reader has to think, “Yes, that’s what it would be like.”

Toby Frost SCS Books 1

Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I never know how to answer this question! I think about what I’m going to write for a long time before I start. I’m often pondering a second book while I’m writing a first one. I think I’m probably more a plotter, but I do sometimes have moments where I stop and think “Hey! Wouldn’t it by better if I just did something completely different?”. So maybe 75% plotter.

Do you have a typical writing day? If not, when is the best time to write for you?

I don’t, really. I don’t find it difficult to write, and I’m lucky in that. I don’t have to be in a particular mood or even a place. Having a day job, I tend to work in the lunchtimes and evenings, but I’d be just as happy writing at other times. Preferably on a luxury yacht or my own private spacecraft.

Toby Frost SCS Books 2.jpg

What inspires you as a writer?

Pretty much everything! I’ve come to think that writing is a way of interpreting and processing the things I experience, albeit in a metaphorical and indirect way. Also, I’m influenced by history, by places and by other fiction, written and visual. So I’m always soaking up ideas and influences, although a lot get discarded. I don’t think I can switch that off – not that I’d want to!

What are the best things about being a writer?

One of the best things must be seeing my own work in bookshops. To see your own novel for sale with a great cover is amazing. A few years ago, I did a reading at a steampunk event and a man came up to me afterwards. He said that a friend of his had got very depressed after a death in the family, and my books had helped cheer him up. That was a pretty excellent moment, too.

And the worst?

It’s hard to think of any. Maybe the expectation that some people have that you’re extremely wealthy? If I had to point to one moment, it would be a couple of years ago at a writing convention, where I was on a panel with another author who I was trying to impress with my literary knowledge. I climbed up onto the stage and whacked my head on a low-hanging beam. After I’d finished staggering around clutching my head, I went on to do the panel, but my aura of genius was gone (if it had ever been there!). Goodness only knows what I said after being hit on the head.

Toby Frost book pic

Tell me about your new novel, Up To The Throne.

It’s a fantasy story set in an imaginary city in a magically-enhanced version of the Renaissance. Giulia, the lead character, returns to her home city after several years, to take revenge on the man who tried to kill her. She’s clever, skilled and still burning with anger, but the world has moved on, and her enemy is no longer a criminal but a rising politician with designs on the throne. Killing him could throw the principality into chaos. As she closes in on him, she starts to realise just what taking her revenge will do to the people she cares about, and has to make hard choices.

How have you found writing a darker fantasy series? Has it required a different approach to your Space Captain Smith books?

It is different, because it stresses different things. Usually, I worry if I’ve gone for very long without telling a joke. Here, it’s more that I’ve got to keep the atmosphere up, and keep the story moving. The same basics of character and storytelling are still there, but a more serious story needs a more engrossing plot. However, in terms of actually writing it, it’s been very similar. Things have inspired the writing in much the same way, and the characters and setting of Giulia’s fantastical Renaissance come together in much the same way as the Space Empire does in Space Captain Smith.

If you could have a dream cover quote from any author, living or dead, who would it be?

“It filled me with laughter, joy and hope for the future.” – George Orwell.

What are your top three tips for writers?

Well, first up, a disclaimer: the more I write, the less comfortable I am in telling other people how to do it. I don’t think there’s a set route to good writing, much less to getting published. But, since you asked…

1) Practice. Get used to the experience of turning thoughts into words. The main cause of books never getting into print is that they’re never finished. Practice not only improves your writing, but gets you into the habits of writing and editing. The task of putting words down becomes much less daunting once you’ve got accustomed to it.

2) Learn about writing. In the past, I would have said “Read more books” here, but it’s not just reading: it’s understanding and learning from books, TV shows, films, real life and anything else. You can learn a lot reading good-quality novels outside your usual genre. Personally, I get a lot out of reading how-to books (Stephen King’s On Writing is particularly good), but it varies from person to person. One very good way of learning is to go to events or join a writing group. My own writing improved vastly after joining the St Albans writing group.

3) Persist! It’s easy to be put off by your first few rejections, but you have to get used to it and carry on. If the first book you write isn’t a massive success, don’t give up. Start work on another project (but don’t throw the first one away! You never know, after all). Keep learning, keep going to events, making contacts, finding out new things. You might find that something you couldn’t get traditionally published works well as a self-published book, or vice versa. The important thing is to stay enthusiastic about your writing and always keep trying to improve and succeed.

Do you have a dream project you’d love to write?

I’ve got two! The first is a series of epic fantasy novels set in the same world as Up To The Throne. They’d have a wider setting and be about more powerful characters, but they’d tie into the Giulia stories and tell a grander, longer story. The other project is a set of linked novellas with an ensemble cast, about the futuristic secret service glimpsed in the Space Captain Smith books. Don’t tell anyone, but I’ve started work on both…

Thanks so much for braving the Author Spotlight! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Only that Up To The Throne is available on Kindle and in paperback. Just click this link!

How fab was that?! I’m a huge fan of Toby’s writing and can’t wait to read Up To The Throne. You can find out more about Toby at his website, on Facebook at tobyfrostauthor and follow him on Twitter @isambardsmith. Watch out for more Author Spotlights coming soon! 

The Day We Meet Again is coming soon!

I had the idea for The Day We Meet Again two and a half years ago, walking through St Pancras Station in London, when I saw the statue of Sir John Betjeman for the very first time…

Everything appeared in that moment: Phoebe and Sam – the two people who would meet and fall for one another when their trains were delayed; the question of whether you should put your life on hold if love takes you by surprise, even the journeys both of them would take. It doesn’t always happen like that, at least not for me. But the story was instantly one I wanted to write.

As it turned out, Phoebe and Sam would face more delays until I could get them onto the page. But they refused to leave until I did. This year, on 5th September, they will finally star in my tenth novel.

Watch out for a big, sparkly announcement about The Day We Meet Again this Friday (31st May) at 5pm – and keep watching this blog, my TwitterInstagram and Facebook posts for lots more exciting things….

I can’t wait to share Phoebe and Sam’s story with you. It’s been a bit of a long wait, but it’ll be worth it!

TDWMA Proof Spines Stack

 

I have a new single!

One of the things I want to do more of this year is get back to music. I’ve been a singer-songwriter, session vocalist (working with producers across the world) and band vocalist since I was 19, and music has always been a huge love of my life.

M Session PicBut in recent years music has taken a back seat to books and being Mum. While I still gig with my band The Peppermints (who you might know better as The Pinstripes from my third novel, It Started With a Kiss), I haven’t done much with my own songs.

I recorded an album About Time, in 2011 which I self-funded and I’m so proud of it, even if there are about seven boxes of CDs now gathering cobwebs in my shed! It was a dream to record my own music – followed by my book soundtrack EP that I wrote to accompany It Started With a Kisscalled Last First Kiss in 2012.Booklet

For a while I’ve had my music on Soundcloud (click the link to see all my tracks, which you can hear for free) and Bandcamp, together with my music page on Facebook. I’ve written a lot of new songs in the last twelve months, which I hope to record soon – updates when they happen!

I’m currently writing about a musician in my forthcoming novel, The Day We Meet Again – and it’s made me miss music more than ever. So, I’ve decided to bite the bullet and release a single! Why not, eh?

GIVE ME A REASON was originally on the album, and I love it.
You can hear it below – and it can be yours for only £1 – just click this Bandcamp link.

Enjoy! And if you like what you hear, leave a comment below xx

New vlog series – WILL IT BE A FILM?

It’s the question I’m asked more than any other as an author (and the one I secretly love…) – if Somewhere Beyond the Sea was made into a film, who would I cast in the lead roles?

In this mini-vlog I talk about why having a film or TV adaptation of your book is every authors’ dream, tell you who my original Jack was when I was writing the story and reveal why my casting choice changed when I heard the audio version of the book, read by Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey

Who would you cast? I’d love to know!

Happy watching! xx

Magic moments – listen to this!

(I’m not singing this time, promise!) I’ve just been sent the finished audiobook of Somewhere Beyond the Sea and it’s absolutely blown me away… 

On Monday I went down to the studio in London to record some author bits for the audiobook and I could tell from the team that they were excited by the work Clare Corbett and Jonathan Bailey have done reading Seren and Jack’s chapters in the book.

But I wasn’t prepared for how amazing it would be.

Here’s the thing: probably most people don’t know that I studied Drama at university and for a long time my ambition was to be an actor. It didn’t happen (two awful auditions put paid to that idea – remind me to tell you about them some time…), but I have never lost my love of drama, film and theatre. When I write, I see it in my head like a film. I remember a writer telling me once that writing books is the best way to fulfil a secret acting ambition – we give ourselves all the best lines through our characters. In my case I think that’s true! So where I couldn’t appear on a physical stage, I create a stage – a TV screen, a film screen – on the page instead.

When words on the page are brought to life by performance, magic happens. I read all my books aloud when I’m editing – particularly when I’m doing the final proof edit. If the rhythm is wrong, especially for dialogue, I always work out the right one by speaking it first. I write with a particular rhythm in mind – it’s very similar to writing music. The beats have to be right, the light and shade placed correctly, otherwise it clunks and is difficult to read.

So when I listened to the two opening chapters featured in the Soundcloud clip below, I knew where all the beats were. It’s scary waiting to see how someone else has interpreted your words! And what happened next was magical. Every beat, every rhythm, every point of emotion and humour, wistfulness and pain were hit perfectly – and there was more, too: nuances in the dialogue that I hadn’t anticipated, moments where I was drawn closer to the characters as they spoke, moments that made me giggle. It was like hearing my story for the first time and I couldn’t believe I wrote that. I wrote that! Wow!

I dream of one day writing a script that’s produced as drama, either for TV or film. Listening to Clare and Jonathan’s performances of my words has made me think that it might yet be possible. Somewhere Beyond the Sea is written from Seren and Jack’s alternating perspectives and is the closest to a monologue/Talking Heads-style story I’ve ever written, so to hear it spoken and performed so perfectly has made me so proud of what I’ve created.

Being very British I’ve often downplayed pride in my work, but I’m changing that, starting now. Somewhere Beyond the Sea is my heart and soul and I’ve poured everything I’ve got into it. I am so utterly proud of it. And the way that Clare and Jonathan have not only respected my words but illuminated them, given them breath and life, is an absolute gift. Often as an author the mountain-top moments are few and far between, but this is one of those pinch-me-I’m-dreaming moments where it all comes together.

Want to hear what’s reduced me to tears and made me grin like a LOON all afternoon? Click this link to hear the first two chapters of the Somewhere Beyond the Sea audiobook, starring Clare Corbett as SEREN and Jonathan Bailey as JACK. Prepare to fall in love!

Clare-Corbett

CLARE CORBETT as SEREN

jonathan-bailey

JONATHAN BAILEY as JACK

MirandaWrites 59 – Welcome to St Ives!

I’ve just returned from a week in St Ives and it was heavenly! The best bit was taking my shiny new book, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, to the place where the story idea began, two years ago. While I was there, I filmed a vlog because my life it’s been ages since I last posted one…

This year has been completely rollercoaster-y – for reasons I’ll be able to share with you soon. Lots of stuff going on, good and bad, plus lots of plans for the future that I hope to see happen. More on that in forthcoming posts here. It’s all good, though!

So, without further ado, here is my brand new, sparkly seasidey vlog! I take you around some of the locations featured in Somewhere Beyond the Sea (more to come in future vlogs, too), talk about my inspiration for the characters and tell you why this book and the town where it’s set are so special to me. (And if it whets your appetite for Somewhere Beyond the Sea, you can preorder it here and here…) Now, snuggle up and get ready for a little trip to beautiful St Ives. Happy watching, lovelies!

My favourite books for 2018…

2018 is going to be a corker of a year for great stories. My next novel, Somewhere Beyond the Sea, publishes on 14th June, but for this post I’m wearing my reader hat. I’ve been really lucky to read some amazing books that will be published this year, so here are my Top 5 recommendations for 2018…

I’ve only included books I’ve actually read in this list, and will of course squeak about more as I read them, but these are my absolute favourites of what I’ve read so far:

DARK PINES by WILL DEAN

Dark Pines

I loved every minute of this dark, twisty, Scandi-thriller. You’re right there in the bleak, claustrophobic town surrounded by dark forests, so much so that you can almost see clouds of your own breath in the wintry landscape as you read. Will’s writing is compelling and his lead character Tuva Moodyson is a star in waiting. Get in on this awesome series right at the beginning and prepare to be swept away! Published 4th January by Point Blank/Oneworld

THREE THINGS ABOUT ELSIE by JOANNA CANNON

ThreeThingsAboutElsie

Reading a Joanna Cannon book is like being welcomed into the most magical sweet shop and being invited to sample a treat from every jar. Her writing is delightful and evocative, with characters you can picture immediately. This book is warm, heartbreakingly honest but ultimately uplifting. 84-year-old Florence, whose story the book follows, will make you laugh, cry and want to hug her. There’s a mystery and a secret to uncover, too. Wonderful storytelling – a book to savour! Published 11th January by The Borough Press.

THE BONE KEEPER by LUCA VESTE

The Bonekeeper

As a big fan of Luca’s Murphy and Rossi series, I was chuffed to bits to be able to read his first standalone novel. And my life, what a book! Part horror, part crime-thriller, this story grabs you and won’t let go until the highly-charged, terrifying conclusion. Don’t read just before you go to sleep because this story will give you nightmares! I love Luca’s writing and this is his best book yet. Published 8th March by Simon & Schuster.

THE FEAR by CL TAYLOR

The Fear

This book had me gripped from beginning to end and is simply breathtaking. What I love about Cally’s writing is that she makes you side with characters you suspect you maybe shouldn’t be rooting for. I’ve read plenty of psychological thrillers over the last two years, but nothing as dark and multiple-twist-laden as this. It’s shocking, compelling and packed to the bindings with action. Masterful stuff! Published 22nd March by Avon/HarperCollins.

THE MAN I THINK I KNOW by MIKE GAYLE

The Man I Think I Know

A sign of a really wonderful book for me is when I want to hug it at the end. With this book, I was pretty much hugging it from the start and rationing pages towards the end because I didn’t want it to finish. Mike’s writing is warm, honest, unflinching in its observation but most of all gloriously uplifting. The story of James and Danny’s friendship – and the redemptive power of trust and love – absolutely had me in its spell. It’s real, compelling, funny and completely stole my heart. This one is very special and my favourite book for 2018 so far. Published 19th April by Hodder & Stoughton.

Thanks so much to the wonderful authors and publishers (Point Blank/Oneworld; The Borough Press; Simon & Schuster; Avon/HarperCollins; and Hodder & Stoughton) for sending me advance copies of the above books.

Read my favourite books of 2017 HERE…

Which books are you looking forward to this year? Let me know by leaving a comment below, or tweet me @wurdsmyth. Thanks for reading! xx